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A Dietician's Secrets for Healthier Eating

October 19, 2016 1:03 am


Whether you’re on your own or feeding a family, it can be tempting to skip healthy meal preparation in favor of quick carry-outs. Don’t give in!

Registered dietician Jae Berman recently shared her healthy eating secret with the Washington Post: batch cooking.

Batch cooking is preparing enough foods at one time to provide proteins, veggies and carbs for a week or more. Her example:

• Roast two or three pans of vegetables and store them in a container in the fridge. Cook off 10 chicken breasts, brown two pounds of ground beef, and hard-boil a dozen eggs. You can even steam a big helping of rice, quinoa or other grains, and store them in the fridge, as well.

• Use condiments and sauces for flavor—add salsa, cilantro and canned chilies to the ground beef to make tacos with prepared tortilla shells, warm up chicken with lemon juice and herbs, and add them to pasta sauce with a bit of parmesan, or, chop them with celery, egg and a little mayo for a salad.

Berman has a host of other tricks on hand, too:

Prep Fruits/Veggies – Cut up a variety and keep them in the fridge for snacking, packed lunches or dinner sides.

Use That Crockpot – Almost any combination of protein, veggies, herbs and a little broth or other liquid popped into the Crockpot in the morning will wind up as a savory soup or stew at the end of the day.

Make a Frittata – Combine eggs, veggies and spices and cook in a large skillet. Then, slice like pizza and freeze for later use—warm up a slice, add a salad and crusty bread, and you’re good to go.

Use Canned Fish – Prepare enough canned tuna or salmon for two meals: the first as a salad with fresh veggies, and the second for tuna melts or salmon patties.

Remember Smoothies – You can make them ahead of time with yogurt and fresh fruit, then freeze in separate containers and use for breakfast on the go.

Will you try batch cooking this weekend?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To: Take the Shiver out of a Drafty House

October 19, 2016 1:03 am


(BPT)—A drafty house is not just cold—it’s downright expensive. The kicker? The sources of those drafts can be eliminated inexpensively.

Take the attic, for instance. There was a large hole cut into the ceiling to make way for stairs to it. All of that insulation is now gone, replaced with a thin, unsealed sheet of plywood.

Attics are vented directly outdoors, so they get cold in winter—really cold. What separates your heated home from your cold, un-heated attic? A thin, unsealed sheet of plywood!

Need more proof? Turn the light on in your attic tonight, keeping the stairway closed. See that light streaming through? It’s shining on the gap that is costing you buckets in utilities each winter. Imagine that!

Whole-house fans (which are also installed by way of large hole) can be just as problematic. In this case, a flimsy ceiling shutter is all that stands between you and the elements. Nice.

Fireplaces, ironically, are also drafty—an open damper, even in a well-insulated home, can raise energy consumption by up to 30 percent!

A shut damper isn’t airtight, either. The chimney is an opening to the outdoors—think of it as a window, swallowing up (and out!) all of that costly heated air.

Let’s not forget dryer vents, or exhaust ducts, which can be a source of drafts, too. Most dryer vents employ a sheet metal flapper to reduce drafts—primitive protection, by today’s technology.

The good news is, all of these problems have economical solutions.

• Insulated Attic Stair Cover
• Whole-House Fan Shutter Seal (with Flexible, Textured Insulation, plus Velcro)
• Fireplace Plug
• Dryer Vent Seal (Floating Shuttle)

Winter’s still a few weeks away—get these fixes in now to warm up with all those savings!

Source: Battic Door
 

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Why Fall Is Time to Buy—or Sell—a Home

October 19, 2016 1:03 am


The data have it: October is one of the better months to buy, or sell.

Homebuyers, according to RealtyTrac®, tend to get the best deals in October, based on an analysis of more than 30 million single-family home and condominium sales that happened over the last 15 years—of the 2.7 million sales closed in October over that period, the average sale price was 2.6 percent below average estimated full market value.

Why the downtrend? One of the main causes is lesser demand, which results in lower prices. Another cause could be the presence of “spring leftovers”—the homes that didn’t sell in the spring or summer placed back on the market, at a reduced price, in fall.

Historically, fall has been an ideal season for homebuyers—it lacks the pace of peak real estate season, which can be intimidating (especially to newcomers), and it offers time to buy between the frenetic start of the school year and the holidays. The beginning of school, as well, means that fewer homebuyers will be out searching for homes, lessening the competition for other buyers, and bidding wars, as a result.

Still, fall can be ideal for those on the other side of the closing table—sellers. Sellers in the fall generally attract more serious buyers than at other times of year, upping the chance they’ll get a well-intentioned offer. They also could be on a faster path to closing, as well, because fall is outside of peak season—some buyers, then, may have a pressing reason to buy.

October, specifically, is also ideal for both parties in that appliances go on sale—manufacturers deeply discount previous years’ models to make way for the next years’ hitting the shelves. How about that for incentive?

Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, I’m prepared to help you with your real estate needs. Contact me today!
 

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America's Spending: Booze, Coffee, and a Whole Lot of Extras

October 18, 2016 1:00 am


“What did I spend all that money on?!"

Most of us have had that reaction at one time or another—it usually comes when we see that sky-high credit card bill come in.

What do we really spend our money on? Online coupon collector RetailMeNot recently discovered the answer as part of its “WTF Did I Spend My Money On?” campaign.

Food – Each week, 85 percent of us stock up on groceries, averaging $115, and 74 percent of us treat ourselves to a meal out each week, averaging $58. All that eating out can add up— $3,016 a year!

Beer – Forty-eight percent of us aged 21 and over buy beer each month, racking up $50 in the process. That’s pouring out $600 a year!

Coffee – Forty-eight percent of us spring for a cup o’ Joe each week, averaging $18, or $936 a year. That’s almost a grand!

Wine – Forty-three percent of us aged 21 and over purchase wine each month, averaging $51—about the same as beer buyers.

Other common contributors to spending, according to RetailMeNot, are manicures and pedicures—averaging $1,471.08 a year!—and pet supplies, averaging $221 per month for dog owners and $192 per month for cat owners.

More of us are also spending on newer types of recurring expenses—rides from Lyft or Uber average $45 per week ($2,340 per year), and meal delivery services average $42.44 per week, or $2,206.88 per year, RetailMeNot found.

What are you spending your money on?

Source: RetailMeNot
 

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When's the Last Time You Really Cleaned Your Kitchen?

October 18, 2016 1:00 am


Your appliances and counters are sparkling, and your cabinets and floors are polished to a shine—but how clean are some lesser-seen areas of your kitchen?

Joe Sevier of Epicurious.com consulted with kitchen experts to get the low-down on areas of the kitchen we may be overlooking when it comes to cleaning. Here’s a list of what needs to be cleaned—and how frequently, too—from Sevier’s blog. You may be surprised!

Cleaning Brush – Daily (Rinse in hot water after each use.)

Dish Drying Rack – Weekly

Garbage Bin – Monthly

Kitchen Cabinets – Monthly (Wipe down fronts and knobs, and vacuum the inside.)

In-Drawer Flatware Caddy – Monthly (If you have a wire or mesh caddy, remove and vacuum debris that filtered down to the drawer.)

Refrigerator Shelves – Monthly (Tip: Wiping the bottom of jars and cartons will keep shelves cleaner, longer.)

Stovetop Exhaust Fan – Monthly

Utensil Caddy – Monthly, to remove food splatters, dust and grease

Water Filterer – Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but generally, it should be cleaned every two months when you change the filter.

Ice Cube Trays – Once or twice a year if you use them regularly, but more often if you only use them once in a while

Source: Epicurious.com
 

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Staging for Millennial Appeal

October 18, 2016 1:00 am


Millennials—the generation born between 1980 and 1995 that now comprise the largest home-buying group—want made-up, modern, and move-in ready.

Real estate professionals are seeing it firsthand: most millennials don’t want their parents’ house, but older homes tend to look just like mom and dad’s—a harsh truth for homeowners needing to appeal to these types of buyers when they list their home for sale.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), millennials accounted for 35 percent of all home sales last year. Sellers unreceptive to staging could miss that opportunity entirely. Comparable homes staged for millennials, too, tend to fetch more than ones that aren’t—that means even if an older buyer places an offer, that offer will likely be on par with market value or higher.

The fact is, millennials don’t have the desire, money or time to fix up a home themselves. These days, bold colors, clean-lined furniture and light walls are not enough to pique their interest—one blogger called the aesthetic they’re after the “this-could-be-a-movie-set” look. Millennials want to project a lifestyle in the places they call home. Sellers should aim to meet them on those terms.

Stagers generally recommend starting by removing outdated décor—this can make a positive difference in the impression millennial buyers receive. Contemporary light fixtures, hardwood flooring and updated window treatments can dramatically change the appearance of the home, as well. Few, strategic fixes like these can sell a home for top dollar, and that much sooner.

Every house, however, is unique. A real estate professional well-versed in staging is worth consulting—most will walk the home and offer suggestions as to the improvements needed to make the home attractive to not only millennials, but all types of buyers. Contact one today!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tax Filers: Educational Credits to Consider

October 17, 2016 12:57 am


For most taxpayers, this time of year marks the beginning of the return planning process—and with the school year in swing, there is no better time to explore eligibility for educational tax credits.

There are two educational credits available, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS): the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Taxpayers can only claim one of these credits per student, per year, even if they are eligible for both.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit is available for “qualified education expenses,” such as tuition, up to $2,500 per student. Only taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $80,000 or less (or $160,000 for married couples filing jointly) can claim the full credit.

The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for similar expenses, including tuition, up to $2,000 per return. Only taxpayers with a MAGI of $55,000 or less (or $111,000 for married couples filing jointly) can claim the full credit.

Both credits, which must be claimed through Form 8863, can be claimed by the taxpayer who pays qualifying expenses for an “eligible student,” which includes the taxpayer, spouse and dependents who are enrolled in an “eligible college, university or vocational school, according to the IRS.

Visit the Education Credits page on the IRS website, www.irs.gov/individuals/education-credits-aotc-llc, for more information, or to determine eligibility.

Source: U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Protecting Pets: 6 Disaster Safety Tips

October 17, 2016 12:57 am


Pets are family, and in times of distress, it’s important to treat them as such. Bookmark these safety tips for reference the next time a natural disaster occurs, courtesy of national humane organization American Humane.

1. Update Your Pet’s Information – Ensure your pet’s license information and microchip registration are up-to-date. Register your pet with mobiPET, a free AMBER-type alert system for missing pets.

2. Prepare a Kit for Your Pet – Assemble a kit with pet essentials: bowls, carrying cases, food, medication, water, etc. Keep it in an accessible area, preferably with your own emergency kit.

3. Note Your Pet’s Preferences – Be aware of the places your pet likes to hide—they may seek shelter there if they are separated from you during a disaster.

4. Secure Pet Exits – Make certain your pet cannot leave your home during a storm—bar access to cat doors, especially.

5. Keep Your Pet in Tow – If ordered to evacuate, take your pet with you—do not leave your pet behind. House your pet at a safe boarding facility, or stay at a pet-friendly hotel.

6. Understand Changes in Your Pet – Your pet’s outdoor (and indoor) environment may change after a storm. Your pet may exhibit notice by acting out or being self-protective—be sensitive to these changes, and comfort your pet in a quiet area, if possible.

Source: American Humane
 

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What Is a Home Service Contract, or "Warranty?"

October 17, 2016 12:57 am


The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) defines home service contracts, or “warranties,” as contracts offering repair, replacement or service for major appliances and systems that break down as a result of “normal” use. Home service contracts, according to the Association, are a significant means of savings for homeowners, with coverage ranging from disposals and ovens to HVAC systems.

“The wholesale value of these contracts easily exceeds $1 billion in savings to consumers annually,” said Mike Bartosch, president of the NHSCA, in a recent statement.

Home service contracts are not the same as homeowners insurance. Said Bartosch, “Home service contracts and homeowners insurance policies are mutually exclusive products in all 50 states. NHSCA members are not insurers and do not sell an insurance product. Further, insurance products don’t cover service, repairs or replacement to home systems and appliances required as a result of normal wear and use.

“If a system or appliance stops working, contact your home service contract provider,” Bartosch added in the statement. “If a home system or appliance is damaged by a falling tree, catches fire, or is subject to vandalism, contact your insurance agent.”

Real estate professionals often offer home service contracts—in this case, “warranties”—to homebuyers and/or sellers. The term “warranty,” according to the NHSCA, refers to the seller’s action of purchasing a service contract for the buyer should issues arise during the first year of ownership. If you’re a buyer or seller, consult with your real estate agent or broker to learn more about the options available to you.

For more information, visit HomeServiceContract.org.
 
Source: National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Car Care: 5 Things Drivers Should Stop Doing

October 14, 2016 12:51 am


A car only lasts as long as you care for it.

“Because auto care isn’t always a top priority for car owners, they might not realize they are doing things that adversely affect the performance, safety and value of their car,” says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Routine maintenance can go a long way toward saving money, avoiding headaches and protecting your vehicle investment.”

The Car Care Council recently outlined five things drivers should stop doing if they want their car to last:

STOP: Driving Carelessly
Driving carelessly is not only dangerous to yourself and those around you—it can cause damage to your car, too. Always observe the speed limit, and avoid aggressive starting and stopping, especially in stop-and-go traffic.

STOP: Ignoring the Check Engine Light
We know, we know—you’ll schedule that vehicle service appointment eventually. Putting off service when the check engine light comes on could lead to costly repairs down the road. (Literally!)

STOP: Neglecting the Tires
Your car’s tires get you from Point A to Point B—don’t neglect them! Bald or underinflated tires can be detrimental to the gas mileage and performance of your car, as well as your overall safety.

STOP: Running on Empty
We don’t mean the gas tank (though that can be harmful, too!). Check the fluid levels of your car regularly, and refill, if needed, to keep your car functioning at optimal capacity.

STOP: Skipping Out on Service
Periodic inspections by a professional service technician, which include assessment of the car’s components and parts, can help you keep unexpected repair costs to a minimum, and extend the lifespan of your car.

Source: Car Care Council
 

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4789 Route 309  Center Valley  PA 18034       Office:  610-791-4400     Cell:  610-390-6521     Fax:  610-799-0489