Gunning Daily News

Summer Fun on a Budget—Five Ways to Do More with Less

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

For many families, times are tough, and the budget may not stretch far enough this year for a family vacation or summer camp. But, says life coach Valorie Burton, there are many ways to plan a summer of fun without spending a lot of money—even without a swimming pool in your own backyard.

Burton suggests starting with the following five questions, and plan your fun based on the results of your answers. 

• What gives me joy? Are you happiest at the seashore? At a picnic in the woods? Playing with the kids at the park? Make this the year to plan family outings at the places you enjoy.
• Who do we want to connect with? Are there cousins, friends, or grandparents you don’t see often enough, even though they don’t live far away? This might be the year to plan a car trip—or invite other people to your own home—for a few days of visiting fun.
• What do tourists do around here? Often, we travel long distances on vacation while passing on the local attractions other people come to see in our region. Is there a national park within easy driving distance? A state or county fair? A museum? Plan a few picnics or an overnight stay at a few of these local treasures.
• Who can we team up with? Plan a block party or barbecue with neighbors. Teaming up and sharing the cost can be more fun than planning a party on your own.
• What can we do for someone else? Volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself while helping those in need. You can volunteer at a home improvement project, read to the elderly at a senior facility, or organize a school supplies donation project before school resumes. Have a family conference and let the kids help choose what projects they would like to do.

Home Entertaining Tips

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

A recent survey conducted by NPD Group, a leading market research company, showed a significant increase of consumers who are opting to bring the party home. 

One trend that is flashing back to grab the “retro” market, and the attention of hip hosts, is slipcovers. And these ain’t your mom’s slipcovers, either. 

The folks from SureFit, (www.SureFit.com), a leading provider of decorative and protective ideas for the home and office say slip covers are the perfect option for entertainers looking to upgrade their mismatched and worn-out furniture without breaking the bank. 

From your couch to your recliner and for under $200, SureFit says these machine-washable home solutions provide a smart and efficient way to create a well-designed, well-furnished venue for any gathering. Sure Fit also carries a wide variety of home-furnishing accessories, including decorative pillows, mood-setting window treatments and lamp shades that can spice up the drabbest décor.

Another source, best-slipcovers.com has some great ideas for using slip covers to create a fresh look with your existing furniture, or for simple and economic home staging. First, think like a home stager by looking at what design of slip cover would coordinate well with the color scheme in your home, or various rooms.
Going from a cool to a warm season, throw open the windows and don’t fret that your once cozy sofa and chairs look dark and heavy in the room. Go for a lighter look by dressing your upholstered furniture in slipcovers made of fabrics that are lighter or brighter. 

Change the texture from that nubby woven fabric or heavy velvet to a crisp linen fabric or vividly patterned cotton print. Not only will the change look fresher, the new fabric feels refreshing to the touch.
Then, toss on a colorful pillow or two and you've got a great new look in minutes. The folks at best-slipcovers.com have a lot more information and tips about the best ways to “go retro” with hip new slipcover designs and styles to make any piece of furniture, or your entire house, look brand new.

Question of the Day

June 16, 2011 1:51 pm

Q: Do I need an attorney to buy a home?

A: A lot depends on the state where the property is located. Some require an attorney; others do not.

Most home buyers can generally handle routine real estate purchase contracts as long as they read the fine print and understand all the terms. But pay close attention to any clauses, contingencies, and other special considerations that will allow you or the seller to back out of the contract.

When in doubt, consult an attorney. Ask relatives and friends, or your real estate agent, for recommendations. Call to inquire about their fees and to check their level of experience. Expect that more seasoned attorneys will cost more.

Word of the Day

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

Assumption of mortgage. Taking title to property that has an existing mortgage, and being personally liable for its payment as a condition of the sale.

Employee Engagement Most Influenced by Immediate Supervisors and Workplace Communication

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

As companies emerge from the worst recession since the Depression, they are faced with low employee engagement and poor workplace morale that can slow the recovery process. A new survey by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation and Buck Consultants, A Xerox Company, finds that an individual's supervisor and the amount of employee communication in an organization are the top two influencers of employee engagement. 

Factors increasing and decreasing employee engagement:
An immediate supervisor can influence an employee's engagement level both positively and negatively. Forty-four percent of survey respondents said their supervisor strongly increased employee engagement, while 41 percent said supervisors strongly decreased employee engagement. 

Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated the amount of employee communication is a strong contributor to employee engagement, and 47 percent said it had a moderate influence. Other factors contributing to increased engagement included change in leadership (31 percent) and rewards/recognition programs (18 percent). Factors contributing to decreased employee engagement are poor morale (49 percent), poor management/leadership (48 percent), downsizing (38 percent), and change in leadership (26 percent). 

"Another trend we're seeing is more common use of social media as part of an organization's employee engagement strategy," says Robin McCasland, chair, IABC Research Foundation and president, Brain Biscuits Strategic Communication. "The differences between internal and external communication are blurring, and organizations that communicate effectively through social media are finding that it enhances a positive workplace culture, supports employee engagement and reinforces a favorable external reputation." 

"One of the key findings of this year's survey is that enhancing the organization's culture and work environment has become the respondents' highest ranked goal for employee engagement," says Bob Carr, principal at Buck Consultants. "Organizations are committing themselves more deeply to effectively engaging their employees, knowing that this is the key to meeting their productivity, retention, and overarching business goals." 

This is the third "Employee Engagement Survey" conducted by the IABC Research Foundation and Buck Consultants to determine how organizations are communicating with employees to keep them engaged and productive. Nearly 1,000 communication professionals participated in this year's survey, representing a broad industry and geographic base. 

Other survey highlights include:
• Goals for Engaging Employees
Last year, companies were most concerned with increasing productivity in the workplace. This year's survey found that creating a new culture or work environment (33 percent) was the most important goal identified by survey respondents, followed by increasing productivity (28 percent) and retaining top talent (26 percent). 

• Communication methods used to engage employees and foster productivity
Similar to the results from the previous year's survey, emails (81 percent) and intranet (72 percent) are the most frequently used communication methods in the workplace for employee engagement. Compared to results in 2010, there was a slight decrease in the numbers for face-to-face communication (46 percent) and a slight increase in the numbers for social media (16 percent).

More than half the companies surveyed used blogs (69 percent), Twitter (58 percent), Facebook (57 percent), instant messaging (57 percent) and YouTube (53 percent) to communicate with their internal and external audiences. 

• Tools added to the corporate intranet
More than 50 percent of respondents said their organizations added content-sharing tools to their intranets within the past five years. Employee profiles/bios, news feeds, traditional blogs and various collaboration tools were popular additions.

To download the complete survey report, visit http://www.iabc.com/researchfoundation.

Retirement Planning: 4 Tips for Late Bloomers

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

Increasingly, Americans are entering the age of retirement without enough savings to do so comfortably. However, it is never too late to focus on life stage retirement planning to make the golden years glisten much more.

Here are some tips to help from retirementplanning.net: 

1. Saving should be a top priority.
Some people may have procrastinated while others hit some bumps in the road. Either way, the closer a person gets to retiring, the less working years they have and less time to save. One should look at finances, consider needs and wants, and reprioritize.

2. Delay retiring, especially if you started saving late in life. This is beneficial for Social Security and health insurance purposes. Social Security income is adjusted for inflation, tax efficient and guaranteed by the federal government. Every month a worker is able to put money toward this benefit, up to the age of 70, the more savings will accumulate. If an employer-sponsored health care plan is superior, depending on their situation, one can save a great deal. When retirement planning, people often forget that Medicare does not cover every needed item, which can be very expensive.

3. Reconsider investments. Whether to invest aggressively or conservatively is a tough decision at any age, but especially for someone who is creating a financial plan later in life. One may invest aggressively to make up for lost time while another may shy away from risk because they don't want to lose what little they have saved. Risky speculation and eroding inflation are heavy considerations. The sound advice from a professional in the retirement planning field should be considered to make the right calls.

4. Take advantage of tax-efficient plans. Taxes can quickly chip away at savings. People entering an age to retire should especially consider as many tax efficient plans as possible, such as a 401k, Roth IRA and traditional IRAs.

How to Repair Asphalt and Concrete Cracks

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

As temperatures rise and fall, the volatility can lead to cracks in driveways and sidewalks. Apart from being unsightly, these cracks can allow water to seep in, enlarging them and eventually turning them into holes.

TV carpenter Sean Ennis shares an easy method for filling cracks in asphalt and concrete surfaces.

Tools and Materials
• Wire brush
• Screwdriver (optional)
• Canned air
• Caulk gun
• Concrete or asphalt crack filler
• Putty knife
• Sponge 

Crack Repair How-To
1. Ensure that the crack is as clean as possible—free of stray concrete, dirt, or plant life—by using a wire brush and canned air to remove debris. If necessary, break off loose pieces of concrete with a screwdriver.

2. If repairing a concrete sidewalk or driveway, apply concrete sealant to crack using a caulk gun. If asphalt, use a driveway-specific asphalt filler in the same fashion.

3. Using a putty knife, smooth the filler, pressing it into the crack. Remove excess filler with the putty knife and a sponge.

4. Allow filler to cure for three days.

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

Tips on How to Swim Safely in Your Backyard Pool

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

As we enter the summer of 2011, American Leak Detection professionals are taking steps to educate their local communities on pool safety. It's only June and there have already been 37 drownings and 38 near-drowning incidents reported by the media across America, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. That's why the leak safety business is offering tips geared to keeping families safe while they enjoy their pools. 

"Oftentimes, pool safety is in the back of most people's minds, but it should really be in the forefront of their thoughts when they use pools, especially their own," American Leak Detection CEO and President Bill Palmer says. "Something as simple as knowing where the pool water pump is so that you can quickly turn it off in the event of an emergency can make a world of a difference. As water leak experts, we are more than happy to do our part in helping to keep communities safe when it comes to pool safety." 

Palmer says that homeowners should take the following precautionary steps before opening their pools for members of their households and guests: 

Check and replace necessary pool parts
Replace old flat drain covers and never use a pool or spa with a missing or broken drain cover. Install anti-vortex drain covers to minimize the risk of body and hair entrapment in the suction inlets, and consider installing a Safety Vacuum Release System that will automatically shut off a pump if a blockage is detected, Palmer says. 

Make sure it's clean, not green
If your pool is green, that likely means the water could contain molds, fungus, larvae, and other contaminants that could make those who use the pool sick. 

Be cognizant of recalls and equipment reviews
Even by taking all of the proper preventative measures, not knowing if certain parts of your pool are working properly can make your efforts null and void, Palmer says. Be sure to check sites such as CPSC and Consumer Reports regularly for articles on recalls and reviews to ensure that your pool's parts are all in tip top shape. 

Call in the professionals
Have a professional such regularly inspect your pool or spa. Ask where the electrical cut-off switch is for the pool or spa pump. This area should be marked clearly so that, in an emergency, the water pump can be turned off immediately. In addition, loose or falling tiles and pool deck cracks— signs that the surrounding ground is being compromised by water and that there is a leak in the pool system—can cause those using the pool to slip and fall. 

When it comes to public pools and spas, residents can rest more assured knowing they are safer because there are certain requirements public places must implement, such as those in accordance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Safety Act of 2007, enforcing safety requirements for public pools and spas.
However, the safety measures of private, personal pools are controlled by the homeowner. 

"Residents should make good judgments before opening their pool for members of their family or guests. Some of these good judgments include: putting up a wall or fence at least four feet high around the pool; not allowing unsupervised children in the pool; being sure that at least one person in the household knows cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); not using air-filled swimming aids as a substitute for approved life vests; and keeping rescue equipment, such as life-saving flotation devices, and a telephone by the pool in the event of an emergency," Palmer says. 

For more information about American Leak Detection, The Original Leak Specialists, please visit http://www.americanleakdetection.com.

Question of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

Q: Does the seller take the furnishings once the home is sold?

A: Normally. This is because the fixtures—personal property that is permanently attached to a home, such as built-in bookcases or a furnace—automatically stay with the house unless noted otherwise in the sales contract. Anything that is not nailed down is negotiable, including appliances that are not built in, such as washers and dryers.


Word of the Day

June 15, 2011 5:21 pm

Assessment. Tax or charge levied on property by a taxing authority to pay for local improvements such as sidewalks, streets, and sewers.