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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

DIY: File Cabinet Makeovers

September 27, 2012 4:32 pm

In a couple of recent reports, I brought you some interior decorating advice from Connecticut, so it's time to give the left coast equal time. Enter Beth Zeigler, of Echo Park, Calif,-based Bneato—a professional organizing company that specializes in helping individuals understand organizing challenges and make a plan to develop new ways of doing tasks.

She recently blogged about repurposing old office and home file storage equipment into a bunch of cool to kitschy storage and even gardening accessories. In a perfect paperless world, could you imagine a home and office without a file cabinet or file box?

Zeigler knows filing cabinets take up a lot of room in the office, are an eyesore and usually house items that can live virtually or “in the cloud” in these days of paperless billing, Google docs and other cloud storage options. But what do you do with all those now empty cabinets and all that filing paraphernalia?

She perused a number of cool options including:

Turning an unused cabinet into an industrial cube by removing the nondescript factory paint, sanding it, and coating the distressed bare metal surface with a clear lacquer. Zeigler advises placing this new version in the kitchen to house large pots and pans, linens or serving ware.

This treatment creates a perfect and very environmentally conscious compliment to your stainless or brushed metal appliances or backsplashes.

For exterior applications, Zeigler tips her hat to Austin, Texas-based Minim.is, which specializes in turning old multi-drawer file cabinets into exterior planter barriers. She says these old dinosaurs are the perfect shape and size to easily translate to a modern planter, or a barrier row of them cordoning off a patio, garden or water feature.

If you're not of the DIY mindset, you can always pick these up from Minim.is (www.minim.is/arkivos.htm). And if you want to tackle that file cabinet to environmentally friendly planter conversion, we'll look at a project plan for that in our next segment.
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Safety Tips for Fall Clean-up

September 27, 2012 4:32 pm

With the onset of those glorious, sun-filled fall days, many are tackling weekend home improvement projects before that winter chill sets in. But if you’re taking on DIY projects, or simply raking up a storm, be sure to properly use your tools to avoid injuring yourself.

"Never underestimate a tool even if it seems harmless," says orthopaedic surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Marc Swiontkowski, MD. "Knowing how to properly use and set up equipment can significantly reduce the possibility of injuries, that is why it is essential to follow all instructions and warnings that come along with equipment to avoid injuries at all costs."

Some popular fall clean-up tools include ladders and rakes. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2011, approximately 523,000 people were injured from ladders and more than 35,500 treated for rake-related injuries.

Jonathan Laico, a patient from the Academy's public awareness campaign, “A Nation in Motion,” experienced falling off a ladder at home first-hand.

"An injury usually happens when you least expect it," said Laico. "I cannot change what happened in the past, but the experience taught me to do all that I can to reduce the risk of injury next time."

The AAOS offers the following safety tips to help reduce injury when using some of these tools this fall:

Service equipment. Have equipment such as leaf blowers serviced before using for the first time this season.
Use a comfortable rake. Select a rake that is suitable for your height and strength. Wear leather gloves or use a rake with padded handles to prevent blisters.
Inspect the ladder. Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs and clean off any mud or liquids that might have accumulated on the ladder.
Properly set-up the ladder. Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven and watch for soft, muddy spots. The same is true for uneven flooring. Remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before climbing. If working outside, make sure the ladder – when extended – will not hit electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.
Remember the one-to-four rule: the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises. For example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the base of the ladder should be four feet from the wall. If you are going to climb onto a roof, the ladder should extend at least three feet higher than the rooftop. And, the upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.
Avoid using ladders in adverse weather conditions. It's unsafe to use ladders outside if there is rain, wind, snow, ice or some other factor that can increase the risk of falling.
Select the right ladder for the job. If you're washing windows inside the home, choose a step stool or utility ladder, which are often used when working at low or medium heights. Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places, like when cleaning the gutters on the rooftop. The weight the ladder is supporting also should never exceed its maximum load capacity.
Move materials with caution when on the ladder. While cleaning the garage or closet, be careful when pushing or pulling items from shelves. It is easy to be thrown off-balance and fall.
Always position the ladder closer to the work. Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder!
Wear proper footwear. Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles of your shoes are free of any debris or greasy, oily or wet substances. Do not wear leather-soled shoes, as they are slippery. Pant legs shouldn't be too wide or too long.
Be careful when climbing; get help if you need it. Be safe and ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the center of the ladder as you ascend, and always hold the side rails with both hands. Also, make sure that only one person climbs the ladder at a time.

Source: www.aaos.org.
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Word of the Day

September 27, 2012 4:32 pm

Title search. A professional examination of public records to determine the chain of ownership of a particular piece of property and to note any liens, encumbrances, easements, restrictions, or other factors that might affect the title.
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Q: What else should I take into account when buying a new home?

September 27, 2012 4:32 pm

A: You can find out more about an existing property and neighborhood before you buy than you can a new home in a newly developed community.

When the home is on the outskirts of town, ask the developer about future access to public transit, entertainment venues, shopping centers, churches, and schools. Also review local zoning ordinances. A remote area can quickly turn into a fast food haven.
You want to ensure the neighborhood will not spiral out of control and lose its residential appeal.
Other things to consider:

Ask homeowners already living in a development about the builder. If none currently live there, find out where the builder has previously built and speak to those owners to find out if the builder followed through on promises and needed repairs.
Ability to make changes. Most homes in a development resemble each other. But the developer may impose restrictions on house color, landscaping, renovations, and other items that a homeowner may want to alter.
Do not buy into the highfalutin images created by marketing experts. Form your own opinions about a property and only buy where you feel comfortable. After all, you are the one who will be living there.
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Tips for Raising Quick Cash

September 26, 2012 6:28 pm

Whether you need a vacation, want to buy something nice, or pay an unexpected bill, almost everyone, at one time or another, needs to raise a little money quickly.

“If appealing to a rich uncle is not an option, there are other things you can do,” said dedicated garage sale organizer Terry Mack, who makes her living helping homeowners raise maximum cash from garage sales.

Mack offers five ways to raise a little extra cash:

Sell your stuff – Garage sales are a great way to earn instant money while clearing out the clutter. You can even sell your own handicrafts at a garage sale – and don’t forget to stock up on sodas and snacks, which may sell faster than dishes or glassware. For bigger-ticket items like electronics, furniture, or musical instruments, list it on Craigslist or eBay – or take your chances at a local consignment shop, where the turnaround is usually quick for right-priced items in good condition.
Sell your services – If you can mow lawns, rake leaves, shovel snow or babysit…if you can write resumes, type term papers, do research or run an errand service…if you can teach piano or tutor kids or offer computer lessons to senior citizens…if you have a truck and can offer hauling or store pick-up services, make up and distribute fliers or post on neighborhood bulletin boards.
Recycle stuff – There is money to be made by recycling cans and glass or plastic bottles. This is a good option if you live near a campsite or other tourist area, where people generally toss these items instead of recycling them.
Make money from your surroundings – If you have access to a beach or forest, you can gather driftwood or pine cones and sell them to craft or gift shops. You can breed worms during fishing season, grow and sell fruit, vegetables or homemade jams and pies, or make and sell wreaths at Christmas time from local greenery and foliage.
For emergency only – In a real emergency, you may be able to get a signature loan from your bank or a cash advance on your credit card. You can also resort to a payday loan or to pawning something of value at a pawn shop. Because the interest rates are highest there, think of them only as a last resort.
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Five Tips to an Organized, Clean Kitchen

September 26, 2012 6:28 pm

A clean kitchen creates the ideal space for zen cooking. Who wants to prepare an intensive meal in a cluttered mess? And as far as hygiene, letting the dust settle in your kitchen is a recipe for disaster. Below are some tips for keeping an organized and clean culinary environment.

Create a plan of action
Before you begin cleaning, gather everything you'll need to tackle the kitchen as a whole, from rubber gloves and sponges, to the vacuum and mop. Assign tasks to each family member to help speed up the process. To ensure everything gets squeaky clean, make a checklist.

Use all-purpose cleaners
Make it easier with a quality, all-purpose cleaning product that can tackle all sorts of kitchen messes while killing germs, such as the Scrubbing Bubbles All Purpose Heavy Duty Cleaner with fantastik, which kills 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria. This cleaner can wipe out tough grease and grime, without leaving behind a filmy residue.

Reorganize and prioritize
As you clean the kitchen, reorganize contents of pantries, cabinets, drawers and spice racks so everything is easy to find, with your most-used items in front for easy access. Ensure anything expired is thrown out, and donate canned foods you don't plan to use to a food bank.

Dust cabinet interiors
Remove dry-storage food items and dust out your cabinetry. Make sure you get back into the corners of your cabinets with a duster or vacuum. Wipe down dry food items with a damp cloth and place back in the cabinets.

Get your floors gleaming

Vacuum or sweep floors to get them prepped for mopping. Make sure to dust baseboards and corners where dust and pet hair can get trapped. Pay special attention to the cleaning solution you purchase to clean your floors, as hardwood flooring especially requires specific cleaners.

Sources: www.scrubbingbubbles.com, www.rightathome.com.
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How to Get Started Marketing a Book

September 26, 2012 6:28 pm

It’s understandable, really. People who have the passion necessary to write a book usually have just one thing on their minds: writing a book. Not marketing a book. Some may think ahead to getting it published, but, tragically, that’s where the planning often ends.

I’m not exaggerating when I say “tragically.” I talk to many people who’ve poured years of effort, money and sacrifice into their books, which wind up sitting in boxes in their garage. They never thought about how they might market their books themselves or budgeted for book promotion services.

When’s the best time to start thinking about marketing a book? Ideally, before you even sit down to begin writing. Because — and I speak from experience here — the first step will help in your writing.

Step 1: Ask yourself, “Who is my audience?”
The answer is the first piece of any marketing plan and it can also help you define what you’ll write. When I decided to write a book about public relations, I had planned to write it for businesses in general. Then I thought, “That’s too broad. Who will my audience really be?”

I decided to write for individual professionals such as doctors, lawyers and financial planners. Not only would that put a face to the people I was writing for, it would also give me the first piece of my marketing plan.

If you want to write a book and you’re a financial planner working for baby boomers chugging toward 65, you might write about planning for retirement after age 50. Another audience might be the boomers’ kids – adults who may be helping their parents. Depending on the expertise you put in the book, you might find other audiences you can target as well.

Here are the next steps to consider in planning your promotional campaign:
• What’s the best way to reach that audience? Where will you find the people you expect will be interested in your book? Will you buy advertising, look for speaking engagements, try to whip up interest from the media? You might hire a publicist or contract with your publisher to handle PR, or put together a promotional tour. You’ll definitely need a website. Will you build one yourself or hire a pro? Research the options that appeal to you and find out how effective they are in terms of meeting your goals. If you’re considering contracting with professionals to help you, get references from people who’ve had successful marketing experiences.
• How much will it cost? Some options are less expensive, others more. Look into the ones that interest you and get an idea of their price. Decide how much you can afford to spend and budget for it. Is there an organization or business that would benefit from sponsoring you? A landscape designer, for instance, might get financial help from a plant nursery or a tools manufacturer in exchange for standing behind a business or product. A chef might find an ally in a food manufacturer.
• Develop a following online. Do you have a database of people already interested in what you have to say? If not, turn to social media and start building it now. The more of a following you have, the more potential audience you’ve created for your marketing message. Big numbers will also turn heads when you try to get speaking engagements or guest spots on radio and TV talk shows. Having a following is everything. The organizations and media that book you for an interview are also hoping all those followers will either buy tickets or stop by their website.

Marketing is too important to be an afterthought, so think about it long before it’s time to get started. Yes, I understand the effort that goes into writing a book. I know it’s hard to think about anything else! But if you have invested your dreams in that baby, you probably want to share it with the world. And that takes planning.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself: The 3-Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business.
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Word of the Day

September 26, 2012 6:28 pm

Title report. A statement of the current condition of title for a parcel of land.
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Q: Is It a Good Idea to Buy a Vacation Home as an Investment?

September 26, 2012 6:28 pm

A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.

Other things to consider:

  • Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
  • What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
  • If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?
  • What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?
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Protect Your Pool from Freezing This Winter

September 25, 2012 6:24 pm

Once the creep of autumn makes it a little too cool for your pool, it's time to think about buttoning up your little oasis of aquatic pleasure until next spring. So for a raft of advice that really holds water, I turned to Ann Janowicz, general manager of Kasper’s Pool Supplies and Spas in Easton, Pa.

Janowicz says proper winterizing means more than just covering the pool. The pool must be cleaned, winter chemicals must be added, water chemistry must be balanced, and the water level should be lowered.

Most importantly, she says, winterizing is about freeze protection, and taking steps to protect the pool equipment and lines from being split apart by freezing water. To prevent freeze damage, Janowicz says water must be drained or blown out of all pumping, filtering, heating and chlorinating equipment and other pool plumbing.

This is not always a “do-it-yourself” project. Every pool is different, and each will require specific procedures and equipment to implement those procedures.

Janowicz, a certified pool operator (CPO) and a director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA) notes that, “If you don’t know the exact procedure or if you do not have the equipment to winterize correctly, you should call a professional. A pool is a big investment.”

She says the right time to winterize varies by climate and individual preference. Many pool owners opt to close in late August or early September before leaves begin to fall, while others heat their water and enjoy swimming into the early autumn season. In general, pool closing and winterizing should be done before the first hard freeze in your area.

For information about pool winterizing, or to find a professional who can close your pool properly, visit the NESPA website at www.nespapool.org, or your regional Spa and Pool Association or certified spa and pool professional.
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