December 12, 2011 9:48 pm
Real Christmas trees are a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays, filling the home with a fresh evergreen scent and unmatched appearance. To maintain your tree throughout the season, follow these simple tips for proper care.
Stand Strong – Traditional reservoir-type stands are the most effective way to maintain tree freshness and minimize needle loss. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
Fresh Cut – If the tree has been cut within the past 12 hours, it is not necessary to recut the trunk. If it has been more than 12 hours since harvest, remove a 1/4-inch disk of wood from the base of the trunk before placing the tree in the stand. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle or into a V-shape, which can make it far more difficult to hold in a stand and reduce the amount of water available to the tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient at taking up water and should not be removed. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake.
Water, Water – Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Don't bruise the cut surface of the trunk or get it dirty. Do not use additives in the water. Clean water is all that is needed to maintain freshness. Check the stand daily to make sure the water level does not go below the base of the tree.
Temperature Control – Keep trees away from heat sources (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.
Light Use – Choose lights that produce low or no heat, such as miniature or LED lights, to reduce drying of the tree. Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set. Do not overload electrical circuits and always turn off tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
For more information, visit http://www.christmastrees-wi.org/.
December 12, 2011 9:48 pm
With increased activity in the kitchen and heightened energy use to combat the cold, families are at greater risk of home fires during the winter holiday season. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is encouraging families and communities across the country to take simple precautions to ensure that this celebratory time of year does not result in a fire-related tragedy.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics indicate that 30 percent of all home fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January and February. Additionally, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires that occur in homes without working smoke alarms.
Many of these simple precautions seem like common sense, but are often overlooked due to the hectic nature of the holiday season. In addition to taking preventative measures like testing smoke alarms, it is critical that families create and practice their fire escape plan to minimize tragedy if a fire does occur.
Follow these basic safety guidelines to help protect your family, guests and home from holiday home fires:
-Stay in the kitchen when food is cooking. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the United States.
-Keep children at least three feet away from cooking appliances. Never leave a child unsupervised while cooking or when an electric or gas stove is within reach.
-Keep towels, pot holders, curtains and other flammable items away from hot surfaces.
-With greater activity in and around your home comes increased energy use. Be careful not to overburden your electrical system.
-Keep space heaters out of high-traffic and exit areas, and at least three feet away from any combustible materials.
-Do not use space heaters in rooms where children are unsupervised.
-Turn space heaters off when you go to sleep or leave the room. Never leave a space heater unattended.
-Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. Test smoke alarms once a month to ensure they are working properly.
-Make sure everyone in your family recognizes the sound of the smoke alarm and knows what it means.
-Plan for a fire emergency before it happens. Be sure to explain your family fire escape plan to overnight houseguests and babysitters.
For more information, visit www.holidaysafety.org.
December 12, 2011 9:48 pm
Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates changing little and remaining near their historic lows while adjustable-rate mortgages averaged new record lows. The 30-year fixed has averaged at or below 4 percent for the fourth consecutive week.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.98 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending November 23, 2011, down from last week when it averaged 4.00 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.40 percent.
The survey showed that the 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.30 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.31 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.77 percent.
Additionally, the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.91 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.97 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.45 percent.
The one-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.79 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.98 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.23 percent.
"Mortgage rates eased slightly this week with fixed-rate loans hovering above all-time lows and ARMs reaching a new nadir,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac. “The high-degree of home-buyer affordability in recent months translated into a 1.4 percent pickup in existing home sales during October, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). NAR also reported that contract cancellations were up in October as well, which restrained sales from achieving a stronger rebound."
For more information, visit www.freddiemac.com.
December 9, 2011 3:44 pm
While Santa and his elves are finishing up toy making and preparing to pack the sled, there's an important job homeowners have to do to prepare for the upcoming Christmas holiday - make sure their roof is Reindeer-ready.
To be sure the roof is ready for everything winter has in store, including reindeer, look for the following, all of which can be done safely from a ladder:
1. For homes with asphalt shingles, look for black areas indicating cracking shingles.
2. For homes with shake or shingles, look for pieces that are curled upward, split, broken off or missing.
3. For homes with slate roofs, look for black areas that indicate slate is missing.
4. Look for heavy wear around the valleys, the areas where water runs off the roof into the gutters.
5. Look at the materials around the chimney and vent pipes and check for cracks, gaps and missing or fractured caulking.
6. Check eave overhangs for water damage.
7. Use binoculars to check around the chimney, trim and other flashings for signs of cracks, shingles that are coming up off the roof and general wear.
8. Conduct an interior inspection for stained or discolored ceilings, which most likely indicates roof problems.
9. Check your gutters for asphalt shingle granules. Lots of granules means less coverage on your roof.
10. Remove branches, twigs and leaves from gutters and clear out down spouts to allow for snow and ice run off.
For more information, visit www.metalroofing.com.
December 9, 2011 3:44 pm
In a comprehensive study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, 2010, researchers discovered significant spikes in both cardiac and non-cardiac deaths during the holidays. Researchers looked at 57.5 million U.S. death certificates spanning the years 1979 to 2004. It found 42,325 more people died of natural causes during the two-week Christmas/New Year holiday period than would normally be expected, given a typical winter. There also were increases in every major disease group of one-to-ten percent and in every demographic group of three-to-nine percent.
They also warned this unfortunate holiday trend is on the rise.
Additionally, the rate of insurance policies issued drops during the month of December, which compounds the problem even more. During the winter holidays, most people would rather be spending time with family than thinking about life insurance. Many add it to their “New Year’s Resolution” list, but by that time, it could be too late. With this in mind, it's crucially important to not put off opening a life insurance policy until the near year.
Whether one is searching for short-term life insurance or whole life insurance, there is always a solution that allows families the protection they require and the ability to obtain coverage affordably and efficiently. Coverage is subject to age limitations and acceptance is based on a few simple health questions on the online application.
Life is unpredictable and the last thing a person needs is an excuse to put off the financial responsibility to their family due to extensive and time consuming life insurance applications and medical exams.
For more information, visit: www.anicodirect.com.
December 9, 2011 3:44 pm
Cabinetry has long been used to create distinctive kitchens and baths, but by choosing affordable and versatile cabinetry, those same cabinets can be used throughout the home to add style and function to nearly any room. As we head into 2012, smaller spaces, smaller budgets and higher expectations will drive the design of affordable spaces that homeowners will love.
The Living Room
The trend of open living spaces is still strong; however, the living room is becoming smaller in size. Homeowners need to consider making every inch of the home functional for that specific living space. For example, the entertainment center is usually the focal point of the room, so why not make it beautiful? The TV doesn’t have to live on its own with just one purpose; cabinetry can be used to house the TV or to surround it. And, this cabinetry can serve as great storage for everything from DVDs and video game systems to board games.
If reading is also a part of your families’ lives, bookshelves are another dramatic and functional design addition that can be created with cabinetry. It adds valuable storage without taking up a lot of room, plus it’s a great way to display family photos and personal treasures.
As homes are getting smaller, bedrooms are sometimes being used for more than just sleeping. Often it serves as the home’s office or craft room, and with these dual purposes, storage becomes even more important. Cabinetry has the ability to transform into a desk, window seats or a built-in dresser. In addition to being extremely practical, cabinetry has the ability to look like high-end furniture pieces, at a fraction of the cost.
When choosing cabinetry for the bedroom:
• Choose cabinetry with clean lines and neutral finishes that have the ability to work with most any décor, from whimsical to modern.
• Remember, a simple change of hardware can dramatically change the look of a furniture-like piece.
• Consider including areas that can accommodate a child and a teenager in the bedroom layout, for example, where a child can sit and color can adapt to a computer/homework desk later on.
The Multipurpose Room
Another growing trend in today’s homes is the need for a “multipurpose” room. These types of rooms can be used for anything from hobbies to everyday activities such as laundry, ironing, or even a place to use exercise equipment. In creating a multipurpose room, cabinetry presents homeowners with a solution that accommodates the miscellaneous items and activities of a busy family without compromising style. It provides homeowners with functionality, yet has the ability to blend in with the décor of the rest of the home.
A higher level of taste and a demand for functional living spaces don’t have to mean a higher price tag. Think outside of the box in terms of design and use cabinetry throughout the home to enhance your surroundings.
December 8, 2011 9:44 pm
More and more U.S. employees are seeking opportunities to work from home, while many managers and business owners are still reluctant. Some middle managers may be fearful that allowing employees to work from home will adversely affect productivity. However, this does not necessarily have to be true. With the right practical advice, small business owners and contractors who work from home can make the best use of their time without letting their setting affect their workload.
Clear communication and well-understood expectations are essential for making home-based employment work. These five tips can aid those seeking to make home-based employment a smooth transition without a lapse in their work day.
1. Ensure you know what your employer’s expectations are: See to it that there are no unanswered questions about work hours, breaks, company equipment, and so forth.
2. Ensure that your results are communicated to your employer: Working long hours will not matter if your boss is not aware of what you accomplish.
3. Set up an effective work space: Make sure you have a work area that is free of distractions and is also comfortable and separate from the rest of your house.
4. Establish boundaries with your family and friends: Make sure they are aware of the demands of working from home.
5. Assess your progress on a regular basis: Record your achievements and mark your progress along the way. Make regular evaluations to your work habits.
Working from home is ultimately successful when it is treated like a job. In order to convince an employer you are serious about it, the bottom line is to behave in as professional a manner as possible.
Source: Jenkins Coaching
December 8, 2011 9:44 pm
Squirrel-proof feeders and baffles are the easiest way to deter squirrels, but it takes a coordinated effort to be successful. Even then, success is dependent on how resourceful the squirrels are.
It is costly and frustrating to feed squirrels that play havoc on bird feeders. As we all know, squirrels have this amazing way to get into and trash feeders due to persistence and ingenuity. Don't let your bird feeder become a squirrel feeder. To prevent this, try the following:
1. Locate bird feeders so squirrels can’t leap on the feeder. For example, away from the roof or gutter of the house, a tree, off the deck, wires—they can leap 10 feet and navigate along a cable wire effortlessly as well as climb bricks. They can leap 10 feet horizontally, jump vertically five feet and can drop 10 feet.
2. Put red/cayenne pepper in your bird feed. It won’t hurt the birds but it will deter the squirrels. Don’t touch your eyes until you wash your hands.
3. Use safflower seeds, nyjer/thistle seed and natural or hot pepper suet which are not favorites of squirrels. Tube nyjer bird feeders are also less attractive to squirrels.
4. Explore the various types of squirrel proof feeders. Tube feeders enclosed in wire cages can be effective especially with nyjer seed that allows songbirds access while keeping squirrels at bay.
5. Consider weight-activated feeders that close the feeding ports when the squirrel lands. They are metal, and weather and squirrel resistant and may be pole mounted or hung.
6. Battery operated squirrel-proof feeders that flip, dip, tip, and whip squirrels off your feeder. These are effective and generally more expensive.
7. Baffles can be effective for feeders placed on a pole at least six feet from the ground. A 18” baffle or a torpedo baffle, should be placed 1 ½ feet below the feeder. If you have a hanging feeder, mount the baffle on the top, which also protects the seed from rain or snow. However, make sure with a top mounted baffle that the only way the squirrel can reach the feeder is from above and they can’t leap from the side or from below. There are also 22” baffles for 4 x 4 post mounted feeders. Some bird feeders come with baffles built in.
8. Suspend a feeder on a wire between your house and a tree, or between two trees at least 12 feet off the ground with PVC pipe at each end. The PVC pipe will act as a baffle.
9. Feed your birds seed in small doses. The squirrels come, eat their fill and then are less likely to come back frequently. Of course, this works only if you have a few squirrels. If you have more than a few, they can camp out on your feeder. It’s not squirrel proof but can reduce your seed loss to squirrels.
10. Buy a squirrel feeder and place it away from the bird feeder. Hopefully, it will distract the squirrels allowing the birds to eat at their feeder.
December 8, 2011 9:44 pm
Overwhelmed and stressed-out caregivers may view the holidays as a drain of precious energy rather than a joyous occasion. The love, peace and goodwill are replaced with stress, frustration and anger. Everything from the preparation to the actual event can be tiresome.
Here are some suggestions to help make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful for caregivers. Keep in mind that the holidays can provide unique opportunities to seek better communication, connection and support from family and friends.
Talk to Family Members Before the Holidays – It is common for caregivers to be disappointed with family members who they feel are not "pulling their weight" in the caregiving responsibilities. Consider clearing the air before the holidays. If this is not a direction you want to take, perhaps resolve within yourself to put those feelings on hold, with the intention to discuss the matter after the holiday season passes. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday. After you have decided when and how much to communicate, you can release the tension of holding onto it and enjoy the festivities.
Ask for Help When Needed – Let family members know that your caregiving duties are keeping you very busy. You only have so much time and energy for holiday preparation and hosting duties. Any reasonable person will understand and hopefully offer their help.
Be Honest – It is understandable to have reservations about opening up too much and being perceived as complaining or inadequate to the task of caregiving. However, honest communication about the realities of your caregiving situation offers others the opportunity to respond with assistance or at least be in tune to what is going on.
Give the Gift of Gratitude – After the holidays, write a short thank you note to family members or friends who spent time with your loved one. Emphasize the positive impact their visit, or brief time spent with your loved one had on them. This may reinforce positive feelings from their visit and diminish any discomfort they might have experienced. They might be more encouraged to visit again or be more supportive of your efforts.
The holidays should be a time when loved ones come together to enjoy each other’s company. It should not be stressful because of the sometimes tiresome task of taking care of elderly loved ones. By utilizing these tips, you can make your time with family members more enjoyable this holiday season.
December 7, 2011 9:44 pm
Thanksgiving has come and gone and December is here. The holidays are in full swing, and for many people that means the corporate holiday party is right around the corner. Event planners and individual party planners alike have spent weeks - if not months - planning that ideal party for their corporate clients.
But what about those that still want to have a holiday bash and have been putting off reserving a space? Or maybe the boss just dropped a last-minute holiday party idea in your lap, or your original venue fell through, and you’re certain it’s too late in the game to make it a successful party. There’s almost always still time to pull it off.
There are a few insider tips that will increase your chances of landing a great party venue, even for a prime date this late in the season, and save some money in the process.
Dedicated event spaces are usually better and can be less expensive.
For many people, their first thought for a holiday party space is a hotel or conference center, but there are absolutely better options. Venues which are designed specifically for special events, can be far more exciting for the guests, much more elegant, and – believe it or not – can be less expensive than conference centers.
You can still get the perfect date, even at the last minute.
This late in the game, your first date choices may be reserved, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. In the corporate party world, the two weeks just before the 25th are the busiest for parties. Within those two weeks, Thursdays always go first, followed by Wednesday, Friday and Tuesday, in that order. But if you’re late pulling the trigger, and you still want one of those prime days, you could still be in luck.
To grab one of those coveted days at the eleventh hour, inquire about other time slots on those days. Prime time for holiday parties is usually 6:30 pm-10:30 pm, which still leaves plenty of time for your holiday party to be a holiday luncheon instead, and that will typically save 25-35% over an evening party.
You can save big on catering by “piggy-backing.”
Booking earlier time slots is not only a great way to get the date you want, it’s also a great way to save a significant amount on your food costs - one of the best-kept secrets in the event planning industry.
When you book an earlier time slot and there is an evening event after yours, you’re essentially sharing the day with the other parties scheduled for that day. Talk to the catering director at the venue, and if you’re willing to choose an identical menu, the venue saves money on the food costs and should be willing to pass those savings on to you.
In any case, booking a large holiday event in a rush can be a very difficult and stressful task, but it’s not impossible. The best bet is always going to be finding a true event venue that offers one-stop shopping from planning to catering to entertainment. It’s important to remember that these venues are still out there and available for your holiday party— even if you’re planning at the last minute.
Source: Alli Hertz, director of Special Events at Metronome Hospitality Group