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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Question of the Day

November 3, 2011 5:58 pm

Q: Is it best to save for the ultimate dream home or begin with a less expensive starter home?

A: It can take a long time to save for that perfect dream home. Meanwhile, the market has been flooded with some of the most favorable mortgage interest rates in years. Low rates make housing more affordable, which is why so many buyers have jumped on the home buying bandwagon.

Home-price appreciation has also been strong, making very solid gains in communities across the country. In fact, home prices are expected to increase 2.5 percent to 3 percent annually over the next five years.

If you purchase a starter home today, you can potentially begin to build value that can lead to the purchase of a larger, or more desirable, trade-up home in the future.

From Frightful to Fantastic: Cleaning Those Often-Overlooked Areas

November 2, 2011 5:56 pm

The goblins and ghouls have come and gone, but your home still may be a frightful place. Real cobwebs that hang in the corner no longer add to the ambiance of the living room. Dust balls lurk under the beds, and only a scientist can hazard a guess at what's growing in the dark recesses of your refrigerator.

Experts at The Maids (, a franchised residential cleaning service to clean for health using environmentally preferable products, a strategic cleaning approach and state-of-the-art equipment, offer these ideas to help you focus on often-overlooked areas so you can transform your haunted house into home-sweet-home.

It Came from Above. Cobwebs might have been the perfect decor for a Halloween party, but now they are simply creepy. Attach a microfiber cloth—a rubber band works nicely—to an extending pole or even a broom handle and run it along ceiling and wall creases. You can also use an extender attachment on your vacuum to eliminate webs from windowsills and other areas where spiders like to congregate. Don't forget to wipe down curtain rods or other window treatment fixtures that aren't part of a regular cleaning regime.

Next dust tops of picture frames, bookshelf tops, door moldings and other wall decor. Remove any vent covers and thoroughly clean with a mild soap and warm water. Dust smoke and CO2 detectors to make sure they're operating efficiently.
If you have silk or other artificial floral arrangements, remove dust or sticky cobwebs with a microfiber cloth. At the least, take them outside and give them a good shaking. If the dusty grime is too foreboding, consider throwing them away.

What Lies Beneath. Some of the truly scary places in your home are those you rarely see. Take this opportunity to dust or vacuum closet floors and corners, under beds, and any other places you might not have cleaned in several months. Use soapy, warm water to clean under kitchen or bathroom sinks; while you are there, check for leaks or other pipe issues.

Use a long-handled, soft brush to clean any accumulated lint and other fuzz from your dryer vent. Use a vacuum attachment to eliminate dust and debris from behind your washer and dryer and other appliances placed close to walls, including the refrigerator.

The Thing. Speaking of refrigerators, some of the unwanted things you find there can be, well, chilling. First, toss any foods that are expired, unwanted or look like they came from Frankenstein's laboratory. Place foods you want to keep on a counter or other clean surface.

Use a healthful and environmental-friendly solution of one quart warm water to one-quarter cup baking soda to wipe down the inside of the refrigerator. Place drawers and shelving into the sink or your bathtub and clean them with the same solution. To keep your refrigerator smelling fresh, keep a box of opened baking soda in the back of the fridge; change about every three months.

It Came from the Black Lagoon. Your bathtub and shower stall may not be that terrifying, but the truth is, thousands of germs and bacteria thrive in warm, moist places. And don't forget the mold and mildew that accumulates on tile grout.
Soapy water and a scrub brush are your best defense against any swamp creatures living in your bathroom. A simple paste of baking soda and vinegar and a tooth brush will scrub away grime that has accumulated on tile grout. If the grout is stained, reach for a lemon. The acidity in the fruit's juice will attack stains and discoloration. Leave the juice on for about ten minutes before wiping clean.

For more information, visit

U.S. 'Green' Standards Change, New Energy Efficient Lighting

November 2, 2011 5:56 pm

New Light Bulb Regulations 

With the movement towards a greener world, the U.S. is developing stricter requirements focusing on energy efficient lighting. Over the next five years, several changes will occur in the lighting industry, the most prominent of which will be the phasing out and replacing of standard light bulbs by more energy efficient alternatives.

Many people are misinterpreting these regulations by thinking that they have to stock up on the light bulbs being phased out because they will no longer be available. This is not the case, as these regulations are simply being put into effect to replace current bulbs with more energy efficient ones.

In January of 2012, 100W incandescent bulbs will be phased out; however, they will be replaced by more energy efficient 72W bulbs. These new bulbs will be required to emit the same amount of lumens as a 100W bulb, just without consuming as much electricity. Remember, lumens refer to the amount of light produced, whereas watts refer to the amount of energy consumed by the bulb. This trend will continue through 2014 in an effort to increase overall energy efficiency.

In addition, packaging standards have been in the process of changing since the middle of this year. Instead of referring to bulbs by their wattage, packaging now refers to them according to their Lumens, and will include a cost figure for yearly usage. In addition, packaging will now include a "Lighting Facts" portion that will inform consumers about brightness, energy cost, life expectancy, light appearance, wattage, and mercury content.

For more information, visit

Holiday Cleaning Hints

November 2, 2011 5:56 pm

The holidays are a great time to make memories with friends and family, and a clean and inviting home sets the tone. From family traditions and cookie exchanges to visits from out of town guests, you want your home to always have that special holiday shine. 

Windex has been helping homes sparkle for the holidays—and every day—for 75 years. Here are some hints to help you keep your home clean and inviting all season long. 

Tackle the Fridge—Clear out food and leftovers that are past their prime. Wipe down shelves and make room for batches of holiday cookie dough and perishable food gifts you might get. Wipe down the handles and doors with Windex Multi-Surface Vinegar. It gently cleans even stainless steel with a streak-free shine and a fresh, clean scent.
Declutter—Clear everything off the counters that isn't involved in cooking. Put whatever has been slowly piling up, like mail and magazines, in piles: throw away, keep and recycle. This will make clearing the clutter more manageable.
Work from the Top Down—Start by dusting the tops of cabinets. Then wipe down the cabinet doors, followed by countertops, lower cabinet doors, then the floors.
Clean the Stovetop—Crumbs can build up in the space between the stove and the countertop. Use a stiff brush to loosen and remove them in no time. Once the crumbs are gone, wrap the bristles with a cloth dipped in warm soapy water to degrease that area.
Manage the Microwave—In the microwave, boil a cup of water with a few slices of lemon in it for one minute. The steam softens stuck-on food, while the lemon water can be used with a sponge to wipe away grease and residue. 

Let the Light In—Take down your bathroom light fixtures and clean them with Windex Original Glass Wipes. Dust off your light bulbs too—you'll be surprised at how much brighter the bathroom looks when you're done. Sweep First, Then Mop—Vacuum or sweep the floors, using the crevice tool to get behind sinks and toilets and to get into corners. This will clear the floor of hair and dust before you wipe down the baseboards and mop the floor, leaving a clean and shiny floor.
Soap Up the Sink—Use an old toothbrush to get behind the sink faucet and knobs, and don't forget the sink pedestal or lower cabinets where dust, hair and makeup can build up.
Mind Your Medicine Cabinet—Yes, guests will peek. Tidy things up, dispose of old medications and stash items you'd rather not be seen.
Spruce Up—Fresh, neatly folded towels, scented hand soaps and a seasonal candle go a long way toward making a bathroom look and feel welcoming.
Clear Reflection—Make sure the mirror is free of mascara smudges and water spots by wiping it down with Windex Original. 

Living room
Freshen Up Fabrics—Get pet hair off of upholstery with your favorite pet hair remover. Vacuum upholstered surfaces, then spot clean and use a fabric freshener where needed. Add a few seasonal pillows or throws for a fresh look guests will love.
Make It Shine—Dust can build up on your most valuable electronics including computers, televisions and other items in your living room. Whether it's Windex Electronics Spray, Dry Cloths, or Wipes, the gentle formula removes dust, dirt and grime from household electronics, leaving behind only a streak-free shine.
Get Rid of Smudges—Doorknobs, light switches, phones and more can get smudges and fingerprints. Give them a good cleaning with Windex Original Glass and Surface Wipes—this is a great job for the kids to tackle. 

Speedy Clean-Up Secrets
If you're on a tight schedule, or find out at the last minute that you'll be having guests, here are three quick tricks to help you tidy up in a hurry:
Speed Clean—Go through the house with a few Windex Original Glass and Surface Wipes to remove smudges on mirrors, fingerprints on windows and glass tables, and grime on light switches. You'll be surprised at how quickly your home will seem polished and pulled together, with just a few touch-ups.
Focus on Key Areas Only—Pick the main rooms that guests will be in and clean those. Concentrate on the bathroom first, then the main living area, then the kitchen.
Involve Your Family—Have each family member pick up clutter or misplaced items in a different area of the house and make a game of it -- the first person done gets a special holiday treat!

For more information visit

From Grill to Table, Reinvent Thanksgiving Classics Outdoors

November 2, 2011 5:56 pm

Year-round outdoor cooking is on the rise as consumers are becoming more adventurous chefs, forgoing the oven or stove-top and opting for turkey and trimmings cooked on the grill, smoker or fryer. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) 2011 State of the Barbecue Industry report, 62 percent of consumers are cooking outdoors year-round and 15 percent are cooking part of their Thanksgiving meals outside, up 9 percent from 2009. Whether it's for the convenience, minimal cleanup or crisp fresh air, consumers are willing to prepare the entire Thanksgiving meal—from the turkey to desserts —outdoors.

"As the popularity of year-round outdoor cooking continues to grow, so does our appetite to try new techniques, gadgets and recipes—even for Thanksgiving," said Leslie Wheeler, HPBA communications director. "This holiday season, be adventurous and try cooking your turkey and classic side dishes outside for a convenient, flavorful and healthy way to prepare your holiday feast."

Along with new techniques, gadgets and recipes, Americans agree that there are many reasons they are cooking outdoors this holiday season—and all year round —according to new State of the Barbecue Industry report findings. Consumers say they'll cook outdoors for:

• More flavorful food preparation (58%),
• Cost savings compared to eating out (47%),
• Healthier preparation (38%),
• Less cooking time compared to oven recipes (24%)

The National Turkey Federation (NTF) agrees: "With an estimated 46 million turkeys being cooked this holiday season, Americans are continuously looking for ways to reinvent their Thanksgiving feasts," says Sherrie Rosenblatt, NTF vice president of marketing and communications. "Turkeys can be fried, smoked or even grilled to add a new twist on the traditional Thanksgiving turkey." 

HPBA and NTF offer the following preparation and cooking tips to ensure a safe and delicious meal:

Turkey Time
• Purchase a whole turkey according to the weight recommendations in your grill, smoker or fryer owner's manual.
• Thaw the turkey completely and pat it dry. Cook the bird un-stuffed.
• Brine the turkey for increased flavor and moisture.
• Outdoor cooking times depend on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat and the outside air temperature. Allow more time on cold or windy days and at high altitudes. Allow less time in very hot weather.
• Have a food thermometer handy to measure the internal temperature of the bird; the temperature should be 165 degrees F, but most people prefer it to reach 170 degrees F in the breast and 180 degrees F in the thigh.

Safety First
• Check to make sure the grill, smoker or fryer is in working order.
• Be sure to read the owner's manual for safety precautions.
• Stock up on enough charcoal, propane, oil or wood chips needed to cook the meal.
• Be sure to use the grill, smoker or fryer outside only—never indoors—and make sure that it's set-up on a flat, stable surface, preferably on a protective grill pad, and away from any combustible materials.

For more information, visit or


Word of the Day

November 2, 2011 5:56 pm

Offer. Oral or written proposal to buy a piece of property at a specified price.

Question of the Day

November 2, 2011 5:56 pm

Q: Is it possible to get a no-down payment loan?

A: Builders will typically offer no-down-payment loans to sell properties in a slow-moving development or a depressed market. Desperate sellers also may commit to finance the down payment for the buyer to move a hard-to-sell home or to make a quick sale. And veterans may buy a home with nothing down through the Veterans Administration’s home loan program. And members of some pension funds also may avoid making a down payment.

4 Ways to Protect Your Credit when Buying or Selling a Home

November 1, 2011 5:52 pm

If you are listing your home for sale, and/or preparing to buy a home, it’s important not only to protect your credit, but to guard against credit or identity theft as well as the theft of valuables. From, here is a checklist that can help you do that during the buy/sell transaction period:

• Apply with care – Be mindful when applying to multiple lenders. To some versions of the FICO software, all applications submitted within Be mindful when applying to multiple lenders. To some versions of the FICO software, all applications submitted within 30-45 days of each other only count as one hit on your credit report. However, many lenders may still use older versions of the software. Play it safe by submitting all applications in a 14-day period. This will ensure that your credit report doesn't show multiple hits, which will in turn better your overall score.
• Prepare for lookers - When selling your home, pack up small, valuable belongings before strangers begin to walk through the house. Additionally, all bills or financial papers should be put into a locked box or drawer. Protecting your finances and account numbers should be your number-one priority because identity and credit theft are unfortunately very common.
• Protect your documents: When buying a new home, only potential mortgage lenders need to see all of your personal information. Agents and sellers only need to know how much you can afford. When dealing with a lender, stick to the same representative to minimize the number of people who have access to your documents. Avoid sending any files with your social security number through email. Opt for mail or fax instead.
• Stay on top of your finances: Even if you are on top of bills on a monthly basis, you may want to consider checking into your accounts weekly. By logging into your credit card accounts regularly, you can make sure that all of the charges are legitimately yours. Credit watch services are also a good idea. If a fraudulent charge is made, the service will pick up on it and alert you of the charges. It's important to act quickly with regards to your credit. You can never be too careful.

Change How You Prepare for the Time Change

November 1, 2011 5:52 pm

Sunday, November 6 at 2 a.m. marks the official end of Daylight Savings time as clocks are pushed back one hour. While most of us will enjoy the opportunity to get an additional hour of slumber, sleep experts from Northwestern Memorial Hospital warn that even the one hour shift in time can be disruptive to our sleep patterns and recommend people use the end of Daylight Savings time as a time to evaluate their sleep habits. 

"Sleep problems are widespread and on the rise, yet many people dismiss the issue and don't realize the consequences that can result," said Hrayr Attarian, MD, neurologist at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "As people reset their clocks, they should also take this opportunity to reset their sleep habits in order to avoid possible health consequences. Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, trouble with memory and learning and a higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure." 

Attarian recommends that even though we are gaining an hour, you should still go to bed at the same time. Doing so will help make sure you don't go into Monday sleep deprived. To help people get a good night's sleep this weekend and throughout the year, Attarian offers tips on proper sleep habits. 

• Consistency is key – Go to bed when you are sleepy and stick to a set rise time. You cannot force yourself to fall asleep, but you can always get up when you need to. Not sleeping in may help consolidate your sleep at night.
• Bedroom boundaries – Make sure the bedroom is only for going to sleep. It shouldn't be a place to watch TV, do work, surf the internet or eat. That way your body knows that when you get into bed, it's time to go to sleep.
• Work up a sweat – Exercise can give your body something to rest from and help you stay asleep at night. To allow enough wind-down time, it's best to complete exercise at least two to three hours before going to bed.
• Set the stage – Take a hot shower then get into a cool bed. The drop in your body's temperature after taking a hot shower and entering a cooler room is a process that naturally mimics day and night, and may help guide you to sleep.
• Put your thoughts to bed – Jot down your to-do list for the next day and put it aside so you feel organized and can avoid racing thoughts that may prevent you from falling and staying asleep.
• Relax - Avoid activities such as going online or watching TV that will hold your interest and keep you engaged. Listening to music or reading something that you find mindless in a dimly lit area may help you feel sleepy. 

The end of Daylight Savings time also means an earlier sundown, leading to more nighttime driving for many Americans. According to Phyllis Zee, MD, Ph.D., director of Northwestern Memorial's Sleep Disorders Center, drowsy driving can lead to more accidents on the road. 

"There is a significant increase in the number of car accidents in the days following the end of Daylight Savings Time (DST), which many attribute to lack of alertness from insufficient sleep," said Zee, who is also a professor of neurology, neurobiology and physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. It seems contradictory that accidents would increase when an extra hour is actually gained with the shift from DST in the fall. Perhaps, in anticipation of the longer day, many people are tempted to stay up later on the weekend, which can lead to dangerous late night driving while drowsy. It is important to recognize that the increased risk of accidents associated with shifts to and from DST result from the need of the biological clock to adjust to the time change, as well as behavioral factors. For most sleep deprived Americans, the best thing to do is to take advantage of the end of DST to gain an extra hour of sleep. 

Zee adds that drinking a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverages just before getting behind the wheel may help temporarily. Most importantly, make sure you get enough sleep every night and avoid medications that make you drowsy. Zee warns that splashing water on your face, pinching yourself, listening to loud music or rolling the windows down do not help prevent falling asleep behind the wheel. 

If sleep doesn't come naturally or you experience excessive sleepiness during the day despite a good sleep regimen, speak with your physician to determine the cause of sleep loss and regain control over your ability to be well-rested. Northwestern Memorial's new 10,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Sleep Disorders Center conducts day and night studies for the diagnosis and treatment of a multitude of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, nocturnal behaviors such as sleep walking, talking and eating in sleep, acting out dreams, and narcolepsy. Patients also have the option of completing diagnostic studies at home using ambulatory monitoring technology. 

For more information, visit

Top 4 Questions to Ask when You Hire an Attorney

November 1, 2011 5:52 pm

Selecting an attorney for your business is one of the most important decisions a small business owner can make. Yet, when speaking with small business owners, I find that few know how to select the right attorney for their business. 

There are a lot of different variables. But, at a minimum, the following should be considered before selecting an attorney:
What is the attorney's expertise?
Select an attorney that has worked with owners of similar businesses. The attorney will be able to advise you of potential risks within your industry. The attorney will also be familiar with drafting the types of documents and contracts your business needs. This will save you money since the attorney is already familiar with the legal environment in which your business operates. 

How much are you going to pay in attorney's fees?
Attorneys charge clients in different ways. Many bill by the hour. Some charge a flat rate for completion of a specific task. Before selecting an attorney, make sure you are comfortable with the attorney's fee structure.
Be sure to ask the attorney to give you an estimate of the total cost of the task you need completed. Also ask whether the attorney charges fees for copying, postage, mileage, or any other non-fee related expenses. 

How does the attorney communicate?
I find that many small business owners never think to ask this question. Before you select an attorney, find out if the attorney prefers to communicate in person, by phone, or by email. If your business keeps you too busy to meet in person and you prefer email, make sure that you select an attorney that communicates regularly by email. 

Also be sure to find out who will be communicating with you. Some attorneys utilize their associate attorneys, paralegals, or secretaries to communicate with clients. Ask if you will be charged for each time someone communicates with you. Don't assume that because you are not meeting in person with the attorney that you will not be billed. 

Who will actually be doing my work?
The attorney you meet in the first meeting is not necessarily the one who will be doing your work. It is not uncommon for partners to have associates or paralegals complete tasks. Often times this can save you money because the associate or paralegal costs less per hour than the attorney. 

Jennifer K . Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.

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