Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The holiday season is approaching and if you're traveling with a pet, you may want to read on about how to keep your best friend safe. The following tips will help make your travels safer and smoother, not only during the busiest time of the year, but all the other days too! Let's first start with the road, since pets seem to frequent that mode of transportation most often:


Traveling, or not, your pet should always be wearing a sturdy collar with a tag that details your home address and phone number. Make sure your contact info is updated! Many owners also choose to get their pets implanted with a microchip as a form of permanent ID. Pet nappers do exist, so if your pet does get stolen and the thieves take him to the vet, the staff usually will run a new pet's body under a scanner to confirm ownership. Also, if your pet gets lost or decides to take a little unannounced walk on his own, animal control usually has a microchip scanner too, in order to easily notify you if he's been picked up or dropped off.

Another "lost" tip: Be sure to always have a current photo saved, especially when traveling, just in case you need to make flyers... remember, if your pet ends up on his own, it's unfamiliar territory and he'll likely not know how to get back to where you're vacationing. And plus, you don't have neighbors who recognize him to help with his safe return. So, have a clear and recent photo saved in your email.

Before a road trip, it's a good time to take your pet to that overdue visit to the veterinarian. If you're staying with family, your pet could be exposed to other pets that may not be up-to-date on their vaccines. Getting your pet treated for fleas, ticks, Bordetella, Rabies and other transmittable parasites and diseases would be much appreciated by your pet, your family and their animals.

Certain areas you may be headed to might also be prone to other contractible pet diseases. So, be sure to do your research and inform your vet about any travel plans. Protecting your pet by vaccinating him for Lyme disease, Parvo, heartworm, and any other recommended preventatives is highly advisable. Also, is your pet the anxious type? Be sure to mention this to your vet--he may suggest prescribing your pet a sedative.

Just like you, pets like the comforts of home. So, pack and plan some familiar items like their bed, toys, brush, bones, and even their bowls. Also, have food and water readily available along with a first aid kit for pets and any medications. Be sure to bring their current treats and food--this is not the time to get experimental with their digestive tract.

Additionally, if you're traveling abroad, be careful. Municipal water systems vary from place to place, so drinking the local water would be an abrupt change to what your pet is used to, which could cause some serious digestive issues as well. As a precaution, start with a gallon of water from home and "water your dog" along the route, topping off the gallon from a local water source at every stop. This gradual change should be easier on your pet and your car.

As for hotel stops, be sure to check with the concierge in advance. Some places are not pet friendly due to insurance and other reasons. They may also charge a fee that you'll want to be prepared for. Make sure to ask about their pet restrictions, such as breed or weight limitations. Being surprised by any of these issues at say 11 at night after 12 hours of driving, would not make a very pleasant start to your vacation.

Pets are as fragile as a child, so travel with your pet as you would one of them! Would you drive around with a baby in your lap? What about placing your kid in the front seat with no seatbelt? Do you stick your toddler in the trunk with just a metal gate barrier? Hopefully, it's a big NO to all of these. I mean, just imagine what could happen to such a delicate body under no safety restraint in a car accident! Fortunately, there are plenty of vehicle safety items you can buy to better protect your pet. Here are two great options:



Even a bigger warning: Do not stick your pets in the back of your pickup truck! More than an estimated 100,000 dogs die from falling out of pickup trucks each year. Bumps in the road or a quick swerve can throw the dog from the bed, injuring or killing your pet and potentially causing more accidents as other drivers swerve to miss hitting him. Dogs are easily distracted, which may cause them to jump out. As well, there have been cases where a dog's paws have gotten too hot and they leaped from the truck bed, killing the dog instantly.

According to the Humane Society, there is no harness or leash that will keep a dog safe in the back of a pickup truck. In fact, a leash could strangle him, if he's thrown. If you must stick him in the truck bed, at least place him in a padded metal crate made for that purpose and make sure it is securely tied down. Put as much cautious effort in protecting your pet as if you were putting your toddler back there!

If your pet is one of the unfortunate few, give him a light meal a few hours before you leave and feed him minimally (if at all) during the drive. Be sure to offer him small amounts of water periodically in the hours before the trip. Consider taking along ice cubes, which will be easier on your pet than if he gulps down the water instead (this will also help keep your pet busy). If your pet is new to car rides, prepare him well in advance by taking him on short trips around the neighborhood and offer plenty of praise.

Yes, dogs absolutely love sticking their heads out the window. Although it's sad to deprive him of all those wonderful outdoor smells he craves, many dogs are injured when road debris or even insects fly into their eyes, nostrils, or windpipe. They can also become ill from having cold air forced into their lungs (especially at fast speeds). Even worse, dogs have accidentally stepped on the electric window control and strangled themselves. As well, a quick break and your dog could go flying out the window. So, let's keep the dogs inside and they can enjoy the fresh air from their car seat or safety harness, just like everyone else in the car.

Your pet can't tell you if he's hot or cold, so be cognitive of the temperature at all times. If you're wearing a jacket inside the car because the vehicle hasn't warmed up yet, perhaps your pet would like the extra insulation too. So, make sure to have a blanket handy. In warm weather, keep the windows open or raise the AC to prevent dehydration. If you think you're hot in the car, imagine what it'd be like to have a fur coat on. With that in mind, be sure to keep your pets (especially the dark ones) out of direct sun light and keep the vents directed on them as well. And remember, there may be vents only in the front of the car, so share the AC love in the back!

Never leave your pet, or your child for that matter, alone in the car. During the summer, the car's internal temperature can rapidly reach lethal levels, even with the windows ajar. If you need to run into a store, take the pet with you if possible. If not, ask a travel companion to walk your pet or request they please remain in the car with them. This also prevents pet napping.

Not only do dogs have smaller bladders than us, they also need to stretch their legs more. Rest stops are a great place to let your pets relieve themselves and exercise their joints. Remember to keep them on a leash and have them properly vaccinated. And keeping them under the cafe bench while you eat, is not exercise. So, take them on a brisk walk--it will be good for both of you.

Not only is this nice for you and others, but it could save your pet's life. If your dog's a chewer, remove any hazardous objects he could choke on or any items that may be poisonous. Also, make sure you don't have any loose gum or candy bars around that your dog could ingest. Some dogs will eat ANYTHING, so keep it clean to keep it safe!
Now for all you jet setters, be sure to fly your pet in the safest of styles. Much of the info above will apply to flying as well. But, for flight specific info, see below for some great general tips on air travel. Please note that each airline has its own guidelines, so it is important to notify your airline of your pet's travel and request any additional info regarding their requirements.


Animals that are traveling internationally must have an implanted microchip that meet ISO standards (or the owner must provide a compatible reader). The microchip number should appear on all veterinary and vaccination certificates. Pet "passports" are a great idea--it keeps all important health information in one spot and readily available.

If you cannot accompany your pet on the plane, or he's too large to fly with you in the cabin, then you can opt to transport him as cargo or accompanied baggage. May sound a little scary, but the airlines take serious measures in shipping animals as humanely as possible. Just to note, you may only fly your pet as accompanied baggage, if you're flying on the same flight as your pet. If your pet is flying alone, then you may ship him as cargo through regular cargo channels, or via expedited delivery service that many airlines have developed. Most airplane cargo departments have specialists in the transport of animals who can assist you with questions and will assure you that they are trained to handle your pet with care and experience. Be sure your pet's travel crate is airline, DOT, and USDA approved.

If your pet is small enough, most airlines will allow passengers to carry their pets on board with them. They must be able to fit comfortably under the passenger's seat in an approved pet carrier. Contact your airline to find out about their pet policy regarding animal size, acceptable crates, procedures, and restrictions.

From experience, I will tell you that a comfortable pet bag is a must! The pet weight limit for most airlines is about 20lbs for in-cabin traveling. So, if you want to haul that type of weight on your shoulder for several hours, be my guest... but trust me, you'll wish you had one of these:

Deluxe Backpack Pet Carrier on Wheels


Is your pet old enough?
The USDA says that your animal must be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned before traveling with the airlines.

Which flights are easier on your pet?
Whenever possible, book a direct, nonstop flight and avoid holiday or weekend travel, if your pet is flying via cargo. Consider schedules that minimize temperature extremes. For example, try to avoid travel during excessively hot or cold periods. During periods of excessive cold, an Acclimation Certificate may be required. Morning or evening flights are preferable during the summer. In the cargo system, it is possible to reserve space on a specific flight by paying for either priority or the special expedited delivery service.

If your pet is on board with you, then make sure to provide a sweater or blanket inside their carrier during cold weather. If it's hot, place them in the largest carrier that will fit under the seat, so more air can ventilate through their cage. If possible, trim their hair short, so they're not forced to wear a fur coat during the summer months!

Is your pet healthy?
Check with your veterinarian to be sure your animal is fit to travel. Some species such as pug-nosed dogs (e.g., Boxers, Boston Terriers) - simply do not fly well, because they can have difficulty breathing even under normal conditions. You will need a health certificate in order to comply with the rules of most airlines, as well as state and federal rules. Your veterinarian will be able to supply this. Most airlines ask that it be issued no more than seven to ten days before departure. Be sure to check with the airline to get the exact amount of time they require before your pet's trip.

Use of tranquilizers
Sedation is not advised since the effects of tranquilizers on animals at higher altitudes are unpredictable. The decision to prescribe a tranquilizer for your pet should be made by your veterinarian. If you believe some form of sedation might be helpful, be sure to obtain and follow a veterinarian's advice.

A note from a veterinarian, Dr. Levine: “I think the most common request I get from pet owners scheduling a trip is concerning tranquilizers. But a cat or dog that’s been tranquilized will be more likely to die during the flight because the medication changes how the body reacts to stressful situations.” Dr. Levine also added, “Tranquilizers don’t usually have much effect anyway. If you’ve taken sleeping pills and your house is on fire, you’re not going to have any problems staying awake when you’re running out the door. The adrenaline overrides the medication. The same goes for a pet who’s experiencing stress during a flight – its body will override the effects of the drug.” This doctor's advice is definitely something to consider...


Acclimate your pet to the crate or carrier
Prior to an airplane ride, the pet should be allowed access to his crate or carrier. Throughout the day, place treats inside the crate for the pet to find and enjoy. Feed the pet inside the crate. Place toys or a favorite blanket inside so that the pet begins to associate the crate with pleasant experiences.

Withhold food and water before a flight
A pet should not be given access to food within 12-18 hours of a flight; water should be limited during this time period. Withholding food and limiting access to water before the pet's flight will help lessen the likelihood of an accident while the pet is on the airplane.

Exercise pets before the flight
Shortly before leaving for the airport, exercise the pet who will be flying. Take your pet for a long run, or play a strenuous game of fetch at the park. This will help drain some of the pet’s energy, making him more likely to sleep and relax during the flight.

Line the bottom of the pet’s crate or carrier with puppy pads
When flying with a pet, there's always a chance that he'll have a bathroom accident. On the day of the flight, puppy pads can be used to absorb any unplanned messes, making for easy disposal, while also keeping the pet relatively clean and dry.

On top of the puppy pads, place a thick hand or bath towel (depending on size) or a folded fleece blanket, which can serve as a comfortable, yet absorbent surface for the pet to relax.

Pack pet supplies for the flight
A scared or nervous pet may urinate, defecate or vomit due to nerves. So it’s vital that pet owners take along at least two extra puppy pads and two extra towels of sufficient size to line the bottom of the pet’s crate or carrier. If you plan to keep any soiled towels from the crate bottom (instead of disposing of them), bring along a plastic zip-lock bag to contain moisture and odor.

Also bring along a package of baby wipes to clean your pet following any unexpected messes. Dry cabin air, combined with panting that often results from stress, can lead to thirst, so also bring along a portable pet water bottle, with fold-down drinking reservoir. But be careful not to give him too much, otherwise you may put those puppy pads to use! Opt for ice cubes instead, if you think it will sufficiently hydrate him.

Bring a chew toy to keep pets occupied
Most pets love bones and chew toys. Use this as a distraction from the stressful situation by keeping them occupied with something they enjoy. Make sure it's one of the long lasting bones best for strengthening teeth. If you get the easily chewable ones, be prepared for a real mess (and follow the steps above).

Before you Bark & Park
There's plenty you can do to prepare your pet for air travel, but the best thing you can do to prepare yourself is to check your airline's regulations for pet travel. Most airlines have a website containing the necessary information regarding required documentation that pet owners must present, along with information on dimensions for in-cabin crates and carriers. And just a warning, if your crate won’t fit under the seat, your pet will be transferred to cargo, so ensuring that a crate is the correct size will help pets and owners avoid unpleasant changes in plans and fees. Any questions that are not available online can certainly be answered by calling an airline representative.
The holidays are stressful enough. So, don't add to it by not preparing yourself for traveling with your pet. If you're well prepared, you will put yourself at ease knowing your pet is relaxed and safe. Your pet will thank you, too. Any additional tips would be greatly appreciated by commenting below. Happy Holidays, Renters!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

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During football season, nothing goes with a game like bbq and beer. So, it's Saturday afternoon, you're in your apartment and it's time to make this happen. Your beer's sitting pretty all cold in the fridge, but let's not defile your poor meat by turning it out on a George Foreman and trying to call it BBQ.

Now, you could always haul your charcoal and ingredients down to your apartment complex's grilling area. But, I'm not really sure how quality of a football game you're going to have on your portable TV with no friends. Might as well go tailgate. (Click here for the best tailgate grill. EVER.)

So, obviously there's one advantage of homeownership; and that is barbecuing. But, who's to say you don't have a "backyard?" Ditch the Foreman and the communal fire pit and check out these awesome smaller grills fit for your porch. Yeah, your "backyard" may be tiny, but here's an instance when size really doesn't matter. These state-of-the-art miniature grills were designed to fit in smaller places, but are powerful enough to hold up to 50 lbs of food in some cases! Just be sure you check first with your management, or review your lease agreement, regarding grilling on your porch. So do yourself a flavor and pick below from one of our favorite grills, so you can get barbecuing before the season's over!

This is ideal for those who want the ultimate porch grill. It provides that authentic grilling feel, but is perfectly sized for easy storage and doesn't take up a lot of space. At 83 pounds, don't plan on any picnics. Price is about $325.54.

Features: This full-size model maintains and often expands upon the tabletop original's conveniences, while benefiting from more permanent patio installation. The liquid propane grill employs two 13,850 BTU burners to heat its 393-square inch cooking area, providing space for several dozen hot dogs or even a medium-sized turkey. Weber crafted the grill's tall lid and body in tough cast aluminum, framed by a heat- and moisture- resistant nylon frame with glass reinforcement. A simple push-button ignition fires up the stainless-steel burners. Users adjust the burners' output with a control knob and monitor the heat on a built-in thermometer in the lid. Meat cooks evenly on top of the two cooking grates. Constructed in sturdy cast-iron and porcelain enameling, the grates resist warping and rusting while cleaning with relative ease. Drip ducts help direct and collect greasy drippings. Two polyethylene side tables attach to create extra preparation space. Spatulas and tongs can be hung from the tool holders on the grill's frame. The provided regulator hose connects the grill to a separately purchased 20-pound propane tank, which stows unobtrusively on a lower shelf. Weber offers a limited five-year warranty for this item. With the lid closed, the grill measures 44 by 36-1/2 by 22 inches.

2.Weber 386002 Q 100 Portable Propane Gas Grill

If the 300 model is too big, too expensive, or just too heavy, the smaller 100 version is the perfect portable gas grill ideal for both your porch and to transport. It's easy to use and clean, while also rugged in construction. Priced at only about $139.00, this topnotch small gas grill is a good choice for apartment living and your wallet.

Features: Weber crafted the grill's lid and body in tough cast aluminum with a sturdy glass-reinforced nylon frame. The grill ignites at the push of a button for reliable lighting, and an infinitely adjustable burner valve with a high-quality regulator makes it easy to control the heat. Meat sizzles on the porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates, while drippings follow the drip ducts to reduce potential flare-ups and enable quicker cleaning. Other highlights include a flavorizer system integrated into the cooking grate, a removable catch pan, and a large weather-resistant lid handle. The grill operates on a standard 14.1- or 16.4-ounce propane cylinder. Propane does not come included, but Weber does enclose a Weber Q cookbook of recipes and inspiration. The grill measures 16 by 27 by 23-1/2 inches with the lid open and carries a five-year limited warranty.

3. Outdoor Great Room Cook Number Series Electric Grills
For those people who's apartment complexes have banned gas or charcoal grills, there are a few other options that will still give you that authentic grilling experience. Outdoor Great Room has successfully managed to create an electric portable grill that can be used both indoors and out to successfully sear a steak and grill any other meat or vegetable. If you're confined to plug-ins, and you have the money, then this is the one for you at about $319.20.

Features: The appliance delivers the same power as a full-size grill, but it runs on ordinary household current--simply plug it in for grilling, roasting, convection baking, and more. In minutes, it can reach temperatures up to 500 degrees F for searing meat or fillets. The unit features a built-in food probe and an exclusive Cook Number System with 10 precise settings that indicate when food has been cooked to perfection. Its Cook Number technology and thermodynamic design provide cleaner, greener grilling that leaves virtually no carbon footprint. In addition, the high-efficiency electric grill conserves energy and costs only 10 to 15 cents per hour to use. Compare that to as much as $1.50 an hour for ordinary 30,000-BTU gas grills or up to $3 an hour for 60,000-BTU grills. Other highlights include 250 square inches of cooking space, a searing temperature control knob, and a slide-out grease drawer and aluminum tray for easy cleanup. Optional grill carts can be purchased separately. The electric grill measures 19 by 21 by 9 inches and carries a one-year limited warranty.

4.Brinkmann 810-5301-6 Smoke'N Grill

Starting at only $69.88, this is an awesome priced charcoal smoker and grill. Enjoy slow-cooked BBQ and authentic smokehouse flavor. It's perfect for large gatherings (PARTY) as it comes equipped with two chrome-plated steel cooking grills that can hold up to 50 pounds of food!

Features: Cook a ham on one level and a chicken on the other. Both the top and bottom grill levels cook at about the same temperature, so when cooking different types or cuts of meat at the same time, place the meat that cooks the fastest on the top grill for convenient removal. The unit's domed lid supplies a heat indicator for checking the temperature at a glance, while its front-hinged chrome door allows for adding charcoal or water during the smoking process. This is an easy-to-clean lightweight design at just 24 pounds. The charcoal smoker and grill measures 17 by 17 by 32 inches and carries a one-year limited warranty.

5. Outdoor Chef - City Grill with Cradle

If you want to simmer some juicy steaks, or get that nice authentic grilled feel to your meat, the City Grill will help and it's priced at only around $172.27. Yes, it may look like just any ordinary basic grill, but it's unique features make it anything but as it's considered one of the most versatile outdoor cooking systems ever created.

Features:The Flip Funnel design is the key to its over reaching success. Not only does this feature stop annoying flare ups from burning the exterior of your food, but it also prevents clouds of smoke from blinding you during the cooking process or simply aggravating your next door neighbor. You leave all these memories behind with the City Grill. The Flip Funnel is also important in cooking the way you want. If you need to bake a whole turkey, the City Grill will cook just like a convention oven. You will not have to turn your foods at any time during this cooking option. But by adjusting the Flip Funnel into the upright form, simply by turning the device upside down, you completely change the cooking dynamic of the City Grill.

If you're feeling crafty (i.e. you're broke), you could always try to make your own homemade "flower box" balcony grill. Seriously! This is inspired by a real product called Balcony Grill Bruce. It's not on the market yet, but you could easily try to construct the concept yourself. How challenging could it really be to convert a metal flower box into a basic charcoal grill? Be sure it's hung securely on the balustrade, otherwise there goes your meat and your only grill... If you can get it to stay put, a real plus is the fact that it's position on the railing won't smoke out your apartment as the flow will move on up and out. So, just be sure to invite the neighbors--and even if they pass you up on your offer, they may let it slide after seeing your creation. As for management, they on the other hand may not be as impressed with your handyman skills, so be sure to get their approval first.

Worse case scenario: Your apartment's management says no to everything. Who cares? Hit up a homeowning friend. I mean what are friends for if they can't provide you with a little TV time on their couch, free beer, and cook you up some homemade BBQ out back? See, you too can enjoy the benefits of homeownership!

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Friday, October 15, 2010

You're approved to move, but can you afford to move-in?

Times are tough and if you're like the majority of Americans out there, the economy has wreaked havoc on your credit. Apartment communities know that, which is why many of them are becoming more lax in their approvals. However, despite getting approved, there's the next obstacle: MOVE-IN FEES.

Most people's funds are super tight right now, and so accommodating for moving expenses can be an absolute blow to your budget. Just because a community approves you, bad credit and all, doesn't mean it's not without stipulations. To cover the risk, community's will generally raise your deposit from the standard $200 to an entire month's rent! Not to mention, you've got the amenities fees, administration fees, application fees...fees, fees, fees.

And oh yeah, we almost forgot to include the expenses of actual moving. You think a moving truck, movers, and boxes and supplies come cheap? They just add to the monstrous list that many of us aren't financially prepared for. So as it all starts to add up, you've now got to come out of pocket with say $2000... AND you still haven't even received your deposit back from your last apartment. Yikes.

Clearly, moving costs can get crazy. But, there's always a solution to a problem. How about a rental deposit loan? Yes, they do exist. There are companies these days, like, that can actually help you get access to the extra cash you need for the deposit on your new place. And get this, there are no credit checks required! So, apparently these short term loan companies are falling into line with the apartment communities. Lax is the word nowadays and we like it.

Obviously, each company is different, but we can give you an idea of how it works by using as a great example. It's really simple--you make a quick online application and if you're approved, you could receive your money in as little as 24 hours. But of course, there's always a catch.... Here's their requirements:

be a US Citizen or legal resident alien at least 18 years old;
have been employed at your current job for 3 consecutive months or more;
earn a monthly minimum take home pay of $800 after taxes;
have a valid checking account to receive your money.So, if you meet all four of these requisites, then you're good to apply. We checked it out, and it takes literally less than a minute to apply. And once you're approved, they electronically deposit the amount directly into your checking account and you should receive your money within 24 hours.

Still a little skeptical? Here's some answers to your questions:
Is my application secure and confidential? utilizes secure 128-bit encrypted order forms online. They deeply respect customers’ desire for privacy in managing their personal finances. The loan application is confidential, and your personal information will be treated accordingly.

What is the maximum amount I can borrow?
The maximum amount you can borrow is typically regulated by state law and at the discretion of the lender. You qualify for a particular advance amount based on your current income. There are times when you may not be able to borrow as much as you would like, but a rental deposit loan should be just a part of a short-term financial solution.

How long will it take for me to get approved?
Once your application is submitted, it is readily approved by one of their network lenders. To increase the success of your application, you should only apply to one website and payoff any outstanding short term loans.

How do I receive my cash advance?
Once approved, an email confirmation will be sent to you and your money will be electronically deposited directly into your checking account.

Do I need any collateral or at least good credit?
No. Unlike other financial institutions, RentalDepositCash does not obtain a complete credit report. If you have bad credit, a bankruptcy, or no credit at all, a rental deposit loan may be the perfect solution for you.Pretty neat stuff here. Especially since it's hard enough getting any type of loan these days. But, since your collateral is your job, not a secured asset, your chances are much greater than applying anywhere else! This may be the next best alternative to having to borrow money from family or a friend... cause we all know that's never really fun. As well, a short term loan will be easier on your pockets to stay current, so this may just be the next step to getting your credit in the right direction, too! We can't guarantee you'll get approved, but it's definitely worth a shot! :)

Want to try it out? CLICK HERE to fill out an application right now!

Also, save 10% OFF PODS by using the promo code RGW...or simply CLICK HERE! Any moving discounts help!!

Article by Lindsay Van Leer @

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You're Online Dating & You Don't Even Know It!

Is there still a stigma associated with online dating? Many of you say yes, while others are convinced that the decision to plug your personal stats into eHarmony,, and their ilk is now as socially acceptable as sending a tweet or checking into Foursquare.

Even for those of us who haven't yet embraced the ever-increasing trend towards formalized online dating, the truth is that we're sort of kidding ourselves. We may be holding out against the implication that we need to sign up for one of these sites in order to find love, but almost all of us are romantically engaging with someone online via the least stigmatized social media outlet out there - Facebook.

Although Facebook revolves around the presupposition of "friendship," insisting on calling everyone from your mother, to your high school math teacher, to that guy you met at a bar your "friend," your Facebook friendships are no less ambiguous than many of your off-line relationships. Facebook is essentially one big online party, rife with flirtations, mixed signals, behavioral assumptions, and outright Jersey Shore-style creeping.

So, since Facebook is practically an unavoidable player in our love lives these days, how exactly does it factor into our day-to-day romances? In what ways does its functionality compare to those of more explicit online dating sites? In what ways are you in denial that you're already online dating? Let's break it down, feature-by-feature.

The Friend Request - Sending a friend request to someone you've just met, romantically-motivated or not, can send a surprisingly clear signal of interest. You basically are asking for an invite to know all the details about them - friends, family, job, likes, relationship status, photos... Clearly, it's a next step forward in any burgeoning friendship, professional relationship, or flirtation.

The Poke - Poking someone on Facebook is roughly the equivalent of winking at someone on OkCupid. Who knows what the hell it means? Consider it a way of jumping on a "friend's" radar without actually needing to have something interesting to say. It can be used to communicate, "I can't think of a cute thing to write, so maybe this'll get your attention," or "Let's face it, I'm a little creepy and I'm staring at your picture right now." It can mean whatever you want, and take the place of personalized flirtation or interaction. Just another option to flirt with your new - or old - "friend."

The Message - Writing an individualized, private message is a way to establish contact without allowing the entire Facebook community to see it. It's equivalent to, well, writing a private message on a dating site. Want to reconnect with a blast from your past? Sending a message is a great way to initiate an actual e-conversation without having to worry that you'll be publicly ignored or rejected. And somehow, it still feels like less of a "big deal" than sending an actual email.

The Wall Post - We now come to the wall post - possibly the most charged of the Facebook flirtations. If you want to flirt with someone, then you send them a message. But if you want everyone on Facebook to know that you're flirting with someone, then you write on their wall. Being overtly flirtatious on someone's wall turns up the heat and presents a challenge to other "friends" who may be flirting with him or her as well. You're basically marking your territory. Most dating sites don't seem to have an equivalent option, perhaps because it can create a romantically competitive - as opposed to open - dynamic. Careful with that one.

The Status Update - Here's a way for people to casually check in on each other without appearing overly eager or invested (sort of a "It's not like I was thinking about you, but then your status popped up in my news feed and I just had to comment!" vibe). It's an opportunity to flirt, to subtly remind someone that you exist, and to bond over shared interests and witticisms. Become a regular commenter, and you'll soon feel like you know each other and are actually a part of each others' lives! Strange, right?

The Photos - Does it look like they're dating someone? Are they actually as good-looking as they appear in their main photo? What are their friends like? Are they big partiers? Are they awkward? The secrets of the Photos tab - and the questions that it can answer - are neverending, and much more expansive and revealing than the three or four carefully selected photos that you might find on OkCupid. Facebook certainly wins for comprehensiveness in this category.

Mutual friends - You don't even need to be Facebook friends with someone to see who your mutual friends are! Score. Want some dirt on that guy or girl you just met? Wondering if they're single? Hoping someone can hook you up, or put in a good word for you? Now you instantly know who to ask.

Facebook Places - In some ways, Facebook Places has the most potential to turn us all into psycho stalkers of our new romantic prospects. The best use of this new feature is to find out what kinds of places your "friend" likes to frequent, simply as a way to get to know someone better. The worst use? To find out where he or she is and just "happen" to show up there as well. Really, please, don't do that.

So all of us who think we're too cool for online dating, let's say it together: we are engaging in Techno-Romance, even if we're supposedly opposed to dragging our love lives online. We're not any more sophisticated, or any wiser, than our friends. We just prefer the ambiguity of the post-dating world to the explicitness of more traditional modes of romantic "dating" interactions - even when it's all taking place online.

No surprises there.

Article Copyright, Contributor

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't think it could happen to you? We now live in a world that broadcasts our information to just about anyone. So now more than ever, it's especially important for those people who live alone (like Jessica who is still missing), to follow these simple steps to increase your safety and home security.

You may be a college grad living on your own for the very first time. Or perhaps, you're an empty-nester, single parent, or a widow. Whatever the situation, living alone can stir up a range of feelings - from excitement to worry - about your safety. Here are some tips to help you feel secure with your new way of life.

Protecting Your Home
Change the locks when you move to a new place. Install a deadbolt lock.
Get a security system if you are anxious about break-ins.
Make sure your front door has a peephole - and USE it!
Insert a piece of wood or a metal pole inside the tracks of any sliding doors to increase security.
Keep your garage door locked. If there is a door from the garage to your house, keep that locked too.
Set up timers to turn your lights on at night when you're away.
Keep outside lights on at night.
Staying Safe Inside
Don't advertise that you live alone, especially on FACEBOOK! List your telephone number with just your first initial and last name. If you live in an apartment, show just your last name on the mailbox. Record an answering machine greeting that says, "We aren't here right now...."
When your doorbell rings, call out, "I'll get it" before you answer the door.
Keep your screen door locked or the chain-lock in place when you answer the door. Don't let strangers in. If someone needs help, offer to call the police while the person waits outside.
Ask for ID before letting service people into your home.
Call 9-1-1 if you hear noises or see anything suspicious near your home. Don't feel awkward; this is what the police are trained to do.
When You're Away

These precautions can help you feel secure when you get home:
Lock up before you go - whether you'll be away for five minutes or five days.
Have a friend pick up your mail and newspapers when you're out of town. If possible, have someone park his or her car in your driveway.
Don't leave notes on the door saying that you're out - and when you'll return.
Before going out, leave a $20 bill in your home - in plain sight. When you return, don't step inside if the money is gone.
Leave and call 9-1-1 if anything seems amiss (such as an open door or a slit screen). Don't go inside.
Leave your spare key with someone you trust - not under the doormat or inside the mailbox.
Keeping Loved Ones Informed

Imagine the worst - that you fall down the stairs, have a heart attack or fall victim to a crime. These thoughts may be scary, but preparing for them can make you less vulnerable.
If you don't know anyone in your area, ask a loved one to stay in close contact. Have that person call for help if he or she can't reach you within an agreed-upon time frame.
If you have family and friends nearby, give one of them your key. Tell this person to use it if something happens and you can't be reached.
Let a friend know where you'll be and when you'll return, if you're going away on business or vacation.
If you don't already have a cell phone, get one. You'll have it for emergencies and you'll be able to keep your loved ones informed - by phone or text - if there's a problem.
Living alone may give you some desired independence, but don't take that freedom too far. Staying in touch enhances your social life - and provides a lifeline between you and your loved ones. But, being too in touch with just anyone, could cost you your safety!

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

It takes time to transform a confined living space into a comfort zone without emptying your wallet, but it can be done! Turn your small apartment into a fun place to be, and relax in style.

Decorating a small apartment on an even smaller budget can be a tricky task. The goal is to create a living area that is comfortable and enjoyable, while at the same time maximizing your space and minimizing the amount of cash spent on the whole design project.


Where to start? First thing's first: step back, and take a good look at your living space. Perhaps you've already got a few design ideas in mind. But, will these ideas work within your small apartment? If they don't initially, there's a chance that you can make them work with some adjustments. For example, you may have to sacrifice a chair that you are fond of, if you are going to have room for that really comfortable sofa. If you are considering the purchase of a large mirror that will take up too much space on the wall, look for something similar, but smaller.


So, what exactly is a decor theme? A decor theme creates fluidity in a design project. It can includes a harmony of colors, furniture styles, artwork, and accessories. Overall, this harmony should promote comfort, making your space a relaxing place to live. A decor theme helps to tie a room, or an entire apartment together. When developing your theme, simply work with what you enjoy; something that you've enjoyed for years, or a style that intrigues you.

There's a good chance that you already have a decor theme going. Are you a collector of sports memorabilia, elephants, Asian decor, anything? Do you love the color blue or red? Your theme may be right under your nose!

Suppose that you collect old movie posters from the 1930's, for example. Work the posters into a vintage theme. Find shining chrome retro appliances on sale, faux art deco sculptures to place on your bookshelf, and used vintage books to place on your coffee table.

Do you fill your bookcase with Roman history texts or Greek mythology books? Look for paintings, rugs, etc. with an archaic or neoclassical theme -- and you don't have to pay a fortune for them either! I will get to that in a bit. Whether it's country floral, plaid prints, safari, southwestern, rustic, industrial steel decor, or anything else really that interests you, the selection of a decor theme will keep you on track and will prevent your decor from taking on an inharmonious look.

Brainstorm and write down your ideas... seriously, you've got a strong beginning already!

You can have two small apartments of the same size and same layout, with the same furniture inside both, and one apartment will look and feel larger than the other. It's all about arrangement. When working with a limited space, arranging your belongings along the walls will open up the center of a small room. When the center of a room is broken up, you get a cluttered look, that gives a feeling of confinement.

If your small apartment has large windows, use them to your advantage! Let as much sunlight shine in as possible. If you are concerned about privacy, use sheer curtains made of fabrics that obscure the interior of your space, but still manage to infuse your rooms with light.

Here's a painting tip that will help you to make the best of your small space: The application of a light color to your walls will make your room seem larger than it truly is. If your ceilings seem too low, paint them a color lighter than the walls. This will make the ceiling seem higher. If you paint the walls a lighter color than the ceiling, the room itself will seem larger.

You can also convey the illusion of space with mirrors. The effect is subtle, but you'll find that mirrors are functional in more than one way. They work well in narrow hallways, and hung on the narrowest walls of rectangular rooms.

Space Savers

Today's designers respond to the needs of apartment dwellers, and those living in small spaces. You can find space--saving furniture and housewares that are not only affordable, but stylish too.
Modular shelving units have become increasingly popular. They are customizable and easy to assemble, so it's not too difficult to set them up and move them around when you want to do some re-arranging. You'll find modular shelving units made of different materials, like wood, molded plastic, and even vertical mesh units that hang in your closet or on the back of your door.

Slimline items are made with the preservation of space in mind. Many are made for the kitchen: narrow water pitchers, toasters, trash cans, etc.
Folding screens work well in studio apartments. Use one or several to partition off part of a room.

Travel trunks add a sense of adventure and age to a room's decor. They can also double as coffee tables! Find them at re-sale shops -- trunks often look better worn in and you'll save a considerable amount of cash too. Also, keep an eye out for items like chairs and tables with inside storage.

A bed takes up a considerable amount of space. If you're only using this space for a few hours at a time, why not get it out of the way for the rest of the day? Do this with a Murphy bed, which is mounted on a mechanism, and vertically folded into a cabinet, up and out of the way. A loft bed is another space-saver. Loft beds are elevated, so you'll be climbing up to catch some z's. If you've never seen a loft bed, imagine a short bunk bed with only one bed on top. This leaves ample room for storage or seating underneath. If you want a cheap bed that doubles as a sofa, a folding futon may be your best bet. That, or a day bed.

Bargain Hunting

So, where are you going to find all these neat items to decorate your apartment? If you want to save money, you'll have to hunt for them. Bargain hunting takes time, but when you find that perfect table for your living room at a fraction of it's original cost, you won't mind the effort. Bargains are found all over, but you've really got to look, often wading through endless merchandise to find your gem. On the rare occasion, you get lucky, and that perfect item seems to fall into your lap.
Resale Shops
You'll find resale items at consignments shops and thrift stores. A consignment shop accepts unwanted items, and when those items sell, the original owner receives a percentage of that money. With thrift stores, it can be difficult to find what you're looking for, but be persistent. Find a store that you like and check back with them often. Keep in mind that in most cases returns will not be accepted, so take the time to really inspect your find before you buy it.

Flea Markets
Yet another great place to find cheap vintage items! You'll find flea markets held on public grounds, many on weekends. To get the best selections, get out there early.

Estate Sales
Estate sales are good places to make unique finds. Check your local paper for listings.

Garage Sales
It's often that garage sale items are very inexpensive, because sellers are moving or trying to save space, and they just want to get rid of their unwanted belongings.

Liquidation Sales
When you hear that a store is closing and slashing prices to liquidate inventory, get there early to find the best items. The store may continue to lower their prices throughout the sale, but don't hold out on that special item. It may not be there when you return, and the store probably won't have more in stock.

Online Auctions
One of the coolest things about online auctions is that there's so much stuff out there, and many people are willing to sell that stuff to you at very low prices. And where else can you bid on cheap and obscure items in your pajamas?

With your design ideas and new-found money-saving know-how, create a space that is both comfortable and enjoyable. Many apartment dwellers don't hang out at home because they feel confined there. Why not turn your small space into a haven where you can relax and re-charge... especially knowing how much money you saved!

Want more tips? Click here for more info on designing on a budget without breaking the bank!! A definite recommendation! :)

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Are you up to date with what's in season?

Hurricanes can be dangerous killers. Learning the hurricane warning messages and planning ahead can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage. So, what exactly should you do BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER the storm?


Plan an evacuation route.
Contact the local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter, and ask for the community hurricane preparedness plan. This plan should include information on the safest evacuation routes and nearby shelters.
Learn safe routes inland.
Be ready to drive 20 to 50 miles inland to locate a safe place.
Have disaster supplies on hand
Flashlight and extra batteries
Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
First aid kit and manual
Emergency food and water
Nonelectric can opener
Essential medicines
Cash and credit cards
Sturdy shoes
Make arrangements for pets.
Pets may not be allowed into emergency shelters for health and space reasons. Contact your local humane society for information on local animal shelters.
Instruct family members.
Teach family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water.
Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, or fire department and which radio station to tune to for emergency information.
Protect your windows.
Permanent shutters are the best protection. A lower-cost approach is to put up plywood panels. Use 1/2 inch plywood--marine plywood is best--cut to fit each window. Remember to mark which board fits which window. Pre-drill holes every 18 inches for screws. Do this long before the storm.
Trim back dead or weak branches from trees.
Check into flood insurance. You can find out about the National Flood Insurance Program through your local insurance agent or emergency management office. (There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new policy becomes effective. Homeowners polices do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane.)
Develop an emergency communication plan.
In case family members are separated from one another during a disaster (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.
Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24-36 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (winds of 74 miles per hour or greater, or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less.
Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for hurricane progress reports.
Check emergency supplies.
Fuel car.
Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys, and garden tools and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows. Remove outside antennas.
Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.
Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, jugs, bottles, and cooking utensils.
Review evacuation plan.
Moor boat securely or move it to a designated safe place.
Use rope or chain to secure boat to trailer. Use tiedowns to anchor trailer to the ground or house.
Listen constantly to a battery-operated radio or television for official instructions.
If in a mobile home, check tiedowns and evacuate immediately.
Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container on the highest level of your home.
Avoid elevators.
If at home:
Stay inside, away from windows, skylights, and glass doors.
Keep a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy. Avoid open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
If power is lost, turn off major appliances to reduce power "surge" when electricity is restored.
If officials indicate evacuation is necessary:
Leave as soon as possible. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges.
Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve.
Tell someone outside of the storm area where you are going.
If time permits, and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture to protect it from flooding or better yet, move it to a higher floor.
Bring pre-assembled emergency supplies and warm protective clothing.
Take blankets and sleeping bags to shelter.
Lock up home and leave.

Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.Use telephone only for emergency calls.

Stay tuned to local radio for information. Help injured or trapped persons.
Give first aid where appropriate.
Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
Return home only after authorities advise that it is safe to do so.
Avoid loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company, police, or fire department.
Enter your home with caution.
Beware of snakes, insects, and animals driven to higher ground by flood water.
Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
Check refrigerated foods for spoilage.
Take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents and for insurance claims.
Check for gas leaks--If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
Look for electrical system damage--If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
Check for sewage and water lines damage--If you suspect sewage lines are damaged avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid the water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
Do you need flood insurance? Click here!

Stay Safe!!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Symptoms and Signs of a natural gas leak in your home

Natural gas itself is not always the killer that consumes people, it is carbon monoxide poisoning that is caused by a leak.

When most people hear the word gas, they generally assume gasoline. Natural gas, on the other hand, contains no liquid or mass. It is odorless, shapeless, and colorless. So, most times people don't realize it is even in the air until it's almost too late. For that reason, gas companies add the rotten egg odor so the leak is more easily detected.

Natural gas is considered a fossil fuel that is produced by organic materials in the earth, mostly of animal and plant remains. It is compressed over time and it becomes a burnable fuel. Natural gas is highly flammable and is made up of 90% methane, but is also made up of propane, butane, ethane, and other gases.

We use natural gas for many things like cooking, drying clothes, and it also provides heat and electricity to our homes. Most people take it for granted until they are faced with an emergency regarding a gas leak in or around their own homes.

The average person does not realize how dangerous natural gas can be. Have you ever accidentally left your burner on without a flame and realized that you smelled something like rotten eggs? Have you been in your backyard and got a whiff of that same smell? Well, did you realize that if your home fills up with just enough gas, that even the static electricity caused by walking across your carpeting could cause an explosion?

An explosion is not the only hazard that natural gas can cause. It can also contain one of the most deadliest elements, carbon monoxide, which can cause CO poisoning. When carbon monoxide exists in the home, there are a few flu-like symptoms you need to look out for, which includes headaches, dizziness, tiredness, and nausea. If several people suddenly get unexplainable ill at the same time, and if you feel better when leaving your home, then it would be a good idea to check it out.

CO poisoning can get so bad, it can cause death with prolonged exposure. It can also result in impaired judgment, poor memory, and loss of coordination -- it is basically starving your brain of oxygen. CO poisoning kills approximately 2,000 people each year. It is is easily detected when you have a carbon monoxide detector placed in your home to help keep you and your family safe.

Besides a CO detector or your nose's detection of rotten eggs, there are other ways of spotting a leak -- there might be something more to the dirt you see blowing in your driveway, the bubbles in that side yard puddle, or the snake-like hissing sound near your porch. Beware: these danger signs might be coming from your neighbor's home! If you experience any of theses signs, in or around your home, avoid using your phone or turning on any lights. There have even been cases in history where people did not realize that there was a gas leak and their homes have exploded when they flipped on a light switch.

If you suspect that you have a gas leak, carbon monoxide poisoning, or your CO detector is going off, get you and your family out of the house ASAP and call the local fire department immediately.

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***To help you purchase a few CO detectors for your home, CLICK HERE for one free $500 Home Depot Gift Card :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The secret to confronting obnoxious neighbors and getting them to change their behavior is knowing how and when to present your argument.

Most neighbors who play stereos too loudly... let their kids jump up and down rumbling your ceiling at 7am on Saturday morning... or throw parties all hours of the night during the week... aren't malicious. They are simply insensitive or oblivious to your peace of mind and/or your space -- it is nothing personal.

By understanding and remembering this, you will be better able to distance yourself from the problem and think clearly about the best solution.

There’s an old expression, No one hears his own dog bark. When you first confront a neighbor, assume he/she means well. A good opener is, "I’m sorry to bring this up, but...", That makes it easier for the neighbor to apologize by saying, "Oh, I didn't realize. I’m sorry it bothered you."

If you start with threats, your neighbor may become defensive... and possibly defiant and belligerent. Once relationships between neighbors turn nasty, they are extremely difficult to untangle and the problems frequently become worse.
Solution: Pleasantly, but firmly, make your point and explain how the situation is affecting you. When the annoying behavior stops, send a thank-you note.
•Document several additional occurrences of the problem. Note the date and hour of when the noise occurred and how long it lasted. Also, consider taping the noise. A record of the problem may help drive home your point with your neighbor. It can also serve as evidence, if you must report them to management or take legal action. Mail a copy of the detailed log to the offending neighbor with a letter politely explaining the problem.

•If the problem persists, draft another letter, repeating when the noise occurred. Have other affected neighbors sign it, and send it to the offending party. Hopefully, it will demonstrate its serious magnitude and prove that you're not being the obnoxious neighbor by the only one with complaints!

•If your pleas are still ignored, present your evidence to management. This will also exhibit that you have gone above and beyond the necessary means to politely handle the situation on your own. The management will have sufficient documentation to present to the neighbor in your favor.

•If the management report was ineffective, call the police the next time the noise occurs.

•If the neighbor ignores police warnings, you can likely sue in small-claims court for financial damages by placing a monetary value on the effects of your neighbor’s actions.

In the meantime, if you're looking for a great way to blockout the neighbor's noise, throw on some headphones and listen to a wave of relaxation and refreshment to dissolve your stress in minutes. It's called "Totally Tranquil" and you can get your free demo by clicking here.


(These are merely suggestions, not to be rendered as legal or professional advice.)

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

8 Tips to Keep Your Pets Happy While You're Away

How do your pets feel after you leave for work? Are they sad? Do they act out on your furniture? Or, do they just lie around and cry wondering what they did wrong to make you leave?

Pets are part of your family and they do everything they can to please you. So, why keep them bored out of their minds while you're busy at work? Here are eight tips to keep both you and your pet smiling while you're away:

1. Try setting aside about 15 minutes before you leave to play with your pet. This is a perfect time to get a little morning exercise in for yourself too. A tired pet is a happy pet. A tired pet is also less likely to have the energy to be destructive, as in taking their boredom out on your furniture and shoes. Playing will let them know you're happy with them as well, so they won't have anxiety thinking you left beacuse they had been bad.

2. Hiding treats around the house should make quite the fun hunt while you're gone. Try hiding their treats in various toys or in areas of the house where they are allowed to roam. Also, there are great treat stuffed toys, like Kongs, which pets love spending time trying to dig out the peanut butter flavored centers (Find them at Petco or order online here). Also, be sure to only leave out safe toys when you're away. For example, dogs could run the risk of choking on a rawhide's pieces and you wouldn't be there to perform the Heimlich on poor Fido.

3. Music is said to calm the savage beast. One can figure if it works for savage beasts, it should work for your pet. Try various genres of music. Country might cause drowziness, Rock could make them hyper, Rap may make them aggressive, and Jazz might just do the trick. I've heard one pet owner found that their two dogs would actually "dance" to Jazz while no one was looking (seriously). Also, keeping the volume level low tends to work best. Any louder and you might find more than just your pet when you get home.

4. If they are not in the mood for music, you could try the TV. Try various channels with this option as well. You might find that if you leave the Discovery Channel on, you may come home to a dug out escape tunnel. I've heard that story from a friend as well. I suggest you try out both the TV and music and see which works best for both of you.

5. Leaving your pet with an empty bladder and intestines is a good idea for both of you. So, make sure to take them outside right before you leave each day. This teaches them not to do the "do" inside. Just to be safe, or for emergencies, you could leave potty pads with a few squirts of attracting spray. Another option is the new indoor pet bathrooms made of grass. This might be the best idea between the two, so they don't lose their "outdoor" training (Click here to purchase one for only $29.95 online.) Hey, better the pad or turf than your floor.

6. For those of you keeping your pets in a cage while you are gone at work, I have no suggestions on keeping them happy. How happy can you be when you spend your days in solitary confinement?

I will, however, suggest that you work with your pets on better behavior, so you can at least leave them in a closed room. They will love and appreciate you even more than they do now having been freed from daily prison.

7. Do not hesitate to ask a friend to go by and spend some time with your pet, or even take them outside. People who are too busy to have pets of their own might appreciate the option. Working people are finding professional dog walkers to be a great resource.

8. If you're in a position to do it, get a second pet. Often a companion will provide the stimulation a bored pet needs while you're gone.

Try imagining daily life just like this: No friends. No TV. No music. No internet. No fun...Exactly. So, really anything you can do to better your pet's life while you are away all day, the better. Your pet always, ALWAYS, tries their best to make you happy when you're home, why not do the same for them when you leave?

***Here's a link to the newest social network: YouPet. It's like Facebook for pets!! Definitely NOT boring :)

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Household Dangers

Home sweet home, right? Well, sort of. You may be unaware of the potential health dangers lurking in your abode -- from critters in the kitchen to bugs in the bedroom. Here's what you need to know -- and what to do.

Your salt and pepper shakers
When's the last time you cleaned your salt and pepper shakers? Exactly. These unassuming little items get touched in all parts of the meal-prep process. Example: You give your sauce a dash of salt after touching raw chicken (oops) and then later set the shaker on the table.

What to do
Nobody thinks of cleaning their salt and pepper shakers, says Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., assistant professor and co-director Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College, but to avoid cross-contamination and food poisoning, you should. "Best to wipe them with an EPA-registered disinfectant," she says. "But better still, always wash your hands after handling raw foods and before touching anything else."

Your laundry
Nobody thinks of the washing machine as a germ magnet -- that's where clothes get clean, right? Not if you're using a public machine, and especially if that machine uses water that's not hot enough, says Tierno. Here's why: Lower temperatures can encourage the spread of germs. Researchers at the University of Arizona found that intestinal viruses such as hepatitis A can be easily transferred from underwear to other garments during the washing process. Even worse, some germs can lurk in public washing machines and find their way to your clothes.

What to do
Wash your underwear and towels separately, using bleach if possible, and wash all towels in water that's at least 155 degrees, which will kill most germs. Not sure if your apartment's water temperature is hot enough? Talk to the building manager.

Your boyfriend's wet towel
Sharing a bath towel with your man may be good for the environment, but it may be bad for your health, experts warn. MRSA, a drug-resistant form of staph -- also known as the superbug -- is frequently transmitted by skin-to-skin contact but also by sharing personal items like towels.

What to do
"While it may be tempting to share a towel with your guy, resist the urge," says Susan C. Taylor, M.D., community editor for "I warn my patients that wet towels can be a breeding ground for germs, including MRSA, which can make you sick." After you or your man uses a towel, send it where it belongs: to the washing machine.

Your kitchen sponge
Maybe you've heard about the germs on your kitchen sponge (gross news flash -- there may be as many as 20 million microbes on it right now). But here's the deal: Your method for "cleaning" that sponge may be leaving it loaded with potentially hazardous bacteria that can make you ill. Researchers at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service found that some common cleaning methods for sponges -- soaking them in a bleach solution, lemon juice or water -- did not eradicate the germs.

What to do
The best ways to clean a dirty sponge, they say, are in the microwave (on high for one minute) and in the dishwasher, which will kill 99.9 percent of all germs.

Your bed
Have you been on a trip recently? If so, you may have brought home some hitchhikers -- of the creepy-crawly variety. Bedbugs, tiny bloodthirsty insects, are hosts to organisms that cause hepatitis B and Chagas disease, say health experts. But the real problem seems to be the infections and allergic reactions that can sometimes result from bedbug bites.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, bedbugs are on the rise and becoming an increasing health problem. The insects, which hide in the crevices of mattresses and bedding, are showing up everywhere, from hostels to the swankiest hotels, and they often find their way into people's luggage, transporting themselves to unsuspecting homes.

What to do
If you've done some traveling recently, and especially if you've noticed any mysterious bug bites, wash everything in your luggage and consider scrubbing your suitcase with a stiff brush before giving it a good vacuuming.

Your laptop
You're the only one who uses it, so how dirty can it be? In a word: filthy. A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina Health Care System found that keyboards were loaded with germs. Even more disgusting, the average public toilet bowl contains 41 germs per square inch. The average personal keyboard? Some 21,000 germs per square inch. "Toilet bowls get cleaned," says Philip M. Tierno Jr., Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center, "but keyboards rarely do."

What to do
Tierno says the best way to keep your laptop or computer's keyboard clean is to gently wipe it down daily with disinfecting wipes.

Your shower curtain
According to research by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, shower curtains and liners made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) may be harmful to your health. Their study suggests that PVC releases potentially harmful chemicals into your bathroom. While there is still some debate among health experts about how much of these chemicals could be deemed harmful, many believe that limiting your exposure to chemicals, wherever possible, makes sense.

What to do
Check your shower curtain's label to see if it's made of vinyl or PVC. While not all manufacturers disclose this information, some retailers, like Ikea, have banned PVC shower curtains altogether, and Target has promised to phase out the material in its shower-curtain products in the months ahead.

Your humidifier
Watch out for the humidifier say germ experts. "If it's not cleaned properly, a humidifier can become a repository for legionella and other pathogens that cause respiratory infections," says Tierno.

What to do
If you like sleeping with a humidifier in your room, be sure to clean it often -- at least a few times a week -- by mixing a solution of one-part bleach to 19 parts water (for most humidifiers, this would equal about a half or full cup of bleach) and letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing well.

Your doorknob
Think of the people who have touched your front doorknob in the past 48 hours: the UPS man, a neighbor, a solicitor, your friends -- it's easy to lose count. Now think of all the places they've been -- the subway, public restrooms, grocery stores. Those germs are all on your doorknob right now, says Tierno. Most people let their guard down when it comes to their own door handles, he says, but we shouldn't: "Viruses can survive for days on doorknobs, and you can easily get cross contamination from them," he says.

What to do
Make a habit of wiping down your doorknob frequently with sanitizing wipes or sprays. Have a copper doorknob? You may be in luck. Researchers in England found that copper door handles had 95 percent fewer microorganisms on them compared with other doorknobs. Scientists believe that many germs, including MRSA, may not be able to survive on copper.

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