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 bewell.com. "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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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Finally put an end to wasting pet food without using harmful pest repellent.

Are you tired of fighting with pesty ants, constantly raiding your cat or dog's food dish? Are you afraid to spray pest repellant, in fear that your cat or dog will fall ill to the poison in commercial bug repellants? If so, I have two different, very simple 100% natural techniques that will solve the problem of ants getting into your pet's food dish.

One of the ways to keep ants out of your pet's food bowl is to sprinkle ground cinnamon around the pet's food dish. The cinnamon will repel the ants. Another way you can keep the ants out of your cat or dog's food dish is to rub a small dab of petroleum jelly around the base of the food bowl. The ants will not cross the petroleum jelly.

Either of these two techniques will repel ants from your pet' s food dish using natural products. You will have peace of mind that your pet will not be harmed by accidentally ingested pesticide.

Repeat the natural ant repellant of your choice weekly to maintain potency.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Air Conditioning filters in our homes and businesses tend to be an item we seldom think about until the unit breaks down. Originally, the main purpose for the filter was to keep the equipment free of dirt that would cause failures in the heating and cooling system.

Changing your ac filter regularly is good as it uses less energy - because your unit doesn’t have to work as hard - which in turn helps the environment and saves you money.

A win win all the way around!

In recent years, the benefits of breathing clean air in our homes have become more obvious for our health. I read one time that we breathe between 30,000 to 35,000 pints of air daily. That’s a lot of air!

Anyway, the questions that come to mind are:
1. Exactly how many foreign bodies are in this air that we consume?
2. How are these foreign bodies affecting our health?
3. What can we do to reduce our side effects?
The air filter in our heating and cooling system is the only source for cleaning the air we breathe inside our home.

What’s inside our home also affects our health!
Do you have pets?
How about cleaning chemicals?
Think about just a few everyday items we use around our homes:
aerosol deodorant
hair spray
air sanitizers/fresheners
How do we get clean air?

Air conditioning filters help to clean air inside our homes. There are four different types and here is a picture of three of the four:

1. Basic Air Filters

They are the fiberglass type you can typically see through. Some of them are really transparent and some and not so transparent. These filters remove the largest particles before they get to the air conditioning unit and the associated coils inside.

I have seen these in both blue and white. I am sure they also come in many other colors. What I find interesting about these filters are no where on the packaging do any of these filters specify what the smallest particle the filter will stop.

Some of the air conditioning filters have a sticky substance applied to catch the particles. None of the filters are reusable either by washing or vacuuming. The old one is simply thrown away and a new one installed in it’s place.

This picture shows how thin a fiberglass filter is because you can see the flashlight through it:

This picture shows how thin a fiberglass filter is because you can see the flashlight through it.

These filters should be checked frequently for dust accumulation. Also, you should set up a schedule when to replace the filter. I would change them the first of every month. Most older air conditioning systems were installed using these filters and they are better than nothing. Furnaces also use the same type of filter in the unit right in front of the blower. Have you changed yours recently?

2. Pleated Design Filters

These filters are the most popular filters today in the throw away style. They have the filter material folded into an accordion style to provide more filter surface and thus more efficiency. They tend to be reasonably priced and efficient.

Name brands tend to advertise a specific feature such as allergen removal or dust free environment. Check to see if the additional cost bears out these claims before you buy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they work as advertised. I’m just not sure of the benefits.

If you have an older air conditioning unit, the pleated design may not be compatible with your system as the reduced air flow, due to the increased filtration, may not allow your fan motor to work correctly and result in a repair bill to replace the burned out fan motor.

3. Reusable Electrostatic Air Filters

These filters use the force of the air across the filter material to induce an electrostatic charge that will catch and trap the airborne particles. They do cost more. However they are reusable.

I have used these in the past and have been satisfied with the results. My problem was the universal size and having to make the frames to fit a specific application.

4. Electronic Filters

It is a new type of filter. We had one installed in our home last year. It will trap 99.98% of allergens from filtered air or particles even smaller than .1 micron. A micron is about 1/25,400 of an inch. As a reference, a human hair is 100 times larger.
It uses a high voltage to charge the air flow that traps the particles in a metallic core. This core is cleaned on a scheduled basis or whenever the indicator specifies it must be cleaned. I currently clean the one in our home every six months.

We have two cats and the new filtration system is a vast improvement over the old system.
There are many different types of air conditioning filters. You must determine that the type you chose will fit your application and satisfy your needs.

***To help you clean out your AC filters, CLICK HERE for one free $500 Home Depot Gift Card :)

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Did you know that approximately 40% of your electric bill is attributed to air conditioning energy usage in the summer? How can you keep your house cool this summer without the added expense of turning your thermostat down?

Try following these simple and cost effective steps to cool your house during Georgia’s summer heat…you’ll save energy, money and reduce the stress on your air conditioner.

Use ceiling fans to create a wind chill effect to make you more comfortable. When used with your air conditioner, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees with no reduction in comfort.

Install a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature to a higher setting at night or when no one is home. Remember, Sawnee offers a rebate for this device!

Keep lamps and TVs away from your thermostat. The heat from these appliances may cause your air conditioner to run longer than is needed.

Consider installing window shades, drapes or blinds with white backing to reflect the sun light and the associated heat away from the inside of your home.

Be sure to close curtains on the southerly and westward facing windows of your home during the day to help keep unwanted sun light from adding heat to your home.

Consider applying solar reflective window film on your southward facing windows.

Make sure there’s adequate caulking and weather stripping at and around your windows and doors to prevent warm air from leaking into your home.

On hot days, avoid using the oven, cook on the stove, use a microwave oven, or grill outside.
These easy and low cost steps will help keep your home comfortable and save you money.

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From rent-eating dogs to a mysteriously dripping roof, here are some of the most ridiculous reasons renters give for missed rent or damaged property.

Surely there have been cases where the dog actually ate the rent money, along with the kid’s homework.

But sometimes landlords have to scratch their heads and wonder. The evidence seems to point in another direction.

Most landlords are quick to say that they have many good, reliable tenants. If not, they’d find another business; tenants are their livelihood. But then there are the rest, that tiny percentage of renters who can’t seem to get it together and aren’t quick to fess up.

“Eighty percent of the people take care of the apartment, pay their rent and are no problem at all,” says Jesse Holland, president of Sunrise Management & Consulting, a residential property-management firm in New York. “About 15 percent have their qualms but do what they’re supposed to do. And that last 2 or 3 percent are the nightmares.”

And what kinds of things do these tenants say? Below are some favorites from landlords. Tenants take note: If you hear these lines start to come out of your mouth, stop and think a moment. Another strategy — the truth, perhaps — might prove more effective.

1. "It’s not a dog; it’s a barking cat."
Hmmm … are you sure you want to make that your final answer?

This was Barry Maher several years ago in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he owned a small apartment building. Dogs were not allowed, as outlined in the rental agreement. Cats were.

However, shortly after a young woman moved in, her neighbors complained about barking in the apartment. Maher called the tenant.

“She said, ‘Oh I would never have a dog. But what I have is a special breed. It’s a very rare thing; it’s a dog cat ... a mix of a cat and a dog.’

“It was so blatant and so crazy that I actually spent a moment thinking, ‘Is there really such a thing as a dog cat?’ ” Maher recalled. “And I’m really not an idiot.”

A better strategy? Be fair to the animal, the building owner and fellow tenants and operate in the open.

“If she’d have come to me and said she wanted a pet, I would have explained exactly what the circumstances were, and how she could have gone out and gotten a cat,” Maher says.

Instead, the tenant had to get rid of the dog (and, yes, it was 100 percent dog). “Eventually we had to get rid of her.”

2. "But you said I could paint it."
Did you not know that it’s usually just walls that get painted? And in a color that’s possible to paint over?

“They had information they could paint the apartment and said, ‘We’ll do it ourselves,’ ” says Izzy Ginzberg, a landlord in New York and author of “The Top 10 Mistakes Real Estate Investors Make.” “I said, ‘Fine.’

“The entire thing was purple. The ceiling, the walls, the whole entire apartment was painted lavender,” he says. “They told me, ‘Yeah, you said we could paint it.’

“I have no illusions about them painting it back,” Ginzberg says.

3. "My grandmother died ... again." That’s strange: According to our files, your grandmother has died six times recently. At least according to the reasons you’ve provided each time you couldn’t pay the rent.

The sudden need to pay for a funeral is a common claim for inability to pay, managers say.

Mark Kreditor, a broker with Get There First Realty, a property-management firm in Dallas/Fort Worth, says “We sometimes keep things in the file,” and in this case the same grandmother had indeed apparently received six funerals.

4. "I have to move out. I’m allergic to pet dander."
How is it, then, that you work as a groomer in a veterinary clinic?

This also happened to Kreditor. The problem is that once people sign a 12-month lease, there are very few ways to break it. So tenants must come up with their own — at times creative — reasons about why they must leave.

5. "The check may have bounced, but at least I paid."
Actually, mailing a check that isn’t backed by real money isn’t quite the same thing as paying the bill. In fact, it’s not the same thing at all.

“People think they’ve paid the rent when the check bounced,” Kreditor says. “I say, ‘You could have written it out on the back of a napkin and it would have the same value as that check.’ ”

6. "I was the victim of identity theft."
OK, that would seem valid, given your bad credit. Except for this catch: Your credit was just as bad before the date your identity was allegedly stolen.

This is a reason frequently given by prospective tenants to explain their poor credit, as well as by existing tenants unable to pay the rent, says Mia Melle, president of renttoday.us, a property-management firm in Southern California.

“It usually doesn’t make sense, because their bad credit goes way back,” Melle says.

7. "I went to Tijuana for gall-bladder surgery."
Did you not know before you scheduled surgery that the rent would come due?

Melle is sympathetic to people’s financial difficulties, but notes that some tenants will wait until the manager finally reaches them and deliver a tale.

“Usually when a legitimate thing happens, they’ll call you: I want to let you know I’ll be late on my rent this month, such and such happened. If they’re upfront and call us, we’re probably more apt to hold off on eviction and work with them,” Melle says. “It’s when they avoid us and come up with ridiculous excuses and they still don’t pay. That’s when we know they’re just playing us.

“It really gets down to, Americans aren’t savers. Any one little thing goes wrong it affects them,” Melle says. “I would say that 98% of our tenants have no savings whatsoever. They’re just hand-to-mouth. Even people with higher-level jobs, that’s just how they live. Every dollar’s accounted for.”

8. "You can’t come in. There’s too much cash in my bedroom."
Um, could you put it somewhere safe before we arrive for the inspection?

This tenant apparently didn’t want the landlord to do an annual walk-through. But this isn’t the best way to keep visitors out. The manager suggested the tenant put valuables out of view and entered as scheduled.

9. "Someone threw a brick through my window."
But something’s missing — namely, the glass. Oh, look, it’s on the outside.

“Unless the laws of physics don’t apply here, the window was broken from the inside out, not the outside in,” Holland explained to the tenants, college students who had called to have the window fixed. Broken glass lined the sidewalk outside, under the window frame.

The window got fixed. But the students had to pay.

10. "The ceiling is dripping and we don’t know why!"
Well, do you think the drip might have something to do with the fact that you turned the roof into a swimming pool?

This is one of Holland’s favorites, in part because the young men left clear evidence that it was they who had caused the very leak about which they were complaining.

When Holland walked up a flight to the roof to investigate, he found the roof intentionally flooded and the tenants’ names spray-painted on the tiling next to the words, “Welcome to Silver Beach.”

The roof had a silver-oxide coating and a thigh-high shoulder wall along all the edges. The culprits had plugged the drain with a candle and flooded the entire roof, about the size of a standard swimming pool.

The 3-foot pool of water, which had to weigh upwards of 185 tons, was still there when Holland went up. “How the building didn’t collapse, I have no idea,” he says.

Holland yanked the candle, drained the roof and charged the tenants — who stood there shrugging their shoulders — for the service call.

11. "The electricity is out and I don’t know why!"
So you say that the power flipped off right after you turned on the microwave, the hair dryer and the toaster at the same time? Do you know anything about circuit loads?

Dennis Fassett, who manages his own properties in the Detroit area, tells tenants to check the circuit breaker and flip the switch back.

“Basically they say, ‘I don’t know what that is. I don’t know where the box is. I don’t want to mess with the electricity. That’s dangerous,’ ” says Fassett, who invariably has to drive across town and explain overloaded circuitry.

“The thing that’s surprising to me is it’s cause and effect. They plug a bunch of stuff in, instantly this stuff goes out, and they don’t recognize the fact that they did it,” he says. “They’ve never had to fix anything. They don’t think about how things work anymore.”

12. "See, the walls are almost the same color."
Gee, I’m sorry that you ran out of paint, but I’m going to have to finish each wall before re-renting the apartment.

This was another of Fassett’s tenants, who left roller marks of yellow and tan paint on the white walls when her paint can clearly went dry. “Close enough,” she told Fassett, when he said he’d have to use some of her security deposit to paint the walls a uniform color.

“You have to have a sense of humor,” Fassett says. “Especially if you’re going to have more than a couple rental units. You can’t take this stuff personally.”

13. "But I can’t pay the rent ..."
But you must pay the rent. This is where the excuses stream in, after the first of the month. Below are a few from the Excuse of the Day file at the site The Landlord Protection Agency:
"My accountant said I can't afford to pay my rent."
“I mailed it at the post office last night but someone lit that mailbox on fire this morning.”
"With my daughter's graduation, our new boat and our trip to Europe this year, we're a little strapped."
"We all have the flu. We're not sure if it's swine flu, and we like you so much we didn't want to give it to you, so we didn't pay the rent."
"Come see what I did for you. You won't want the rent when you see this!" The tenant had painted everything, including the crown moldings, fire-engine red.
And, of course:
"My dog ate it."

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The Eternal Girlfriend Syndrome

"I'm a 28 year old woman, in a commited relationship with a guy for 1 year now. My boyfriend wants to move in with me. I'm excited and want that, but I am afraid that I will become like those couples that don't ever marry. What should I do?

You're right to be concerned.

I've known several couples like the kind you mentioned that move in together and never marry. I call it the Eternal Girlfriend Syndrome. Kay, you're boyfriend could have any one of a gazillion reasons to want to move in with you. They are all valid but they aren't all in line with your goals. I'm assuming from your concern that you want to get married. He could want to move in as a step toward marriage, to try out how the two of you do sharing household chores and finances, working as a team, living and melding day to day. Maybe he's ready to take the next step and for him this is it.

Or..... he could want to move in with marriage as the last thing on his mind. Maybe you have a nicer place than he does, maybe he sees the financial benefit. Maybe he really likes you and the relationship and in his mind this is all positive but he just doesnt want to get married. Maybe he thinks this is as far as it goes.

The important thing here is communication. Before he moves in you have to have a heart to heart. The fact that you wrote concerned you'd not marry tells me you haven't talked this through with the boyfriend yet. Or, if you have, it did not go the way you had hoped.

If you are marriage minded and the boyfriend isn't then moving in together is not something I'd recommend. I'm not saying he has to pick a date and a china pattern. I'm saying if he is saying things like, "I don't know if I ever want to get married," then this is a mistake. He should at least be open.

I hate that expression: why buy the cow when the milk is free. But the theory is valid and doesn't apply just to sex. If you decide that he isn't taking this step as a move toward marriage, and marriage is really what you want, by moving in together you're indirectly telling him you're fine with his plan. Why would he re-think it if he's gotten everything he wanted?

Once you're living together he is in a position of comfort and you are in a position of being the Eternal Girlfriend, never the wife. You need to talk to him and tell him what you want, ask him what he wants, and maybe even set up a time table. I did. When my husband moved in with me 11 years ago I told him I wanted the ring on my finger within a year. He was good with that.

Kay, you can't make someone marry you that doesn't want to. Asking him his feelings isn't going to sway or change his mind about things. So don't be afraid to bring this up. Listen to what he actualy says, not what you want to hear, and don't move in together if you have different desires for the future.

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Whom you choose to live with can have a dramatic effect on your quality of life. Here are some of the better screening tactics to head off trouble.

In this tough economy, finding people to share housing and expenses is easy. Finding a roommate you can live with is much more difficult.

Everyone's got a horror story about a seemingly nice person who turned into the "roommate from hell," trashing the place, refusing to pay his or her share of the bills and bringing home an endless parade of strangers.

Roommates like this not only can wreck your credit, they can make each day seem like an eternity. So how do you avoid these walking disasters?

In a word: Research. You need to ask a lot of hard questions before you sign on the dotted line, experts say, and make sure you both agree on the big money issues as well as the lifestyle you're looking for.

"You have to be thorough," says Marcia Stewart, co-author of Every Tenant's Legal Guide. "Take a little more time, even if it means you have to stay at your parents' house a little while longer."
9 ways to spot a FRENEMY
Know your limits

Before you start calling on ads, hitting up your friends or posting your own ad on Craigslist, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

"You need to know what you can live with, and what you can't," says Dan Ross, manager of Roommate Express, a 20-city roommate matching service. "The compatibility issue outweighs everything."
Do you want a quiet atmosphere at home, or are you looking to have one foot back in the frat house?
Do you mind if a roommate has his girlfriend spend the night several nights a week?
Are you looking for a buddy or do you prefer more privacy?
How will you handle drinking or drug use?
The answers to these questions can help you determine the best place to look for a roommate. If, for instance, you want a quiet place with inexpensive rent and don't mind taking on a few extra errands, you might be able to find a home share with a senior in a desirable area through the National Shared Housing Resource Center.

If you want a roommate with a similar lifestyle or interests, you might try roommate-matching services such as Roommate Express or Roomster.com. If you can't stand the thought of meat in your refrigerator, you could try a site such as Veggieroommate.com.

However, if you're willing to ask the tough questions and screen applicants carefully, you'll probably attract the biggest pool of qualified people by placing an ad on Craigslist.

You also can check with your alumni association or send e-mails out to all of your old college buddies. But, Stewart says, don't assume that because someone is a friend, that person will make a good roommate. "You might have shared a dorm room together, but that's a lot different and there's more money at stake" with an apartment.

Screen for reliability

Once you've narrowed your search and found people you think you can tolerate, you need to make sure you can count on them.

"The future will be dictated by the past," Ross says. "Look at their work history for the last year. If they bounce from job to job, that's bad. If they've lived in four or five places in the last year, that's bad."
Run a credit check if you've already got a place and are looking for a roommate, advises accountant Patricia Bernero, who shares her house in the Rogers Park area of Chicago with a couple of roommates.
Try to substantiate their job and title by calling their current employer.
Ask for the names and numbers of former roommates who can serve as a reference, Ross suggests. "If they don't give it to you, that's a red flag that there's something there."
Do an Internet search for your potential roommates’ name and e-mail address. This can turn up scams or warn you about distasteful or dangerous things they do in their spare time.
Likewise, check out their MySpace and Facebook pages. If they seem too good to be true, it will probably be revealed here, Stewart says.
Agree on the big stuff before you sign

Once you've picked out a roommate or two, you need to make sure everyone's on the same page with the big issues, Stewart says. Here are her suggestions for the must-ask questions that must be answered about your living arrangements before anyone signs on the dotted line.
1. Rent: What is everyone's share? Who will write the rent check if the landlord will accept only one check?
2. Space: Who will occupy which bedrooms?
3. Household Chores: Who's responsible for cleaning, and on what schedule?
4. Food Sharing: Will food, shopping and cooking responsibilities be shared? How will you split the costs and work?
5. Noise: When should stereos or TVs be turned off or down low?
6. Overnight Guests: Is it OK for boyfriends/girlfriends to stay over every night?
7. Moving Out: If one of you decides to move, how much notice must be given? Must the departing tenant find an acceptable substitute?
How can you protect yourself?

Once these questions are answered to your satisfaction, you should spell them out in a roommate agreement letter that is signed by both (or all) of you sharing the house.

"It's a good way to handle problems before they come up," Stewart says, especially if you are living with someone who hates confrontation.

If you are renting a place with someone new, having both of your names on the lease and splitting the deposit is a good idea. But don't think this will keep the landlord from coming after you for the full rent if your roommate skips town. It will merely ensure that you can go after your roommate for the money owed to you.

Because so much money is at stake, most experts advise asking for a month-to-month or other short-term lease until you can be sure the situation will work out.

There are also compelling reasons for having only one name on the lease. If you're just starting out, you might want to share space with someone who already has a lease, because then your implied lease commitment is month-to-month. Longtime renter Bernero says she prefers having only her name on the lease. In her 20 years of co-habitation, it has made it easier for her to get rid of a parade of tenants who turned out to be slovenly, dangerous, addicted to drugs or simply unreliable. "It just gives me more control," she says.

Likewise, she prefers to keep the utilities in her name and build the cost into the rent, with additional money being charged if they exceed a maximum amount. This came about after one roomie left her space heaters, lights and air conditioning on around the clock, even after repeated requests to turn them off when she wasn't there.

Lastly, Ross suggests installing $10 key locks on each person's bedroom door as an additional measure of protection. That way, he says, there is no cause for suspicion about lost items or privacy.

"Communication and awareness are key. You just don't go in with your head down and eyes closed. A lot of (renters' troubles) are just naiveté on their part," he says.

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If you rent an apartment (or a house), then you're probably wondering if you should buy renters insurance.

My first introduction to renters insurance was when I worked as a property manager right out of college. We had an apartment flood (due to no fault of the owner), and the tenant demanded reparations.

I had to explain to the tenant that this is why it was suggested that they buy renters insurance when they moved in. But the tenant did not understand why they were not covered by the property owner’s insurance. They were not happy, and I got my first taste of the downsides of property management. In the end, the property manager sent the company cleaners to the apartment to clean all that they could, and the tenant had to deal with the rest.

So, who really needs to buy renters insurance? Here's what you need to know about insurance for renters.

Everyone who rents an apartment, a house, or condominium or a townhouse needs renters insurance.

If you owned a home, you would need to buy homeowners insurance.

The same is true when you rent.

When you sign your lease, your landlord or property manager should inform you that you need to buy renters insurance. Some property owners absolutely require it. Whether they tell you to get insurance or not, it is up to the tenant to follow through with it. Lack of information, does not make damages and loss the problem of the property owner.

According to Reliance Property Management:
"Renters insurance is there to protect all of your personal belongings, as well as to protect you from huge medical and legal bills should someone get injured in your unit.”
How Much Coverage Do You Need?

First, take an inventory of your belongings and have an insurance agent help you to determine the value of the items in your home. That is how you determine the amount of renters coverage you need.

Most renters need a standard renters insurance policy, plus a rider or two. If you have expensive electronics and jewelry in your home, then you will need to purchase riders for coverage on those types of items (among others).

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?
Renters insurance covers more than just your belongings that are damaged by a fire, or if the home is hit by lightening, or if you experience smoke, windstorm or hail.
You are also covered in the event of theft, or if someone is injured in your apartment.
Should your house become uninhabitable, your renters insurance will also cover increased living expenses.
And finally, if you lose property while traveling, your renters insurance should cover that, as well.
What Is Not Covered?
Rental insurance carriers will not cover you if you have certain types of dogs (or they might require an additional premium).
Flood and earthquake damage are not covered in renters insurance, so if you live in a flood plain or earthquake zone, you will want an additional rider.
Other items that may require riders for extra coverage are: water pipe breakage or freezing, falling objects, and riots or civil commotion.
If you happen to live in a coastal area, then you may find that insurance companies are reluctant to issue new homeowners and renters insurance policies. In that case, you'll need to find an insurer of last resort.

What Are My Options When Purchasing Renters Insurance?

You have a couple of decisions to make before you buy renters insurance.

First, you need to decide if you want your insurance to cover replacement cost, or actual cash value of your items.

You also need to decide how big your deductible should be in the event that something goes wrong in your unit, or if a theft occurs.

The Perks Of Having Renters Insurance

Having renters, insurance will give you peace of mind in the event of theft, or some other problem with your rental unit.

Keep in mind, you can combine your renters insurance with your auto insurance and you will barely even notice the modestly increased cost.

Is There Any Reason Why You Would Not Get Renters Insurance?

I guess if you have no belongings to speak of, then you could probably get along without renters insurance for awhile.

Renters insurance does have a minimum property value that may very well be higher than the value of what you own.

However, should your belongings be destroyed you will quickly realize that your mattress and CD collection cost a bit more to replace than you initially thought.

How To Buy Renters Insurance

If you have a vehicle (or any other item that is already insured), then you should contact your current insurer first and ask them how much more it would cost to add renters insurance onto your plan.

***If you're exploring renters insurance companies from scratch, then you'll want to request a free renter's insurance quote online from several different companies. Just CLICK HERE and you'll be able to compare competitive rates!

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consumer risks

When the bathroom starts to look grubby and you pull out all the conventional brushes, sponges, sprays and bleach and start scrubbing, you expose yourself to hundreds of chemicals that have known, and possibly unknown, toxic effects.

"Green" cleaning products claim to offer safer alternatives for humans and the planet, but at a higher price. So what's an environmentally conscious germophobe to do?

When it comes to humans, the use of any one cleaning product—-green or conventional-—in small amounts and with proper ventilation probably won't make you ill, says Tom Natan, a chemical engineer with the non-profit National Environmental Trust.

The problem is that most people use more than one cleaning product for the bathroom—-there is one for the toilet, one for the mirror, perhaps one for surfaces, another to clean mildew from tiles, and then tons of other "specialized" cleaning product options. The repeated exposures to the chemicals in all of these products can add up, Natan said.

"We are exposed, in the process of cleaning our homes, to more than the manufacturers projected," Natan said. "You get the sum total together, and you've got to wonder, why are you using these things?"

And that's just the story for humans. Factor in the overall planet's health, and it gets murkier.

'Dirty' cleaning ingredients

Certain chemicals commonly found in conventional cleaning products present known or suspected problems for the people that use them and the environment once washed down the drain.

Volatile organic compounds, used to enhance the performance of a product, can impair neurological functions, while other chemicals can act as respiratory irritants, carcinogens or reproductive toxins, depending upon the extent of exposure, according to the National Environmental Trust and other environmental groups.

Phosphates can cause the eutrophication of rivers and other bodies of water, which can deplete them of oxygen and decrease water quality.

There is little regulation of cleaning chemicals, and there are virtually no labeling requirements to let people know what they are exposing themselves and the planet to.

Companies select ingredients for cleaning products to enhance their performance, but "a lot of the chemicals, we simply don't know anything about," Natan said.

For example, phthalates, which are suspected to have adverse hormonal effects, help distribute dyes and fragrances and act as plasticizers. Other chemicals are used to keep a product stable on the shelf, while others, such as glycols, act like anti-freeze. Still other chemicals could simply be impurities left over from the manufacturing process.

With some 80,000 chemicals in common use, there are still some that could have as-yet unknown toxic effects.

Mark Walton, of Dow Chemical Co., which makes some of the chemicals, such as glycols, that go into cleaning products said, "Dow tries to do a thorough job of testing the chemicals that we produce and sell."

S.C. Johnson, maker of various cleaning products, did not reply to a request for comment on the health and environmental issues related to its products.

However, there is not enough information on the health effects of the chemicals used in green products to know whether they are truly better for the health of humans, Natan said.

"I think as a general rule, people who are avoiding these very toxic chemicals are going to be healthier," he said.

Given the lack of firm data and reliable studies on many chemicals, however, the choice between conventional and green cleaning products may for many people be based on politics and sentiments more than health.

'Green' cleaners

In response to these issues of uncertain exposures, companies such as Method and Seventh Generation say they take care to exclude chemicals with known or suspected toxicities.

Method has a "dirty list" of chemicals it refuses to use in its products. Seventh Generation restricts many of the same products but, with the exception of phosphates and chlorine, does not have a specific "banned chemicals" list.

According to Martin Wolf, director of product and environmental technology for Seventh Generation, company guidelines specify that ingredients in their products cannot be toxic to the user either immediately or when used over time and that they cannot contribute to environmental problems such as global warming, ozone layer depletion, aquatic toxicity or air pollution.

Both companies also list all the ingredients they use on their labels. "We want people to know what's in it," said Nick Mahan, Method's director of formulations.

And Dow is currently working toward making safety assessments of its products publicly available by 2015, and it has begun making some resins from ethanol instead of petroleum in Brazil, where ethanol is widely used.

Dow's Walton says that this effort to more sustainable chemicals is "indicative of the kind of thing that you will see, where it makes sense."

Should you go green?

Though their ingredients may be more environmentally friendly, green cleaners come with some trade-offs: They're more expensive and may require more elbow grease to achieve the same level of visual cleanliness.

Method and Seventh Generation are working on the performance of their products to bring them up to par, with considerable success, they say. Both companies test their products against top-rated conventional brands to make sure they clean comparably.

"We're not going to ask the consumer to make a trade-off in terms of performance results to be green," said Method's Mahan.

The only conventional cleansers that green products can't completely match in terms of strength are those that contain chlorine, such as bleach. In those cases, the green cleaners take a little more scrubbing but can get the job done, Mahan said.

The kicker: You don't really need any chemicals to clean, said Natan, of the National Environmental Trust. "These chemicals make cleaning easier, but they don't make cleaning any better."

The largely American tendency toward germophobia has partly been fueled by advertising that promotes disinfecting cleaners that eradicate all bacteria in sight as the best way to protect your family from germs. But you don't really need to kill the bacteria, you just need to get them off your table, Natan said.

In fact, disinfectants could do more harm than good to humans. Natan's group tested one popular disinfectant spray and found that it contained a chemical known to damage the reproductive systems in the offspring of pregnant rats, even in small amounts.

To clean your house, all you really need is some baking soda and vinegar, Natan said, adding that it's what he uses himself. (For instance, a little vinegar rubbed onto glass with a wad of crumpled newsprint will give you a streak-free shine on window panes. No glass-specific cleanser needed.)

"Those things work remarkably well," Natan said, though they may require a little extra effort and won't leave your house smelling like lavender or a pine forest.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

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