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

Don't Compound the Hazard When Hiring an Asbestos Contractor

October 31, 2013 12:30 am

The discovery of hazardous material like asbestos lurking in one's home is disturbing enough. Homeowners in this situation can get it resolved without compounding the problem by hiring an improper or unscrupulous contractor to do the work.

The Alvarado Group of Madison, WI recently posted some good advice from Gary Mason, a Wisconsin Registered Home Inspector. Mason says if you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic, usually asbestos material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers.
There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed, fibers are released and then inhaled. Mason also offers these tips for homeowners considering a corrective-action contractor:

-Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures).

-Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home by sealing off the work area using plastic sheeting and duct tape - also turn off the heating and air conditioning system.

-Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer - wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.

-Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air.
At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.

-Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used.

-Air monitoring to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air, and to assure that the contractor’s job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Survey Sheds Light on Americans' Recycling Expectations

October 31, 2013 12:30 am

There is an increasing need for the public and private sectors to collaborate to find and implement recycling solutions in communities across the country. A survey conducted by Research Data + Insights on behalf of the Carton Council of North America (CCNA) offers new findings that reveal that consumers overwhelmingly believe product companies and their brands play a crucial role in recycling. In the survey, which included 1,000 adults from across the U.S., 86 percent responded that they expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase the recycling of their packages.

U.S. consumers also indicated they look to the actual products they purchase for environmental information, even before turning to other resources. The vast majority (76 percent) reported they would look at the product's packaging to learn if a package is recyclable. The second most popular place to determine recyclability was the product's company website (33 percent), followed by the consumer's city website at 26 percent.

"First and foremost, this survey reiterates the importance of including a recycling message on product packaging," said Jason Pelz, vice president, environment, Tetra Pak North America, and vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America. "In an increasingly competitive and green-minded climate, consumers are revealing they expect food and beverage brands to actively help increase the recycling of their packages."

Pelz continues, "The Carton Council currently encourages food and beverage packaging brands to use the recycling logo that was developed for cartons. This logo reminds consumers that cartons are recyclable and provides the RecycleCartons.com website where consumers can learn if cartons are currently accepted in their community's recycling program. We're working hard to spread carton recycling access to every community around the country, and we need to do all we can to educate consumers about placing cartons in the recycling bin in communities that accept cartons in their recycling program. But we can't do it alone and would like brands to help us spread the word, on packages, on their websites, via social media vehicles and beyond."

The Carton Council is leading a national effort to increase access to carton recycling in the U.S. In 2009, 21 million U.S. households had access to carton recycling in 26 states. Now, 52.5 million households in 45 states can recycle cartons, a 150 percent increase that includes 64 of the nation's top 100 cities. Food and beverage brands that use cartons for their products are encouraged to join this effort, especially in helping promote carton recycling to their customers. CCNA can provide companies with tools to inform their customers, from step one which is adding the recycling logo to packages and recycling information on their websites, to an extensive list of possibilities beyond that. Those interested can connect with the Carton Council through CartonOpportunities.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top Kids' Toys for the 2013 Holidays

October 31, 2013 12:30 am

It’s a scary thought for some, but the holidays are right around the corner! Wondering what the hottest toys for kids will be this year? Here’s a sneak peak at what’s likely to shine this season.

0-2 Years:
Alex Jr. Busy Bead Maze Race Around ($69.95)
Get ready for a day at the races! Little ones move chunky bead pieces shaped like a car, plane, bus and trucks around the colorful maze. It’s a great early learning toy for developing visual stimulation, hand eye coordination and cause and effect. For ages ten months and up.

Sesame Street Big Hugs Elmo ($69.95)
There are so many ways to play with Sesame Street Big Hugs Elmo with 50+ animated sounds and phrases! When preschoolers give Elmo a great big hug, he'll hug back, say fun phrases or sing a sweet song about hugs! Press Elmo's left foot and he will invite little ones to join in on one of four imagination activities. For ages 18 months and up.

3-4 Years:
LeapPad2™ Monsters University Bundle ($139.95)
Get into the Disney/Pixar Monsters University spirit with this monsterized LeapPad2, $20 Digital Download Card, two Sticker Sheets, seven Wacky Wallpapers, Eye-mazing Gel Skin and Cleaning Cloth. The award-winning LeapPad2™ inspires kids to create, learn, and explore with front and back cameras and video recorders, 4GB of memory, motion sensor, and a library of 800+ games, eBooks, videos, music and more.
For ages three years and up.

Mini Kick Scooter Green/Red ($99.95)
The mini kickboard is the quality scooter for young children. Its unique 'lean-and-steer' design allows children to direct the scooter by using their body weight to curve from side to side. The mini kickboard makes scooting fun for young children and helps them to develop their balance, coordination and motor skills. For ages three and up.

4-8 Years:
Classic Pac-Man Connect and Play ($29.95)
Bandai's Pac-Man Connect and Play brings back your favorite classic video games right to your television. The battery-operated old school joystick connects to your TV. The unique Pac-Man shaped controller is designed like the original game controllers. For ages four years and up.

Color Your Own Igloo ($24.95)
No snow on the ground? No problem! This single-piece cardboard igloo comes ready to play in and easily folds for quick put-away. The white walls inside and out are ready for your kids to color, paint or glue decorations on.

8-10 Years:

Adventure Time Monopoly ($39.95)
Join best buds and top notch adventurers Finn and Jake on a journey to claim the Land of Ooo and beyond with the Adventure Time Collector's Edition of Monopoly. Includes six custom tokens: Ice King's Crown, Princess Bubblegum, Jake, Finn, Lumpy Space Princess, Tree Trunks. For ages eight years and up.

Fashion Angels Design Super Set ($24.95)
Create a clothing collection of runway-worthy pieces and learn about garment construction with the Fashion Angels Tapeffiti™ Fashion Design Set. Choose one of the 15 clothing patterns and use Tapeffiti decorative tapes to cover them any way you like. Cut out the pattern and match the numbered dots to construct your garment around the mannequin or dress forms. For ages eight years and up.

10+ Years:

LEGO Minecraft ($44.95)
Build a mini model of the game that's sweeping the Internet with a LEGO® microbuild version of Minecraft! This build features a cool design with lots of 1x1 LEGO tiles and two buildable Micromob characters: Steve and Creeper. For ages ten years and up.

Source: Indigo Books & Music Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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7 Simple Tips for Choosing Kid Tech Tools

October 30, 2013 12:27 am

Computers, video games, mobile phones, and tablets are ubiquitous in our lives and the lives of our kids. Parents want to embrace technology to facilitate their children's learning. But with so much technology available, how are parents supposed to know which tools and activities will actually help build skills?

"Every day new resources appear in our Apps stores and we're bombarded with all the 'Best of' and 'Top 10' lists. Parents should look for reviews and endorsements by reliable sources, including educational organizations, before giving their children access to any new tech resource," says Julia Fitzgerald, Sylvan Learning's Chief Marketing Officer.

To help parents make good choices with digital media, Sylvan Learning is offering seven simple guidelines for selecting new tech tools and apps:

Does it focus on active learning? Choose educational tools and activities that are interactive, rather than passive, like TV and DVDs.

What skills does it reinforce? Look for skills like eye-hand coordination, memorization, computation, dexterity, critical thinking and creativity.

Does it allow your child to practice the skill? When a program or activity says it teaches a skill, then it should provide practice with that skill and explain how the skill building is accomplished.

Does it provide feedback? Effective technology provides feedback on performance to help your child build their skills and confidence.

Is it age appropriate? Check the age and skill level to make sure they are a good match for your child's current developmental level.

Is it user-friendly? Your child should be able to understand and navigate the technology, so that it fosters engagement and enjoyment.

Does it include ads? Some free or "lite" versions of apps or programs include ads. Before your child uses the program, you can review the content first and vet the ads. You can also opt to forgo Apps that include ads.

"When used effectively, technology helps enable and empower our children's educational lives," says Fitzgerald. "The key lies in monitoring kids' electronic use. There's no substitute for parental involvement when it comes to encouraging our children to learn. Playing educational games with our kids is a great way to encourage their academic progress. Also, as parents we need to remember to model good behavior and limit our own screen time."

Source: www.sylvanlearning.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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'Fall Back' To Sleep

October 30, 2013 12:27 am

When the clocks change on Sunday most of North America may want to cling to that extra hour of sleep. But the reality is that this time shift from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time may actually compromise sleep rhythms, according to researchers. With nearly one-third of Americans suffering from sleep disturbances and sales of over-the-counter sleep aids on the rise, Dr. Carol Ash, Director of Sleep Medicine for Meridian Health in New Jersey, believes the Fall time change is a wake-up call for America to rethink sleep and consider more natural ways to get a good night's rest.

"Getting proper sleep has never been more important. Inadequate sleep is considered a risk factor for obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases," said Ash. "Instead of shopping for solutions in the pharmaceutical aisle, consider switching up what you eat and drink."

Research has shown that tart cherry juice may help improve the quality and duration of sleep, reduce the severity of insomnia and increase overall sleep efficiency. In one study, adults who drank two daily glasses of tart cherry juice slept about 40 minutes longer on average and had up to six percent increase in sleep efficiency. Researchers also found that drinking tart cherry juice daily helped reduce the severity of insomnia and time spent awake after going to sleep.

Researchers attribute the sleep benefits to the melatonin and phytonutrient content of tart cherries, which are especially abundant in anthocyanins. Each serving of tart cherry juice concentrate used in the studies is estimated to contain the equivalent of 90 – 100 tart cherries.

Natural Ways To A Good Night's Sleep
Dr. Ash recommends making sleep a priority by creating a routine with these simple changes:

Go Red Before Bed: Change your bedtime ritual by adding tart cherries to your routine. Get started by drinking a glass of tart cherry juice in the evening before you go to bed for seven consecutive days.

Be Anti-Social: The screens from gadgets can emit blue light that suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin causing alertness, so forget about social media before bed. Keep the room quiet, dark, and cool, creating a calm sanctuary.

Hit the Gym: Decompress from stress with exercise. The National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll 2013 found that exercise anytime is good for improving sleep patterns.

Set Your Internal Alarm: The timing of sleep is critical for a good night sleep and keeping the same wake-up time everyday helps to set your biological clock that controls rhythms for wake and sleep. When you must make a shift due to a schedule change or Daylight Saving Time, start early. If you plan ahead and adjust your time to bed and wake up time by 15 minutes a night, the transition will be much easier.

Source: The Cherry Marketing Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Superstorm Sandy Reminds Homeowners about the Importance of Storm Preparedness

October 30, 2013 12:27 am

The one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy reminds many Americans about the importance of storm preparedness. Volatile weather can strike at anytime, anywhere in the country. From hurricanes and tornadoes, to snow storms and high winds, all homeowners need to be prepared for severe weather events.

Here are the top seven tips to help homeowners prepare for storms, power outages and other emergencies.

1. Assemble a dedicated storm box or bucket. If you are not told to evacuate, having items on hand like batteries, candles, matches, flashlights, AM radio, water, and even extra cash can be useful if your area loses power. If told by officials to evacuate your home, leave well in advance. Make plans for a safe route and destination where someone will be expecting you at a predetermined day and time.

2. Create a storm to-do list. This list reminds you of the important things you need to do before the storm hits. Things like getting prescription drugs, filling propane tanks, going to the bank, and filling your car with gas can be essential.

3. Compile a list of important phone numbers. Essential phone numbers to have on hand can include: utility companies, insurance company, bank, doctors, radio stations and local police. Also, have at least one hard-wired landline phone in the house.

4. Protect your chilled and frozen food supply. Before the storm hits, pack your most commonly consumed items like milk, cold cuts, and leftovers in a cooler with ice. Turn your refrigerator/freezer settings to the highest levels to chill remaining food as much as possible. Keep your refrigerator door taped closed to prevent unnecessary opening during a power outage.

5. Store water if you are on a well system. Store plenty of drinking water in clean containers. Also, store water in your bathtub so you can flush the toilet with a bucket of water when needed.

6. Inspect your basement sump pump system before the storm. During a major storm, heavy rains can flood your basement, so make sure your sump pump is plugged in and fully operational. Inspect the pump switch float ball on your sump pump to make sure it's operating smoothly. Also, make sure the drain line is not blocked and extends at least four feet away from your home's foundation. Finally, get a battery backup for your sump pump in case of power loss.

7. Look into an automatic standby generator system. A standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and hooks up to existing gas lines (propane or natural gas). If power is lost, a standby generator will automatically start up and restore power to your home. It can power lights, heating/cooling systems, refrigerators, sump pumps, home security systems, computers and more. With the addition of a standby generator, most issues you face during a storm can be eliminated.

Source: Kohler Generators

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Sure Ways to Waste Your Money

October 29, 2013 12:24 am

No matter how careful we are with money, everyone has holes in the budget: small indulgences or careless mistakes that end up costing big dollars. The finance experts at Kiplinger’s point out six common money-wasters it makes good sense to avoid:

Carrying a balance – This can cost hundreds of dollars each year in interest – and also costs you down the line in the form of lower credit scores that trigger higher interest rates on loans. If you can’t pay off balances each month, at least keep your balance to less than 25 percent of available credit.

Paying late fees on missed deadlines – It’s easy to miss a payment occasionally. But if you miss a credit card payment by even one day, you will pay a late fee of $25 ($35 if it's the second time in six months) – and your credit score could also take a hit. A history of on-time payments accounts for 35 percent of your FICO credit score - more than any other factor. If you have a good payment record, you should call your card issuer and ask that a one-time late fee be waived.

Buying insurance you don’t need – Unless you have people financially dependent on you, you may not need as much life insurance as you are paying for. You can also probably do without credit-card insurance (use the premium to pay down debt), rental-car insurance (most auto policies carry some coverage) and mortgage life insurance (a regular term-life insurance policy is more comprehensive).

Overspending on gas and oil – Most cars do fine on regular gas, and be sure tires are properly inflated for best gas mileage. Most cars today require oil changes every five or six thousand miles, not every 3,000 as they once did. Check your owner’s manual regarding regular maintenance – and opt for a fuel-efficient car.

Keeping unhealthy habits – The average price per pack of cigarettes in the U.S. is $6.03, but health-related costs per pack are $35, according to the American Cancer Society. Over a year, those added costs can amount to $12,775 for a pack-a-day smoker. Another habit to quit: indoor tanning. There is a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services – and as with cigarettes, the true cost of tanning -- one of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation -- is higher than the price you pay per session.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Make Working at Home Work

October 29, 2013 12:24 am

(BPT) - Working at home is a growing trend. The 2010 U.S. Census reports 9.5 percent of the population spends at least one day a week working at home—an increase of more than 2 percent since 1997. Technology is making it easier for employees and self-employed workers to set up a home office and conduct business.

When deciding to set up an office at home, one challenge many workers face is determining what computer to use—or purchase. Apple and Windows-based PCs are the two staples, and everyone has a preference on which system they prefer. Sometimes it's the user interface of one over the other that's preferred, and in other cases, how chosen programs perform on each platform determines what type of computer workers purchase. And often, workers just want to seamlessly blend in with the office environment, and purchase the same system for home.

With Parallels Desktop for Mac, the difficulty of choosing between the two platforms is obsolete. This software enables users to run all operating systems like Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows XP, Mac OS X, Google Chrome OS and more on a Mac without rebooting. This allows an at-home employee to easily switch between the system provided on work computers and the home computer, even if they're running different operating systems.

This allows at-home workers several benefits:

• If you have a Mac and a PC, then Parallels Desktop software can simply move your entire PC onto your Mac so you have everything on one computer. If you don't have a PC, its wizard lets you simply add Windows and other operating systems to your Mac so you can do everything on one computer.

• Save money because there is no need to repurchase software you already own. All of the PC applications you invested in can simply be moved to your Mac and run in Windows via Parallels Desktop.

• Run both Windows and Mac systems at the same time, allowing you to work in a Mac program while using a Windows platform.
• Copy and paste between documents running in both operating systems easily, which is not possible if you must reboot your Mac to change between OS X and Windows applications.

Another challenge working-from-home employees face is taking the business on the road. Those who are self-employed often don't have the luxury of bringing business into the home office, and have to make the office mobile. This requires updating technology so email, documents and files can all be accessed from either a smartphone or tablet.

Another option is to access your computer remotely, allowing you to do everything you'd be doing at home while away. Parallels Mobile for iPad and iPhone lets you remotely access and run all of your Mac and Windows files and applications when you're on the go.

One final challenge is being able to handle business errands without having to leave the office - or home. Banking, setting up conference calls or ordering supplies can all be done electronically using websites and downloadable apps. This technology allows a home-worker to make business deposits, connect with clients and have supplies delivered to the door - without having to leave.

Seamless connection is key to working at home, because any interruption in getting technology to work is lost time, and potentially lost business. Apps, using the same computer programs you've always used through Parallels Desktop for Mac and mobile devices will help any at-home worker keep all connections with the office and clients going strong.

Source: http://www.parallels.com/desktop

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Leak-Proof Your Shower Update

October 29, 2013 12:24 am

(BPT) - Bathrooms are certainly among the busiest rooms in any home. But a bathroom can be so much more than just the place where you get ready during your hurried morning routine. One of the hottest trends in home decorating and remodeling is creating a bathroom that serves as a spa-like retreat.

Soothing colors and natural materials are right on trend, but if you really want your bathroom to be an oasis of calm, it also needs to be low-maintenance. If you're worried about your beautiful new shower leaking, it's hard to enjoy the experience. Instead, start by taking steps that ensure you don't have to worry about leaks and the damage they cause.

Whether you're a DIY expert or hiring the job out to a professional, it's important to carefully review the plans for a new shower. If you're bringing a contractor on for the job, ask what kind of materials and practices they'll be using to ensure they're not cutting corners. If you're up for a do-it-yourself job, carefully consider the materials you'll use—look for options that make your job easier but don't skimp on quality. For instance, the new Shower System from USG is designed to streamline installation without compromising on performance.

Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your shower is as durable and leak-proof as possible:

• The shower tray: Having the right base in your shower makes all the difference. There's a perception that the best way to ensure a leak-proof base is an expensive and labor intensive mortar bed. But there are solutions that can cut down on cost and labor. The pre-sloped, high-density, molded-foam shower tray in USG's DUROCK Shower System, for instance, has a two percent slope that makes it easily compatible with a wide array of tile shapes and sizes, offering comfortable flooring and simplicity of installation.

• Waterproof membranes: No matter how beautiful your tile, it's what's underneath that counts. Using a waterproof membrane ensures far better performance long term. A strong (tear-proof) and thin waterproof membrane over a durable backerboard ensures that your shower stays waterproof, even beyond what your eye can see.

• The drain: A securely fitted drain will help keep water flowing where it's supposed to go. If you're installing a shower system, consider using the proper drain assembly that goes along with it. There are many systems that offer a versatile drain assembly and wide range of drain grates. Keep in mind that grate height might need to be adjusted to match tile thickness.

A carefully constructed shower will hold its beauty for a long time. And that means your bathroom will remain a retreat where you can think about relaxing instead of repairing.

Source: www.durockshowersystem.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Most Consumers Don't Know Their Credit Score

October 28, 2013 12:24 am

A new survey found that most U.S. consumers don't know their own score, despite its importance not only in determining whether they can get credit cards, auto loans and mortgages, but also in employment and insurance decisions. The survey found that only 42 percent of consumers know their credit score.

The annual survey of 1,000 U.S. adults was conducted for by Ipsos Public Affairs. Fifty-six percent of respondents indicated they did not know their credit score, and two percent did not answer the question.

Credit scores represent a person's creditworthiness and can be obtained from the major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Lenders use a consumer's credit score to decide whether to lend them money and at what rate. Credit scores are also used by organizations for screening employment, insurance and other applications. A consumer's credit report, which indicates whether a person pays their bills on time and how much of their available credit they use, influences their credit score.

Below are tips to help consumers improve their credit scores:

Credit Do's
• DO order a copy of your credit report annually. The three major credit bureaus are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report at your request each year. To get a free copy of your credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You can also obtain your credit score from any of these credit bureaus for a reasonable fee.
• DO know the power of credit. Banks look at your credit history as an indication of your future financial behavior. By using credit wisely, you can build a good credit history making it easier to get loans with low interest rates, rent an apartment, purchase a car or home, and may even help you get a job.
• DO read the fine print on the credit application. The application is a contract, so read it carefully before signing. Credit card companies are very competitive so interest rates, credit limits, grace periods, annual fees, terms and conditions may vary.
• DO pay at least the minimum due and contact your creditor if you have trouble making payments. This will help you to avoid late fees and a rising APR. To pay off your balance more quickly, pay more than the minimum due. If you are unable to make the minimum monthly payments, let your creditor know so they can work with you to create a more manageable payment plan.
• DO be wary of anyone who claims they can "fix" your credit report. No one can legally remove negative information from your credit history if it is accurate. The only thing that can fix a credit report is time and a positive payment history.

Credit Don'ts
• DON'T pay your bills late. Late payments can affect your credit rating and increase your balance. If you are unable to pay the minimum monthly payment, let your creditor know and they may be able to lower your payments.
• DON'T spend more than you can afford. Credit is a loan and has to be repaid. It is your responsibility to manage your debts and to keep your commitment with lenders. Avoid reaching your credit limit or "maxing out" your cards.
• DON'T ignore the warning signs of credit trouble. If you pay only the minimum balance, pay late, use cash-advances to fund daily living expenses or transfer a lot of balances you might be in the credit "danger zone." Talk to a non-profit financial counseling organization like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org) to regain control of your finances.
• DON'T share your credit card number. Never give out credit card or personal information if you have not initiated the transaction. Be aware of identity theft and phishing scams that ask for credit card numbers. If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, call your bank and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) or www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

Source: American Bankers Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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