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Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
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Tom's Blog

3 Ways to Clean Your Home with Less Effort

November 8, 2011 6:08 pm

Cleaning your home can be time consuming, and the longer you go between cleanings, the more effort it takes. Follow these simple suggestions to keep dust at bay while still keeping up with work, family and friends.

1. Do a little daily. Vowing to do a bit of cleaning every day—even something as simple as wiping down your kitchen counters or vacuuming one room—can have a big impact. Five to ten minutes a day will give you great results, and you will never fall too far behind.

2. Clean while you wait. How many minutes a day do you spend waiting for that commercial to end or dinner to finish simmering on the stove? Spend those extra minutes sweeping the dining room floor, dusting windowsills, etc.

3. Stay organized. The less clutter you have around your home, the less you have to maneuver around to get a good clean. Purge your home of any unused objects or knickknacks you don’t need. (Bonus: sell them at a garage sale for a little extra cash!) Keep in mind that clear surfaces automatically look cleaner than messy ones. Pick up after yourself all week long to avoid a mess come the weekend.

Local Firewood; Preventing the Spread of Invasive Pests and Creating Substantial Savings

November 8, 2011 6:08 pm

As fall turns into winter, people across the country buy or gather firewood to heat their homes, campsites, and cabins; and many aren't aware that moving firewood more than 50 miles can increase the risk of new invasive pest infestations that kill trees. A recent study, "Economic Impacts of Non-Native Forest Insects in the Continental United States" by Aukema et al., estimates that the costs of damages associated with these pest infestations in both urban and rural areas are nearly $1.7 billion in local government expenditures and approximately $830 million in lost residential property values totaling more than $2.5 billion annually.

According to this research, more than 450 non-native forest insects are established in the United States. Many of the insects featured in this report, including the emerald ash borer, red bay ambrosia beetle, and thousand cankers disease, are known to move frequently on infested firewood. Other pests that move on firewood have cost local and federal authorities tens of millions of dollars to control and eradicate in just the past five years.

"This new study tells us that when people move firewood, they could unwittingly cause millions of dollars of damage to their communities, including their own properties," said Leigh Greenwood, Don't Move Firewood campaign manager, The Nature Conservancy. "Fortunately, people can stop the spread of these destructive and costly pests, and save their community trees by buying locally harvested firewood and by communicating this message to their friends and neighbors."

Invasive insects and diseases can even lurk in dry and seasoned firewood, hidden in the layers of wood beneath the bark, which makes them difficult to detect. While these pests cannot move far on their own, when people move this firewood that harbors them, they unwittingly enable these pests to start an infestation far from their current range. Past invaders have devastated native species of trees such as the American chestnut, hemlock, and American elm – tree species that had been part of American forests and city streets for centuries until the invasion of foreign pests decimated them.

"Burning a wood fire in the winter has a lot of different uses – a primary heat source, a place for a family gathering, or part of a romantic evening," said Greenwood. "When firewood comes from a well managed local forest, it's a great alternative to using fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. Our campaign is focused on educating people how they can help protect local trees and communities by not risking the accidental movement of insects and diseases that can wipe out entire forests that when buying firewood for these purposes."

By buying locally harvested wood, individuals can help protect themselves and their communities from decreases in property values, the high expense of removing diseased or infested trees, and the loss of attractive landscapes. Another good reason to buy wood locally is that in many regions of the country, it is illegal to move firewood over county or state lines.

Following are tips from the Don't Move Firewood campaign:

• Obtain firewood near the location where you will burn it – that means the wood was cut in a nearby forest, in the same county, or a maximum of 50 miles from where you'll have your fire.
• Don't be tempted to get firewood from a remote location just because the wood looks clean and healthy. It could still harbor tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungal spores that will start a new and deadly infestation of forest pests.
• Aged or seasoned wood is not considered safe to move, but commercially kiln-dried wood is a good option if you must transport firewood.
• If you have already moved firewood, and you need to dispose of it safely, burn it soon and completely. Make sure to rake the storage area carefully and also burn the debris. In the future, buy from a local source. • Tell your friends and others about the risks of moving firewood—no one wants to be responsible for starting a new pest infestation.

For more information, visit


How Is Diabetes Treated in Children?

November 8, 2011 6:08 pm

Is your child gaining weight or becoming more and more lethargic? Then he or she may be at risk for getting type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes once occurred mainly in adults who are overweight and over 40, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Today, it is increasingly diagnosed in youths age 10 to 19.

Why is this happening? Because just like adults, kids are heavier now. An estimated 1 in 6 children and teens is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Along with a family history of diabetes, being overweight and inactive are the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes, says Ilan Irony, M.D., an endocrinologist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The two main types of diabetes—type 1 and type 2—are treatable, says Irony. “In addition to changes in diet and a healthier lifestyle, treatments can help control blood sugar and prevent or delay long-term complications of diabetes.”

FDA-approved treatments for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are all about keeping the blood sugar (glucose) levels in a normal range.

But there is no one treatment that works for everybody, says Irony. And treatments may need to be changed if side effects of a particular medication are not tolerated. Also, additional medications may need to be added as diabetes gets worse over time.

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is most often diagnosed in children starting at age 12 or 13, says Irony. “In children, the disease tends to get worse in puberty when the body produces hormones that make insulin less effective,” he says. Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar levels.

“The first line of treatment is a healthy diet and other lifestyle changes,” says Irony. “If a child is overweight or obese, losing weight and increasing physical activity can help lower blood sugar.”

Ask the pediatrician if your child is a healthy weight or needs to lose weight. And children and adolescents should do at least one hour of physical activity each day, according to the federal government’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 

Type 2 diabetes may be controlled with diet and exercise for a while—sometimes years—says Irony. “But the disease is progressive and medication will be needed later in the majority of patients.”

FDA has approved one glucose-lowering medication—metformin—in pill and liquid form for children. Metformin, used daily, increases the body’s sensitivity to its own insulin so it becomes more active and pushes glucose into the cells. The most common side effects of metformin—upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea—generally go away within a few weeks.

In rare cases, metformin can cause a serious and sometimes fatal side effect called lactic acidosis—a buildup of lactic acid in the blood. This rare condition has occurred mostly in people whose kidneys were not working normally.

FDA has recently approved a number of different drugs for diabetes in adults that are currently being studied for use in children, Irony says.

Injectable insulins—which move glucose from the blood to the body’s cells—are approved for children with diabetes. If the drug metformin alone doesn’t bring the blood sugar down to normal, insulin can be injected and help achieve better control.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes accounts for almost all diabetes in children younger than 10, and it is also on the rise in U.S. children and adolescents. Formerly called juvenile diabetes, type 1 occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. Researchers are still investigating the causes of diabetes.

For children with type 1 diabetes, multiple injections of insulin are needed every day to keep the blood sugar in check.

“Treatment is individualized to the child and the spikes of high or low blood sugar need to be minimized,” says Irony. It’s a balancing act to lower the blood sugar but not get it too low, which could make the child feel shaky or pass out, he adds.

Diabetes Devices
Children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, like adults, must test their blood sugar multiple times a day. FDA regulates medical devices, including portable meters and monitors, used to check blood sugar levels. The agency also regulates devices such as syringes, pens, and pumps used to inject insulin.

Syringes and pens are used manually to inject insulin. Pumps are computerized devices programmed to deliver a continuous flow of insulin, even while you sleep. FDA has approved more than 55 different insulin pumps. A pump system generally consists of
• a pumping mechanism that holds batteries and a cartridge filled with insulin. The pump, which is similar in size to a pager, is worn outside the body on a belt or in a pocket.
• a tube (catheter) that carries insulin from the pump to another tube (cannula) implanted just under the skin, typically in the belly or back.
Pump technology continues to evolve, says Alan Stevens, a mechanical engineer and FDA’s infusion pump team leader. A newer type is the “patch” pump, he says, in which the tubing is contained within a pump directly attached to the body with adhesive. A small, hand-held computer similar to a PDA, which directs the pump, can be carried in a purse or pocket.

What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs because of defects in the body’s ability to produce or use insulin—a hormone needed to convert food into energy. Insulin is made in the pancreas and is released into the blood to control glucose (sugar) levels and the amount of glucose transported into cells as an energy source. If the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin, or if the cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, glucose can't get into the cells and instead stays in the blood and is passed in the urine. The blood sugar level then gets too high.

High blood sugar can, over time, lead to devastating health problems, including
• heart attack
• stroke
• kidney disease
• nerve damage
• loss of toes or feet
• digestive problems
• blindness
• gum problems and loss of teeth 

For more information, visit

Word of the Day

November 8, 2011 6:08 pm

Planned Unit Development (PUD). Individually owned houses with community ownership of common areas, such as swimming pools and tennis courts.

Question of the Day

November 8, 2011 6:08 pm

Q: What does a buyer’s agent do?

A: A buyer’s agent represents the buyer exclusively. This means he works to protect your interests in the transaction and helps to negotiate the best purchase price and terms. More information about buyers’ agents is available by contacting the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents at (609) 799-4382, or log on to

Patience is Key when Looking for and Purchasing Rental Property

November 7, 2011 6:06 pm

As today’s economy continues to struggle, homeowners across the country are looking for ways to make ends meet, and many are taking on the role of landlord. While jumping into the rental scene may seem enticing, it is important to make sure you are prepared for the task before you get started.

According to the experts at, the following tips will help homeowners looking to buy rental property find success, no matter what the market.

Do your homework and find a reputable agent or broker. Taking the time to find a reputable real estate agent or broker before you begin searching for a rental property is crucial. The agent or broker that you ultimately choose to work with should know the neighborhood(s) where you are interested in buying, in addition to helping you choose properties that fit your needs.

Make sure your finances are organized. Going through your finances and making sure everything is in order is a crucial part of the purchasing process that shouldn’t be overlooked. If there is any chance that you will be taking out a mortgage in order to finance your rental property, it is important to do your research early to make sure there are no discrepancies on your credit report. If you find that your credit report is inaccurate, report it immediately so you can get the problem resolved quickly.

Set a maximum amount you can afford to pay. Before you even begin looking at properties, you should carefully examine your finances and your current situation to establish the maximum amount of money you can afford to spend. By not coming up with a number beforehand, it is easy to get carried away and spend more money than you should have.

Schedule a home inspection. Before you buy a rental property, be sure to call in a professional home inspector who will come and evaluate the home. Home inspectors will be able to tell you if the home is safe to live in, and if there are any problems that need to be addressed. This is a great way to avoid expensive repairs down the road.

Take a close look at the neighborhood. Once you have found the property that will best suit your needs, be sure to take the time and get to know the neighborhood. It is usually a good idea to visit the neighborhood during the day and at night so you can get an accurate feel for what the area is like.

Stay up-to-date. If you are looking to purchase a rental property in an area in which you aren’t familiar, you should do your homework and get to know the local real estate market. The agent or broker you are working with will be able to provide you with current information about the area as well.

Ask around. These days, people are turning any situation into a networking opportunity, so be sure to take advantage of those around you when looking for a rental property. It doesn’t hurt to ask friends, family, business owners and individuals who live in the area whether there is anything available or if they know of anyone who may be leaving the area at some point. Initiating this dialogue will keep you top of mind when something does come along.

Don’t settle. Just like you wouldn’t settle if you were in the process of buying your primary residence, it is important to treat the rental property search the same way. It may take a while to find the perfect rental location, so be patient with the process.

Ask for comparables. Your agent or broker can provide you with information regarding comparable properties in the area. It is important to take notice of the rental income, sales price, square footage and other relevant information to be sure you are getting a good deal.

Off Season: Closing Up Your Summer Home for the Winter

November 7, 2011 6:06 pm

After a lovely summer in your cabin or cottage comes the ugly job of closing up for the winter. Use this checklist to make sure opening up in the spring doesn't hold any bad surprises.

Inside tips:
• Shut the water off and drain the plumbing system.
• Turn off the power at the main switch.
• Remove all food. This includes canned goods, which might freeze and burst, and plastic containers. Plastic doesn't stop bears or rodents.
• Defrost the refrigerator-freezer and unplug it. Leave doors open or put an open box of baking soda inside.
• Place some proven anti-mildew products around the cabin.
• Close and lock all windows. Close all drapes or blinds, or hang blankets over windows. Remove and store screens if possible. 

Outside tips:
• Till your garden and add fertilizer or compost.
• Mow your lawn. Apply natural fall fertilizer or lime. Trim branches that touch the cottage. Keep woodpiles off the ground and at least 30 feet from the cottage.
• Put gas stabilizer in your gas cans and vehicle gas tanks. Start engines and motors to run the stabilizer through the system. Drain water from outboard motors. Store expensive property in a controlled storage area, if possible.
• In your shed, pick up tools and remove debris.
• Inspect the cabin roof. Replace missing or broken shingles. Check any wire mesh screens and the caulking around the chimney flashing. (Don't use foam caulking; it won't stop rodents).
• Check the dryer vent—the most common rodent entry point. Make sure it's fully caulked (but not with foam) and has a wire mesh screen.
• Ask neighbors to watch your place. Make sure they have your phone number and e-mail address.

Survey Finds That Most Renters Perceive Homeownership as a Preference

November 7, 2011 6:06 pm

A recent survey on behalf of Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR) and Habitat for Humanity International conducted by the NAHB Research Center found that individuals who are renting perceive homeownership as a preference. In fact, 68 percent of individuals currently paying rent for their residences said they would prefer to own their own houses. Although previous releases issued about this study have discussed the feeling among consumers about the cost of owning a home, this information demonstrates that regardless of concerns, the general perception among those surveyed is that they prefer to own a home. The complete study reported opinions from consumers and builders on various topics related to home building.

There are many noteworthy challenges that come with renting and this was shown in the survey by Whirlpool and Habitat as well. The majority of renters also displayed a perception of being concerned with their costs—60 percent said they were concerned about the cost to rent, while 52 percent said they were concerned about the cost of electric and gas bills.

"We're encouraged that this study demonstrates the desire of consumers to become home owners," says Tom Halford, general manager, contract sales and marketing, Whirlpool Corporation. "Whirlpool Corporation is proud to work with Habitat for Humanity International to help build homes that can have a positive impact on families and communities."

According to the survey, another factor when it comes to home ownership is the perceived safety. Of all renter respondents, 44 percent said they had not taken any action to increase the safety of their households in the past 6-12 months. Other respondents said they undertook minor safety precaution projects such as installing a lock on a door (32%) and putting in a smoke alarm (31%).

Besides owning their own houses, other desired changes that renters indicated they would like included having a backyard (39%), the ability to decorate (38%), upgrading appliances (36%) and increasing home eco-efficiency (31%).

For more information, visit or

3 Ways to Turn Family Recipes into an Affordable Holiday Gift

November 7, 2011 6:06 pm

When Ted Miller lost his job a few years ago, he was broke and dreading Christmas. “I only had a few bucks, and I wanted to stretch that money out. So I thought, why not take all of my mom’s recipes and make cookbooks for her and the rest of the family?”

Some typing and $30 later, and he had five family cookbooks to place under the Christmas tree. “I was surprised how personal it was, and how much it meant to my mom to see all her recipes handed down. She literally had tears in her eyes. Mom still says it’s one of her favorite presents ever.”

With tightening budgets and the rising cost of travel, many families are planning for a toned-down holiday season. However, families are finding that just because they may have to forego the giant family dinners, they do not have to give up on the traditional family cuisine. Many gift-givers see this as an excellent opportunity to share their cooking heritage without breaking the bank.

There are typically three different ways to turn family recipes into great gifts: recipe binders, recipe boxes, and printed cookbooks. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, according to Erin Miller, wife of Ted and owner of

“I love keeping family recipes,” says Erin. “When I saw what Ted made, I just knew I had to make a business out of this.”

Recipe Binders: These are by far the most popular way to organize recipes. Many such binders are flimsy white binders bought for under $4 at any office supply store. “They don’t have to be ugly, cheap-looking and overcrowded, though,” says Erin. “You can buy a beautiful binder that will show your pride in your recipes for under $20.” They can have ornate designs, be made out of leather, and be filled with page protectors and dividers to better organize and store fragile recipes.

Recipe binders come in two categories: half-page and full-page. Half page binders fit half of an 8.5”x11” normal sheet of paper (5.25”x8.5”). Their compact size, lower cost and lighter weight make them the more popular format. Full page binders fit a full size sheet of paper, hold twice as many recipes, and are perhaps more impressive as a gift. Either may be customized with tab divider labels to better personalize the layout. Page protectors ensure recipes are not damaged by spills, and make them easier to reorganize as the recipe binder grows. Most can hold both recipe cards and printed out cookbooks.

Recipe Boxes: Dating back to at least the 1930s, the recipe box is the most traditional recipe storage medium. Its small footprint makes it great for tiny kitchens, and it can be especially ideal for those who maintain a small selection of recipes. A box packed with 30 or 40 hand-written recipes can make a truly touching gift.

Recipe boxes have their practical limitations, though. Newspaper clippings and printouts don’t easily fit. The cards are not well protected from wear. They can become easily disorganized. Hand-written cards are by nature more difficult to duplicate. But for those who love the age-old tradition of swapping hand-written recipe cards with a good friend, a fine recipe box can make a delightful gift.

Printing a Cookbook: In an era where anyone can become a publisher, writing and printing one’s own family cookbook is certainly a great option. Recipe sharing sites like Tastebook offer full-color printing of up to 100 recipes for $35 per book. The printing quality can be fantastic. However, there are drawbacks. Printing more than a few books can quickly become expensive. Once the book is printed, it stops being an evolving recipe collection that is added to and revised as tastes expand. Also, check end user license agreements—many state that the recipe site retains ownership of all recipes entered into it. Grandmother’s secret chocolate silk cake could wind up in a place that the customer never intended.

Another alternative for printing a cookbook is Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, published by The Cookbook People. Because it installs on the user’s own computer, there are no privacy issues. Printing can be done on the home printer for free, or it can be handed off to the local copy shop. Another option is to print at home and have the copy shop spiral bind the book for a dollar or two. The Cookbook People also offer printing services at competitive prices.

For more information, visit

Word of the Day

November 7, 2011 6:06 pm

PITI. Acronym for “principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.” Frequently used to describe a loan payment that combines all four items.

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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440 - PERKASIE

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