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5 Easy Tips for Throwing the Ultimate Summer Party

June 16, 2014 12:54 am

(BPT) - There's nothing quite like a summer party where beautiful weather, great food and good friends come together to create memories that last. If you're looking forward to throwing a summer party but you're not sure how to get started, the following tips will have you outside enjoying a warm breeze with your friends in no time.

* Formulate the guest list. What's a party without guests, right? Start by determining how many people you can comfortably host and create your guest list with this realistic number in mind. Friends, family and co-workers can all attend, but make sure to invite people you know will be respectful of your home and your neighborhood as their actions reflect on you. You might consider adding your neighbors as well as they may feel slighted if they aren't invited to the big party taking place next door.

* Pick a theme. Theme parties make planning and decorating so much easier, and they provide guests an immediate sense of what kind of party it is, how to dress, etc. If you own a pool, invite everyone to a day at the beach. Or, pick a theme around your favorite television show. Whatever you decide, carry your theme through to the decorations, the attire and the invitations themselves.

* Dress your party to impress. The right decorations are a matter of taste and your skill level. If you're the creative type, you may enjoy building your own decorations from scratch. Or, you might prefer to simply purchase your decorations from a local party supply store. No matter what you choose, select decorations that complement the theme of your party. Remember to make sure areas like the food table and sitting areas are appropriately decorated.

* A flavor for every taste. Warm weather gatherings shouldn't involve a lot of time in the kitchen working over a hot stove. Instead, consider offering a selection of easy, ready-to-eat snacks in a variety of flavors.

* Keep them entertained. The right entertainment options can keep your party going longer. If you have a pool, make it the main attraction and don't forget the floats! Outdoor yard games like darts, lawn bowling or bean bag toss are popular and you can encourage participation by turning them into a competition. Smaller groups may appreciate a deck of cards and no one can say no to bingo if there's a prize on the line. Good music is a must so be sure to load your iPod with a fun, upbeat playlist your guest will enjoy.

Planning the perfect party is easier than you may think. With a little preparation and the right food, decorations and entertainment, you can give your guests a memorable event they'll be talking about all summer long.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


More Americans Plan to Hit the Road This Summer

June 16, 2014 12:54 am

Travelzoo Inc. revealed 40 percent of Americans plan to take more summer vacations this year compared with last year. More than one third (36 percent) of Americans plan to take two or more vacations this summer; this is an increase from 27 percent last year. A Travelzoo survey revealed short weekend road trips are the most popular summer vacation type (57 percent), followed by longer driving vacations (38 percent), long-haul air-travel vacations (29 percent) and short air-travel vacations (18 percent).

"Now is the perfect time to plan a weekend road trip as AAA recently announced that gas prices are dropping," said Gabe Saglie, senior editor for Travelzoo.

Additional statistics include:

Flying versus Driving
• 75 percent of Americans are willing to drive 4 or more hours for their summer vacations.
• 44 percent of Americans are willing to fly 4 or more hours for their summer vacations.
• 97 percent of Americans are planning a driving vacation compared with only 63 percent of Americans who are planning a flying vacation.
• 55 percent of Americans will up to spend up to $300 on roundtrip airfare (per person).

Traveling With Kids versus Traveling Without Kids
• 56 percent of Americans with kids will not delay their summer vacation until fall to save money.
• 78 percent of respondents without kids are more willing to travel in fall versus summer if they could save money.
• 55 percent of Americans without kids will take a flying vacation compared with 31 percent of Americans with kids.
• 76 percent of Americans with kids are willing to drive more than 4 hours for vacation.
• 74 percent of Americans without kids are willing to drive more than 4 hours for vacation.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Outdoor Home Renovations on the Rise this Year; Homeowners Willing to Spend More

June 16, 2014 12:54 am

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of remodelers are planning outdoor home improvement projects this season, a 70 percent increase compared to last summer (40 percent), according to the summer Zillow® Digs® Home Design Trend Report. Open-air living rooms, featuring wood arbors, fully upholstered seating and muted colors, will be popular with homeowners this season.

This one-of-a-kind trend report depends on a survey of members of the Zillow Digs Board of Designers, a group of design experts from across the country, and the most popular outdoor photos on Zillow Digs, a hub for home improvement and design inspiration.

Summer remodel budgets increased since the beginning of the year, up 100 percent to $1,000 on median. With a larger budget, many homeowners are considering more extensive outdoor remodels such as open-air living rooms to expand useable square footage for year-round use, adding value to their home.

Top three trends for open-air living rooms:

Wood arbors: Wood arbors will be all the rage this summer with homeowners wanting a clearly defined outdoor space that functions as a second living room. Expect to see "arbors featuring lots of greenery" to create the illusion of an "open-air ceiling," says Melissa Klebanoff of Melissa Klebanoff Interior Design in Seattle. Wood arbors with white curtains and outdoor twinkle lights also will be popular this season.

Fully upholstered couches: Zillow design experts identified fully upholstered couches as a growing open-air living room trend as homeowners want to invest in "comfortable seating and lounging pieces for a real indoor/outdoor feel," says Mara Miller of Carrier and Company in New York City. In addition to indoor-style seating, other typically interior accessories such as rugs, lamps and wood coffee tables also will gain popularity among remodelers.

Muted colors: Homeowners and designers identify soft, muted hues as the most popular colors for open-air living rooms. Outdoor colors this season are about "subtly not saturation," says Marc Thee of Marc-Michaels Interior Design in Winter Park, Florida. Expect to see homeowners "dialing back" those louder accent colors from last summer such as "turquoise to sea glass, watermelon to a greyed shrimp and bright orange to a beautiful sherbet," Thee says.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Tips for the Summer Seller

June 12, 2014 1:12 am

It is often said that there is never a perfect time to sell your house. Each season can be marked with different challenges and difficulties that sellers should keep in mind. Families with children tend to look for a home during the summer months, when there is no conflict of missing school or other obligations during a move. On the other hand, singles and couples may not be looking to buy during their time of vacation and relaxation.

With the official beginning of summer on June 21, many homeowners are gearing up to place their homes on the market, hoping to attract eager buyers. To save time and money in the long run, here are six tips to get your home ready for display – and ultimately help sell your house:

1. Use the summer atmosphere to your advantage. The lively and carefree vibes of summer leave many buyers looking for a refreshing home with areas to enjoy the season. Keep your backyards and patios clean and festive. Add in pops of color with fresh flowers, unique décor or hanging lights. No matter the style of your current patio, there is always something that can be added to give a punch of personality.

2. Fight the weather. If you live in a humid city or area, you may find your home sticky and warm – just what buyers don’t want. Solve this issue with a dehumidifier. Place in a lower set room or any room you think may need the extra water absorption. Check with a local flood servicer or plumbing company for rental options to avoid spending extra cash on a short-use purchase.

3. Lighten your home. Take down heavy drapes and curtains to let in the natural sunlight. This will prevent that drab and dreary feeling from sneaking in. Adding in plant life or flowers in your home will also brighten the space while producing a sweet aroma! If you are in a bind with time and money, visit your local Trader Joe’s. The store is always packed with in-season flowers and plants, already bloomed, at a low price.

4. Keep grass green and flowers seen. An unkempt lawn is most obvious to buyers during the summer months. Make time to water your grass and mow your lawn at least once a week (maybe more depending on where you live and type of grass). The sharp and colorful contrast of your green lawn with bright colored flowers will automatically draw in buyers.

5. Check screens and doors for cracks/holes. Summer months are prone to bugs and mosquitoes. Keep these dreaded bugs out and potential buyers happy by fixing any window screens with holes. Also take a look at the rubber stops in your doorway and replace any ill-fitting stops that may have been caused from weather or warping.

6. Get the word out. Summer is a much more social time of year. Take some time to walk around your neighborhood to let people know about your home, and ask them to share with anyone they know who might be interested. It is much more likely to come up in conversation during a late night BBQ! Take an informational flier with you that showcases a picture of your home in tip-top shape.

Remember: Each house is different but there is no need to go overboard to completely alter your home for summer. Play off your home’s strengths, while following these six steps, and you will surely attract buyers.

Source: Renovation Realty

Published with permission from RISMedia.


2015 Design and Color Trends

June 11, 2014 1:00 am

Dunn-Edwards Paints released it 2015 trend report, A Journey of Discovery, which reveals key colors and design trends we'll see next year, and how social, culture and demographic changes influence these trends. Sara McLean, color expert and blogger at specs+spaces, explains that the color palette is rich in deep and vivid colors, inspired by adventure and discovery around the world. These five key trends will be significant influencers of colors and textures.

Romance and Remembrance is inspired by journeys into the past, filled with romance and intrigue. Envision traveling the Trans-Siberian railway or the Silk Road, or studying the rich tapestry of historical details through Renaissance to Medieval times - this trend returns to color and design that is familiar, yet with a modern day twist. The color palette creates a sense of history and solemnity with somber and serene neutrals such as chocolate, gray, soft green, mauve, pale pink and garnet, highlighted by whitened tones, sky blue and pale yellow.

Spirit of the West captures the freedom and romance of forging a new life in the American West. The artisan life is transformed by journeys to Latin and South America, Cuba and the Caribbean, bringing back design ideas from afar. The spirit of the West breathes life into emotional connections and ancient spiritual ways. Colors combine artisan style colors of red and rust with pigmented darks, dusky and very dark tones. Warm neutrals such as terracotta, green, ecru, tobacco and bronze round out the color palette.

Kaleidoscope provides journeys of travel to far-flung destinations with a focus on Brazil and South America, and to summer sun and surf. With glimpses at a variety of high-volume, frenetic lifestyles from street culture fans to night owls, club crawlers to sports fanatics and tech geeks, Kaleidoscope highlights pure joy. This color palette is on full display, filled with vivid brights and plant life coloring – vibrant, intense, with a touch of metallic.

L.A. Eccentricities takes us on a journey to the unique and quirky people and personalities of the City of Angels and the Southwest region -- cheerful and festive, sentimental, hooked on fashion and trends, often with quirky and retro kitsch touches. Color is sugary-sweet with artificial goodness and pastel infusions. Highlights of citrus and berry add a layer of complexity.

Into the Abyss emerges as a story of sea, water and life in the Far East. From Japanese fishing villages to the fields of Vietnam, we journey on a learning curve into this world. With the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, influences of life lived beyond the Western world blossom. Layers of blue, from inky and deep ocean blues of the abyss to lighter sunlit blues are highlighted with accents of seaweed and sea life coloring.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Get Ready For a Safer Clean-Up before a Hurricane or Severe Weather Strikes

June 11, 2014 1:00 am

Far too often, people face grave safety threats after a hurricane or severe weather ends when they begin to clean-up their homes and businesses. It's important for homeowners and businesses to have proper equipment on hand and to be familiar with safe operating procedures when an emergency hits.

During National Safety Month in June, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) encourages homeowners and businesses to take stock of their power tools and equipment for storm clean-up, such as chainsaws, pruners, generators, and utility type vehicles.

OPEI's President and CEO Kris Kiser says it's important to think ahead about equipment you may need. "Often after a disaster there is a rush on power equipment like generators and chainsaws – just like there's a rush on supplies at the grocery store. Having the proper equipment on hand before the post-storm rush means you avoid being left empty-handed."

The trade association also cautions consumers to know how to handle that equipment safely. Kiser says before a storm strikes is the best time to familiarize yourself with your power equipment operation and safety manuals. "When you're in the throes of an emergency, you might not be thinking clearly or you may have trouble locating your safety manuals," said Kiser. "So it's important to brush up on the user and safety guidelines before disaster strikes."

Here are a few tips to help:

Use common sense with chainsaws. Remaining calm and using common sense are important when using chainsaws to clear storm debris. Be aware of fundamental dangers that can occur with chainsaws, including kickback, which may happen when the moving chain at the tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. This can cause the saw to suddenly jerk back toward the operator.

Always stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you are angled away from the saw chain blade. Also, hold the chainsaw with both hands, and never overreach or cut above shoulder height.

Keep firm footing when using pole saws and pole pruners. Pole saws or pruners are effective in selectively removing dead or damaged limbs. When operating these tools, make sure you always keep a firm footing on the ground. Observe the safety zone, which means keeping bystanders and power lines (those above you and any that might have fallen down) at least 50 feet away from your work area.

Give portable electric generators plenty of ventilation. Generators produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas. Generators should never be used in an enclosed area, even if the windows or doors are open. The muffler on a generator can get extremely hot, so any combustible materials (leaves, grass, brush) must be cleared away before operating. Remember to clean out any stale fuel by draining old fuel out of the tank and the carburetor bowl to avoid engine problems, such as starting issues and rough running.

Drive Utility Type Vehicles (UTVs) with care. UTVs can be useful for hauling debris, particularly when clearing damage in rural settings or on large properties. When the vehicle is loaded, the center of gravity is higher, and so is the risk of overturning. To keep the vehicle stable, drive slowly and do not turn the vehicle in mid-slope or hill as this could increase the likelihood of overturning.

Have the proper fuel on hand for your outdoor power equipment. It's also important to have the proper fuel on hand for your equipment, as filling stations may be closed after a storm. Make sure you store fuel properly and buy the type of fuel recommended by your equipment's manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol content in outdoor power equipment (for more information on fueling properly see www.LookBeforeYouPump.com).

Find your safety gear now. Before the storm is also a good time to locate any safety gear you may need for storm cleanup. Sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing and work gloves may be helpful and in short supply after a storm.

Source: OPEI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is your Relationship Ready for DIY?

June 9, 2014 1:09 am

Each year, thousands of couples across the country will embark on a journey that may be one of the most rewarding and challenging events in their lives: the shared home improvement project.

Whether it's newlyweds walking down the aisle and purchasing their first home, or couples preparing to freshen up their home and landscape, warmer weather is known to awaken the home improvement bug – for better or for worse.

In a recent survey, 2,000 people were asked how partnering on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects impacts their relationship:

• Sometimes couples working on projects hit a bump in the road – more than 60 percent of people admitted to having a disagreement with their significant other during the course of a DIY project.
• Don't feel like a failure if your project stalls halfway through – one-third of couples surveyed had left a project partially complete at some point, and didn't expect to finish them for more than three months.
• But there is a happy ending - people still want to work on projects with the one they love. Nearly 80 percent of respondents turn to their significant other as the first choice for help when it's time to DIY.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Helpful Tips on Clutter Cleaning

June 9, 2014 1:09 am

When you have clutter everywhere what is the best way of removing the problem? Is it one big massive expedition into clutter cleaning or is it better to take it in smaller bits and pieces?

The first thing you need to realize is that clutter cleaning is a long process, so it is advisable to take the small approach rather than the large approach. One of the most useful methods is what we would call box therapy. Using boxes is useful in the decision making, because it uses a fairly simple approach in order to help with clutter cleanup. One of the boxes would be allocated for trash, another for donation and the final one is for things to keep. This method allows you to remove items from your home over a period of time.

Another way of dealing with clutter is by viewing certain items with more of a utility value than a sentimental memory. This allows you to discern what is junk from what is a treasured personal item, and if that item has a specific use. The boxing allows you the ability to see how many of the items are clutter and can be gotten rid of after a certain point.

Another way of reducing clutter is by reducing the amount of media items. Media items usually tend to accumulate quickly in the case of a clutter cleanup situation. These can be a whole host of different items. Examples of this may include photographs and documents, which can be placed on your computer. Also, books and other paper media can often be read on your computer, e-reader, tablet, or smart phone. These devices can actually hold thousands of books, and you can read your newspapers or magazines on those devices as well.

Another factor that might need to be looked at is the habits that need to be broken for clutter cleanup to occur. You need to observe your behaviors and try to break them. When looking at purchasing an item, do a careful reassessment of your choices. Do you absolutely need this item or do you just want to purchase it because it is the latest and greatest? Is it financially prudent to purchase more items, before selling or giving away some of your items that you think you may need to replace.

Source: Address Our Mess

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Move Over Kitchen: The Backyard is the New Heart of the Home

June 9, 2014 1:09 am

As millions of Americans ready their outdoor space for the summer season, a new study from SABER Grills reveals just how enamored U.S. homeowners are with their backyards. Eighty-three percent of homeowners across the country say their outdoor living space is the favorite place in their home. It’s also the most used space in American households just behind the kitchen, and way ahead of the game room, living room and dining room.

While spaces like dining rooms and formal living rooms have lost favor in American homes, the backyard has gained popularity each year. The survey showed the overwhelming majority of current U.S. homeowners (81 percent) consider their outdoor space the heart of their home.

"It doesn't matter if your home is valued at $75,000 or $775,000, if you are an American homeowner, you are proud of your outdoor space and consider it an essential part of your home," said Rob Schwing, GM of SABER Grills. "Homeowners use their backyards to relax and reconnect with family – just like the kitchen."

It's not surprising then that 51 percent of all homeowners say they update the space as often as their favorite interior rooms. And, new man-cave trend alert - a full 30 percent of male homeowners say they are solely responsible for decorating their homes' outdoor space. Topping the guy's wish list for 2014 outdoor space additions? A pool or hot tub. One thing they can't live without? Their grill. And, not surprisingly, "access to wi-fi" is now among the top five most common items in demand for outdoor living spaces.

Super engaged with their outdoor space are Baby Boomers who live in older homes, mostly congregating in the Southern and Midwestern U.S., the survey revealed. Their backyard is more likely than others to be equipped with TVs, Wi-Fi and special lighting. They own at least two grills and are adventurous entertainers, frequently trying new recipes with groups of five or more.

Other regional facts:

• Midwesterners are the most interactive with their outdoor space: they update/accessorize most often and 75 percent use it throughout the week.
• Top of the wish of outdoor furnishings for all was a pool or hot tub. Southerners and Westerners are most likely to include "kitchen" in the top three.
• South and Northeast residents have the biggest parties, usually entertaining more than five people.
• Southerners are most likely to own two or more grills; Northeasterners, just one.
• Roughly 40 percent of all outdoor chefs consider themselves average grillers. More than 30 percent of Northeasterners, however, identify themselves as "confident" grillers.

Source: SABER Grills, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Talk Your Way to the Top: Why Old-School Communication Skills Are the Competitive Edge New Grads Need

June 6, 2014 3:24 pm

You’ve just graduated from college and are (justifiably) proud of your accomplishment. But as you head into the workforce, don’t expect your new credentials or your great GPA to do the heavy lifting for you. Geoffrey Tumlin warns they don’t matter nearly as much as your ability to articulate, influence, persuade, and connect. These days, innovation and collaboration rule, and without the skills you need to do both, even the most prestigious degree is just a piece of paper.

“What stands out to hiring managers are great communication skills,” says Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life. “Can you pitch an idea to a supervisor? Can you build a consensus among group members? Can you build rapport with a client?

Here, Tumlin shares eight communication lessons that will give you the competitive edge you need, now and throughout your career:

Take a daily dose of higher-order communication. Most new grads are highly skilled users of social media, text messages, and email. But these modes of communication are characterized by expedience and convenience—it’s easier to send messages this way than to call or to communicate face-to-face.

“Not all of our communication can happen effectively along lower-order channels,” says Tumlin. “Sometimes we need to do difficult things with our communication, like resolve a conflict, persuade someone who’s reluctant, or convey a complicated idea. When we reach for our more difficult and time-intensive higher-order communication skills, we can’t afford for them to be rusty. That’s why everyone should practice higher-order communication every day.

“Even though it takes longer and is more difficult, walk over and talk to a coworker instead of sending an instant message. Call a friend and congratulate her on getting a new job instead of posting it on Facebook. And go visit your client instead of writing him an email,” recommends Tumlin.

Talk (and type) like your grandmother’s watching. While words can build our work relationships only slowly, they can cause damage with lightning speed. A blurted retort, a thoughtless email, or a hasty remark can—and does—land people in hot water all the time.

“A quick and effective way to improve your communication is to pretend like your grandmother—or someone else who brings out the best in you—is standing by your side when you are talking or typing,” Tumlin suggests. “Acting like someone you respect is looking over your shoulder will give you the pause you need to get in front of ill-advised words and provide the space you need to self-correct when you’re frustrated, agitated, or confused.”

Expect less from technology (and more from people). Because technology does a lot for us, it’s easy to overestimate its role in our success. But our enthusiasm for what our digital communication tools can do shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of the people behind the tools. Our devices don’t possess the communication abilities we think they do.

“A tech-centered view of communication encourages us to expect too much from our devices and too little from each other,” says Tumlin. “We assume that hitting ‘send’ means we’ve communicated, when really, the other person may not have understood the message at all. Even with the most powerful connection and transmission devices in human history in the palm of our hands, communication doesn’t happen until the other person understands.”

Listen like you’re getting paid for it. The digital revolution facilitated hypercommunication and instant self-expression, but made it harder for anyone to listen. Between emails, social media, and texts, there’s just too much communication junk getting in the way. Our thoughts are scattered, our minds wander, and ever-present distractions make it difficult for us to focus on the person right in front of us. We need to make a concerted effort to reinvigorate our listening skills.

Assume you’re a terrible questioner (and set out to fix it). Most of us have poor questioning skills because we don’t think twice before blurting out a query. But questions aren’t neutral; they are powerful communication tools because they change the trajectory of a conversation. As you’ve probably noticed, questions often make conversations worse. Even “simple” inquiries can go awry. “Is this your final report?” or “Did you call John in accounting about this?” can cause trouble if the other person thinks there’s a criticism behind the query.

“Faulty questions contribute to many conversational failures and can add anxiety, defensiveness, and ill will to interactions,” says Tumlin. “Use your questions to open up a conversation and learn about the topic you’re discussing. If you take your questions as seriously as you take your new job, you’ll dramatically reduce the friction caused by faulty questions.”

Act like every interaction might be important. Nothing kills a conversation faster than someone who doesn’t care. And it doesn’t take much more than folded arms, a disapproving scowl, a sigh of boredom, or a well-placed eye roll to make someone feel like what she’s saying just doesn’t matter. And the company newbie, who needs to establish connections all over the office, can’t afford to prematurely shut the door on any relationships.

Don’t “be yourself.” “‘I was just being myself’ sounds harmless, but it’s often an excuse to indulge in bad interpersonal behavior,” points out Tumlin. “Authenticity is good in spirit, but in practice it often torpedoes our goals and harms our underlying relationships.

“I’m not suggesting that you become a fake, just that you don’t cloak impulsive—and counterproductive—communication in the fabric of ‘being yourself,’” says Tumlin.

Let difficult people win. Your coworker Jane loves to argue. Your colleague Jim is incredibly stubborn. Your client in Albuquerque is always moody. Whether they’re controlling, critical, or cranky, the behaviors that make someone a difficult person spark frequent confrontations. Even if you fire a barrage of points and counterpoints into Jane’s arguments, you won’t match her debating skills. You won’t change Jim’s mind on anything. And you’ll be unsuccessful in your efforts to offset your client’s mood swings. Don’t lock horns with difficult people, insists Tumlin.

“Your communication—productive or unproductive, healthy or dysfunctional—is a major factor in how successful you will be in any job,” concludes Tumlin. “For the kinds of productive and meaningful interactions you want—and need—at work, pack a few communication ideas you didn’t learn at college in the pocket of your new suit to show you have the communication skills to succeed in business environments where innovation and collaboration are king.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.