Local and National Real Estate News from your Doylestown PA Agent - Kim Bartells

Increasing results, not days on market!

Five Ways to Build a Better Shower

September 26, 2013 1:06 am

(BPT)—The shower is a place to unwind from a stressful day, where you can forget your worries and pamper yourself. Remodeling the shower is extremely popular because it allows homeowners to create a spa-like experience in their own home, not to mention it's a good investment and can increase resale value. Before you start your remodel, here are five ways to create a shower that will give you some well-deserved peace and quiet.

1. Spacious shower

If you're gutting your bathroom, think about opening up the space to expand the size of your shower. Typically, showers are 36 inches wide by 36 inches deep; but now, luxury-style showers measure at least 48 inches by 96 inches. You can also create more shower space by selecting certain types of shower doors. Sliding glass doors can be a hassle to clean, as dirt can get into every little crevice. Hinged, glass doors, or if you have the space, a larger opening with no shower door at all, are better options for creating a modern, streamlined look.

2. Bring in the light

Do you have a small bathroom and don't have room for a spacious shower? Not to worry - make the shower look bigger with lighting. Adding a skylight above the shower will make it feel larger in size and give a sense of being in a high-end resort. The materials you use on the door can also brighten things up. Choosing a glass door lets more light fill the space while showing off a fancy showerhead or tile. The glass can be frosted for added privacy.

3. Showerheads in all shapes and sizes
Showerheads come in a wide variety of styles to add the desired look - and functionality - to your bathroom. From rainshowers to traditional showerheads and body sprays, the combinations are almost endless.

No matter what style or the number of sprays you choose, make sure to include a hand shower. It makes cleaning the shower a breeze, will help with washing the family pet, and gets all those hard to reach places during your daily shower.

4. A place to sit and relax
Shower benches and seats are becoming an essential component for rest and relaxation. It's a great way to add a spa-like element to your shower but also provides extra safety for your family. You can build a bench into the shower or attach one that folds up against the wall. Different styles and materials are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Teak is a popular choice in the shower as it withstands different temperatures, is resistant to bugs and humidity and is also easy to clean.

5. Storage in the shower

Finally, build niches in the shower wall to fit all the bottles used on a daily basis. Creating several built-in areas will eliminate reaching for bottles on the shower floor and make it easier for the family to stay organized. Make sure the shelves slope toward the shower to keep the areas from getting moldy or full of soap scum. If you aren't putting in new shower walls, you can also create more storage with a sturdy, corner shelf. Choose one with at least three shelves so Mom, Dad and the kids can each have their own shelf.

Source: moen.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

9 Out of 10 Children Not Getting Enough Fiber in Their Diet

September 26, 2013 1:06 am

Moms know that fiber is an important part of their children's healthy diets, but what they don't realize is that few kids actually get the daily fiber they need. Nine out of 10 children do not get enough fiber in their diet, which could contribute to occasional constipation. Occasional constipation is reportedly the cause for almost 5 percent of all pediatric outpatient visits. Making sure your child has enough fiber in their diets may keep their stomachs happy by helping keep everything moving through their digestive systems. And kicking off each morning with a breakfast with fiber helps start kids on their way to getting the recommended amount of fiber, every day.

"Fiber plays a key role in maintaining good health," says registered dietitian Sylvia Melendez-Klinger. "Many people are not getting enough of it and don't realize just how easy it can be to add fiber to the diet. To receive the greatest health benefits, eat a wide variety of fiber foods – cereal can be a great breakfast to start your morning and get you on your way to the recommended daily amount of fiber."

Melendez-Klinger has provided a few tips to help Mom add fiber to her children's diet:

Fiber First: Breakfast is the perfect time to sneak fiber into the kids' diets – breakfast cereals are an excellent source of fiber that kids already love eating. Try adding in a few blueberries on top for that extra fiber punch.

Increase Hydration: While fiber is a great way to help keep everything moving through the digestive system, it is important to also increase water intake. By increasing your fiber intake gradually and drinking more water you will allow your body to adapt.

Make Tasty Treats: Fiber can also help prevent kids from snacking needlessly, filling up on empty calories. When looking for a tasty snack, include foods with a good source of fiber, such as a handful of almonds and dried fruit, to increase fiber intake.

Keep It Simple: When shopping for fiber foods that your kids will eat, focus on four main groups – bread, pasta, cereals, fruits and veggies – and try to incorporate a few into every meal. Foods vary in nutrient content so be sure to check the label for fiber content and look for at least three grams – a good source.

Source: Kellogg

Published with permission from RISMedia.

World's First Study on Food Addiction Concludes Addiction Contributes to Obesity

September 25, 2013 12:54 am

A new paper by Ph.D. student Pardis Pedram from the laboratory of Dr. Guang Sun, professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland, shows that food addiction is an important contributing factor in the development of obesity.

"Our findings are the first of their kind in the world," said Dr. Sun, the senior author. "We have shown that food addiction is an important contributing factor in the development of the common form of obesity in the general population. The prevalence of food addiction was 5.4 percent in the entire study and increased concomitantly with obesity status defined by either body mass index (BMI) or body fat percentage."

This is the first scientific study of food addiction at the population level. A total of 652 adults from the Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador - 415 women and 237 men - participated in this study. Food addiction was assessed using the Yale Food Addiction Scale and the macronutrient intake was determined from the Willet Food Frequency Questionnaire.

Furthermore the study found that the clinical symptom count(s) of food addiction (similar to the measurement of fasting blood sugar concentration in diabetic patients) is strongly associated with the severity of obesity. The study also revealed that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with food addiction than men.

"More remarkably, the food addiction scores are proportionally associated with adiposity measurements in non-food addicted people, or the remaining 94.6 per cent of the population," said Dr. Sun. "For some individuals not clinically diagnosed as food addicts, food addiction is potentially part of the cause of excessive body fat."

The findings of food addiction in the development of human obesity are a big factor for physicians, insurance companies and governments to consider in treatment method, insurance and government policy-making, similar to the history of smoking on human health, said Dr. Sun.

Source: Memorial University of Newfoundland

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Top Six Kitchen Dangers

September 25, 2013 12:54 am

Absent-minded mistakes in the kitchen cause many cuts, burns, and other injuries. The October 2013 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, identifies the kitchen products that cause the most harm and simple ways to avoid them.

"It's easy to make a mistake in the kitchen when you're in a rush or in a post-workday haze," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "But there are simple things you can do to avoid landing in the hospital."

ShopSmart ranked the kitchen products that send the most people to the emergency room. In descending order, they are: knives, ranges, cookware, slicers and choppers, microwaves and blenders. Below are some simple ways to avoid getting hurt when using these products and appliances. Importantly: Always keep a fire extinguisher with a minimum 5-B:C rating on hand.

Knives. Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones, so keep knives sharpened and stored in a block. Use a cutting board that doesn't have a slippery surface, and place a damp towel under it to keep it from moving.

Ovens. Install an anti-tip bracket to secure the unit in place. Never place heavy roasts and other food on an open oven door.

Cookware. Always use oven mitts to pick up hot pots and pans. If a grease fire starts, smother the flames with a cookie sheet or lid for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure the fire is out.

Slicers and Choppers. Don't leave motorized models on for a long time; they can overheat. Never reach into a slicer or chopper. Because many parts, including blades, are dishwasher safe, don't handwash them.

Microwaves. Be careful when removing a wrapper or cover from microwaved food; steam can escape and cause a nasty burn. Let food cool a minute or two before removing it from the microwave. Boil water on the stove; water heated in a microwave can become super-heated and erupt violently without warning.

Blenders. Most blenders don't have safety interlocks, so don't reach inside, especially if it is plugged in. To clean blades without touching them, add hot water and a bit of dishwashing liquid to the blender container and let it run on high for a minute, then rinse. If the blender has a container that disassembles, wash the parts in the dishwasher, as the rubber gasket can harbor bacteria.

Source: ShopSmart

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Create a Fully Loaded Laundry Room

September 25, 2013 12:54 am

(Family Features) Today’s technology makes those pesky tasks of washing, drying and folding your beloved garments easier than ever before. Gain inspiration for a laundry room update with cutting-edge solutions that work hard to get your clothes squeaky clean and may even make the chore fun.

Laundry room meets entertainment center
Newly constructed homes are starting to include laundry rooms with all the bells and whistles. For those wanting to be entertained while folding their garb, mounted flat screen televisions will ensure you don’t miss a minute of your favorite show. Other ornate laundry facilities include a space for your laptop for the most serious multitasking individuals.

High-efficiency topload washers
The traditional topload washer has received a well-deserved makeover. New technology has enabled that familiar washer you grew up with to be considered high-efficiency (HE) and is the fastest growing category in home laundry appliances. Though HE models typically cost more upfront, consumers can save money over the life of the product because they use less energy and water. These washers spin clothes at a higher speed, thus removing more moisture. This cuts down on time and energy used with a dryer.

Gone are the days of dull laundry rooms and washers and dryers only available in white. The laundry room is much more colorful today as appliance manufacturers roll out bright and cheerful appliances, such as ruby red and champagne. The home trend of grey has also hit the laundry room as more subdued and classic shades, such as metallic carbon, are gaining popularity.

Dispensing and stain removal advancements
High-tech features, such as GE SmartDispense, dole out the right amount of detergent based on soil level, fabric and cycle type. The feature can even store up to a two-month supply of laundry detergent and softener inside of the washer. A built-in stain removal guide tackles common clothing stains, such as oil, grass and dirt, while a steam option relaxes fabric and helps loosen set-in stains.

Sophisticated sinks
Utility sinks are a must for laundry rooms of larger families or for those outdoorsy individuals who tend to get a little dirty. Many new sinks offer soap dispensers, while higher-end versions offer a hands-free option for both the dispenser and the faucet. Some models even include spa-type water jets with special settings that blast stains and debris from garments based on the nature of the fabric.

Source: GE

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Is Organic Coffee Worth the Price?

September 24, 2013 12:00 am

If you choose to eat organic foods you might be lucky enough to avoid ingesting the many pesticide residues so common to farming. It also means you're likely avoiding those "Franken-foods" that result from genetically engineered seeds.

Yet, with the price of organic produce typically higher than non-organic the question remains—can you pick and choose foods based on your budget, yet still come out on the healthier side? For example, bananas or avocados, thanks to their firm skins are less affected by pesticides than celery or strawberries.

But what about coffee?

Since coffee for many of us is our preferred "fuel" representing not only the start of our day but often also our afternoon pick-me up, do organic beans really matter?

Rohan Marley, chairman of Jammin' Java says it sure does. Having grown up in Jamaica, Rohan, the son of legendary musician Bob Marley, says: "The benefits of organic coffee are significant, as chemical free soil is good soil. This extends to healthy trees which result in good beans with greater antioxidants and less chemical residues."

Get Rohan Marley talking and he'll tell you how the benefits of organic farming begin with the benefits to the farm workers who are able to fulfill their jobs without the adverse health impact of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Taking it further, the farm's neighbors aren't exposed to potentially harmful chemicals in the air as well. Then, less fossil fuel is converted into fertilizers. All this is good for the environment.

"It's a life-cycle," according to Marley. "Naturally healthy soil can sustain coffee crops for generations to come. All of this contributes to the quality of the bean."

To avoid the impact of lax pesticide regulations on coffee farmers, Marley advises consumers to look for the USDA Organic label to ensure we're not buying beans that have been grown or processed with the use of potentially harmful chemicals.

And if you really want to do something good for your body and the world, when you seek to sip your java, look for Sustainably Grown and Ethically Farmed on the labels to ensure that your purchase supports farmers with fair pay and work environments.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Are You Ready to Care for Your Pet When Emergency Strikes?

September 24, 2013 12:00 am

Whether it is a tornado in Kansas, a hurricane in Louisiana, a wildfire in California, an earthquake, a nuclear plant failure, floods, blizzards or a family emergency, you know you need to be prepared for yourself and your children. Dean of the Becker College School of Animal Studies, Dr. Richard French, encourages pet owners to consider that other family member: the dog, the cat or even the fish.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, more than 250,000 pets — from cats and dogs to parrots and fish — were left stranded by the storm's destruction. Many owners who expected to return within a few days left food and water for their pets. But days turned into weeks, and the pets had to struggle to survive.

For pet owners, saving their beloved animals from approaching disaster can be as important as caring for themselves. Not many years after Katrina, some 15 million dogs, 14 million cats, and 1.5 million horses were in the path of Hurricane Sandy, according to the American Humane Association. Many people believe first responders will care for their pets, but their obligation is to people. Few have training in animal rescue and handling, and that is not the priority in an emergency. In fact, pets can be an obstacle for first responders, hindering their ability to perform their jobs. The best thing you can do is to have a plan and all the equipment and supplies you might need to protect your pets in an emergency before disaster strikes.

Since 2004, National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been observed every September. Now is the time to create a plan and explore the services in your area. A good place to start is with your veterinarian, your state veterinary office, or the regional ASPCA. Here are some additional steps you can take:

• Get a Rescue Alert sticker for your home, identifying your pets.
• Make sure your pet's veterinary care and vaccination records are available.
• Arrange a safe haven in case you must leave your home.
• Build an emergency supplies and traveling kit.
• Choose designated caregivers.
• Prepare your family and pets for possible evacuation.
• Keep in mind some pets, such as birds, reptiles, and small animals, have special needs that may include medications and diet.

You can also create an Evacuation Kit and have it on hand. Some of the items to include are:

• A pet first-aid kit and guide book; ask your vet what to include in the kit
• Three to seven days' worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food
• Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
• Litter or paper towels
• Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
• Non-breakable pet feeding dishes
• An extra collar or harness, as well as an extra leash
• Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember to refresh those supplies so they don't go bad before an emergency.)
• Bottled water; at least seven days' worth for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
• A traveling bag, crate, or sturdy carrier; ideally, one for each pet
• Flashlight and backup batteries
• Blanket for scooping up a fearful pet
• Recent photos of your pets, in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters
• Especially for cats: a pillowcase or EvackSack, toys, scoopable litter
• Especially for dogs: an extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week's worth of cage liner

You can make this a family project so that everyone in the family knows what's in the kit and where it is in the event of an emergency. Taking these measures now can give both you and your family peace of mind. And your pet, though always giving unconditional love, will love you for it.

Source: Becker College

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Small Changes to Upgrade Your Home

September 24, 2013 12:00 am

(BPT)—Flipping through the television channels, it's hard not to find a home improvement show about remodeling and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. From "Property Brothers" to "Design Star," these popular programs give homeowners ideas on how to modernize their spaces. If you're planning your own DIY projects, here are three areas of the home that will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to a makeover.

First stop: the bathroom
Bathroom remodels are the most popular remodeling projects because they have a high return on investment, according to the National Association of Home Builders. When you're ready to sell your house, renovating the bathroom typically has a return of 62 percent. A low-cost way to modernize the bathroom is installing new faucets. Look for a signature style featuring cylindrical, geometric shapes and distinct 90-degree angles, such as the new Moen Arris collection, for an iconic, modern update.

Another idea for modernizing the bathroom is to add additional light sources. Bringing in more light will open up the space and make your bathroom come to life. The bathroom is often a place to unwind, and adding the right lighting can set the tone for a spa-like atmosphere. One way to do this, without breaking your budget, is by simply replacing the light fixtures. Add a modern touch to your bath with dramatic choices like chandeliers and sconces.

Second stop: the living room
Modern design doesn't have to mean uncomfortable. Homeowners love modern interiors for the sleek and streamlined look, which leads to less clutter and visual stress. Expand the modern theme throughout the home by updating furniture with unfussy and relaxed pieces. You don't need to buy everything new. Fabric covers, in an array of prints and colors, can instantly bring new life to old furniture. For pieces that need to be replaced, consider purchasing solid and neutral furniture. As trends change, you can switch out pillows and blankets to stay up-to-date.

Keep neutrals in mind when selecting paint colors, as well. White, black, brown and gray will go with just about anything. For a pop of color, paint an accent wall with a bold color, or add extra personality with drapery or area rugs. Use lamps, paintings and accessories to give a personal touch throughout the rest of your living space.

Final stop: the kitchen
Opening up shelving is a way to put a fresh, modern spin on your existing kitchen layout. You can order new cabinets with glass panels or simply remove the doors from your existing ones. Just make sure the exposed areas are not cluttered. Open shelving is a perfect place to display dishes. For a crisp look, try stacks of white plates and bowls. If you're looking for an edgy feel, try patterned or bright-colored ones. Adding new hardware to cabinets is also an inexpensive way to improve the look of your kitchen.

Since you updated your faucet in the bathroom, consider doing your kitchen the same favor. To complement your new faucet, look to update your counters as well. Granite remains a popular choice because of its high style and durability.

Source: moen.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Traffic Infractions: Their Severity and Impact on Insurance Rates

September 23, 2013 1:09 am

Traffic infractions can vary from minor to very serious and how an insurance company rates them varies as well. Drivers should know how these types of infractions affect premiums and when to shop around for a better rate.

When a driver is given a ticket, it may cause an increase in premiums depending on the type. It may also cause a much higher increase if it is a major or serious infraction. Even with a serious infraction you can still shop for a better insurance rate as there are insurance companies who cater to this market specifically.

Minor Infractions Mean Smaller Increases
Drivers can generally expect that an insurance company will raise rates for some of the following, treating them as minor infractions:

• Speeding tickets for speeds less than 49 km/hr over (this may vary)
• Running a red light or stop sign
• Failure to obey a traffic sign
• Failure to signal before making a turn or changing lanes
• Following too closely (tailgating)

Most minor infractions will cause some type of increase. However, there are a few minor infractions that may not result in an increase at all, depending on the insurance company’s rules. An example of these would be a parking violation or a red light camera ticket.

Major Infractions Result in Higher Rates
Drivers can expect to see heftier increases on their insurance premiums in the event of a major traffic infraction. These infractions are considered more serious than a minor infraction and result in a higher insurance increase. Again, there are no hard and fast rules for what an insurance company will define as a major infraction, but the following will often make the list:

• Speeding tickets for speeds more than 50 km/hr over (again, this may vary)
• Speeding in a school zone
• Driving while uninsured
• Passing a school bus with red lights flashing

When a driver receives a ticket for a major infraction, odds are good their insurance will rise in accordance with the severity of the violation. Of course, each insurance company makes their own determination on rate increases and on what is considered a major offence.

Serious Infractions Mean Serious Consequences
A serious infraction is not just serious to insurance rates but can have legal consequences as well. These might include large fines, loss of driver’s license or even jail time. They are considered serious because they are usually very dangerous actions that could put lives in danger and in some cases have already caused injuries or death. Some of the actions that fall into this category include:

• Careless or dangerous driving
• Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• Vehicular manslaughter
• Assault with a vehicle
• Failing to stop after an accident
• Failing to stop for a police officer
• Illegal street racing

Drivers who face these kinds of violations are often not thinking about their insurance rates at first and it may come as a surprise later when the rate increase occurs.

No matter the type of infraction, insurance companies can only charge an increased rate for a specific amount of time. This is generally three years (from the date of conviction, not the date that you got the ticket) but may vary from company to company. Be prepared by knowing exactly when the infraction will fall off and follow up on it. Some insurance companies will leave the increase in rate on the policy until the next renewal date. A new company, however, may not be bound by this, so be sure to take the time to shop around.

Source: InsuranceHotline.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Winterize Your Yard and Garden

September 23, 2013 1:09 am

As the days become shorter and the leaves begin to change color, now is the time to prepare your yard and garden for winter. There are a number of simple tasks that will not only protect plants and lawn from the cold, but will make for an easier spring.

"Tending to your lawn and garden in fall can ensure that it has every chance to develop through the colder months," says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for a power tools manufacturing company. "Also, winterizing your equipment will make for a better spring start."

• Evaluate. Before you start your preparations, take a moment to review what worked and did not work in the garden over the past season and jot down notes in a garden journal so you remember a year or two from now. Fall is the best time to move plants because roots are given ample time to establish.

• Clean up. Removing leaves and debris reduces the likelihood of future problems since they can harbor pests and diseases. Using a leaf blower can save time and effort.

• Repair damage. Fall is the best time to reseed a lawn that's been damaged by summer heat. Top-dressing the seed with up to one-quarter inch compost or soil will help it take root.

• Don't put away the hose. Continue to water plants and lawns in the fall, as the rainfall tends to slow down. Plants need to stay hydrated to properly retreat to their winter states. However, as soon as freezing temperatures hit, make sure to drain garden hoses and store them in a sheltered place where they will not freeze and crack.

• Fertilize. Despite what many people might think, autumn – not spring – is the most crucial time to fertilize lawns and gardens. Renewing the mulch in flower beds, especially the top two or three inches, will protect many plants from harmful freezes.

• Go easy on pruning. Pruning promotes growth. It's important to prepare plants to go dormant during the winter rather than growing.

• Think spring. Some spring bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, should be planted in the fall. Larger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted in the fall but won't bloom until spring. Many vegetable plants, like beets, broccoli and cabbage grow best in the winter.

• Cover plots. Covering a garden bed with burlap keeps weeds at bay. Another option is to plant a nitrogen-rich cover crop, like clover, which can be easily turned under when spring arrives.

• Tune-up tools. After completing all preparations, clean, oil and sharpen tools, and then store them in a dry place to prevent rusting.

• Winterize your power equipment. Make sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower and other gas-powered equipment after you've finished using them for the season to keep the engine running smoothly next year.

• Know when to stop. When frost is in the forecast or the temperature drops below 40 degrees consistently, usually around late October or November, it's time to close down the garden.

Although it may seem like a hassle, winterizing your garden will make for less work come springtime. Consider these practical ways that will protect and care for your yard and garden so they can survive the winter and thrive for seasons to come.

For more information, visit www.troybilt.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.