Richard Parke
Richard Parke

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The Latest and Greatest Fall Home Trends

September 12, 2017 2:14 am

As the days shorten and autumn arrives, it's time to start considering holiday gift items, or even a couple of household goodies you might just want to keep for yourself.

Take, for example the remotely controllable slow cooker from WeMo, which let's you check on your meal in progress without actually having to be in the kitchen. Quickly and easily adjust your device's temperature and cook time via the WeMo smartphone app, or just turn it on or off completely while you're away. Plus, it's 6 quart oval stoneware cooking chamber is removable and dishwasher-safe.

Forget fall foliage and Indian corn - add some festive color to any of your home's doorways with a natural or faux-berry fall wreath. Many retail and online home stores and garden centers are offering stemmed bittersweet wreaths gleaming with russet red and persimmon instead of autumn's more understated browns and oranges.

Or, add rustic charm to any abode with small-scale set of burnished-bronze Anthropologie Airen antlers (anthropologie.com $21). Their hefty aluminum build is sturdy enough for holding purses and scarves by the door, or can just as easily be displayed in the living or bedroom as cruelty-free, cabin-inspired wall art.
Match them up with a pair of Pier 1 Imports antler-shaped candle stands ($28 each). Substitute in lieu of a traditional cornucopia to open up the visual space, while giving any tabletop or nook a more dramatic feel.

If you're not ready to panel an entire room, or looking to add a few natural woody accents, tryTarget.com for one or more sets of decorative Weathered brand wood panels. Their eye-catching geometric design is described as the perfect home décor for the minimalist household.

Or if you want the easy to apply - and remove - effect of wood, JCPenny.com offers extremely authentic looking and American made Beachwood Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper. Use it to freshen up a backsplash, as intriguing shelf backing, to accent small areas, or an entire wall.

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Hurricane on the Way? Prep Your Home's Electricity

September 12, 2017 2:14 am

If you're preparing for a big storm or hurricane, make sure you pay mind to your home's electricity. Consider the following tips from the electricians at Mister Sparky ® electric.

Preparing for the Hurricane:

- Make sure flashlights, battery powered lanterns and other sources of light are readily available; make sure flashlights and radio batteries are fresh.

- Have an adequate supply of medicine, first aid supplies, and baby items.

- Keep at least two weeks supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items and batteries

- If prescriptions are essential, get them refilled in case of an extended power outage or extensive damage to the area.

- Make sure to have identification and documentation on hand such as social security card, driver's license, birth certificate, and insurance information for your home, car, and life.

- Have an evacuation plan for yourself and your family in case of an extended power outage.

During the Hurricane:

- Make sure to get inside a building and stay away from the windows.

- Don't leave candles unattended and keep them away from the furniture, draperies and other flammable materials.  Make sure to keep children away from open flames.

- Don't open freezers and refrigerators any more than absolutely necessary.

- Turn off your heating and air conditioning systems as well as electric range.

- Unplug sensitive electronic appliances such as TVs, VCRs, microwave ovens and computers – this will protect your appliances against power fluctuations that can occur when power is restored.

- After power is restored, be sure to wait five to ten minutes before turning on appliances and AC systems.

After the Hurricane:

- If power lines and poles are down in your yard or in the street, always treat them as if they are energized and dangerous. Never touch them and stay away.  Make sure to call your local utility company.

- Post-storm debris can hide power lines that have fallen.  Fallen trees that contain energized power lines can electrocute any item it comes in contact with, such as a metal fence, a pond or standing water.  Even the ground can be energized near fallen power lines.

- If your electricity is out make sure to check with neighbors to see if they have power.  If they do have power, you may have only a blown fuse or a tripped breaker.  Never replace a fuse or reset a circuit breaker with wet hands or while standing on a wet (or damp) surface.

- If you're without electricity and want to use a portable generator, make sure to use it in a well-ventilated area—preferably outside

- Avoid using candles if possible. If you must, never leave a burning candle unattended.

- Replenish your supplies of batteries, bottled water, & non-perishable food items for future hurricanes.

Source: Mister Sparky

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How to Prep Your AC Unit for a Hurricane

September 12, 2017 2:14 am

When a hurricane is on the way, it's important to batten down the hatches--including your AC unit. One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning recommends homeowners follow these quick tips for AC and general home prep:

- Turn off gas and electricity to your home to ensure safety if the water rises.

- Close all exterior crawl space vents and tape them off to prevent moisture from getting in.

- If your home is on a crawl space, have a battery backup with batteries in the upper floor of your home.

- Tie down the exterior air conditioning unit to keep it from washing away.

- If your home floods, make sure to have a Certified HVAC Technician inspect your A/C and furnace before you turn it back on.

- Do not wait until bad weather is here to shut off power to the AC unit.

Source: www.OneHourHeatandAir.com.

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5 Reasons to Paint Your Walls Gray

September 8, 2017 1:53 am

When it comes to painting your space, there are a myriad of ways to go. Bright and sunny yellow, the classic eggshell white, a soothing blue or a fresh green. But one color not to overlook when painting is gray. Below are five reasons why.

It matches. Gray is a fluid, flexible color that pairs well with a large variety of accents. This means you can swap up your color scheme over the years and keep the same paint job.

It's elegant. Gray is a classic choice for a wall. Whether it's a light smokey gray, a deep ash, or a lavender tinted hue, gray doesn't seem to age out.

It's calming. Along with green and some shades of blue, gray has been shown to sooth and relax. This makes it a great choice for your bedroom.

It opens space. If you choose a light gray, the color can help create the illusion of a larger area. White is the typical choice for opening up a space, but if you're looking for a bit more personality, gray is the way to go.

You can mix and match. Gray is an extremely flexible color. You can paint three of your walls a soft silvery gray, and then choose an accent wall to paint a deep slate. Or, paint your ceiling or floor a different shade of gray to add an interesting twist.

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How to Prep Your Pup for Winter

September 8, 2017 1:53 am

(Family Features)--The colder months are approaching, and it's not uncommon to lessen focus on diet and exercise, and the same goes for furry friends during the cooler seasons. To keep your pup healthy this winter, it's important to establish proper nutrition habits - which start by feeding your pet the right type of food.

"Whether it's the increase in holiday parties or the decrease in temperature, healthy eating routines typically fall to the wayside during winter - for humans and pets," says Dr. Jeff Weber, veterinarian and IAMS spokesperson.

"In addition, it's common for pet owners to stay indoors and out of the cold weather, which can negatively affect the daily activity and exercise required for dogs."

Despite all the distractions and temptations of the season, it's important to keep your dog on a steady diet that includes high-quality ingredients, each serving a purpose in his or her overall health.

"I recommend looking for a dog food with high-quality ingredients," Dr. Werber said. "I like IAMS(tm) dog food because it offers quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals for your furry friend to stay healthy and active during the winter months."

To provide these benefits, Dr. Werber recommends an option like the IAMS(tm) diet, which can help you see the following visible differences in your dog:

- Healthy skin and coat: A rich source of omega-6 fatty acids from chicken fat promotes excellent skin and coat health.

- Healthy energy: A customized protein and carb mix contributes to healthy energy levels.

- Healthy digestion: Beet pulp helps maintain intestinal health and aids his or her ability to absorb nutrients.
Heading into the colder months it's also important to sustain your active habits. Bundle up, head outside and let a high-quality diet fuel both you and your dog to make the most of the colder months.  

Source: Iams

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The Connection Between Joy and Travel

September 8, 2017 1:53 am

(Family Features)--Many facets of travel, such as the anticipation, the experience and even the return trip, can enhance your mood. It can create an element of the unexpected and give you the opportunity to gain new, memorable experiences.

To explore the connection between happiness and travel, and what makes a destination joyous, Bank of America, CondÈ Nast Traveler and happiness expert Shawn Achor created "The Joy Index." Achor delved into the psychology of experiences that awe people and the physiology of adventure to explain the relationship between joy and travel, and identified the 10 most joyous places in the world. He also shared the following tips on how to make travel attainable and maximize the joy of your vacations:

Predictors of Happiness
The Joy Index combined Achor's studies on travel and happiness with existing research from organizations, including the United Nations and Gallup, to identify six "happiness factors" based on the psychology of joy and travel: environment, wellbeing, culture, connection, adventure and wonder. These six factors, which encompass everything from weather to geography and local food to the friendliness of the culture, can have an impact on the joy experienced when visiting a destination.

"The three greatest predictors of happiness are gratitude, social connection and meaning," Achor says. "If you have an amazing life but are not grateful for it, you do not have access to happiness. These three things scientifically improve happiness, but not just for a moment - they change the lens through which you view the world."

Travel's Effect on Happiness
Travel allows you to discover something completely new and unique, which is why it can bring so much joy. According to Achor, the human brain craves novelty.

"The new experiences we have when we travel help us gain perspective and remind us that the world is bigger than our everyday problems," Achor says. "Another reason why traveling makes us joyful is the connection we experience. Traveling allows us to disconnect from our everyday lives and reconnect with the friends and family we are traveling with, as well as locals we meet along the way."

Maximizing Joy on Vacation
Remembering to be grateful is crucial for staying in the moment and finding joy in your trips.

"Try to think about how lucky we are to travel and experience the world. When things don't go your way, such as an inconvenient rainy day, see it as an opportunity to make your experience even more memorable," Achor says.

Putting yourself out there and engaging with the local culture can also be crucial for maximizing the joy of traveling.

"Learning about different stories of people with different cultures than our own helps us realize and understand some of the cool similarities we share and interesting differences based on our backgrounds," Achor said.

Making Travel Attainable
Achor stressed that happiness can be cultivated wherever you are, but to get the most out of a vacation, planning is crucial. Even though traveling can help increase happiness, many opt out of going on trips because of the cost.  This, too, is where planning can help.

Source: Bank of America

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How-to Protect Women from Talc-Related Ovarian Cancer

September 7, 2017 1:09 am

There are many things you can do to help avoid specific types of cancer. Quitting smoking and staying out of the sun, for instance, are simple precautions. But did you know avoiding talc can also reduce your cancer risk?

Approximately 21,000 women are annually diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, making it the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. While there are many factors that can contribute to ovarian cancer, like genetics,  four decades of prospective and retrospective scientific studies have shown a link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. In addition, laboratory-based human cellular studies show that the introduction of talcum powder to ovarian tissue produces inflammatory responses associated with cancer.

Following nearly $720 million in court verdicts, Dr. Roberta Ness, a recognized expert in women's health research and former Dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health, advocates, "It is time for doctors and women to realize that more than 40 years of scientific research doesn't lie: there is a link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. This cause is 100 percent preventable."

Dr. Ness is sharing the following tips to help protect women from contracting ovarian cancer as a result of genital talc use:

Look at Labels: It is important to look at the ingredient labels for all body powder products you use on your body. While some body powder products are beginning to include ovarian cancer warning labels on talc products, not all do. If you see talc listed as an ingredient, find an alternative that uses cornstarch.

Product Use: Despite decades of both broad-based and demographically targeted marketing campaigns by large companies, talc-based products should never be used for feminine hygiene purposes. If this talc use is part of your daily routine, stop using it immediately.

Consult Your Doctor: Annual Pap tests do not check for ovarian cancer. If you have ever used talc for feminine hygiene, it is important to consult with your gynecologist about proper monitoring and testing.

Observe Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and women should take time to learn more about this disease. Being aware of the symptoms such as bloating, pelvic pain, feeling full quickly when eating, can help raise red flags in early stages, and increase chances for survival with proper medical treatment.  

If you or a loved one suffer from or have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Dr. Ness recommends connecting with trusted resource and support groups such as the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

"If you have to battle ovarian cancer, it is best to go through that battle with a community of other strong women," says Dr. Ness.  Source: Dr. Roberta Ness

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10 Foods You Should Never Freeze

September 7, 2017 1:09 am

With grocery prices rising, and economies essential, it’s a natural to freeze extra foods and leftovers to keep them fresh and ready for use – and most foods, nutritionists and chefs agree, are none the worse for the big chill.

But some foodstuffs lose not just flavor, but also quality and eye appeal for having served time in the freezer. Here’s a list of 10 foodstuffs not fit for freezing:

Milk – Milk other than non-fat, when thawed from frozen, will almost always be lumpy, okay perhaps for cooking purposes, but not for drinking.

Cheese - Soft cheeses, like ricotta, cream cheese, and goat cheese, will separate if frozen and thawed, changing their texture for the worse. Hard cheeses, like parmesan or cheddar, do better – but they will keep in the fridge for long periods, wrapped in wax paper rather than plastic, so why bother to freeze them?

Other dairy products - Yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk or fresh cream will separate and curdle when thawed from frozen. On the other hand, you can successfully freeze extra butter.

Fresh potatoes – It’s tempting, when you know they will rot or grow eyes if you don’t use them in a timely manner. But freezing, or even refrigerating, fresh potatoes will give you gritty, grainy results.

Leftover gravy – Gravy thickened with flour or cornstarch will separate when thawed from frozen.

Fresh herbs – If you can’t polish off that bunch of basil, parsley or oregano, turn it into pesto or a compound butter to spread on French bread and pop under the broiler. Herbs frozen turn into mushy, brown messes when thawed.

Fried foods – That crispy fried chicken, zucchini or whatever is doomed to collect a lot of moisture in the freezer, thawing as something you may not want to eat.

Cooked pasta – Taken from the freezer, freshly cooked pasta will be a mushy, sticky mess, thoroughly bloated with water.

Whole eggs – The gooey insides may expand when frozen, cracking and potentially leaking. Egg-based foods, like mayo, also should also not be frozen.

Ground coffee – Opened bags of coffee stored in the freezer suffer condensation that can totally ruin the flavor, especially if you thaw it every morning, use a little, and return it to the freezer. You can, of course, safely stow it in the fridge.

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Think Twice Before Storing Your Credit Card Information

September 5, 2017 2:00 am

The convenience of saving your credit card information on your favorite sites is so appealing - no more scrambling for your card, no more hassle of having to enter all that information - especially when it comes to purchases made on your mobile device.

According to the Better Business Bureau, however, consumers must take into account the risks involved in storing their credit card info in order to protect themselves and their financial information.

This is an important consideration due to the increasing amount and variety of data theft over the past several years. The theft of personal information from medical insurance companies, restaurants and retailers has understandably made consumers wary about how their information is handled.

The BBB offers the following suggestions for protecting your stored credit card information:

You can say no. In most cases, merchants will ask if you'd like them to keep your number on file. You have the right to say no. If a merchant isn't clear about their policy, then ask about it.

Remove your credit card information. Some online merchants automatically store your credit card info without asking, so after you’ve made a purchase, log into your account and find the option to remove your payment information from a company’s files.  

Stay safe when you’re out and about. Avoid making any transactions over a public Wi-Fi that does not require a password. Hackers can set up a fake network with a name similar to that of the store, coffee shop, retailer or library where free Wi-Fi is offered. If you connect to it, they can get into your files and steal your information. Ask for the name of the location's Wi-Fi network before connecting.

Use credit, not debit. Whether you use a debit or credit card, you are protected from any liability due to fraud. However, with a debit card, cybercriminals can empty your bank account after a data breach.

Keep a close watch on credit and bank statements. Be vigilant about scanning your statements for unusual or unauthorized charges. If anything looks suspicious, call your financial institution right away. In addition, check sites you usually visit to remove your debit or credit card information if you'd prefer to avoid the risks of a data breach.

Hope you found this helpful. If you’re interested in information about the real estate market, please contact me.

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Property Damage Repair Tips

September 5, 2017 2:00 am

Thousands of homeowners are feeling the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, while insurance companies and local contractors are overwhelmed with claims. The question remains: how can homeowners get things moving and not be taken advantage of? Paul Davis, one of the top restoration companies in the U.S. shares these tips:

- Call your insurance company ASAP and get a referral for a professional and certified restoration company who will assess property damage and work with you through the process; a company such as Paul Davis who will write a fair estimate that your insurance adjuster will accept, and perform the work efficiently and correctly.

- Turn in the claim as soon as you know you have damage – insurance companies will be assigning losses to their local adjusters, who will quickly reach capacity.

- Restoration companies understand how to write an initial, detailed estimate that your insurance adjuster will accept; they will help you process the payments and they can work with your insurance company if additional damage is discovered during the course of the project.

After contracting with a restoration company:

- Be prepared to provide the name of your insurance company, insurance agent, adjuster, deductible and a claim number.

- Sign the work authorization to begin the emergency work right away. This includes any drying, tarping, board-up, and protection of the contents of the home.

- One way to expedite approval of the repair estimate is to arrange for the insurance adjuster and restoration contractor to assess the damage together.

To help expedite repairs:

- Select items such as new carpet, tile, cabinets, paint colors, and light fixtures as soon as possible. Many of these items have lead times, especially in the aftermath of a major storm, when materials can run short.

- If the payments from the insurance company include your mortgage company, work with your contractor to ensure they process the payments and perform any inspections required, so that the contractor can receive progress payments as the work progresses.

Source: Paul Davis

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