Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Secrets to a Foolproof Vacation

July 8, 2013 4:56 am

(Family Features)--Vacations should be filled with worry-free days and endless fun, whether you're zip-lining through the jungle or sunbathing on the beach. Navigating unknown territories, however, can cause unwarranted stress if you're not prepared. As you embark on your perfect getaway, consider these quick tips to ensure that it's a trip to remember, for the right reasons.

Stay Energized. Don't let the journey to your destination dampen the experience and start your dream trip on the wrong foot. Avoid fatigue caused by early flights and long drives by getting at least eight hours of sleep the night before your departure and don't succumb to stress-ridden packing procrastination. While traveling, easy access to sensible snacks, such as string cheese and nuts can keep your energy levels up. For long flights and hotel stays, consider sticking ear plugs and a sleep mask in your bag to help combat distracting noises and bright lights that may detract from a restful sleep.

Stay Connected. Your smartphone, tablet and other portable devices keep you connected and make it easier to engage with the culture and exciting attractions that come with a new destination. Whether you're scouting the hottest restaurants, sourcing directions back to your hotel or keeping up with loved ones at home, being able to access your trusted devices is a must. Don't waste precious sightseeing time searching for outlets. Instead, recharge your devices on-the-go with a tool like the Motorola P4000 Universal Portable Power Pack. Such lightweight and slim devices fit easily into a pocket or purse. It provides up to two full phone charges, plus it's compatible with phones by all manufacturers.

Stay Organized. Avoid spending aimless time digging through your belongings looking for your favorite bathing suit, when you could be enjoying the waves and a beautiful sunset. To stay organized while living out of your luggage, consider investing in a suitcase or duffel bag with multiple zipped compartments designed to house small, hard-to-locate items. Clear toiletry bags are also convenient, and allow you to quickly find your everyday necessities while on the road.

Stay Focused on Fun. It's easy to run out of time when you're exploring a new place. Carve out time for your top priorities by making a pre-trip list of must-do activities. Utilize your hotel concierge, resort guide books and online trip planning websites to help create your perfect itinerary and ensure you get the chance to enjoy it all.

Regardless of your destination, with some planning and essential tools, your vacation will be everything you dreamed of and leave you yearning for your next journey.

Source: www.motorola.com

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Looking for a Greener Way to Clean your Pool?

July 8, 2013 4:56 am

(BPT) - There's no better way to enjoy the summer than by lounging by the pool. Unfortunately, this backyard family oasis requires regular maintenance throughout the summer that can include expensive and sometimes unhealthy chemicals. Have you ever wished there was an easier way you could clean your pool, that was also more eco-friendly?

Just as there are now "greener" choices for many consumer products, there are now some great alternatives for keeping your pool clean that are easier and actually help minimize chemicals and additives. Technology has come a long way, and consumers can now choose from a variety of affordable and more environmentally friendly ways to maintain their backyard pool.

But how do you choose the right one? Here are some of the best pool-cleaning options available today, along with their pluses and minuses:

Manual pole cleaning: For years this was the standard. Lots of sweat, a hose attached to the skimmer basket on one end, a long vacuum pole on the other and a lot of slow pushing as you try not to disturb the debris before you suck it up into the skimmer and filtration system. This method is cheap and "somewhat green" but involves a lot of effort, and it is not highly effective at reducing your chemical usage.

Suction side pool cleaning: The suction side method is similar to the mechanics of manual pole cleaning except that the cleaner is self-propelled in a random pattern by a suction hose attached to the skimmer system. A completely clean pool is not always achieved due to the random nature of the system.

The pluses: low cost and satisfactory results.
The minuses: the method lacks optimal pool floor and wall scrubbing and does minimal water mixing, leaving stagnant water areas that actually demand more chemicals to stay clean. Suction side cleaners also use more energy as they require your pool's filter pump to run during their cleaning cycle.

Pressure side pool cleaning: These units require an independent booster pump and water jet outlet found on some in-ground pools. Note: This is the only option not available for above-ground pools. Pressure cleaners are propelled by water and are often confused with robotic cleaners, but the differences are important. Pressure cleaners do a good job of cleaning but are costly to buy and run.

The pluses: cleaning capabilities and better water-mixing capabilities than suction side cleaners.
The minuses: pressure cleaners are costly to buy and operate and they use the most energy due to the added booster pump.

Robotic pool cleaning: Advances in robotic pool cleaners are transforming the pool-cleaning industry. Robotic technology has advanced, bringing the price in reach of almost all pool owners. Robotic units can scrub and vacuum pool floors, walls and the waterline and remove more and finer debris (down to two microns in size) to help keep your pool cleaner. Robotic units cost only about 5 cents per hour to run and they provide superior water mixing (up to 85 GPM), substantially reducing the amount of chemicals needed.

The pluses: Just plug the bot into the power supply, place the cleaner in the water and press a button.
The minuses: There are almost too many robotic cleaners to choose from and they are not all alike. One of the most innovative is Aquabot, made by the company that introduced the first robotic cleaner in 1982.

Keeping your pool sparkling clean doesn't have to mean long afternoons of work or extra unnecessary chemicals. Now that there are safer and easier cleaning methods, you'll be able to maintain and enjoy your backyard retreat, and take care of the environment at the same time.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Choose a Plastic Surgeon

July 3, 2013 4:30 am

One of the most important things you should do when choosing a plastic surgeon is do your research. There are different reasons why one chooses to have plastic surgery. One reason could be to improve your health; another reason could be to improve your self-esteem. Whatever your reason may be to have plastic surgery, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. In choosing a plastic surgeon to perform very risky operations, one should be educated in the background of the chosen physician.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking the right questions will guarantee you the best treatment, and therefore the best outcome. The first question to ask is: "Are you board certified, and with which board?"

You want to make sure that your surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Once you find out the proper qualifications for your chosen surgeon, use personal references through friends and family. This will give you another great insight into the plastic surgeon's reputation throughout his or her community.

Also ask what happens in case of an emergency. Your plastic surgeon should always have a backup plan in case an emergency arises. A board certified plastic surgeon will tell his or her patients about the risks and complications that may occur during surgery. They will make you aware of what happens when they occur. Your surgeon should have a good standing with the emergency hospital, or hospitals, that are nearest to the medical facility where the surgery is taking place. You can check the surgeon's credentials with the alternative hospital or hospitals. It is also important to make sure that the medical facility where the surgeon operates is accredited.

Lastly, view before and after pictures of patients that were operated on by the chosen surgeon. Every doctor should be proud of his or her work. Plastic surgeons want to prove to you that they are the best. They want to prove that you are the most important person to them, from the moment you meet with them for a consultation, until you leave their office at your six week check-up.

Source: Optimizeup.com

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American Dermatologists Reveal Top 10 Sunscreen Brands

July 3, 2013 4:30 am

Coolibar, a sun protective clothing manufacturer, conducted a survey to reveal the top 10 dermatologist recommended sunscreen brands. The survey was conducted at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) from March 1-5, 2013 in Miami Beach, Fla. Neutrogena and Aveeno top the list as perennial favorites followed by La Roche-Posay, Elta and Vanicream in the top five.

A record number of 1,572 dermatologists weighed in on the most reliable sunscreens recommended to patients as part of their sun safety education.

A mix of mass-market sunscreens combined with specialty brands are listed in order of the frequency with which they are recommended to patients:

1. Neutrogena
2. Aveeno
3. La Roche-Posay
4. Elta
5. Vanicream
6. Coppertone
7. Blue Lizard
8. Eucerin
9. Solbar
10. Fallene

Source: Coolibar

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Easy Home Improvements to Benefit Indoor Air Quality

July 3, 2013 4:30 am

(Family Features) Runny nose, itchy eyes and headache. These are just a few ailments suffered by homeowners with poor indoor air quality, potentially as a result of smoke, odors, dust or other contaminants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, people spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, where air quality can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside.

While asthma and allergy sufferers, children and the elderly are particularly sensitive to indoor air quality, everyone is impacted by it. Fortunately, a few simple and affordable home improvements can go a long way to benefit your home’s air.

Skip synthetic fragrances

Despite their fresh scents, air fresheners and laundry products can emit dozens of chemicals. For truly fresh air, look for fragrance-free or natural products and skip aerosol sprays. Keep rooms ventilated by opening windows and add a fern or aloe vera plant to help purify your air.

Use paint that reduces some indoor odors and pollutants
Using the right paint can reduce common indoor odors like those from cooking and smoke. Promote better indoor air quality by reducing some indoor air pollutants from potential sources like insulation, carpet, cabinets and fabrics.

Clean up dust-grabbing décor
Household dust can trap chemicals and allergens. Some objects are prone to dust, such as rugs, upholstered furniture and infrequently moved accessories. Opt for easy-to-clean or washable items to avoid dust getting trapped in your space.

Dehumidify moist spaces
Moisture can attract dust mites, mildew and mold, so keep your rooms at a safe 30 to 50 percent humidity level. An inexpensive indoor humidity monitor will check your home’s levels, and a basic dehumidifier can solve many moisture challenges.

Clean floors regularly
Use a vacuum cleaner that is equipped with a HEPA filter (a high-quality, dense type of filter) and rotating brushes to remove dust and dirt from floors, and vacuum weekly, especially in high-traffic areas. A good vacuum will not blow dust or dirt out in the exhaust. Twice a month, use a microfiber mop on hard floors, skipping any chemical cleaning solutions in favor of warm water or a natural product.

Source: Sherwin-Williams

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Barbecue Bliss: Keeping Bacteria at Bay

July 2, 2013 4:30 am

Summer brings out barbecue grills—and bacteria, which multiply in food faster in warm weather and can cause foodborne illness (also known as food poisoning). Following a few simple guidelines can prevent an unpleasant experience.

Wash your hands
Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. If you're eating where there’s no source of clean water, bring water, soap and paper towels or have disposable wipes/hand sanitizer available.

Marinate food in the refrigerator
Don’t marinate on the counter—marinate in the refrigerator. If you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, save a separate portion in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that contacted raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked food unless you bring it to a boil first.

Keep raw food separate
Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler or securely wrapped at the bottom of a cooler so their juices won’t contaminate already prepared foods or raw produce. Don't use a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless you wash them first in hot, soapy water. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side for serving.

Cook food thoroughly
Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked thoroughly to destroy harmful bacteria. Partial precooking in the microwave oven or on the stove is a good way to reduce grilling time—just make sure the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to finish cooking.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
Keep hot food at 140°F or above until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill, or wrap well and place in an insulated container.

Keep cold food at 40°F or below until served. Keep cold perishable food in a cooler until serving time. Keep coolers out of direct sun and avoid opening the lid often.

Cold foods can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a pan of ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.
Don’t let hot or cold perishables sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F. When reheating fully cooked meats, grill to 165°F or until steaming hot.

Transport food in the passenger compartment of the car where it’s cooler—not in the trunk.

Put these items on your list:
These non-food items are indispensable for a safe barbecue.
• food thermometer
• several coolers: one for beverages (which will be opened frequently), one for raw meats, poultry, and seafood, and another for cooked foods and raw produce
• ice or frozen gel packs for coolers
• jug of water, soap, and paper towels for washing hands
• enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate
• foil or other wrap for leftovers

Source: www.fda.gov

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Risky Drinking Can Put a Chill on Your Summer Fun

July 2, 2013 4:30 am

Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor activities with family and friends. For many people, a day at the beach, on the boat, or at a backyard barbecue will include drinking alcoholic beverages. But excessive drinking and summer activities don't mix. Drinking impairs both physical and mental abilities, and it also decreases inhibitions—which can lead to tragic consequences on the water, on the road, and in the great outdoors. In fact, research shows that half of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.

Swimmers can get in over their heads.
Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk-taking, a dangerous combination for swimmers. Even experienced swimmers may venture out farther than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or they may not notice how chilled they're getting and develop hypothermia. Surfers could become over-confident and try to ride a wave beyond their abilities. Even around a pool, too much alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.

Boaters can lose their bearings.
According to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol may be involved in 60 percent of boating fatalities, including falling overboard. And a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.1 percent is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator with zero BAC. According to the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. And if problems arise, intoxicated boaters are ill equipped to find solutions. For passengers, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.

Drivers can go off course.
The summer holidays are some of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. When on vacation, drivers may be traveling an unfamiliar route or hauling a boat or camper, with the distraction of pets and children in the car. Adding alcohol to the mix puts the lives of the driver and everyone in the car, as well as other people on the road, at risk.

Stay hydrated and stay healthy.
Whether you're on the road or in the great outdoors, heat plus alcohol can equal trouble. Hot summer days cause fluid loss through perspiration, while alcohol causes fluid loss through increased urination. Together, they can quickly lead to dehydration or heat stroke.
But this doesn't have to happen. At parties, make at least every other drink a nonalcoholic one. If you're the host, be sure to provide plenty of cold, refreshing nonalcoholic drinks to keep your guests well hydrated. If you know you'll be driving, stay away from alcohol. And remember, there's no shame in taking a cab or sleeping on a friend's couch if you feel at all unsure if you should be driving.

Summer will end, but consequences can endure.
You can have fun in the sun and still be safe. Avoiding beverages that cause mental and physical impairment while piloting a boat, driving a car, exploring the wilderness, and swimming or surfing is a good place to start. Be smart this summer—think before you drink, and make sure that you and your loved ones will be around to enjoy many summers to come.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Help More than 2. 3 Million Homeowners Keep their Homes

July 2, 2013 4:30 am

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac completed more than 130,000 foreclosure prevention actions during the first quarter of 2013, bringing the total foreclosure prevention actions to nearly 2.8 million since the start of conservatorship in 2008. These actions have helped more than 2.3 million borrowers stay in their homes, including nearly 1.4 million who received permanent loan modifications. The results are detailed in the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s first quarter 2013 Foreclosure Prevention Report, also known as the Federal Property Manager’s Report.

The quarterly report has information on state delinquencies and an updated, interactive Borrower Assistance Map for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, with information on delinquencies, foreclosure prevention activities and Real Estate Owned (REO) properties.

Also noted in the report:

-Serious delinquency rates dropped from 3.3 to 3.0 percent at the end of the quarter.

- The number of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac borrowers who are more than 60 days delinquent declined 11 percent in the first quarter to the lowest level since the first quarter of 2009.

- Half of troubled borrowers who received permanent loan modifications in the first quarter had their monthly payments reduced by more than 30 percent.

- More than one-third of loan modifications completed in the first quarter included principal forbearance.

- Over 30,000 short sales and deeds-in-lieu were completed in the first quarter, bringing the total to more than 476,000 since the start of conservatorship.

- Third-party sales and foreclosure sales continued a downward trend in the first quarter while foreclosure starts increased.

- A new streamlined modification initiative, announced during the first quarter, will take effect on July 1. Although numbers are not available yet, the program is expected to help eligible homeowners who have missed at least three monthly payments modify their mortgage by eliminating administrative barriers associated with document collection and evaluation.

Source: FHFA

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Don't Let Plants Poison Your Gardening, Landscaping Project

July 1, 2013 4:28 am

If you are gardening or working around your property and come into contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, it can take a few hours to several days after exposure to the sap for signs to show.

Poison Ivy can be found throughout the United States except in Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the West Coast, according to the FDA. Each leaf has three glossy leaflets, with smooth or toothed edges.

Poison Oak grows as a low shrub in the eastern United States, and in tall clumps or long vines on the Pacific Coast. Fuzzy green leaves in clusters of three are lobed or deeply toothed with rounded tips.

Poison Sumac grows as a tall shrub or small tree in bogs or swamps in the Northeast, Midwest, and parts of the Southeast. Each leaf has clusters of seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets.

All three plants undergo color changes throughout their growing season and may also sport small clusters of light colored berries.
The FDA's tips for prevention are as follows:

• Wash your garden tools and gloves regularly. If you think you may be working around poison ivy, wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into boots, and gloves.
• Wash your pet if it may have brushed up against poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Use pet shampoo and water while wearing rubber gloves, such as dishwashing gloves. Most pets are not sensitive to poison ivy, but the oil can stick to their fur and cause a reaction in someone who touches them.
• Wash your skin in cool water as soon as possible -- the sooner you cleanse the skin, the greater the chance that you can remove the plant oil or help prevent further spread.
• Use topical over the counter (OTC) "Ivy Block" if you know you will come into contact with the poisonous plants.

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Summer is Here...and So are Head Lice!

July 1, 2013 4:28 am

Between the slumber parties, summer camps, and backyard adventures, lice have an even higher rate of infestation than during the school year. So what is the best way to avoid contracting lice? Here are a few tips parents, camp counselors and childcare experts should keep in mind to spare their children and families from an infestation:

• Avoid head-to-head contact during play, sleepovers, or other activities at home, the beach and elsewhere.

• Don't share combs, brushes or towels. Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, hair ribbons or barrettes.

• Once lice are in a family, 85 percent of siblings, 65 percent of moms and 10 percent of dads become infected. Re-check everyone in a household where a lice infestation has been confirmed every few days for at least 10-15 days after an outbreak.

"Lice is a year round issue, however, in the summer, children are being exposed to a completely different circle of friends which brings lice to a ‘head.’" said Rachel Knutsen, co-founder of Ladibugs. "They are heading off to camp with children from around the United States, sharing pillows, towels and hair accessories. They are heading off to the ball field with children from different cities and sharing helmets. Lice is spread in only a matter of 30 seconds of head-to-head contact, so therefore lice becomes an even larger issue during the summer months than when the children are in school."

Source: Ladibugs, Inc.

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