Archive for June, 2011


How to Keep Electricity Costs Down in the Summer

Keep cool this summer without raking up your electricity costs.

By Stephen Davis
Special to

In the summer, electricity bills can increase – especially in warmer areas in the south and west. During such periods of heat electricity consumption needs to be kept low. The key to this is efficiency and to use resources wisely.

One of the first things that you should remember is to keep your shades and blinds closed. This prevents the sun from heating up your home and wasting energy. Incandescent bulbs and other similar light sources also produce heat just like the sun does, so it is better that you keep extra lights off. A dark area generally gives a cool feeling anyway.

Hot air rises, so keep the vents and windows of the lower rooms closed. This will give the rooms upstairs more air and keep them ventilated and cool. Keep the vents and windows of the upper rooms open to the hot air escapes that way.

Also find out the sources of heat in your house. Cloth dryers use a lot of electricity and in addition to that, they also produce a lot of heat. Always install dryers near a window and have an air pipe made or an exhaust fan installed to channel away the hot air. Dryers that are placed in basements should have proper ventilation too or the hot air will escape into your living room through the stair case.

You should take a tour of your house and examine any openings from where cool air might escape. Remember cool air is heavier and will escape from places closed to the floor. This includes the spaces under doors. Some doors have a large space underneath them. This wastes a lot of cool air. Install strips of carpet or rubber at the door edges to act as a barrier to the cold air.

Human bodies also produce heat, especially during active actions like exercises. Do not do workouts indoors. Use your lawn or the local gym. The less activity there is inside the house, the cooler it will stay.

Many people keep on changing the air conditioner thermostat. This isn’t a wise idea as it uses more energy. Keep the air conditioner at one constant temperature. It will always cool better that way and consume less electricity as well. If you have a central air system, keep the fan on “On” instead of “Auto”. This will keep a steady airflow through your house and maintain the temperature beautifully.

Use pleasant weather wisely. Place a box fan in a window early in the morning and open the opposite window. This will circulate the fresh morning air through your house and cool it down.

In many areas, the air conditioner is not really necessary. Learn to live without it unless absolutely necessary. In many cases, the ceiling fan can do a nice job by itself.

Try if it works. Using less air conditioning will bring down electricity costs considerably.

And by the way, since it is the summer; go outside. Visit the beach, lake or riverside. Go to water parks and have picnics with friends. When you leave, make sure everything is turned off.

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What to Look for When Buying Your First Home

Be sure to throughly check a house before you buy

By Maria Belgado
Special to

Buying a home for the first time doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Several sellers stage their houses to make their homes look attractive, but keep in mind that after their personal belongings are taken away, the house may seem bare. Here are some amenities that you should look for when buying your first home.

1. Kitchen appliances: Appliances are the most costly and important aspect of your kitchen. Some homes have them already built it. When looking at home ask about the age and condition of all appliances – especially the refrigerator and the oven.

2. Materials: After you learn the cost of the house, you should also know what materials were used in the construction. If you are buying less costly homes, be sure that you will receive materials, which are not really top class. Cheaper homes come with cheaper amenities.

3. Look at the ceiling: Check the ceiling for water marks, cracks and leaks. These are indicators of structural damage.

4. Outdoor areas: Look at the gutters, patio, downspouts, and examine the exterior conditions closely. If you are buying older homes, you must have a record of the past major repairs that have been carried out.

5. Research the neighborhood: Before you buy, research the crime rates and accessibility of the neighborhood. You don’t want to live in a neighborhood that is dangerous or has a bad history.

6. Bathroom amenities: Bathroom and plumbing fixtures are one of the most important amenities. If you are going for older homes, you must find out what renovations will be needed for the plumbing, as these can get very costly.

7. Important systems: Closely look at the heating and cooling systems. These systems are costly and repairing them will also take a lot out of your pockets.

8. Upgraded amenities: Several homeowners upgrade their homes. Find out the approximate cost of the upgrades and if there is any difference in the rates that the seller is offering. Do not pay for unnecessary upgrades that may seem attractive but are not useless.

9. The paperwork: If you are buying a house, be it your first or your last, you must take a look the paperwork closely. Do not go for houses that talk about ‘settling the paperwork later’ or ‘the paperwork will be done in a while.’ Always go for houses that have ready papers with a legal stamp on them. You may also do research about the house in local government bodies.

Looking for your first home seems to be exciting, but you must know all that you need to look for. House hunting requires you to have really strong nerves and analytical skills. Before you start looking at houses, you must have a rough idea of the amenities you are looking in your house. Make sure you make detailed lists and stick to lists. However, some flexibility may be required while you are short listing and selecting your home.


Moving During the Summer: How to Beat the Heat

Beat the heat when moving over the summer with our simple tips!

By Maria Paulia Belgado
Special to

Moving during the summer is not something that many people look forward to.  However, Americans find summers the best time to make a move. It does not matter if you are moving to a nearby location or relocating to a new state – perfect packing is what you need to prevent any kind of property damage. It may seem tempting to pack up all your belongings at the last minute. If you are or have to make a move in summer months, you cannot pack all your stuff in a beach bag and walk away. To make your move better you must begin with better planning. In reality, shipping items via modern freeways require you to pack your belongings with utmost expertise. Here are some summer moving tips for a damage-free and successful move.

Tips for Packing:
Make sure that the bottoms of all boxes are tightly closed. Make sure to label your boxes and create a list of the contents for each box. Fill up all empty spaces in those boxes with fillers to avoid bouncing. Clearly mark boxes that contain fragile objects. Make sure that the ‘FRAGILE’ marked boxes are placed on top of everything. Pad sharp corners to avoid punctures or scratches. Do not send valuables, plants, pets, and basic necessities in a movers’ truck.

All pieces of furniture should be padded with blankets or bubble wrap® and secured tightly. Detach legs of your furniture and pack them in padded materials. Make sure you don’t miss out on screws and bolts. You may even apply a fine coat of wax on your wood furnishings to save them from scratches.

Huge sofas should be placed upright and in the end to reduce space consumption. You can wrap up cushions and place them as packaging between items. Your dressers can be moved with full drawers to evade repacking. However, you must secure drawers to prevent them from opening up.

While moving stereos, computers or TVs make sure you follow company’s instructions and use original boxes. Wrap all pieces in foam or bubble wraps. Make sure wrap up all cords and cables separately but securely. CDs, DVDs and tapes should be protected from direct heat.

Household Appliances.
Refrigerators and freezers must be defrosted and cleaned days before you move. The spaces inside these appliances can be used to store light and fragile objects. All their cords and wires must be removed and placed inside them.

All glass items must be wrapped and packed individually strong boxes. You may also purchase “dish packs” to pack your dinnerware. Use soft cloth and silver paper to pack silverware.

Lampshades/Wall Hangings.
Use towels, bubble or foam wraps to pack lamps and wall hangings. Place them in cartons which are reinforced and sturdy. Make sure bulbs are removed from your lamps when they are transported.

Summer generally isn’t the best time to move – it’s hot, uncomfortable to travel and usually more expensive. But if you must move during the summer, keep these tips in mind to beat the summer heat and moving headaches.


What are the Best Herbs for a Small Garden?

Digging The Vegetable Garden

By Dermound Becker
Special to

For many, gardening is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  When considering what plants should go into your garden, herbs are an excellent choice. Not only are they a boon for your culinary skills, but they all come in varying shades of green, have differently shaped leaves and lovely scents, thus making your garden interesting to look at too. It should also not be forgotten that certain herbs can be used for natural remedies and cures. If you need some herbs in cooking, you simply cut off the amount you need and the plant will show no signs damage and its growth will not be hindered.

Parsley. One of the most versatile of all herbs is parsley, which is used in many recipes. It grows in clumps of bright green stems and leaves up to a height of around one foot. Parsley is known to keep away the common house fly which is good enough reason to plant this hardy herb.

Rosemary. Rosemary is a very strong and hardy herb which needs little water and thrives in direct sunshine. It grows in bushes with fronds of thin, elongated leaves and, in spring, has dainty little lilac or purple flowers along the length of its fronds. Rosemary is known as the calming herb and one can simply steep it in boiling water for a few minutes and, when cool, sipped; and this ‘tea’ is also a mild antiseptic.

Chives. Chives make a pretty addition to a small garden. A part of the onion family, it has a mild flavor. Chives are a bright, strong green and they grow vertically in long, thin blades similar to grass, which make a good visual contrast to other bushier herbs.

Basil. Also known as sweet basil, is another popular small garden herb as there are green, red and purple varieties, which add a color contrast to your small garden. The red variety has small pink flowers; and this herb grows low on the ground, thus making it great for a border.

Mint. Finally, mint adds a lovely fresh scent and bright light green leaves to your herb garden. Mint is another herb which keeps away the house fly and its other uses are many. It is used to make a tea by steeping it in boiling water; and may be added to traditional tea and lemonade. Mint can grow quite tall, so it should be planted at the back of your herb garden and it needs to be trimmed occasionally, as it can grow out of control.

These herbs can be planted either in the soil of a small garden, or in individual pots and arranged in an attractive formation. As they are all hardy, they can be dug up with their roots to be transported to another location or, if in pots, wrapped in bubble plastic to protect them when being transported.

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print A New Apartment Review and Social Networking Website integrates real estate rental reviews and through social networking features where they can search and post reviews of apartments, rental homes, student housing, vacation rentals and more. is also a trusted partner of, a complete moving resource where consumers can receive competitive moving quotes.

The newest user review and social networking website went live late November 2010. The review platform is based on tenant experiences, past or present, renting apartments, on or off campus student housing, rental homes, vacation rentals and more. The site allows users to search and post reviews in every city in the United States. Users can also post pictures of the apartment and rate it using a unique 5-star rating system that ranges from “Not That Bad” to “Absolute Nightmare.” Although the name,, implies and actually encourages negative reviews, users can also post positive reviews. “The reviews that users post are meant to help future tenants become more aware of possible issues and ask the agent or landlord tough questions before they sign a lease,” says Cerny, a Chicago based real estate professional and co-founder of the site. Landlords are welcome to respond to posts about their properties if they believe a review is inaccurate or if a problem has been corrected.

It happens all too often, an interested party walks through a beautifully furnished unit with an agent or landlord and decides to sign a lease because everything looks perfect. It is very obvious that the agent or landlord is not going to mention that they receive numerous noise complaints about the neighbors throwing parties all the time or that the unit has a mold problem in the kitchen ceiling which they continue to simply paint over. allows users to easily share their experiences in order to help future tenants make an informed decision about signing a lease after they read the apartment reviews. The goal is to make leasing agents, landlords and property managers more accountable by disclosing more information to prospective tenants.

Besides the review side of the website, it is built around a social networking core, which includes a conversation forum, public blog and a classified ads section. The main difference between and their competition is that they appeal to the next generation of internet users with numerous social networking features. Unlike the competition that has dated features and no social networking, uses Facebook connect along with the AddThis sharing service. Both of these features will allow users to stay connected with friends by sharing posts and messages instantly on their favorite social networking sites.

The layout and review system of is similar to the popular review site Yelp. The main difference is that its niche is rental property reviews and not reviews of every single business in the world. It will only be a matter of time before we start to see other review sites startups that focus on niche markets since quality on a specific topic, business or interest will always trump quantity.

For more information regarding this website, please visit

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What are the Top 5 Cities in the U.S. for Healthy Living?

By Maria Paulia Belgado
Special to

The United States has had a lot of trouble in attaining a healthy lifestyle. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is considered the 9th fattest country in the world! Although we are packing on the pounds, there are some places in the U.S. that focus on healthy living, exercise and eating. When looking to relocate for health purposes here are the top 5 cities that have tons of health programs and fitness gyms, focus on eating healthy and feature activities that have a good impact on an areas overall well-being and lifestyle.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is renowned for their love of sports. They continually rank as one of the fittest city in the U.S. for years as residents have access to wide plains and the great outdoors. Residents love to stay healthy by walking and biking and enjoying healthy eating like vegan and vegetarian restaurants.

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is best known for hiking and backpacking, which puts this city to the second spot of this list. With regards to a healthy environment, pollution is held to a minimum thanks to numerous environmental programs. The city also offers a wide variety of clinics and shops and access to the outdoors that keeps its residents active and engaged.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
When the going gets tough and the cold gets colder, Minnesota still, never dwindles far from being healthy. Residents can look forward to number of great indoor and outdoor activities as well as excellent hospitals.

Denver, Colorado
Denver has no problems in being healthy.  Residents can look forward to a enjoying a number of health assessment programs and great activities that help keep their citizens in shape. Their interest in health has gotten stronger over time and projected to stay in the top of the fittest cities. Programs are still being promoted among its citizens to encourage them in participating activities and events regarding health awareness.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque has continued to spread the love among its people and by doing so has increased their status in the fit cities of the U.S. Caring for their old and having to deal with promoting health to their young is their unique way of getting healthy and toned.

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Home Swaps: How do they Work?

Home swapping is a great way to check out a new destination without having to deal with expensive hotel fees


Have you always wanted to go on an international holiday, but cannot do so because of the traveling and hotel costs? If budget is a major constraint, then home swaps are best option for you. Home swaps are extremely popular these days. These are some points that explain how home swap works.

The Fundamentals:
You can use online services to search people who live in holiday destinations that you choose. E-mail them and offer to swap homes for a frame of time. Using this method, both of you will cut down the charges of vacation lodging. Some home swaps are also available with cars, bicycles or subway passes. However, it is not compulsory to include vehicles or passes in your home swap.

This will help you save the money that you would have spent on hotels. Home swaps are extremely useful as they make your vacations more intimate, and it lets you stay there as locals. These private houses are more comfortable than hotels. A house will also give you a complete kitchen, along with additional amenities. With this, you will be able to save a great deal when it comes to food and laundry.

Where To Swap?
People who live in posh beachfront houses or luxury condos are likely to get more offers than the ones living in quiet suburbs. At times, swappers also choose places that are close to their relatives, hospitals, or business areas. Before you jump on the deal, you must do some research and find out the kinds of options available for you. If you have a house in the countryside and you are swapping it with someone who owns an apartment in the city, it’s a great deal.

Get Started:
Home swapping services are widely available on the Internet. You may have to pay a nominal membership fee to see the listings of the available houses. You can search for houses on the basis of amenities or location. For instance, you can look for beachfront condos or a house that has a hot tub. You can also look at user feedback and ratings about the houses. Few websites also offer to mediate in cases of disagreements.

Realistic Considerations:
Certainly, there are few realistic considerations while swapping homes. Follow these simple precautions while swapping homes:

• Know the person you are swapping your house with. Keep touch via calls and mails. If you find anything fishy, feel free to cancel your swap.

• Keep all your valuable and fragile items away while swapping homes.

• Get relevant information about the area and the address. Do not mingle with people who are not willing to provide addresses well in advance.

• Find insurance companies that cover home swaps.

• Mention and find out about the presence of pets in the house. This should be discussed well in advance.

• Several swapping services provide contracts. Make sure you read them well and beforehand.

Swapping your home can be really easy. When you realize how convenient, easy and frugal home swapping can be – you’ll never want to stay in a hotel during your holidays every again.

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print's Guide to a Day in NYC under $100

Check out our guide to visiting NYC for under 100 bucks!

By Joann Pan
Special to

Students, vacationers and New York natives, you will soon realize that there is so much to do in NYC. would like to offer a guide of things to do to get acquainted making for a grand finish to your moving to New York. New York City is so much more than dirty water hot dogs and shopping, here’s our version of the perfect NY day.


Like any New Yorker would start off the day, you need to get a great cup of coffee to get that extra pep in your step and energy for the long day ahead of you. The kids can get some delicious hot chocolate or some juice. We greatly recommend FIKA Expresso Bars with two convenient locations in the city Midtown at 41 West 58th St between Avenue Of The Americas & Grand Army Plaza [take the N or R to Fifth Avenue and 60th Street] or in the Financial District [take 2 or 3 to Wall Street for sights of the hustle and bustle outside of New York Stock Exchange]. FIKA coffees, iced coffees and lattes surpass any of the coffee we have had around NYC and other coffee hotspots in the world.

We would recommend starting in the Financial District and working your way uptown to the other sights we have planned. After finishing up your FIKA-perfect cup of caffeine and pastries (do take some chocolate balls for the road for the kids), you can walk up towards the New York Stock Exchange for a photo opportunity. Ladies: note the huge Hermes, Tiffany & Co. and Thomas Pink stores alongside Broad Street and Wall Street for a later date.

Head towards the Fulton Street and the South Street Seaport for our first point on our New York City tour. If you love biology or science, we would recommend going through the Bodies Exhibit at 11 Fulton Street between South Street and Front Street. I remember going to this exhibit with my younger sister and mother and we couldn’t get enough of [real] bodies. My sister and I loved seeing what bones, arteries, veins, intestines, organs and muscles looked like in various poses whether it was bending down or taking a jump shot. There are even sections where you can see what effects diseases physically have on your body. You will never know your body better than today. If you think you or one of your friends will get squeamish about the displays made from real bodies, you might want to take an alternate route and head toward the South Street Seaport and examine the boats docked there. Read: Another cool photo opportunity.

Fika Latte – $3.75
Chocolate Balls – $2
Adult Tickets to the Bodies Exhibit – Around $33, differs with service fees and weekday/weekend charges.


After your family gets enough of the southern tip of Manhattan, it’s time to move up. Climb abroad the NYC subway… you want to transfer at Union Square, so climb abroad any train from Fulton Street to 14st Street-Union Square so you can ultimately ride the L “8th Avenue” train to 14th Street and 8th Avenue. Once you walk out of the subway station, you’ll find yourself in the Chelsea/Meatpacking District of Manhattan. What you’ll be looking for is The High Line—a park in the sky—a brilliant piece of art installed about two years ago, saved from demolition plans by the city. It’s free and if you come during the summer, you’ll find the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck parked right near the entrance to the public park making the experience all the more better. No doubt—it will be the BEST ice cream you have ever had—yeah, we’re talking about surpassing eating fresh Honey ice cream in Rome. We love Van Leeuwan’s pistachio, cinnamon and ginger. Walking up The High Line entrance towards 12st street and Ninth Avenue, you’ll find more New Yorkers than tourists here because New Yorkers love keeping the goods to themselves. And there’s nothing like it in the city. The structure was converted from an old railway and changes every season with new flowers and plants. Your teens will love the views, apartments built right on top of the railway, New Jersey’s skyline and that fact that it only takes about 20 minutes to walk through end to end. Plus, Meatpacking District is full of cool boutiques if you need a break from NYC. Diane Von Furstenberg, Stella McCartney, Jeffrey New York, Alexander McQueen and Carlos Miele stores are all a couple doors down from one another.

Ice Cream – Around $4

Next up—lunch!

Lunch will be at this not-so-secret burger joint that doesn’t really have a name, but everyone who knows about it calls it “Burger Joint.” It’s in Midtown West in the Le Parker Meridian Hotel behind a curtain—so it’s still a secret. Usually there’s a small line, but we promise the burgers and milkshakes are worth the wait. You can walk in on the 118 West side of the hotel on 57th Street passed the little café in the hallway until you see a glowing sign in the shape of a burger. While eating be sure to try to decipher all the writing on the wall—mostly signatures by famous people. Be warned, the place is tiny, but we’ve never had too much trouble finding a seat. We recommend getting the burger with everything on it and their world-class fries!

Lunch – $7 for burger


You’ll be right near the West side of Central Park if you come out of the 57th street exit and walk towards 59th street. From here you can explore Central Park and walk towards the 72nd street Central Park Boathouse. Your teens will love the opportunity to get into a boat and row away from the city. Take turns rowing and napping if you need! The lake is very scenic. Row to the different areas of the lake and the small stone bridge made famous in the movies and TV shows.

We would recommend taking it easy at night with dinner at the Central Park Boathouse restaurant or with a show. We love Fuerzabruta, which can be found off Broadway on 101 East 15th Street. The show is intense and heart pounding because it takes place mid-air. If you like Cirque Du Soleil or any kinds of interactive show this one is for you! Warning: you might get wet. It’s a good time, we promise.

By the end of the day, you’ll have experienced’s version of the perfect day in New York City. Enjoy!

Central Park Boat Rental –  $12 first hour, $3 each additional 15 minutes. $30 cash deposit required per boat.

Total of day activities – Around $66

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Composting 101: Tips and Tricks

Follow our simple tips when learning how to compost.

By Maria Paulia Belgado
Special to

Whether you own a country cottage that has large gardens or a posh city apartment with a few flowerpots, you should consider composting to benefit both your  garden and the environment. Composting is essential, as it keeps waste products away, and fertilizes the land without any chemicals. It works by degrading plant substances into humus, which is very rich kind of fertilizer. In simple terms, composting means recycling plant products to create something useful.

There are several ways of creating compost. These include heaping up leaves and hay and allowing the pile to decompose. However, if you wish to decompose kitchen waste, try mixing dry and wet scraps in a silo and allow it to be aerated. This will create heat and help with the decomposition. This process can be used by apartment dwellers. However vermin composts are best for people living in flats. In vermin composts, essential bacteria decompose kitchen scraps into smaller particles and create food for the worms. In turn the worms excrete moist, odorless and rich compost.

There are several kinds of worms found for this purpose, but most use the red wigglers. These can be purchased online, or from bait shops and garden centers. After you have bought the worms, cut a newspaper into thin strips and place it at the bottom of a container, and moisten it with some water until it’s damp. Then, place the worms and the mud that came along with those. Cover the container and place it in a cool and dark place, making sure the temperature is not too hot or too cold.

Now is the time to feed those worms. Put in kitchen scraps and cover with mud in one corner. After a few days, add more scraps in another corner. Rotate these corners every time. The first will be ready by the time you reach the last one. Whenever you add wastes, make sure you bury in rotation. Few months later, there will be less paper and lots of crumbly, brown stuff in the container. The compost is ready. Once the compost is ready, you can easily scoop it up and use it. To create a new set of compost, clear all the materials of the container and repeat the entire process again.

If you want to have good quality compost you should also avoid garlic, spicy and salty stuff, which are poisonous for worms. These worms will reproduce while they are decomposing your scraps. In case of overcrowding you can donate those worms to schools, bait houses or to a plant nursery.

All of these methods mentioned above are really low-maintenance and easy for you. The best thing about composting is that it is free, fabulous and extremely useful for your plants. The humus you create from your own wastes and scraps will help your plants stay healthy and thrive well.

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