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Protect Your Home from Cigarette Damage

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 23, 2018 | Comments Off on Protect Your Home from Cigarette Damage

There are literally dozens of reasons why health care experts say you shouldn’t smoke, and you probably know most of them, if not all of them. One of the things you may not know is how cigarette (and cigar) smoke can have a negative effect on your home. Many people aren’t aware of the lasting damage smoke does to the home they’ve selected with care and can’t wait to come back to every day.

The good news is that fewer and fewer adults living in the U.S. still smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only about 15% of this group still smoke. Fifty years ago, about 42% of American adults smoked, so as a nation, we’re making our way toward a healthier lifestyle.

However, it’s a tough habit to break, and one that can require hard work and a lot of willpower to achieve. If you’re trying to quit, some of these “heads-up” facts could give you a little extra nudge.

Fire Hazards

Not only are lit cigarettes a fire hazard that can completely destroy your home if not handled correctly and carefully, it isn’t unusual for a smoker’s home to be dotted with cigarette burns and dark spots caused by ground-in cigarette ash.

Nicotine Stains

Most people don’t realize that the yellowish-brown stains common on the teeth of smokers are also present in their homes. Walls and ceilings can easily discolor, as can light-colored curtains, upholstery and rugs. The changes in color take place slowly, over time, so most often you don’t realize the colors in your home are becoming darker and duller. Once this damage occurs, it’s almost impossible to remove. You could be looking at replacing your fabrics and repainting your walls far more often than you would like.

Damage to Electronics

The nicotine in cigarette smoke doesn’t just stain your surfaces. Nicotine deposits can be gummy and sticky, leaving harmful deposits on the wiring and circuits of your electronics that shorten their lifespans. Many families spend a significant amount on televisions, music equipment, video games and other “plug-ins” that can suffer the ill effects of nicotine damage.

Issues with Air Conditioning

The extra strain put on the filter of your air conditioning unit can greatly decrease the amount of time it will work efficiently. Just one cigarette releases between 7 and 23 milligrams of inhalable particulates, which not only get into your lungs but float into the air to mix with the dust, pet dander, and other irritants. Additional indoor air pollution means your filter is catching more debris, shortening the time between filter changes. If you don’t change the filter often enough, your air conditioner is forced to work harder and cool less efficiently. If the filter clogs completely, you can expect the cooling coils to freeze or the unit to overheat, requiring replacement of the unit or costly repairs. If you smoke in your home, you’ll need to check your filter 2 or 3 times a month instead of once a month, to ensure that it is cleaned or replaced often enough.

The components inside of your air conditioner can also be affected in the same way your electronics are. The sticky residue acts like a blanket and “smothers” the internal workings, causing the unit to malfunction. Air conditioning units also help spread the odor of stale smoke through your home as residue from the smoke processes through the unit and air is released back into your home.

Lingering Odors

Even with the use of room deodorizers and fabric refreshers, the stubborn odor of smoke clings to everything in your home. In many cases, the only way to remove lingering odors from long-term smoking is with expensive ozone treatments that must be done with machines designed for the job. The homes must be vacated for the treatment, and residents are usually instructed to remain out of the home for several hours afterward, as ozone can damage lung tissue.

Increased Insurance Premiums

Most providers of home insurance ask if anyone in the household is a smoker before underwriting a policy. If you have a household of non-smokers, it isn’t unusual for your family to get a discount on your premiums.

Decreased Resale Value

For all of the reasons above, many prospective home buyers are reluctant to purchase a home where the former occupants were smokers. It may be harder to sell your home when you’re ready to upsize, downsize or relocate, and you may get less for it than you would like.

After reading all this, you may want to consider stepping outside to have a smoke if you’re having trouble quitting. A nicotine addiction is one of the hardest to overcome, but if you can pull it off, your home will thank you!

Tips for Upgrading Your New Construction Home

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 12, 2018 | Comments Off on Tips for Upgrading Your New Construction Home

You’re ready to buy a new home, and by that we mean a NEW home…one constructed just for you! You’ve chosen your lot and your plan, and now you’re ready to decide on the upgrades. It’s rare for a buyer to move forward with a completely as-is home when it comes to new construction. Everyone wants some of those “special touches” that identify the house as uniquely theirs.

At Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we walk our clients through these decisions every day. There’s a certain science to it – one that we’ve mastered during our years of success as one of the area’s leading homebuilders. We’ve put together some of our best tips to help you make the personalization process a little easier.

Set Your Budget

Have a firm number in mind when you’re shopping for upgrades, and don’t let yourself be swayed by the “kid in a candy store” mindset when you’re looking at the astonishing number of options open to you. A good rule of thumb is to expect to pay 12% to 15% of the base price of your home on interior upgrades. You’ll need to stay within the boundaries set by your mortgage lender, so it’s essential to know how much is in your wallet before you begin shopping.

Any Structural Changes Must Be Addressed First

Changes to the floor plan, whether they be adding rooms, fireplaces or garages, revising walls, electrical or plumbing modifications, changing the size and location of windows, moving doors or similar activities, must be discussed as soon as the floor plan has been chosen. Not only do the builder and the client need to agree upon what can be changed, the cost of doing so has to be determined at the outset.

Follow the Builder’s Timeline for Upgrades

Your builder will usually suggest certain windows of time to select various upgrades. Usually you will have a meeting with your design center team two to three weeks after your contract is finalized. Before that meeting, make sure to have a list put together of things you’d like to add, including pictures if you can get them. This will give your team lead a strong vision for directing your appointment, and he or she can help keep you to your pre-set budget.

Cover Your Needs, Be Prepared to Pass on Some Wants

Some upgrades are a necessity for happy living in your home, while some are “really cool”, but the world will go on spinning without them. Make sure you know which are which, and take care of the things that will truly matter in your day to day life.

Remember – Your Home Won’t Look Exactly Like the Model

If you fell in love with the model home you toured, keep in mind that model homes are constructed with a wide variety of different options. If there was something (or a few somethings!) that you particularly loved about the home, make sure to ask if these things were standard to the plan, or if they are add-ons. Make sure your budget will accommodate the features that you fell in love with if they are upgrades.

Some Upgrades Can Be Done Later

Certain upgrades can be done after the closing and your move, allowing you to spread your expenditures over time. You may not need to add extras such as custom paint colors, landscaping, lighting and plumbing fixtures, crown molding, chair rails, window treatments and even certain appliance upgrades when you’re first starting out. Some of these upgrades can follow when you may have some extra cash flow later, after the dust settles a bit.

Avoid Over-customization

Somewhere down the line, it’s likely you will sell your new home to someone else. You may need more rooms as the size of your family changes, or you may need to downsize. You may relocate or find yourself ready for a new life experience in a different lodging. Keep in mind that some upgrades, especially ones that are unusual, can make your home harder to sell later. You may want to avoid exterior treatments, bath fixtures or countertops in specialty colors, oddly shaped or sized windows that require specialty window treatments, or built-in organization systems that may make sense to you but not to others. You want to appeal to the largest number of potential buyers down the road. Instead, focus your creativity on things that can be changed easily when you’re ready to sell, such as wall paint, décor and minor fixtures such as replaceable lighting and sink or cabinet hardware.

Put Your Trust in Your Builder

If you are having trouble making final decisions during the upgrade selection process, make sure to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your builder and/or their design team. Here at Ernest Signature Custom Homes, we consider our clients to be members of our extended family, and we’re always there to answer questions, give advice and make recommendations when needed. We can help you weigh pros and cons, share our experiences and make it easy for you to create the home of your dreams!

Take Your Home Back to School!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: August 3, 2018 | Comments Off on Take Your Home Back to School!

It’s the time of year kids dread…and that parents live for! School bells are ringing again, and everyone is ready to settle into a comfortable routine. Or are they? Does the approach of the school year keep you up at night, wondering how you’re going to keep everyone in line and organized? Fear not…the team at Ernest Signature Custom Homes has some great ideas for getting your home ready for back to school season!

Set Up a Special Place for Homework

It’s how your kids will know you mean business! Homework should be a priority every day, and by setting aside a specific place for it, you emphasize just how important it is. It doesn’t need to be large or fancy, but it should be an area that can be kept quiet, away from the distractions of TV, games or telephones. If your children are old enough to have them, make sure the homework area is a device-free zone. Create a homework corner in your home office, turn your little-used breakfast nook into study central, or put a comfortable desk in each child’s room. Make sure the area has sufficient lighting and ergonomic seating.

There’s a File for That…

There’s always important papers that come with the school year…permission slips, report cards to be signed, correspondence from the school, tuition bills, etc. Keep them all together in a clearly labeled file. Instruct the children to ALWAYS, ALWAYS put anything their teacher gives to them into the file as soon as they get home from school. It will help keep everyone up to date with essential paperwork.

Don’t Forget Chores

It’s important for your kids to learn how much work it takes to keep a household going. Make sure everyone has at least a job or two to do. Younger children can pick up their toys, fill pet food dishes, water plants, collect clothes for laundry baskets, learn to dust or fetch things for you as you clean. Older children can take on kitchen duties such as loading and unloading dishwashers, setting tables or preparing simple meals. They can also learn to do laundry, vacuum or sweep floors or take out trash. All kids should be coached on keeping their rooms tidy as well. Keep a chart with everyone’s assigned duties on display, so everyone knows what their responsibilities are.

Breakfast Made Easy

The days where everyone sits down to a big, home-made breakfast before leaving home are the stuff of retro TV. Keep it speedy, healthy and easy with quick-to-prepare ideas from the freezer section – just microwave and go! Everyone gets their favorite and you’re out of the house in a snap! If you’re feeling domestic, bake a big batch of muffins and store each one in the freezer in its own small freezer bag. They’ll heat up as quickly as the mass-produced offerings.

Ut-Oh…Lunch!

One of the hardest things to do is keep everyone’s lunches straight. Each week, lay in a supply of typical supplies such as bread, peanut butter and jelly, cold cuts or tuna, meal and snack kits such as Lunchables, Balanced Breaks and P3 Portable Protein Packs, fresh and dried fruit, single serve packs of nuts, granola bars or natural cookies. Reserve an easy-to-reach space on a shelf and/or drawer at the bottom of the fridge for cold products, and use a kitchen cart or a dedicated area of the pantry for other items. By keeping everything in a limited space, you’ll know each morning what you have and what you need. If you’re running low on something essential before week’s end, you won’t be caught off guard.  Children should be tasked with preparing their own lunches as soon as they can. By keeping tabs on the offerings they can choose, you know what they’re getting. They’ll also be more likely to eat them if they choose what goes in them, instead of buying less healthy snacks at school.

Many schools offer lunch programs; see if your school allows you to pre-pay for your children’s lunches to avoid the “Mom…I need lunch money!” panic.

Create a Family Calendar

Use a dry erase board to keep track of everyone’s lessons, appointments, games and activities for the week. This way when Allison comes home from school, she knows you’re taking James to a 4:30pm eye doctor appointment and she should start dinner so everyone can be fed and out the door at 6:30 for Trey’s basketball game that evening.

It may take a few weeks to create these habits, but once you’re on a roll, you’ll be surprised how organized your back-to-school home can be!

Beating the “I Just Moved Blues”

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: July 31, 2018 | Comments Off on Beating the “I Just Moved Blues”

Buying and moving into a new home can be exciting, challenging and stimulating…and often a little overwhelming. While the adrenaline of the situation will keep you revved up and energized while it’s in motion, many new homeowners are a bit surprised and discouraged to find that they’re falling prey to the “new home blues” once it’s all over.

In a turn of events similar to the “baby blues” of post-partum depression, once the actual purchasing and relocating is done, it isn’t unusual for the recently relocated to fall into the doldrums, and possibly even deeper bouts of discouragement, loneliness and depression. Unlike post-partum depression, most cases of post-move despair aren’t related to body chemistry. However, the emotional issues that arise can also be debilitating, preventing you from fully enjoying the benefits of your new home.

If you find yourself feeling not-so-thrilled about your move now that it’s behind you, we’ve gathered some helpful tips from experts that can help you divert your thoughts and energies into more positive and productive directions. Hopefully one or more of them will help you discover the delight you were sure you would feel in your new digs!

Resuscitate Your Routine

Getting back into the normal swing of things can help you adjust. If you normally rise at a certain time daily, shop for groceries on Sunday afternoons or get your nails done every other Thursday, following these familiar traditions can help you establish yourself in your new surroundings.

Allow Yourself Some Downtime

The extreme stress and non-stop activity involved in the last stages of moving can be exhausting. In many cases, people who have just expended this much continuous energy for weeks at a time may not realize just how bone tired they really are. Treat yourself to some extra sleep if you feel even a bit tired. Take a nap on the couch after dinner, snooze on a lawn chair Saturday afternoon or sleep in for a morning or two. In most cases, once your body has a chance to bounce back a bit, you’ll regain much of your energy and be more interested in daily life.

Turn Up the Treadmill

Or take a bike ride, join a gym, go for a long walk through the park, or sign up for a kick-boxing class. Extra exercise is known to lift your mood and energize your body. You’ll also burn a few extra calories, which means you can indulge in a few more bites of dessert…

Enjoy Comfort Foods (In moderation, of course!)

Like those extra bites of dessert above. It’s proven that people have emotional attachments to certain types of food, and indulging in these treats can help you over a case of the blues. It’s also a great excuse to try some of the restaurants near your new home – you never know what wonderful new favorites you’ll find!

Put Your Life on a Laugh Track

Now is a great time to binge-watch some of your favorite comedies, or rent the latest funny movies. Make sure to watch at least one or two side-splitters every day, because the simple act of laughing is therapeutic.

Keep in Touch With Old Friends

Pick up the phone to chat, send a newsy email or post to your Facebook account. The trick here is to think of all the positive things you can about your new home and neighborhood, and share them with those you love. Just hearing familiar voices can be reassuring and uplifting. Invite them to come and stay soon, so you can take them on a tour of your new home!

And Make New Ones…

You’ll also cheer up a bit if you have something to look forward to, and someone to share these new activities with. Take a class in a subject that’s always interested you. If you read, join a book club. If you knit or quilt, look for a craft group near you. If you golf, inquire at the local clubs about opportunities to play as a substitute or to join a current group who may be short a member. Take your hobbies and run with them…they’re great ways to meet others with similar interests. Don’t forget to check your alumni bulletins, Classmates.com, LinkedIn or other sources for people you know who may live nearer to you now.

Volunteering

It’s also a great way to meet new people, and they’ll have the same passion for a cause that you do. Pick your favorite charities and find ways to pitch in, whether it’s serving on the line at a soup kitchen, mentoring kids, packing canned goods at a food bank or registering donors at a blood drive.

Try Something New Every Week

Whether it’s checking out the local library, finding the community pool, visiting a yoga studio or searching out an independent film at an off-beat cinema, make a point of getting out into the community and discovering what it has to offer.

If these suggestions don’t make a dent in your down feelings, you may need a little extra help to get over your relocation blues. If it wasn’t your idea to move from the beginning, or if your new location isn’t what you had in mind, you may have more trouble than usual adjusting to your recent move. Sharing your feelings and concerns with a professional can often open your eyes to options you hadn’t considered or help you find ways to cope with the difficulties you’re experiencing. Just making the first appointment can shed a little light into your day.

For most who suffer from the “just moved blues”, a little adjustment time and a bit of extra effort will soon have you feeling right at home in your new environment!

Best Books for Potential Homebuyers

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: July 25, 2018 | Comments Off on Best Books for Potential Homebuyers

If you’re the sort of person who likes to research every decision you make thoroughly before choosing your path, you may want to access several sources of information before making the decision to buy a home.

Of course you’ll ask friends and family members who’ve bought homes about their experiences, and you’ll certainly cruise the Internet for informational articles, but you may want to get more in-depth on some topics. The quick-read nuggets you find online may not answer all your questions, and the stories you hear may be biased or slanted. If you’re looking for some substantial information on this important subject, there’s a few really great books about the process of buying a home that can help you feel more secure when you jump into action.

Home Buying Kit for Dummies

As part of the familiar yellow and black “Dummies” series, this volume is designed to cover this topic from the ground up. The “Dummies” books never assume that you know anything about what you’re researching, so you won’t be caught off guard by terms and jargon you don’t know. Everything is explained simply and clearly, and the book covers just about everything you’ll need to know, from finding the right home for you, navigating mortgages and negotiation to the importance of your credit score. Make sure you purchase the most up-to-date edition, as the content of the book is updated often to reflect important changes in the real estate arena.

100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask

The latest version of this favorite book was just released this past February. A must-have book for first-time home buyers, author Ilyce Glink takes apart the home buying process and reconstructs it piece by piece to answer any question you may have about your first home purchase. With contributions from some of the foremost authorities in the real estate business, this guide is one of the most respected books on the market.

Home Buying by the Experts: The Pros Make Your Dream Home a Reality

If you’re looking for more in-depth information about the paperwork involved in buying home – especially legal documents such as contracts – this book is a gem. While the authors also cover the more typical aspects of purchasing a home, their knowledge of the “sign on the dotted line” aspects of the transaction is superb. They bring in various “guest stars” – experts in all sub-sets of the home buying process – to flesh out this favorite volume.

106 Common Mistakes Home Buyers Make and How to Avoid Them

Another popular choice for first-time homebuyers (or for the many buyers who didn’t learn valuable lessons the first time) this guide is based on the real-world experiences of buyers, realtors, builders and lenders. The format makes it easy to find specific material that relates to questions you have.

Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home

Another book focused on first-time home buying, it is nonetheless a valuable resource for anyone who is looking for more information on the legal side of the transaction. An attorney herself, Ilona Bray, J.D. expertly covers her area, then offers insights from other professionals on mortgages, inspections, and other crucial topics. You can also download forms and podcasts from Nolo.com that help steer you in the right direction.

Suburbs and Exurbs – Which Location Is for You?

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: July 20, 2018 | Comments Off on Suburbs and Exurbs – Which Location Is for You?

Many people think housing falls into three categories – city (urban), suburbs and “the country” (rural). City and country living are pretty simple to identify, so that means that everything else in the middle is the suburbs, right? Well, no, not exactly.

The suburbs are residential areas that sprung up on the outskirts of urban areas right outside of cities in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. During this time many more families bought cars (or even two cars), allowing the wage earners to commute into the cities to work, while they could purchase homes outside of the cities. Lower housing costs in the suburbs allowed commuters to purchase bigger homes on larger tracts of land, which was considered a positive environment by many parents and parents-to-be. These less congested areas were considered ideal for raising children, as many of these new “suburbs” had better schools as well as lots of room to run and play.

Over time, the outer limits of the suburbs began to expand. As new home construction blossomed outside of the cities, businesses such as retail chain stores and restaurants, banks, auto dealerships and other backbone industries of modern commerce moved to the suburbs as well. The residential sprawl became industrialized in its own way. While many commuters still traveled into the cities to work, many began working in the towns in which they lived, rarely if ever leaving the suburbs. Many suburbs even offer public transit. Today’s suburbs include many of the traits that make city life convenient.

The ever-growing desire for more space and more distance from neighbors and commerce drove some further afield – to create the exurbs. So what exactly is an exurb? Loosely defined as a semi-rural area of housing situated outside of the suburbs, extra-urban areas, also known as exurbs, are smaller residential areas which tend to lack their own major industries. Areas of “exurbia” generally exist within 250 miles of a metropolitan area. Characterized by their primarily residential status, they often consist of a variety of planned communities. Exurbs tend to attract residents with a high level of education, a comfortable income and a desire to “get away from it all”.

Depending on their exact distance from the largest city in the area, exurbs can be more like suburban living or can more closely resemble a rural lifestyle. Cars are almost always a requirement; you’ll need them to take care of most errands. When it comes to commuting, many exurb residents use their cars get to and from work, while some exurbs do offer train services to major cities. Some exurbs don’t have their own municipally-based services such as sewer, water or trash pickup, so residents may be responsible for their own wells, septic tanks and private garbage hauling service. Some far-flung exurban communities lack cable television and high-speed Internet services, relying heavily on satellite providers. You may not be able to get pizza or Chinese food delivered, but you can certainly camp out on your huge back lawn under the twinkling stars.

While some exurban communities feature pockets of high-cost homes with large parcels of land targeted to upper-income level buyers, some communities in these areas are desirable for buyers who have been priced out of the limited suburban market. With much of the available space already utilized in the suburbs, the cost of housing in the ring right outside of a major city may make home ownership impossible for lower middle to middle class families just starting out. The exurbs could be the answer for these buyers, as the cost of owning a home farther away from the city limits is typically lower.

The Southern states are among the most likely to have greater numbers of exurban communities, and our area is no different. With surging growth in exurban communities in cities as large as Atlanta and as small as Richmond Hill, homebuilders are flocking to the undeveloped land on the outskirts of established communities to take advantage of this hot new housing market. If you’re considering a new home with room to spread out and enjoy a quieter life – especially with new construction – an exurban home may be for you. Have more questions about living on the fringes of a metro area? Ask the knowledgeable professionals at Ernest Signature Custom Homes – we’re here to help. Drop us an email or call us at (912) 756-4135 today!

Deciding on Bedrooms – Who Goes Where?

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: July 14, 2018 | Comments Off on Deciding on Bedrooms – Who Goes Where?

Welcome to your new house…and the issue many families must face – the bedroom challenge! Deciding who will have what bedroom can arouse harsh words, hard feelings and sometimes full-blown temper tantrums.

As the parents, you’ll probably want (and are entitled to) the master bedroom or suite. This is completely logical and you won’t get any pushback here. And if you do, the simple statement “because we pay the mortgage” ends that line of thinking immediately.

So…that leaves you with the question of which child gets which room. It’s rare that every bedroom on a floor plan is exactly the same size, so at least one is bound to be bigger. One might have more or larger windows, a prettier view, a bigger closet or other amenity that would also make it desirable. If your family is like most, you’ll probably need to moderate some bickering about which child gets which room.

That’s not to say that your kids can’t come to a decision on their own. Some families find that their children prefer different rooms at the outset, and there isn’t much of a problem. Other families might sit their kids down together one evening and have them work it out together, allowing them to hone their persuasive and negotiating skills. Surprisingly, if left on their own to come to a decision, many children can – and do – manage to come to terms with this decision on their own.

However, if they can’t, how do you make the decision?

One of the standard answers to this question is to give the oldest child the largest remaining room. While a popular tactic, it doesn’t always sit well with younger children, who may have valid reasons for wanting a larger room (or larger closet).

Here’s some suggestions for coming to consensus on who gets what:

  1. Have a lottery.

Put each child’s name on one slip of paper in one bowl, and the color/location of each room in another bowl. Draw a slip of paper from each bowl, using a random selection process to assign rooms. While fair, “the luck of the draw” requires that everyone involved agrees on using this tactic and promises to accept the results without argument.

  1. Decide based on space requirements.

If your youngest child has more large toys, your oldest son has multiple bookcases or your middle girl is always having friends over to spend the night, storage and space requirements may help you make the decision regarding the larger rooms. The logic of this method will often win over stubborn objectors. The same tactic can be used to assign rooms with larger closets to the children with the most clothing.

  1. Choose by light and temperature.

If you have an early riser for a child, the morning sun should come into his room, not into the room of your night-owl daughter. If one of your children is more sensitive to heat or light, you shouldn’t put him into a room that gets a great amount of direct sunlight. Instead select a room that stays cooler due to indirect light or tree cover.

  1. Need for parental care or supervision matters.

It makes sense to put very young children closer to your room, where you can get to these little ones quickly when they need you. Older children usually need less supervision, and may enjoy being a little further away from you to enjoy a bit more privacy, especially if they’re teenagers.

  1. Who spends the most time in their room?

Children who spend a lot of time in their rooms, whether they’re studying, gaming, reading, into their music or some other hobby, should be given the opportunity to choose the space where they’ll be spending much of their time. Children who spend a lot of time outdoors or use their rooms almost exclusively for sleeping and storing their stuff are usually much less invested in the state of their space.

  1. Who can take care of the largest space the best?

Let’s face it…it takes more time and effort to keep a larger space clean. You can save yourself a lot of grief by assigning the bigger room to the child most likely to keep it picked up and tidy. If you have a natural neatnik in your family, take advantage of it.

  1. When in doubt, rotate!

You can also have your children switch rooms every so often, so that everyone gets a chance to have the larger room, the one with the biggest closet, or the one closest to the bathroom…whatever the most desirable attributes are. If the belongings of each child are compact enough to fit easily in the smallest room, have your kids move to different spaces every six months or once a year. This not only gives each child a chance to experience every space, it also is a great way to get rid of things you don’t need every so often while giving each room a thorough top to bottom cleaning.

Summer Threats to Your Pet’s Health

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 30, 2018 | Comments Off on Summer Threats to Your Pet’s Health

Most of us love the summer weather – being able to spend more time outdoors, traveling, and celebrating all the warm weather holidays with cookouts and picnics. Your pets love to get into the summertime fun as well, but it’s important to take care to avoid certain hazards lurking outdoors. Here are some things to watch out for while your family is out and about this summer.

Insects

These little pests can carry several debilitating diseases, with the most well-known being Lyme disease. If your pets go outside at all, it’s a good idea to do a daily tick check to make sure there aren’t stowaways burrowing into your pet’s coat. Dogs are more likely to have problems with ticks, but cats can carry them as well. If you find a tick, make sure to remove it safely (The ASPCA has a great guide to dealing with ticks) place it in an airtight container and have it tested.

Fleas are also more plentiful during warmer months, so it’s important to keep your pet’s treatment up to date. Their venomous bites not only torture your dogs and cats – fleas love to dine on human family members as well.

Another insect to watch out for is bees. Most pets are curious and are attracted to the sound of bees, which can get them stung. Most of the time, you won’t have to do anything but wait for the pain and swelling of a bee sting to recede. However, if the sting swells excessively, call your vet for advice. There are some over-the-counter medicines you may be able to give your pet. If your pet starts biting or scratching excessively at the area, pulling out patches of fur, visit the vet right away.

Dehydration and Heatstroke

Hot weather poses a dual threat to pets who don’t get enough water and shade. Certain animals are more prone to heat-related illnesses than others. Dogs with short noses and flat faces, such as pugs and bulldogs, pets with dark fur, overweight animals or ones that have thick, heavy fur are at higher risk. Watch carefully for these symptoms:

  • Lack of energy
  • Reduced urination
  • Dry gums
  • Decreased appetite
  • Loose, non-elastic skin

Dogs will pant more as the temperature rises. Don’t worry…this is how they cool themselves off. You can also use fans, ice packs, frozen treats, ice cubes, wading pools, wet towels, hoses and sprinklers to help keep them cool.

Also beware of hot sidewalks, pavement and parking lots. If you think these heat-seeking surfaces are hot, imagine how they feel to the sensitive pads of your pet’s feet. Try to limit your walks to early mornings, cooler evenings and grassy areas.

Cars

While it is tempting to allow a dog to put his head out of the window as you drive, it puts his eyes at risk. Dust, debris and other possible irritants can blow into your dog’s eyes way too easily, possibly causing permanent damage to his vision.

It’s also important to never leave your pet in an enclosed car. Summer heat can build to dangerous levels in a closed car, boosting the temperature to almost 120 degrees. If you have to leave your dog in the car while you run errands, consider leaving him at home. If you can’t, make sure to always crack the windows, park in a shaded area and limit your absence to short windows of time.

People Food

Some of your favorite barbeque items are safe for dogs and cats and can be given to them in small quantities. Hot dogs, hamburgers and boneless chicken are fine as long as they aren’t seasoned with onions or garlic, which are dangerous for cats and dogs. Just make sure that overindulging in these treats doesn’t pack on the pounds for your pet over the summer months.

Beware of some of these favorites:

Meat with barbecue sauce:  The extra sloppy seasoning can cause diarrhea.

Corn on the cob: Dogs often have difficulty digesting corn cobs, and they’re also a choking hazard.

Bones: Any type of real bone is a disaster for your pet. Real bones splinter and can injure their GI systems, sometimes even piercing their stomachs or intestines. Serious injuries can happen, so keep bones away from your pets.

Foods with toothpicks or skewers: A toothpick or skewer can have the same effect as a splintered bone. Keep kabobs away from your furbabies!

Ice cream: While a little bit may do no harm, many pets are actually lactose intolerant. You also need to be careful of mix-ins…nuts, raisins, chocolate and other enhancements can be dangerous for your pets.

Summer Grooming Mistakes

Although it might seem smart to clip the fur of an animal down to a “puppy crew cut” during the summer, keep in mind that animals with thick fur also gain needed insulation from their coats. If you trim their coats too close to their skin, they have no protection from the sun, leaving them open to sunburn and overheating. Instead, make sure to brush your pet more often during the summer to remove loose hair and matted fur, which can weigh him down and increase his chances of heatstroke.

Your pets are important members of your family, and we know their well-being is one of your top priorities. With our handy tips, a little planning and a sharp eye, you can keep them safe and happy this summer!

Get Your Perfect Grill This Summer!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 25, 2018 | Comments Off on Get Your Perfect Grill This Summer!

As we welcome summer during the month of June, we’re exploring topics that get you ready for this sunny, steamy season. Earlier this month we talked a bit about saving energy during the summer, and one of the suggestions we made was avoiding using the oven during the hottest months. Many families depend on this mode of cooking quite heavily during the summer; it’s not unusual for some households to “grill out” for days on end.

But not everyone has joined the backyard revolution – and for many, it’s because the overwhelming number of choices when it comes to buying a grill can be more than a little baffling. If you’ve put off buying a grill because you don’t know where to turn, grab a pen and paper to take some notes and read on!

Grills fall into three basic types. If you go back a few decades, you’re sure to remember the type of grill almost everyone had…the charcoal grill. The lovely, smoky flavor is one of the reasons these old standards are still very popular today. Nothing matches the taste of meat grilled over charcoal! They also don’t use your normal household energy sources; the fire you light provides all the power you need. While these grills take a bit longer to warm up, sometimes delaying your dinner, many people won’t consider anything else. The ashes that remain after the briquettes burn themselves out require clean-up, but the lower price of a charcoal grill makes this choice very appealing. While there are a few high-end exceptions out there, most charcoal grills cost less than $300, with many, many choices under $100 for a larger models that can feed a hungry crowd.

Gas grills are increasingly popular among homeowners due to their adjustable temperature, infra-red cooking and easy clean-up.  They come in a wide range of sizes, so if you’ve got a big deck to fill or a relatively small patio in a tiny yard, there’s a grill to fit your needs.  Prices usually vary by size, durability, number of burners and the amount of heat from each burner. Typical backyard gas grill prices range from $300 to upward of $5,000. Some gas grills have a wide variety of “extras” and “bells and whistles”…but be sure not to spend extra on a grill with features you’ll never use. Gas grills can be powered by propane tanks, or, if your house is powered by natural gas, you can install a line dedicated to your grill. Another thing to consider…smaller portable gas grills are often sold in the box, with some assembly required, while larger, more stationary models are often sold pre-assembled.

Electric grills are popular because they’re the most convenient type of grill. You don’t have to purchase a special fuel source of any kind, and their lack of open flame makes them the safest type of grill to operate. Just plug the grill into an available outlet and you’re good to go! Electric models are great for grilling when the weather takes a nasty turn, because they’re suitable for indoor use as well. The even heat produced by electric grills provides a consistent end product every time. Smaller, portable models can be had in the $50-$75 range, while larger models can run up to $1000 plus, depending on the features of the unit.

After you’ve decided on the type of grill you want, think about where you’ll be using it. If you plan on parking the grill in your yard and never moving it, you’ll choose a very different model than if you want to grill at the park, at a friend’s house, or during a tailgate party. Speaking of parties…you’ll also need to consider how many people, on average, you’re cooking for most times you use the grill. If you typically cook for a family of four, a huge grill with six burners will expend a lot more energy than you need to get supper on the table. However, if you normally cook for a large crew, a smaller grill will require you to cook round after round of food. You’ll never get to sit down and relax with one of your own burgers!

And don’t forget a few necessary extras…a grill cover to protect it from the elements is a must if you’ll be leaving it outside. Unless you’re choosing a very small, portable grill that you’ll be taking on the go, make sure you get a good sturdy cart with shelving on the sides if you choose a model without a built-in unit. It’s also smart to get a restaurant-quality set of tongs and spatula – you won’t regret it!

Save Energy This Summer

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 17, 2018 | Comments Off on Save Energy This Summer

If you shudder at the thought of opening your electric bill during the summer months, you’re sure to be in the mood for a few great tips for saving energy this summer! It’s easier than you think to cut some corners (and some dollars from your energy expenses) during the warmer months. We’ve gathered together a few of our favorite ideas to trim your bills while keeping your cool!

Thermostat Tricks

One of the best ways to reduce your electric bill during the summer is to narrow the gap between your inside temperature and the great outdoors. Don’t sacrifice comfort – it’s no fun to walk into an 80 degree room – but keeping your thermostat as high as you can will reduce both the shock of rapid temperature change AND your cooling costs!

Make sure you get a programmable thermostat. This handy gadget allows you to keep your home warmer when you’re away at work or on vacation, and can kick in to cool your home down again right before you come home. You can also set a programmable thermostat to get maximum energy savings. There’s a complete Energy Star set of guidelines available for programmable thermostats here…it will help you choose the unit that will work the best for your home.

And last but not least, resist the temptation to set your thermostat lower than you normally would when your home is overly warm and you want to cool it down. Your home won’t reach the target temperature any faster, and you’ll more than likely drive up your electric bill in the process.

Work with the Weather

When it cools down to a comfortable sleeping temperature at night, turn off your air conditioning and open your windows. When you wake up, close your windows and cover them with curtains or blinds to allow less sunshine (AKA heat) to enter your home. Turn the air on again, but at a higher temperature than you need when you’re at home. Be aware of the importance of weather stripping and caulking – sealing your doors and windows as tightly as possible helps keep hot air from weaseling its way into your house.

Be Your Own Biggest Fan

Use fans efficiently – only run them while people are in the room. Fans are designed to cool people by stirring air currents that cool their bodies; they don’t actually cool the air in a room. However, when used along with air conditioning, you can raise the thermostat in the room by four degrees and not notice a difference in your comfort level. Make sure you use the fans in your bathroom and laundry room – they are designed to remove the heat and humidity from these small, enclosed spaces. Make sure these fans vent to the outside rather than to an attic.

Watch Your Lighting and Appliances

Lamps, TV’s and appliances that run constantly – such as refrigerators – should not be placed near thermostats. They pick up heat from these units, causing them to run longer than they should.

Instead of using the oven, try options such as microwaves, crock pots, the stove top or a meal on the grill for summer eating. Make sure you wash dishes or clothes only when you have a full load, and consider allowing both to air dry. (And nothing smells better than clothes fresh off the line!) Reduce hot water usage (and increase your comfort) by opting for short, cool showers rather than hot baths.

Invest in lighting that saves energy by reducing heat. Only about 10% to 15% of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light—the rest is turned into heat. Try halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead.

Maintain to Gain…

Get the most out of your HVAC units by making sure they’re in tip-top condition. A thorough cleaning by a trained professional can help you get the best performance out of them for years to come. Be sure to keep registers in your home vacuumed to prevent buildup of dust that can cause reduced performance.

A few small changes can end up putting more cash in your pocket…that you can use to treat yourself to some chilly drinks or your favorite ice cream!

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