Washing your car at home can do more harm than good

September 30th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett



A study by the city of Federal Way, Wash., found that residential car washing led to numerous pollutants being released each year into the city’s storm sewer system, including 190 gallons of gasoline, diesel and motor oil; 400 pounds of phosphorus and nitrogen; and 60 pounds of ammonia.

These numbers are startling for a community of just 62,000 passenger cars. With more than 300 million registered passenger vehicles in North America, the pollution is sizable. So is it possible to keep your vehicle clean and protect the environment at the same time?

You may be surprised to learn that professional car washes are typically a much greener option for washing vehicles than washing your car in the driveway at home. Washing at home with a garden hose can use more than 60 gallons in as little as five minutes, but most professional car washes treat and recycle water, virtually eliminating waste. The average homeowner uses 116 gallons of water to wash a car, according to the Mid-America Regional Council, and most commercial car washes use 60 percent less water for the entire process than a homeowner uses just to rinse the car.

WaterSavers professional car washes use only 40 gallons or less of fresh water per car wash – that’s less than the typical home washing machine uses per load. The process cleans and re-uses the water for future car washes, or it undergoes treatment prior to returning it clean to the environment. For more information and to find a certified location near you, visit WashWithWaterSavers.com.

Another question eco-conscious car owners ask is how often they should wash their vehicles. While this is a simple question, there is no easy answer. How frequently you drive, the type of environment you drive in, and what the manufacturer recommends, are all factors to consider.

As a general rule, vehicles should be washed when the paint starts looking dirty from two car lengths away, according to J.D. Power & Associates, or immediately if contaminants like bird droppings, winter salt or tar are present.

Keep in mind many professional car washes offer discount days during the week, special pricing if you’re purchasing gasoline also, or bulk packages that allow you to buy multiple washes for a highly reduced rate.

This summer, instead of grabbing a bucket and hose, take your car to a local professional car wash to help save water, protect aquatic life and preserve the environment.

How to find relief from fall allergies and hay fever

September 24th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

For many, fall signifies the change of leaves from green to vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. But for one in five people, it’s time to control a seasonal allergy: hay fever.

Despite its ill-suited name that would lead you to believe you are allergic to hay, the allergic reaction is actually rarely triggered by hay. The myth dates back to the 1800s when British doctors discovered that people exposed to cut hay or grass resulted in sneezing and itching, producing nervousness, which was referred to as a “fever.” Thus, the term hay fever was coined.

Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, causes cold-like signs and symptoms such as itchiness of the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes and ears, along with watery eyes, runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. But unlike a cold, hay fever isn’t caused by a virus; it is caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as mold, trees, pollen and pet dander.

Hay fever, which affects an estimated 60 million people in the United States, young and old, can really take a toll on your daily routine, and is a nuisance both personally and professionally. Whether you’re affected year-round or during a specific season, learning how to manage hay fever symptoms can be vital to restoring your comfort and quality of life.

This condition can also be expensive to manage. From 2000 to 2005, the cost of treating allergic rhinitis nearly doubled from $6.1 billion to $11.2 billion, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. More than half of that was spent on prescription and over-the-counter medications. Some experts recommend patients purchase store-brand, over-the-counter medicines as an effective means of managing both the condition and its associated costs.

“There are a number of very effective over-the-counter treatments to address the symptoms of seasonal allergies,” says Dr. William Berger, professor of allergy and immunology at the University of California, Irvine. “In fact, to help patients save money, I would recommend many of the store-brand, non-sedating antihistamines sold at leading retailers and pharmacies, such as Cetirizine or Loratadine. These products are approved by the FDA, but cost significantly less than the brand names.”

 

According to Berger, many allergy sufferers may find better relief of their symptoms by trying one of these newer, more effective treatments now available in the aisle, like Fexofenadine, which just switched from prescription to over-the-counter in 2011.

 

“Even if it isn’t the hay folks are actually allergic to, it doesn’t make ‘hay fever’ any less miserable for those dealing with it. Effective management with medicines, ideally before the symptoms start, is key,” he says.

You can find more information about the symptoms and treatments for allergic rhinitis at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (www.aaaai.org), or the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (www.acaai.org).

Strong Start for Palmetto Senior High PTSA

September 21st, 2014 by Hal Feldman

The 2014-15 school year is off to a great start and when more than 75 people showed up to the first PTSA meeting of the year PTSA President Anna Hochkammer was pleased.

Principal Dr. Allison Harley opening remarks were about how the school budget had passed, that every classroom now has smart boards and they are well received by students and teachers and that the school start up was “totally smooth, even boring.” Harley went on to talk about the change from CORE to Florida Standard testing. She also talked about how all ninth-grade students would be given the opportunity to use tablets in school.

Hochkammer then spoke. “This is a community school. We are friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers, and we take care of our own. We take care of our kids. We get them the materials and resources they need to achieve excellence every day. We take care of our school. We provide the volunteers, time and creativity to solve problems and engage in the larger community. We take care of our parents by providing the friendship, community and know-how to help our families succeed. The school is the center of our community and we are a pillar of that community.”

PTSA President Hochkammer went on to say how important it was to communicate with one another. She reminded parents they could find everything at palmettohighptsa.org and should sign up for Twitter feeds @MPSHPTSA. There is also an e-blast that all parents need to get signed up to receive.

The PTSA does not do fundraising, but they do survive on donations. They were ahead of schedule, but still encourage everyone to make a donation.  “Whether it’s $5 or $500, every cent will go towards helping your child.”

On October 10 from 3 to 7 pm, Gus Machado Ford (15551 S Dixie Highway) will host Drive 4 UR School where every test drive of a Ford will result in a $20 donation to PTSA. There will be entertainment, food and fun for the whole family. Hochkammer likened it to “money in the street” and hoped everyone would make it out.

MiamiHal - the smart move

Palmetto Senior High Students Get Tablets

September 18th, 2014 by Hal Feldman

During the week of September 15, Palmetto Senior High Assistant Principal Karina Menendez was very popular. It was she who handed out the bulk of the new HP tablets to ninth-graders. “In conjunction with the Miami-Dade County Public School District, we offered our students the opportunity to check-out tablets for their educational use. The response has been fantastic. The kids love it,” remarked Menendez.

Assistant Principal Karina Menendez shows off the new tablets available to 9th graders
Assistant Principal Karina Menendez shows off the new tablets available to 9th graders

Since the beginning of the year, the freshmen have been using tablets that stayed in the classroom; with the plan to roll out personal-issue devices once everyone got their feet wet. Principal Dr. Allison Harley explained, “Issuing technology to hundreds of students was a fun and challenging project for us. We wanted to ensure all the right software and textbooks were installed, and that our students and teachers were able to instantly use the tablets.” To begin, students will use the tablets to replace their World History textbook. “Those books tend to be some of the heaviest.”

The school district plans to supplant additional books as time goes on, with a goal of loading all textbooks onto the tablets. This will lighten the student’s backpacks considerably. Besides shedding weight, the tablets allow students to interact with the smart boards now installed in every classroom. It should be noted that parents and students had the opportunity to continue using traditional books. Less than one-percent chose that route.

Nearly 600 tablets were distributed to 9th graders in SeptemberNearly 600 tablets were distributed to 9th graders in September

Principal Harley commented, “The students are still a bit apprehensive because they are more used to using technology in a recreational way. They are also realizing they are responsible for the care of this equipment. This is a period of adjustment for everyone, but we see it leading great places.” Assistant Principal Menendez added, “Students can use the tablets to take notes in other classes, they should also be able to do some homework assignments outside of World History.”

Dr. Harley opined, “This will change the way schools teach and teachers are excited. Everything is at the fingertip of the child. Instead of deferring a question when the answer is outside the textbook, a teacher can now have everyone in the class utilize the Internet to research an answer right then and there. They don’t have to say ‘Find that answer at home’.”

Stacked and ready tablets ready to replace books in student backpacks
Stacked and ready tablets ready to replace books in student backpacks

The tablets are not free. They are leased for the school year. Cost is $20. Parents are offered insurance for $47.70 that provides unlimited protection, including theft. Parents can learn more at: http://digital.dadeschools.net/faqs.asp

As a parent of a Panther freshman, I jumped at the chance to arm my kid with this opportunity. Besides saving her back from 50-pounds of books, I know this will lead to a more interactive education.

MiamiHal - the smart move

How to turn must-do home improvements into things of beauty

September 16th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

When “want to” and “have to” meet, they create the opportunity to make a smart buying decision – and choose an upgrade that will look good and improve the livability of your home. The key to making smart home improvement decisions is to recognize these opportunities and take full advantage of them.

Here are a few “have to” improvements that have the potential to turn into a good-looking, energy-efficient, enjoyment-enhancing “want to.”

Replacing the hot water heater.

You probably don’t care what a new hot water heater looks like sitting in your garage or basement – or wherever it resides in your home. But the right replacement water heater can help your house achieve a lovely shade of green. High energy-efficiency water heaters can help reduce energy usage, thereby trimming your energy bills and your home’s environmental impact. Solar water heating systems take the beauty a step further by using the power of the sun, collected through low-profile solar panels on the roof, to heat water – at a monthly savings that’s about 80 percent less than the cost of traditional heaters.

Getting some light in here.

Do you really need a bunch of scientific studies to tell you that a home filled with natural light just feels better? Probably not. Illuminating your home with natural light is a smart buying decision on multiple levels. First, you don’t pay to power the sun. Second, natural light delivers a host of mood-enhancing benefits. If you have the wall space, by all means add some windows.

But for rooms where a window is impossible (like a powder room) or where you don’t want to sacrifice privacy (like a master bathroom) a tubular skylight is a good alternative. Some are easy enough to install that a seasoned do-it-yourselfer could accomplish the task. They cost less than traditional skylights and bring natural light to hard-to-light areas like closets, hallways and other small spaces.

Getting some air in here.

Just as natural sun is good for your mood, ventilation can be good for your health. An Energy Star qualified venting skylight is a great way to passively vent stale, moist air from inside your home, especially from baths and kitchens. While some skylights are “fixed,” those that do open can be controlled by a remote to open when you want fresh air and close when you want to retain warmth. They can also close automatically in case of rain. In addition, they introduce free light into your home. Adding blinds – also remote-controlled – can help you better control the amount of sun a skylight admits into your home. And blinds are not just functional – you can get them in colors and patterns to complement your decor while increasing energy efficiency. Compared to other venting solutions, a skylight is a relatively low-cost, great-looking way to address ventilation issues while adding drama to a space. Log on to www.veluxusa.com to learn more about skylights.

When one door opens …

Beat up, weathered garage and front doors not only look bad, they can be a source of air leaks that make your heating, ventilation and cooling system work harder. Exterior doors aren’t something you buy every day, but they can have a big impact on how your home looks and on its energy efficiency. They can definitely be a smart buying decision if you opt for doors that not only look good, but are also highly rated for energy efficiency. If you’re not sure how to choose, look online, where you’ll find guides for buying garage doors and front doors.

Time-smart ways busy teens can continue social activism during the school year

September 10th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett



Activism benefits teens on many levels – from teaching them how to work as part of a large team toward a greater goal, to helping them learn skills that they can apply to their future careers. Just one hour of volunteering a week makes student activists 50 percent less likely to abuse drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, or engage in destructive behavior, according to VolunteerGuide.org, the website of Charity Guide. What’s more, kids who volunteer as teens are more likely to volunteer as adults, the site notes.

Fortunately, it’s not difficult for parents to find creative, powerful ways to help time-pressed teens stay socially active throughout the school year.

Finding a place to volunteer and make a difference may be as simple as looking to students’ own classrooms. Each year, thousands of American children go back to school without the supplies they need to learn. While teachers often supplement classroom supplies by purchasing needed items with their own money, teens can help provide supplies for other students in need.

Staples has teamed with Boys & Girls Clubs of America for the sixth annual Staples for Students national school supply drive. Now through Sept. 28, customers at any Staples store can donate $1 or more to benefit local Boys & Girls Club students. Staples kicked off the campaign by donating $125,000 worth of school supplies to the program.

In a public service announcement now available online, and airing on TV and radio, teen actor Jake T. Austin, encourages teens to get involved. “I can’t imagine starting school without the right supplies,” says Austin, who is currently starring in ABC Family’s “The Foster’s”. “Teens can help make a difference in their communities by making sure students have the essential supplies they need to succeed.”

Social media – from Facebook to Twitter, blogs and message boards – can also be a great way for time-pressed teens to continue social activism throughout the school year. The Staple for Students Facebook page will allow teens to complete a series of “missions” to help drive donations. As they complete each mission, teens will earn donation rewards for Boys & Girls Clubs, coupons for school supplies and opportunities to participate in sweepstakes.

Social activism by teens benefits both young people and the communities in which they live. When parents help teens find ways to stay socially active during the busy school year, they’re helping improve their children’s lives and the lives of others in their community.

Final Walk-Through: What to Expect at your Final Walk-Through before Closing

August 26th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

@media only screen and (max-width: 675px) {
.mwidth {
width:100% !important;
}
}

Final Walk-Through: What to Expect at your Final Walk-Through before Closing
It’s smart to perform a final walk-through before closing. It’s your last chance to make sure the home you’re about to buy is in the condition you’re expecting. Here’s some great tips that you may not have thought of in preparing for your final walk-through.

Share via Email
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Staging your Home: Advice for Sellers

August 26th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

@media
only screen and (max-width: 675px) {
.mwidth {
width:100% !important;
}
}

Staging your Home: Advice for Sellers

Ten inexpensive real estate staging tips to help create a ‘mood’ or ‘emotion’ to entice and connect with potential home buyers.

Share via Email
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Financing: Advice for Homebuyers

August 26th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

@media only screen and (max-width: 675px) {
.mwidth {
width:100% !important;
}
}

Financing: Advice for Homebuyers

This YouTube channel, provided courtesy of Chase, offers the ins and outs of mortgages, how the loan process works and how to select a lender. Worthy of viewing regardless of whom you select as your lender.

Share via Email
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

First-Time Homebuyer Tips: Things to Know when Buying your First Home

August 26th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

@media only screen and (max-width: 675px) {
.mwidth {
width:100% !important;
}
}

First-Time Homebuyer Tips: Things to Know when Buying your First Home


First-time homebuyers need to keep their ownership goals in mind and make sure to not rush into decisions or feel pressured. This video offers some great lessons from real first-time home owners.

Share via Email
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn