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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What to Buy in November

November 28, 2014 5:23 am

Whether or not you trust in the Black Friday hype, the financial mavens at Bankrate.com say November is almost always a good time to find bargains on certain other kinds of merchandise:

Cookware – In time to get you revved about holiday cooking, many retailers slash the price of pots, pans and cookware gadgets this month. (It’s also a good time for bargains on flour, sugar, butter, chocolate and other baking ingredients.)

Tools and hardware – Check the big box home and hardware stores for significant discounts this month on drills, hand tools, tool storage and more. The best deals will be on merchandise you can carry home yourself.

Off-brand TVs – While the best deals on premium TVs may not happen until the December/January timeframe, when retailers are making room for the newest models, experts say November is the time to look for deep discounts on off-brand models, especially in the 46-to-55 inch screen size.

Wedding gowns – According to the author of "Bridal Bargains," November and December are excellent months to shop for a wedding dress because there's a decrease in demand as women aren't interested in shopping for one during the typically busy holiday season. (Some stores will even haggle a bit during this slow sales time.)

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Top 5 Cyber Monday Safety Tips

November 28, 2014 5:23 am

The Internet makes holiday shopping so easy—no fighting for parking spaces at jam-packed malls, no waiting in endless lines to get to the register.

But even if you consider yourself a pro, shopping online isn't without risks. These tips from USA.gov can help you protect yourself and your finances as you hunt for that perfect gift:
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit card payments can be withheld if there's a dispute with a store, and if the card is stolen, you won't have to pay more than $50 of fraudulent charges. But with a debit card, you can't withhold payments—the store is paid directly from your bank account. And if your card is stolen, you could be liable for up to $500, depending on when you report it.
  • Find out if the public WiFi hotspot you're using at a coffee shop or bookstore is secure. If it's not, your payment information could be compromised over the network.
  • It's risky not to read the terms of service agreement before you buy online. You could inadvertently sign up for subscriptions or get hit with additional fees or restrictions. Terms of service are often in small print or presented right when you are anxious to purchase.
  • Be careful if you're buying event tickets online as gifts. Some venues may practice restricted ticketing, requiring the same credit card used in the online purchase to be shown to get into the event.
  • Use caution buying digital assets like books and music—they can't be given away as gifts if they've been downloaded to your account. You should either purchase a gift card for the book or music site, or check with the company. Some services have ways to "gift an item" but it varies depending on the provider.
Source: USA.gov

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Kitchen Fires Spike during Holidays: Keep Your Family Safe

November 27, 2014 5:34 am

(BPT)—During the holidays, more Americans spend time in the kitchen preparing meals for family and friends. That additional kitchen time also means added risk of home fires. In fact, according to claims data from Liberty Mutual Insurance, three times more fires occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day than on any other days of the year, yet many Americans aren't practicing basic kitchen safety.

More than half of Americans plan to cook for family and friends during the holidays, with 42 percent of those cooking for groups of 11 or more, based on findings from a survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance. However, the majority of people admit to engaging in dangerous cooking behaviors which increase the likelihood of kitchen fires, including leaving cooking food unattended to watch television, talk or text on the phone, or do laundry. Even more concerning is that nearly one-third admit to disabling a smoke alarm while cooking.

These dangerous cooking behaviors not only risk the safety of your loved ones, but can result in significant economic repercussions. In 2011, cooking was involved in an estimated 156,300 home structure fires, and caused 470 deaths, 5,390 injuries and $1 billion in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

"The hectic nature of entertaining during the holidays makes it easy to overlook even the most basic cooking safety rules," says Tom Harned, fire safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and Chief Fire Officer in Gilbertsville, Pa.

Harned encourages all home chefs to follow these simple fire-safety tips:

1. Stay in the kitchen. Don't leave the kitchen when you are frying, broiling or grilling. If you leave the kitchen even for a brief time, be sure to turn off all the burners on the stovetop. Don't use the stovetop or oven if you are tired or have consumed alcohol or drugs.

2. Set a timer as a reminder that the range or stove is on. Ranges were involved in three of every five home cooking fires in 2011, with ovens accounting for 16 percent of home fires, according to the NFPA. Check your food frequently, and use a timer to remind yourself that the range, stove or oven is on. If you tend to do a lot of cooking, invest in a second or third timer. They're an inexpensive way to stay safe while ensuring that your holiday dishes do not overcook.

3. Keep anything that can catch on fire away from the stovetop. Pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and other flammable objects should be kept a safe distance from the stovetop.

4. Keep a lid or cookie sheet, baking soda and oven mitt nearby when you're cooking to use in case of a grease fire. Fire extinguisher use without training can cause a grease fire to spread and increase the chances of serious injury.

5. Ensure your smoke alarm is fully functional before the holiday cooking season begins. Install a photoelectric smoke alarm (or one having a hush button feature) that is at least 10 feet away from your kitchen and use the test button to check it each month. Replace the battery at least once per year and never disable a smoke alarm.

"If you're considering disabling a smoke alarm, think about this: almost two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms," says Harned. "In addition to following basic safety rules in the kitchen this holiday season, everyone should have a home fire escape plan with at least two ways out of every room. Practice at least twice a year to ensure the safety of everyone in your home all year long."

Source: Liberty Mutual

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Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

November 27, 2014 5:34 am

(Family Features)—Heather Loenser, DVM, knows first-hand the joys and challenges of traveling with her dog. She and her family recently adopted a year-old Border collie named Calvin.

"As a new dog in our house, Calvin is experiencing some separation anxiety, so we don't want to board him or leave him with a pet sitter," Dr. Loenser explained. "Even though he suffers from car sickness, when the family goes on vacation, Calvin comes with us."

Dr. Loenser is often called upon to help her clients prepare for vacations with their dogs. Her top five travel tips are:

1. Consider Car Safety

When it comes to car trips, practice safety first. In some states, it is illegal for dogs to ride unrestrained in a vehicle. The Center for Pet Safety tests vehicle restraints for dogs; their recommendations can be found at www.centerforpetsafety.org.

2. Be a Considerate Guest

Whether at a pet-friendly hotel or at the in-laws' house, not everyone will love your dog as much as you do. Make sure your dog is well-groomed and don't forget canine etiquette. A quick refresher course in the basics commands: sit, down, stay, quiet and come will help make your dog welcome wherever you go.

3. Take First Aid on the Road

Accidents happen; be prepared with a mobile app offered by the American Red Cross. It contains veterinary advice for everyday emergencies, interactive features and a locator for American Animal Hospital Association-accredited hospitals across the nation. Download the app at: http://www.redcross.org/mobile-apps/pet-first-aid-app.

4. Avoid Dietary Changes

Stay as close to your dog's regular feeding schedule as possible and avoid giving extra treats or different types of foods that may upset their stomach. Dr. Loenser suggests giving regular meals in a food dispensing toy, which will also help use up some stored energy from the trip.

5. Consult Your Veterinarian

One of the main reasons dogs get left behind is, like Calvin, they suffer from motion sickness. "My clients often try over-the-counter remedies first," Dr. Loenser said. "However, OTC products are not very effective and have a sedative effect that can be unpleasant for the dog."

"I prescribe an FDA approved medication for dogs called CERENIA(r) (maropitant citrate) to prevent vomiting due to motion sickness in my canine clients 16 weeks and older - and Calvin." Dr. Loenser knows it is safe and effective because it's the medicine she uses every day to prevent and treat other causes of vomiting in her patients. She advises dog owners to talk to their veterinarians who can help find a solution for their dogs' car sickness.

"When you think about it, taking your dog along on vacation can be less expensive than paying for a kennel or dog sitter. That leaves more to spend on fun activities to enjoy with your dog."

Source: Cerenia

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Cranberries Have Health-Promoting Properties

November 26, 2014 5:46 am

Cranberries are more than a holiday favorite, given their remarkable nutritional and health benefits. A new research review published in the international journal Advances in Nutrition provides reasons why these tiny berries can be front and center and not just a side dish. The review authors conclude that cranberries provide unique bioactive compounds that may help reduce the incidence of certain infections, improve heart health and temper inflammation.

"Hundreds of studies show that the bioactive compounds found in cranberries improve health," said lead author Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, FASN, FACN, CNS, Director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory and Professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "For example, the polyphenols found in cranberries have been shown to promote a healthy urinary tract and exert protective benefits for cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions."

Cranberry Health Benefits Extend Beyond Urinary Tract Health

The authors cite data that shows the cranberry may improve cardiovascular health by improving blood cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure, inflammation and oxidative stress. Cranberries have been shown to help support endothelial function and reduce arterial stiffness. Together, these benefits may promote overall health and functioning of blood vessels to help slow the progression of atherogenesis and plaque formation, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

Need Fruit? Eat More Cranberries

While all fruit contributes necessary vitamins and minerals to the diet, berry fruits offer a particularly rich source of health-promoting polyphenols. Because of their tart taste and very low natural sugar content, sugar is often added to cranberry products for palatability. Even with added sugar, cranberry products typically have a comparable amount of sugar to other unsweetened fruit juices and dried fruit products. Additionally, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans asserts that the best use of calories from added sweeteners is for improving the palatability of nutrient-rich foods, as is the case when adding sugar to cranberries. As an additional option, non-nutritive sweeteners are used to produce low calorie versions of cranberry products. Americans can help increase their fruit intake by incorporating cranberries and cranberry products into their diet and there is no need to wait for the holidays – cranberries can be enjoyed year round – fresh, frozen, dried, or in a juice or sauce.

"While we look forward to more research to better understand how cranberries affect our well-being and longevity, we know that including cranberries and cranberry products in a healthy diet is a great way to increase fruit intake," said Dr. Blumberg.

Source: www.CranberryInstitute.org

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Top Black Friday Shopping Tips

November 26, 2014 5:46 am

This year, with many stores planning to open super-early on Thanksgiving, the turkey may not even be cooked, never mind cold, before bargain-hunters are out hitting the stores. For those hoping to scoop up the best Black Friday buys this Thanksgiving weekend, Consumer’s Report suggests adopting these savvy shopper tips:

Be prepared
– Study the ads beforehand. Many retailers advertise their in-store specials early, so check a Black Friday-focused website such as bfads.net or blackfriday.info to see where the best deals are.

Shop online first – Before you brave the crowds, check to see if the retailer is offering the same or even better deals on its website. Some retailers offer online sales during Black Friday week that include many of the same deals to be offered in-store. There may even be some online-only specials, like no-cost shipping.

Use social media – Check the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite stores or brands to see if they're offering discount incentives when you "like" their page or follow them.

Get appy – Load your smart phone with a few comparison-shopping apps, such as ShopSavvy or ShopKick, that let you compare prices while you're in the store. If you see that an item is cheaper at another store, try showing that price on your phone to a store manager and see if he or she will match that deal.

Check the return policy – You may find it’s different for a Black Friday special. Are all sales final? Is there a shortened return or exchange policy? Can you get a refund or only store credit? What about a restocking fee on a returned item?

Check the warranty – Some manufacturers offer "derivative" models during promotional periods like Black Friday. Be sure you can live with the warranty terms being offered.

Avoid buying pricey accessories – An easy ways to blow your great deal is to pad the deal with pricey accessories. This is where retailers make their money, so avoid the hard sell at point of sale.

Avoid bait-and-switch tactics – Sometimes, retailers will advertise a great deal on a certain TV but denigrate it once you're in the store, hoping they can push you to a more profitable model. Stick to your budget and resist efforts to ‘upgrade’ you to a model that may not be such a great deal.

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Turkey Day Plumbing Tips

November 25, 2014 12:01 am

The day after Thanksgiving is the single busiest of the year for many plumbers. Big holiday meal preparation and cleanup can lead to a lot of unwanted waste in the kitchen drain and garbage disposal. Also, holiday house guests who require additional clothes washing, showers and toilet flushes put a strain on household plumbing.

"Often, the case is that a house already has partially clogged drains that go unnoticed, until holiday guests arrive and overwhelm the system," said Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter representative. Hectic houses full of people and frantic hosts quickly and easily lead to plumbing problems throughout the holiday season. "Even more problematic is that virtually every traditional Thanksgiving dish is a supreme drain clog culprit," Abrams continued.

Thanksgiving hosts can avoid a visit from their plumber over the holiday weekend by following these clog-preventing tips:
-Never pour fats or cooking oils down drains. They solidify in pipes. Instead, wipe grease from pots with paper towels and throw in trash.
-Avoid putting stringy, fibrous or starchy waste in the garbage disposal. Poultry skins, celery, fruit & potato peels, for example, cannot be sufficiently broken down.
-Make sure the disposal is running when you put food into it. Don't wait until it's full to turn it on.
-For homes hosting weekend guests, it's a good idea to wait ten minutes between showers so slow drains have time to do their job.
-Never flush cotton balls, swabs, hair or wet wipes down a toilet. They don't dissolve and will cause clogs.
-Try to address any plumbing problems before the holiday and before guests arrive. However, in holiday emergencies, don't hesitate to ask up front about extra holiday service fees. As always, know your DIY limits. Often, minor plumbing problems turn into plumbing catastrophes if not handled properly.
Source: Roto-Rooter

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RREIN RC - How to Avoid Overspending during Thanksgiving

November 25, 2014 12:01 am

While Thanksgiving may be intended as a day to give thanks for everything life has to offer, many Americans view it as a day to overcook, overeat, and overspend. Below are a few tips you can use to practice moderate spending and eating, so that you don’t break your budget—or your belt--in order to enjoy the celebration.

Here are five tips to follow so your Thanksgiving is fun, but not expensive:

1. Don't go in cold turkey
– Plan a realistic budget well in advance, one that considers what you can really afford to spend on the holiday (in cash), not what you'd "like" to spend.

2. Think like a Pilgrim – The fairytale version of early Thanksgivings included a focus on saying thank you, and not trying to impress those in attendance, so be modest and frugal.

3. Remember the trimmings – not the stuffing, the decorations! Don't buy them, make them! Look online and you'll find easy-to-make, inexpensive ways to decorate your home and table.

4. Ask everyone to give thanks – Ask family and friends to bring a prepared dish, dessert or the wine, and build those items into your budgeting and planning.

5. Involve the natives – Invite your children, or some who may be attending, to prepare decorations, easy-to-make snacks, or lead after-dinner games rather than spend on entertainment.

Source: www.InCharge.org

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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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