Grilling Tips For The Fourth Of July

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Who doesn’t love a cookout to celebrate The 4th of July? Whether you’re a grill master or filling in this year, here are a few of our favorite grilling tips to improve your technique!

  • Charcoal can be tricky but doable if you know the secrets. For one pound of meat cooked with the direct-heat method (smack over the fire), a good rule of thumb is 30 briquettes. For the same amount of meat using slower indirect heat, you’ll need about 50 briquettes.

  • Pile your briquettes in a pyramid. About 20 minutes after lighting, your charcoal should be about 70 percent covered in ash with a faint glow. Spread the charcoal out to extend at least an inch beyond the edges of the food to be cooked.

  • A time-honored method to determine temperature: hold your hand palm down over the fire about six inches above the coals. Count in seconds how long you can comfortably hold your hand there: 5: 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit; 4: 300-350 degrees; 3: 350-375 degrees; 2: 375 and above.

  • You need a good set of spring-loaded long-handled tongs for turning meats. A sturdy wire brush is absolutely necessary to clean your grill racks. A long-handled spatula will serve you well. Different sizes of basting brushes come in handy. Skewers come in metal, wood and bamboo varieties. Wire baskets are great for grilling vegetables.

Now that we’ve shared a few of our favorite tips, what are some of yours?

Happy grilling & wishing you a great 4th of July!

Healthy Habits: Exercising With Your Dog

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The days of hunting, chasing and being chased are over. Your dog doesn’t have to find his own dinner anymore, or run and hide from larger predators. Result: An unhealthy dog who sits in the front of the TV as much as you do. Should you enroll Fido in a doggy aerobics class?

No. It’s time to help your dog get in shape by helping you get in shape. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that in the United States, veterinarians now classify more than 100 million dogs and cats as overweight or obese, up from 80 million five years ago. Sixty percent of cats tip the scales at unhealthy weights, slightly more than the 56 percent of dogs.

While the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for people are well-known, fitter pets also reap rewards. Dogs that get regular exercise are more relaxed, generally better behaved and have fewer problems with chewing and barking, according to MSNBC Health Editor Molly Masland.

“A dog is probably going to have a better personality if it’s exercising, and maybe we will, too,” says Dr. Howard Erickson, professor of physiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University.

And just like people, dogs that stay in shape and eat right have healthier hearts, more efficient respiratory systems, stronger muscles and bones, and often live longer than more sedentary pets, says Erickson.

A healthier pet benefits you too. How? Dogs can be a motivating force in your workout life by holding you accountable to your fitness goals. So says Dr. Robert Kushner, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Medical School. Kushner’s study shows that when people and their dogs exercise and diet together, both lose weight and keep it off.

In addition, having a canine buddy added variety and helped reduce the hum drum of a standard fitness routine. “Across the board, people who exercised with their dogs found it rewarding, fun and an opportunity to bond with their dog more than they ever did before,” says Kushner.

Below are guidelines from MSNBC.com research to ensure your dog’s safety:

  • Beware the weekend warrior syndrome. Make sure both you and your dog are in shape before undertaking any vigorous activities since excessive exercise in occasional bursts can lead to serious injuries for both of you.

  • Always bring a collapsible dog bowl and a supply of drinking water.

  • If you take your dog running, keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion, such as excessive panting, salivation, vomiting or staggering. Sometimes a dog will simply sit down and refuse to go any farther.

  • Watch the weather. Taking your dog out for a workout on a hot or humid day could lead to heat stroke.

  • If your dog gets severely overheated, immediately carry it to a shady spot, allow it to drink small amounts of water and hose it down if possible. Consult a veterinarian.

  • Periodically check your dog’s feet for cuts, thorns or cracked pads. Some surfaces, such as hot pavement, sharp gravel or ice, can cause painful damage to your dog’s paws. Before you head out, ask yourself whether you would want to run barefoot on the same surface.

  • Keep pets licensed and on a leash, and remember to scoop the poop.

  • Don’t take your dog for a run or workout right after it’s eaten or your pet could suffer cramps and vomiting.

  • Never exercise your pet while driving a car with your dog outside on a leash, or while you’re riding a bicycle, skateboarding or roller blading.

As with any exercise program, you and your dog should be checked out by a doctor/veterinarian before beginning. Your dog must start out gradually, just as you did at the beginning of your fitness journey. Start out by walking around the block and add a block each day to work up to the optimal distance.

Keep your dog’s size and breed in mind when deciding what exercise to pursue. Very small dogs aren’t good jogging partners, and dogs with pushed up noses (Pekingese, bulldogs, pugs, mastiffs) often have breathing problems, so very strenuous workouts can be dangerous.

Unsure how much exercise is best for your dog? Check out this list of dog breeds and see!

Should You Rent Your Home?

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The thought has probably crossed your mind: if you found the job of a lifetime in another state or your current company transferred you, should you sell or rent your home? Naturally there are many factors to weigh before making such an important decision.

First, you need to think about your reasons for keeping ownership of the home. Do you like the home so much that you want to hold on to it in case you ever move back? Are you looking for an extra tax break through property depreciation? Do you want to use the home as a basis for retirement investment?

These are all fine reasons for retaining ownership, but there are factors to consider that may outweigh the perceived benefits. For instance, are you prepared to be a long-distance landlord, hiring someone to maintain and manage the property for you? There are many other costs involved as well, such as advertising costs, turning costs (cleaning and painting between tenants), property taxes and insurance, utilities paid when your property is between tenants, and accounting costs. In order to assess these costs, you should research the numbers in your market. Expenses often run 30 to 40 percent of income before the monthly mortgage cost.

The ABCs of Property Rental

If you’ve decided to rent out your home, where do you start? First, get the house in shape in order to get the highest reasonable rent. This includes interior and exterior patching and painting, carpet cleaning or replacement, appliance tune-up and cleaning, adequate insulation to cut down on utility bills, and fixing whatever needs fixing.

Then, set the the proper rent. Location rules when setting prices. You can contact a property management company to research prices in your area, or you can look in the real estate section of your Sunday paper. If you set your price too high, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a tenant. If you ask for too low a rent, prospective tenants will wonder what’s wrong with the place.

Should You Hire a Property Management Company?

It’s not absolutely essential to hire a property manager, but it can make your life a little easier, especially if you are moving out of the area. Interview at least three different companies, and be sure to ask about accreditation, experience, customer service, references, tenant screening, vacancy rates, maintenance, monthly reporting, eviction handling, insurance, fee structure, property inspection, and any special services they offer.

Before you rent your home, contact us for a free home marketing analysis. Your home may be worth than you think and selling may be the better option. Let us know you weigh all of your options! 

Bathroom Design: A to Z

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Thinking about renovating a bathroom? Here are some of our favorite tips to keep in mind! 

Accessories: Accessories include decoration, wall hangings, art and sink essentials. Begin with a unifying theme.

Clearances: All fixtures should be at least 30 inches apart. There should be 30 by 48 inches in front of the sink, 24 inches around the toilet and 45 by 30 inches in front of the tub.

Colors: Bright colors add light to a room. Pastels make the room appear larger. When in doubt, use white.

Countertops: Choose from tile, solid surfacing (like Corian), Formica and Polyester resin.

Flooring: Most important- a non-skid surface.

Floor plan: The toilet should not be visible from outside the bathroom, nor be the first thing you see upon entering.

Lighting: Halogen or fiber optic lighting help to brighten up the bathroom.

Safety: Protect all electrical outlets with a ground-fault circuit interrupter; place switches at least 60 inches from water sources.

Showers: Install swinging doors to swing outward to avoid trapping the user.

Storage: Storage doors should swing clear of fixtures.

Tubs: Platform-mounted tubs should be no more than one step off the floor. Ventilation: Install an inexpensive fan.