Liz Hieter
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Get More Out of Household Items with Double-Duty Tips

September 9, 2014 2:00 am

From removing stains to shining shoes, you can do more than think with common household items. Here are a dozen ideas from Good Housekeeping Magazine just to get you started:
  • Mayo for water rings – Water rings on the table? Dab on mayonnaise (not the lite kind), let sit for a few hours and wipe away the mayo and the water ring.
  • Eyeglass case – When packing for your next vacation, use a spare eyeglass case for safely stowing jewelry, ear buds, chargers or other small items.
  • Kitchen tongs – Use them to help you grab something from a high closet shelf or something that fell behind the washer or dryer.
  • Liquid laundry pre-treater – Use it to loosen labels on washable hard surfaces or that annoying adhesive left by price stickers.
  • Emery boards – Use them to gently buff away stains on your suede handbags or shoes.
  • Table spoon – After chopping onions or garlic, neutralize your smelly hands by rubbing them on a stainless steel spoon under running water.
  • Kneadable art eraser – It does a fine job of removing scuffmarks from tile or wooden floors.
  • Drinking straws – Making a bouquet or floral centerpiece? Firm up the stems of tulips, daffodils and other flowers by inserting each stem into a drinking straw before adding it to a vase or bowl. Cut straws to size if you need to.
  • Newspaper – Spiff up dark colored shoes in a pinch by rubbing them with a balled-up sheet of black and white newspaper. (No polish needed.)
  • Cooking spray – Spritz a little on a squeaky door hinge, then swing the door back and forth a few times until the squeaking stops.
  • Rubber gloves – Grab one from under the sink and use to help you open a tight or stuck jar lid.
  • Kitchen colander – The old pasta drainer provides a wring-proof way to get the water out of hand-washed delicates. Push the water out, let drip for a bit and lay flat to dry.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


First Aid Basics Every Kid Should Know

September 9, 2014 2:00 am

Kids love summer. They have more time for fun with friends and, in many cases, more freedom to explore their surroundings without adult supervision. But accidents happen, and kids old enough to play outdoors should know some first aid basics.

Before your children run out into the great summer outdoors, consider arming them with a cell phone so they can call home or 911 in an emergency - and be sure they are familiar with these first aid tips for common childhood injuries:

Nosebleed – Have the person sit up straight and lean forward slightly. (Don’t tilt the head backward.) With thumb and index finger, firmly pinch the nose just below the bone up against the face. Apply pressure for five minutes. If bleeding continues, repeat the process.

Bee or wasp sting – If the person has a history of severe reaction to stings – or if they have trouble breathing, feel faint or dizzy, or have a swollen tongue – call 911 immediately. Otherwise, scrape the area with a fingernail and try to remove the stinger. Elevate the affected arm or leg and apply something cold if available. Unless the pain, dizziness or other symptoms dramatically lessen, get the person home as soon as possible.

Sprain – It may not be easy to know at once if the injury is a sprain or a broken bone. Have the injured person rest for a few minutes, apply ice if available, then compress the injury by wrapping the arm or leg not too tightly in a towel or a rolled up shirt. If the person can walk or limp, take him or her home. If not, call parents or 911. The injury should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible to determine if there is a break.

Severe sunburn – If the burned skin begins to blister, it’s a sign of serious sunburn. Rehydrate the victim with water, juice or sports drink. Soothe the burn by bathing with lukewarm water or applying cool compresses. Apply aloe or moisturizing lotion, keep the person out of the sun, and get him or her home to rest.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Run Your Home More Like a CEO

September 9, 2014 2:00 am

All successful CEOs have one thing in common: They’re able to maintain a big-picture perspective. It’s also something successful moms have in common, says Zenovia Andrews, a business strategist, speaker, author and mom who coaches entrepreneurs and CEOs on time and budget management.

“In business, CEOs implement a process that achieves efficient time and resource management in the most cost-effective way; sounds a lot like a mom, doesn’t it?” says Andrews, founder and CEO of The MaxOut Group, a company devoted to empowering and teaching entrepreneurs development strategies to increase profits.

“If every mom were a CEO, America would rule the world!”

Andrews, author of the new book “All Systems Go – A Solid Blueprint to Build Business and Maximize Cash Flow,” (, suggests the following tips for moms to better manage money and time.

CEOs utilize apps, and so should CEO Moms. When a CEO’s personal assistant isn’t around or, if it’s a small business and she doesn’t have one, then apps do nicely. There are several apps for moms, including Bank of Mom – an easy way to keep track of your kids' allowances. Set up an account for each child and track any money they earn for chores or allowance. The app also allows you to track their computer and TV time as well as other activities.

Measurement is the key to knowledge, control and improvement. CEOs have goals for their businesses and Moms have goals for their family members. In either case, the best way to achieve a big-picture goal is to identify action steps and objectives and a system for measuring progress. Want to improve your kids’ test scores, help your husband lose weight or – gasp – free some time for yourself? There are four phases to help track progress: planning, or establishing goals; collection, or conducting research on your current process; analysis – comparing information from existing processes with the new one; and adapting, or implementing the new process.

Understand your home’s “workforce.” A good CEO helps her employees grow and develop, not only for the company’s benefit, but for the employee’s as well. Most people are happiest when they feel they’re learning and growing, working toward a goal, which may be promotion within the company or something beyond it. When they feel the CEO is helping with that, they’re happier, more productive, more loyal employees. Likewise, CEO Moms need to help their children gain the skills and knowledge they need not only to succeed in general but to achieve their individual dreams.

A well-running household is a community effort; consider “automated” systems. In business, automated systems tend to be as clinical as they sound, typically involving technology. Yet, there’s also a human resource element. Automated systems are a must for CEO Moms, and they tend to take the form of scheduling at home. Whose night is it for the dishes, or trash? One child may be helpful in the kitchen, whereas another may be better at cleaning the pool.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Majority of Americans in the Driver's Seat When Buying a Vehicle

September 8, 2014 1:24 am

The majority of Americans demand explicit control during the car shopping process, opting to use independent automotive research sites and experience-based activities, such as visiting a dealership and talking with friends, rather than traditional advertising channels, to navigate the process of buying a car. According to a recent study by C+R Research, car shoppers rely only on a handful of trustworthy resources when researching and purchasing a vehicle.

"Consumers can be overwhelmed by automotive content, but rather than tune it all out, they're selecting the pieces that are most valuable to them, effectively curating their own car buying experience," said Simon Tiffen, senior manager of advertiser insights at "They're willing to put the time in to gather all the information they need so that they're confident when they eventually head to the dealership."

From TV and radio advertisements to independent research sites and offline conversations, consumers are inundated with auto-related messages throughout the car shopping process; however, the majority of consumers report using only one or two sources to make a decision. These "go-to" sources are typically viewed as the most helpful and trustworthy by consumers.

Additionally, offline experiences, not offline advertisements, impact consumers. The most influential offline information sources are experience-based and include talking to friends, visiting a dealership and noticing a vehicle on the street.

More importantly, online research has become a substitute for dealership contact. Only half of all car shoppers reported contacting a dealership prior to visiting, with most citing that they felt it was unnecessary given the information available online.

Knowing when to leverage each source is equally important. The study found that online sources are more influential earlier in the shopping process, while offline sources, such as visiting a dealership, become more important once primary online research has been conducted.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Few Homebuyers Familiar with Affordable Loan Programs

September 8, 2014 1:24 am

A recent TD bank survey reveals that just one in five homebuyers are familiar with affordable loan programs. Findings from the survey fuel growing concerns among real estate professionals that lenders are not providing enough information to borrowers about the programs. Of the 150 real estate professionals surveyed, 70 percent expressed a desire for lenders to make affordable loans, such as FHA and VA loans, easier to access.

According to the survey, only 20 percent of homebuyers are even aware that such programs exist. Real estate professionals reported that 64 percent of buyers consulted them for guidance during the lending process, spending an average of 2.5 hours discussing loan options. Nearly 80 percent recommended a lender.

The survey also concludes:
  • More than half of the real estate professionals surveyed believe buyers are compromising their wants in order to buy a home quickly.
  • Real estate professionals consider a number of factors when recommending a lender – the most important of which is closing time. Other factors include understanding of buyer needs, non-commitment to pre-approval rates, and not overpromising.
  • Eighty percent of real estate professionals believe mortgage-focused banks are easier to work with.
With 40 percent of real estate professionals believing it is now more difficult than ever to secure a loan, it is crucial for homebuyers, especially first-timers, to educate themselves through the help of a professional. For more about affordable loan programs, visit

Source: Real Trends

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prepare for an Emergency in Four Simple Steps

September 8, 2014 1:24 am

(Family Features) Preparing for an unexpected emergency, especially one brought on by severe weather, is one of the most important ways you can protect your home and family. Proactively addressing storm-related issues ranging from property damage to power outages can minimize a potentially disastrous situation.

Step 1: Verify Your Homeowners Insurance Covers Storm Damage

Nearly all homeowners carry some form of insurance on their home, as required by their mortgage lender. But policies can vary, and the aftermath of a powerful storm is no time to find out you’re underinsured.

To ensure your homeowners policy adequately covers your needs, take time to review the policy every year at renewal time, and any time you make any significant improvements to your home. Check that the coverage amount for your main residence accurately reflects the finished square footage of your home, including any upgrades or changes. Confirm that the replacement cost your homeowners insurance agent has determined is consistent with what you would expect to pay to rebuild your home.

In addition, take time to understand any exclusions, especially those for weather-related incidents. For example, many homeowners insurance policies do not automatically include flood protection.

Finally, take time to thoroughly document your personal possessions with video or still images and record their value. Store the documentation in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or remote-access electronic file, that you will be able to access in the event of an emergency. Not only will this help expedite your claim if you need to replace items, but you’ll have a list ready when you face the daunting task of replacing your belongings.

Step 2: Keep Up With Home Maintenance

Stepping outside after a significant storm is no time to remember that you forgot to trim a tree or secure a loose section of fencing. Making time to provide ongoing home maintenance for exterior features of your home, such as landscaping, decking, siding, roofing and shutters, will ensure they are in good condition when bad weather strikes.

While little can be done to prevent damage from high-impact storms, routinely checking that everything is in good repair will minimize the chances of preventable destruction.

As you assess your home and yard, ask yourself: Are the trees and shrubs properly trimmed and set far enough away from structures that they are unlikely to topple in high winds? Are shutters affixed securely to the house? Are there any cracked or otherwise weakened windows that should be replaced to prevent shattering during a storm?

Step 3: Prepare for Backup Power during an Outage

Loss of power is one of the most common occurrences in severe weather. And the financial impact of outage-related expenses (e.g. spoiled food replacement, supply purchases or home repair) can add up quickly.

The easiest way to prepare for a weather-related power outage is by installing a standby generator in advance of the storm season. Fortunately, attaining the safety and comfort provided by a standby generator during a storm event has become more reasonable thanks to emerging technology that has made generators smaller, smarter and more affordable.

4. Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit

Having an emergency preparedness kit of items that your household may need in an emergency situation is critical. Basic utilities such as electricity, gas, water, sewage and phone service may be unavailable after a storm strikes, so the kit should contain food, water, any necessary medications, lighting and backup battery supplies.

Source: GE Generator Systems

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates Hold Steady

September 5, 2014 1:39 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates largely steady for the third straight week.

"Mortgage rates were little changed amid a week of light economic reports. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate remained unchanged from the previous week at 4.10 percent,” notes Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Of the few releases, the ISM's manufacturing index rose to 59.0 in August from 57.1 the previous month. This was the highest reading of the index since March 2011.”

30-year-fixed-rate mortgages (FRM) averaged 4.10 percent with an average of 0.5 point for the week ending September 4, 2014, unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.57 percent.

15-year FRMs this week averaged 3.24 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.25 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.59 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.97 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.28 percent.

1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.40 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.39 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.71 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Study: First-Time Homebuyers Seek Ideal Agent Relationship

September 5, 2014 1:39 am

A client’s relationship with his or her real estate agent will largely determine how satisfied that customer is in the home buying or selling experience. Among first-time buyers, there is a strong need for agents to keep them comfortable and informed and offer a seamless process, according to the J.D. Power 2014 Home Buyer/Seller Satisfaction Study.

The study measures customer satisfaction among first-time and repeat home buyers and sellers with the nation’s largest real estate companies. Overall satisfaction is measured across four factors of the home-buying experience: agent/salesperson; real estate office; closing process; and variety of additional services. For satisfaction in the home-selling experience, the same four factors are evaluated plus a fifth factor, marketing.

Key data from the study conclude that although the agent-client relationship is the most important factor in determining satisfaction with buyers, for sellers, marketing of the home is the most important factor. This is because it is easier for sellers to assess how an agent is supporting the sale through tangible marketing efforts.

Overall satisfaction with real estate companies is higher among repeat customers, compared with first-time buyers or sellers. Buyers and sellers also tend to choose a real estate firm based on its reputation (30 percent of buyers, 35 percent of sellers), past experience with the agent (21 percent of buyers, 25 percent of sellers), and recommendations (24 percent of buyers, 21 percent of sellers).

Other findings include: the 2014 average listing price, $200,000, remains unchanged from 2013, the average number of open houses per listing is three, and the average number of showings to sell a home is nearly eight times.

Source: J.D. Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Move!...without Following This Important Advice from BBB

September 5, 2014 1:39 am

I know that along with tax time, changing a job, and the holidays, one of the most stressful events for consumers is moving into a new dwelling. According to my sources at Connecticut Better Business Bureau, consumers who are not careful can end up with a nightmare that can take weeks or months to resolve.

BBB says consumers across the nation filed 10,762 complaints against moving and storage companies in 2013, for issues including lost or missing possessions, damaged furniture and other belongings, damage to the dwelling caused during a move, rude customer service, charges that greatly exceeded an estimate, and difficulty obtaining compensation for damaged and lost goods.

In the worst cases, consumers have had their belongings “held hostage” until they paid additional fees.

While the majority of moving companies are reputable, anyone with a truck and a website can claim to be a professional mover, according to BBB.

But the three most common reasons for problems with moving companies are consumers’ failure to thoroughly research the mover’s credentials, not preparing far enough in advance, and not buying sufficient insurance to cover their belongings.

BBB says most moving problems can be avoided by following a few tips:
  • Obtain three in-home estimates. Telephone estimates are notoriously unreliable. Reputable movers will want to see the layout of your rooms and furniture, as well as any obstacles on the way to the truck.
  • Know your rights. All movers are obliged to provide consumers with a document called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When Your Move.” It can also be found at Contact BBB and local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage.
  • Plan early - 37 million Americans move every year, most often in May. Lock in a date two to four weeks before your move.
  • Understand the limits of standard insurance.
Make certain you know who you are dealing with. Look up a prospective mover’s registration at, which is operated by the US Department of Transportation.

In addition, research movers at to check other consumers’ experience and see whether there is a pattern of complaints against a particular mover.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


9 Back-to-School Morning Hacks

September 4, 2014 1:03 am

Mornings on school days can be mayhem for families. In fact, nearly half of moms say that their children run out of time to get ready in the morning, often skipping breakfast to catch a ride to school. Beat the meltdown and ensure your child eats a well-balanced breakfast with these morning hacks.

1. Stage a path to the door the night before so everyone knows where they're going.

2. Select outfits at night. Be sure to check weather in advance and plan accordingly.

3. Pack lunches ahead of time. After dinner, pack the non-chilled items in the lunchbox and leave it on the counter for quick packing of cold items in the morning.

4. Brush teeth and wash face in the morning shower, or take baths the night before.

5. Sunshine helps you wake up. Open the shades and let the light in.

6. Place jackets and backpacks in a central location to grab on the way out. Use a hanging shoe organizer with pockets to keep essentials and accessories by the door.

7. Reward with what works for your child. For example, electronics and other activities they get to do in the car.

8. Motivate and track time with a music playlist. Everything is more fun and moves more quickly with tunes, and you can track how much time has passed.

9. Care for yourself. Have a workout bag in the car and consider getting up earlier to have some personal time before the day gets going.

Source: Johnsonville Foods

Published with permission from RISMedia.