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Go Global: Keep Connected Away from Home

December 4, 2013 1:12 am

(Family Features) Whether your international travel is for business or pleasure, chances are you’d like to remain connected. Your wireless phone or tablet is a likely solution, but not all wireless services are created equal.

When U.S. customers use their phones abroad the way they normally do at home, their costs can total $1,000 a day or more. According to a study by T-Mobile, more than 40 percent of customers turn off data roaming completely to avoid those fees, and another 20 percent say they would if they knew how.

“Wireless customers face a hard choice — use their phone when they need it and pay the price, or cut off communications to contain costs,” said Desmond Smith, senior product manager at T-Mobile. “In reality, with a little pre-planning, customers can find the right carrier and service plan that meets their travel needs, significantly reducing, or even eliminating, travel-related wireless charges.”

Before you pack your bags and begin your travel adventure, spend some time researching the best wireless company, device and data plan to fit your needs and check that you have the right accessories too, including an international power converter.

Choosing a Carrier
With so many wireless service providers available, it’s difficult to know which one to choose. Especially if you will be traveling internationally, choosing the right data plan is not only about ensuring you have freedom and peace of mind (so you don’t come home to bill shock) — it’s also about making sure you choose a phone company that focuses on customer service and provides flexibility and choice.

• Ditch the burdensome contract — Several providers offer no-contract wireless service that gives you freedom and flexibility without being locked into a service agreement for a year or more.
• Make the world your network — Look for carriers, such as T-Mobile, that provide unlimited data and texting worldwide, freeing you from worrying about coming home to bill shock from outrageous roaming fees.
• Don’t break the bank — Some providers offer programs to help manage the out-of-pocket costs associated with purchasing new devices.
• Device upgrades — If you’re accident prone, likely to break or lose devices while circling the globe or just like to upgrade your phone frequently, look for protection and upgrade options. For approximately $10 per month, you can protect your device and have the option to upgrade twice per year to the latest phone.
• Explore the extras — Prepaid international calling cards may also be available through your wireless provider. If your travels keep you in the States but your wireless needs take you beyond, some carriers offer plans that allow you to talk with friends, family or business associates across the globe.

Source: T-Mobile

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Buying Safe Toys

December 3, 2013 12:27 am

The holiday season is here, and many people will be buying toys for children. It's a nice idea to get children something they like, but it's more important to buy gifts that are safe and age-appropriate.

Before you go shopping, check a list of recalled toys. These are toys that don't meet the safety standards published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Check this online list of recalled toys at www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/ or call 1-800- 638- 2772 to get the list.

Consider the child's age

When buying toys for children, remember to consider their age and abilities.

• Make sure to buy a toy that's age appropriate. Generally, the recommended age range is printed on the package or in the instruction manual like this: 5-6 years or +5 years.
• If the child you're shopping for is under 8 years old, avoid buying toys with sharp points or toys that shoot. These types of toys can cause serious injuries.
• Separate toys that belong to older children and store them where small children can't reach them.

Take additional safety measures

• Read product labels to make sure toys or items around the house do not contain lead. This harmful substance can affect a child's health, even if only a small amount is inhaled or swallowed.
• Don't buy toys with parts that can be removed, like a doll's eyes, buttons, coins, etc. A child can choke if they swallow these small toy parts.
• When buying a battery-operated toy, make sure the battery compartment can't be opened by a child. Avoid toys that have to be plugged in or that use electrical wires.
• When a child opens a toy, immediately throw away packaging, including plastic wrappers, boxes, string or other packaging. Children can accidentally choke or harm themselves if they play with them.

To learn more about safety issues see USA.gov, the U.S. Government's official web portals in English and Spanish, and part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Entomologists Call for Awareness in War against Bed Bugs

December 3, 2013 12:27 am

There's one thing on which top entomologists agree: the current bed bug infestation has not yet reached its peak in the U.S.

According to experts, the current surge in U.S. bed bug infestations began around 2004, but didn't hit the national news until 2010, when multi-unit dwellings began to experience issues with the pesky bugs. Data from the 2013 Bugs without Borders Survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) confirmed that 98 percent of pest management professionals encountered a bed bug infestation during the past 12 months in an apartment or condominium, up from 90 percent in 2011.

"Bed bugs have been a hot topic in the news during the past several years; especially when a new geographical area is infested or bed bugs are discovered in public places such as hotels or shopping centers," said Dini Miller, Ph. D., Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech. "Unfortunately, people have become desensitized to the issue, leading them to believe the risk has decreased, but the issue is actually greater than before."

Pest control companies and businesses that sell products to prevent or control bed bugs echo the observation that the war against bed bugs is probably not going away any time soon.

"Since 2010, sales of mattress and box spring encasements have continued to increase each year," said James Bell, CEO of Protect-A-Bed. "Every major pest control company in the United States buys our products, which they sell to individuals fighting a bed bug infestation. The demand for product has certainly not slowed down."

Bugs without Borders survey respondents reported an increase in bed bug infestations at a variety of public places, including schools, day care centers, hospitals, libraries and on public transportation. Based on these reports, top entomologists also agree on several other emerging trends.

People with bed bug issues tend to experience unnecessary anxiety

If you ask anyone who has experienced an infestation in his home, he will likely elaborate on the stress, anxiety and financial burden caused by the unwelcome bugs.

"There are pockets of the country where both the cost and the stigma associated with bed bugs are barriers to getting help," said James Sargent, PhD. and director of technical support and regulatory compliance for Copesan, a commercial pest management company. "The bottom line is there is no need to freak out. Bed bugs do not typically spread disease and aside from temporary marks that itch, the bites are not lasting. A bed bug infestation can be quickly and effectively managed with the right tools. Eventually, this issue will be a pest control problem which can be approached in a similar way to how we currently handle cockroaches and termites."

Public places still pose a bed bug risk

Most of the experts also predicted a continued increase in bed bug colonies outside the home, in places like hotels, libraries and office buildings because people often don't know they have bed bugs in their homes and unknowingly transport the pests into public spaces.

According to Jeff White, technical director at BedBug Central, all public places need to have specific policies in place that outline how to monitor for and address the bed bug issue because of the potential risk to the business or organization.
"Public awareness of the issue has increased, but it's the responsibility of all industries to institute policies to address the risk of bed bugs, which will help slow the spread," White said.

Education is the key to prevention
Anyone can be affected by bed bugs in their home, regardless of their income or geographical location. Top entomologists agreed that education about what a bed bug is, how to spot it and how to avoid bringing it into the home are the most critical tools in prevention.

"Avoid bringing bed bugs home by being very careful of what you carry into your house," Miller said. "If you use diligence while traveling, you'll be significantly more likely to avoid an infestation.

Source: www.protectabed.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Quick Tips to Refresh Carpets, Floors, and Linens

December 3, 2013 12:27 am

You only get one chance to make a first impression with holiday guests. Here are a few tips from a cleaning and restoration company to help you keep your home spick-and-span throughout the end of the year.

To maintain clean, fresh carpets, prevention is the best medicine. Place a high quality doormat at the entrance of your home to stop dirt, mud, and toxins from ever making it onto your carpets. Consider asking family members and guests to remove footwear before entering the home. To make this easier or even fun for your guests, place a boot tray and clean slippers or socks at the door. A friendly sign will serve as a reminder about your home's footwear-free policy.

To freshen carpets quickly when guests are on the way, vacuum with a well-sealed HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum cleaner. HEPA vacuums contain filters capable of trapping tiny, micron-sized particles. Go over the carpet with three vacuum strokes per section (you might need to go over it as many as seven times if it is heavily soiled). You might be surprised at how neat and clean your carpets will be after a thorough vacuuming.

If during vacuuming you discover spots or spills, try using a wet rag to moisten the affected areas before rubbing borax in with a stiff-bristle brush. Leave the borax on the area until it dries, and then vacuum. This should minimize or eliminate the spot. If you have time to focus your cleaning efforts on a specific type of spot (caused by coffee, gum, or fruit juice for example), check the Web for an online spot removal guide for effective methods for removing a wide variety of substances from carpets or upholstery.

Once you've eliminated any spots or stains, sprinkle baking soda - the classic natural odor eater - over the carpet. Leave the baking soda on overnight; it will soak up any lingering odors. Vacuum the next morning to remove the baking soda and you will have fresh, clean carpets that are ready for your guests.

But what if you have hardwood floors? On short notice, simply use a dust mop to remove any coating of dirt or dust. If you have time for a quick damp mopping job, make sure your mop is twice wrung to protect your floors from water damage. If necessary, you can use a special wood floor cleaner diluted in water for a more thorough cleaning. Use a twice-wrung mop also for laminate floors, but with a cleaner specified for laminate surfaces. Diluted distilled white vinegar is a good natural option for quick floor cleaning; the vinegar smell will dissipate quickly.

Are your guests staying over? Give stored linens a good shake and hang them outside on a clothesline in lieu of re-washing them with chemical cleaners. Turn the items every couple of hours if you have time to give every surface the opportunity to gain a fresh, outdoor scent. The aroma of fresh air is healthier and more pleasing than fragrances mixed into chemical cleaners.

Source: www.COIT.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Best Tips for Cleaning Glass in Windows and Doors

December 2, 2013 1:03 am

Kathy Krafka Harkema, spokesperson for Pella, recommends these tips to create a clearer view:

Step 1: Use an ammonia-free glass cleaner. Try a premixed vinegar-based cleaner, or make your own by mixing one part white vinegar to 10 parts water and apply to the glass. Avoid getting cleaning solutions on wood, fiberglass or vinyl frames, as they may discolor the finish.

Step 2: Use horizontal and vertical motions to wipe away the cleaner with a dry, lint-free towel. Clean interior and exterior surfaces.

Step 3: Wipe up cleaner promptly to keep it from setting into the glass and frame junction, which could potentially weaken the seal.

Step 4: Rinse with clear water if streaks remain after cleaning, and dry with a clean, lint-free towel.

Inviting entryways

Another key project to add curb appeal is replacing your old, worn-out front door. Look for Energy Star-qualified wood-grain fiberglass exterior doors that look like wood, without the ongoing maintenance of wood.

"Fiberglass entry doors provide exceptional energy efficiency, weather resistance and durability," Krafka Harkema says. "Plus, stylish options in today's elegant fiberglass entry door systems with decorative glass create a distinctive look for your home."

How to hang holiday lights

Displaying holiday lights around windows, doors and other architectural features adds holiday cheer to your home and yard. Follow these tips from Lowe's to safely hang lights:

* Look for LED lights that give off a bright light but remain cool to the touch. They're also more energy efficient and often last longer than regular incandescent bulbs.

* Look for specialty hooks, clamps, adhesive-backed hardware and suction cup hooks that make it easy to attach lights to window trim and door frames. Avoid nailing into a window or door frame to hang lights, which could void the unit's warranty and impact its performance.

* A good rule of thumb is that you'll need 100 lights for every 1 1/2 foot of tree or shrub you want to cover.

Source: www.pella.com/news

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home for the Holidays? It's Prime Time for Checking on Older Relatives

December 2, 2013 1:03 am

The turkey is defrosting and family is starting to gather at the house for Thanksgiving. For many families, this is the once-a-year time that they travel from across the nation and, often times, the globe to be with loved ones. In addition to enjoying time with family and friends, AARP says it's also prime time to check on older family members and relatives.
AARP has released a list of tips and questions to simplify observing how Mom, Dad and other relatives are doing with everything from mobility to heath and finances.

Taking a Look at their Home – How to tell if their home is still appropriate

• Can they still manage the stairs, or would a chair lift or a home on one level be better?
• Are you concerned that their home may have safety hazards, such as dark stairs, loose rugs, clutter, or fire hazards? Would brighter lighting and fewer tripping hazards help?
• Is there a bath on the ground floor and a room that could become a bedroom if necessary?
• Could simple modifications to their home, like easier-to-use handles and switches, pull-out cabinet shelves, a comfort-height toilet or walk-in shower make it more convenient?

Getting Around – How to gauge their driving safety and transportation options

• If they are still driving, ride with them and observe their driving. Are they having close calls? Are there dents or dings on the car or garage? Do they drive too slow or miss signs or signals? Do they have difficulties at intersections? Have they gotten warnings or tickets? These are a few signs that it might be time to talk about limiting driving or hanging up the keys.
• Look around the community or make a note to research their alternative transportation options for shopping, medical visits, religious services and visits with family and friends if they hang up the keys.

Health – A few key things to check

• If you don't already know about their health problems and current medications, take this time to ask. Are their prescriptions current?
• Has their doctor or pharmacist reviewed all of their medications for side effects and potentially dangerous interactions or effect on driving? Their pharmacist can be a great resource.
• Are they having any problems taking their medications? Do they always remember which medications to take and when? Would a pill organizer be helpful?
• Make sure that they know that it is Medicare open enrollment season until December 7 and see if they need to update their coverage. See if they have any questions about Medicare or Medicaid or changes under the new health care law.
• See if they could use help with filling out forms, such as insurance claims.

Finances – How to get ready to help

• Is all of their financial information in one place and do you know where it is so you can access it in an emergency?
• Check on the condition of their mail. Are bills stacking up? Are there late notices?
• Do they have any bills they can't pay?

Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips to Protect Homes and Homeowners as Temperatures Begin to Drop

December 2, 2013 1:03 am

Fall is in full swing and no matter where you live, Old Man Winter will soon be arriving. If homeowners are not careful, they can be caught off guard, putting both their finances and families at risk.

The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA), the non-profit trade organization representing the nation's premiere home service contract providers offers its Top 5 winterizing tips to homeowners:

1. Turn off exterior faucets. Un-drained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. If you don't have frost-proof faucets (homes more than 10 to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.

2. Remove leaves around your outside unit. The HVAC unit is likely your home's largest operating system. The compressor part of your air conditioner is located on the exterior of your home and can become inefficient with debris and leaves blocking it. You can even use a wet dry vacuum or your hands to remove the debris from the bottom for manual cleaning. Wear gloves if using your hands for manual cleaning and turn off your main breaker first – just to be safe.

3. Clean your gutters. Leaves clogging your gutters can cause big problems any time of the year. During winter months, leaves can potentially cause melting ice and snow to backup into your attic, and even your basement. Be sure to pay particular attention to gutters that have branches directly over them. Not all trees shed their leaves at the same time so you may need to check the gutters in both the fall and early winter.

4. Check your furnace filter. It's important to pay special attention to your homes operating systems during the winter months. Something as simple as a dirty filter can interfere with the free flow of air, leading to higher fuel costs, overheating and eventual shutdown of your furnace.

5. Schedule a furnace tune-up. A furnace tune-up not only includes cleaning that keeps your furnace running efficiently, but it also catches small problems before they turn into big problems that can not only cause inconvenience, but danger to you and your family. Even a small problem can lead to gas leaking into your home or dangerous carbon monoxide levels. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, on average, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products. We recommend a good quality carbon monoxide detector in your bedroom and the main area of your home. Be mindful these detectors typically need to be replaced every five to seven years. Batteries in all detectors, including smoke and fire, need to be replaced annually.

It's important to remember that while home service contracts generally provide service, repair or replacement for the major built-in appliances and systems in your home – such as dishwashers, electrical and plumbing systems, heating ventilation and air conditioning systems – regular maintenance is still very important. Many home service contract providers also offer a menu of optional items such as air conditioning systems, swimming pool and spa equipment, well pumps, and freestanding appliances such as refrigerators and washer/dryers for an additional fee. Contracts generally do not cover pre-existing conditions, but will provide service, repair or replacement for failures arising due to normal wear and tear for an average cost of $400-$550 for a 12-month period.

Source: National Home Service Contract Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tis the Season for Smarter Driving

November 27, 2013 12:27 am

As many Americans get ready for holiday travel, one of the biggest decisions beyond the destination is deciding whether to travel by plane or by car. Factors like fuel or flight prices, dependability of the family vehicle, room for gifts and luggage as well as distance inevitably come into play.

Wayne Gerdes, a multiple World Record holder for the most fuel-efficient driving, drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited earlier this month from Chicago, IL to Austin, TX, more than 1,100 miles, on just one tank of Shell Diesel. Gerdes, who made the drive to raise awareness for the importance of fuel-efficient driving this holiday season and year-round, travelled for just under 20 hours and was able to achieve an average fuel economy of 44.4 mpg. He arrived at his destination in Austin with ½ gallon of diesel fuel remaining in his tank.

Families often do more driving around the holidays to visit loved ones, attend parties and go on trips. The festive season also means putting out a little extra cash for food and gifts. But, as Gerdes showed with his fuel-efficient drive, there are ways to maximize your fuel purchases that will provide some relief for your wallet this time of year.

"Smart driving is especially important during the holidays when we are on the road so much," said Gerdes. "Even if you don't analyze weather patterns, road conditions and monitor traffic like I did for this drive, there are still easy steps you can take to improve mileage. It is a matter of planning ahead and being aware of what might negatively affect your fuel economy."

Though average new car fuel economy has steadily risen since 2008, fuel costs continue to be a significant factor in household budgets. Learning to maximize your fuel purchases is a gift you can give yourself this holiday season that will continue to give back, and help keep your budget in check, year-round.

One very important factor in achieving better mileage is ensuring driving habits are fuel efficient. Here are some smarter driving tips from Shell that drivers can incorporate into their everyday driving to help make their fuel purchases go further:

1. Use air conditioning sparingly
- Air conditioning puts added strain on the engine and uses fuel to operate, so limit use to particularly hot days. On high temperature days consider using the fan instead.

2. Use overdrive gears - When you use overdrive, your car's engine speed goes down. This uses less gas and reduces engine wear.

3. Conserve momentum and keep your distance - Think ahead when you're driving. For example, slow down early to let traffic lights change, rather than stopping completely, or speed up a little before you reach the foot of a hill. Leave a sensible distance between yourself and the car ahead to give you ample time to brake evenly.

4. Use cruise control - Maintaining a constant speed on major roads and in free flowing traffic can improve gasoline mileage.

5. Drive smoothly - Avoid heavy acceleration or braking. Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower your gasoline mileage by 5 percent at lower speeds around town and by 33 percent at highway speeds.

Source: Shell Oil

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Holiday Lighting Safety Reminder

November 27, 2013 12:27 am

The holiday season is the most popular time for home decoration. FirstEnergy's utilities hopes you will enjoy this festive season with family and friends while also remembering a few tips to ensure your holiday lighting displays remain safe throughout the season.

Outdoor Lighting Safety
• Check all lights for frayed wires or areas where insulation has pulled away from plugs or sockets. Discard and replace any damaged light strings.
• Take extra care using a ladder to install lights. Avoid contact with overhead wires and make sure the ladder is placed on solid, level ground that isn't slippery.
• Ensure that tacks or nails used to hold light strings do not pierce any insulation on wires or light sockets.
• Use only extension cords that are approved for outdoor use. These cords must meet rigorous safety standards that indoor cords may not meet.
• Outdoor lights, inflatables and other decorations should be plugged into outlets protected by ground fault interrupters.
• Place outdoor lights on a timer or turn them off before you go to bed.

Indoor Lighting Safety
• Inspect all light strings and cords for any damage, including frayed wires or insulation that has pulled away from light sockets or plugs. Also check for chewing or scratching damage if you have pets in the house. Discard and replace any damaged light strings.
• Live trees should be kept well-watered.
• No more than three strings of standard indoor lights should be connected to any extension cord.
• Make sure cords are placed where they won't be stepped on, kinked or pose a tripping hazard.
• Lights should not be permitted to touch drapes, furniture or carpeting.
• Lights should be turned off overnight and when no one is home.

Additional holiday safety information is available at https://www.firstenergycorp.com/help/safety/safe-holiday-decorating.html.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Tips on How to Stay Healthy During Diabetes Awareness Month

November 27, 2013 12:27 am

Diabetes is a serious epidemic in America with more than 26 million American children and adults suffering from it. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the disease has risen to the seventh leading cause of death among Americans. This month of November is Diabetes Awareness Month and is a good time to take a pause and reflect on our health choices and lifestyles. In an effort to help raise awareness and encourage Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle, Emmy-award winning Dr. Luis Pacheco has teamed up with Sweet'N Low®. Dr. Pacheco has provided five easy tips Americans can follow to help stay ahead of this alarming epidemic:

1. Get Active: Introducing exercise into your daily regimen is an important step– especially if you are at risk of, or suffering from diabetes. From dancing to your favorite tunes to taking a walk around your neighborhood – any activity can help! Getting active will help you to burn calories and lower your blood sugar… and it is even likely to lift your mood!

2. Watch Your Sugar Intake: We all love sugary sweets but over-consumption can put you at risk for obesity and diabetes. If you are already diabetic, cutting your sugar intake is one of the key elements in controlling diabetes. You can still enjoy sweet treats by using a zero-calorie sweetener in place of sugar.

3. Listen to Your Doctor and Medical Team: Your doctor and medical team know your specific medical history and personal needs – he or she should be your biggest resource if you are worried about your health. Listen to your doctor's advice and if you have questions pertaining to your diagnosis or medications – ask them, they are the experts!

4. Eat More Fiber: Fiber helps to slow down digestion and the absorption of sugar into the blood stream so it's important that your diet is full of fiber.

5. Start Today: Are you worried that you might be at risk for diabetes? Don't wait until you are diagnosed; start making positive changes now. Simple exercises and cutting sugars from your diet can make a big difference!

Source: www.sweetnlow.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.