RE/MAX 440
Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

Take Steps to Scare Away Foodborne Illness

October 26, 2012 6:34 am

Halloween officially starts the holiday season, which means more get-togethers with family and friends and more festive meals prepared at home. But lots of people and little time can create opportunities for mishandling and improper cooking of raw food products.

It is always important to consistently follow certain safe food handling practices, whether making a meal for yourself or your family, or preparing a feast for 12. That's because all raw agricultural products – whether its produce, fruit, meat, or poultry – could contain bacteria that might make someone sick. But, there are steps people can take in the home to reduce their risk.

Four simple words – clean, separate, cook and chill – can serve as reminders to always handle and cook food safely to reduce the risk of illness to you and your family:

Clean
• Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, cutting boards and utensils thoroughly with soap and hot water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry, including frozen and fresh products. Hands should be washed before handling food and between handling different food items.
• Wash cutting boards between preparing different cuts of raw meat or poultry.

Separate
• Avoid cross-contaminating other foods. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, your kitchen and in your refrigerator.
• Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
• Do not rinse raw poultry in your sink - it will not remove bacteria. In fact, it can spread raw juices around your sink, onto your countertops or onto ready-to-eat foods. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Cook
• Cook poultry thoroughly. Poultry products, including ground poultry, should always be cooked to at least 165 °F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers should be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking.
• The color of cooked poultry is not a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product. Be particularly careful with foods prepared for infants, older adults and persons with impaired immune systems.

Chill
• Make poultry products the last items you select at the store. Once home, the products must be refrigerated or frozen promptly.
• After cooking, refrigerate any uneaten poultry within two hours. Leftovers will remain safe to eat for two to three days.
• Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature of 40°F or below.
• Thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator — not on the countertop — or in cold water.
• When barbecuing poultry outdoors, keep refrigerated until ready to cook. Do not place cooked poultry on the same plate used to transport raw chicken to the grill.
• Always marinate poultry in the refrigerator, up to two days. Marinade in which raw poultry has been soaking should never be used on cooked poultry, unless it is boiled first.

Source: National Chicken Council

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Choosing Between Big-Business Retail or a Custom Solution

October 26, 2012 6:34 am

Every homeowner at some point has struggled with the furniture buying process. "Where should I go to find the item I need?" "Will this item match the other item from the last store?" "How long will this item really last?" Overwhelmed, these are often the questions that people ask themselves before exploring a custom solution. In addition to solving the common problems above, here are five important reasons to consider choosing custom furniture:

1. Your dining room looks exactly like your neighbor's – scary.

• "Keeping up with the Jones's" does not mean copying shopping at the same furniture store, and buying the same items. Having custom-made furniture means creating something that's unique and not settling for the same items you see elsewhere.

2. You don't actually believe that furniture should be disposable.

• The most expensive items are the ones that are never used. Instead of filling attics and landfills with items you thought were "good enough" but that ended up being no good, it's far more practical and less wasteful to have something custom made for your purposes.

3. Humans are better than machines.

• Whether you have a rustic trestle table, chair, or a home accessory custom made, you can and should develop a relationship with the artisan. The maker is not nameless and faceless; he or she is a real human being.

4. You want more than just a piece of furniture, you want a conversation piece.

• Custom-made items have a story behind them and you'll want to remember and share that story time and time again. The next time someone asks, "Where did you find that?" you'll never be at a loss for words. Specifically, no furniture has more history than that which is made from American barn wood; reclaimed wood from American barns 100-150 years old.

5. You want to commission tomorrow's antiques today.

• Do you see the value in a piece that lasts for generations? Your sense of style and personal touch will go into a custom-made piece of furniture that will be valued for years to come - how amazing will it feel to know you helped in its creation?

Consider these five factors for future home purchases as well, as the reasons for going custom are not limited to the world of furniture.

Source: eCustomFinishes

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'Tis the Season to Use Mobile Apps to Save Money for the Holidays

October 25, 2012 6:32 am

Mobile shopping continues to grow with more than 110 million smartphone users in the U.S. and thousands of shopping apps available to consumers free of charge. As the holiday season approaches consumers are looking for ways to improve the shopping experience using mobile devices. According to a recent survey, 31 percent of consumers already have shopping-related apps on their smartphone, and 82 percent of those consumers plan to use those apps to help save money when purchasing holidays gifts. With the ever-increasing shopping app marketplace, it's no surprise that 32 percent of respondents with smartphones said they plan to download new shopping apps in preparation for the upcoming 2012 holiday season.

Shoppers plan to deck their phones with apps to find coupons and deals

When consumers were asked what types of shopping apps they plan to download for holiday shopping, coupon apps were the most popular with 70 percent of the vote. This was closely followed by 66 percent of shoppers who said they will download comparison shopping apps; 63 percent plan to download price check apps with the ability to scan barcodes; and 54 percent of respondents will download apps dedicated specifically to searching Black Friday deals. Forty-three percent of consumers plan to download deal-of-the-day apps from daily deal websites such as Groupon® and Living Social®; 32 percent selected price calculator apps to determine discounts, tax and total cost of purchases; and 30 percent plan to download a gift list app to manage their shopping lists.

Consumers plan to purchase gifts at every price point from their mobile device

As tablets and smartphones have increased in popularity, shoppers are not only using their money-saving apps to compare prices and look for coupons, they plan to follow through with purchasing products at every price point. Forty-two percent of consumers said they plan to purchase both big- and small-ticket items with a mobile shopping app; 41 percent will purchase small-ticket items under $100; 10 percent plan to purchase all of the holiday gifts on their list using shopping apps; and 7 percent will purchase big-ticket items over $100.

Almost half of shoppers plan to reduce trips to retail stores this season

Saving money, time, or just for fun, holiday shoppers are turning to new shopping apps to complement their in-store buying this year. When survey respondents were asked how many trips they plan to make to retail stores for holiday gift purchases this year, 45 percent of consumers said they plan to make the same amount of trips, 7 percent indicated more trips, and 48 percent said less trips this year. Of those respondents, 57 percent of consumers said they plan to make between one and five trips to retail stores to purchase holiday gifts. Thirty-three percent plan to make six to 10 trips; 8 percent of shoppers plan to take 11 to 20 trips; and 2 percent plan to make more than 21 trips to brick and mortar stores.

Source: PriceGrabber.com

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A Winning Kitchen Remodel Recipe: 4 Secret Ingredients for Success

October 25, 2012 6:32 am

For the first time since 2008, kitchens have become the number one remodeling project for homeowners, according to the "Fall 2012 U.S. Remodeling Sentiment Report" from RemodelorMove.com. But before you join the rush to remodel your kitchen, you should carefully consider whether the project is a good idea for your finances and family.

To help you make the right decisions there are new and free tools available online to help you decide if remodeling is a good decision; estimate how much it will cost to remodel your kitchen, find, save, categorize, and share kitchen design ideas and pictures, and get answers to your remodeling questions.

Here is some sage advice to help you get started the smart way on your kitchen remodel:
First, decide if remodeling is right for you. You should consider a multitude of variables, such as: Can we comfortably pay for this remodel? Is my family emotionally ready to deal with the disruption? Would it be easier or less expensive to move instead?

Next, get a cost estimate. Remodel cost calculators are available to give you an instant estimate. It's important to get an estimate early in the planning phase to give you plenty of time to arrange your finances, compare prices on everything from appliances to countertops to cabinetry, and make sure your kitchen remodel is as budget friendly as possible.

Make organization a top priority. You'll be dealing with a thousand tiny details, ranging from paint colors to cabinets to floor plans. Letting any one of these details fall through the cracks could mean extra expense and delays.

Bring in the experts for answers. You may find that talking with a real estate agent, interior designer, architect, mortgage banker, or remodeling contractor can help you understand the true costs and benefits of remodeling.

If you approach your kitchen remodel with an eye for cost-effectiveness and organization, not only will you have a gorgeous new space to cook in, you can even increase the value of your home.

Source: RemodelorMove.com

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Plan Now for Home Winterization

October 25, 2012 6:32 am

With winter rapidly approaching, homeowners are urged to consider winterizing their properties to potentially lower energy costs, increase comfort in cold months and possibly improve resale value.
"This is the perfect time for consumers to consider making seasonal updates to their homes," said Appraisal Institute President Sara W. Stephens, MAI. "Not only do these types of home improvements enhance living environments in winter months and possibly lower energy costs, but most can provide an above average return on investment in resale value."

Homeowners should focus on three main updates for the winter: windows, exterior and furnace.
Adding energy-efficient vinyl windows to the home can have an average payback of more than 69 percent, according to the Remodeling 2011–12 Cost vs. Value Report, published by Hanley Wood. Vinyl replacement windows offer a higher return on investment than wood replacement windows and also have a higher projected return on investment than many other home improvement projects, including a kitchen or bath remodel, addition of a master suite or new bathroom, or a roof replacement.

Replacement windows also can be especially valuable to homes built before 1978, due to the importance of reducing lead-based paint in older homes, according to the Hanley Wood research.
That same study found exterior replacement projects retained the most value in home improvements. For example, updating and replacing fiber-cement siding returned 78 percent of homeowners' original investment.

A furnace doesn't just provide heat and comfort during cold months, but proactively tuning or replacing a home's furnace can alleviate issues when considering resale. According to Consumer Reports, the average lifespan of a furnace is 15 to 18 years. Homeowners should keep this timeframe in mind when debating servicing versus replacement.

Homeowners should also contact an appraiser on the front end of their winterization projects. "Beyond the typical valuation services, an appraiser can be a valuable resource when consulting on home improvements," Stephens said. "A qualified, competent appraiser can make recommendations about which updates will provide the most impact on resale value, as well as what is the norm for the local area."

Homeowners can also make updates now to see an immediate saving in their energy bills.

1. Clean the gutters – Remove leaves and debris so rain and melting snow can drain, preventing backed up water or ice that can clog drains and allow water to seep into the house.

2. Add insulation – Most homes need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in the attic, regardless of climate conditions. If ceiling joists are visible, the insulation needs to be beefed up because these are typically 10 to 11 inches.

3. Check the ducts – Ensure ducts are not exposed and are well-connected. Otherwise, homes with central heating can lose up to 60 percent of heated air before it reaches the vents, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Homeowners should also check for gaps and pinches in pipes and repair them to make sure heated air flows easily into the home.

4. Keep drafts out of windows – If replacing windows isn't in the cards this winter, insulating them with plastic and double-sided tape is extremely effective and much less expensive.

5. Tune the furnace – Clean and tune a furnace annually to increase efficiency and the life of the furnace. Check the furnace now to make sure it does not produce a smell, which will require attention before continuous running in the winter.

Source: The Appraisal Institute

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Tips for Dressing Up Your Kitchen With a Cool Stool

October 24, 2012 6:32 am

Breakfast on the run, snacks after school and dinner in shifts to accommodate the softball, Boy Scout and PTA meetings. It’s great if everyone can sit down at the table together but often times it’s just not possible. Bar and counter stools are some of the most useful pieces of furniture in your home.

First things first, a counter stool is the proper height for a counter and bar stool…well, for a bar! But how to do you know which is best? Basically you want your seat to be 12″ below your eating surface. So here’s the rundown on the most common measurements:

- A dining table is 30″ high and a dining chair has a seat height of 18.″
- A countertop is 36″ high and a counter stool has a seat height of 24.″
- A bar is usually about 42″ high and a bar stool has a seat height of 30.″

So now that you have the basics down, it’s time to search for a super cool stool that will take things to a whole new level. This is an opportunity to pick something really special. Here are a few guidelines:

1. Measure before you shop. Stools with arms take up a lot more space. You want at least 6″ between stools. A space that accommodates 3 stools with arms, can usually allow 4 stools without arms.

2. Accentuate the positive. Consider bringing a new material into the mix with metal, bamboo or plexi-glass. Please do not choose the stools that match your dining chairs!

3. Don’t let the fabric distract you. Some bar stools have slip seats so if you love the stool but the fabric is lacking, you can always replace it.

4. Looking back. Most times you are going to be admiring your new stools from behind so the back and leg design should be your priority. If you want to simplify an already-busy kitchen design, then go backless.

Source: www.mydesignsecrets.com

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Get Into the Halloween Spirit Without Spending a Fortune

October 24, 2012 6:32 am

The 7-out-of-10 Americans who will celebrate Halloween this year are expecting to spend an average of nearly $80 dressing trick-or-treaters, feeding goblins and ghosts, and decorating their haunted houses, according to a recent survey. The largest portion of the holiday spend will be on costumes ($28.65), followed by decorations ($23.56) and candy ($23.27). Total consumer spending for this spooktacular holiday is expected to reach $8 billion.

You can still get into the spirit of the holiday without breaking the bank by employing these few simple tips:

Make, don't purchase, your costume – Who said you need to buy your costume? Remember how much fun it was rummaging through your parents' closet to create your customized outfit when you were a kid? With a little planning and creativity, you and your little ones can win the costume contest using items you have on hand. Turn a cardboard box into a life-size laptop, TV, or robot. With a few folds of a sheet you can become a shepherd, Roman royalty, or the ever-familiar ghost. Need more costume ideas? The Internet has several websites with inexpensive and last minute ideas for everyone from the baby to the family pet. Just search "inexpensive Halloween costumes."

DIY decorations – Pumpkins are plentiful and fairly inexpensive this time of year. It's easy to turn your yard into a graveyard by cutting out cardboard headstones from old boxes, painting them gray, adding your favorite saying, attaching a stake to the back, and placing throughout your yard. Change the color of your porch light to create an eerie glow. Check out lighting stores for inexpensive colored bulbs and blacklights.

Save on your treats – Hold off purchasing your candy until the last minute when many retailers will put it on clearance. Additionally, kids will get enough treats, so stick to bite-size candy bars that are easier on your wallet.

You can have an enjoyable holiday without spending a fortune. Keeping your costs down eliminates the stress and allows you to enjoy this fun family time.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

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Renovating Design Trends for Move In

October 24, 2012 6:32 am

Buying a home is one of the most important purchases a consumer can make. Whether purchasing a house to live in or use as an investment property, there are certain steps every new homeowner should take to customize his or her space and potentially increase the property’s resale value.

Exterior
With a new move-in likely comes the changing of locks. Well, if the locks have to change, why not the whole door? A new entry door can not only increase curb appeal and serve as a quick and easy facelift to the exterior of your home, it can also improve the safety and energy efficiency of the house. Masonite doors, for example, are built for durability and designed to impress. With endless styles in fiberglass and steel, Masonite entry doors can add beauty to any home while providing a secure, reliable passageway.

Indoors, two of the best investments that can improve the value of a home are kitchen and bathroom renovations. According to the 2010 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine, these two rooms provide the greatest return on investment, and as the saying goes, kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. If a pricey renovation isn’t in the budget, there are still simple steps to change the appearance of these rooms without the hassle or price tag of a full remodel.

Bathroom
An ugly bathroom can be a deal-breaker for potential buyers, so bathroom renovations are certainly a wise investment. According to Consumer Reports, nearly 30 percent of the 121 million adults who recently completed a home-improvement project were involved in a bathroom remodel. There are quick ways to upgrade a bathroom with a limited budget.

Choose a modern, high-efficiency toilet (HET)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person uses about 100 gallons of water every day, and the largest culprit is the bathroom. The toilet alone uses 27 percent of household water. So, replace the most important seat in the house with a sleek and modern water-conserving model.
Upgrade the plumbing fixtures

The faucet and showerhead are two of the most used items in the bathroom. Beyond turning the water on and off, these fixtures can make a design statement. Replace the faucet and showerhead with new fixtures. Save money by keeping fixtures in the same spot and simply replacing them. A decorative bathroom faucet and stylish showerhead will not only increase the value of a home, but also “wow” your guests.

Save room in a small bathroom…upgrade to a glass shower enclosure
An ongoing trend among remodelers is the option to rip out the bathtub, as it frees up a lot of room when replaced with a glass shower enclosure. While usually a fixture of high-end bathrooms, a glass shower enclosure works well in small bathrooms because valuable floor space is not eaten up by the thickness of a shower/tub unit. Adding a customized shower glass door can add the dimension needed to make a small bathroom appear bigger, and can be installed in a configuration that will show off the space to its best advantage.

Kitchen
Modest kitchen updates can be a homeowner’s best bet for a big return on investment, netting on average 80 to 85 percent. According to Remodeling Magazine, high-end kitchen remodels don't return as much as mid-range or minor kitchen renovations. Replacing kitchen countertops are one of the easiest ways to make a visual impact and give your kitchen an entirely new look. Two of the most popular and affordable countertop choices are acrylic solid surfaces and quartz surfaces.

Source: Kleber and Associates

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Tips for Moving Cross-Country

October 23, 2012 6:32 am

For homeowners planning to move cross-country, a few extra steps might be necessary before you can successfully relocate. While having all the necessary packing materials handy is important, having a complete plan is a must for a move so far. Here are a few tips for those making the move:

Make sure to conduct thorough and complete research on the new town or city you are moving to. Investigate the safety of the neighborhood and area, and ask plenty of questions about home prices and valuation in the area. You can never be too careful, and you want to make sure that your family will be safe and that your home won't depreciate in value.

Hiring professional movers is a great idea for those uprooting their entire lives. For some, this step might not be necessary if you plan on buying mostly new belongings once in your new home. For those with lots of items, a mover might be the best way to go. Make sure to do some comparison shopping when searching for a professional mover.

While any move is a big one, going across the country requires a hefty amount of planning. Experts recommend planning two to three months in advance before the planned move date in order to give you proper time. This way, moving families have plenty of time to research, plan, and maybe even have a yard sale to sell some of their stuff before deciding what to move with them. Depending on the distance of the move, consider taking a pre-move trip out to your destination in order to visit a few different neighborhoods and scout out the local area. One can never be too prepared when moving across the country.

Source: Relocation.com

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Keeping Safe when Cycling in the Winter

October 23, 2012 6:32 am

The winter months are drawing closer and most of us will have already noticed it getting colder and darker. A number of cyclists will be thinking about putting their bike away until the weather perks up. However, a large number of cycling enthusiasts will not want to give up cycling just yet. Winter cycling can push your endurance, but can be very enjoyable and liberating.

It's essential that cyclists ensure that their bicycles are maintained properly, and now is a good time to do this. It is important to make sure the brakes are correctly adjusted and responsive and the tires are checked more regularly for surface cuts as well as pressure. It is also best to clean the bike more often to prevent corrosion from the salt and slush on the road.

Cyclists should also keep themselves safe on the roads by wearing bright and reflective clothes in order to ensure they are visible. It would also be good to wear the correct layers including a wicking base layer, warm mid-layer and a windproof jacket - and don't forget your extremities, so windproof cycling gloves and overshoes are a good addition to the wardrobe.

It's also essential to make sure that the bicycle lights are working. Legally, bike users must have a white front light, a rear red light as well as a rear red reflector and amber reflectors on the pedals, when cycling at night or in poor visibility.

Ice and snow is usually where commuters will draw the line and use public transport, but if you still don't want to put your bike away, shops will usually stock special winter tires with metal inserts to help with traction.

There are many benefits to carrying on cycling during the winter. Cold weather cycling is generally at a lower intensity, ideal for building endurance levels and burning body fat. It can even boost your vitamin D levels, which offers a whole host of physical and mental health benefits. Most of all, cyclists can enjoy themselves all year round.

Source: Cycle Stuff Direct

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