RE/MAX 440
Margaret Schickling

Margaret Schickling
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880  Skippack  PA 19474
Phone:  610-584-1160
Office:  610-584-1160
Cell:  610-802-0891
Fax:  267-354-6252

My Blog

9 Back-to-School Morning Hacks

September 4, 2014 1:00 am

Mornings on school days can be mayhem for families. In fact, nearly half of moms say that their children run out of time to get ready in the morning, often skipping breakfast to catch a ride to school. Beat the meltdown and ensure your child eats a well-balanced breakfast with these morning hacks.

1. Stage a path to the door the night before so everyone knows where they're going.

2. Select outfits at night. Be sure to check weather in advance and plan accordingly.

3. Pack lunches ahead of time. After dinner, pack the non-chilled items in the lunchbox and leave it on the counter for quick packing of cold items in the morning.

4. Brush teeth and wash face in the morning shower, or take baths the night before.

5. Sunshine helps you wake up. Open the shades and let the light in.

6. Place jackets and backpacks in a central location to grab on the way out. Use a hanging shoe organizer with pockets to keep essentials and accessories by the door.

7. Reward with what works for your child. For example, electronics and other activities they get to do in the car.

8. Motivate and track time with a music playlist. Everything is more fun and moves more quickly with tunes, and you can track how much time has passed.

9. Care for yourself. Have a workout bag in the car and consider getting up earlier to have some personal time before the day gets going.

Source: Johnsonville Foods

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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CFPB Cautions Use of Virtual Currencies

September 4, 2014 1:00 am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) cautions the use of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, citing potential issues such as unclear costs, volatile exchange rates, scams and hacking, and companies that may not offer help or refund. The CFPB adds that anyone who encounters a problem with a virtual currency product or service can now submit a complaint with the Bureau.

“Virtual currencies may have benefits, but consumers need to be cautious and they need to be asking the right questions,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Virtual currencies are not backed by any government or central bank, and at this point, consumers are stepping into the Wild West when they engage in the market.”

Virtual currencies are designed to be an alternative to current payment systems. Better-known virtual currencies include Bitcoin, XRP, and Dogecoin. Often referred to in the industry as “digital currencies,” they are a way for people to track, store, and send payments over the Internet, and they may make payment processing cheaper or faster. However, they are not backed by any government or central bank. In addition, because virtual currency accounts are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, if a virtual currency company fails – and many have – the government will not cover the loss.

Virtual currency companies are springing up around the world to offer products and services to consumers. There are virtual currency exchanges, which are companies that help consumers buy or sell virtual currencies. There are also online “digital wallet providers,” which are companies that allow consumers to create accounts with them to store and manage their virtual currencies. Many virtual currency exchanges are also wallet providers, and vice versa.

Virtual currencies carry significant risk, including:

Exchange rates are volatile and costs unclear: The exchange rate of Bitcoins to U.S. dollars in 2013 fell as much as 61 percent in a single day. In 2014, the value of Bitcoins has dropped by as much as 80 percent in a single day. Consumers who buy virtual currencies should be prepared to weather this kind of volatility. Consumers should also consider whether there are mark-ups or other fees when using an exchange or digital wallet provider. Companies may be charging consumers to buy, spend, or accept virtual currencies.

Hackers and scammers pose serious security threats: Virtual currencies are targets for highly sophisticated hackers and scammers. Individuals, digital wallet providers, and exchanges are all at risk. For example, if a hacker gains access to a consumer’s Bitcoin “private keys,” which are 64-character codes that unlock the consumer’s funds, the consumer can lose all their virtual currency. Fraudsters are also taking advantage of the hype surrounding virtual currencies to pose as Bitcoin exchanges, Bitcoin intermediaries, and Bitcoin traders in an effort to lure consumers to send money, which is then stolen.

Companies may not offer help or refunds for lost or stolen funds: Some virtual currency companies do not identify their owners, provide phone numbers and addresses, or even specify the country in which they are located. Before using a company’s products or services, consumers should carefully consider if they know how to contact the company in question, and if they know their contractual rights. If a consumer trusts a company to hold their virtual currencies and something goes wrong, the company may not offer the kind of help the consumer would expect from a bank, debit card, or credit card provider. In fact, some virtual currency companies disclaim responsibility for consumer losses if funds are lost or stolen.

Source: CFPB

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Home Entertaining: Fall Dinnerware Trends

September 4, 2014 1:00 am

(BPT) - Autumn leaves bursting into vibrant reds, lively oranges, and brilliant yellows signal a new season for home entertaining. If you need a little inspiration, look no further than your favorite outdoor spot to update your table setting with the hottest colors for fall 2014.

“Contemporary versions of classic colors are trending in the interior design realm this fall,” says John Griffith, visual merchandiser for dinnerware retailer Replacements, Ltd. Customers frequently ask Griffith and his in-house designer for creative guidance to refresh their family heirloom pattern table settings.

“Vintage dinnerware continues to be one of the trendiest design elements in the tabletop industry,” says Griffith. “Why buy a reproduction when the real thing is readily available? Search your mother or grandmother’s china cabinet to find some of the great retro patterns. Add your own point of view when you mix and match contemporary designs to create a modern look. It’s really simple to add an accent plate, or a stand-out charger in this season’s colors to update your table for fall entertaining.”

Figural pieces, such as leaf shaped plates and serving pieces, are also very popular. Many manufacturers are offering colorful accent pieces with favorites including turkey, leaves and pumpkin motifs.

The important thing to remember is that as the season changes, so does entertaining. Gatherings may be more casual as friends and family get together around the television for the big game or by the fire pit on the patio.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Not Enough Juice From Your Gas Tank? Replace These Parts

September 3, 2014 2:27 am

Drivers everywhere can benefit from better gas mileage. Aside from saving at the pump, a well-maintained vehicle can also save you money spent on a new model. If you’ve noticed a spike on your gas receipts, it may be time to replace parts in your car that affect fuel efficiency – your tires, spark plugs, air filter and mass air flow and oxygen sensors.

Tires – Check tire pressure at least once a month. Worn or underinflated tires reduce traction, affecting your vehicle’s handling capabilities.

Spark plugs – Help your engine run cleanly (and more efficiently) by replacing the spark plugs, which ignite air and fuel in the combustion chamber.

Air filter
– Dirty air filters are most common in cars that are 10 years or older, so replace yours immediately if you’ve owned your vehicle for a long period of time.

Mass air flow sensor – A dirty sensor transmits inaccurate readings, causing issues with your transmission, ignition and fuel injection.

Oxygen sensor – Switch out this sensor when it gets dirty, too. Faulty readings lead to incorrect fuel injection levels. Auto experts recommend replacement when your car reaches 100,000 miles.

Source: Bankrate

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Prepare for Power Outages with a Checklist

September 3, 2014 2:27 am

Americans who have recently endured a prolonged power outage at home are much more likely to improve their family's emergency preparation for the future, according to a recent report.

A 2014 survey conducted by Harris Poll found almost one in four U.S. adults had endured a power outage lasting 12 hours or more in the last two years. That experience motivated two-thirds of respondents to be more prepared for future incidents, according to the survey.

"The high percentage of respondents who took action to better prepare their families and homes for future emergency situations really underscores the level of frustration a power outage can cause families who aren't properly prepared," said Amanda Grandy of Briggs & Stratton, commissioners of the survey.

When you have advance warning of a potential loss of power, which is often caused by a strong weather system, there are many steps families can take to minimize the stress it can cause. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you create an emergency preparedness plan with a checklist of items:
  • Make sure your gas tank is full
  • Fill plastic bags with water and place them in the freezer
  • Stop by the bank to ensure you have some cash on hand
  • Fill prescriptions that are approaching their refill date
Disasters, however, don't always come with prior notice, so having an emergency kit prepared ahead of time is the surest way to protect your family. Be sure to include items such as:
  • A three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Adequate water (a gallon per person, per day)
  • First aid supplies
  • Matches
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Essential toiletry items, such as toothbrush and paste
An expanded list of items to consider when packing your emergency supply kit can be found at www.fema.gov.

Source: Briggs & Stratton

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Mixing Patterns: The Rule of Threes

September 3, 2014 2:27 am

Pattern and texture are essential to interior design. Whether on a fabulous set of nature-inspired pillows or a chunky knit throw blanket, the right mix of patterns and textures creates symmetry and visual interest. Incorporating pattern can be especially intimidating to homeowners who fear the end result will be a room full of mismatched pieces.

To prevent your space from pattern overload, stick to the rule of threes. Aside from balancing a room, combining patterns in threes lends a designer’s touch of sophistication.

1. Choose a dominant pattern. This is typically a large-scale print found on wallpapers, rugs, sofas or other big pieces of upholstered furniture.

2. Add a secondary pattern. Think about outfitting smaller surface areas, such as drapes and side chairs, with a pattern that color-coordinates with your dominant choice.

3. Use a third pattern sparingly. This pattern applies to accents, such as pillows, table linens, lamp shades, and ottomans that can be swapped out in a snap. Reserve on-trend patterns for these accessories.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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More Than a Quarter of Americans Likely to Order Healthy When Dining Out

September 2, 2014 1:51 am

Most Americans would agree that eating healthfully should be a priority in their daily lives, but what truly drives consumers to choose healthy items over the potentially more enticing, yet unhealthy options? Are consumers still in the mindset that restaurant visits don't warrant healthy eating?

Recent research finds that more often than not, diners eat with their eyes, not their stomachs – 38 percent of adults agree that if a healthy menu item sounds tasty in the menu description, they are more likely to order it.

Moreover, some 27 percent of consumers say they like to order healthy meals with ingredients they are familiar with. "For consumers who are often on the fence for healthy or indulgent eating, familiarity can help ease them into healthier choices, rather than alienating them with superfoods they have not heard of or have a reputation for lackluster taste,” says Katrina Fajardo, food service analyst at Mintel Group.

So how do Americans define healthy dining? Nine percent agree a menu item that includes a "gluten-free" mention denotes a healthy choice, and 39 percent think entrees with more fruits and vegetables come across as healthy. Meanwhile, 37 percent believe an item with a low calorie count is a healthy option, and 34 percent think a dish with less sodium is considered healthy.

"One of the possible reasons for consumers' indecisiveness on healthy foods in restaurants is the fact that food service still has the stigma of being unhealthy, regardless of what is ordered. As a result of the numerous exposés showing the real caloric counts in salads, sandwiches, and other menu items deemed as 'healthy,' consumers are conflicted with the idea that a restaurant could offer real, healthy items,” adds Fajardo. “In addition, the overwhelming amount of healthy-eating knowledge available to consumers can be overbearing, and skew the way they are personally defining health.”

Nearly one out of every four U.S. consumers is not interested in eating healthfully when they go out to eat, because they view away-from-home visits as a treat. Similarly, about a quarter of consumers mentioned that they look at the more healthy options, but opt for the unhealthy meals instead.

Source: Mintel Group

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Vibrant, Contrasting Colors Dominate Remodeling Projects

September 2, 2014 1:51 am

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, vibrant, energetic colors – especially in contemporary kitchens – is one of the top trends this year, with many homeowners upgrading to a bright, bold color palette that creates contrast in a space. Not surprisingly, the main motivating factor for homeowners to renovate the kitchen is to improve the overall look and feel of the space – a goal that can easily be accomplished by introducing new, vibrant hues.

“Color is a great way to create harmony, especially in open concept kitchens that flow into other parts of living and dining room space,” says George Edwards, COO of A&C Kitchens and Baths in Chester, Pa. “And homeowners often start a remodel by updating the color scheme.”

Instead of a classic black and white combination, which often loses impact in kitchens that already have black or stainless steel appliances, design experts suggest adding bursts of color on other surfaces:
  • Base of an island or peninsula cabinetry
  • Backsplash tiles
  • Colored stone countertops
  • Blended cabinetry wood
Popular shades include poppy reds, royal blues, zingy oranges, sunny yellows and avocado greens. For backsplashes, designers recommend Aztec clay colors, such as coppery brown, henna, ginger and gold.

If you’re planning a home renovation project this year, consider incorporating some of these color trends to update your kitchen. Consult with a professional remodeler before construction gets underway.

Source: NARI

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Your Fall Lawn Care To-Do List

September 2, 2014 1:51 am

Taking time in the fall to prepare your lawn for the colder months ahead will pay dividends come spring and allow you to enjoy lusher, greener grass when temperatures rise again.

Fertilizing
Providing nutrients to your lawn before cold weather strikes is good for strengthening roots and increasing the nutrients stored for an earlier spring green. While the top growth of grass stops, grass plants are storing nutrients and energy for the following season.

To determine the best ratio of fertilizer for the soil in your yard, you should utilize a soil test. Otherwise, look for fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphate-potassium (NPK) ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2.

When applying the fertilizer, make sure that you follow the application instructions and rate information on the package and use a calibrated spreader to apply the correct amount. It is also a good rule to apply the fertilizer about 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes so the plant can start to take up some of the nutrients.

Instead of pacing the yard with a push spreader, consider a tow-behind spreader attached to your riding lawn mower or garden tractor. An attachment can quickly distribute fertilizer evenly across your yard.

Aerating
Aerating, the process of removing plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn, is ideal in cooler months. It encourages deep rooting, improves water and nutrient penetration, and promotes growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. There are a variety of techniques you can use to penetrate the soil, such as spiked shoes or spray-on liquids, but to most effectively aerate soil, attach a dethatcher, or a plug aerator behind a riding mower or tractor to remove plugs of soil from 2-3 inches deep.

Mulching
If you prefer not to rake or bag grass or leaves, mulching with a mower is an ideal alternative. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry to avoid damp and wet leaves clumping or building up under mower decks.

Remember that grass needs sunlight in the fall to help store food for winter, so don't wait until your lawn is completely matted down with leaves to mulch. A thin layer of mulched leaves is ideal and helps add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.

Composting
Creating a compost pile allows you to turn organic material into rich soil. The fall season is a good time to create a compost pile with decaying yard matter, such as vegetables, grass clippings and leaves, which can provide nutrient-rich soil for spring planting. For best results, alternate layers of "brown," or high carbon materials, with grass clippings.

Using a rear bagger with your lawn mower or tractor will help make collecting grass clippings a breeze, and adding to your compost pile is as simple as backing up to the spot and unloading. Another optional mower attachment, the lawn sweeper, brushes leaves into a hamper, much like a broom and dustpan.

Taking these steps will prepare your lawn for the winter and help it come back strong, healthy and beautiful in the spring.

Source: John Deere

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Renting a Car over Labor Day Weekend?

August 29, 2014 1:30 am

For those renting a car over Labor Day weekend, it can be confusing, frustrating and downright daunting. Unfortunately, many renters do not even think about car rental insurance until they get to the counter, which can result in either wasting money by purchasing unnecessary coverage or having dangerous gaps in coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Before renting a car, I.I.I. suggests that you make two phone calls—one to your insurance professional and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.

1. Insurance Company
Find out how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car, provided you are using the car for recreation and not for business. If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

2. Credit Card Company
Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card.

Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. You may not have personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Some credit card companies have changed their policies, too, so you may not have as much coverage as you thought.

At the Rental Car Counter
Since insurance is state regulated, the cost and coverage will vary from state to state. Consumers, however, can generally choose from the following coverages:

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)
Also referred to as a collision damage waiver outside the U.S., an LDW is not technically an insurance product. LDWs do, however, relieve or "waive" renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. In most cases, waivers also provide coverage for "loss of use," in the event the rental car company charges the renter for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed. It may also cover towing and administrative fees.

Liability Insurance
By law, rental companies must provide the state-required amount of liability insurance. Generally, these amounts are low and do not provide much protection. If you have adequate amounts of liability protection on your own car, you may consider forgoing additional liability protection. If you want the supplemental insurance, it will cost between $7 and $14 a day.

Personal Accident Insurance
Personal Accident Insurance offers coverage to you and your passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you may not need this additional insurance. It usually costs about $1 to $5 a day.

Personal Effects Coverage
Personal Effects Coverage provides insurance protection for the theft of items in your car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes off-premises theft coverage, you are generally covered for theft of your belongings away from home, minus the deductible. If you purchase this coverage through the rental car company, it generally costs between $1 and $4 a day.

If you frequently travel with expensive items such as jewelry, cameras, musical equipment or sports equipment, it may be more cost effective to purchase a personal articles floater under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. With such a floater, your valuable items are protected at home as well as while traveling anywhere in the world and the coverage is broader.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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