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Mark Strobel
4550 W. Tilghman Street | Allentown, PA 18104
Phone: 610-398-8111 1471 | Office Phone: 610-398-8111 | Fax: 267-354-6254
email: mstrobel@remaxcentralinc.com

My Blog

7 Cold Weather Safety Tips for Pets

March 14, 2016 1:18 am

Cold weather can be hard on everyone—including your pets. When it’s chilly outside, it’s important to consider their safety. Remember: if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them!

“Our pets are members of our family, and the fact that they can’t tell us what they are feeling can make them the most vulnerable members when cold weather hits,” says Deborah C. Mandell, member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and veterinarian at Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “There are some simple steps any pet owner can take to make sure pets stay safe.”

These steps, Mandell says, include bringing your pets indoors and ensuring they have access to food and drinking water. If your pet cannot come indoors, protect them in a dry, draft-free enclosure large enough for them to sit and lie down, but small enough to hold in their body heat. Raise the floor of the shelter a few inches off the ground and cover it with cedar shavings or straw. Turn the enclosure away from the wind and cover the doorway with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.

Bear in mind, adds Mandell, that salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate a pet’s paws. Wipe their paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them. Be sure, also, to wipe up antifreeze spills immediately and store it out of reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

Source: American Red Cross

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowners: Make This the Year for Eliminating Fertilizers

March 14, 2016 1:18 am

We often discuss holistic ways to improve your health, household and environment. With warm weather approaching, it's time to consider eliminating chemical fertilizers.

According to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), most commercial fertilizers boost plant growth rapidly. But too commonly, these high potency fertilizers are overused, ending up as phosphorus and nitrate in groundwater and small streams.

In New England and along Long Island Sound, we've seen the poisoning of aquatic life and severe oxygen deficiencies result from these chemicals reaching local and regional water sources.

So, what you can do? The NWF says:

• You can reduce fertilizer potency and application rates and still improve plant health. "Natural" fertilizers, such as composts and pasteurized manures, are preferable, as they release a much greater variety of nutrients more slowly.

• If commercial fertilizers are used, choose a slow-releasing fertilizer.

• Make and use compost in the landscape and save landfill space.

• Plant cover crops, like buckwheat and clovers. These plants add or "pump up" nutrients to the root zone and physically improve the soil.

• Try composted sludge, which is derived from sewage or industrial processes.

• Grow native plants. Many native plants will grow very well with only an annual application of leaf mulch or with an annual cultural practice, such as mowing or burning.

What if your basement, garage or shed is stocked with fertilizers or other gardening chemicals?

The Integrated Pest management experts at the University of California, Davis have a few tips on disposing of pesticides and fertilizers:

• If you can’t use up your pesticides, fertilizers and weed killers, consider giving them away.

• Sewage treatment plants aren’t designed to remove all toxic chemicals from wastewater. Pouring garden chemicals into a storm drain, down the sink or in the toilet is never an option—and it is against the law!

• The only allowable way to dispose of pesticides is to use them up according to label directions or to take them to a household hazardous waste site.

To find Household Hazardous Waste Disposal sites nearest you, visit www.earth911.com, enter your zip code and what you need to recycle, and the interactive map will get you there.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Cleaning: A Room by Room Checklist

March 14, 2016 1:18 am

For many homeowners, spring cleaning is a much-needed, yet overwhelming task. In fact, some even avoid it altogether!

The truth is, spring cleaning is best approached by breaking down the task room by room, says Merry Maids home cleaning expert Debra Johnson.

“The most common cleaning challenge homeowners face is figuring out where to start," says Johnson. “Having a set cleaning plan and breaking it up room by room makes tasks more manageable, and may even help you clean areas you often ignore.”

Johnson’s plan includes:
 
Kitchen

• Deodorize the garbage disposal with a half cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar mixed with hot water.
• Degrease the microwave by heating up half a lemon in hot water for 10 minutes, then wiping grime away.
• Empty the refrigerator and wash shelves with warm, soapy water.
• Use dishwashing liquid and warm water to clean cabinet fronts, and degrease appliances with an all-purpose cleaner.

Bathroom

• Steam-clean the floor to restore the true color of the tiles.
• Use a non-abrasive cleaning detergent to scrub the inside of the tub, toilet and sink.
• Wipe inside of cabinets, clean the mirror and toss old cosmetics and expired medicines.

Bedroom

• Dust behind headboards.
• Sort closets and create a "keep" and "donate" pile for your clothes.
• Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and vacuum slowly.
• Wash bedspreads, mattress covers and duvets. Flip your mattress before making the bed with clean linens.

Living Room

• Launder or dry clean curtains, then dust windows, window sills, coffee tables and shelves.
• Remove all accessories from tables and shelves, thoroughly dusting with a microfiber cloth as you go.
• Wash or dry-clean pillows and steam-clean any remaining upholstery and carpeting.

Tackle each room separately using this checklist, says Johnson. Your spring cleaning chores will be finished in no time!

Source: Merry Maids

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Money-Smart Tips for Millennials

March 11, 2016 2:15 am

From witnessing the plight of their parents to navigating a barren employment landscape, most millennials experienced the effects of the economic downturn in one form or another. As a result, they’re cognizant of the importance of monetary well-being, yet unsure how to best manage their finances.

In reality, there are many routes to take on the path to a secure financial future. The specialists at Northwestern Mutual recommend starting with the following money-wise tasks:

1. Set goals. Currently, just over half of millennials have set financial goals. If you haven’t yet defined your goals, take time to create money milestones that align with your future plans. Ask yourself where you want to be at this time next year. If you’ve already set goals, now is a good time to review your plan, assess how you're doing and make updates if needed.

2. Review your 401(k). Approximately three-quarters of millennials expect to work past age 65 because Social Security won't take care of their needs. This finding stresses the importance of a strong 401(k). Are you contributing to your employer's plan? Can you afford to contribute more? Spending even a few minutes analyzing your retirement savings can pay off big down the road.

3. Meet with a financial professional. About one in three millennials say a lack of planning is their greatest obstacle to achieving financial security. The best way to make sure you're making the most of your money is to create a plan with a financial professional.

Says Emily Holbrook, young personal market director for Northwestern Mutual: "Regardless of where millennials are on their financial journeys, completing even one small task today can have a big impact on their financial futures.”

Source: Northwestern Mutual

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Top 10 Downtowns of 2016

March 11, 2016 2:15 am

Things will be great when you’re downtown!

Livability.com recently released its ranking of the top 10 best downtowns across America, underscoring resurgence in downtowns in mid- and small-size towns. The downtowns included in the ranking offer expanded housing options, diversity and around-the-clock entertainment.

“Having a great downtown is about more than just great stores and great restaurants,” says Matt Carmichael, editor of Livability.com.  “A great downtown needs people. Great cities need great spaces to gather. These cities and towns are wonderful places to get out and engage with your friends, family and other residents.”

The ranking is as follows:

1. Alexandria, Va.
2. Santa Monica, Calif.
3. Greenville, S.C.
4. Bellevue, Wash.
5. Pittsburgh, Pa.
6. Boise, Idaho
7. Tempe, Ariz.
8. Plano, Texas
9. Colorado Springs, Colo.
10. Evanston, Ill.

To determine the ranking, Livability.com evaluated data from various sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the mapping platform Esri, to pinpoint areas experiencing an influx in population, new development and low vacancy rates. Livability.com also factored in Walk Score and affordability, among other indicators, and included a population parameter to identify downtowns that extend beyond Main Street.

Source: Livability.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Favorable for Spring Homebuyers

March 11, 2016 2:15 am

Buyers in the market for a home this spring can expect lower mortgage rates across the board.

According to the Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) stands at 3.68 percent, and the 15-year FRM stands at 2.96 percent.

“The 10-year Treasury yield ended the survey week exactly where it started; however the solid February employment report boosted the yield noticeably on Friday and Monday,” explains Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Our mortgage rate survey captured the impact of this temporary increase in yield, and the 30-year mortgage rate rose 4 basis points to 3.68 percent. This marks the second increase this year. Nonetheless, the mortgage rate remains 33 basis points lower than its end-of-2015 level.”

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) stands at 2.92 percent, according to the survey.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Consumer Protection Week: IRS Scam Warning

March 10, 2016 2:15 am

Around this time every year, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) National Consumer Financial Protection Week (consumerfinance.gov/ncpw) promotes heightened awareness of consumer rights.

According to the IRS—one of the agencies observing the week this year—one of the most recent and widespread issues affecting consumers are phishing and malware incidents. The IRS has seen an approximate 400 percent surge in these cases so far this tax season.

Consumers affected by this issue reported receiving emails designed to trick them into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies.  The phishing scheme asked them about a wide range of topics, including requesting information related to refunds and filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.

Variations of these scams have also been reported via text messages. When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.

The IRS urges people not to click on these links. Instead, send the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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When It Comes to Home Security, Safety Tops Convenience

March 10, 2016 2:15 am

Many homeowners purchase home security systems to ensure peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones—and for most, that preference goes beyond smart home-enabled security advancements, according to a recent survey by LivSecure and The Harris Poll.

"Smart home technology is popular, but the survey shows that homeowners want more than a 'smart thing' when it comes to protecting their home and family,” says Amy Kothari, president and CEO of My Alarm Center. “Homeowners want assurances that help will arrive when their family needs it, and professional monitoring alerts first responders in case of an emergency.”

Survey results show 93 percent of homeowners want the authorities to be alerted by their security system in the event of an emergency, and 63 percent do not consider self-monitored systems as safe as professionally monitored alternatives.

Not all homeowners object to smart home-enabled security, however. The survey found 81 percent of homeowners assign importance to remote monitoring systems, whether through their mobile device, tablet or computer, and 72 percent would like their security system to control other home functions, such as lighting and temperature.

Additionally, survey results show that DIY, or self-installed, security systems are growing in popularity: 49 percent of homeowners are open to installing security systems on their own.

Source: LivSecure

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Forward: Remember to Test Smoke Alarms, Carbon Monoxide Detectors

March 10, 2016 2:15 am

Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend, historically serving as a reminder for homeowners to test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Most homeowners, however, neglect this important, potentially life-saving task.

According to a recent survey by Mister Sparky® electricians, just over 40 percent of homeowners test their smoke alarms each month; nearly 35 percent don’t conduct monthly tests, nor replace alarms every 10 years, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). What’s more, one-third of homeowners do not have a working carbon monoxide detector.

The NFPA advises homeowners install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors outside of each bedroom or sleeping area, interconnecting them so that when one sounds, they all sound. If you need assistance installing alarms or detectors in your home, contact a licensed electrical professional.

Source: Mister Sparky®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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12 Tips to Protect Mobile Device Data

March 9, 2016 2:12 am

Cyber criminals are targeting mobile devices in growing numbers. To protect the sensitive data on your devices, it’s important to remain vigilant, even if your financial institution implements preventative measures on your behalf.

“Banks use sophisticated safeguards to protect customer information, and it’s important for consumers to take certain safety measures too,” says Doug Johnson, senior vice president of Payments and Cybersecurity Policy at the American Bankers Association (ABA). “Remember that your smartphone or tablet is like a little computer, and any device used to connect to the Internet needs to be protected.”

Johnson recommends the following 12 steps to ensure your data remain out of the hands of cyber criminals:

1. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.

2. Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.

3. Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software (malware) by installing mobile security software. 

4. Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malware, worms and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”

5. Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.

6. Avoid storing sensitive information, like passwords or a Social Security number, on your mobile device.

7. Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.

8. Be aware of “shoulder surfers.” The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings, especially when typing sensitive information.

9. Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.

10. Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.

11. Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network. 

12. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. 

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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