Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
July 23, 2013 4:02 am
Improvements in container gardening equipment and techniques have cleared the way for even the most “brown thumb” city dwellers, and anyone without a yard, to grow their own groceries.
“There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants a garden from having one,” says Roy Joulus, CEO of Greenbo.
“Plants add a great deal to our quality of life – from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they’re convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.”
While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, Joulus says starting a balcony garden needn’t cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you’ll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.
He offers these tips especially for balcony gardeners:
Plant the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have:
Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn’t get that much sun?
• Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or lightly shaded all day.)
• Remember, pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive. Plants in regions with short growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day.
Choose the right pots:
• Bigger pots require less water and are less likely to blow over on high-rise balconies where the winds can be fierce. Terra cotta allows moisture to escape fairly quickly, which is helpful for people who like to water a lot. Non-porous plastic or glazed pots hold water longer and are better for windy balconies, where soil dries out quickly. Use brightly colored containers to add style and visual interest to your garden.
• Most vegetable plants require even watering – don’t let them dry out completely and don’t keep them soggy. Apply water directly to the soil.
• Make sure your containers have drainage holes or a drainage system. If they have an attached tray to catch excess water, don’t allow the plants’ roots to sit in the water, which promotes rot and fungus. Either empty the tray regularly, or use a design that holds the water away from the roots.
Use the right dirt:
• It’s important to use dirt that allows for good drainage. Most edible plants don’t like to sit in wet dirt, and soil without good drainage tends to become compacted – a difficult medium for plants that like to stretch their roots out. You can buy a sterile soilless potting mix, a soil-based potting mix, or mix up your own batch using 1 part compost, 1 part perlite and 1 part potting soil.
• Don’t use garden soil or top soil, which won’t allow adequate drainage.
• On windy balconies, top-dress your container with small rocks to keep the soil from drying out so quickly.
Joulus offers one more tip for high-rise dwellers: Rely on self-pollinating plants, or plants that don’t need pollination by insects, unless you’re willing to hand-pollinate.
“You likely won’t see many bees buzzing around the 40th story,” he says.
Don’t worry about pollination for root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes. Some self-pollinators include beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.
July 23, 2013 4:02 am
Valid contract. One that meets all requirements of law, is binding upon its parties, and is enforceable in a court of law.
July 23, 2013 4:02 am
A: While more buyers now use the Internet to gain access to listings, or available properties for sale, it is still a good idea to use an agent. The agent brings value to the entire process: he or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in the real estate transaction.
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
(BPT)—These days, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the multitude of sources offering money-saving tips. It seems like everyone has a hot new tip or an old tried-and-true method you just have to try. Unfortunately, trying to keep up with them all can actually be counter-productive to your savings goal because you aren't able to dedicate enough time and effort to see substantial results.
So how do you choose which tip to focus on? The answer is easy. Look at your personal lifestyle to figure out the savings tactic that will work best for you.
For the serial over-achiever
Sure, you probably have the energy to coupon "til the cows come home," but that is not the most efficient use of your time. Try setting a goal. Your first step should be to figure out how much you would like to save each month so you can stop yourself once you hit that goal. Of course saving more than what you estimated would be great, but it's important to maintain a healthy coupon/life balance.
And don't be afraid to multitask! "When I was working full time, I would use my breaks and lunch to cut out the coupons I would need to shop and sometimes also shop on my lunch hour," says Jennifer Williams, founder of "My Frugal Wife" blog. Cutting coupons while you eat or while the kids are doing homework means you aren't skipping important parts of your day to get couponing done.
The important thing is to manage the time you spend couponing so that it does not add stress to your already-busy life.
For the rewards program skeptic
You may think that the concept of saving is all well and good, but when it comes to the practice of participating in rewards programs you are not sure that the effort matches the savings.
This can be true, especially if you try to juggle too many programs at once. Participating in more rewards programs does not necessarily mean more savings. In fact, there are an average of 21.9 rewards program memberships per household in the U.S., according to the 2013 Colloquy Loyalty Census, yet individuals are only active in 44 percent of the rewards programs they are signed up for.
Save more by focusing your efforts on the right program for you. "Find a program that allows you to save on your most frequent purchases," says Heather Brickell, founder of "My Sweet Savings" blog. "A rewards program such as the Fuel Rewards Network(TM) program - or FRN(TM) program - is valuable because your savings pay off at the pump - one of the hardest places to save money or get a discount."
The FRN program allows you to redeem rewards for fuel savings at participating Shell stations. There are multiple ways to earn rewards through everyday purchases of things like food, clothing and household goods.
Participating in a program that allows you to earn rewards without having to step outside of your normal routine can help you save regularly without the stress.-
For the on-the-go lifestyle
Don't have time to spend hours cutting coupons or scouring the Internet for deals? No problem. If you are constantly on the go, but still looking to save money, Brickell suggests looking into downloadable smartphone apps that will allow you to save money on everything from clothing, dining out, and travel. "Apps are easy to use and many retailers and even restaurants will scan discount codes right from your smartphone," says Brickell.
Download a few choice apps and begin scanning them whenever you have a free moment in your day. It's quick and easy because, let's face it, your phone never leaves your side.
Just remember, if you are doing something - anything - to save, then count that as a success! You can create a consistent stream of savings without having to spend all of your time worrying about making it happen. For example, Wayne Wesley, an everyday consumer from Florida who commutes 60 miles per day for work, also takes advantage of the FRN program's ease of use. "I am not the kind of person who would use coupons or spends a lot of time hunting for bargains," says Wesley, who estimates he's saved more than $500 using the FRN program over the past year. "But I earn rewards at my grocery store each week and usually save between 35 and 95 cents per gallon when I fill up. It's an easy way I save money each month without much effort."
The bottom line is that you can cut costs and save in a way that works for you. Don't let time or multiple rewards programs and savings tactics overwhelm you; just pick the one that is right for you and stick with it. The savings can really add up over time!
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
(Family Features)--It's that time of year again when the year's biggest movies begin invading theaters. But big movies can also mean big lines and big bucks.
Sometimes, it's just more convenient and affordable to have a movie night at home. Hosting an at-home movie night can be even more fun than taking a trip to the theater if you make it a "Modern Movie Night." Here are some tips to help put a new spin on a movie night at home:
Plan Ahead - The official Redbox mobile app lets you browse movies and reserve them for pickup, right from your phone. You can even see which boxes have your favorite movies. Pick the closest box and a copy will be reserved for you.
Spruce Up Your Snacks - One of the best things about the theater experience is the delicious snacks. But you can make what you eat at home just as good by putting a modern spin on old favorites. For example, once your popcorn has cooled, add M&M'S to give it a colorful, delicious new look.
Digital Movie Buzz - Don't just plop on the couch for the evening. Get together with family and friends and enjoy some digital fun before the movie starts. Guess The Movie app or MovieCat challenge you with quizzes and classic movie questions. You can even compare your own review of favorite movies with scores from Rotten Tomatoes.
If the flick is a bust, live tweet funny commentary while you watch or write your own movie reviews at moviequotesandmore.com. Try playing the popular movie trivia game SceneIt or play Charades using Vine video clips. You can also check out cast info on the IMDB app. End the evening with a movie discussion and your house may become everyone's favorite home theater.
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
Whether from a supermarket, farm stand, or your very own garden, fresh fruits and vegetables are highlights of summertime. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reminds you that safe handing of produce and fresh-squeezed juice is especially important because these foods are often consumed raw. What's more, foodborne bacteria multiply faster in warm weather – making food safety even more important as temperatures rise.
Follow these tips to prevent food poisoning from produce and fresh-squeezed juices:
Buy right. Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged. When selecting pre-cut produce, choose only those that are refrigerated or on ice. Bag fresh fruits and vegetables and keep them separate from raw meat, poultry, and seafood in your grocery cart and shopping bags.
Store properly. Keep perishable fresh fruits and vegetables refrigerated at 40°F or below, including all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.
Wash thoroughly. Wash all produce under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. For pre-packaged produce, look on the package – if it says pre-washed and ready-to-eat, you can use it without further washing. And remember: even if you plan to peel produce, it's important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren't transferred from the outside to the inside when you cut into it.
Prepare safely. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating. And if it looks rotten, discard it.
Prevent cross contamination. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water between preparing raw meat, poultry, and seafood and preparing produce that will not be cooked. Consider using separate cutting boards – one for meat, poultry, and seafood and a separate one for fruits and vegetables. If you use plastic or other non-porous cutting boards, run them through the dishwasher after each use. And always wash hands before and after preparing food!
Four Steps to Food Safety:
- Clean hands and surfaces often;
- Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods, particularly ready-to-eat foods;
- Cook to safe temperatures; and
- Chill foods promptly
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
Undivided interest. Ownership by two or more persons that gives each the right to use the entire property.
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
A: There are a few things to consider, including cost, individual needs, and what will add value down the road. Also important: your emotional attachment to the existing home.
As designer and builder Philip S. Wenz, the author of Adding to a House: Planning, Design & Construction, notes, an addition is much cheaper than building a new home and can offer a “new” home without the heartache of moving.
Can you finance the home improvement with your own cash or will you need a loan?
How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.
Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?
What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.
Are there affordable properties for sale that would satisfy your changing housing needs?
Explore your options. Make sure your decision is one you can live with – either under the same roof or under a different one.
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
It’s no longer just celebrities, world-class athletes and alternative-lifestyle hippies turning to green smoothies and freshly juiced vegetable and fruits for improved health, says nutritionist and juicing pioneer Cherie Calbom, MS.
“People from all walks of life are looking for proven ways to lose weight, energize, sleep better, strengthen their immune systems, and have brighter skin and a younger appearance. They’re also juicing to help their bodies heal from a variety of ailments,” says Calbom, author of a new book full of juicing tips, tricks and recipes, “The Juice Lady's Big Book of Juices and Green Smoothies.”
“No matter your diet, juicing offers a shot of goodness – nutrition, minerals, phytonutrients and more – that you might not otherwise get,” Calbom says.
Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been juicing awhile and want to optimize the experience, Calbom shares some important pointers that will help.
• Fruits & veggies happiness studies: Plenty of new research shows that adding more produce to your daily diet can benefit your mental health and sense of well-being. In one analysis of the eating habits and moods of 80,000 British adults, researchers at Dartmouth and the University of Warwick found that those who consumed the most fruit and vegetables every day rated themselves as significantly happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who ate lesser amounts. Research shows that the well-being score for people who ate seven to eight servings of vegetables and fruits per day was consistently three points higher than for those who ate little or none.
• More studies ... Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded from a study of 982 Americans that those who exhibited the most optimistic outlooks on life also had the highest blood levels of carotene, a key antioxidant that’s delivered by a colorful array of produce: dark green spinach and kale, carrots, and sweet potatoes, and vibrant yellow or orange fruits like peaches, papayas and cantaloupe, among others. And “juicers” should consider starting at a young age. A study of 281 adults with a mean age of 20, conducted at the University of Otago, New Zealand, showed that those who reported the highest daily intake of fruits and veggies also declared they were happier, calmer and more energetic than those who ate less.
• “Do I need to juice; can’t I just eat produce?”: This is a common response, but the reality is that most people in today’s society – especially those who are booked from morning to evening with a busy lifestyle – rarely get an optimal amount of produce throughout the day. A half-cup of veggies is a serving and ¾ of a cup of juice equals one serving; chewing seven to eight servings of produce every day requires much more effort and time than drinking fresh juice for some of the servings. That makes people much more likely to benefit from juice, she says.
• Flavor diversification: Some people soon fall into creative ruts because they stick to the same basic ingredients, and that can be a disincentive for sticking with juicing. Diversify! Try gourmet and exotic juice blends, or even plant-based ingredients you simply haven’t yet considered, some of which may include: butternut squash, one-inch ginger chunks, beets with leaves and stems, Brussels sprouts, and fennel bulbs with fronds. “Juicing is not about just using common fruit ingredients – spice it up and experiment with healthy vegetables; it works!” Calbom says.
• An exotic example: A fennel-watercress-cucumber blend juice is an excellent way to mix up your typical cocktail. It includes: 1 handful of watercress; 1 dark green lettuce leaf; 1 cucumber, peeled if not organic; ½ fennel bulb and fronds; 1 lemon, peeled if not organic. Cut produce to fit your juicer’s feed tube. Wrap watercress in lettuce leaf and push through the juicer slowly. Juice all remaining ingredients. Drink immediately; this portion serves one.
Cherie Calbom, MS is the author of 21 books, including the best-seller “Juicing for Life,” with 2 million copies sold in the United States and published in 23 countries.
July 20, 2013 3:48 am
Summer is the season of travel. However, nothing cuts the fun short like a stolen wallet or passport. Below are several tips for keeping your money safe while on the road.
Financial professionals agree that the safest and most convenient way to travel with your money is to take a small amount of cash with you. Another good idea is to carry a debit or credit card along for the trip. These cards are convenient while traveling because they are easy to carry, easy to use and often offer the lowest fees and the best exchange rates.
Let your community bank know when and where you will be traveling so that you will avoid any potential denials or fraud alerts when out-of-the-ordinary transactions are presented. This is crucial for international travel.
Find out what ATM or debit card fees you may be subject to around the country and abroad.
Make copies of all the cards you'll be carrying. Take a copy with you and give a copy to someone you trust back home. Be sure to also include the customer service phone number.
Bring a list of emergency phone numbers. Be sure to get a number for your bank that you can call if you're out of the country.
Many credit cards provide travel accident insurance and traveler's assistance. Ask your community bank what special services are available through your card.
Check your available balances before you leave. Know the limits on how much cash you can withdraw or purchases you can make.