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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

How To Reduce Your Wildfire Risk

July 2, 2012 5:26 pm

Few homeowners prepare for a wildfire or take steps to reduce wildfire risk unless one is threatening their home. However, the fires raging in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, along with the dry, drought-like conditions across the country should have every homeowner taking steps to reduce wildfire risk.
Homeowners reduce wildfire hazards by taking a few simple steps that can make a big difference if a wildfire threatens your community.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), homeowners should remove potential fuel sources and create a defensible zone around a home which will dramatically reduce wildfire hazards. This may help slow flames or help direct the flames away from your home during a wildfire. Homeowners should also consider doing the following within 30 feet of their houses to reduce wildfire risk:
• Eliminate fuel sources like dry landscaping, woodpiles and decks.
• Prune trees and shrubs.
• Trim taller trees so lowest branch is no less than six feet from the ground.
• Remove dead leaves and branches from the yard.
• Clear branches from around the roof and chimney.
• Mow lawn regularly and dispose cuttings and debris promptly.
• Clear roof, gutters and eaves of debris.
• Maintain your irrigation system.
• Move firewood and storage tanks at least 50 feet away from the home.
• Store flammable liquids properly.


Tips on Summer Travel with Your Dog

July 2, 2012 5:26 pm

While traveling is exciting, it can also be stressful. Additionally, this stress can be intensified if you’re traveling with your four-legged family member. If you're traveling with your dog this summer, these tips will help keep your canine buddy in tip top travel-ready form.

People used to think travel with dogs was no different than any other travel time. Years ago, no one thought twice about letting toddlers ride loose in a car going 70 mph down the highway. Parents today cringe at such reckless disregard for child safety, and today's doggie moms and dads also need to worry about how to travel with pets safely.

James Nelligan, star of reality TV show Animal Movers and owner of Pacific Pet Transport--which ships thousands of animals around the world--encourages you to keep these tips in mind when traveling with your dog:

  • It's not safe for your dog to sit on your lap while you drive. Many road fatalities have occurred this way.
  • When you take a break, take your dog out to stretch his/her legs too.
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of water. Hydration is key to healthy travel.
  • Put your dog on a leash when taking a break – it will keep your buddy safe and protect everyone from unpredictable circumstances.
  • If using a travel crate, make sure the crate has enough ventilation.
  • When traveling over 40 mph, don't let your dog stick its head out the window. Nelligan recommends dog goggles to protect your dog's head and eyes from flying objects.
  • Exercise your dog before you travel to make them more relaxed during the trip.
  • Check the laws in your state about traveling with your dog. New Jersey law, for example, states that all dogs must be harnessed or crated when traveling by car.
  • Consider micro-chipping and have an ID tag on your dog's collar – better safe than sorry should you get separated!



Word of the Day

July 2, 2012 5:26 pm

Loan-to-value ratio. Relationship of a mortgage loan to the appraised value of a piece of property. Usually expressed to the buyer in terms of how much the lender will lend, i.e. – 75 percent financing.

Q: What are the disadvantages of buying foreclosures?

July 2, 2012 5:26 pm

A: Buying directly at a legal foreclosure sale is risky. Among the disadvantages:
• There is no financing. You need cash and lots of it.
• The title needs to be checked before the purchase. If not, you risk assuming a seriously deficient title.
• It may not be possible to inspect the property’s interior before the sale. So you have no idea of the property’s condition.
• Foreclosures are routinely purchased “as is,” which means you cannot go back to the seller for repairs.
• Also, estate and foreclosure sales are the only property sales that are exempt from some state disclosure laws. In both instances, the law protects the seller – usually the heir or financial institution – who has recently acquired the property through adverse circumstances and may have little or no direct information about it.

Now Hiring: Top 5 Careers to Prepare For

July 2, 2012 3:26 pm

If you or someone you know is casting around for the next hot career opportunity, there are five booming career paths worth prepping for now, according to career counselor Cynthia Shapiro, author of, “What Does Somebody Have To Do To Get a Job Around Here?”

“Studies show that employers in these fields right now expect to hire from 10 to 25 percent more people in the coming months than they did in 2011,” Shapiro said.

While a bachelor’s degree is not required for these well-paid jobs, Shapiro added, job-seekers will likely need to obtain certification in the chosen field from an accredited technical school or training program.

Whether or not you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may want to look into further training for these top five growing career fields:

· Medical assistant – Medical assistants help doctors’ offices run smoothly. Duties may include scheduling appointments, managing paperwork, sterilizing instruments and/or measuring patients’ vital signs. The field is expected to grow by over 30 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

· Paralegal – Paralegals help attorneys prep for trials, hearings and corporate meetings by researching case law, organizing paperwork, and writing legal documents and arguments. The field is expected to grow by nearly 20 percent through 2020.

· Accountants - Working with companies, individual clients, or even the government, accountants help clients prepare, analyze, and verify the accuracy of their financial documents. Some may offer budget analysis and financial and investment planning. More than 16 percent growth in the field is expected through 2020.

· Public Relations Specialist – PR specialists work with clients – ranging from individuals and businesses to universities, hospitals and non-profit organizations – to build and maintain positive images and relationships with the public. They may write press releases, speak to media contacts or develop new public relations programs. The labor department estimates more than 20 percent growth in the field through 2020.

· Computer Software developer – Developers create new software products ranging from video games to word processing systems, and could be in charge of a company’s entire software development program. They are also called upon to fix or improve existing programs. Job growth of more than 30 percent is projected through 2020.

Helpful Hints for Your Eco Friendly Backyard Wedding

July 2, 2012 3:26 pm

Some of the best weddings I have ever attended have taken place in family yards and at private homes. So it was thrilling to become familiar with the Green Bride Guide, a top wedding resource and leading advocate for eco-conscious living.

The Green Bride Guide has a directory of over 1,500 green service providers that can help plan a green outdoor party this summer, and they also offer plenty of ideas to make your private wedding or gathering environmentally friendly.

When thinking about your next big soiree, or your big day, the Green Bride Guide suggests these green alternatives:

All Natural Charcoal - Fire up the grill and get cookin' with Lazzari 100 percent natural mesquite charcoal - made from ecologically harvested wood, this is a carbon neutral, flavor enhancing alternative.

Green Grilling - Neatly packaged in a 100 percent-recycled cardboard cylinder with recycled paper stuffing, the Eco BBQ set from includes fork, spatula, tongs and 20 wooden Skewers. All materials are constructed of FDA compliant materials such as stainless steel, and bamboo.

Refreshing Green Drinks - Drink refreshing green mojitos made from organic rum, club soda, pure cane sugar, organic limes and crushed organic mint grown from your garden. Drink from recycled glass containers or reuse mason jars for hefty shatter-proof drinking glasses. Put a biodegradable straw in there to sip from and you're good to go!

Sustainable Serving Ware - Choose from a wide variety of Susty Party Plates, which are made from recycled plastic and can be reused. Ditch the old paper plates and plastic and go sustainable.

Safe De-Bugging - When the sun sets, nothing ruins an outdoor party faster than mosquitoes. So try all natural citronella torches from Made from bug repellant beeswax and soy candles with essential oils, the candles burn for eight hours.


Buying a home: Prepare by Getting your Finances in Order

July 2, 2012 3:26 pm

(ARA) - For those considering buying a home, the current real estate market presents some unique opportunities. One of the side effects of the economic roller coaster ride of the past few years is that home prices have gone down and more homes have gone on the market. For buyers, that means more choices and better deals. However, those same tumultuous years can also teach buyers a lesson: Make smart buying decisions and be wise with your finances.

Impulsive buying is never a good idea when it comes to a purchase as significant as a home, but it was something of a trend at the height of the mid-2000s. Now, with banks lending far more cautiously, you need to be absolutely certain that your finances are in order - and healthy - to be able to get the best deal on your purchase.

There are a number of steps you can take to get ready to buy a home, and you might need to work on them simultaneously. Consider that you'll need to start saving, if you haven't already, but you'll also need to review your credit score and do what you can to either maintain it or work toward healthier credit. Both of these tasks will help make the home-buying process better for you.

Your credit is an important factor in determining the terms under which you can get a mortgage. Broadly speaking, the better your credit is, the more positively you'll be viewed by lenders - and that can lead to better interest rates. And because you'll be paying off your home for years to come, it's important to get the best rate possible.

Start by checking your credit report. You're entitled to one free check of your report, from several credit reporting agencies every year. As much as you need to check your report to find out what shape your credit is in, it's also essential to review it for inaccuracies or fraudulent activity, both of which can have a negative impact on your score.

If your credit health needs some work, start taking action immediately. Paying bills on time, reducing your overall debt and limiting new credit inquiries can all help to build your credit - but be patient as it can take time for your positive actions to take effect. Nevertheless, the sooner you make the effort, the sooner you'll see results.

Making a prudent decision about buying a house comes down to an honest assessment of what you can afford. Keep in mind that you might be approved for a loan that's larger than what is practical for you to afford. While it may be tempting to buy a pricier house, the stress of struggling to make payments could diminish your enjoyment of your new home and even put you at financial risk. One rule of thumb is that most borrowers can afford a home loan that runs about two and a half times their annual salary.

Buying a home is a complex process, but one that is ultimately very rewarding when done right. By organizing your finances well in advance, you'll help set yourself up for success.


Word of the Day

July 2, 2012 3:26 pm

Loan servicing. Task of collecting monthly payments, handling insurance and tax impounds, delinquencies, early payoffs, and mortgage releases.

Q: What happens at a trustee sale?

July 2, 2012 3:26 pm

A: When a homeowner falls behind on three payments, the bank will record a notice of default against the property. When the owner fails to pay up, a trustee sale is held, and the property is sold to the highest bidder. The lender that initiated the foreclosure proceedings will usually set the bid price at the loan amount. Successful bidders receive a trustee's deed as proof of ownership.

Trustee sales are advertised in advance and require all-cash bids, which can include cashiers’ checks. Normally, a sheriff, constable, or lawyer conducts the sale and acts as the trustee. Because these sales typically attract savvy investors, inexperienced buyers should come extremely prepared.

Top 6 Tips for Visiting the London 2012 Olympics

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

Planning a trip to the London 2012 Olympics? Lucky you. Below are tips from Alan Noone, head concierge of five-star luxury hotel The Berkeley, on how you can ensure your stay in London this summer a great one.

1. Plan ahead—for everything.

It's not just your flight and event-specific tickets you should buy in advance. Book everything— from lodging to theater tickets—now. "August is normally a quiet month for us," says Noone. "This year, we've seen a 30 percent increase in demand for rooms."

2. Consider events outside of Olympic Park.

To avoid the expected congestion at Olympic Park, Noone suggests attending events happening at other venues. "The archery events are being held at Lord's Cricket Ground, which has been hosting sporting events since 1814," he says. The Tube will drop you off 10 minutes' walk from the venue; consider walking the Jubilee Greenway, which passes by several other Games venues.

Tennis, of course, is being hosted at Wimbledon in southwest London. Or check out beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade, a venue in Central London dating back to 1745.

3. Take a river bus!

River taxis offer a great way to get to your Olympics venue, since several are accessible by river, including Greenwich Park (equestrian and modern pentathlon), North Greenwich Arena (basketball, artistic gymnastics and trampoline), The Royal Artillery Barracks (shooting), Horse Guards Parade (beach volleyball) and Eton Dorney (canoe sprint and rowing).

"I would suggest booking a place on Water Chariots' Silver Service, which takes just 40 minutes from Limehouse Marina to an exclusive Olympic entrance at Old Ford Locsk," Noone recommends. "You'll be able to enjoy a glass of champagne in the quayside reception lounges before you board. Then you can relax as you cruise past the sights, taking in an unrivalled view as you approach the Olympic Park!"

4. Attend non-sporting events.

London is hosting a huge selection of events, from the production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at The Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, to the Tate Modern presentation of the first major Damien Hirst exhibition in the UK.

"The Royal Albert Hall is presenting the world-famous BBC Proms annual classical music festival," Noone says. "And guests with families will love the Warner Brothers' studio tour of 'The Making of Harry Potter,' which has been really popular all year."

But if you're Olympics-bound, don't forget the basics:

5. Don't plan to drive anywhere. We're not kidding.

According to Noone, "the main thing to bear in mind is that the London Olympics aim to be the 'greenest' Games yet." That's his polite way of saying public transportation will be about the only way to get to events. And possibly the best: a high-speed Olympic Javelin train will whisk ticket holders from St. Pancras International station to Stratford International in just 7 minutes.

Your concierge can make taking the train or Tube relatively stress-free. "We can provide guests with tickets for the Javelin train or passes for the Tube," Noone says.  "We can even drop you off at the station in a chauffeur-driving luxury automobile."

 "Driving from Central London to Olympic Park could take you up to 2 hours," says Noone. "Our chauffeur service could drop you off at the Western Gate, but you would still have to walk nearly a mile to the stadium."

That's partially because of the Olympic Route Network (ORN), which connects all Games venues.  One-third of ORN roads are designated "Games Lanes" restricted to the IOC's fleet of 1,500 coaches and 4,000 specially-marked BMWs, for athletes and members of the "Olympic Family."

7. Allow plenty of time to get to your event.

"You should plan to arrive at your event well in advance of its start time, maybe even one to two hours ahead" counsels Noone. "Expect to encounter airport-like security."

There's absolutely no parking at any of the venues, except for  limited spaces that must be booked in advance.

If all of this sounds like a challenge, don't worry. An experienced concierge like Noone will work with you to take care of the details, so you can enjoy yourself without worrying about logistics. After all, if Noone can arrange for a live snake to be delivered to a guest for a wedding proposal (seriously!), he can probably make your London 2012 Olympics stay one you'll never forget.



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