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

Are You Healthy? Would You Know If You Weren't?

April 25, 2013 12:58 am

Not too long ago – just after World War II – few people in the United States brushed their teeth with any regularity. Now, the mere thought of going an entire day or night without brushing one’s teeth is simply out of the question for most.

Hopefully, someday in the near future, a similar attitude will prevail regarding mental well-being, says Dr. Matt Mumber, an oncologist and author of “Sustainable Wellness: An Integrative Approach to Transform Your Mind, Body, and Spirit,” coauthored by Yoga therapist Heather Reed.

“Human happiness and well-being are rudderless without awareness, which I define as the quality of paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment from an inquisitive, nonjudgmental and focused perspective,” he says.

An easy way to think of optimal wellbeing might be to envision a three-legged stool, says Reed.

“The three legs include physical activity, nutrition and that underappreciated component missing from too many Americans’ lives – stress management, or a healthy mental state,” she says.

After checking off a healthy diet and exercise from the list, how does one go about ensuring a healthy mind? Mumber and Reed say the key is mindfulness, which they define as paying attention on purpose, non-judgmentally and as though your life depended on it. Framed another way, mindfulness means focusing on something without trying to change it, like the sky holding passing clouds without clinging to them.

They describe the states necessary for attaining mindfulness:

• Beginner’s mind is the ability to see things with new eyes. The Bible warns against putting new wine in old wine skins – doing so risks tainting the new stock. A beginner’s mind opens people to the world of possibilities that exist in the present moment. That does not mean throwing away good ideas from the past; rather, it means to entertain new ideas with a truly open sensibility.
• Trust: Believe in your authority to know your own body, thoughts and feelings. We need to have the confidence necessary to trust that our thoughts and feelings at any given moment have value.
• Non-judging is the ability to see things for what they are, to hold an open and neutral place for whatever comes up within and around you, without thinking of anything as categorically better or worse than anything else.
• Patience is a willingness to continue with the process of paying attention on purpose even when it appears that no progress is being made. Learning and growing through mindful practice happens with time, and we can’t force the outcome.
• Acceptance refers to allowing whatever comes up in the moment to be held in our field of awareness. This is not the same as giving up or being passive; acceptance is merely acknowledgement.
• Letting go is refusing to attach to specific thoughts, feelings or behaviors. This can feel like losing something, but every time we let go, we open ourselves to something new and, potentially, deeper.
• Non-striving: In our goal-oriented society, this may seem counterintuitive. However, non-striving refers only to practicing mindfulness without expectation of some future goal or dream, which helps us better live in the now.

“By having our three-legged stool firmly planted in awareness, we can drop into what we typically call a sense of spiritual wellbeing," says Mumber.

Source: www.sustainablewellnessonline.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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First-Quarter Economic Growth Stronger Than Expected

April 25, 2013 12:58 am

Recent data indicate that economic growth in the first quarter has accelerated to an above-trend—but likely unsustainable—pace of 3.2 percent, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group. A significant buildup in business inventories provided a one-time boost to first quarter growth and is expected to resume a more balanced level in the second quarter. Meanwhile, several other key indicators late in the first quarter, including a downbeat March jobs report, were soft, presaging a more moderate pace for the rest of the year. The Group expects growth to come in at approximately 2.3 percent for 2013—still modest by recovery standards, but a pickup from the 2012 and 2011 pace of 1.7 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively.

“The April forecast reflects the growing realization that 2013 is off to a good start from a GDP perspective, but we expect the stronger-than-expected first quarter pace to slow somewhat in the second quarter,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “On the downside, tax hikes, sequestration, and the euro-zone crisis still pose significant risks to our forecast, and the fiscal tightening will likely affect consumer spending and other economic activity in coming months. However, the housing recovery continues to broaden and may be more robust than we anticipate, helping to offset fiscal headwinds.”

The continued housing recovery and rising home prices are expected to provide a cushion to growth this year and present the most likely source of upside to our forecast. Residential investment has made a positive or neutral contribution to economic growth for seven consecutive quarters, ending in 2012, with similar activity expected in 2013. Housing’s contribution to growth also continues to climb home as sales reached multi-year highs in the early stages of 2013.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Must-Have Landscape Tools

April 25, 2013 12:58 am

The world of landscaping tools is vast—you could fill your garage with types of hoes alone. However, you will have to invest money and space in several basic landscaping tools to maintain and improve your property. Here are 10 must-haves.

1. Round point shovel: Arguably the most versatile landscape tool, this shovel has a rounded and beveled steel blade that ends in a point. It digs, scoops, and slices dirt, manure, and gravel. Cost: $20 to $30.

2. Rakes: There’s a whole world of long-handled tools that dig, spread, and gather. Buy a metal-toothed landscaping rake to move dirt, separate rock from soil, and spread mulch. Buy a plastic leaf rake that gathers leaves, grass clippings, and other debris on the surface of your lawn. Cost: $30 to $50 (landscaping rake); $10 to $20 (leaf rake).

3. Hoe: This digging and spreading landscape tool has the blade at a right angle to a long handle. The shape and sharpness of blades vary, making some hoes better for slicing weed roots (gooseneck hoe), and others for breaking up soil (garden hoe). Cost: $10 to $40 (specialty hoe).

4. Flat border spade: The blade is parallel to the handle. This is often used to edge beds and uproot grass. Cost: $60 to $70.

5. Chainsaw: These gas or electric saws have sharp teeth that revolve on a chain. They’re good for cutting wood, downed tree limbs, big branches and trees. It takes practice to use one safely, so get some pointers before revving up. A 40 cc saw with a 16-inch blade is good for most yard work. Cost: $130 to $200.

6. Shears: There’s a wide variety of hand-held landscape tools that cut and trim. You’ll need small bypass shears for roses, hedge shears for boxwoods, and looping shears for small tree limbs. Cost: $20 to $30.

7. Lawn mower: Manual, battery, electric, or gas-powered lawn cutters are pushed or ridden, self-propelled, or hand-propelled. Most can bag clippings. Get a 21-inch gas-powered mower for the average yard. Yards bigger than a quarter-acre may need a riding mower to save time and muscle. A push-type reel mower is a good green choice. Cost: $100 (reel); $300 (gas); $1,500 (riding mower).

8. Wheelbarrow: Made of metal or plastic, wheelbarrows are movers of soil, plants, hay, and basically anything that fits. Most have one wheel and two handles for balancing and steering; some have two wheels for added stability. Cost: $30 to $250.

9. Edger: This is a manual or automatic landscape tool that creates a neat and clear separation between the lawn and adjacent surfaces (such as driveways) and around trees or flowerbeds. $30 (foot powered); $90 (electric); $190 (gas).

10. Hand trowel: This is used for digging small holes to plant seedlings and bulbs for borders and gardens. Cost: $5 to $10.

Source: HouseLogic

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Moms Want More from Airlines

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

With spring in full bloom, many families are starting to plan for their big summer vacation. For air carriers, this means more child passengers during the summer months. However, a new survey from Fly.com™ has revealed that 72 percent of moms believe airlines do not always adequately cater to families traveling with children.

Recent policy changes by some airlines have not been perceived by moms as family friendly. According to the survey, 51 percent believe it is unacceptable for airlines to ban parents with elite status or tickets from bringing young children into first-class airport lounges; 30 percent did not like airline decisions to prevent children from sitting in certain seat rows, and an overwhelming 69 percent were unhappy about the elimination of pre-boarding for families traveling with little ones.

The survey also showed a clear consensus that flying with children is stressful—68 percent of moms rate their level of stress as moderate to extreme. The leading cause of anxiety is fear that their child will disturb other passengers. In fact, moms were more concerned about their child disturbing others than they were about their child's physical and mental comfort during the flight.

So, with Mother's Day just around the corner, what is the best gift that airlines and airports can give their mommy passengers? According to survey respondents, the answer comes in the form of more child-friendly amenities. The top four requests were to have child play areas at airports, dedicated family security lanes, complimentary in-flight activity packs and appropriate in-flight entertainment programming.

"The airline industry has a lot to gain if it can better understand the needs of moms flying with young children," said Warren Chang , vice president and general manager, Fly.com. "With more tickets purchased per itinerary, it's a great opportunity for airlines to develop a loyal and lucrative passenger base. Just as business travelers appreciate targeted services to improve their flight experience, so does the traveling parent."

Other Survey Findings:

• The majority of moms (65 percent) believe there is a negative stigma attached to flying with children.
• Many moms with young children have already flown more than 10 times with their child: 24 percent of moms with children age five and under, and 35 percent with children in elementary school.
• 64 percent of moms will likely be flying with their child/children in 2013.

The Fly.com survey questioned 884 mothers within the United States, each of whom had flown more than once with their child. All respondents were Travelzoo Inc. and Fly.com users.

Source: Fly.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top 10 Cities with the Greenest Homes

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

With Earth Day just around the corner, Redfin has announced a ranking of the country's top 10 cities with the greenest homes. The analysis looked at each city's overall carbon dioxide emissions, as well as the number of homes currently for sale that have "green" features or eco-friendly ratings. Examples include solar panels, low-flow faucets, dual pane windows, ENERGY STAR® appliances, LEED certified homes, and new construction by green builders. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is the most widely used green building program worldwide.

1. San Francisco, Calif. – In addition to having the lowest carbon dioxide emission rate per capita, San Francisco has a large number of homes for sale with eco-friendly features. One incentive for locals to go green may be Pacific Gas & Electric's rebates, which offer up to $4,000 for home energy upgrades, including insulation and air duct sealing.

2. Washington D.C. – According to the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington D.C. has the most (LEED)-certified space, which likely contributes to the city's low carbon dioxide emission rates. In addition, the district offers a number of rebates and tax credits for residential energy efficiency, which may help explain the high number of homes for sale with eco-friendly features.

3. Sacramento, Calif. – Sacramento has the second-lowest carbon dioxide emissions in the country, and new developments have focused on energy-efficient homes, such as the Northwest Land Park, which will build 800 new homes that use net-zero electricity.

4. Boston, Mass. – Boston Mayor Thomas Menino launched an initiative to be "Green by 2015," which includes powering homes using a combination of waste products and solar panels. The city also supports the Energy Positive "E+" Green Building Demonstration Program, which aims to bring green homes to Boston's neighborhoods.

5. Portland, Ore. – Portland General Electric offers residents the choice to pay a little more for renewable energy options, including wind-sourced power. In addition, Portland residents who want to make their home more green can attend Fix-It Fairs, which offer resources and information to help attendees reduce water and energy usage, among other green initiatives.

6. Philadelphia, Penn. – Even though Philadelphia's carbon dioxide emissions were higher than other cities, it ranked second for homes with eco-friendly features. In 2009, the city passed two laws that advance green building practices. The first requires that new city government buildings meet LEED Silver Certification, and the second requires all new construction to have "cool roofs" that meet or exceed Energy Star standards.

7. Phoenix, Ariz. – As part of the "Green Phoenix" initiative, Phoenix offers a one-time grant to homeowners for making improvements that reduce energy consumption. The city has also received funding to retrofit low-income residential homes with cost effective energy saving measures.

8. Los Angeles, Calif. – Homeowners looking to reduce costs associated with air conditioning in L.A.'s warm climate can take advantage of the L.A. County's Energy Loans Program, which offers loans of up to $50,000 with financing as low as 4.99 percent when homeowners undertake home energy improvements. In addition, Energy Upgrade California offers rebates of up to $4,000 to homeowners who make their home more energy efficient.

9. Seattle, Wash. – Seattle residents are known for being eco-conscious, as evidenced by the recent ban on plastic bags, so it's not surprising they'd want their homes to be green too. Although the city is known for its rain, Seattle receives more sunlight than Germany, the world's leading solar market, and Washington State offers financial incentives for those who generate their own electricity using solar electric systems.

10. Austin, Texas – Austin Energy is the nation's top seller of renewable energy, and the company offers homeowners low-interest loans of up to $20,000 for energy efficient upgrades. In addition, the company offers rebates for numerous upgrades, including extra attic insulation, high-efficiency clothes washers, rainwater collection barrels, and low-flow toilets.

Source: Redfin

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Create Your Dream Garden This Spring

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

With a winter that seems to have lasted a lifetime, now's the ideal time for green fingered folk to head outside and make the most of their gardens. So with signs of spring starting to show, we've compiled our handy hints to help you enjoy your garden for longer this year—starting now!

1. Plan what you'd like your garden to look like

The weather still may be a little wintry outside at times, but that shouldn't stop you from planning what you want your garden to look like this year. Think about what plants you'd like to see in bloom and how you want to arrange your garden. Maybe you'd like to plant a vegetable patch to help you become more self-sufficient. Whatever your dream garden looks like, plan ahead, keep a diary and research where you can buy local supplies from.

2. Prepare your garden

Over the course of the winter, it's unlikely that your garden received the same level of attention as other times of the year. With this in mind, start by spring cleaning your garden and getting rid of any leaves or debris. Why not freshen up the appearance of your garden by cutting your grass and trimming your edges? These small changes will give your garden a new lease of life and won't cost you a penny.

3. How to get your greenhouse gleaming

Before you get into the swing of spring, clean out your greenhouse so that you can use it to its full potential. Remove any plant debris and disinfect it with a garden disinfectant inside and out. Remember to clean out your pots and seeds trays too and ventilate your greenhouse so that it dries out.

4. Weed out the enemy

Keep your garden weed free by putting newspapers down between the rows in your flower beds. The newspaper will not only keep the weeds at bay, it will also add great nutrients to the soil. If your plants are being attacked by pests, fill a spray bottle with a mixture of water and dish soap and spray the solution over your garden until you find where the pests are hiding.

5. Tips for tidying up your tools

You wouldn't clean your home with a dirty mop, and the same rule applies to your garden: Don't do any gardening with dirty tools. Looking after your garden tools will help protect them and prevent the spread of disease in your garden too.

Source: HomeServe

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Home Allergy Solutions: Dust vs. Dirt

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

Living in an older "historic" home, I believe that some of the dust that has settled on a few ledges and windowsills could be as old as the residence itself. So it was with some relief that the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (acaai.org) came to the defense of homeowners who are constantly fighting a seemingly losing battle against the dust bunnies.

So is a dust allergy a sign of a dirty house? The ACAAI says no - however, a dirty house can make a house-dust allergy problem worse. And since many substances in dust cannot be removed by normal cleaning procedures, rigorous cleaning methods can actually put more dust into the air making symptoms worse.

The ACAAI offers the following tips for reducing house-dust allergens:

• Measure the indoor humidity and keep it below 55 percent. Do not use vaporizers or humidifiers. You may need a dehumidifier. Use vent fans in bathrooms and when cooking to remove moisture. Repair all water leaks.
• Remove wall-to-wall carpets from the bedroom if possible. Use a central vacuum or a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly.
• If you are allergic, wear a N95 filter mask while dusting, sweeping or vacuuming. Remember, it takes over two hours for the dust to settle back down, so if possible, clean when the allergic patient is away and don't clean the bedroom at night.
• Keep pets out of the bedroom at ALL times. Consider using a HEPA Air Cleaner in the bedroom.
• Encase mattresses and pillows with "mite-proof" covers. Wash all bed linens regularly using hot water.
• Do not leave out uncovered food at night, and dispose of food wastes in a tightly sealed garbage can. And if it is an issue, schedule regular professional pest control utilizing integrated pest management (IPM) methods.
• Install a high efficiency media filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12 in the furnace and air-conditioning unit. Leave the fan on to create a "whole house" air filter and change the filter with the change of the seasons. Have your heating and air-conditioning units inspected and serviced every six months.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/mold

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Save Money by Making Your Home More Eco-Friendly

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

For homeowners who want to reduce their environmental footprint, here are a few tips to increase home value and save money at the same time:

1. Seal gaps around doors and windows with caulking and weather-stripping to save energy.
2. Make sure the attic is properly insulated to help stabilize the indoor temperature.
3. Install low-flow sink faucets, shower heads and toilets to save water.
4. Maintain the sprinkler system to reduce water waste from leaky unadjusted spigots.
5. Use low VOC paints, carpets, and natural cleansers to improve indoor air quality.

By making these simple upgrades, collectively homeowners can have a positive impact on the environment; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, when factoring in electricity use, residential and commercial buildings emitted 35 percent of all greenhouse gases in the U.S in 2011. That's more than cars and trucks, which emitted 28 percent. Homes also use a tremendous amount of water; according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential homes use 29.40 billion gallons of water per day. By completing "green" upgrades, homeowners can reduce the amount of water and electricity (and associated greenhouse gases) required to run their home.

Homeowners can also save money on their water, electricity and gas bills. According to Energy.gov, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,000 a year on home utility bills. By taking measures to increase energy efficiency and reduce water waste, homeowners can reduce these costs significantly. Homes with green certifications such as GreenPoint, EarthCraft, ENERGY STAR®, or LEED have the potential to use 20-30 percent less energy and water than homes built using conventional standards.

Eco-friendly upgrades can also increase the value of a home. A recent study by UCLA and Maastricht University, found that homes in California with a green certification label sell for an average of 9 percent more than comparable homes without a certification. The Earth Advantage Institute found similar results in Portland and Seattle.

To help homeowners pay for these upgrades, there are a variety of city, county, state and utility rebates, as well as some federal and state tax credits and loan options available. More information on various incentives available in each state can be found in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE.

Source: Redfin

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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4 Tips for the Buyer of a Previously Owned Home

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

With new construction still crawling back to pre-recession levels, inventory in the residential housing market is generally low and primarily comprised of previously owned homes. The purchase of these older homes accounted for 93 percent of all home sales in 2012 and was up another .8 percent in February 2013.

Purchasing homes with a history can present some unique issues, especially if they are not visible to the average homebuyer. Sewer-related problems are potentially one of the most expensive and least evident of those issues. When shopping for a new home, outdated or broken appliances, peeling paint or dirty carpet are a lot easier to spot than plumbing issues. And, while a standard home inspection will cover some of the basics like water damage and water heater safety, other common plumbing problems often go unseen. Potential sewage and drain issues may lurk beneath the surface, unbeknownst to the buyer.

Here are four tips for buyers:

1. If it happened once, it will happen again. It is extremely likely that a home would have an ongoing history of sewer-related issues. According to Roto-Rooter Director of Plumbing Services, Larry Rothman, “In fact, it's almost a certainty. Some customers require sewer cleaning every six months, while others need us on an annual basis or every two years. The roots from the same problem tree will continue to grow back as long as the sewer pipe has voids and loose joints that allow the roots to get inside the pipe and the problem almost always gets worse over time, requiring more frequent cleanings to keep the roots under control because pipes will shift within the soil causing misalignment
between sections.”

2. Sump pump problems may not be evident unless there has been a fair amount of rain. Not all basement homes have sump pumps, but most ought to have them to prevent basement flooding. Sump pumps are now a normal requirement in most new building codes for basement homes, but older homes were not subject to the new, stricter codes and the vast majority of older basements are at risk for some level of basement flooding if rainfall is particularly heavy and the ground around the foundation becomes saturated.

Rothman says, “An inspection of the plumbing, particularly the sump system, water heater and sewer line could potentially save a prospective home buyer a great deal of money, potentially thousands of dollars.”

3. A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection. Homebuyers regularly waive this extra inspection in the purchasing process because it requires an additional cost of anywhere from $250 to $550. Additionally, many buyers do not know that responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality. Whatever the reason for skipping a sewer line inspection, buyers should reevaluate foregoing this important step in signing a deal. If a problem exists, excavation could be required costing thousands of dollars after the home has already been purchased. “Sewer inspection camera equipment is expensive and often is only utilized by well equipped plumbing companies, but the video inspection service itself is easy to complete and well worth the extra step,” said Rothman.

4. Sellers do not have to disclose information about plumbing problems. Ask questions! Know when the home was built; if it is 25 years old or older, it is more likely to have nonplastic pipes that are at least somewhat deteriorated and more susceptible to root entry. Take note of mature trees, visible root growth and cracked concrete and ask if they are related to any persistent pipe problems.

The benefits of purchasing a previously owned home can be wonderful. However, some of the things a buyer loves most about an older home, the charm, older fixtures, the mature landscaping, can all be indicators of potentially costly problems for the plumbing system below the surface. Homebuyers may be focused on kitchen designs, interior paint or landscaping, overlooking the possibility of serious plumbing problems. In fact, about 44 percent of people purchasing homes call a plumber for one reason or another within the first year at their new residence. Simply avoid any unpleasant surprises before it is too late by being thorough in the inspection and buying phase. Ask the right questions and prevent the added cost of repairs down the road.

Source: Roto-Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top 5 National Parks for Families

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

With National Park Week coming up April 20-28, you may be planning to visit one of the country’s most beautiful places. Below are the top 5 national park picks for families, according to FamilyVacationCritic.com.

Yosemite National Park, California: A four-season getaway, Yosemite offers a striking and varied landscape including granite cliffs, colorful wildflowers and rushing rapids. Kids will never forget standing next to 200-ft. high sequoias in Yosemite's Mariposa Grove.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: To truly appreciate the Grand Canyon, families can walk the 1.5-mile South Kaibab Trail down to Cedar Ridge, with exquisite views of the inner canyon. For something different, visitors can try a mule ride down the Bright Angel Trail (but be sure to book early).

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: For an up-close look of Bryce Canyon, stroll down the Queen's Garden Route, a dusty stone path loaded with colorful standing pinnacles called "hoodoos." For a more remote family hike, try the 4.5-mile long Sheep Creek/Swamp Canyon Loop in Bryce's backcountry.

Arches National Park, Utah: Families with small kids should take the easy walk to Sand Dune Arch as a warm-up, where a large sand pit under the arch is an ideal natural sandbox. Then try the 1.6-mile (round-trip) hike to Landscape Arch.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: The park is home to a wide array of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, elk, moose and marmots. A good day hike for the family is on the Colorado River Trail, where you can take in the water, trees and mountains.

Source: http://www.familyvacationcritic.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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