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

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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.

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Staging your Home: Advice for Sellers

August 26th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

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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.

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Financing: Advice for Homebuyers

August 26th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

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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.

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

August 26th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

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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.

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Woman with rare disease overcomes adversity one mountain at a time

August 20th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett

Tanya’s mysterious nightmare lasted for two decades and entailed visits to specialist after specialist in pursuit of an explanation for her swelling attacks along with frequent visits to the emergency room. Over the years, she was misdiagnosed with a litany of conditions including ‘muscular uterus,’ gall stones, ulcers and allergies. Despite her determination to find answers, healthcare providers had failed to pinpoint the cause for her seemingly helpless condition. This caused Tanya extreme frustration, and she even suffered from bouts of depression.

Two years ago, Tanya finally found an answer to her unexplained swelling attacks. She visited an allergist and immunologist who recognized her symptoms and accurately diagnosed her with hereditary angioedema (HAE), an extremely debilitating and potentially life-threatening disease that can rob people of educational and career opportunities and cause decreased overall mental and physical health. HAE is a rare genetic disease that affects about 6,000 people in the United States. The disease causes repeated swelling attacks that can occur anywhere in the body, including arms, legs, hands, feet, stomach, genitals, face or throat.

The average HAE patient endures about 10 years of repeated misdiagnosis before the disease is accurately identified. In fact, approximately 68 percent of people with HAE in the United States are initially misdiagnosed because the symptoms of HAE mimic other disorders, such as an allergic reaction, appendicitis, and ulcers, among many others. There is a need for increased awareness of HAE given that patients have therapy options to help them.

After receiving an accurate diagnosis of HAE, Tanya was put on a preventive prescription therapy. With the frequency and severity of her HAE attacks helped by therapy and by seeing her physician regularly, Tanya has even been able to ski the Rocky Mountains and hike the Ice Lakes located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. She has also reached the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Arizona, followed by Mt. Whitney in California. She hopes to someday reach the summit of Aconcagua in Argentina, which is the highest peak in both the Western-and-Southern Hemispheres, and would be her biggest adventure yet.

“Whether it was meeting friends for a hike, a bike ride or even competitive events, having an HAE attack made it impossible. I was simply unable to show up because of the unbearable pain and swelling,” says Tanya. “I am grateful there are treatment options for people like me living with HAE because today, I feel I can do just about anything I put my mind to.”

Tanya also just recently competed in her first mountain bike race in Flagstaff, AZ and hit another major milestone – celebrating her one year anniversary with her husband. Tanya is so thankful that she and her husband can have a future together that is not purely dictated by her disease.

Now that Tanya has finally reached a place in her life where she is knowledgeable about HAE and feels in control of her condition and her future, her advice to other people who are living with a rare or chronic disease is to not be discouraged when seeking an accurate diagnosis, search for resources, know your limitations and shoot for the moon!

“I suggest that you leave no stone unturned in your quest to live a happy and active life,” says Tanya. “Do not be afraid; you are not alone. Being diagnosed with a rare disease is just one part of your journey.”

To learn more about HAE and hear other stories from HAE patients like Tanya, visit www.HAEandMe.com, an online resource for people with HAE and their loved ones. To find a health care professional, visit www.HAEA.org, the official Web site of the U.S. Hereditary Angioedema Association.

Charge up learning before the kids head back to school

August 12th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett



In fact, American families take more than 100 million leisure trips a year and the average family juggles up to six devices – ranging from smartphones to tablets to laptops. It’s no surprise that summer is the most popular family travel time, and for many kids the school break can result in a measurable brain drain. Studies show students lose about a month of learning during the summer break. Concerned parents can dial up the learning quotient with a few well-packed apps that keep little ones engaged whether traveling far or settling in for a summer staycation.

With more than 300 new apps unveiled every day, finding the right-sized app for your child can be daunting. Skip the exhausting mind-meld. Smart parents use trusted sites like Common Sense Media to search for apps by age, theme and ratings, or pop onto a family-friendly network like Fingerprint to peruse a library of apps that parents approve and kids love.

By doing a little homework, parents can find an app for every kind of kid – world traveler, animal lover, nature explorer or inquisitive preschooler.

For your budding world traveler

Learning a second language at a young age is linked to higher test scores, greater confidence and enhanced critical thinking skills. In fact, mobile apps are one of the easiest (and most accessible) ways for kids to learn a new language – any time, any place. For example, the Kids Learn Mandarin app takes kids (ages 3 to 8) on a magical journey through 12 playgrounds with nearly 100 interactive games where kids learn to read, speak and write 240 Mandarin words.

For your amazing animal lover

Have a little one with a soft spot for animals? Indulge their pet passion with an app that stars two English bulldogs in the vibrantly animated storybook Lola & Lucy’s Big Adventures. With 29 interactive pages, 17 mini games and more than 300 interactive surprises, Lola & Lucy’s Big Adventure (for kids 4+) promotes reading readiness, geography know how and even fun trivia related to dog breeds.

For your nifty nature explorer

For nature explorers, travel time can be tortuous. Keep them busy with Minuscule – a thrilling racing app that follows the story of a mischievous ladybug, an angry fly and an army of red ants through four life-like minuscule worlds. This app (for kids 6+) is a sure-fire backseat boredom buster. Plus, the kids will be ready to hit the hiking trail and “wow” you with insect fun facts after a few games. -

For your inquisitive preschooler

Playful preschoolers love mobile devices and this is where pre-packing pays off.- Choose a couple of new app titles staring a character your preschooler loves (Sid the Science Kid, Caillou, VeggieTales) and download before you leave. Many of the preschool apps are both fun and educational, including Franklin Talk & Playset (for ages 3 to 6), which transports kids into the woodland world of Franklin & Friends to solve puzzles, perfect rhyming skills, practice shape recognition, and even talk to Franklin.

While parents can download new apps on the go, it’s definitely worth doing your homework and downloading a few fan favorites before you depart. For the cost of a couple Frappuccino’s, parents can buy a handful of premium apps that ensure the summer journey is both entertaining and educational for their kids – and maybe even a bit more harmonious too.

Style is not lost when it comes to choosing solid oak furniture

August 12th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett


There is a school of thought amongst consumers that solid oak furniture offers less in the way of style than furniture made of the lighter woods available. It’s an idea that is based on the notion that solid wood is thick, hard and heavy, like slabs, and are fixed together to make weighty chests of drawers, immovable wardrobes and coffee tables that require almost the whole family to lift. This, of course, is not true.

It is true that solid furniture is generally heavier than something like solid pine, which is somewhat less weighty than its oak counterpart. Solid wood is less susceptible to damage from the elements, with most needing only to be treated from time to time to protect it from damp or heat. Furniture that is not solid can see its veneer covering lift as dampness gets underneath, while cracking and warping from heat are also types of damage that can destroy the look of the piece. Of course, chipping is always possible in both solid and veneer furniture, but in solid furniture the same wood is exposed, making simple repairs possible.

But it’s not just about damage, it’s also about the furniture styles and ranges that are available in solid oak. There is no shortage of quality solid oak ranges about, with Hereford Oak furniture collections a leader amongst the list that includes Aquarius Oak, Cambridge Oak, Lyon Oak and Vancouver Oak, amongst many. These ranges comprise a variety of furniture pieces that are distinctive because of the design, color and finish each have. From oak wardrobes and oak dining tables to elaborately carved oak cabinets and oak kitchen units, these pieces can match the interior decor of any room or home.

Style is imperative for any product in a competitive industry, and the furniture industry is no different. In fact, the more charismatic the design, and more striking the visual effect of the furniture piece, the more likely it is to sell. That’s why the variety of furniture designs is vast, and it is no less the fact for solid furniture with finishes and effects used to beautify the pieces.

Oak is an ideal wood when it comes to staining, with colors ranging from a refreshing harvest gold to a more earthy dark red hue. A rustic finish allows for the natural grain and knot structure of the solid piece to appear aged, giving the piece an almost vintage look. However, a more distressed look, such as those mimicking steel brushed or chipped surfaces, is also attractive as it lends a sense of worn legacy.

Such effects and designs are not limited to tables for the dining room or living room, but extend to all products to allow everyone to have the style they wish in any room in the home or office. Casual units, like bookcases, nests of tables, TV units and telephone and hall tables, range in size and finish. Even for the student or home office worker, desks are designed to suit their practical needs as well as the spatial restrictions of the room they are studying or working in.

Leading brand names, such as Hereford oak furniture, offer ranges that appeal to the complete spectrum of consumers, from those who like the contemporary styles to those who would rather the old-world, vintage affects. Even the minor details, like the type of handle on drawers or cabinet doors, are specifically tailored to complement the tones of the stained oak wood itself.

The stereotypical solid oak dining table, for example, can have a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from the square-cornered rectangular table to the oval model for four that extends to sit double that. The ability of extend in length might be a practical aspect of its design, but its style is never compromised, retaining the same finish seamlessly throughout.

It’s a fact that solid does not have to mean boring. These examples show just how varied the design and appearance solid oak furniture can be. They are not cumbersome items to be avoided, or so bland that they fail to excite, but boast innovation and even elegance along with their reputation for durability and value.

By: Kathryn Dawson

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_7222.shtml

Simple steps to a healthier heart

August 6th, 2014 by Brenda Bassett


(BPT) – For millions of Americans, the battle against heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions goes on year round. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women.

However, despite the grim realities of heart disease, the steps to achieve better heart health can be simple. Experts agree that heart disease can be both preventable and controllable with the appropriate lifestyle changes.

Registered dietician Elizabeth Somer, author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy” believes there are clear steps a person can take to turn around his or her heart health.

“Many people with heart disease may be able to improve their heart health by making a few changes to what they eat, how much they move and their lifestyle,” Somer says. “There are four key things to think about for heart health: keep your blood fat levels down, keep your blood pressure in check, promote healthy blood flow and circulation, and keep inflammation down.”

Here are five simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improve your overall health.

1. Take control of cholesterol with oat fiber: Numerous studies spanning a decade or more of research support the claim that dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. The fiber in oats is a soluble fiber called beta glucan. This fiber works by flushing cholesterol out of the system. Additionally, fiber-rich foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and so may help with weight management.

2. Better your blood pressure: Nearly one-third of all American adults have high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control, according to the CDC. The risks that accompany uncontrolled high blood pressure are serious. However, taking easy steps will lower that risk. Exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight, in addition to eating a low-sodium diet, can all contribute to a healthier blood pressure. Also, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than people who’ve never smoked.

3. Keep your blood flowing: Products are now available that provide a natural way to help promote healthy blood flow by supporting normal platelet function. A tomato-based concentrate made from select Mediterranean tomatoes called Fruitflow is a natural, healthy and safe ingredient that has been proven through clinical research to keep platelets smooth, thereby promoting healthy blood flow. Try products with this ingredient like Langers Tomato Juice Plus or L&A Tomato Juice with Fruitflow as healthy daily beverage choices.

4. Decrease inflammation: Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA may help reduce inflammation and may also help lower risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease. Load up on heart-healthy foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, salmon, mackerel, nuts and foods fortified with EPA/DHA Omega-3 fatty acids such as certain milks, snacks and even cooking oils.

5. Shed the layers: It’s nothing new. We know that being overweight puts us at risk for numerous health problems, including an increased risk of both heart disease and stroke. The change in seasons can serve as the perfect springboard into a new exercise routine. Take advantage of extended daylight hours by sneaking a sweat session into your evening routine and take control of your diet, making sure to cut back on foods with saturated and trans fats.