RE/MAX 440
Howard C Schaeffer
howardschaeffer@remax.net
Howard C Schaeffer
4789 Route 309
Center Valley  PA 18034
PH: 610-791-4400
O: 610-791-4400
C: 610-554-7759
F: 267-354-6233 
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How to Safely Handle Leftover Meals

November 24, 2014 6:10 am

Many families enjoy eating leftovers from dinners and dining out as a time-saving and budget-friendly meal. It is important to remember that leftovers need to be properly handled to help reduce the risk of food borne illness. Illness can be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.

Handling leftovers

  • Wash your hands before and after handling leftovers. Wash all utensils, dishes and work surfaces with hot soapy water.
  • Keep foods out of the danger zone, between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Throw away any cooked food left in the danger zone for more than two hours.
  • Never rely on your nose, eyes or taste buds to judge the safety of food. You cannot tell if food is contaminated by its look, smell or taste. When in doubt, throw it out!
Cooling leftovers
  • Refrigerate or freeze all leftovers within two hours to minimize the chance of bacteria growing.
  • Refrigerate all hot leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly.
  • Very hot items can first be cooled at room temperature and then refrigerated once the steaming stops.
  • Leave the lid off or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigeration temperature.
Storing leftovers
  • Always use a clean container or leak-proof plastic bag to store leftovers.
  • Meat from large cooked birds should be cut, deboned and stored refrigerated or frozen for safety.
  • Keep different types of leftovers separate to prevent cross contamination.
  • Don't overstock the refrigerator - allow cool air to circulate freely.
  • Eat refrigerated leftovers within 2 to 4 days, or freeze them for later use. The recommended refrigeration times may vary slightly, depending on the food. Follow these guidelines to be safe.
  • Label the leftovers so you can identify the contents and include the date, to make sure they aren't stored too long.
Defrosting leftovers
  • Thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator or using the "defrost" setting on your microwave. Make sure leftovers are completely defrosted before reheating.
  • Consume or cook the leftovers immediately after they have thawed.
Reheating leftovers
  • When reheating leftovers, cook to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Use a digital food thermometer to check the internal temperature.
  • Bring gravies, soups and sauces to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.
  • Discard uneaten leftovers after they have been reheated – don't reheat leftovers more than once.
Reheating in a microwave
  • Use only containers or plastic wrap designed for use in the microwave.
  • Loosen the lid or wrap to allow steam to escape.
  • Stop the microwave midway through reheating and stir the food so that the heat is evenly distributed. Rotate the plate several times during cooking if your microwave does not have a rotating tray.
Source: Health Canada

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Ceilings: Your Fifth Wall Has Design Potential

November 24, 2014 6:10 am

(BPT) - Many homeowners don't consider ceilings part of their interior design, and it shows. Most are expanses of bland white paint. But savvy do-it-yourselfers are converting these blank canvases into interesting and functional design elements that accent a room's decor, create a cozier space or disguise problems commonly found on this fifth wall.

Updating a ceiling is one of the easiest and budget-friendly ways to freshen a space. Dana Vento, DIY expert and popular home renovation blogger, recommends tackling a ceiling project that can be quickly and easily finished over the weekend. Here are her tips:

Warm up with wood. There's a reason wood flooring is so popular - it tends to warm up a room and add character. The same goes for ceilings. Real or engineered wood panels can extend your sense of style in any room. That's because they come in a wide range of tones, textures and patterns to suit any decorating style, from rustic to mid-century modern to contemporary.

Go beyond vanilla.
For those who want to add a splash of color, the ceiling holds special allure. Painting the ceiling the same color as the walls (or one shade lighter) can make a small room feel larger. A bright color, say yellow or pink, could enliven a child's room, while a sky blue ceiling creates a more soothing ambiance. Black ceilings have their own design advantages, dramatically defining a dining area in an open floor plan, for instance, or enhancing the enveloping atmosphere of a home theater.

Add shimmer. Love the look of metals? Consider today's pressed metal ceiling tiles. They're far easier to install than their antique ancestors, and the light-refracting properties of copper, brass and lacquered steel can help raise the ceiling visually in any room.

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Consumers Eager to Adopt Smart Home Automation

November 24, 2014 6:10 am

A recent survey conducted by leading luxury smart home technology company Savant® reveals that more than half of consumers in the United States believe that home automation will be an everyday features in less than 10 years, and nearly one-fourth say that the technology will be an everyday feature in less than five years.

The survey further found that control/ease of use (69 percent) and convenience (58 percent) were the most important features for consumers when purchasing a new technology. Cost savings (41 percent) and safety and security (35 percent) were cited as the two primary considerations among consumers for the adoption of smart home automation systems.

Other findings include:
- When considering the purchase of a new technology, consumers ranked the following attributes as very important:
  • Ease of use (37 percent)
  • Convenience (38 percent)
  • Seamless integration (28 percent)
  • Low environmental impact (24 percent)
  • Personalization (32 percent)
- Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers rate personalization as extremely/very important when purchasing new technology.

- Women (49 percent) are more likely than men (34 percent) to find low environmental impact as extremely/very important when making a technology purchase.

- Consumers 50 or older (77 percent) are more likely than all other age groups to find simple control/easy to use as extremely/very important when purchasing new technology.

- Consumers between the ages of 35-49, along with those aged 65 or older, are more likely than younger consumers (18-24) to rank “cost savings” as their top consideration when purchasing new technology.
Source: Savant

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December Deals May Trump Black Friday Savings

November 21, 2014 6:46 am

According to ShopAdvisor, procrastination may be just the ticket for those seeking the hottest holiday deals. A recent survey points to December 18 as last year’s best day to snag low prices in-store and online. The virtuousness of patience was further borne out by data showing last year's post-Black Friday discounts reaching double digits, even for some of the most coveted brands.

Surprisingly, 42 percent of the products tracked by ShopAdvisor were actually priced higher on Black Friday than in the four weeks leading up to it. Luxury goods remained undiscounted from November through January.

Other noteworthy findings:
  • The average discount was 17.5 percent on December 18 versus less than 5 percent on Black Friday.
  • Discounts were 30 percent deeper weekdays than on weekends from after Black Friday through the holiday shopping period.
  • While discounts continued from December 26 through New Year's Day, the deals were not as strong as those offered on December 18.
"The question becomes, are retailers planning to backload deals again this year? The perception of a stronger economy may embolden them to behave that way," says Scott Cooper, CEO, ShopAdvisor. "What is now clear, if it wasn't already, is that Black Friday is more about sport than savings – consumers competing for real deals on just a handful of limited quantity doorbusters, not widespread season's-best pricing."

Source: ShopAdvisor

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Inspect Your Car before Heading Home for the Holidays

November 21, 2014 6:46 am

Before you pack up the car to head home for the holidays, make sure your vehicle is ready for the journey. Conducting a thorough vehicle inspection will help you avoid the inconvenience and potential safety hazards of breaking down miles away from home.

"It's easy to remember to get your family ready for the holiday festivities, but what about preparing the car that's going to get you there?" said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Having a pre-inspection performed on your car will give you peace of mind as you travel and help make your journey safer."

Before leaving home, the Car Care Council recommends a check of the following, often overlooked, items: tires and tire pressure, brakes, hoses and belts, air filters, wipers, exterior and interior lighting, and fluid levels, including engine oil, windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.

"A pre-trip inspection provides the opportunity to have service repairs made at home by your own trusted technician who knows the vehicle, and helps reduce the chance of costly and dangerous trouble on the road," said White.

The Car Care Council also recommends that drivers keep important telephone numbers in their cell phone or glove box in case of a breakdown or travel emergency. Vehicles should have a roadside emergency kit that includes items such as a first aid kit, a tire-changing jack, a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, a flashlight and a blanket.

Source: Car Care Council

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Household Financial Priorities Reflect Economic Improvement

November 21, 2014 6:46 am

According to a recent report by Bankrate.com, Americans' feelings about job security, comfort level with debt, net worth, and their overall financial situation all showed improvement compared to one year ago.

For the third consecutive year, Americans' top financial priority is getting caught up on bills or staying current on living expenses. Nearly half of Americans say that they are most concerned with getting a handle on their bills.

Staying current or getting caught up on bills was the most common priority across all age groups, but highest among those ages 50-64. Americans age 65 and older were more likely than any other age group to say providing financial assistance to family members or friends was their top priority. Other commonly cited top financial priorities include paying down debt (22 percent) and saving (17 percent).

Savings, however, are still a weak spot for Americans, with nearly one-third of Americans saying they're less comfortable with the amount of contributions to their savings.

Source: Bankrate

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'Friendsgiving' Growing in Popularity

November 20, 2014 1:01 am

In recent years, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal at home with family has given way to trends like ‘Friendsgiving’ and shopping in retail stores on Thanksgiving Day. Is this the new normal among young adults today?

Leading global app Skout recently conducted a survey that sheds light on the answer. The survey questioned more than 1,300 adults on their thoughts and plans for the holiday. The results aren't what most would expect.
- Eighteen percent of adults age 30-39 are planning to spend Thanksgiving with friends, compared to just 11 percent of adults age 18-29 planning to do the same.

- The majority of adults age 18-39 agreed that retail stores should not be open on Thanksgiving Day so that employees can enjoy time with friends and family.

- “Awkward conversations” topped the list of factors most likely to ruin Thanksgiving (46 percent).

- Nearly half the country will be holding a potluck-style meal this year. Forty-four percent of adults surveyed plan to share kitchen responsibilities with their host and celebrate the holiday with a potluck.

- Over half of males (59 percent) surveyed have faked a store-bought dish as homemade. Fifty percent of vegetarian responders admit they’ve also faked a homemade dish.

- Fifty-three percent of adults plan to tune in to a Thanksgiving Day football game.
Source: Skout

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Spruce Up Your Home for Holiday Entertaining

November 20, 2014 1:01 am

From tackling holiday stains to cleaning the crevices most commonly inspected by mothers-in-law, keeping a clean home around the holidays can seem like an impossible task. Between entertaining unexpected guests and hosting get-togethers with friends and family, having a clean home is never more important than it is around the holidays.

"The holidays are a fun, but often stressful time of year. People are busy shopping, cooking and volunteering, and have little time to keep a clean and tidy home," says Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids. "The good news is that there are simple tips and strategies to getting a home in tip-top shape -- from being selective with holiday décor to having a laundry closet packed with your trusty cleaning solutions -- making cleaning easier and far less stressful."

Johnson’s secrets for a spic and span home include:

Double-duty holiday décor – Holiday décor is essential to giving spaces a more festive appearance, but it can also double the amount of housework you have each day. Give your holiday décor a second life – fill a vase or hurricane with sparkly tinsel leftovers that may have fallen to the floor and use it as a festive holiday centerpiece. Coal can serve as a great odor absorber, too.

Holiday stain fighters –While red wine, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy are real crowd-pleasers, they aren't so kind to upholstery and carpets. If you notice that one of your guests left the evidence behind, blot it right away with a white cloth until all of the liquid has been absorbed. If the stain's dry, whip up a quick solution of dishwashing liquid (1 tbsp), white vinegar (1 tbsp) and warm water (2 cups) to remove the stain.

Last-minute cleaning tricks – If your home needs tidying before guests arrive, set aside 15 minutes to make your home appear like you've spent a full day cleaning it.
  1. Grab a microfiber cloth and broom and set your kitchen timer.
  2. Sweep up the porch, fold the throws in the living room and fluff your throw pillows.
  3. Put a fresh stock of toilet paper in the bathroom, put away your toothbrushes and leave a festive box of tissues behind.
  4. Throw the dishes in the dishwasher and turn it on -- by the time dinner is ready, you'll have clean (and warm) dishes that are perfect for serving.
Source: Merry Maids

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Set the Stage for Comfort in Your Guest Room

November 20, 2014 1:01 am

Guest rooms are one of the more under-utilized spaces in any home, and homeowners are often at a loss when it comes to decorating them. With these simple and inexpensive additions, your guest room will become a home away from home for all of your out-of-town visitors.

Liven it up.
Since guest rooms are used less frequently than others, it makes sense to inject some vitality to the space. Before your guests arrive, pick up a fresh bouquet of flowers or a potted plant. They’ll appreciate the greenery while they enjoy the comforts of your home.

Pull out all the stops.
Create a hotel-like atmosphere with key amenities. Extra blankets and pillows, travel-size toiletries, a fluffy bathrobe, slippers or even a coffee maker with a selection of roasts will go a long way towards making your guest feel at home.

Make it a part of your home.
One of the easiest ways to make a guest room feel comfortable is to give it a “lived in” appearance. Add textural accents in layers (think pillows and area rugs) and arrange decorative accessories you already own on empty surface areas.

Source: Zillow

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10 Food Safety Tips for Holiday Meal Prep

November 19, 2014 1:13 am

As friends and family gather together during the holidays, you want to make sure that you keep out any unwelcome guests in the form of harmful food borne bacteria. The following tips will ensure food safety and a great time for everyone at your table.
  • Wash your hands and clean all prep surfaces and tools regularly during food preparation. Bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, especially on your hands, utensils and cutting boards. Unless you wash your hands, utensils and surfaces the right way, you could spread bacteria to your food and your family.
  • Soiled cloths are a hot breeding ground for bacteria. Wash them in the hot water cycle of your washing machine.
  • Keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate. Raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods unless you keep them separate. When juices from raw meats or bacteria from unclean objects accidentally touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods like salads, bread or cooked vegetables, cross contamination can occur.
  • When shopping, keep raw meats away from other foods in your shopping cart and in grocery bags.
  • Use separate tools and utensils. Never use the same utensils, cutting boards or containers for ready-to-eat foods that were previously used for handling raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Keep hot food "hot" and cold food "cold." Use a properly calibrated food thermometer to be sure. Cooking foods to a proper minimum internal temperature kills harmful pathogens. Many people think they can tell when food is "done" simply by checking its color and texture, but there's no way to be sure it's safe without a food thermometer.
  • Always check the food temperature in the thickest part of the roast or turkey and check in two or three different spots for a rice dish or casserole.
  • Refrigerate leftovers quickly after serving to prevent bacteria growth and potential food poisoning.
  • Perishable foods cannot be left at out for longer than two hours at room temperature, or one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Never marinate or thaw foods on the counter at room temperature. These should be done in the refrigerator or in some other safe manner.
Source: Bart Christian

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