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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
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
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Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

20 (Painless) Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

August 28, 2012 7:16 pm

Fitness gurus say a 150-pound woman can drop about a pound of day by cutting 500 calories out of her daily diet. While this greatly depends on what you’re already eating, and your activity level, it could mean shedding weight relatively painlessly—if you do it right.

Shaun Chavis, writing for Health.com, suggests 16 simple ways to trim back calories.

Tap your feet – Fidgeters burn up to 300 calories daily just from restless movement. Walk around while on the phone. Tap out a tune with your feet under your desk.
Limit the nuts – They’re heart healthy but packed with calories. Best if you must: pistachios at 159 calories in two handfuls.
Eat at the table – Researchers say people who eat in front of the TV consume up to 288 calories more than those who watch their plates.
Watch your salad toppings – Salads are low-cal, but not if you pile on the cheese, nuts, croutons, and full-fat dressing.
Use smaller plates – The larger your plate, the more food you are likely to pile on it. Swap the 12-inch plate for a 10-incher or less.
Count out chips and crackers – Eating from a bag or box makes tracking calories next to impossible.
Serve to the plate – Serving food family-style makes it too easy to reach for seconds.
Skinny up mixed drinks – Mix your wine with seltzer, tonic water or sugar-free soda.
Watch the pasta – One cup is just 220 calories. But restaurant portions are triple that and loaded with heavy sauces.
Leave a little – Leave as much as 25 percent on your plate. Save it for lunch the next day.
Eat mini-desserts – If you can’t resist, ask for a half-portion.
Skip the oil – Cook with stock or non-fat spray instead.
Sleep enough – Research shows people short on sleep nosh more during the day.
Dine in – There are fewer calories in most home-cooked fare than in restaurant food.
Choose sugar-free sips – Pass on any sugared tea, coffee or soda.
Be mindful – Put down your fork as soon as you feel full.
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For Your Student: Handle Credit Wisely

August 28, 2012 7:16 pm

Students are heading back to school, and many are armed with their first ever credit card. While they may start off with the best of intentions, occasional splurges can turn into regular spender-benders as they dine out and shop for the latest fashions and electronics. Talk to your student about smart spending before a few big purchases—flat screen TV for the dorm, anyone?— make a major mark on their credit.

“As college students work toward their professional goals by obtaining educational degrees, we urge them to also consider their financial future and the role that credit plays in helping them achieve their personal and professional goals,” says Jeff Gerhart, chairman of ICBA and of Bank of Newman Grove, Neb. “The fact is that no one may ever need to see your transcript after you leave school, but your credit report will be with you for the rest of your life.”

New rules governing credit cards aimed specifically at protecting students went into effect in 2010. According to these rules, credit card companies are prohibited from issuing cards to anyone under the age of 18, and those under 21 need either an adult co-signer or proof of income. Educational institutions must disclose any agreements they have with credit card companies that market to students, and credit card companies may no longer entice students with free gifts. All other provisions in the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act that cover consumers—such as advance notice of changes, more time to make payments and terms that are easier to understand—apply to students as well.

Even with these safeguards, the best protection against getting deeply in debt is knowing the pitfalls and how to avoid them. ICBA offers the following tips to help students use credit cards wisely:

• Set up and follow a budget that includes paying off a credit card balance. “Maxing out” or charging up to your card’s credit limit can make sticking to your budget more difficult.
• Remember that cash advances, unlike purchases, generally have finance charges that apply immediately.
• Pay on time, every time. Whenever possible, pay more than the minimum payment owed (for example, 150 percent of the minimum) to pay off the balance faster and save on finance charges.
• Keep records of your account number, expiration date and the phone number of your card issuer in a safe place.
• Keep your account information confidential.
• Never give out your credit card number, card verification number (which appears on or near the signature panel) or expiration date over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know who you’re dealing with.
• Elect to receive your statement information online. Many sites offer an alert for unusual transactions and reminders of when your bill is due.
• Consider making your credit card payment online to ensure it is received by the monthly due date.
• Routinely access your account information online to track your spending and to quickly identify fraudulent transactions. If you see a transaction that is not yours, notify your card issuer immediately.
• If there’s an error on your account, report it immediately by notifying your card issuer. Look for complete instructions on your monthly statement or your bank’s website and follow them carefully to protect your rights.
• Keep a copy of your sales receipts so you can compare what you bought with the charges on your bill.
• When making online transactions, be sure the site is secure. Don’t let others see you enter card information.
• Don’t lend your credit card to anyone, not even a friend. Ever.
• If you move, notify your card issuer immediately.
• If you encounter financial difficulties, contact your card issuer as soon as possible.

Source: www.icba.org.
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Tips for Securing Your Summer Home in the Off Season

August 28, 2012 7:16 pm

According to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2012 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, vacation home sales rose 7.0 percent to 502,000 in 2011 from 469,000 in 2010. With summer homes on the rise in a down economy, it is vital for homeowners to protect their investments from the threat of crime in the off-season.

"Empty summer homes are easy targets for potential intruders, and according to the FBI, the most recent burglary statistics indicate a 3.5 percent increase in the Northeast region," says former Boston Police Commissioner and Netwatch board member Kathleen O'Toole. "In today's world, high net-worth individuals require more sophisticated security solutions to protect themselves, their families, their data and their property."

As homeowners begin to close up their second homes for the off season, Netwatch CEO David Walsh provides the following safety tips to keep in mind:

Ask a neighbor or professional property manager to help. Enlist people to mow lawns and even park in your driveway while you're gone if possible.
Give local police the heads up. Your town may have a community safety program that allows a police officer to come to the house and do a safety check before you leave to alert you to any potential security issues.
Think defensively. Make sure you stop all mail, lock all windows and doors, pull your blinds so thieves can't see your valuables inside, and even put dowels in sliders so they can't pull them open.
Lighting is key, even when you aren't there. Take advantage of outdoor lights with motion sensors, solar lights on walkways, or even using lights and radios on timers inside.
Don't forget about your pipes. Make sure to seal up your basement and pull in any air conditioners that may contain copper piping.
Keep your driveway plowed, even if you aren't there. In case something does go wrong, you want to be sure that police and firefighters can easily access your home.
Monitor your house remotely. Set up your smartphone to monitor cameras inside and outside of your home. This allows homeowners to rest easier knowing they can see what's happening at all times.

"We've seen increases of up to 62 percent in unoccupied housing being targeted in the off season," says Walsh. "As the advances in technologies and the introduction of more stringent security measures mean commercial properties pose a higher risk of apprehension, criminals are turning their attention to more vulnerable but similarly lucrative targets such as the summer homes of high net-worth individuals."

Source: www.netwatchusa.com
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Good Sense for Sensitive Skin

August 28, 2012 7:16 pm

Sensitive skin is a problem for millions of people. The uncomfortable feelings of stinging, burning, itching, redness and tightness can occur when certain ingredients found in everyday household products react to delicate skin after contact. Being mindful of chemicals your skin comes in contact with and incorporating more natural, gentle products into your daily routine can help reduce these unwanted reactions.

"When it comes to choosing products, I recommend those that are hypoallergenic and have been clinically proven to be gentle on the skin," says dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale, Ph.D. "Skin-friendly products include those that are mild in nature and free of alcohol, preservatives and dyes."

Instead of disrupting your skin with irritants found in everyday household items, you can choose more gentle, dermatologist recommended products to keep your skin healthy and comfortable:

Soap - Washing hands with antibacterial soap strips the natural oils and can result in dry, chapped skin. Choose mild soap, free of heavy scents or artificial dyes and wash hands with warm, not hot, water.
Household cleaners - When it comes to household cleaners, it can be difficult to avoid harsh chemicals. To ensure your skin is protected, wear rubber gloves and long sleeves when it's time for heavy cleaning. Look for products labeled for sensitive skin or consider making at-home cleaners with everyday products like baking soda for an all-natural alternative.
Laundry products - If you've experienced discomfort where the skin is covered by clothing, there may be something in your laundry products causing the irritation. Try dye-free or skin-friendly scented options.
Facial creams - Wrinkle creams, skin peels and cleansers can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. Check the label for common irritants such as ascorbic acid, paraben preservatives, and the alpha hydroxyl acids glycolic acid, malic acid and lactic acid. Test a new product by dabbing a small amount behind your ear and leaving it on overnight each day for five days.
Clothing - Rough fabrics such as wool can cause itchiness and rashes. Wear clothing made of soft, smooth, natural fabrics like cotton and silk. Clothing should be loose fitting, but with a minimum of creases and folds, which can cause more irritation.

If you're unsure of how your skin will react to certain products, talk to your dermatologist. Taking good care of your skin just makes good sense. And taking a few simple precautions can keep your sensitive skin feeling good.

Source: www.armandhammer.com.
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Q: Are Home Selling Costs Deductible?

August 28, 2012 7:16 pm

A: If you sell your home and realize a taxable gain even after the exclusion, you can reduce your gain with selling costs.

Your gain is defined as your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.
Real estate broker’s commissions, title insurance, legal fees, administrative costs, and inspection fees are all considered to be selling costs.
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How-To: Organize Your Small Spaces

August 27, 2012 5:14 pm

I come across a lot of advice on making your life and your home more organized. The latest addition to my “little black book” of organizational fanatics is Jennifer Hadfield whose own cool little website can be accessed at tatertotsandjello.com.

She recently reached out to the growing population of homeowners and renters who are scaling down into smaller or more efficient spaces, which often include very compact kitchen areas. Gone are the days of closet sized dry storage cabinets and walk-in pantries.

But Hadfield says you don’t need a spacious pantry to store everything you need, you just need some great ideas to downsize your kitchen storage smartly. The following are a few of her ideas:

1. Use drawer organizers to store more - Use kitchen drawers to store food using dividers that you can find at Ikea or other similar stores. More organized means you can fit more.
2. Use can organizers - Fit more into your small cabinet space with these clever can organizers.
3. Use glass jars on your counters for frequently used items - Keep often-used items in attractive glass jars on your counters for easy access.
4. Use space-saving containers - Group like items together in kitchen cupboards with easy access containers.
5. Try under-shelf baskets - Double your shelves and store twice as much in your cabinets with under-shelf baskets.
6. Turn a bookshelf into a pantry - Use all available shelves, even those in a hutch or bookshelf. This is a cute idea, like a cold cellar on the bottom shelf.
7. Make a morning coffee station - Mount a shelf above your counter to store items for a morning coffee station.

Hadfield has a number of ideas, expanded and detailed plans on how to implement each of the points she offered in this report, as well as a wealth of other DIY and crafty projects, so check her out at www.tatertotsandjello.com!
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6 Best Things to Buy in September

August 27, 2012 5:14 pm

The livin’ may be easy in ‘summertime,’ but bargain season typically begins to heat up in September as new models roll off the assembly lines and a holiday mindset kicks in.

If you’re in the market for household goods or travel, the personal finance advocates at Kiplinger Finance suggest September is the best time to shop for these bargains:

Holiday airfare – Experts say now is the time to search for buys in holiday airfare. You’ll likely get a better price and a better seat for holiday air travel now than you will if you wait much longer – and bear in mind the best air fares are usually offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Non-peak vacations – Look into a ‘shoulder season’ vacation, which offers some of the best buys on cruises, resort trips, vacation rentals and international airfare during the lull between peak vacation periods. Bonus: Pleasant weather and fewer crowds in many popular destinations.
New cars – Dealers are clearing inventory now to make room for the new models. Feel free to haggle a bit more for the best price possible on a new, end-of-year model of the vehicle of your choice.
Major appliances – As the new models come in, early fall will also yield the best prices on major appliances. In addition to searching out a buy on an end-of-year model, look for huge reductions on display appliances with minor dings or scratches.
Grills – As the weather cools down, so does demand, making fall the best time to replace your old grill. Look for good buys on models with extra features you may not have been able to afford last spring.
Landscaping plants – You’ll find the best buys on trees and shrubs in the fall, when nurseries want to sell off inventory to keep down greenhouse costs.
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Preserving Locally Grown Produce for Year-Round Eating

August 27, 2012 5:14 pm

The abundance of locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be overwhelming in late summer. Carol Fenster, author of 10 cookbooks, offers practical tips to make the most of summer’s bounty by eating some and then preserving the rest for delicious dining throughout the year.

“Most of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables,” says Fenster, “so late summer is a good time to add more plant-based foods to our meals.” Fenster suggests making fruit cobblers, crisps, or pies with stone fruits such as the peaches, apricots, and plums that are in season now. Grilling heightens the sweetness of these fruits, making a light, but nutritious dessert. Fruit that is past its prime but still edible is perfect for no-cook jams and morning smoothies.

Certain vegetables are over-abundant in late summer, especially tomatoes, so Fenster serves many tomato-based dishes such as the bread-tomato salad Panzanella, Mexican salsa, gazpacho, and marinara sauce for pasta.

Fresh herbs are usually used in main dishes and vegetables, but Fenster also uses herbs for chimichurri (an Argentian sauce of herbs, olive oil, garlic, and vinegar) or flavored oil by pureeing a fresh herb with olive oil in a blender, then straining it to remove the solids. Served on top of grilled meats or vegetables, chimichurri and herb oil jazz up even the simplest dishes.

Drying
Vegetables, especially tomatoes, are easily dried in a convection oven (or a food dehydrator). Although any size tomato can be dried, Fenster prefers the smaller plum, grape, and cherry varieties because they have fewer seeds and dry more quickly. Sliced in half, tossed with olive oil and salt, she bakes them on parchment-lined baking sheets at 200°F until completely shriveled and dry. Throughout the winter they go into soups and casseroles or dips and sauces where their concentrated flavor lends a taste of summer.

Fruits can also be dried, but work best when sliced fairly thin so they dry faster. Smaller fruits such as blueberries and cherries dry quickly while stone fruits and pears take longer. Vegetables such as carrots and zucchini can be dried into chips for snacking but work best when sliced very thin with a mandolin.

“Whether herbs are purchased in stores or snipped from garden plots, the amount is usually more than we can use. Their shelf-life is fleeting and it’s a shame to let them wither in the refrigerator,” says Fenster. She uses what she needs―especially thyme, oregano, and rosemary―within a day or two then dries them in the microwave (layered on a paper towel). Depending on the moisture in the herb, they dry in about 2 to 3 minutes and can be stored in jars for use throughout the winter.

Freezing
Both freezing and canning are time-honored methods for preserving, but canning is more time-consuming and requires special equipment so Fenster prefers to freeze her produce in resealable freezer bags. Herbs―especially soft herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, and parsley―freeze well in small freezer bags for six months. They will look a little bruised when thawed, but their flavor is still intact.

Fruits can be frozen, but Fenster takes the time to freeze the fruits―such as blueberries or cherries―in a single layer on the baking sheet before transferring them to a resealable freezer bag. The fruits freeze faster this way and don’t clump together, helping to maintain their quality after thawing.

Marinara sauces freeze exceptionally well in Mason jars or resealable freezer bags. Fenster makes the sauce, transfers it to clean containers and refrigerates it for a day to meld the flavors. The sauces can be frozen for up to 6 months and thaw easily in the refrigerator overnight.

“Taking the time in late summer to preserve fruits, vegetables, and herbs brings a taste of summer to our foods―even in the dead of winter when it is most welcome,” says Fenster.
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Tips on Returning Home after a Hurricane

August 27, 2012 5:14 pm

Regardless of where you live in the country, it’s good to brush up on your post-hurricane tips so you know what to do if a disaster ever occurs. Obviously, the first thing you do if a severe weather warning is underway is evacuate. But what happens after evacuation? Read on to find out.

Once residents have evacuated, it is important to remain in those secure locations until the storm has passed, and even then, an immediate return is discouraged. Many areas will be severely damaged, and as such will be actively dangerous to enter. It is recommended that residents and business owners wait until the all clear has been given by emergency management officials before any attempt is made to return to the property.

Once back, it is imperative to take note of the structure and the condition it is in, as well as the condition of the surrounding buildings and land. In many cases, a home or business may have been severely weakened from wind and water damage, making the structure prone to collapse.

Under no circumstances should any building be entered until structural integrity has been verified.
Also, residents should beware of any downed power lines in the immediate vicinity and report all such lines to the authorities. Do not attempt to touch or move these power lines as any such attempt may result in serious injury or death due to electric shock. Even using materials that are normally nonconductive such as wooden sticks may pose the risk of injury if the stick is wet.

Power may also be knocked out as a result of the storm. If the power was not already shut off in the structure, it should be shut off at this time. The power will eventually come back on, and the homeowner does not want that to happen if they or any other people are standing in or working in standing water. Gas supplies should similarly be shut off, and all utilities should remain shut down until approved by their respective technicians.

Source: Restoration Local
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Word of the Day

August 27, 2012 5:14 pm

Replacement cost. The cost at today’s prices and using today’s construction methods, of building an improvement having the same usefulness as the one being appraised.
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