Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bedroom Design Ideas for Better Sleep and Comfort

RISMEDIA, September 30, 2010--Creating a relaxing and comfortable bedroom environment is an important part of getting better sleep. Bay Area interior designer Lisa Staprans offers these interior design ideas for bedroom designs that enhance sleep and rejuvenation.

* Keep the bedroom uncluttered. What is in the room should bring you joy and a sense of peace and calm.

* Select artwork that is personal and inspiring.

* Choose bedroom colors that make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Add splashes of color with a beautiful coverlet or pillows made from an amazing textile. Stay away from fussy fabrics.

* Have a variety of lighting options, including ambient and reading lights.

* An upholstered headboard adds comfort and softens the room.

* For stability and harmony, anchor the bed against a wall

* Invest in high quality and beautiful linens: pillows, comforters and mattress pads. They feel great and last longer.

* Have a mix of pillow sizes. Among Staprans' personal favorites is a small Camille travel pillow from McRoskey Mattress Company. She says it's a perfect neck pillow for reading in bed.

* Build your bedroom around a high-quality, comfortable mattress set

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frugal DIY Projects to Make Life Simpler

RISMEDIA, September 29, 2010--Most consumers lead very busy lives. They are used to a world where convenience is a way of life. As saving money becomes more fashionable and necessary, so do ways to make it happen. To help with this, Kim Danger, nationally known savings expert and author of "Instant Bargains," has collaborated with Uniroyal Tire in the creation of a new e-book, "Do-it-Yourself Tips for a Simpler Life," to show consumers time- and money-saving projects everyone can do.

This e-book features the best tips on home improvement, going green in the kitchen, gardening and homemade gifts. Download the free e-book at

Every mom wants a clean kitchen, but many never stop to consider how pricey the products they're using can be. With this in mind, Danger offers up DIY kitchen-cleaning tips that are not only green, but cost effective:

* Cutting boards are a frequently used kitchen item. To clean them naturally, wipe with vinegar and microwave on high for one minute.
* To combat grimy sponges, soak with white vinegar and microwave on high for one minute.
* Remove stuck-on food from pots and pans by making a paste with water and meat tenderizer to coat the area. Allow the paste to sit for a few minutes, then scrub off and rinse.

Gardens don't have to be a luxury reserved for those with green thumbs and ample space. Follow these tips for creating and maintaining a garden that suites your location and needs:

* For windowsill gardens, the most basic thing to start with is herbs. Choose easy plants that you'll use frequently while cooking, such as basil, oregano and parsley.
* If you have a patio or deck, try container gardening. The portability of the containers allows you to adjust plants to receive their optimal amount of sun exposure.
* Grow plants that are the most expensive to purchase in grocery stores.

Who says gifts have to cost a lot of money? Homemade gifts are a thoughtful way to show you care, without breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas:

* Use copies of your favorite handwritten recipe cards to create a personalized cookbook.
* Make a "25 Things I Love About You" book for someone special.
* For kids who love to dress up, fill a large tote with items such as hats, wigs, shoes and accessories that you've purchased from thrift stores and clearance racks.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Home Picture Brightens:

The constant "doom and gloom" news reports might make you feel as if everyone is in foreclosure and that no one is buying any homes. Of course, that is the farthest thing from the truth. In fact, there are some bright spots in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing (previously owned) homes shot up 7.6% in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.13 million units. Another sign of strength is that the median sales prices actually increased, which shows that homes are not being moved due to lower prices. The median sales price rose 0.8% to $178,600.

Sales grew in every region of the country. They rose by 14% in the West, 8% in the Northeast and 5% in the Midwest and South.

The TCAN Players are in rehearsal for Doubt

from:The Center For Arts In Natick
category:Arts and Entertainment
website:More Info
posted:September 26th, 2010

The TCAN Players are in rehearsal for Doubt, the Pulitzer prize-winning play by John Patrick Shanley. Opening night is Friday, November 5 2010.Pictured here are Ron Lacey (Father Flynn), Maggie Nichols (Sister James) and Renee Miller (Sister Aloysius).TCAN Players present Doubt

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Right Decisions Can Save Money During a Move

By Gregory Karp

RISMEDIA, September 25, 2010--(MCT)--Moving a residence is often fraught with high emotions and involves a to-do list a mile long. So, it's tempting to give only passing attention to hiring a mover and the related incidental costs.

That could be a mistake — for your wallet and your peace of mind.

Moving can be quite expensive. A typical full-service interstate move costs about $4,300, while the same in-state move might cost about $2,500, according to the American Moving & Storage Association.

And while the moving industry has many fine companies, it is notorious for fraud and dirty tactics by so-called rogue movers.

Here are tips on making your move with lower costs and less hassle.

CHOOSE A TYPE OF MOVE: You have three basic choices: do-it-yourself, full service and a relatively new hybrid of the two. Going it alone is cheapest, costing the rental price of a truck, gasoline, packing materials and, perhaps, pizza and beer for friends you rope into helping.

With full-service moves, moving within a state is charged by the hour, while moving across state lines is charged by weight and mileage.

With a hybrid move, a mover will drop off a large container at your home for you to pack. It will then load the container onto a truck, drive the belongings to your new location and drop off the container for you to unload. Because you're doing the manual labor of packing and unpacking, it's far less costly than a full-service move.

HIRE A QUALITY MOVER: If you hire help, get at least three price quotes and do homework. Seek recommendations by talking with family and friends, even your Facebook circle. Investigate a company's reputation with the Better Business Bureau (, and possibly the paid-membership site Angie's List ( Check a company's complaint history at the federal government site,

"People think a good reputation equals expensive, but that's not true," said Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving in Los Angeles. "You don't get a good reputation by overcharging people."

For interstate moves, a company's ProMover certification with the movers association is a good sign. The organization in January 2009 started screening movers based on seven criteria. It kicked out some 220 of 3,100 members over the past two years because they didn't measure up, said spokesman John Bisney. See "Find a ProMover" at

"The old rubric 'You get what you pay for' is true more often than not," Bisney said.

Look for two things: A full-service mover should visit your home in person, not give a quote over the phone or online, and should provide a written estimate, experts say.

DECLUTTER: No matter what type of move you're making, taking less stuff is cheaper and less hassle. Set up a staging area, perhaps in a garage, with various piles, such as throw out, recycle, donate and sell.

"If you really love those go-go boots from the 1960s but will never wear them again, take a picture of them and get rid of them," McHolm said. For many items, use the rule of thumb, "If you haven't used it in a year, you probably don't need it."

BE FLEXIBLE: Like airline fares, moving rates depend on when you book. The busiest time for movers, and thus the most expensive time for consumers, is summer weekends near the 15th and 30th of the month.

If you have time flexibility, ask what rates would be for different days or seasons. If you have extreme flexibility, ask about moving standby: waiting until the mover has extra space and needs to fill a truck.

SAVE ON BOXES: Buying new boxes from a moving company is the most expensive choice. Ask if you can buy used boxes from your moving company. NorthStar, for example, gives customers 25 percent off used boxes and then refunds 25 percent if they return boxes in usable condition.

Cheaper yet is finding free boxes, ideally from somebody who just moved. Ask your real estate agent to connect you with other clients who recently moved. Or look on Specialty boxes, such as wardrobe boxes, might be cheaper to purchase at a do-it-yourself moving store, such as U-Haul, than from your mover.

SAVE ON PACKING MATERIALS: If you're packing yourself, fill suitcases, laundry baskets and plastic containers with unbreakable items. Use pillows, scarves and towels to wrap fragile belongings. And you might as well empty your paper shredder into a box to add cushion.

MAIL BOOKS: If you have many books, pack them yourself and ship them at the postal media mail rate. It might be cheaper than paying a mover. A 70-pound box would cost less than $30. You can't send anything with advertisements, so magazines are out. Search for "media mail."

CONSIDER CONSOLIDATION: For long-distance moves, ask about consolidating your stuff on a truck with other people's. Most homeowners can't fill a full-size moving van. You might have to be flexible on delivery dates and times, but consolidation can be cheaper. "Most times it's a huge price difference," McHolm said.

INSURE IT: Check your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy to determine whether it provides coverage for your belongings while in transit. If not, you'll probably want more than the basic free valuation coverage a full-service mover provides. The standard valuation is 60 cents per pound per item. That means breaking a 10-pound, $1,000 stereo system would net you $6. You'll want full replacement-value insurance, which reimburses you what it will cost to replace broken items. But don't necessarily buy that insurance from the moving company. Moving insurance is likely cheaper from a third party, such as, McHolm said.

Be aware that you probably cannot get insurance on boxes you packed yourself. A mover must pack them.

BE PREPARED: Plot out where furniture and boxes will go. The less time movers spend rearranging, the less expensive it will be.

In urban areas, reserve a space or two in front of your new home for the moving truck by parking your own vehicle there ahead of time. If the movers have to park too far away to unload, you could incur a "long carry" surcharge, McHolm said.

STAKE YOUR CLAIM: If you're moving for a job, negotiate the best relocation package you can. Unreimbursed expenses might be tax-deductible. For details, see Publication 521 Moving Expenses at

TIP: Tipping each mover $3 to $5 per hour is customary, said Stephen Coady, marketing manager for Gentle Giant Moving Co. in Somerville, Mass.

For in-depth information on choosing a mover, see the free, downloadable "Make a Smart Move" available at


—Furniture nabbing. A mover essentially holds your belongings hostage, demanding a higher payment to release them.
—Lowballers. Beware of lowball price quote. They could end up costing you as the mover adds various surcharges.
—Instant quotes. Be wary of phone or Internet estimates. Get written, in-home estimates.
—Large down payment. Be suspicious of carriers seeking large deposits. They might take the money and run. Legitimate movers require no deposit or a small "good faith" down payment.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dessert and Dancing - Natick

Dessert & Dancing

Date: 10/1/2010
Address: 1360 Worcester Rd./Route 9 East
Location: Natick, MA
Hours: 8:30 - 11 pm
Cost/Cover: $50 per person
Web Page:
Contact Info: for more details contact Deb at 508-652-4211 or email her at

Details: The 18 piece Beantown Swing Orchestra plays wonderful swing and big band sounds. Arthur Murray Dance Studios will demonstrate several dances and provide free dance lessons. There will be a delicious dessert buffet and a silent auction with a variety of quality items.


Event is on: One day only
Audience: All Welcome
Category: Music, Dance & Comedy
Sponsored By: Kids Connect, Inc.
Submitted by: Deb Sayre

As Fall Begins, so Should Mulching

By Kathy Van Mullekom

RISMEDIA, September 24, 2010--(MCT)--Mulch in the garden provides you with benefits you may not always see.

In addition to deterring weeds, conserving moisture and making your garden look pretty, mulch decomposes to improve your soil and provides a habitat for beneficial micro-organisms and earthworms.

Mulch also helps prevent soil compaction, soil erosion and pollution runoff.

You can mulch any time of the year. If you mulch in spring, fall can be a time to replenish mulch to help stabilize roots during freezing and thawing times in winter.

Mulches can be organic or inorganic.

Organic types include tree bark, wood chips, recycled wood and paper, grass clippings, pine needles, straw, leaf litter, newsprint and animal manure. Check with composting facilities in your area to see if yard debris and leaves are recycled into mulch you can purchase for your yard.

Designer mulches created from pallet or hardwood material and dyed brown, red, black, chestnut, walnut and golden are available in bulk and bagged from commercial mulching sites and garden centers if you want staying power in your color choice.

If you use grass clippings, spread them immediately to avoid heating and rotting.

If you use newsprint, apply four to six sheets together, anchored with grass clippings or wood mulch to prevent blowing away.

If you use fallen leaves, use a mulching mower to turn them into a finer material that decomposes quicker; cover them with a light layer of heavier wood mulch to keep the leaves in place. A light layer of mulched leaves is also beneficial for your lawn, and will not smother the grass.

Inorganic kinds include crushed stone, gravel, plastic sheeting, landscape fabric and recycled tire chips. Beware of some of these because they can harbor too much heat and moisture around plants, and can be difficult to keep clean.


Apply mulch 2 to 4 inches deep; deeper mulch benefits sandy soils that dry out quickly while moist soils need a lighter layer.

Remove old mulch before applying new to avoid a "sinking feeling" for your plants. Too much mulch suffocates plant roots. Work old, aged mulch into new gardens to improve soil.

Keep mulch 3 to 6 inches away from building foundations and away from the base of tree and shrub trunks. Rodents nesting in mulch may chew on bark; mulch too close to your home's foundation could cause the soil to stay too moist.

Acidic mulch like pine bark and pine needles is ideal around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and gardenias.

Hardwood mulches are also beneficial in vegetable gardens. Use them to camouflage soaker hoses that you leave laying on the ground for convenience.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to pick the Perfect Smartphone

By Bridget Carey

RISMEDIA, September 23, 2010--(MCT)--In the past few months we've seen more than a dozen new high-quality smart phones with powerful hardware — and tested them.

So which should you buy? First, decide which service provider you want to use. Not every phone is available from every carrier, and costs for monthly plans can vary significantly. Most phones cost about $200, after rebates and two-year contracts.

That said, software changes quickly, and the carriers are constantly coming out with software upgrades users can download to fix bugs and add features.

But for now, these are the winners in my book:

Larger-than-average screen: HTC Evo 4G on Sprint. Compared to its larger brethren, it's got the best interface and a second camera on the front for video chatting.

Slide-out keyboard: Top-of-the-line choices are AT&T BlackBerry Torch, Verizon Droid 2 and Sprint's Samsung Epic 4G. My pick: Epic for its sharp graphics, spacious keyboard layout, quick and smooth response. It also has an extra camera on the front if you want to video-chat.

Photo-video sharing: The iPhone 4 and HTC's Aria (both AT&T), Evo (Sprint) and Incredible (Verizon). Others new this season, such as the Samsung Galaxy S line of Androids (available on all major carriers), have great cameras, but current software forces all vertical photos to be shared horizontally.

Video watching: It's a toss-up between the iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S line of Android phones. The iPhone 4 offers Netflix (coming soon to Android), and Android has a Blockbuster app for instantly downloading movies. The Galaxy S is soon to feature a Media Hub — which is like an iTunes for Samsung.

Video chats: Three phones — AT&T's iPhone 4, and Sprint's HTC Evo 4G and Samsung Epic 4G — have front-facing cameras that allow video chatting. It's easiest on the iPhone, but as of now, you can only chat with other iPhone 4 users using Wi-Fi. The video chat apps for the Evo and Epic can use improvement, but they have more flexibility on whom you can chat with and where you can chat.

Mostly business: Any of the latest smart phones can sync Outlook e-mail and calendar. Still, the new BlackBerry Torch is especially popular with businesspeople who are addicted to its messaging interface, keyboard with raised keys and blinking red alert light — though it offers limited multimedia functions and few apps.

Overall Champ: When you compare hardware, screen size and sharpness, battery life, an easy-to-use interface and wide choice of apps, the iPhone 4 tops the list (as long as you solve the known antenna problem with a case). A close second: Samsung Galaxy S phones with Android.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Holiday Hit List - See What Toys Are Hot This Year

By Joan Verdon

RISMEDIA, September 22, 2010--(MCT)--Memo to Santa, from Jerry Storch and his team of executive elves at Toys "R" Us headquarters in Wayne, N.J.: Here are the toys we're betting you will see on lots of kids' lists this year.

Toys "R" Us released its annual list of hot holiday toys. The retailer selected three dozen toys it expects will be popular this year, and named 15 of those as the hottest of the bunch.

How do you make the list? "It's the toys that will wow the child on Christmas morning, when they wake up," said Lisa Harnish, a Toys vice president. The list, she said, "is a culmination of a yearlong process." Before the list is finalized, top executives and CEO Storch meet and go through hundreds of nominations "to cull it down to get the strongest possible list."

What are the trends: Toys "R" Us continued its practice of recent years of including low-priced toys, such as Hasbro's Cuponk — a game in which you throw a ping pong ball into a plastic cup, that sells for $14.99 — along with big-ticket items such as the $109 Bigfoot the Monster, a robotic toy by Fisher-Price.

What you should keep in mind about the list: Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Sears and other retailers also prepare their own hot toy lists. The Toys "R" Us list, like those of all retailers, always includes some products sold exclusively at Toys "R" Us, the items the retailer is most likely to be promoting during the holiday season. On this year's top 15 list, four toys are Toys "R" Us exclusives.

Why it matters: The list is an indication of where Toys "R" Us is placing its bets for the fourth quarter. The toys on the list are where the retailer has "gone long," or stocked up, in support of its goal to be the retailer that has the hot toys in stock all the way to Christmas Eve. Last year a big bet on the Zhu Zhu battery-operated hamsters paid off when rivals couldn't get their hands on them. That helped Toys "R" Us lift December same-store sales 4.6 percent.

What's next: 'Tis the season for hot toy lists, and there are a few more on the horizon, the most prominent of which will be released Sept. 28, by, an online toy magazine and website for toy reviews.

Here is the list:

•Calico Critters Luxury Townhouse from International Playthings
•Cuponk from Hasbro Games
•Disney Princess & Me dolls from JAKKS Pacific
•Disney Pixar Toy Story 3 Imaginext Tri-County Landfill from Fisher-Price
•Fast Lane Wild Fire RC from Toys R Us
•Imaginext Bigfoot the Monster from Fisher-Price
•Leapster Explorer from LeapFrog
•Loopz from Mattel
•Minotaurus from LEGO Systems
•Monster High Cleo De Nile and Deuce Gorgon doll set from Mattel
•NERF N-Strike Stampede ECS from Hasbro
•Pillow Pets from Ontel Products
•Sing-a-ma-jigs! from Mattel
•Squinkies Cupcake Surprise! Bake Shop from blip toys
•Tomica Hypercity Mega Station Set from TOMY

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

7 Tips for Fall Tree Maintenance

RISMEDIA, September 21, 2010--Trees are often overlooked during the summer when it comes to watering. Yet, when trees go dormant for autumn and winter – meaning active root growth comes to a standstill – and deciduous trees lose their leaves, they make up for deficits and absorb as much water and nutrients as they can hold. Enter fall's first rains, windstorms and freezes, and homeowners are guaranteed a dose of trouble.

Homeowners are advised to follow seven guidelines this fall to avoid tree problems year round.

#1 Hydrate
Trees with deep root systems typically do not need extra water, while trees with shallow roots do. Your tree is thirsty if it is brown in places, or if some of its branches are dead or brittle. If needed, place mulch at the base of the tree to help the soil retain water.

#2 Plant for all seasons, and for your region
It is best to plant trees that thrive in your home city's weather. Young trees planted in locations subject to harsh weather should be staked until their root balls have grown strong enough to support them. Protect against nibbling animals by placing a small fence around the base. And be sure to check with local jurisdictions on permits needed or other restrictions.

#3 Remove troublemakers
If a tree is located next to a foundation, path or fence, or along an irrigation, sewer or utility line, fall is a good time to move it, or even remove it.

To remove a tree quickly, and effortlessly, a chainsaw can be used to cut the tree down piece by piece (consult an arborist for larger projects or when tree falling has the potential to harm property or people). For safety and efficiency, keep the chainsaw chain sharp. Given that manually sharpening a saw chain can take more than an hour, consider using PowerSharp, a seconds-fast and portable chainsaw sharpening system. PowerSharp is comprised of a unique chain, a bar-mount sharpener, and a guide bar. Used together on the saw, and on the job, these components keep a chainsaw sharp the easy way. To see how it works, visit

# 4 Prune
Fall is the time to prune most trees. With an expert's help or on your own, prune to open up the tree's crown and remove excess limbs and dead or weakened wood. Use your chainsaw to complete the job quicker.

# 5 Remove fallen leaves
Remove fallen leaves to be certain that the base of your tree can "breathe," and to remove a haven for tree-damaging insects. This also assures that any plants below the tree get adequate water and light.

# 6 Spray
If an insect is attacking a tree, fall is the best time to apply dormant spray on fruiting trees.

# 7 Fertilize
Most trees don't require fertilizer although fruiting and flowering trees may benefit from it. Late fall is a good time to fertilize because winter rains will prevent chemical burn. Fertilize after the first frost to prevent new, tender growth from damage.

Requiring very little maintenance in the fall, trees provide strong focal points to landscapes. Deciduous trees present various colors and appearances throughout the year, and evergreens breathe life and color year-round. Take care of your trees and you will enjoy them for years to come.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Trends in Kitchen Designs

By Jean Patteson

RISMEDIA, September 18, 2010--(MCT)--Kitchens have long been among the most popular remodeling projects. But with fewer clients requesting kitchen upgrades during this recession, one kitchen designer has turned the economic slowdown to her advantage.

"If I couldn't remodel as many client kitchens as usual, I decided to remodel my own showroom. That way, I'd be ready to show the latest trends and the most exciting new products when this down period ends," said Joan DesCombes, president of Architectural Artworks in Winter Park, Fla.

The result is a showroom fitted with latest looks and innovations in cabinetry, counter tops and appliances from upscale lines such as SieMatic, Sub-Zero, Wolf and Miele. Add state-of-the-art lighting and electronics, and you have the essential elements for the 21st-century dream kitchen.

Of course, not every budget can afford those high-end brands. But, as with fashion and automobiles, the top-of-the-line products set the trends. The styles, materials, colors and technical advances seen in luxury showrooms today inspire the more-affordable versions that show up in the big-box stores tomorrow.

Most strikingly, Descombes' model kitchens don't look like typical, traditional kitchens. Appliances are fully integrated into the cabinetry. You see no telltale dishwasher dials and switches, no refrigerator door handles and ice-dispensers. Or fridges and ovens are designed to look like the freestanding cabinets or sideboards. Even the sophisticated finishes and colors on cabinetry seem more like those you'd find in an elegant living room than the kitchen.

That's because the kitchen has become a kind of surrogate living room in today's homes, said DesCombes. It's where families, cook, eat, relax and entertain. And in today's open-plan home designs, homeowners prefer kitchens that blend with adjacent spaces — living and dining areas, bars and patios.

"We spend a lot of time in the kitchen," said Judy Yarmuth of Winter Park, Fla., whose kitchen was recently renovated by the Architectural Artworks team. "It's the center of the house. We have a lot of dinner parties. While I'm cooking, it's the place to be."

The entire kitchen was designed around the refrigerator, she said. But hers is no ordinary icebox. Designed to look like a classic Chinese wedding cabinet with a walnut finish, it is typical of the freestanding pieces likely to become popular in coming seasons.

"It's stunningly beautiful and different," said Yarmuth. Together with a backsplash of tan/gold Jerusalem stone behind the range and a massive slab of dark wenge wood set into the stone-composite island, the refrigerator cabinet warms up the otherwise white-on-white kitchen "and makes it just yummy."

Of course, a dream kitchen doesn't just look beautiful. "It has to function for each individual client," said DesCombes. "I need to know all about their lifestyle. Are they great cooks, don't cook, use caterers? Do they have pets and where do they keep the dog food? Everything."

When she redesigned the kitchen in the Melbourne Beach, Fla., house of Charlie and Carol Draper, she replaced the enclosed, traditional design with an open, low-maintenance space. She also installed horizontal-grain cabinets with stainless-steel channels in lieu of hardware, which draw the eye across the room to the panoramic ocean views.

"It's an incredibly workable kitchen," said Carol Draper. "Joan moved the island a little. She got rid of some cabinets so the eating area was no longer separate. Now the whole thing just flows. When you're cooking, it doesn't even seem like work."

Counter tops: Stainless steel, antiqued marble, lava stone, wood, concrete, mosaics and flamed granite with a textured, matte finish.

Cabinetry: Fewer overhead cabinets. Lift-up or sliding doors, self-closing drawers, glass-fronted cabinets and glass shelving, tracks inside doors for attaching storage accessories, pantires with multiple storage options. Fresh finishes, from smooth, high-gloss and matte lacquer, to textured, horizontal-grain laminates.

Appliances: Free-standing accent pieces and fully-integrated designs that blend with cabinets. Fridges with more crisper space, less freezer space; combination gas/electric ranges; designer range hoods; super-quiet dishwashers; specialty sink faucets; luxury items such as warmer drawers for coffee mugs.

Lighting: Combinations of soft incandescent, bright halogen and cool, energy-efficient LED bulbs.

Colors: Warm neutrals such as walnut, slate, sand, greige, celadon and magnolia.

Architectural elements: Wall niches and bump-outs for housing coffee machines, juicers, dinnerware, herbs, spices and collectibles.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Open House Sunday 12-2 - Updated Antique Colonial

New Natick Listing - Open House Sunday 2-4

Tips to protect against the Flu before it arrives

By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, September 17, 2010--The flu season is just around the corner, and just like the approaching fall weather, the illness itself can be very unpredictable.

Seasonal influenza, or the flu, is an extremely contagious respiratory infection and often includes symptoms like high fever, cough, and full body aches. Flu symptoms are more severe than those of colds and can cause medical complications that result in an average of 36,000 deaths each year.

To that end, here are some easy steps each person can take to protect against the flu:

Monitor flu outbreaks in your community - Google Flu Trends and the CDC offer weekly updates on areas that show increased cases of influenza.

Encourage frequent hand washing - flu viruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so frequent hand washing can help to protect against the influenza viruses, and can protect people from other germs that can cause further complications.

Cover coughs and sneezes - the flu virus is most easily spread from one person to another through inhaling respiratory droplets expelled by ill persons. Covering coughs and sneezes traps the germs, and keeps the spread of germs to a minimum.

Get a flu vaccine - this year's flu vaccines have already been released, are completely new formulations for this year's strains, and include the H1N1 vaccine as well as seasonal influenza in one easy dose.

Seek medical attention for those who display flu-like symptoms - individuals who begin feeling ill, have a high fever, and complain of fatigue should have a medical evaluation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

7 in 10 Americans are Optimistic About the Future of Household Finances

RISMEDIA, September 14, 2010--Despite the economy's sluggish recovery, a new national survey from Weber Shandwick with KRC Research found that nearly seven in 10 Americans (69 percent) have an optimistic outlook about their household finances for the next two years. Nearly one quarter (23 percent) are very optimistic.

Since the downturn two years ago, the vast majority of Americans (81 percent) say they are more responsible with their household's money today than two years ago, with nearly half (46 percent) considering themselves much more responsible. Many indicated they've changed their financial habits, including buying items on sale (80 percent), becoming more concerned about saving money (78 percent) and learning how to budget better (68 percent). In fact, Americans say they are more likely today to be "saving as much as possible" than before the financial downturn (42 percent vs. 33 percent, respectively).

Moreover, six in 10 report they are likely to continue the savings and spending patterns they started when the downturn began as soon as the economy recovers.

Women, on average, are more optimistic than men about their household financial future over the next two years (72 percent vs. 65 percent, respectively), more likely than men to have turned to family for help managing their finances over the past two years (59 percent vs. 50 percent), and more likely than men to feel in more control of their household's financial destiny today compared to two years ago (35 percent vs. 27 percent).

Few Americans relied on the help of an expert over the last two years. The survey found that a small segment leaned more than usual on financial advisors (19 percent) or their banks (17 percent) to help manage their household budget or finances.

"On the second anniversary of the financial collapse, Americans have a mostly positive outlook on their financial futures although many report not feeling in control just yet. Interestingly, few have turned to professional resources for help. This begs the question of what can be done differently by financial institutions, advisors and others to effectively promote the resources available to empower Americans," said Barbara Iverson, president of Weber Shandwick's Financial Services practice group.

Financial services organizations should consider how they can turn their customers' optimism into empowerment by helping them budget better and making financial advisors more available to answer questions. Engaging customers online may be one area for the financial industry to further explore. While only 17 percent of Americans in the survey reported using social media during the past two years to obtain information on managing their finances, the nationwide trend of social media usage is rising exponentially.

"Done well, a social media presence puts a face on an organization and helps engender trust, confidence and a sense of community," Iverson said. "Building a strong following on networks such as Facebook and Twitter can also help financial services organizations address customer dissatisfaction and mistrust. In our survey, nine percent of Americans posted or tweeted comments or complaints about their finances online. While these 'badvocates' represent a small group, their potential to cause damage to their financial institutions could be considerable."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Preparing Your Home for the Fall Season

By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, September 13, 2010—This year has certainly flown by, and now, with fall around the corner, it’s a great time to start prepping your home for the cooler months. From water leaks to the chimney, it’s better to be ready for the cold season…before it hits.

Here, State Farm offers up some fall maintenance tips for your home:

Check all window and door locks for proper operation
* Windows that can be opened by breaking the glass and unlocking them, are less effective deterrents to criminals. Check with the hardware store for window lock alternatives.
* All exterior doors should have deadbolt locks.

Make sure there are working nightlights at the top and bottom of all stairs
Other safety ideas for stairs:
* Tile and painted wood or concrete stairs can be slippery when wet or when a person's shoes are wet. Resurface the treads with slip-resistant strips near the stair nosing.
* All stairs of at least three risers should have a handrail.
* Do not store items on the stairs.

Have a heating professional check your heating system every year
Woodburning stove connector pipes and chimneys should be inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least annually.

Replace your furnace filter
Furnace filters need to be replaced frequently to allow your heating and cooling systems to operate properly.

Run all gas-powered lawn equipment until the fuel tank is empty
By doing this, you are removing flammable liquid storage from your garage. At the same time, make sure you aren't storing dirty, oily rags in a pile. They can ignite spontaneously.

Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the flues and check your fireplace damper
Soot and creosote, which build up inside the chimney, can ignite when a fire is lit in the fireplace.

Remove bird nests from chimney flues and outdoor electrical fixtures
Bird nests on top of light fixtures are a fire hazard. Bird nests in chimney flues can prevent a proper venting of combustion gases and can catch fire from sparks. You should exercise great caution when working on your roof or consider hiring a qualified professional to take care of any work that needs to be done.

Make sure the caulking around doors and windows is adequate to reduce heat/cooling loss
Check glazing for loose or missing putty or glazing compound. This will also help reduce water damage to the windows and door frames.

Make sure that the caulking around your bathroom fixtures is adequate to prevent water from seeping into the sub-flooring

Check for cracked or missing caulk around the base of your toilet, bath tub, and bathroom cabinets. Properly sealing gaps between your bathroom fixtures and flooring material can prevent damage.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

South Natick Antique - Price Reduction -Open House 1-3

Its still a tough labor market, but the outlook is improving

By Robert Gavin

Globe Staff / September 12, 2010

Yahoo! Buzz ShareThis .The state’s labor market has only begun to recover from a deep recession, but job seekers can look forward to prospects that are much improved from a year ago. Massachusetts is enjoying broad-based employment growth and its strongest economic recovery in nearly 30 years. Over the past six months, the state has added 60,000 jobs, easily outpacing the rate of national job growth and quickly regaining more than one-third of the nearly 170,000 jobs lost in the recent recession

“The outlook is very encouraging,’’ said Joanne Goldstein, state secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. “We’re seeing it in the data, and anecdotally, we’re hearing more and more about people who are applying for jobs, getting call backs, interviews, and even jobs.’’

That, of course, is a dramatic improvement from 2009, when employers slashed jobs by the tens of thousands and the unemployment rate climbed more than 2 percentage points before peaking in January at 9.5 percent, a 33-year-high.

Since January, the state has added jobs every month. Private employment has grown at a 4 percent annual rate, about three times the national pace, while the state unemployment rate has declined to 9 percent — a half-point below the US average.

“There are people getting jobs, and job growth has been strong,’’ said Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economics professor at Northeastern University.

Massachusetts has been helped by an economy that depends more on technology, health care, and education, and less on construction, housing, and consumer goods, which were hardest hit in the recent recession. Although battered, the state’s key industries emerged from the downturn largely intact.

Education services, which includes colleges and universities, has experienced the strongest job growth over the past year, increasing employment by 7 percent, according to state statistics. Jobs in technology sectors expanded between 1 and 2 percent. Health care employment grew by about 1 percent. Hotel and restaurant employment increased by about 5 percent.

At Winter, Wyman Cos., a Waltham staffing firm, job orders have surged 77 percent from a year ago, with the strongest demand from the technology, pharmaceutical, and health science industries, said Scott Ragusa, president of the firm’s contract business. In a particularly hopeful sign, Ragusa added, companies are also seeking to hire recruiters.

Companies tend to hire recruiters only when they have several openings, Ragusa said, and orders to fill recruiting jobs have jumped more 60 percent since last summer.

“It’s definitely different than last year, when we were losing people faster than we were adding them,’’ said Ragusa. “It’s night and day.’’

Still, said Ragusa, many employers are hiring cautiously, concerned about the durability of the recovery. Over the past several weeks, the national economy has slowed considerably as the impact of federal stimulus programs has faded, and Massachusetts is likely to follow, according to economists.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high, both nationally and in Massachusetts.

Competition for jobs is also fierce, especially in hard-hit industries such as manufacturing, construction, and retail, said Clayton-Matthews, the Northeastern professor. Even though these sectors have rebounded in recent months, there are still far more unemployed workers than jobs.

Massachusetts construction firms, for example, shed 35,000 jobs, or about one in four, during the recession. So far, the sector as regained fewer than 7,000 jobs, while unemployment in many building trades remains above 20 percent.

Continuing decadeslong trends, said Clayton-Matthews, the greatest job opportunities will come in technology- and knowledge-based industries that demand higher levels of education and skills. But Goldstein, the state labor secretary, stressed that these industries not only need scientists and engineers, but also support staff.

“The PhD in biochemistry still needs someone to work in the lab, order equipment, and run the computer,’’ said Goldstein.

Many of these jobs require skills and education beyond high school, Goldstein said, and many job seekers might benefit from additional education and training through university, community college, and other programs. Information about such programs is available at the One-Stop Career Centers throughout the state.

Despite the improved outlook, Goldstein acknowledged that the labor market remains tough. She urged job seekers to use all resources available, include career centers, support groups, and professional networks. Most important, she said, “Have hope and determination.’’

Robert Gavin can be reached at

Friday, September 10, 2010

5 Tips for Fall Lawn, Tree and Shrub Care to Prep for Spring

By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, September 10, 2010--Now that fall is fast approaching, it's time to start thinking about preparing your lawn for the winter months and even the spring.

According to TruGreen, it's important that homeowners understand how to care for their lawns, trees and shrubs in fall before the end of the growing season. The experts at TruGreen offer five fall green space tips to homeowners to better prepare their outdoor living rooms for spring's vigorous growth.


Thoroughly walk your property and inspect lawn, trees and shrubs as these plants prepare for dormancy in late fall and early winter. Identify problem areas in need of treatment, pruning or replacement. Note patchy areas, where grass has thinned out or is in need of valuable nutrients and appears as light green. Also look for weed and pest infestations and overgrown shrubs and trees, especially those with the potential for interfering with roof and power lines. Consider a qualified expert, such as TruGreen, to properly gauge your lawn and landscape needs.


Help your lawn breathe through fall core aeration to strengthen roots and to prepare for a hardy spring workout. Conduct corrective pruning of trees and shrubs in fall to enhance plant appearance and vigor, and thin rather than top-shear and overgrown shrubs and flowering trees to preserve their overall shape.


Fall's favorable weather conditions, as well as moist and warm soil temperatures, create the ideal opportunity for successful seeding of bare lawn areas and overseeding of healthy grass to improve your lawn thickness and density. Replace dead or floundering plants in fall for a healthier landscape and improved curb appeal in spring.


Mow your lawn into the fall and avoid removing more than one-third of the leaf blades with each cut. Return grass clippings and back to the soil for added lawn nutrients and use tree leaf compost to nourish plants.


A good fall feeding gives roots of lawns, trees and shrubs the energy needed to prepare for a healthy spring green revival. Keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn. Use a trained specialist, such as TruGreen, for insect and disease control measures customized to your region to help trees and shrubs thrive.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ten Ways to Protect Your Child from Cyberbullies

RISMEDIA, September 9, 2010--Cyberbullying has quickly turned into a pandemic on the web, causing severe emotional and psychological pain to children. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, over 40% of all teenagers with Internet access have reported being bullied online.

Cyberbullies seek to terrorize or humiliate perceived enemies and rivals under the cloak of anonymity, and with the proliferation of social media tools and multiple points of connection to the Web, they have an ever-expanding array of opportunities to achieve their goals. This activity presents a daunting challenge to parents who want to ensure their children's safety in today's technology-driven communications environment. Simple tips that worked in the past are fast-becoming ineffective: it's no longer sufficient to block access to specific websites, messaging programs, social networks, or computer use altogether.

Parents can gain important insights into their children's digital lives by communicating with them about this important topic, and better monitoring their web, email and mobile phone activity. Here are 10 tips for parents to help protect their children from cyberbullies and other online dangers:

1. Start by talking with your children about their online activities and the dangers of cyberbullying - set their expectations by discussing your views on monitoring their Internet and smartphone use

2. Set up Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your children's names on the Web

3. Friend your children on Facebook and monitor their privacy settings so you are able to view their profile and activity

4. In addition to Facebook, cyberbullies use other social networking sites like Twitter to post hateful messages. Familiarize yourself with these sites and set up an account to enable you to routinely search what others are saying about your kids

5. Inform teachers if you suspect your child is being cyberbullied. Teachers are among the first to notice important changes in children's behavior, and it's possible the bully may be a classmate

6. Consider implementing parental monitoring software on your home computers and children's smartphones
7. Many school districts also now use computer monitoring software on all classroom computers. Check with your school principal, PTA or school board to ensure these tools are in use at your child's school

8. Prohibit your children from having multiple e-mail addresses, screennames and social networking accounts

9. Prohibit your children from using geolocation tools and apps on Facebook and smartphones

10. Always be observant as your children use electronic communications tools. Changes in habits, such as frequency and timing of use, mood swings and other indicators, could be a sign that your child is being bullied or a target of other online mischief

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pending Homes Sales Soar

Pending sales of previously owned U.S. Homes rose unexpectedly in July, according to the National Association of Realtors. This index which is based upon contracts signed in July but not yet closed, increased 5.2 percent after the previous month saw a decline of -1.6%. The market was expecting another decline in the -1.5% range considering that the home buyer tax credit does not apply to any of these new purchase contracts.

While the housing market is far from being fully recovered, this is a very strong reading and is indicative of a market where we enjoy the lowest 30 year fixed rates that we have ever seen and a pool of very good inventory to select from.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Natick Pricing Overview

Active Listings in Natick, MA

           Avg Price     Avg $/ft   to $250k  $251k - $500k  $501k - $750k   $751k + 

Single   $585,070       $257           2                56                    25                 26

Condos $389,423       $261         18                61                      4                   3

Mulit-    $489,125      $180          -                   5                       3                   -
Comm   $247,397         $7           15                 2                       -                    1

Lots/  $1,109, 000                         -                  7                      2                    4

SPECIAL TUESDAY OPEN HOUSE 5 - 7, 453 Harvard Road, Bolton MA

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Is Mildew?

Black, gray or brown areas on the surface of paint or caulk.

Possible Cause:

Forms most often on areas that tend to be damp, and receive little or no direct sunlight (walls with a northerly exposure and the underside of eaves are particularly vulnerable).

Use of a lower quality paint, which may have an insufficient amount of mildewcide.

Failure to prime bare wood before painting.

Painting over a substrate or coating on which mildew has not been removed.


Test for mildew by applying a few drops of household bleach to the discolored area; if it disappears, it is probably mildew.

Remove all mildew from surface by scrubbing with a diluted household bleach solution (one part bleach, three parts water);

wear rubber gloves and eye protection.

Power washing is also an option.

Rinse thoroughly, prime any bare wood then apply one or two coats of top quality exterior paint, which typically contains mildewcide.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Five Smart Reasons to Buy a Home Now

RISMEDIA, September 4, 2010--The economy is stabilizing. Home prices are holding. It's not just as good a time as ever to buy a house. It's one of the best times ever.

1. Low mortgage rates serve as an equity shock absorber. When buyers borrow at today's record-low rates, they start building equity as soon as they close. That means they have a little give to absorb a few ups and downs as the still-recovering housing market gains traction.

2. Houses are in move-in condition. Homeowners have continued to spend on maintenance and repair, according to the Harvard Joint Center on Housing. Homeowners who have been holding back kept their houses in good shape while they waited. As those houses enter the market, they are in marked contrast to tattered foreclosures.

3. Terrific houses are coming on the market. Foreclosures are finally starting to clear the system – and this is just the opportunity that owners of many desirable properties have been waiting for.

4. Appraisal regulations are finally aligned with market realities. Fannie Mae has adjusted its appraisal guidelines...again. Now that appraisers have more flexibility to set values that reflect the current market, today's deals will make it over the finish line.

5. Plenty of programs. Homes are more affordable than they have been for years, but communities have stuck by "workforce housing" programs that encourage middle-class families to buy houses. Buyers who qualify can get a big boost by combining one of these programs with today's low mortgage rates.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tips for Homeowners in the Path of an Approaching Storm

RISMEDIA, September 2, 2010--With the possibility that Hurricane Earl may strike the Eastern Seaboard, the Private Client Group division of Chartis is reminding homeowners that advance planning can make the difference between minor damage and catastrophic property loss. Private Client Group insures owners of large, complex residences as part of its property/casualty program for high-net-worth families, yet all homeowners can benefit from these practical tips to help minimize damage:

When a Hurricane Is Forecast for Your Area
1. Install storm shutters and secure your garage door.
2. Move personal possessions to the center of your home, away from windows
and doors. Elevate your belongings as much as possible in case water pools on the floor around windows and doors.
3. Remove window treatments from windows and French doors. In the event draperies cannot be removed, elevate or secure/encase the lower portion of drapes in plastic.
4. Roll up area rugs and move them to the center of your home. Elevate them if possible.
5. Place towels at the base of terrace doors.
6. Remove all patio furniture from your yard or terrace, and store it in your garage or house. Remove potted plants, lawn ornaments and sculptures and store them indoors.
7. Fill the fuel supply for your back-up electrical generator. Test the generator under load to ensure it is functioning properly.
8. Place important documents, i.e. insurance policies, bank account information, credit card information, important contact numbers, etc. in a plastic container to ensure their availability after the storm passes.

After a Hurricane
1. If you discover water in your home, contact a restoration company immediately to begin the water extraction process.
2. Run the air conditioner to dehumidify your home.
3. Remove any wet items and store them in the garage, if possible.
4. Call your insurance agent or broker to report any damage.