Moving? Make sure your possessions are protected


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The average American makes 11.7 moves during a lifetime, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s about one in six people pulling up stakes each year.
With so many on the move to new homes, new cities and new opportunities, it’s important to protect household items while in transit or in storage before arrival at the new location, according to Charles Valinotti, head of product and underwriting with insurer QBE.

 
Your homeowner’s insurance policy will protect your personal possessions, whether they’re located in your home or in a moving truck. However, Valinotti cautions that there may be a time limit attached to the coverage, such as a 30-day period, and your policy may only cover up to certain dollar limits on property being moved or stored.

 
“Ask your agent to explain the level of coverage, what exactly is covered and confirm that your items are insured if you have to store them,” he says.

 
Other points to keep in mind as you hit the road:

 
* If you’re using a professional moving company or shipper, verify that they’re insured and bonded to cover damage they may be responsible for. Valinotti says to keep in mind most movers limit their responsibility to basic damage amounts. “You may want to check into buying additional insurance to make sure you’re adequately covered during your move.”

 
* If you’re packing and moving yourself with a rented truck, take a look at your auto insurance policy. Many policies will cover rental trucks, but only up to a certain weight. “Don’t assume your policy covers you when you’re behind the wheel of a 26-foot, 13,000-pound moving truck,” he says.

 
* In a self-move, careful packing is critical, as well as keeping your property locked up and secured along the way.

 
* Note the condition of your items being relocated. Then if you have a claim, the condition of your possessions will be documented.

 
* Know the value of high-dollar items that will be making the move. “Make a complete list of everything,” Valinotti suggests. “Take photos and, if necessary, get appraisals of these items before the move.”

 
Valinotti says before a move is a good time to review your overall insurance coverage to make sure you’re adequately covered and whether you need to increase your limits. “A good look at insurance coverage every couple of years is something everyone should do,” he says. “And you don’t have to wait until you’re ready to pack up and relocate.”

Courtesy of BPT

Summer saving tips


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Summer time is one of the happiest seasons of the year. This is the perfect time to get a week of vacation from work, go to the beach and enjoy time with friends and family. As summer could mean happy times, it could also mean more expenses as you spend for family getaways and as electric bills go up due to more people staying in the house and using electric appliances. To help you save money during summer time, here are some helpful tips:

1. Turn off unnecessary household appliances

Be cautious on what appliances kids use. Turn of unnecessary appliances that might just add up to your bill. Turning off the air conditioning during a cold night is one of the helpful things to practice.

2. Let the kids try a summer business

Instead of allowing your kids to just spend more of their money during summer, you can even teach them how to be thrifty and run a summer business. They can try setting up a Lemonade stand or have a garage sale of their old clothes and toys. This way, the kids learn to value money and spend little or just enough for their needs.

3. Save on groceries

Grocery shopping, combined with the money we spend “eating out,” makes up a huge portion of our monthly expenses. In order to save more money during summer, you must learn how to save money on your groceries. Choosing less expensive drinks, avoiding single-serving snacks and being realistic about the amount of food you need are some helpful ways to save you some bucks on your groceries.

4. Avoid credit cards

Using your credit card means borrowing money from the bank that issued the card. And since credit cards often have high spending limits, it encourages cardholders to spend more and more money based on their credit limit. This therefore leads to uncontrollable spending. It is more helpful then to use a prepaid debit card or a prepaid money card when making purchases as these types of cards have credit limits based on the amount of money that the cardholder has from their own bank account. This helps the cardholder think twice before spending as he knows the money will be deducted from his own savings account.

Saving money during the summer season does not mean though that you have to spoil your happy times with your family. With careful planning, budgeting and following these simple tips from reassessing your groceries to choosing prepaid debit cards over credit cards will surely help you save more money that you can use for your family"™s future needs.

Courtesy of BPT

Three Green Trends for Home Remodeling

For some homeowners, remodeling projects are regular occurrences to keep their homes looking fresh. Sometimes, that means smaller changes like a new coat of paint or changing a light fixture. Other times, more substantial changes are needed. Determining those changes can be a challenge, but looking at the potential return on investment is a great way to prioritize.

Bathroom remodeling offers a 68.7 percent return on investment, according to a National Association of Realtors survey. One way to add value to a bathroom remodel is to pick bathroom fixtures that are more efficient than what you currently have installed. People are going green in many areas of life, whether with more energy-efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars or by recycling more regularly. Bathroom fixtures are no different.

Here are three reasons why you should consider going green with your bathroom modeling project:

* Products may be outdated. Toilets made before 1994 use anywhere from 3.5 gallons to 8 gallons per flush (gpf), while new EPA WaterSense labeled high-efficiency toilets can work beautifully on a modest 1.28 gpf. Not sure of your toilet’s vintage? Look at the underside of the tank lid – the date of manufacture is often stamped into the porcelain. In the shower, the typical showerhead installed in California homes built after 1994 uses as much as 2.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, your eight-minute shower consumes a whopping 20 gallons of water.

* Savings to be had. Compared to 3.5 gpf toilets, TOTO’s Aquia One-Piece Dual Flush High-Efficiency Toilet has a flushing system that enables homeowners to select the level of water used each time the toilet is flushed – 1.6 gallons for bulk waste or .9 for liquid. The approach provides exceptional water savings paired with outstanding performance. A family of four can save more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet.

If you replace a typical 2.5 gpm showerhead with a TOTO high-efficiency Trilogy Showerhead, you will experience the same luxurious shower, yet consume a responsible 14 gallons, saving 20 percent of the water used by older models.

Even something like a faucet can contribute to water savings. TOTO’s Silas Widespread Lavatory Faucet is a WaterSense labeled lavatory faucet that consumes a responsible 1.5 gallons per minute without sacrificing an ounce of performance. Its design has a classic contemporary elegance with a graceful, curved spout.  

* Be a trendy homeowner. A whopping 68 percent of builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders say that energy-saving technologies and features including low-E windows, energy-efficient appliances, and LED lighting will be common along with other green features like engineered wood products, and water-saving plumbing fixtures such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets by 2015. Start now and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Five Tips for Kitchen Redos

(BPT) – Feel the need to renovate? If so, you’re not alone. Fifty-three percent of homeowners believe that now is a good time to remodel, according to a recent survey by Houzz.com. When deciding on where the makeover begins, look no farther than the kitchen. Kitchens are a major selling point for homebuyers, so a kitchen remodel is good for the home-selling price. Even if you have no plans to move, the kitchen gets more traffic than any other area of a home and serves as the family hub, so it deserves the attention. To ensure a successful project, keep in mind these kitchen-remodeling tips:

* Add color and light. Splashes of color and artwork can transform a kitchen from a workspace to a fun, vibrant family-gathering spot. To show off those dazzling colors, choose window treatments that let the sunshine in. And take a look at the windows themselves. High-efficiency replacement windows and patio doors can not only save you money over their less-efficient predecessors from the second they are installed, but they often retain most of their value should the home be sold, according to industry statistics. Simonton Windows offers a variety of types, sizes and styles across a number of collections, and can help you find the right windows for your remodeling needs. For detailed window options, visit www.simonton.com.

* Add appeal and ease. Stainless steel continues to be the most popular finish for kitchen appliances, sinks and fixtures. Besides its modern, sleek appearance, stainless steel cleans easily and resists wear and tear. That is especially true for kitchen sinks, which receive the brunt of abuse. New lines of stainless-steel sinks, in a variety of styles, configurations and sizes, are available from Moen. To ease renovation, the new styles feature an updated drop-in deck design. These drop-in sinks include Moen’s refreshed sink-deck design, a minimal, transitional style that coordinates with a variety of decor and faucet designs. The new recessed deck allows sponges or other wet items placed on the deck’s inner ledge to drain back into the sink, and not onto the countertop. The sinks’ wear-resistant, uniform, brushed finish offers durability and resistance to chipping, cracking, staining or peeling.

* Go bold with fixtures. For topping off a kitchen-remodeling project, nothing beats bold and functional fixtures. The new STo collection of stylish, modern faucets from Moen encompass a slim, sleek design, including the innovative, integrated pulldown wand which neatly docks inside of the spout. The rounded, high-arc spout of the STo faucet features a tubular design that unites with a cube-shaped base. Adding the finishing touch is a rectangular lever handle. Available in both single-handle pulldown kitchen and bar/prep pulldown models, STo faucets also feature Moen’s Reflex system, which offers self-retraction of the wand, as well as an exceptional range of motion, generous reach and secure docking retraction. Choose the Spot Resist Stainless finish, with Chrome and Matte Black as other finish options. For more information about Moen products, visit www.moen.com.

* Store in style. Kitchen storage can be practical and stylish. After determining what you don’t like about your current cabinetry – consider location, storage capacity, storage flexibility, material and finish – find out what options you have. MasterBrand offers a spectrum of cabinetry products ranging from standard to custom, with solutions for every budget and lifestyle. For more on cabinetry products from MasterBrand, visit www.masterbrand.com.

* Freshen the flooring. While design, color and surface appeal are important considerations, you’ll also want kitchen flooring that can live up to your lifestyle and provide the comfort and durability you need, according to bobvila.com. Natural stone and ceramic tile are high-end products that ooze taste and elegance. If selecting these hard surfaces, also invest in mats for areas where you’ll be standing for longer periods of time. Linoleum and vinyl offer the look of tile or wood in a more economical, easy-to-clean package. Hardwood has made great strides as a flooring option for kitchens, due to improved product quality and sealing technology.

Courtesy of BPT

8 Traits of Successful Real Estate Investors

SuccessTake a few minutes to think about the successful people around you, not only financially, but also those who embody personal success. Consider the characteristics each of them possess and how these characteristics have fueled their achievements in their given field. Over the past several years I have come in contact with quite a few real estate investors, both directly and indirectly, and have recognized many I consider to be very successful. These people have not only started successful real estate businesses, they also seem to have mastered balance in their life, a very difficult goal to achieve. I have identified 8 key traits that these investors display, (not surprisingly, this same list can be applied to the leaders in any field):

The 8 Traits that Successful Real Estate Investors Embody

1) Passion for investing: The time and personal equity that is required to become a successful investor is overwhelming for many people, which is why most people who plan on becoming real estate investors fail. Passion fuels drive and drive fuels action; without action the chance of becoming successful is zilch. Passion provides the boost needed for difficult days and enthusiasm on routine days. In short, without passion, real estate investing is just another job.

2) Discipline in decision-making: I have yet to meet someone I would consider both undisciplined and successful, and doubt I ever will. While discipline may be a difficult trait to define, I find it is often fairly easy to pick out, as disciplined people plan for the future, work diligently in the present, and learn from the past.

3) Understanding core principles: Failure is almost certain if you do not understand the foundational principles of business, real estate, and the specific niche you are engaging in. Long term success requires not only an understanding of buying and selling real estate, or how to be a landlord, but also basic economic principles. Understanding market fluctuations, economic cycles, monetary policy and other facets of economics will ensure you can react intelligently when changes do occur. Learning the basics is not always fun or exciting, but it is critical in achieving long-term success.

4) Integrity in business dealings: Real estate is notorious for attracting people looking for a quick buck at all costs, but if you look at successful investors, their success spans years and is attained through incredibly hard work. While it may seem easier to look for a short cut (and rip someone off in the process), a long real estate career must be built on a solid reputation.

5) Flexibility: Murphy’s Law is alive and well in real estate, and to survive inevitable surprises, market fluctuations and bad deals, you must be flexible enough to adapt your plan as you go. Planning is absolutely critical, but equally so is the ability to quickly decide when it is necessary to deviate from the plan. Successful real estate investors know when they need to re-evaluate their current blueprint and make adjustments to preserve the long-term success of their investments and business.

6) Money management skills: Most small businesses fail due to poor money management. Forecasting, budgeting, and financial planning is becoming a lost art among small business owners, and it can be lethal to your business. This is why understanding the basics of accounting, tax law, cash flow management, debt management, and other financial principles is so important, even if you have a great accountant and book-keeper.

7) A Team of Successful People: You can only take your business so far, and at some point you will be forced to rely on other people. Real estate is a people business and every real estate transaction requires a team of people to close. Once a transaction is complete, even more people are involved so it is important to form and maintain relationships with lenders, attorneys, contractors, agents, accountants and other people who can contribute to the growth of your business.

8) Superior communication skills: You have probably heard it a million times but that is because it is true, being able to effectively communicate with other is vital. How else will you be able to negotiate prices, interview contractors, screen potential tenants, partner with others, and so many other daily tasks? Communication goes beyond face to face discussions too, email and text messaging are ever-growing in the life of most business people, and the occasional written note will never go away, so make sure you hone your writing skills as well as your verbal skills.

All investors can say they are involved in real estate, but very few can say they are among the best. Find those whom you consider to be the best and study their habits and practices. Try to understand where they have been and how their skills helped prop them up during difficult times and propelled them during good times. Figure out which areas you have mastered and which you can improve upon; self-realization will lead to positive changes and others will begin looking to learn from you.

Author: James W. Vermillion III

James W.’s Website: http://www.kandvinvesting.com

Feeling sluggish? Follow these three rules for maintaining energy throughout the day.

As days become shorter and the weather cools, you may feel more sluggish than usual throughout the day. However, the busy nature of modern life leaves no time for hibernation. If you want to keep your health and energy levels up, some simple tricks can help keep you feeling your best no matter what life, or the weather, throws at you.

Kathy Kaehler, celebrity trainer, fitness expert, author and mother of three, has devoted her life to helping people live happy, productive and healthy lives. Working with celebrities like Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian, Kaehler knows how simple tricks can help keep you fit and energized. She suggests incorporating these three rules into your daily routine to begin feeling better every day:

Rule 1:  Exercise anytime
Exercise isn’t just for the gym. The day is filled with moments where you can work your muscles and help energize your body. For example, almost everyone’s day includes time at the office and time in the car.

At the office: A great way to grab some energy and get through the afternoon lull is to do a simple, yet effective exercise. Using a sturdy, non-rolling desk chair, practice standing up and then sitting back down.  Focusing on your legs and keeping your arms to your side, this easy exercise is fast, effective and great for the lower body. Not only will it elevate your heart rate and increase your breathing, but you are sure to feel its overall energizing effects throughout the day. Complete two sets of 15 repetitions to provide the burn you need to feel good.

In the car: All the minutes wasted stuck in traffic or waiting in the carpool line at school are perfect opportunities to flex some muscle power. While seated, squeeze your glutes (buttock muscles) as hard as you can. This will cause your body to rise and fall a few inches. After a set of eight to 10 reps, repeat the exercise, but this time focus on one side at a time.  

No matter where your day takes you, always remember to keep some fresh water or 100 percent fruit juice and healthy snacks with you in the car.  It will keep you fueled and hydrated and prevent you from loading up on carbs and fat at the nearest fast food restaurant.

Rule 2: Snack healthy
It’s important to keep your body fueled, but with the right kinds of foods, so skip the soda and chips. Instead, look for healthy foods that will keep you energized throughout the day. You can find a great low-fat, low-calorie snack packed full of flavor and crunch, leaving you satisfied and ready to move on with your day. Try to find something with no trans fats, saturated fat or cholesterol, it will be the perfect snack for at work or at home.

You can even add some pizzazz to your snacks and increase the nutritional value by pairing it with some healthy toppings and low-fat dips. Combine your favorite flavor with fresh-sliced cucumbers, rich hummus, zesty salsa, crisp apples or sliced cheese. Don’t be afraid to challenge your taste buds and get creative with your pairings.  The sky’s the limit when it comes to this satisfying, better-for-you snack. For additional pairing ideas and dip recipes, visit www.pretzelcrisps.com.

Rule 3: Prioritize sleep
Sixty-three percent of people say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. For many people, sleep is the first thing to get cut when their day gets too busy.

Getting enough sleep is crucial to losing weight, reducing stress levels and being more alert. Make time for at least seven hours of sleep each night. Don’t delay sleep by watching TV or playing on the computer.  Turn everything off an hour before your bedtime. Practice deep breathing, meditation or do some light reading. Skip food and any drinks that contain caffeine. Water is your best bet, but the majority of your liquid intake should be kept to during the day.

These healthy, better-for-you snack ideas and other tips will help you maintain your energy throughout the day, allowing you to feel your best and live each day to the fullest.

What you need to know about composite decking


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Have you ever considered composite decking but disregarded the idea because you felt like you didn’t know enough about it? Maybe you’ve wondered how composite decking is made? Or what kinds of materials make up composite decking?

Although composite decking is not new, lack of familiarity with the product may lead you to be confused when making a decision about what you should choose for your deck. To make this decision-making process easier, it often helps to go back to the basics.

So what is composite decking anyway? By definition, composite decking is a wood-like product that is created by the mixture of wood fibers, or sawdust, and virgin and recycled plastics. The combination of these elements along with color pigments and other protective additives, form a traditional wood-like decking profile that requires less maintenance than traditional wood decks.

Many composite decking products are manufactured through a process called extrusion. This is defined as a forming process in which melted plastic and wood materials are forced through an opening to produce a product that maintains a relatively consistent size and shape. Think of it like putty that is being pushed through a mold. The opening gives the board the shape and texture.

Another manufacturing method is compression molding. Combined molten materials for the composite wood are placed on to wood grain molds which are then compressed under tremendous heat and pressure to create a physical bond. The force applied helps to squeeze out air pockets and create a compressed board.

For outdoor living, composite decking provides many added benefits including weather resistance, complementary colors, durability and reduced maintenance.

* Weather resistance: The density of a composite decking board helps protect the board from rot and decay caused by prolonged exposure to moisture. By keeping moisture out, this helps reduce mildew, insects and bacteria.

* Complementary colors: The composite boards are also manufactured in a range of colors to perfectly complement any home. Instead of needing stain or paint, the colors are already added to the boards.

* Durability: Composite decking boards are manufactured to be stain resistant against certain common food and beverage stains, including mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, canola oil, fruit punch, wines and coffee. This stain resistance will preserve the life and beauty of the deck.

* Maintenance: Composite decking does not require paint, stain or a sealer reducing the overall maintenance of the deck. The best way to maintain a composite deck is to keep it swept, hose it off at least twice a year and attend to stains promptly with household cleaners or commercially available composite deck cleaners.

Overall, composite decking is a low maintenance product that has become a desirable alternative for outdoor living. Some composite deck products, like TAMKO’s Envision, even add an extra layer of protection against weather, staining and scratching to preserve the natural beauty of the composite decking board.

TAMKO’s Envision is uniquely designed with an added outer layer that is physically bonded to the core board under a compression process. This bonded outer layer adds durability to the core materials that provide the strength and consistency of the board. Envision also comes in four true, multi-shaded color options, designed with color highlights that emulate the textures and natural color variations of real wood to further enhance the natural beauty of the deck. To learn more about TAMKO’s Envision, visit www.tamko.com.

Knowing more about the choices available helps you make a more informed decision about the product that is best for you. Composite decking shouldn’t be something you avoid because you don’t know anything about it. Composite decking has come a long way since it was first introduced and can provide you with the beauty and satisfaction you look for in a deck for years to come. You don’t want to miss out.

Courtesy of BPT

Keep cool this summer with fun and flavorful frozen dessert recipes


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As temperatures climb this summer, cool down with tasty and colorful frozen treat recipes for your next backyard barbecue or pool party. Offer everyone’s favorite summertime treats – ice cream, sherbet and sorbet – in unique and unexpected ways, such as in refreshing beverages, delicious cake bars or whimsical parfaits. Mold frozen ingredients into bite-size treats using melon ball scoops for mini ice cream sandwiches, or use ice cube trays to make mini-popsicles as mid-afternoon pick-me-ups.

 
Summer is also a great time to pair frozen treats with seasonal fruits like watermelon, berries and peaches. Present these ingredients within vibrant, layered parfaits or use the fruit shells to act as novel serving bowls. For a more decadent spin, combine the frozen ingredients with more traditional dessert elements such as graham cracker crusts, shortbread or fruit pie filling.  

 
“There’s nothing more satisfying than a flavorful, chilled confection on a hot summer day,” says Stan Frankenthaler, Baskin-Robbins executive chef and vice president of innovation at Dunkin’ Brands. “Using a ready-made, frozen treat as a recipe base, then combining it with fresh, seasonal ingredients, is a quick and easy way to delight the taste buds of your friends and family, all while keeping them cool. Your guests will appreciate your creativity while they satisfy their sweet tooths.”

 
Watermelon Chip Sorbet Punch
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Approximately 8 (¾ cup) servings

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Ingredients:
* 1 small watermelon
* 2 cans of ginger ale
* 2 tablespoons lime juice
* 1 pint Baskin-Robbins Watermelon Chip Sorbet

 
Directions:
1. Cut an oblong hole in the top of the watermelon. Scoop out the watermelon, remove seeds, and mash half of the watermelon, reserving its juice.

 
2. Mix the watermelon juice, lime juice and ginger ale together in a bowl.

 
3. Pour the punch into the hulled out watermelon shell to one inch below its rim. Use the remaining punch to refresh as needed.

 
4. Top with small scoops of Baskin-Robbins Watermelon Chip Sorbet, and garnish each glass of punch with an additional scoop of sorbet.

 
Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream Bars
Prep Time:  30 minutes
Total Time:  3 hours, 30 minutes
Yield:  24 servings

 
Ingredients:
* 1 ¾ cups shortbread cookie crumbs
* 7 tablespoons butter, softened
* 2 quarts Baskin-Robbins Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream, softened
* 1 jar (12 ounces) blueberry pie filling

 
Directions:

 
1. In a bowl, combine the shortbread cookie crumbs and butter until well blended. Pat the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan or dish. 
2. Spread the Baskin-Robbins Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream carefully over the crust.
3. Spread blueberry pie filling evenly over ice cream.
4. Freeze three hours or until firm.
5. Slice into squares and serve.

 
For more delicious ice cream flavors and frozen treats, visit your local Baskin-Robbins restaurant or www.BaskinRobbins.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Learn the details of counter depth refrigerators


If you are unsatisfied with the space in your kitchen, but need lots of room in the fridge, you should consider counter depth refrigerators. This kind of appliance does not stick out any farther than your kitchen cabinets, which means that it takes up less room than a traditional fridge. However, it is often a bit taller than most refrigerators so that you do not lose much space when it comes to storing your food. Think about the details to consider before you start browsing counter depth refrigerators.

This kind of fridge usually has different measurements than most types, as it usually sticks out into the walkway a few inches less than most, but is a few inches taller. This means that you need an appropriately high ceiling in order to fit this fridge into your home, so be sure that you measure the height as well as the depth. Of course, you should also consider the width like you would before buying any fridge, but the width of most counter depth refrigerators is typically the same as other types.

If you want to add style to your kitchen while adding space, you should consider counter depth refrigerators that blend into the cabinetry. If you go this route, you will need a custom fridge company, but the results are often worth it since having matching cabinets and appliances is certainly unique. Keep in mind that many of the popular counter depth refrigerators on the market come in the French door style, adding to the classy appearance that most homeowners crave.

Of course, you can expect to pay a little more for this kind of fridge than most others, as the style is unique and up-to-date. Consider how important your kitchen’s image is to you. If you rarely use it or show it off and want to save money, you might be better off sticking to traditional top freezer or side-by-side styles. However, homeowners who spend a lot of time in their kitchen and enjoy showing it off to guests will likely find this a worthy investment in their home.

Counter depth refrigerators are not for everyone, and if this style does not appeal to you, remember that there are several other types of fridges on the market. Before you browse counter depth refrigerators, you should first decide if this is the style you really want and can afford. The next step is to measure your kitchen and make sure that it will fit, and then determine whether you want a counter depth fridge from the store or from a custom refrigerator builder. Thinking about these details first can ensure that you are satisfied with this major purchase.

by: Heather Mills 

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_7259.shtml