Friday, March 15, 2013

Keeping Your Belongings Safe Through Storms

Years ago almost every house was built with some sort of shutter, whether designed as storm shutters or for security. Granted, most windows during those days did not have glass, so the shutters served a different purpose, keeping the wind and weather out, especially in winter climate areas. Later as glass windows and furnaces became more popular, shutters for many were just decoration with some homes having fake shutters.

In areas where hurricanes hit, hurrican shutters are preferable to using plywood to cover windows. It's easier since the shutters are ready and it looks attractive decoratively, especially when contrasting colors are used. It’s also more cost effective if you live in an area with frequent storms, not to mention making preparation for a weather event faster. While storm prediction has improved greatly over the years, hurricane shutters give a higher level of peace of mind with you not having to face price gouging or shortages when a storm is looming on the horizon.

Our home has shutters, even though we live in the North Central part of the country, we have them as security shutters, when we are gone we know the windows of our home are well protected. When they are not in use, they provide a nice decorative contrast. It’s a look we think is preferable over a barred window, my fear with bars is that should something happen like a fire, it would prevent a safe exit, where shutters allow an exit if necessary.

I’m one of those always prepared types that goes as far as having a rope ladder upstairs in case a safe exit from our house is not possible from the staircase. There are many different products to view when it comes to this line of home items, no matter the geographical region you live in.

Do we think the wrong way about charity?

I watched this video this morning and it was very thought provoking. It basically challenges the way we think about charities with Dan Pallotta stating that he believes the way we think about charity is wrong. He feels that the fact that the nonprofit sector being viewed as not paying competitive salaries keeps the best and brightest from dedicating their time to charities and makes the charities not as efficient as they could be.

I'm not sure if I agree with him that the solution alone is to increase nonprofit salaries, I personally think that some of the CEO salaries in the profit sector are obscene when compared to what the average employee makes. Nonprofit salaries should be higher, but that alone without addressing the "haves and have not" variance, seems to create a situation where the employees who do the lions share of the work, suffer under either model. But, I encourage you to watch the video and make up your own mind.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tea for two ... or more

World Tea Expo, the most prominent annual event for the tea industry, is gearing up to showcase the very best teas and tea-related products from the global marketplace, including the winners of the 2013 Best New Product Awards. The conference and trade show, co-located with Healthy Beverage Expo, takes place June 7 – 9 in Las Vegas, Nev. at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The 2013 World Tea Expo Best New Product Award winners include:

By DeeBee's Organic Frozen Treats
Tea as an Ingredient Winner
DeeBee's Organic Frozen Treats' TeaPops are the world's first tea-based popsicles. The frozen "pops" are available in green, white and black teas, as well as rooibos. Flavors include Cherry Berry, Classic Iced Tea, Mango Tango, Mint-A-Licious and Tea-Na Colada. Visit

TEAS' TEA Lattes
Open Class Winner
The new guilt-free TEAS' TEA Lattes from ITO EN are a healthier version of traditionally rich lattes. Authentically brewed with premium, whole loose-leaf tea leaves and nonfat milk, each bottle – in Black Tea Latte and Matcha Latte – is only 80 calories per serving with zero fat grams. Visit

Number of home sales and price higher in 2013

In February, both home sales and prices rose higher than a year ago. After a decisive housing turnaround in 2012, this year looks to improve on recovering market trends. With data representing 52 metropolitan areas, the February RE/MAX National Housing Report shows home sales 2.3% greater than February 2012 and a median price 7.0% higher. Still a concern is the number of available homes for sale, which continues to shrink, turning the market more favorable to sellers. Home inventory fell 29.2% from last year, resulting in a 4.8-month supply. In only the second month of the year, real estate agents are already seeing renewed consumer interest and are expecting increased traffic in the next few months. As home prices recover in 2013, more homeowners will achieve positive equity and the number of foreclosures should be reduced. The current recovery has not yet brought housing back to pre-crisis levels, but appears on its way to a more stable and sustainable environment.

"It's clear that the housing recovery is real and is moving full-speed ahead into 2013," said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX, LLC. "Consumers recognize that we've hit the bottom, and real estate is offering some great opportunities with low prices and low interest rates. This is an attractive combination that most of us will never see again in our lifetimes."

Friday, March 08, 2013

Pricey Spring Break place

Looking for the best? According to this release, going on Spring Break on South Padre Island, tops the charts ...

Students who are planning to celebrate Spring Break in South Padre Island better make sure they've got plenty of money saved up before booking a last-minute trip. According to a new survey from, hotel rates are soaring through the roof in the popular Texan resort town this main Spring Break week (March 11–17).

In South Padre Island, 20% of hotels still had available rooms on the day the survey was conducted (March 7), but at this eleventh hour, all of them were at least tripling their rates. Some were jacking up their prices substantially more than that even.

The Beachside Inn and Suites serves as a good example. This South Padre accommodation with a prime location just five minutes on foot from the beach regularly charges $71 for a Queen room. During the March 11–17 Spring Break timeframe, however, the same room will cost $524. That figure represents a 638% rate hike. Even for the cheapest available 2-star hotel room, Spring Breakers will have to spend at least $284 per night.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The many uses of a frosty product

When you think about dry ice you may not think about the process of how a dry ice maker works, or the many other things that it can be used for. Personally my experience with dry ice has been to keep things cold and to use it to make fog.

Yes, fog. Dry ice with a little bit of water makes an awesome fog that we've used for my children's stage productions, and on Halloween for a scarier walk to our door for trick or treaters. Haunting music and a fan to help disperse the fog adds to the experience and it's something that's become expected in our neighborhood.

I didn't realize until I decided to do a bit of research that dry ice blasting is system that uses dry ice to remove things like varnish or adhesives. It does it in a way that is much more environmentally sound, since it doesn't use harsh chemicals or leave a residue. While this type of a machine wouldn't be something the average person may want to own, it is interesting to think about how something we assume is only for a limited use, has many other uses.

Dry ice was actually created in 1835, by a French chemist named Thilorier, it stayed in the world of science for about sixty years before it was noticed as a possible product for real life uses, like in railroad cars to help keep food from spoiling as it went from one destination to another It extended how far food could travel and helped reduce spoilage if there was a delay in the delivery schedule.

Learn more about the use of this frosty product and I hope it is as entertaining for you as it has been for me.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Chrysler has best February sales in five years

  • Best February sales since 2008
  • 35th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains
  • Dodge, Ram Truck, and FIAT brands each post sales increases in February compared with same month a year ago
  • Dodge brand sales increase 30 percent; best February sales since 2007 and largest year-over-year percentage increase of any Chrysler Group brand
  • Dodge Dart sales increase 8 percent month over month; best sales month since June launch last year
  • Dodge Dart, Ram 1500, Fiat 500 Abarth, and SRT Viper each earn a MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Award in February
  • Dodge Challenger muscle car sets all-time sales record; sales up 34 percent in February
  • Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan sets sales record for month of February with 52 percent sales gain
  • Dodge Journey full-size crossover sets sales record for month of February; sales up 21 percent
  • Dodge Durango sales up 38 percent; best February sales since 2006
  • Ram pickup truck sales up 3 percent; best February sales since 2007
  • New 2014 Ram ProMaster full-size van debuts at Chicago Auto Show with best-in-class features focused on the commercial customer
  • Ram Truck brand to build industry’s only light-duty diesel pickup beginning in the third quarter
  • Ram Truck brand is the most-improved brand in the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study
  • Fiat 500 sets sales record for month of February with 2 percent sales gain
  • Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan sets sales record for the month of February with 18 percent increase
  • Jeep® brand unveils the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, its all-new mid-size sport-utility vehicle
  • Jeep Patriot compact SUV sets sales record for month of February with 24 percent sales gain
  • Jeep Wrangler sets sales record for month of February; sales up 8 percent
  • Jeep Compass sales up 36 percent; best February sales since 2007


Aquasana continues quest on chloramines

Aquasana will make a splash at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago March 2-5 with the introduction of two groundbreaking filtration products. Both represent industry leadership for chloramine contamination reduction. Aquasana is the first consumer water filtration brand to alert consumers about the need to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the mixture of chlorine and ammonia, known as chloramines.

Many states have begun to use chloramines to treat water, as it is a cost-effective method and more stable than pure chlorine. To combat this threat, Aquasana is unveiling a groundbreaking filter pitcher system and an under-the counter system.

The pitcher represents a game-changer in the water filtration industry. Not only is it the fastest pitcher on the market, it also features the industry's only NSF certification to remove harmful chloramines and reduces 10 times the contaminants of the leading drip pitcher filter

Top Video on Demand through February 24

Rentrak Corporation today announced the top ten movies-on-demand titles based on consumer transaction rate. Movies-on-demand are transactional (pay-per-purchase) films available through cable and telco providers. According to the company's OnDemand Essentials service, the top ten most-viewed titles, per data collected from February 18, 2013 through February 24, 2013 include:

1 Argo
2 Skyfall
3 Flight
4 Sinister
5 Here Comes The Boom
6 Anna Karenina
7 Hotel Transylvania
 8 Alex Cross
9 The Perks of Being A Wallflower
10 The Man With The Iron Fists

Monday, February 25, 2013

Make your walls come alive with your own art

Ever taken that perfect shot? Or more than one perfect shot that you know would make awesome custom posters for not only your walls, but your friends or family? I've taken some of my photographs from places as far from home as a cemetery in New Orleans, to a beautiful sunrise here in Toledo, and had them enlarged then framed. Several adorn the walls of my living room, several are on display in my office.
They are conversation starters as people assume the custom posters on my walls were done by someone else. When they learn that they were taken by me, the next question is "isn't that expensive?" To which the answer was no, if you find the right place it is actually less expensive than buying art done by someone else, and it means so much more since it was a time, a place, a moment that you captured.
With the increased use of social media, we share pictures with friends and family now more than ever, but those photos disappear off the page into an album. Taking a favorite picture and making it into art makes a personal gift that will be remembered for a lifetime. Poster frames and matting is also inexpensive and is not a challenging project, and it can enhance your photo art, taking it from those days where your walls were full of posters to something so much more.
Read more about the options out there through the internet to adorn your walls with your own photography, and you'll find just like I have, that it is a wonderful decorating idea as well as a great gift idea. It's a great chance for you to show off your skills and to use a favorite quote of mine, "We don't remember days, only moments."

World Pistachio Day: A Global Chance to Celebrate the Wonderful Green Nut

Did you know the word pistachio comes from a mix of Persian and Latin?   Originating in western Asia, pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees with evidence suggesting that humans were enjoying them as early as 7,000 B.C.  Pistachios were first planted in California in the 1930s and it took nearly 10 years of careful research and breeding before the California pistachio was finally perfected.  Today,California produces more than 550 million pounds of pistachios each year, making it a leading producer of pistachios worldwide.

Pistachios contain only 3-4 calories per nut – a reduced serving of 30 nuts adds up to about 100 caloriesThey also offer vital nutrients, including more than 30 different vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytonutrients, making them a great guilt free snack.
Going Nuts for Pistachios Across the Globe  In China, the pistachio is known as the "happy nut" because it looks like its smiling.

Often given as a gift during the Chinese New Year, pistachios are a symbol of health, happiness and good fortune.  While China leads the world in total pistachio consumption at 200 million pounds per year, Israelhas the world's highest per capita consumption of pistachios as 85 percent of Israelis eat nuts and seeds at least once a month.

In India, pistachios are a major part of the population's diet and are used in a popular saffron pistachio drink.  During Diwali, the Hindu New Year, and family occasions like weddings, pistachios are gifted as a symbol of love and good wishes.  At one time, pistachios were considered a "hot food" and typically enjoyed during the cold winter months, but now the nut is enjoyed all year round.  In Australia, during the hot summer months, many cafes near the beaches serve creamy Australian yogurt topped with shaved pistachios, as a refreshing post-swim snack. 

All about the Benjamins

Paper money has circulated in North America since 1690, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony issued some to paper over — so to speak — the shortage of coins. But these were just promissory notes from governing bodies. That changed on this date in 1862, when Congress passed the Legal Tender Act, fixing paper money as a means of paying the government's considerable Civil War bills with something other than gold or silver. One result was that greenbacks became a means of exchange for all private transactions. Currently, there are about 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars in circulation. From that total, America's nearly 117 million households draw an average annual income of just over $50,000.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The many services of the American Legion

 Last November, in a Massachusetts town along the Vermont border, a young mother who had just given birth to her second child was turned out on the streets by her parents.
The woman's husband was a soldier serving in Afghanistan, and her parents did not approve of the war.
"They just tossed her out, along with her two children. So the Red Cross called us up and we found her a suitable place to live," says Steven Jimmo, state chairman of The American Legion's Family Support Network.
Legionnaires moved quickly, working with the new landlord to get the homeless family settled. The night before Thanksgiving, Jimmo drove more than two hours to hand-deliver a check to the landlord for a security deposit. While inspecting the house, Jimmo and other Legionnaires discovered that a lot of basic housekeeping items were missing.
"So we contacted the local American Legion post and it responded immediately. They worked hard over the next 24 hours to get the necessary amenities," Jimmo says. "They provided curtains for the apartment, additional food, furniture and toys for the children. They made sure this young woman with her two infant children – whose father was on duty overseas – had a memorable Thanksgiving."
As in other states, The American Legion works closely with Massachusetts National Guard and reserve units, reaching out to help our troops and their families. Jimmo says the Legion often helps military families avoid having their utilities turned off, homes foreclosed and other domestic calamities.
"We usually have companies beating down our doors, wanting to assist these families during their hour of need. So we've organized them into a network willing to do things at cost, which the Legion often covers," Jimmo says. "In all of these cases, the families in need are never asked to pay for anything."
Not only for veterans
American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster says many people think his organization only helps veterans, "but that definitely is not the case. On any given day, one or more of our Legion posts is lending a hand to military families – everything from emergency rent payments to fixing a car or mowing a lawn."
Foster says the Legion was founded by active-duty troops who fought in France during World War I. "It's a fact that most of our members are veterans, but we also have a good number of active-duty, reserve and National Guard members. Anyone now serving in the military – or since the Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns – is welcome to join us."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Save energy this summer

With the Midwest in the grip of a summer heat wave for the next several days, FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE) is offering tips to help customers save energy and money while keeping their cool.
  • Close air conditioning registers in unused rooms and keep the doors to those rooms closed.  This will reduce the amount of energy your air conditioner will use to maintain your home's temperature.
  • Don't position heat-producing appliances near wall-mounted thermostats.  Doing so will make your air conditioner run longer than necessary to maintain your preferred temperature.
  • Consider setting air conditioners a few degrees warmer on hot days.  Every degree you add to your interior temperature in the summer can reduce your energy usage by up to 3 percent.
  • Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).  CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and they produce less heat.  
  • Now is a great time for an HVAC tune-up.  Your FirstEnergy utility may offer rebates on HVAC tune-ups or discounts on the purchase of new, energy efficient HVAC units.  To see if you qualify, visit or  
  • Close drapes or blinds on windows that receive direct sunlight.  Blocking the sun's rays reduces the temperature in your home, which means your air conditioner has less work to do.
  • Consider joining the Easy Cool Rewards Program to manage your air conditioning when you're not home.  You'll receive $60 and a Honeywell programmable thermostat (a $250 value).  For details, please visit or  
  • If your home has an attached garage, keep your garage door closed during the hottest hours of the day.  This can reduce the amount of cool air that might escape, resulting in less work for your air conditioner.
  • Locate window air conditioning units where they will be in the shade during the hottest hours of the day.  Keeping the sun off your window air conditioner will reduce its workload and increase your energy efficiency.
  • Cook with the microwave instead of the oven.  Traditional ovens require far more energy than microwaves, and they produce substantial heat inside your home, making your air conditioner run longer.
  • Run kitchen and bath exhaust fans only as long as necessary to remove odors or steam from the room.  Leaving a fan running will pull cool air from your home, increasing its temperature.
  • If you have a second refrigerator or a freezer that's running but not being used, consider having it recycled.  You'll get a cash rebate of $35 to $50 and save up to $150 every year in energy costs.  

To learn more about energy efficiency and to read about rebate programs you may be eligible for, please visit or
FirstEnergy is a diversified energy company dedicated to safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its ten electric distribution companies comprise the nation's largest investor-owned electric system.  Its diverse generating fleet features non-emitting nuclear, scrubbed baseload coal, natural gas, and pumped-storage hydro and other renewables, and has a total generating capacity of approximately 24,000 megawatts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wireless Industry related job growth still predicted

As more and more consumers switch to smartphones, tablet computers and wireless applications, the U.S. wireless industry is doing well, but hiring was reported as down according to U.S. Labor Department figures released earlier this month. There are about 20,000 fewer jobs than when the recession ended in June 2009 and 2,000 fewer than a year ago.

While that may seem like bleak news, the customer service aspect of the increased sales will lead to a continued need for call center process outsource providers to exist and prosper. With the similarity of electronic devices between carriers, cross training call center employees is something that is already being done.

Back when I worked at a call center several years ago, customer service staff were cross trained to provide technical support for several different cable providers. That can be done in many industries, including wireless.

Call center operations in the U.S. as well as overseas continues to grow. Recent research conducted by IBM shows there are now more call center agents in the Philippines than there are in India.

The Contact Center Association of the Philippines estimates that 350,000 Filipinos work in call centers, compared to 330,000 Indians.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

California Supreme Court upholds bag ban

 The California Supreme Court today issued a ruling that impacts not only plastic bag bans throughout the state but has far-reaching ramifications for the circumstances under which public agencies must prepare environmental impact reports under the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA").  The court ruled in favor of the City of Manhattan Beach, paving the way for the city's ban on plastic bags to go into effect.  Downey Brand partner Christian Marshargued the case before the Supreme Court on behalf of the appellant, Manhattan Beach.  He was joined in the argument by James Moose of Remy Thomas Moose & Manley for amici curiae Californians Against Waste.  "We were confident the city had a right to impose the bag ban, and this ruling gives cities acrossCalifornia some real clarity," Marsh said.  
An industry coalition of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors known as the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition sued Manhattan Beach for its citywide ban on plastic bags, arguing that the environmental impacts associated with increased paper bag use would outweigh any environmental benefits of the ban.  The city, among many in California with similar ordinances, imposed the ban to limit the number of plastic bags making their way into the ocean and marine environment.  The case raised two important issues that have been facing fiscally-strapped cities and counties across the state: (1) whether the coalition, which had a commercial interest in overturning the ban, qualified for "public interest" standing under CEQA, and (2) what is the legal threshold under CEQA for when a project or ordinance necessitates preparing an environmental impact report, known as an EIR.  In its ruling, the court sided with the city on the CEQA threshold, but ruled against the city on the coalition's standing to sue.

Laminate it

I used to like wall to wall carpet, but after years of having to steam clean carpets because of pets and children? I'm a fan of laminate floor above hardwood floors. Laminate is much easier to care for and much easier to install. If you have ever spent weeks sanding down a hardwood floor and then coating it? You'll understand why laminate is easier to install. Water spilled or those pet accidents on a wood floor can create issues if it's not caught immediately, that's not a problem with laminate. There is really less cleaning time with laminate versus carpet when you consider no vacuuming or steam cleaning and for many it helps reduce allergen issues.

Get a free Lemon Ice at Fazoli's

Rome is not only the capital of Italy, it's the largest city in Floyd County Georgia, a place in New York where a major Revolutionary War battle took place, and a small town in South Carolina near Myrtle Beach. In fact, Rome is the name of more than 8 cities located throughout the United States.  And there are numerous other places in America named after Italian cities and towns.  Name just one of them and you will receive a free Italian Lemon Ice from Fazoli's in flavors of the old country.
From July 18 through July 22, stop by any participating Fazoli's restaurant and provide the name of an American city with an Italian name, and you will receive a free Italian Lemon Ice.  This includes two new flavors, Pomegranate Passion Fruit and Orange Italian Cream.  The Lemon Ice giveaway is all part of Fazoli's Tour of Taste promotion, where the flavors of RomeTuscanyCampaniaNaples and Sicily are being featured through five new entrees.  There is also a chance to win a trip for two to Italy and other great prizes included in Fazoli's Tour of Taste Sweepstakes, which can be entered by visiting participating restaurant locations.  Sweepstakes ends July 31, 2011.
Cathy Hull, chief marketing officer for Fazoli's, believes most people can identify at least one American city with an Italian name.   "Just off the top of my head Florence, Naples and Venice come to mind, but there are so many more cities in the United States with Italian names," said Hull.  "What's interesting is that each region of Italy brought different flavors to America as well.  We are highlighting these flavors with our Tour of Taste entrees, and you don't have to live in Rome to enjoy them."
An American family favorite for more than 20 years, Fazoli's is a leading QSR with an all new menu featuring freshly prepared Italian entrees, Submarinos® sandwiches and salads and a contemporary new restaurant design.  Founded in Lexington, Ky. in 1989, Sun Capital Partners acquired Fazoli's in 2006.

On upcoming lead level changes

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted (3-2) that there was insufficient evidence to make a determination that manufacturers of children's products sold in the United States could not meet a total lead content limit of 100 parts per million (ppm) for a product or product category. The new total lead content limit, which is called for in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), goes into effect on August 14, 2011 for manufacturers, importers, retailers and distributors of children's products.
Through the CPSIA, Congress set tough new levels for lead content in products designed or primarily intended for children 12 and younger.  Lead is a heavy metal that is toxic for children, and associated with lowered levels of learning, impaired hearing, brain damage and, at high levels, can be fatal.
Congress directed CPSC to phase in the reduced levels for lead content over a three year period, starting with 600 ppm on February 10, 2009. The level dropped to 300 ppm on August 14, 2009. Finally, Congress directed the total lead content limit be set at 100 ppm, unless the Commission determined it was not technologically feasible for a product or product category.

Let them eat cake

You don't have time to bake, or your baking skills are not quite what you'd like them to be, or the person you'd love to let enjoy some cake is miles away from you. Besides sending them a mix and some frosting in a box, what's an easier and even tastier way to let them eat cake? Send them mini-cakes at Sharis Berries and make their day a cake day. If you are looking for something bigger, they have that too and they have some amazing offerings, including red velvet ...