Regina "Ginny" Wolkoff
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The Secret to a Healthy Home Garden

June 2, 2015 1:09 am

What's the key to a garden full of healthy plants? The secret is in the soil, says Melinda Myers, author and host of Melinda’s Garden Moment.

"Most homeowners don't have great garden soil in their yards," says Myers. ”The soil in most suburban yards has been damaged during the construction process. Typically it was scraped away and sold, or it was compacted during building."

Healthy plants require the right growing conditions and healthy, fertile soil. One way to improve the condition of your soil is through peat moss, which naturally absorbs water and slowly releases it to plants. In addition to helping to balance the soil's water retention and drainage, peat moss also improves soil aeration that improves plant health.

"The best way to improve soil is to add amendments such as compost and peat moss," says Myers. "Peat moss improves water drainage in clay soil, and peat moss helps lean, sandy soil retain water.”

Myers recommends adding 2-3 inches of organic matter to the top 12 inches of soil, which is the “basic zone” for most plantings.

Source: PeatMoss.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Save on Utilities with DIY Filter Swap

June 2, 2015 1:09 am

\One of the easiest ways to boost indoor air quality at home is to change the filter on your HVAC unit. Replacing the filter becomes even more important when your cooling unit is running consistently, according to the experts at FiltersUSA. An inefficient filter can produce greater stress on the blower motor and restrict airflow, increasing energy expenses and the possibility of a breakdown.



How can you tell when the filter must be replaced? A general rule of thumb is to replace the filter at times proportional to the frequency of use. Doing so will prevent the cooling coil from becoming clogged or freezing.



To change the filter, turn the air conditioner off, open the cabinet and pull out the old filter, noting the direction of the airflow arrow. Insert a new filter in the same direction of the arrow.



The type of filter you use will have different results. A denser filter media with a higher MERV rain will capture smaller particles; electronic air cleaners remove the smallest particles.

If you live in an apartment building with limited access to the HVAC unit, consider using an inexpensive portable room air cleaner, many of which are small enough to move from room to room and offer true HEPA filtration.



Source: FiltersUSA.com


Published with permission from RISMedia.


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9 Tips for Cyber Space Safety

June 2, 2015 1:09 am

Though social networking has become a mainstay of society, many of us don’t think twice about digital safety when surfing, chatting and sharing. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, some thought must be given to ensuring that Internet-based activities remain safe and secure.

Whether posting pictures on Snapchat, posing questions on Ask.fm or using any of the thousands of other social apps and sites, we all love to share. Remember to:


Share with care. Sharing private photos or details online, even in emails, can cause problems later on. Even folks you consider friends can use the information you share online against you.

Be nice online.
Or at least treat people the way you want to be treated. If someone upsets you, try not to react; instead, use privacy tools to block them.

Be smart about pictures.
It is fun to share pictures, but you never know who might see them or how they might affect you in the future.

Avoid in-person meetings with people you don't know. It is not necessarily bad to interact with strangers online, but be careful with what information you share and very careful (by letting someone else know or having someone accompany you) before agreeing to meet someone you do not know.

Chat carefully.
If a game allows you to chat with other players, be careful about the information you disclose.

Know the apps. Make sure apps are only downloaded from reputable app stores and check their privacy disclosures and settings.

Be location savvy. Apps that share your location with friends and family can be great, but be sure only the right people can find out where you are.

Lock your phone. Make sure that you have a secret PIN (personal identification number), a password, fingerprint setting or other security measures in place so that only you can access your phone.

Know how to locate and wipe your phone. There are free tools (like Apple’s iCloud Find my Phone and Google’s Android Device Manager) that will help you find your device if it is turned on or wipe it clean if it becomes lost.



Source: National Cyber Security Alliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Financial Planning Tips for College

June 1, 2015 1:06 am

Did you know the average American college student is now graduating with $33,000 in debt? And with more than half of parents placing higher value on college savings over retirement, learning to save smart is more important than ever, says nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

One way to do so is with a 529 plan–an investment plan operated by a state or educational institution, with tax advantages and other incentives to make it easier to save for college for a designated beneficiary, such as a child or grandchild. Operating similar to IRA and 401(k) plans, 529 college savings plans allow parents to save for a child's education tax-free through an array of investment options.

There are two types of 529 plans: prepaid tuition plans and savings plans. The plans are named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code and are administered by state agencies and organizations.

In addition to enrolling in a 529 savings plan, students and families can save for college and manage expenses during school by:

Learning to Budget Now
– Developing a realistic and manageable budget is a valuable lifelong skill that is essential for anyone in college, preparing to go to college, or just graduating. Start by using a budgeting worksheet for students to get an accurate picture of your income and expenses. By comparing and contrasting your total income and expenses, you will be able to create a feasible budget plan. By sticking to your budget, you will avoid going into any unnecessary credit card debt.

Being Wary of Credit Card Debt
– Credit card companies target college students because they have little experience managing their money. If you sign up for a credit card, don’t get carried away. Get your payment in by the due date or you'll be slapped with late fees and create additional debt for yourself.

Working – Consider a part-time job, tutoring, paid internships or work-study programs to earn and save money while in school. If you’re looking to get an apartment after graduation, make your student loan payments, or relocate for a job, saving for your future will help you in the long run.

Using Your Student ID for Discounts
– Not only will you need it to enter your dorm, the dining hall, and the library, but your student ID can also earn you discounts at hundreds of retailers nationwide. If you are not sure if a company offers a student discount, just ask. You can also find a list of discounts at ConsumerCredit.com.

Taking Stock of Your Financial Situation – Too many students graduate from college without any idea of how much they’ll have in student loans, or how much to expect to make at their first job. Make sure you know how much school costs per year, what your parents are covering, what you’ll be expected to cover, and budget for rent and living expenses accordingly.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Protecting Your Home from Grill Fires

June 1, 2015 1:06 am

Did you know three out of five households own a gas grill? That may translate to a lot of tasty meals, but it also explains why there’s an average of 8,800 home fires each year related to grilling, says the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). But gas grills are not solely to blame–all types of grills pose risks for fires.

The NFPA advises backyard chefs be diligent during cookouts. Keep in mind most grilling fires begin on a courtyard, terrace, patio, exterior balcony or open porch. Protect these areas by:

- Checking for damage before using the grill for the first time each year;

- Using propane and charcoal BBQ grills outdoors only;

- Placing the grill well away from the home, deck railing and out from under eaves and overhanging branches;

- Keeping children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area;

- Keeping your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grates and in the trays below;

- Never leaving your grill unattended.

Source: NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Credit Know-How Breeds Buyer Confidence

June 1, 2015 1:06 am

The majority of homebuyers know credit is important when purchasing a home–and they feel significantly more prepared to buy if they know their credit scores, Experian reports. In addition, the majority of homebuyers understand the importance of their credit scores in securing favorable interest rates to refinance a home.

"No one likes to go into a lender's office, whether buying or refinancing, and not know the state of their credit; it makes them feel helpless," says Becky Frost, Experian Consumer Services.

Credit score uncertainty among homebuyers manifests in feelings of anxiety over interest rates and the ability to purchase a home. The good news is, more than half of future homebuyers indicate they are actively working to improve their credit, including taking steps to pay off debt, pay bills on time, keep low credit card balances, protect personal information from identity theft or fraud, and not open new credit accounts.

In more good news, 62 percent of future buyers are confident about their credit status, and 60 percent feel financially prepared to buy a home.

Source: Experian Consumer Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Taking Fido on the Road? Tips for Traveling with Pets

May 29, 2015 1:02 am

Each year, millions of pets accompany their families on vacation. If you’re planning on taking your furry friend on a trip, plan ahead with these tips from PetInsurance.com.

1. If traveling by car, secure your pet with a safety harness or well ventilated carrier to restrain them in case of a sudden stop or accident.

2. Never allow your pet to hang out the window. Opening the window just a few inches will allow your pet to safely enjoy the breeze without the risk of inhaling debris or being struck by any objects. This will also prevent any temptation your pet may have of jumping out of the car.

3. Feed your pet a smaller meal before your trip to prevent an upset stomach. Also remember to carry plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

4. Bring your pets' toys to accompany them during travel. The familiar smells can help comfort your pet and keep them occupied during the trip.

5. Never leave your pet in a car unattended. Even with the windows cracked, temperatures in a car can increase drastically.

6. Make sure your pet is wearing identification at all times in case she becomes separated or lost. Verify that your pet's ID tag is up-to-date, durable, and includes your mobile phone number.

7. Pack a recent photo of your pet along with current vaccination records. If your pet becomes lost, having a current photograph will make the search easier.

8. Book a pet-friendly hotel. With more than 25,000 hotels in the U.S. allowing pets, there are plenty of properties from which to choose. Don't assume all pets will be allowed – some hotels place limits on the size of the dogs they allow. Call to check that your dog will be welcomed.

9. Look up details about a veterinary hospital near your destination. If your pet has a medical emergency you'll be prepared and know where to go.

Source:
PetInsurance.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Should You Replace Your Roof? 5 Signs

May 29, 2015 1:02 am

Most homeowners don’t think about their roofs until leaky ceilings and puddles form inside their home. Why think about your roof if there isn’t a problem?

According to Metal Roofing Alliance Executive Director Bill Hippard, "Roofers are most in demand following severe weather such as heavy rain or high winds. If you put off doing repairs or replacing your roof until you have a problem, you may find that the contractor has a waiting list, and your problem will get worse before it can be addressed."

To avoid costly delays and repairs, look for these signs:

1. Missing shingles.
High winds can remove shingles from your roof, creating an invitation for leaks. You can use binoculars to inspect your roof without a ladder.

2. Shingles that are obviously cracked or peeling.
Even if the shingles aren't missing, if they're curling or torn, they're on their way to failing.

3. Stains or water marks on your ceiling can indicate a leaking roof even if you don't see a puddle. It's important to find the source of the leak and make repairs before the problem grows.

4. Discolored shingles can be a sign of mold or algae growth on your roof, particularly in warm, wet climates. The elements are hard on a roof, causing it to deteriorate and fail.

5. Age.
If you have a typical asphalt shingle roof, and it's more than 10-15 years-old, chances are, you're going to need to replace it in the near future.

Source: MetalRoofing.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hot Trends in Outdoor Spaces–and Which Ones to Retire

May 29, 2015 1:02 am

Want to punch up your patio this year? Set your sights higher with a vertical garden, light the night with a hurricane candle, add a splash of lime on seat cushions or table linens, and you’ll be right on trend with the most popular outdoor picks named by a recent Zillow Digs Home Trend Forecast. Here’s how to incorporate them:

Vertical Gardens – Vertical or wall gardens offer a sophisticated home for succulents, herbs and other low-maintenance plants, and will be one of this season's biggest outdoor patio trends. Look for a rise in vertical gardens in condo and apartment decks, where outdoor floor space can be especially tight.

Hurricane Candles
- Hurricane candles are this season's most popular outdoor lighting solution, and will be equally as prevalent among budget and luxury spaces. When grouped together on tables or lined up along the patio floor, hurricane candles are romantic and create ambiance that can be enjoyed on any budget.

Lime Green Accents - Expect to see this fresh hue manifest in a variety of materials and textures, from throw pillows and vases to outdoor umbrellas. A highly versatile statement color, lime green offers the perfect complement to outdoor greenery, and pairs exceptionally well with other citrus tones, like tangerine and sunshine yellow.

Whenever new trends arrive, others must go. Here are the trends you should retire based on Zillow Digs’ assessment:

Tuscan Colors – "Khakis or yellow-based neutrals are out, as well as anything muddy or Tuscan-inspired," says Zillow Digs designer Marc Thee of Marc-Michaels Interiors. While these muted hues can bring warmth in moderation, they feel heavy and faux in outdoor spaces, which contrasts this season's fresh, streamlined aesthetic.

Shabby Chic Furniture – Intricate, shabby chic patio sets will fade away as this season is all about simplicity and clean lines. Detailed wrought iron patio sets will be replaced with sleek outdoor sofas and loveseats adorned with pillows and throws in this summer's hottest citrus colors.

Excessive Patterns – "People grow tired of busy patterns, so keep them to a minimum," says Thee. Instead, add interest and texture with natural greenery and pops of citrus colors. Look for more solid color choices on pillows and throw blankets this summer.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Lawn Care Tip: How to Stave Off Pests

May 28, 2015 1:00 am

(Family Features) Many homeowners overlook an important aspect of lawn care that can affect the health of their yards. Your lawn is the perfect environment in which threatening weeds, diseases and pests can lurk, often with harmful consequences. In some cases, the primary damage may come in the form of these insects eating away at grass or the leaves of shrubs. Alternatively, insects may destroy grasses and plants at their roots.

Considering how quickly pest populations can multiply, being proactive in preventing and treating their presence is crucial. A regularly scheduled treatment plan is one of the best strategies to reduce your exposure to dangerous pests, and help defend your home and family from unwanted lawn visitors.

In addition to a regular treatment program, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend these pest reduction tips:

• Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.

• Place a barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas.

• Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.

• Stack wood neatly and in a dry area away from the house or lawn.

• Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from wooded areas and in a sunny location, if possible.

• Remove any trash or debris from the yard that may give pests a place to hide.

Source:
TruGreen.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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