Thursday, December 9, 2010


The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year for many families, but for hospital emergency rooms, it is one of the busiest. offers some tips for protecting little ones from both common and unexpected holiday dangers.

Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias and other plants used as holiday decorations may be beautiful to look at, but they can be potentially poisonous and should be kept out of reach of kids. Symptoms of plant poisoning include rashes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. “Bubble lights” also can be toxic if a child drinks the fluid from more than one light, even if the lights are labeled non-toxic, and snow sprays can be harmful if the aerosol propellants are used improperly. If a child has been poisoned or harmed, immediately call a doctor.

Choking and swallowing small objects is another potential hazard. Tree ornaments, light bulbs, icicles, tinsel and small toys can be tempting for kids to play with, but these items can block airway passages if swallowed. The general rule of thumb is that if an item is small enough to fit in the mouths of babies and toddlers, it’s too small to play with.

Some holiday trees have sharp needles that can cause painful cuts in the mouth and throat when swallowed. Also, keep breakable ornaments out of kids’ reach, or keep them off the tree altogether until children are older. If one does break, clean up the broken glass immediately.

Secure your tree in a sturdy stand so it won’t get knocked over by kids or pets, and keep it away from all heat sources, such as electrical outlets, radiators and portable space heaters. Unplug all indoor and outdoor lights and extinguish all candles before going to bed.

Before you put up holiday decorations, check sm­oke detectors to make sure they work properly. In the event of a fire, have an emergency evacuation plan in place. By practicing these simple safety tips, you and your loved ones can enjoy many holiday celebrations for years to come.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. These three strategies from the Environmental Protection Agency will help improve air quality in your home.

Source control. The most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions. For example, areas that contain asbestos can be sealed off or enclosed, and gas stoves can be adjusted to decrease their emissions.

Improved ventilation. Heating and cooling systems don’t usually bring fresh air into your home. To increase the amount of outdoor air that comes inside, open windows and doors, operate window or attic fans when the weather permits, or run a window air conditioner with the vent control open. And save pollutant-emitting activities like painting, sanding, soldering or welding for outside.

Air cleaners. There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, from relatively inexpensive tabletop models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others are much less so. In general, air cleaners are not designed to remove gaseous pollutants.

For a simpler solution, try a plant. Although it has not been scientifically proven, there is some evidence that household plants can help remove significant quantities of pollutants from the air in your home. But be careful: overwatering plants can be detrimental to your home’s air quality — damp soil can promote the growth of microorganisms.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Electricity. It’son your mind every month when it’s time to pay the bill and when you come home to find that porch light still on after a weekend away. But keeping electrical maintenance top of mind can help you save on your electric bill, keep the kids safe and conserve energy. Here are a few things to consider.

In addition to stowing cords away from pets and children, keep a close eye on appliances that generate heat, such as computers, televisions and dryers. Don’t drape anything flammable over these items. Check cords regularly for frays, cracks or kinks and use tape or twist ties to keep cords in place rather than securing them with nails or staples. Covered cords generate heat, so try to avoid covering cords beneath flammable materials such as rugs.

Consider hiring a licensed electrical contractor to evaluate your electrical systems, including fuse boxes and home electric meters to be sure they’re up to date. And be sure to ask for tips about possible energy-saving investments.

Try to maintain control over how much electricity your household is using. It’s cliché, but turning off lights and appliances after use will greatly decrease your electric bill. And try running your dryer at night, if at all. Curbing your hot water use is another way to cut electricity costs; wash clothes in cold water when you can.

Finally, consider plugging all computer, TV and DVD components into one power strip and get into the habit of turning it off when not in use. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s an easy way to save energy and money.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


No matter how big or small, all homes have one thing in common: wall space. But many homeowners get stumped by what to do with it. Walls are a blank canvas for creating an inviting space and showing off personality, and although homeowners’ tastes vary widely, there are a few general ideas and guidelines to consider when deciding how to make the best use of your walls.

Sconces are a great way to add light and style to a room. They should be placed about six feet above the floor, and if there are two or more, be sure to place them evenly to provide balanced sources of lighting. If the sconce is merely an accent to an already decorated wall, choose a simple design and a smaller sconce, rather than upstaging what’s already there.

If art is your wall decoration of choice, it’s important to decide on a style before choosing the paintings or photos. More traditional decorators might go for landscapes or gardens, while those with contemporary taste might lean toward bold, bright colors. A little quirky? Think about framing old records or vintage movie posters instead of ready-made pieces. Be sure the size of the framed pieces complements the furniture in the room — wall art shouldn’t compete. A room with minimal furniture can have large art, but if the room already has big, ornate pieces of furniture, keep the art minimal.

Play with groupings of framed pieces. Experts suggest combining odd numbers such as three or five in a row or a square block of nine small prints. Be sure the pieces are similar in color and theme, and take time to choose a neutral colored frame.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


More than 8 million people were victims of identity theft in 2007, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Most people know the basic prevention measures, such as committing passwords and PIN numbers to memory and shredding credit card receipts. But there are other habits that can help you prevent fraudulent activity.

Check your mail often. Identity thieves often take pre-approved credit card offers and sign up for a new card to use without your knowledge. Be sure to shred these.

Reduce the number of credit and debit cards in your wallet; if possible, carry only one debit card for bank withdrawals and one credit card for other purchases. Use a credit card rather than a debit card while shopping online. You’re better protected because credit accounts are more often monitored for unusual charges and offer quicker ways to freeze and replace cards than banks. Keep a list of all credit and bank card numbers and expiration dates, as well as banking account information in a secure place, such as a locked safe in your home.

When ordering new checks, make the trip to the bank to pick them up rather than having them delivered. When you are waiting for a new credit card to be delivered, be sure to call the issuer if it hasn’t arrived within the promised amount of time to ensure it hasn’t been stolen.

Paying bills the old-fashioned way? Park the car and deliver mail inside the post office rather than the outside box. Neighborhood mailboxes aren’t monitored as closely and could be broken into, leaving your checks open to alterations by a thief.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Before putting your home up for sale, it pays to take a good look around. Is your home décor out of date? Will it appeal to prospective buyers, or send them running out the door?
Barbara Ballinger, architecture coach and columnist for the Style, Staged and Sold blog, says that while vintage features may appeal to some buyers, they could cost you a sale. Here are a few designs that could turn off potential buyers.

· Excessively bold or dark paint or tile colors, such as deep plum or jet black

· Walls painted with lacquered or high-gloss finish, faux- and sponge-painted walls, and wallpaper

· Worn, cracked laminate countertops and backsplashes

· Outdated bathrooms with small sinks, short toilets, squat bathtubs and tight shower spaces

· Stained and worn wall-to-wall carpet or worn linoleum

· Bedrooms decorated with a theme that is incorporated through the carpeting, walls, ceilings, light fixtures and furnishings

· Too many mirrored walls, ceilings and doors in a single room

· Ceilings with too many recessed lighting spots

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


While many homeowners say home security is a priority, they may not be taking the necessary precautions with their keys and locks. A recent survey by Kwikset, which manufactures locks and hardware for residential homes, finds that 47 percent of homeowners did not change or re-key their locks when they first moved in to their home, and nearly one-third have never changed or rekeyed their locks. More than half of homeowners surveyed also say they routinely loan house keys to friends or contractors, increasing the chance that the keys could fall into the wrong hands and be copied. Home security experts at American Lock and Key offer several tips to help you secure access to your home.

· Don’t hide keys in obvious places, such as under an exterior floor mat or a planter. Most burglars know the most common places to hide keys. If you must hide them, keep keys stored in a secured key box.

· Keep keys separate from your address, so if they are ever lost or stolen, no one can identify where they belong.

· Immediately change or re-key the locks when you move to a new home. A locksmith may charge $40 to $100 or more to re-key locks or, if you prefer to do it yourself, re-key kits are available at hardware stores for less than $20.

· Keep garage doors secure, especially those that connect to the house from inside the garage and doors leading to the garage from outside. Use a padlock to secure the inside of the garage door.

· Keep windows locked, especially on the home’s lower level where they can be an attractive target for criminals.

For all of my personal security lock and key needs as well as my business needs I use Gary Beaver with Bay to Beaches. Great service, great prices and when he’s done the sense of security feels great! Gary can be reached at (415) 388-9020.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Tired of heading to the computer room every time you want to look something up? A wireless network can offer a solution. Even if you’re not fluent in tech-speak, setting up a network is easy. If your computer isn’t already outfitted with wireless capabilities (most newer models are), there’s an easy fix: desktops need a USB wireless adapter; laptops need a wireless card. If your desktop is already using all of its available USB ports, you can buy a hub that plugs into the computer, leaving open ports on the hub that are still connected.

Once you begin to set up the network, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s best to purchase a wireless router versus a wireless access point. Access points let one user access a single network, while routers allow for more than one computer to access the same network using one IP address that is provided to connected computers. Another key difference between a router and an access point is that routers include firewall technology for better network security.

When choosing a router, pay attention to the letter after the speed (it’ll be “a,” “b,” “g,” or “n,” in order alphabetically from oldest to newest). Though “n” is the newest choice, the better choice may be “g” if you don’t have the latest computer model. If not fully compatible, you might experience a lag in service.

If you live in a large home rather than an apartment, you may want to purchase a signal booster. It will increase the strength of the base station, improving wireless connections throughout the home. If you choose to go without a signal booster, choose a central location for the router, such as the living room or den, where you would most likely use your computer.

Be sure to secure your network with passwords and network names that are difficult to guess. If possible, enable settings to WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption versus WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy), which offers better protection from would-be hackers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's Your Transit Score?

Transportation costs are an important — and often overlooked — factor when consumers consider moving to a new home. According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, suburban households with little or no access to public transportation spend up to 32 percent of their income on transportation costs, while households in walkable areas with greater access to public transportation spend as little as 12 percent.

The website Walk Score has launched several tools to help consumers gauge the proximity of public transportation to a selected address, their commuting options and associated costs. The resulting Transit Score ( rates an address on a scale of zero to 100 to indicate how well it is served by public transportation. Transit Score is currently available in 30 cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Custom commute reports give consumers a summary of commuting options for a specific location, such as driving, biking or walking, the estimated time it would take to arrive at that address and a list of nearby public transit stops and routes. By entering a few pieces of information, the transportation costs calculator generates an estimated monthly amount that consumers can expect to pay for housing and transportation.

As commute times and transit costs continue to grow, tools such as Transit Score can help you understand how the location of your home and workplace affects your daily life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Helping Unemployed Homeowners

Unemployed homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage may be eligible to receive financial assistance through two new federal foreclosure-prevention programs facilitated by the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Treasury Department has made $2 billion of additional assistance available through the Housing Finance Agency’s (HFA) Hardest Hit Fund to help homeowners who are struggling to make their mortgage payments due to unemployment.

HUD also announced a $1 billion Emergency Homeowners Loan Program to assist homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure and have experienced reduced income due to job loss, underemployment or a medical condition for up to 24 months.

To qualify for this program, borrowers must meet the following criteria:

· They are at least three months delinquent on their mortgage payments and have a reasonable likelihood of being able to resume repayment within two years.

· The mortgage must be for the borrower’s principal residence.

· Borrowers may not own a second home.

· Borrowers must demonstrate a good payment record prior to the event that produced the loss of income.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia which had an unemployment rate at or above the national average over the past 12 months are eligible to receive assistance under the Hardest Hit Fund. States will use the funds to develop programs that provide temporary mortgage assistance to eligible homeowners while they continue to seek employment or get job training. Eligible states include: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.

For more information about
these programs, visit

"Oh, by the way… If you know of someone thinking of buying or selling real estate, who would appreciate the kind of service I offer, I’d love to help them. So, as these people come to mind, just give me a call with their name and business number. I’ll be happy to follow up and tend to their needs."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Savvy Networking

Going to a function/event/convention can be fun and exciting. To some it can be an excuse to get out and party like the good old college days. To others it can drag them away from their comfortable, complacent norm. Most successful people know that these events can be highly productive to their business and career if done properly.

Most people by human nature are a little daunted at new and unfamiliar events with many unknown people. The fear of rejection can be overwhelming. Many people are naturally shy and tend to end up blending into the woodwork as a wallflower or becoming the bartenders best friend. Here are some of the tips taught by leading trainers and authors.

· Prepare yourself for the event. Research the function, other attendees, presenters and host in advance. Google search is a wonderful tool to gather information. Prepare a list of benefits and objectives before you go and plan your time to focus on these accordingly. Most importantly visualize a positive attitude about the function, be in the moment.

· Before the event, prepare and practice your greeting, ice breakers and elevator speech. Your greeting should be a simple statement introducing who you are and what you do. Your ice breakers should be relevant to the function and/or the people who will be there. Your elevator speech should be about 7-15 seconds long and encourage people to want to talk with you more. Practicing these in advance is so important.

· Dress the part. Most functions will give you a good idea about what to wear. It is also a good idea to speak with the host or other attendees who have been before to exchange ideas of what to wear. Make sure to research the function thoroughly to make sure you are not missing something, ie. formal wear, walking shoes, a hat, etc.

· Just before the event accumulate things to talk about. “Small Talk” topics can be found in the local newspapers, trade publications and People Magazine to name a few. Small talk is fabulous and is the bridge between the ice breaker and that career elevating connection.

· Wear a name badge. Almost every town and city has an engraver who can make you your own personal name badge. There are also many companies on the internet that can do this as well. Your name badge should clearly have your name and affiliations on it. It should be worn appropriately on the right side so that it is easy to read when shaking hands.

· When at the function, be in the moment. Participate in two-way conversations maintaining eye contact. Don’t be scanning the room with your eyes for “bigger fish to fry” as this will be construed as discourteous, unprofessional and impersonal. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Human nature will judge you by this first impression and set the tone for future contacts. Make it count.

· Invite others to join in on your conversations. Acting as the gracious host will win you many kudos. By making the introductions the introducer gains status and clout. Practice being the moderator. Ask specific questions to let others shine and feel good about themselves. You will be remembered.

· Bring and pass out your business cards. It is strongly recommended to have your photo on your business card so that those you meet will remember you later. Have a place to keep all of the cards you will collect. The easiest way to get a business card is to offer a card. Always make a note on the back of the card collected as to where you met or specifics of the conversation.

· Practice “mirroring” the body language of those around you. If they are sitting then sit. If they are leaning forward then lean forward, too. If they have their hands on the table then… you get the picture. People feel most comfortable with those most like them.

· Follow up immediately after the function send an e-mail to those you met with a little note and your V-card contact info. It is also a good suggestion to send everyone a hand written thank you/nice to meet you card in the mail as well. It is a good idea to do this for the host and presenters, too.

· Do Not drink too much at the function. No one wants to be remembered as that obnoxious drunk person who… Remember my golden rule; whatever happens at a meeting/event/convention will become public information.

The information you can learn and share is insurmountable. The connections and friendships made can take you through a lifetime. With a little planning and preparing, the benefits of the function will be amazing. Afterwards you will find your confidence in yourself will have gone up dramatically.

A dear friend and colleague, Susan RoAnn, has given me this wonderful advice on how to make the most of it. She has written a book, “How to Work a Room”, where she describes in detail all of the how to’s. It is a must read for anyone who engages in social networking.