Diane Minguez
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RE/MAX 440   Diane Minguez
1110 North Broad Street  Lansdale, PA  19446
Office Phone: 215-362-2260    Phone: 267-575-6818  Fax: 267-354-6882  Cell: 267-575-6818
dminguez@remax.net

My Blog

Five Myths of Spring Cleaning

May 1, 2014 1:53 am

(Family Features) Don’t get caught putting extra work into your spring cleaning efforts.

“A little effort up front can make everything you do feel effortless,” said Patrick Coleman, spokesman for Hoover vacuums. “It’s not about finding short cuts. It’s about finding easier ways to do the job right.”

Here are five myths, and the best ways to actually tackle the challenges.

• Cleaning Every Spring is Enough
When it comes to your hardwood floors, putting off cleaning until spring may mean you have to replace them more often.
Walking on dirt and debris can wear down the floors over time. So while it may be tempting to just sweep unless there’s a spill, it’s best to clean the floors at least once a week.

Do this instead:
You don’t need to scrub on your hands and knees every week. Let a machine do it for you. The Hoover FloorMate Deluxe has a set of brushes that spin while they gently wash and scrub hard floors. You’ll be surprised how much less you’ll mind cleaning the floor.

• Vinegar is a Miracle Cleaner
Natural cleaning can be a more environmentally friendly way to tackle the mess, but you need to make the right choice for the right job.

Vinegar will do a great job on glass, plastic and ceramic. However, it can actually damage porous surfaces like the grout between tiles or stone.

Do this instead: Mix 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, 3 drops of dish detergent and 1 cup of water. Make it smell divine with essential oils.

• More Dirt = More Soap Needed
When something is absolutely filthy, it’s natural to grab the soap and go to town. But that can actually make it dirtier.
While soap is helpful in removing dirt and grime, if you don’t get it all rinsed and removed, the residue acts like a magnet for more dirt.

Do this instead: Use less than you think you need. You can always add more if needed.

• Newspapers Can Replace Paper Towels
You can certainly save money and a tree or two by reusing newspapers instead of buying paper towels to clean windows and other surfaces.

But the ink on newsprint can smear – so you need a backup plan.

Do this instead: Keep a few extra towels or torn garments for when the newspaper is not cutting it.

• Hairspray is the Best Way To Get Out Ink Stains
Yes, hairspray does work. But why add glue and other chemicals to the mess?

Do this instead:
The alcohol in hairspray is what’s actually doing the heavy lifting. So go straight to the source and use alcohol to lightly blot out the stain.

Source: Hoover

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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In Most of U.S., Buying Beats Renting After Only Two Years

May 1, 2014 1:53 am

In half of U.S. metros, buying a home is a better financial decision than renting for homebuyers who plan to stay in their home for at least two years, according to the first quarter Zillow® breakeven horizon analysis.

Among the 35 largest metro areas analyzed by Zillow in the first quarter, those with the shortest breakeven horizon were Riverside (less than 1 year), Orlando (1 year), Tampa (1.1 years) and Miami- Fort Lauderdale (1.2 years). Large metros with the longest breakeven horizon included Washington DC (4.2 years), Boston (4 years), Phoenix (3.3 years), San Diego (3.2 years), Minneapolis and Baltimore (both 3.1 years).

Because conditions for buyers and renters can vary dramatically even within cities themselves, Zillow produces breakeven horizons down to the neighborhood level in order to give potential buyers and renters the most insight into local conditions where they're considering living. For example, the breakeven horizon for the city of San Francisco is 2.8 years, but home shoppers who purchase in the Bayview neighborhood will break even after 1.4 years, while those who buy in Presidio Heights will need to stay in their home 11.7 years for buying to be a better financial decision.

"Rents keep rising, and mortgage interest rates remain very low, which is helping to skew the rent vs. buy decision toward buying for those who can afford it. Many renters may ask themselves why renew a lease, when you can break even on the same home in less time in many areas," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. "However, some renters still have to overcome significant hurdles before they can pull the trigger on homeownership. For those renters who can't qualify for a mortgage or aren't able to save enough for a downpayment on a house, renting can be a more flexible, and often far-less frustrating option."

Zillow's breakeven horizon incorporates all costs associated with buying and renting, including upfront payments, closing costs, anticipated monthly rent and mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, utilities, maintenance, and renovation costs. We also consider the different asset streams available to buyers and renters. For buyers, the home equity grows.

Alternatively, renters can invest some of the money they would have spent on a home purchase and earn interest. It then factors in historic and anticipated home value appreciation rates, rental prices and rental appreciation rates.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Protect Kids from Dangers Lurking Online

April 29, 2014 1:06 am

(BPT) - Every day, millions of Americans turn to the Internet for news and entertainment and to shop. Over the years, Americans have come to trust the Internet so much, that they regularly share information about their daily lives through social media sites and with online retailers. But what many may not realize is that within just a few clicks, there's an unregulated digital frontier where people, including criminals, buy and sell illegal drugs, guns and pornography, as well as personal and financial details about ordinary individuals. Fueled by software that conceals the identity of people, and digital currency, it's a world that people can't ignore.

That's one of the takeaways from a new report, "Digital Economy: Potentials, Perils and Promises" recently released by the Digital Economy Task Force (DETF). Comprised of experts representing law enforcement, the digital economy and government policy, this task force, brought together by Thomson Reuters and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, explored the risks of the digital economy and the rise of online illegal activity.

Many Americans are familiar with what experts call the Surface Web - the typical retail and company websites, social media pages, blogs and bulletin boards that people routinely visit every day. But underneath the Surface Web is the Deep Web, which consists of networks of content, databases and websites that cannot be reached through common web portals or found by search engines. What makes these networks possible - and untouchable by most Americans - is anonymizing technology that conceals the identity of users.

Within the Deep Web, many websites have become havens of criminal activity such as the trafficking of drugs, guns, humans and child pornography. These illegal sites are known as the Darknet by law enforcement experts. Because people reach these sites anonymously, it makes it very difficult for law enforcement to track the illegal transactions of criminals within the Darknet.

"There's good news and bad news to this story," says Steve Rubley, managing director of the Government Segment of Thomson Reuters and DETF co-chair. "All Americans should know that the rise in the global digital economy offers incredible opportunity. For example, in the case of journalists or dissidents in oppressive countries, anonymizing technology and digital currencies enable a safe link to the outside world.

"But, there's also a dark side to the story," Rubley adds. "Parents should know that some pretty bad people are trying to entice children to send compromising photos of themselves so they can buy and sell those images with other pedophiles. Parents should know that drug dealers are using the Internet to bring drugs to your front door - just like a traditional online retailer."

To foster the growth of the positive aspects of the digital economy while confronting illegal activity on the Internet, the DETF recommends that state and federal lawmakers consider policies and action that will increase law enforcement training, foster more cooperation between law enforcement agencies, promote a national dialogue and education about illegal Internet activity, and more.

"There is a difference between privacy and anonymity," says Ernie Allen, president and CEO of ICMEC and DETF co-chair. "We simply cannot create an environment in which traffickers and child exploiters can operate on the Internet with no risk of being identified unless they make a mistake."

The best defense to prevent criminals and other unsavory characters from violating your privacy online and potentially exploit youth is to implement all privacy settings on social media sites, never friend people you don't know and never respond to emails and text messages you don't recognize. Thomson Reuters offers some additional tips, which include:

* Parents should work with local law enforcement officials to educate their community about the perils of illegal activity occurring on the Internet, and how local citizens of all ages, can avoid becoming victims of online criminals.

* Local citizens should encourage state and local law enforcement officials to invest in the training needed to detect and investigate illegal activity on the Internet that may harm the citizens they represent.

* Parents should monitor online and mobile use by their young children and watch for messages from people that can't be identified or seem out of the ordinary.

* Parents should speak with their children about Internet use and set clear parameters on acceptable use and appropriate websites that can be visited. Set the family computer in a common area to discourage private use. Use parental controls when appropriate to help block access to inappropriate content.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Indoor Air Quality: What You Can't See Can Hurt You

April 28, 2014 12:41 am

The Environmental Protection Agency has named indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental risks to public health – indoor air may be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside. With Americans spending 90 percent of their time indoors, purifying indoor air is paramount to keeping families healthy – especially those with family members suffering from asthma and allergies.

"Poor indoor air quality has been linked to a host of health issues such as headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea, fatigue, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease," says Megan Leick, spokesperson for Aprilaire. "For individuals that suffer from asthma or allergies, air particulates such as pollen, dust and dust mites are known triggers for asthma attacks and allergic reactions."

More than 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma and 50 million suffer from allergies. Dust alone is comprised of dead insects, dust mites, mold spores, pollen, dander, skin flakes and other particulates that can be harmful to health. Controlling indoor air quality can provide relief for asthma and allergy sufferers and protect your family from getting sick. You can improve indoor air quality with a few simple steps:

1. Prevent Irritants from Entering the House. Take measures to make sure dust, dirt and other pollutants are prevented from entering the house. Simple activities like removing shoes before entering the household, closing windows during high pollen days and not allowing smoking indoors help keep dirt and other irritants from entering the household.

2. Install a whole-home air purification system. A whole-home air purification system is installed as part of the central heating and cooling system to capture and eliminate airborne contaminants. Whole-home air purification systems remove up to 98 percent of airborne contaminants down to one micron in size and are 40 times more efficient than a standard furnace filter. Each time the air system runs, the whole-home air purification system removes dust, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, pollen, viruses, fungi, mold and other dangerous substances from the air throughout the entire home, rather than just the air in the immediate vicinity like a portable air cleaner.

Other important considerations include maintaining humidity levels as well as proper ventilation; especially if your home is newer or has been recently updated with tighter materials for more energy efficiency.

Source: AprilAire

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The 4 Types of Travelers That Should Purchase a Travel Insurance Policy

April 28, 2014 12:41 am

There are certain risks associated with traveling - missing a flight, getting sick, or losing luggage. For some, these risks are greater than others. Squaremouth defines the four types of travelers that should consider purchasing a travel insurance policy.

The Traveler with a Sick Family Member
The uncertainty of a family member's health can jeopardize even the most thoroughly planned trip. While all trip cancellation policies cover a family member's unexpected illness, some policies will also cover cancellation due to their pre-existing medical conditions.

The Traveler on Medicare
In most cases, Medicare does not extend coverage outside of the U.S. This means that if a traveler on Medicare becomes ill or injured while traveling abroad, they are responsible for paying 100 percent of the medical expenses. Most travel insurance policies include an emergency medical and medical evacuation benefit that can take the place of a traveler's Medicare coverage while they're abroad.

The Traveler Going to a Dangerous or Remote Location
Travel to an especially dangerous or remote location increases a traveler's need for an escape plan. The evacuation benefits within some travel insurance policies can act as this plan. Non-medical evacuation is a benefit that provides transportation from a dangerous location to a place of safety during civil unrest or natural disaster. Likewise, medical evacuation provides transportation to an appropriate medical facility. This benefit is particularly important as many health insurance providers don't cover this transportation cost internationally.

The Self-Employed Traveler
The inconsistent work schedule of self-employed or on-call travelers can linger over their future travel plans. Some travel insurance policies include a "cancel for work reasons" benefit, which in some cases, covers self-employed travelers who need to cancel their trip if an unforeseen work obligation conflicts with their travel plans.

"Travelers often feel indifferent towards travel insurance until they are in a situation where they need it and don't have it," says Squaremouth Marketing Manager, Megan Singh. "For some travelers who are at a higher risk, not having a policy is simply not worth it."

Source: Squaremouth

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Select the Right Tree for the Right Place in Your Yard

April 25, 2014 2:33 am

It has been more than 140 years since the first Arbor Day was observed in Nebraska. It has since become a national observance that takes place on the last Friday in April in most states and recognizes the importance of trees as well as tree selection, planting, and care. A properly selected and planted tree can add beauty and energy efficiency to your landscape. A poorly selected and planted tree can become high maintenance, dangerous, and short-lived. The Energy Education Council has advice to help you select the tree that is best for your yard.

"This is an excellent time of year for tree planting," says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council. "With some research and preparation, your tree will be a healthy and beautiful addition to your home for years to come."

One of the first considerations is the purpose of your tree. Will your tree be needed for shade, a windbreak, or beauty? These considerations will affect what tree is suitable for you, and where it should be planted. Dense evergreens provide a good wind block, while leafy deciduous trees provide shade in the summer.

No matter what purpose the trees will serve, it is always best to choose native trees. They require less maintenance and will live longer. You can get more information about native growing trees from a regional university Extension office or a state department of natural resources. In addition, the Arbor Day Foundation has a free tree wizard tool that will help you select the best tree for your needs. It is available at www.arborday.org/shopping/trees/treewizard/intro.cfm.

The next step is to decide where you will plant your tree. For a windbreak, plant trees to the north, northwest, and west. For shade, plant trees to the east and west of your home. Remember that fast-growing trees are more brittle and likely to be damaged in a storm. Plant these trees farther from your home to protect your home from damage.

If you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, there are additional considerations to help keep your home and community safe. It is recommended that you limit the flammable vegetation and material around your home for at least 30 feet on all sides. Contact your local fire department for more information.

Also be sure to select planting locations that will not interfere with your utility lines or power poles. Power outages or interruptions occur when trees and branches come into contact with overhead lines. Electrical arcing and sparking from a wire to a nearby branch can cause fires.

Tall growing trees with a mature height of greater than 40 feet should be planted 50 feet away to avoid future pruning. A mature height of less than 25 feet is recommended for trees planted near power lines. Keep in mind that trees should never be planted directly under power lines, near poles, or too close to electrical equipment.

Tall growing trees near power lines must be pruned to maintain a safe distance from the wires. If you have trees that are growing into power lines, contact your electric provider. Never try to prune them yourself.

Before planting, take proper precautions to stay safe. Be sure to call 8-1-1, the national "Call Before You Dig" number, a few business days before you want to plant. It is a free service that gets your public underground utilities located and marked, so you can dig safely away from them.

Source: Energy Education Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Outdoor Living Trends that Instantly Turn a Drab Deck into a Beautiful Oasis

April 25, 2014 2:33 am

(BPT) - Warm weather means more time to spend outside enjoying gentle breezes and sunshine-filled days. Is your deck or patio ready for months of outdoor fun? If your outdoor space is a bit drab, there's no need to fret. The year's top trends in outdoor living will transform any deck in an instant and create a space that is truly an extension of the home.

"Homeowners are demanding expanded livable spaces and are looking for fresh ways to update their decks and patios for premium enjoyment," says Madeleine MacRae, exterior market manager for Somfy Systems, maker of motors and controls for shades, screens and awnings. "The good news is that an existing space can easily be transformed into an outdoor oasis with minimal effort and financial investment." MacRae offers top outdoor living trends that will instantly transform your deck into a beautiful, relaxing oasis:

Shade
Sunny days define the warm weather months, but outdoor spaces can quickly heat up and drive homeowners indoors to cool off. That's why shade options are a necessity, with automatic awnings leading the trend. Somfy Motorized awnings not only create cooler, more comfortable outdoor spaces, but they can also be set to react to the environment with sensors customized to open and close the awning as wind and sun intensities shift. These modern high-tech awnings do more than enhance outdoor living; they improve indoor living by blocking the sun from coming inside the home, creating real energy savings by keeping AC units from kicking on in peak times.

Lighting
The American Society of Landscape Architects recently released the results of its 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, and lighting topped the list of in-demand outdoor living features. As the sun goes down, there's no need to retreat indoors when your patio has the proper lighting. Solar lights are a popular option that again pair well with the sustainability theme - they charge during daylight and glow automatically at dusk. Strings of garden lights are another popular option, adding a subtle twinkle to outdoor spaces.

Ambiance

Potted plants bring rich shades of green and other beautiful colors directly onto the deck or patio area to add unparalleled ambiance. A few strategically placed pots add a touch of serenity while tying together landscape themes. What's hot for 2014? Sustainability and low-maintenance continue to be in high demand, making native plants a natural choice. When deciding which plants to use in your pots, ask your local garden center expert or call your local extension office to see what native plants will perform best in the region where you live.

Stylish outdoor furniture is a necessary element of designing a cozy, usable outdoor space with superb ambiance. Upholstered sofas and oversized accent pillows in a variety of colorful patterns are big this year. When furnishing your deck or patio, keep in mind the flow of traffic and embrace thoughtful arrangement of furniture to encourage conversation and comfort. In addition to couches and chairs, incorporating an eating area makes dining al fresco a joy any time of day. If you're tight on space, seek multifunctional furniture that performs double duty, such as a couch that also serves as a storage space for blankets under the cushion. If you have liberal space, installed furniture is super trendy, such as a hanging swing or sofa.

Naturally aligning with homeowners' desire to create functional space both indoors and out, the demand for outdoor kitchens is growing. Whether it's a corner with a grill or a full kitchen with refrigerator, prep sink and all, incorporating a space on your deck for cooking food is a top trend. Whether you're slow-grilling a turkey for an intimate family dinner or flipping burgers for a neighborhood cookout, outdoor kitchens will serve you well time and time again throughout the warm weather seasons, all while adding value to your overall home investment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Useful Tips to Spring Clean the Pantry

April 24, 2014 2:09 am

To celebrate spring, Annie Chun's announced 10 tips to help consumers de-clutter the kitchen and prepare for a season of healthy, mindful eating. The recommendations support the brand's mission to empower at-home cooks with the tools, resources and products they need to feel comfortable in the kitchen and well-equipped to make a great meal.

While it's important to maintain a well-stocked and well-organized pantry year-round, Annie Chun's advises consumers to take advantage of annual "spring cleaning" with the following easy steps:

1. Remove all items from your pantry. Reassess all of the food and supplies you have accumulated, and clear your shelves of unhealthy, overly processed foods. This keeps the pantry free of temptation while making space for more wholesome options.
2. Identify "pantry staples" and always keep them stocked. Convenient, shelf-stable foods that deliver on flavor will help ensure you never go hungry and provide simple meal options that can be ready in minutes.
3. Check "best by" dates. Discard anything that may have expired or items that you hardly use which are nearing their expiration date in order to cut down on clutter. Pay attention to oils, nuts, grains and seeds which can go rancid over time.
4. Wipe down surfaces. Before re-stocking, be sure to wipe down shelving with a food-safe, gentle cleanser to eliminate any dirt, germs, etc.
5. Consider accessibility. For pantries with deep shelves, reorganize your products so that taller items are in back, and smaller items are in front, making it easy to see what you have.
6. Group "like" items together to ensure quick access when you need them.
7. Label and date things. For any non-packaged goods or foods that aren't shelf-stable, be sure to label and date them appropriately.
8. Employ the use of airtight containers. Air-tight containers will maintain your food at peak freshness for as long as possible, lessening the chance of spoilage.
9. Keep healthier, packaged snacks at eye-level. When better-for-you snacks—like nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain crackers—are right before your eyes, you're more likely to favor them in place of something unhealthy.
10. Keep a pen and paper nearby to keep track of your supplies so that you don't risk running out of anything you might need.

Source: Annie Chun’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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More Than Half of States Still Show Improving Housing Markets

April 24, 2014 2:09 am

Freddie Mac released its Multi-Indicator Market Index(SM) (MiMi(SM)) for February showing the U.S. housing market overall recovering at a slightly slower pace from the previous month. However, more than half of all states, as well as more than half of the top 50 metro areas, continue to show an improving trend. Eleven states and the District of Columbia, and four metro areas, are in their stable range of housing activity, unchanged from last month. One year ago, seven states and the District of Columbia, and zero metro areas, were in their stable range.

• The national MiMi value stands at -3.11 points indicating a weak housing market overall and declining by 0.03 points from January to February. However, on a year-over-basis, the U.S. housing market has improved by 0.67 points, and the 3-month trend (+0.12 points) shows an improving housing market. The nation's all-time MiMi low of -4.49 was in November 2010 when the housing market was at its weakest.

• Eleven of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia are in their stable range of housing activity with North Dakota, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Alaska, and Louisiana ranking in the top five. Wyoming moved up to the second place ranking. The District of Columbia declined one spot to third place.

• Four of the 50 metro areas are stable and in range, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans and Austin with the latter two switching between third and fourth place rankings.

• The five most improving states month-over-month were South Carolina (+0.14), Louisiana (+0.7), Ohio (+0.07), Tennessee (+0.05) and Nevada (+0.07). From one year ago the most improving states remained unchanged: Florida (+1.87), Nevada (+1.65), California (+1.08), South Carolina (+0.96) and Texas (+0.93).

• The five most improving metro areas month-over-month were Charlotte (+0.10), Columbus (+0.09), Nashville (+0.07), New Orleans (+0.07), and Las Vegas (+0.05) which tied with Memphis (+0.05) and Miami (+0.05). From one year ago the most improving metros remained unchanged: Miami (+2.33), Orlando (+1.91), Las Vegas (+1.64), Riverside (+1.60), and Tampa (+1.49).

• Overall, in February, 28 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia are improving based on their three month trend and 27 of the 50 metros are improving. Kansas City, St. Louis and Minneapolis metro area housing markets slipped in their three month trend after seeing declines in their purchase application activity and local employment picture.

"Despite a slowdown over the winter months, the housing market continues to show improvement in most states, although at a somewhat slower pace,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft. “And while not all the MiMi indicators are trending in a better direction -- gains in local employment and loan performance have really helped many markets across the country, especially those that were hardest hit. Outside of these areas we also are seeing positive improvement from the Carolinas and Tennessee as their local unemployment rates fall further."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Greener Grilling: Good for You and for Mother Nature, Too

April 23, 2014 1:45 am

(BPT) - You already know grilling is a healthful, flavorful and fun way to cook while enjoying the great outdoors. But did you know it can also be a "green" activity?

By choosing earth-friendly fuel options, better ingredients and sustainably sourced seasonings, you can satisfy your family's taste buds and Mother Nature with these greener grilling tips:

* Grilling with charcoal briquettes imparts a wonderful flavor to foods, but many cooks resort to a squirt (or several) of lighter fluid to get the coals burning faster. Forego the lighter fluid and invest in a charcoal chimney - a metal cylinder that makes it easy to get charcoal started. Briquettes go on the grate atop the chimney and newspaper goes at the bottom. When you light the paper, the chimney effect of the tube lights the charcoal from the bottom quickly and easily.

* Many people use disposable dinnerware for outdoor dining. While it may be convenient to not have to wash those dishes, reusable dinnerware and table linens are better for the environment and cheaper in the long term. Plus, cloth napkins and real plates impart a special charm to dining al fresco.

* This summer, why not try meat and poultry from free-range or grass-fed animals, rather than factory farmed? Better yet, select meat from a local farmer, buy organic or go vegan or vegetarian. Firm tofu, Portobello mushrooms and even polenta are healthy and trendy alternatives to meat. Such options reduce the environmental impact of your meal, and they often taste much better!

* Seasonings are a great way to add flavor without fat to your grilled meats and vegetables. When you choose sustainably sourced spices and herbs from purveyors like Frontier Natural Co-op, you're not only getting outstanding flavor, but you can be assured the seasonings have been produced using practices that are better for the environment, too.

* When purchasing produce, look for local options. Locally grown veggies and fruits travel a shorter distance to make it to your grill, meaning less fossil fuel is consumed overall.

* You can conserve resources without skimping on flavor if you make marinades using whole spices that you've pan roasted and freshly cracked before blending. Flavored and artisan black pepper corns, salts and sugars are trendy right now. You can also incorporate artisan vinegars, fine drinking wines and unusual beers into your marinades to create unique and pleasing flavors.

* Do you love adding smoke to your grilling? Rather than buying pre-soaked planks or pre-processed briquettes, try smoking by soaking whole herbs, spices and tea leaves in water then throwing them on the hot coals to create unusually flavored smoke blends that go far beyond basic mesquite and hickory.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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