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Climate Right: Keeps Pets Safe & Healthy during the Dog Days of Summer

June 20, 2011 6:27 pm

Climate Right—the patent-pending, portable air conditioner designed for small spaces—is being touted as a go-to product for pet owners concerned about pet safety during the "dog days of summer." Featured on Good Morning America recently, the unit is built to cool up to 350 cubic feet of space—more than enough power to moderate temperatures in outdoor dog houses.
Unlike humans, dogs lack sweat glands, which means they can be more susceptible to summer heat issues than people. As summer heats up, help your canines stay cool by incorporating these climate control tips. 

• Manage doghouse temperatures. Outdoor doghouses are heat traps during the summer. Just as people are taken aback by extreme temperatures inside cars, dogs feel similar shock from their doghouse. Keep temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees—not too cool, not too warm. The Climate Right, as featured on Good Morning America, is a doghouse air-conditioner specifically designed to protect dogs during the hot summer months.
• Prevent sunburn. Yes, dogs can get sunburned, too. Keeping fur/hair a bit longer in the summer months or using a sunscreen specifically formulated for dogs can help keep the burn away. Apply sunblock to ears, nose, lips, groin and other places where skin is exposed to the sun.
• Keep pups hydrated. Hydration helps regulate a dog's body temperature. According to experts, animals should have about 28 milliliters of water per pound of body weight per day. (In other words, a 40-pound dog should have a liter of water every day.)
• Have fun while staying cool. Staying cool can actually be enjoyable—for both you and your dog! Just see what happens when you throw your dog an ice-cube dog bone! Additionally, if your furry friend enjoys the water, try a "puppy pool," or even a dip in the swimming pool or lake.
• Monitor for heatstroke warning signs. According to the AKC, heavy panting, rapid breathing, excessive drooling, bright gums/tongue, balance challenges, uncontrollable urination and lethargy/unwillingness to move are all potential warning signs of heatstroke. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, contract your veterinarian right away.

Tips to Keep Insects from Driving You Buggy

June 20, 2011 6:27 pm

While the joys of summer are just around the corner, so is bug season. It is no surprise that summer welcomes more than just barbeques, pool parties and outdoor fun—it also brings back a variety of pesty annoyances. An insect invasion may be hard to avoid unless proactive steps are taken to prevent a major infestation.

“When it comes to choosing a product to control pests, one size rarely fits all,” says Larry Coltharp, director of insect control research and development with Black Flag®.

Black Flag® experts recommend homeowners protect their homes both indoors and out by spraying early in the spring, reinforce protection in the summer during peak insect season, and seal homes in the fall to keep bugs from seeking shelter. By doing so, homeowners may save more than $100, the average cost of contracting a pest control service.

Tips for Keeping Pests under Control:
• To kill bugs attempting to enter the home, apply a continuous, uninterrupted spray around the home's foundation and other possible entry points such as windows, doors and crevices.
• Check walls for cracks and crevices where spiders and ants can enter.
• In the kitchen, avoid open food containers, or water leaks under the sink, and other sources of food and water. It’s also a good idea to inspect paper grocery bags to make sure they don’t contain any uninvited guests.
• In addition to attracting mold and mildew, cardboard storage containers can make an attractive meal for many insects, such as spiders, roaches and silver fish.
• Keep kitchen trash in a closed container, both indoors and out.

To learn more about keeping your home pest free, visit


Top 10 Tips to Create a Backyard Tropical Paradise

June 20, 2011 6:27 pm

Summer is here, so fire up the grill, design an outdoor kitchen and set the mood with your pool ambience.

With the uncertain economy and high gas prices, homeowners are doing more staycations than vacations. But there's no need to stay inside—move the party out.

"Enhancing the backyard for entertaining has become popular," says Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Corporation. "Homeowners find outdoor living spaces make their homes more appealing."
Follow these top 10 tips from Mr. Appliance Corp., Mr. Rooter® Plumbing and Mr. Electric® to create your backyard tropical paradise.

Grillin' Guru:

• Fire it up! Burn off last summer's leftovers by turning burners on high, closing the lid and letting the grill run for 30 to 45 minutes. Once complete, brush burned leftovers away.
• Seasoned to perfection. Just like chefs have seasoned cast-iron skillets, grill masters have seasoned grates. Avoid soap or strong chemical cleaning products on the grates.
• Nice catch. Make sure to dump food that falls between the grates housed in the large drip pan and to check for grease overflow in the smaller one below it.

Water Works:

• Take the plunge.
Purchase stainless steel sinks for their sturdiness and their ability to withstand weather better. Heavy duty brass fixtures don't corrode and are rust free.
• Chill out. Install a water line for outdoor kitchen sinks, refrigerators and icemakers and a drain line for the kitchen sink. These can be DIY projects, but hiring a plumber is recommended.
• Summer heat. Set up a gas line for outdoor ranges and grills as well as patio heaters and fireplaces. It's best to hire a service professional to ensure proper and safe installation.

Pool Party:

• Set the mood. When installing lights near a waterfall, pool or garden, hire a certified electrician to avoid electrical hazards.
• Dig deep. To ensure the safety of children and pets, cover all electrical wires.
• Rock on. What's a party without music? For outdoor speakers, enlist an electrician to make sure there is no faulty wiring that could cause a fire.

Use these tips to impress your guests. By turning your bland backyard into an outdoor oasis, you can be off to your own little paradise in no time.


Conference of Mayors: Finding Ways to Advance Energy, Sustainability

June 20, 2011 6:27 pm

Despite challenging economic conditions, a landmark survey of nearly 400 mayors in all 50 states has found that energy and sustainability efforts have maintained momentum within cities. The study, prepared for The U.S. Conference of Mayors and sponsored by Siemens, was based on survey research conducted from April to May, 2011, by the international research consultancy GlobeScan.

Among its key findings, the survey noted:
• Three in four cities expect their use of clean energy technologies to increase over the next five years.
• LED/efficient lighting, low-energy building technologies and solar electricity generation are the top three "most promising" technologies for reducing energy use and carbon emissions.
• Mayors are looking to the economic benefits of these clean energy solutions as drivers of their energy strategies.
• For one in three cities, adapting to climate change is already an element of their capital planning or capital improvement programs.
• One-quarter of all cities have already set targets for the use of renewable energy.

According to the study, acknowledging financial restraints, cities are taking full advantage of available federal resources and looking to partner more with the private sector, among others, to continue their energy drives. The full survey report, Clean Energy Solutions for America's Cities, is now available at:

"The overwhelming response to this survey—396 mayors in all 50 states, representing about 74 million people—underscores the strong commitment of the nation's mayors to clean energy technologies and energy efficiency solutions," says Conference President Burnsville (MN) Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz. "Mayors are acting on these commitments, which also support our nation's greater goals on energy independence and security," she explains.

"As a company that provides many of today's technology solutions for cities, we're pleased how cities are embracing the many economic benefits of sustainable technologies," says Daryl Dulaney, president and CEO of Siemens Industry, Inc. "Our next challenge is to help cities come up with financing solutions that have minimal budget impact and keep cities on track with their sustainability goals using proven technologies."

"LED and other efficient lighting sources are the technology of choice for cities aiming to reduce future energy use and climate-harming emissions," says Conference Vice President Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. "We know from our experience in Los Angeles that LED streetlights are the way of the future and having a tremendous impact globally. They save money, protect the environment, and create jobs." The City of Los Angeles is now replacing 140,000 existing streetlight fixtures with LED units in order to save energy by a minimum of 40 percent, reducing carbon emissions by approximately 40,500 tons per year.
Conference Second Vice President Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter—whose home to the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy-Efficient Buildings—says, "Making our buildings more energy efficient through the use of new technologies is a clear priority for the nation's mayors. It is something we can do today, paying dividends to all us well in the future."

"The key drivers behind much of this activity are, not surprisingly, economic: to attract new businesses and jobs, reduce energy costs, and more generally, develop a greener economy," says Tom Cochran, the Conference's CEO and Executive Director. "Mayors credit energy block grants (EECBG funds) delivering federal resources directly to cities as crucial to the expanded investment partnership between businesses and cities on clean energy technologies and energy efficiency."

Rob Kerr, Vice President of GlobeScan, which conducted the survey, says, "The survey reaffirms trends that we're seeing in different countries around the world - that cities are taking the practical lead in pushing national sustainability objectives by actually deploying the technologies today. Sustainability efforts are not going to just go away in tough economic times."

About The U.S. Conference of Mayors: The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,210 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.

10 Tips to Conserve Water

June 16, 2011 2:25 pm

Summer is around the corner, and it's more important that ever to conserve water. From checking the kitchen faucet to watching your laundry loads, there's plenty we can all do to save water.

Here are some tips from Pennsylvania American Water on how you can conserve water and reduce the environmental impact of water consumption both indoors and outside the home:

1. Water your lawn only when it needs it. An easy test to tell if your lawn needs water is to simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it's time to water. (An added benefit of watering less often is that fewer, deep-soaking waterings encourage deep root growth and stronger turf.)

2. Water in the early morning. As much as 30 percent of water can be lost to evaporation by watering during midday.

3. Set your lawn mower one notch higher to make your lawn more drought-tolerant.

4. Use drip irrigation hoses to water plants, and water in the early morning or evening.

5. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your sidewalk, driveway, or patio.

6. Forego the hose and wash your car with a bucket and sponge instead. According to EPA WaterSense, a hose left running can waste as much as six gallons per minute while a bucket and sponge uses only a few gallons to do the job.

7. Keep a bottle of cold tap water in the refrigerator. You'll avoid the cost and environmental impact of bottled water and you'll have cold water available in the summer without running the faucet.

8. Run dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are full. If you have a water-saver cycle, use it.

9. Adjust the water level of your clothes washer, so that it matches your load size.

10. Regularly check your toilet, faucets and pipes for leaks and have them fixed promptly. An easy test for toilet leaks from EPA WaterSense: Place a drop of food coloring in the tank. If the color tints the water in the bowl without flushing, there's a leak. Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.

How to Recover From a Bankruptcy

June 16, 2011 2:25 pm

It's not just happening to you. If you've filed for bankruptcy recently, you're among thousands of Americans who file each month in the U.S. "More than 1.5 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy last year, according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center," says Kristy Welsh, editor of "That's the highest level since 2005." 

The question becomes: once you're through the rigors of bankruptcy court, what happens next? "You can start your recovery the day after you receive your discharge papers," says Welsh. "Rebuilding credit and getting a little money saved can begin immediately." Here are the steps Welsh recommends: 

• Those credit card payments you no longer have to make—start putting them in the bank. Most likely, you've wiped out credit card debt in your bankruptcy. You can take at least a portion of what you would be paying on those cards and put them into savings.
• If you have a retirement saving plan at work like a 401K, especially if there is a matching program, start contributing. Retirement is expensive. Even a little money put away each month can add up over the long term. • Get catastrophic health insurance if you don't have any kind of medical coverage. The number one reason for filing bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical bills. A health plan with a high deductible is often very affordable and can save you financially in the case of an accident or a sudden life threatening disease like cancer. Protect your new savings plan with this type of insurance.
• Apply for secured credit cards. Welsh suggests trying your local bank first. If you're having difficulty finding one, however, see Creditinfocenter's recommended secured credit card list.
• Check your credit report to make sure it's been updated to properly show which debts were included in your bankruptcy. You don't want to have any discharged debts show an open balance. 

For more information visit

American Hardwood Floors are Sustainable Resource

June 16, 2011 2:25 pm

From flooring and cabinetry to moulding and furniture, American hardwoods have been treasured for generations, and for good reason. They offer warmth, durability, luxury, and design options that are unmatched by faux-wood products. 

Recently, however, an abundance of green product labels and misinformation has led to confusion in the marketplace, and has everyone asking, "Are American hardwoods really a sustainable resource?" The American Hardwood Information Center says yes. 

Hardwood forests naturally regenerate themselves and do not need to be replanted like softwood forests. For this reason, their harvesting methods differ. The preferred method of harvesting hardwoods is single-tree selection. A professional forester evaluates a forest and determines which trees are ready to harvest. This responsible forest management practice not only provides a sustaining supply of hardwood, but it also ensures the overall health of a thriving forest—including water quality, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities—and has allowed the volume of our hardwood forests to more than double since the 1950s. 

Wood also is a carbon neutral material. Healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and release oxygen. The carbon is then stored in the wood for the life of the tree and the products made from it.
Advanced technology also ensures minimal wood is wasted during the manufacturing process. Every part of the tree is used. For example, tree bark becomes mulch, sawdust becomes animal bedding or fuel for boilers to operate dry kilns, and trimmings become paper. No other material can compare. 

It's clear. There really is no better or natural choice for green building and healthy home environments than American hardwoods. Learn more by visiting, or

Growing up Tech: Digital Kids and Their Families Hold Key to Bright Future

June 16, 2011 2:25 pm

Consumer technology is in a constant state of evolution, but the adoption rate varies and the role it plays in families' lives has become a controversial topic. 

Recently, Ogilvy & Mather, in partnership with leading consumer insights company Communispace, released findings from its new joint research study, 'Tech Fast Forward: Plug in to see the brighter side of life,' which takes a deep dive into the role technology plays in families' lives today, exploring the mindset of tech-savvy kids and their families, as they pave the way for what lies ahead for consumers and brands alike. 

The report uncovers insights from the "Tech Fast Forward" (TFF) family segment (defined as households who use more sophisticated technology than the average person, with children ages 3-12) and seeks to understand how parents and children embracing technology differ from their less tech-savvy counterparts. Following this group helps brands and marketers alike understand the mindset and experiences that companies need to stay engaged and relevant in today's rapidly changing world. 

"You don't need to be a futurist to know that today's world is changing rapidly and technology is driving this evolution—continually creating possibilities, broadening our horizons and opening new doors," says Graceann Bennett, Managing Partner and Director of Strategic Planning at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. "We assumed as a starting point that technology is our future, but what we did not know—and what we sought to uncover—was whether the outlook would be limitless or limiting, awesome or overwhelming." 

According to Manila Austin, Ph.D., Communispace's Vice President of Research, "The brands that effectively speak to the Tech Fast Forward consumer today link products, services, and even corporate social responsibility together to showcase the brighter future Americans and the world hope to see." 

A Tech Future is a Surprisingly Bright Future
Among the study's key findings, TFF Families have a more positive mindset overall and express less anxiety about the future. Parents believe technology is helping their children develop critical skills that will empower them to navigate—and even save—the world in the years and decades to come. According to the research, the TFF segment is twice as likely to say their children's generation is better off than prior generations and three times more likely than the rest of the population to strongly agree that when their kids' generation comes into power, they will "save the planet," "the world will be better off because of how they will lead the way" and "there will be global peace." 

So What Does this Mean for Brands?
Through the research findings, Communispace and Ogilvy were able to identify the following 12 implications that will help marketers stay ahead of the curve and connect, literally and emotionally, with today and tomorrow's tech forward consumer.
1. Mobilize tech optimism: Brands have the opportunity to capitalize on today's tech optimism by helping consumers create the brighter world they want to see.
2. Generation bending: Nobody really acts their age anymore: market to kids as adults, adults as kids.
3. Mine the family mindset: As intergenerational attitudes converge, opportunities to market to the family as a unit increase. Purchase decisions are family decisions.
4. Be nice: Mean pretty much stinks; speaking to values of kindness and tolerance will increase acceptance and "liked-ness" of your brand.
5. Curate unexpected connections: Brands have the opportunity to bring unimagined access to consumers across the globe and should harness the power of connections in more interesting ways.
6. Put the world to work for you: Technology has unleashed the wisdom of the crowd and brands can build on tech optimism to channel their customers' creativity.
7. Turn up the intensity of shared experiences: Brands can leverage technology to expand and elevate shared experiences; look beyond the ordinary and consider partnering with artists to enhance and deepen brand involvement.
8. Respect the mode: Consumers today switch between modes of separation and integration, and seek service and product solutions to help them feel in control. Brands will benefit by providing a flexible feature set that speaks to the multi-modal life.
9. Un-connect the dots: Consumers want to interpret your brand—to make your brand's story their own. So give them the building blocks and let them put the pieces together.
10. Build gated communities: Safety and privacy create major barriers for self-expression online; private communities help consumers feel secure and confident when engaging with your brand online.
11. Get serious about game play: Game play is no longer relegated to the domain of kids—as technology makes brands more interactive, consumers expect to engage with brands in ways that mimic "play." Be it betting, competing, constructing or solving puzzles, consumers look for ways to take time out and have a little fun with your brand.
12. Let people mess with your brand: The creative impulse abounds, and today, any and all content is fair game for experimentation, adaptation and reinterpretation. This includes your brand! Companies need to embrace this trend and enable consumers to reimagine and remix brand assets.

How the Research Was Conducted
A nationally representative sample was conducted with 1200 tech savvy kids and their families across America with at least one child between the ages of 3 and 12. The first round of data collection occurred in 2010, and a second round was conducted in April 2011. Ogilvy Chicago also conducted in-home ethnographies with tech savvy kids and their families. Communispace conducted a series of qualitative studies including interactive conversations, image galleries, and other dynamic and exploratory activities with its proprietary online community members, which involved some 100 technology-savvy families with children between the age of 3 and 12. 

The full research paper can be found online at and
For more information, visit

Question of the Day

June 16, 2011 2:25 pm

Q: Is it possible to save on closing costs?

A: Certainly, once you get pass the sticker shock. Closing costs are expensive. They can average between 2 to 3 percent of the total home purchase price. But here are a few ways to save:

• Haggle with the seller. He may pay all or part of the closing costs.
• Nab a no-point loan. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, but if you are strapped for cash and can qualify for a higher interest rate, you may find this type of loan can significantly reduce your closing costs.
• Grab a no-fee loan. Although the fee is usually wrapped into a higher rate loan, it does offer one advantage—you get to save on the amount of cash you would need up-front.
• Secure seller financing. These loans typically avoid the traditional fees or charges imposed by lenders. • Shop ‘til you drop for the best deal. Every lender has its own unique fee structure; you are bound to find one that works for you.

Word of the Day

June 16, 2011 2:25 pm

Balloon loan. Mortgage loan in which a larger final payment becomes due because the loan amount was not fully amortized.


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