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Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
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Tom's Blog

The Connection Between Joy and Travel

September 8, 2017 1:41 am

(Family Features)--Many facets of travel, such as the anticipation, the experience and even the return trip, can enhance your mood. It can create an element of the unexpected and give you the opportunity to gain new, memorable experiences.

To explore the connection between happiness and travel, and what makes a destination joyous, Bank of America, CondÈ Nast Traveler and happiness expert Shawn Achor created "The Joy Index." Achor delved into the psychology of experiences that awe people and the physiology of adventure to explain the relationship between joy and travel, and identified the 10 most joyous places in the world. He also shared the following tips on how to make travel attainable and maximize the joy of your vacations:

Predictors of Happiness
The Joy Index combined Achor's studies on travel and happiness with existing research from organizations, including the United Nations and Gallup, to identify six "happiness factors" based on the psychology of joy and travel: environment, wellbeing, culture, connection, adventure and wonder. These six factors, which encompass everything from weather to geography and local food to the friendliness of the culture, can have an impact on the joy experienced when visiting a destination.

"The three greatest predictors of happiness are gratitude, social connection and meaning," Achor says. "If you have an amazing life but are not grateful for it, you do not have access to happiness. These three things scientifically improve happiness, but not just for a moment - they change the lens through which you view the world."

Travel's Effect on Happiness
Travel allows you to discover something completely new and unique, which is why it can bring so much joy. According to Achor, the human brain craves novelty.

"The new experiences we have when we travel help us gain perspective and remind us that the world is bigger than our everyday problems," Achor says. "Another reason why traveling makes us joyful is the connection we experience. Traveling allows us to disconnect from our everyday lives and reconnect with the friends and family we are traveling with, as well as locals we meet along the way."

Maximizing Joy on Vacation
Remembering to be grateful is crucial for staying in the moment and finding joy in your trips.

"Try to think about how lucky we are to travel and experience the world. When things don't go your way, such as an inconvenient rainy day, see it as an opportunity to make your experience even more memorable," Achor says.

Putting yourself out there and engaging with the local culture can also be crucial for maximizing the joy of traveling.

"Learning about different stories of people with different cultures than our own helps us realize and understand some of the cool similarities we share and interesting differences based on our backgrounds," Achor said.

Making Travel Attainable
Achor stressed that happiness can be cultivated wherever you are, but to get the most out of a vacation, planning is crucial. Even though traveling can help increase happiness, many opt out of going on trips because of the cost.  This, too, is where planning can help.

Source: Bank of America

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How-to Protect Women from Talc-Related Ovarian Cancer

September 7, 2017 1:08 am

There are many things you can do to help avoid specific types of cancer. Quitting smoking and staying out of the sun, for instance, are simple precautions. But did you know avoiding talc can also reduce your cancer risk?

Approximately 21,000 women are annually diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, making it the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. While there are many factors that can contribute to ovarian cancer, like genetics,  four decades of prospective and retrospective scientific studies have shown a link between talcum powder use and ovarian cancer. In addition, laboratory-based human cellular studies show that the introduction of talcum powder to ovarian tissue produces inflammatory responses associated with cancer.

Following nearly $720 million in court verdicts, Dr. Roberta Ness, a recognized expert in women's health research and former Dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health, advocates, "It is time for doctors and women to realize that more than 40 years of scientific research doesn't lie: there is a link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. This cause is 100 percent preventable."

Dr. Ness is sharing the following tips to help protect women from contracting ovarian cancer as a result of genital talc use:

Look at Labels: It is important to look at the ingredient labels for all body powder products you use on your body. While some body powder products are beginning to include ovarian cancer warning labels on talc products, not all do. If you see talc listed as an ingredient, find an alternative that uses cornstarch.

Product Use: Despite decades of both broad-based and demographically targeted marketing campaigns by large companies, talc-based products should never be used for feminine hygiene purposes. If this talc use is part of your daily routine, stop using it immediately.

Consult Your Doctor: Annual Pap tests do not check for ovarian cancer. If you have ever used talc for feminine hygiene, it is important to consult with your gynecologist about proper monitoring and testing.

Observe Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and women should take time to learn more about this disease. Being aware of the symptoms such as bloating, pelvic pain, feeling full quickly when eating, can help raise red flags in early stages, and increase chances for survival with proper medical treatment.  

If you or a loved one suffer from or have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Dr. Ness recommends connecting with trusted resource and support groups such as the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

"If you have to battle ovarian cancer, it is best to go through that battle with a community of other strong women," says Dr. Ness.  Source: Dr. Roberta Ness

Published with permission from RISMedia.

10 Foods You Should Never Freeze

September 7, 2017 1:08 am

With grocery prices rising, and economies essential, it’s a natural to freeze extra foods and leftovers to keep them fresh and ready for use – and most foods, nutritionists and chefs agree, are none the worse for the big chill.

But some foodstuffs lose not just flavor, but also quality and eye appeal for having served time in the freezer. Here’s a list of 10 foodstuffs not fit for freezing:

Milk – Milk other than non-fat, when thawed from frozen, will almost always be lumpy, okay perhaps for cooking purposes, but not for drinking.

Cheese - Soft cheeses, like ricotta, cream cheese, and goat cheese, will separate if frozen and thawed, changing their texture for the worse. Hard cheeses, like parmesan or cheddar, do better – but they will keep in the fridge for long periods, wrapped in wax paper rather than plastic, so why bother to freeze them?

Other dairy products - Yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk or fresh cream will separate and curdle when thawed from frozen. On the other hand, you can successfully freeze extra butter.

Fresh potatoes – It’s tempting, when you know they will rot or grow eyes if you don’t use them in a timely manner. But freezing, or even refrigerating, fresh potatoes will give you gritty, grainy results.

Leftover gravy – Gravy thickened with flour or cornstarch will separate when thawed from frozen.

Fresh herbs – If you can’t polish off that bunch of basil, parsley or oregano, turn it into pesto or a compound butter to spread on French bread and pop under the broiler. Herbs frozen turn into mushy, brown messes when thawed.

Fried foods – That crispy fried chicken, zucchini or whatever is doomed to collect a lot of moisture in the freezer, thawing as something you may not want to eat.

Cooked pasta – Taken from the freezer, freshly cooked pasta will be a mushy, sticky mess, thoroughly bloated with water.

Whole eggs – The gooey insides may expand when frozen, cracking and potentially leaking. Egg-based foods, like mayo, also should also not be frozen.

Ground coffee – Opened bags of coffee stored in the freezer suffer condensation that can totally ruin the flavor, especially if you thaw it every morning, use a little, and return it to the freezer. You can, of course, safely stow it in the fridge.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Think Twice Before Storing Your Credit Card Information

September 5, 2017 1:59 am

The convenience of saving your credit card information on your favorite sites is so appealing - no more scrambling for your card, no more hassle of having to enter all that information - especially when it comes to purchases made on your mobile device.

According to the Better Business Bureau, however, consumers must take into account the risks involved in storing their credit card info in order to protect themselves and their financial information.

This is an important consideration due to the increasing amount and variety of data theft over the past several years. The theft of personal information from medical insurance companies, restaurants and retailers has understandably made consumers wary about how their information is handled.

The BBB offers the following suggestions for protecting your stored credit card information:

You can say no. In most cases, merchants will ask if you'd like them to keep your number on file. You have the right to say no. If a merchant isn't clear about their policy, then ask about it.

Remove your credit card information. Some online merchants automatically store your credit card info without asking, so after you’ve made a purchase, log into your account and find the option to remove your payment information from a company’s files.  

Stay safe when you’re out and about. Avoid making any transactions over a public Wi-Fi that does not require a password. Hackers can set up a fake network with a name similar to that of the store, coffee shop, retailer or library where free Wi-Fi is offered. If you connect to it, they can get into your files and steal your information. Ask for the name of the location's Wi-Fi network before connecting.

Use credit, not debit. Whether you use a debit or credit card, you are protected from any liability due to fraud. However, with a debit card, cybercriminals can empty your bank account after a data breach.

Keep a close watch on credit and bank statements. Be vigilant about scanning your statements for unusual or unauthorized charges. If anything looks suspicious, call your financial institution right away. In addition, check sites you usually visit to remove your debit or credit card information if you'd prefer to avoid the risks of a data breach.

Hope you found this helpful. If you’re interested in information about the real estate market, please contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Property Damage Repair Tips

September 5, 2017 1:59 am

Thousands of homeowners are feeling the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, while insurance companies and local contractors are overwhelmed with claims. The question remains: how can homeowners get things moving and not be taken advantage of? Paul Davis, one of the top restoration companies in the U.S. shares these tips:

- Call your insurance company ASAP and get a referral for a professional and certified restoration company who will assess property damage and work with you through the process; a company such as Paul Davis who will write a fair estimate that your insurance adjuster will accept, and perform the work efficiently and correctly.

- Turn in the claim as soon as you know you have damage – insurance companies will be assigning losses to their local adjusters, who will quickly reach capacity.

- Restoration companies understand how to write an initial, detailed estimate that your insurance adjuster will accept; they will help you process the payments and they can work with your insurance company if additional damage is discovered during the course of the project.

After contracting with a restoration company:

- Be prepared to provide the name of your insurance company, insurance agent, adjuster, deductible and a claim number.

- Sign the work authorization to begin the emergency work right away. This includes any drying, tarping, board-up, and protection of the contents of the home.

- One way to expedite approval of the repair estimate is to arrange for the insurance adjuster and restoration contractor to assess the damage together.

To help expedite repairs:

- Select items such as new carpet, tile, cabinets, paint colors, and light fixtures as soon as possible. Many of these items have lead times, especially in the aftermath of a major storm, when materials can run short.

- If the payments from the insurance company include your mortgage company, work with your contractor to ensure they process the payments and perform any inspections required, so that the contractor can receive progress payments as the work progresses.

Source: Paul Davis

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Will Your Trees Survive a Storm?

September 4, 2017 1:23 am

Whether it’s a hurricane, Nor’easter, or severe thunderstorm, extreme weather and high winds present a risk to your trees and home. Large trees that are in leaf are particularly susceptible as the leaves will catch more wind, posing greater mechanical stresses.

You can help protect your property in advance by determining which trees might pose the greatest threat during a storm. The Tree Care Industry Association advises looking for the following warning signs:

- Wires in contact with tree branches. Trees may become energized when they are contacted by electric wires.
​- Dead or partially attached limbs hung up in the higher branches that could fall and cause damage or injury.
​- Cracked stems and branch unions that could cause catastrophic failure of a tree section.
​- Hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, or mushrooms growing from the bark that may indicate a decayed and weakened stem.
​- Peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk could also indicate structural weakness.
​- Fallen or uprooted trees putting pressure on other trees beneath them.
​- Tight, V-shaped branch unions, which are much more prone to failure than open, U-shaped unions.
​- Heaving soil at the tree base is a potential indicator of an unsound root system.

If your trees demonstrate any of these signs, trim branches accordingly, or contact an expert to see if the tree needs to be removed altogether. The time and investment of such advance work will help keep you safe and prevent much larger costs associated with damage.

If you’d like more homeownership information, please contact me.

Source: The Tree Care Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.

10 Easy Ways to Live Green

August 31, 2017 1:03 am

Living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is top of mind for more people every day. Happily, it doesn’t take a superhuman effort to do so, and it may even save you a few bucks.

Ecologists suggest simple tips for creating a lifestyle that should help make you – and the planet we live on – proud:

Be coffee savvy – If you brew your own, use a USDA Certified Organic brand, meaning it was grown using sustainable standards. If you stop for coffee every morning, take a reusable cup with you.

Save on printer/copier paper – Whenever possible, print double-sided pages, or re-use sheets of paper for notes, using the blank side before disposing of it.

Start kids young – Train them early to turn off the water while they brush their teeth. Encourage older kids to recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles, redeeming them for cash they may keep.

Slow down and get pumped – Driving 10 mph above 60 is like adding nearly 50 cents to the price of a gallon of gas, since higher speed equals more guzzling – and check your tire pressure monthly. Adding air as needed can improve mileage by about three percent.

Install dimmer switches – Using them judiciously in the living room, dining room and bedrooms can save you up to $35 annually in electricity costs.

Coddle your water heater – Wrapping an insulation blanket around it can lower its running cost by about nine percent a year.

Buy a water filter – Use a faucet-mounted water filter and refillable bottles. By giving up bottled water, a family of four can not only conserve resources, but also save about $1,250 a year.

Recycle jars and plastics – Empty baby food jars are great for storing screws, nails, and craft supplies, larger jars for storing leftover soups and more – and reuse plastic sour cream, cottage cheese and whipped topping containers to send home ‘care packages’ for your guests and/or for all sorts of leftovers.

Get off junk mail lists – Unwanted catalogs are destroying trees for no good reason. Make the calls and get yourself off their mailing lists.

Grab microfiber – Buy a stack of inexpensive microfiber kitchen towels. One microfiber cloth can take the place of 60 rolls of paper towels before it needs replacing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How to Pack Healthier Food for Your Child

August 31, 2017 1:03 am

While you can urge your child to eat healthier at home, once you send them off to school it can be difficult. But what your child eats during the day will fuel their brains for prime learning, so packing their lunch--rather than relying on the school's choices--is something you should consider.

In the following tips, Sodexo lays out ways to add balance and nutrition to school meals and snacks without sacrificing taste and enjoyment.

Think of the food groups when packing or purchasing a healthy, balanced school meal. Whether preparing meals at home or choosing meals at school, remember all foods groups play a role in creating and sustaining optimal health. These include wholesome grains, lean proteins, colorful fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. Look to add variety to your food choices. Instead of relying only on sliced bread, try whole-grain crackers, tortilla wraps or pita bread. Dairy foods are an important source of calcium and vitamin D, and you can help your children meet their three daily servings of dairy with any combination of milk, cheese, and yogurt (single serving, drinkable or squeezable). Pack or choose cut-up fruits and sliced vegetables and enjoy with low-fat dips or portable single-serving sizes of peanut butter or hummus. For more information about food groups and balanced meal planning, check out the ChooseMyPlate educational resources.

Be sure to include a protein source. Protein is an important part of every meal because it provides a source of sustained energy.  As protein foods typically take longer to digest than carbohydrate-rich foods like grains and fruits, adding protein to meals and snacks can help students feel full longer and help them stay focused in the classroom.  And don't forget about breakfast. Consider quick and portable protein sources like peanut butter on whole-grain bread with jam (or soy nut butter or other nut butters), string cheese, hard boiled eggs or a smoothie made with milk or yogurt. Other lunch time protein choices include tuna and lean lunch meats like turkey or chicken; shredded cheese for a salad topping; cottage cheese paired with fruit; and plant-based protein sources like edamame, beans or tofu.

Find creative ways to sneak in fruits and veggies. Add veggies like cherry tomatoes, spinach, broccoli florets, or bell pepper or zucchini slices to pasta salads, or add banana slices to a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread.  Use avocado as a sandwich spread and add lettuce and tomato, or try topping with shredded carrots.

Read labels when choosing treats. The USDA Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act requires schools to offer students snacks and beverages that are lower in calories, sodium and added sugars. Families can implement these same snack and beverage guidelines at home.  Think about the drink. For kids of all ages, water and milk are the best beverage choices. Besides having zero calories, water is a good way to stay hydrated throughout the school day. Milk is an important source of calcium needed to help build strong bones, and is also gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional sports beverages. Look for fat-free or low-fat milk to help manage calorie intake. If your child has a dairy allergy, consider soy milk as a dairy alternative, and be sure to read labels to compare amounts of added sugars.

Source: Sodexo

Published with permission from RISMedia.

5 Tips to Make Sense of Cyber Security

August 31, 2017 1:03 am

(Family Features)--It's no secret that kids have a sense of invincibility. While that trait can bring some endearing reminders of the innocence of childhood, it can also have some highly unfortunate consequences. In the context of cyber security, an action by an unknowing child can impact the entire family.

The majority of U.S. households are filled with devices that pose a potential threat to your personal security. In fact, according to the 2016 Global Consumer Security Survey by Trend Micro, nearly half of households have two or more computers and nearly a third have three or more smartphones. That means the opportunities are plentiful for missteps to occur.

Despite the many benefits of a highly connected world, the potential for danger is strong. The same study found that 65 percent of respondents' computers had been infected with a virus or malware. Other concerns included damage or loss of files, children viewing inappropriate content, cyberbullying and ID or password theft.

While there are plenty of parental controls and blocks available, they aren't foolproof. Educating children about the potential risks and how to avoid them can go a long way toward protecting your family from potential cyber problems.

Open up a conversation with your children about cyber security with these tips from the experts at Trend Micro:

Understand what you're saying yes to. Be involved, knowledgeable and interested in the devices, apps and sites your children use for school and for fun. For sites they use for school, ask their teachers for more information. For apps they're using at home, spend 15 minutes trying it out yourself.

Use privacy settings and features. Make sure you understand what privacy protections your browser or devices offer for your family when your kids are accessing their favorite sites, apps and online services. Many browsers allow you to prevent sites from tracking what you do and where you go online, so spend some time looking at web browser settings to see what privacy options are available to you. Mobile devices also have settings that can restrict apps from knowing your physical location or accessing your camera, microphone, photos or contacts.

Use features and services available within an app or website. Also take a look at the privacy settings available in the specific apps, websites or games your family uses. Most will let you have a private account, which means the whole world won't be able to see what you post or who you're connected to. It also means that people have to ask your permission before they can follow you.

Remember that being online is a public life. Nothing is truly private online. If you and your family keep this in mind, it can help you all think through what you are about to post, like and click on, as well as who you connect with online.

Talk to other families. Other kids or families may have a different definition of what is or isn't "private." Encourage your kids to talk to their friends about how they will respect each other's privacy online. Good friends will understand, think and ask before posting a photo or information about their friends. Talk to other parents about your feelings on privacy, too, and ask for their opinions with the goal of protecting and respecting each other's privacy online.

Source: Trend Micro

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How-to Add More Water to Your Diet

August 30, 2017 1:03 am

While most of us have heard we should be drinking eight glasses of water daily, many of us struggle to hit this mark.  Below are a few tips to help you up your water intake.

Add flavor. A squeeze of citrus, fresh mint or a handful of blueberries can make drinking water a bit more fun. Make sure to keep these twists simple and fresh, and avoid sweeteners (artificial or otherwise), which can have negative health repercussions.

Swap in tea. Unsweetened herbal tea can aid your water consumption, especially if you're steeping the bags yourself, which helps assure there are no sneaky additives. Add a hot cup of herbal first thing in the morning and before bed to squeeze in a few more fluid ounces.

Choose fruit. While this should not replace the water you drink, focusing on a few juicy fruits a day can help keep you hydrated. Try watermelon or oranges for a fresh liquid burst.

Keep it cold. If you enjoy cold beverages, then keeping chilled water around can help you drink it down faster.

Published with permission from RISMedia.





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