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Mary Southern
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880 | Skippack, PA 19474
Phone: 610-207-2110 | Office Phone: 610-584-1160 | Fax: 484-991-1837
Cell: 610-207-2110 | email: mary@marysouthern.com

Mary's Blog

Real Estate for Your World

How-to Serve up Style in Your Bathroom

October 30, 2017 1:39 am

Looking to add some of your own personal style to your bathroom? Below are a few ways you can add a little oomph to your powder room.

Climbing plants. Climbing vines indoors can add a jungly, naturalistic element to your space. Some of the coolest vines for interiors are ivy, heartleaf philodendron, jasmine and betel leaf plant.

Art. Don't be afraid to add some unique art to your bathroom! A cool painting or sculpture can make a great focus piece.

Lighting options. From an interesting lighting fixture to a colored bulb or recessed lighting beneath, don't be afraid to get funky with your lights.

Mirroring. Add an expressive picture frame to the edge of your vanity mirror, or create an entire mirrored wall to open up the space and add light.

Playful patterns. If you're a fan of patterns, consider placing a bold pattern on your ceiling, floor, or one wall to make the space more interesting.

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6 Signs Your Heating System Is on Its Way Out

October 30, 2017 1:39 am

During fall and winter, your heating system is your lifeline. So if it fails in the middle of the cold season, it can feel physically, mentally and financially uncomfortable. Below, 128 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric, gives tips to homeowners about signs to look for that indicate a heating system is failing.

Age of the system. The average lifespan of a heating system is 15 - 20 years. As a heating unit ages, it falls behind in terms of efficiency. A high-efficiency system uses less energy to run than a system that isn't, which typically means a lower monthly gas or oil bill. Band-Aid repairs on old units can easily waste money.      

Strange and unusual noises. Noises, particularly metallic or scraping sounds, can be an indicator that a service call is needed for repair. In the event that the homeowner detects such a sound, the unit needs to be turned off immediately for further inspection to prevent any further damage.

Uneven heating of the home. This can indicate a number of things, some of which can be solved by the homeowner. Furniture blocking vents can obstruct air flow, and dirty filters can restrict flow to the entire home. However, if these are checked and the issue still exists, a service call may be needed to clear obstructed ductwork or repair of the unit. When homeowners have one room that gets too hot while another doesn't heat, there is an unbalanced distribution of heat that could be very costly depending on the location of the thermostat.     
Increasing energy bills. Once your energy costs increase without a reasonable explanation, chances are your heating system isn't working as efficiently anymore. This is usually the case with older heating systems, but newer systems can also start to fail and become less efficient.     

Increasing runtime. If your heating system runs constantly, beyond adjusting for winter temperatures, it can be an indication of loss of efficiency or a thermostat issue. Excessive repairs. If repairs are becoming more frequent, expenses are increasing, and the same problems are reoccurring, it is most likely time to replace the entire unit. Replacing the entire unit with a current model will not only cut down on time and money spent on repairs and service calls, but will also help save on monthly energy bills thanks to newer energy-saving standards.

Source: www.call128.com.

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Make Mealtime Meaningful for Families and Furry Friends

October 30, 2017 1:39 am

(Family Features)--Coming together for a shared meal is a simple yet important way for families to bond and create memories with one another. There's no better time than right now to bring everyone together around the dinner table - including your four-legged friends - for a delicious, healthy meal.

These tips can help make mealtime even more meaningful for everyone:

Have the family help with the meal prep. Pick a recipe everyone can help prepare, such as build-your-own pizzas, to make the dinner both a bonding activity and a rewarding experience when you get to eat your own creation.

Schedule mealtime for the whole family, including your pup. Your furry friend can enjoy sharing in the family experience, and with his own food bowl, he'll be gobbling that up, making it less tempting to ask for human food.

Establish a no-devices-at-the-dinner-table policy to encourage kids and adults alike to talk, engage and bond with each other. This quality time spent in the company of family can build cherished memories for years to come.

Opt for healthy options to keep everyone's energy levels up. This means working in plenty of fruits, veggies and quality proteins like chicken or salmon, sweet potatoes, lentils and more. These ingredients are also great for your pup and are included in many high-quality dog foods.

Whether it's once a week or every night, coming together for a shared meal is a simple gesture that can help bring families - and even furry family members - together. So grab a plate (or bowl) and enjoy your shared mealtime with the entire family.

Source: Nutro

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Cleaning House on the Quick and Cheap

October 27, 2017 1:39 am

We once met a woman who loved to clean house. She said it gave her a feeling of accomplishment. For many, however, it’s a thankless chore, and the sooner done, the better.

Consumer editors at Woman’s Day Magazine and the DIY Network offer seven ways to save time and money and still keep your home sparkling clean:

All-purpose cleaners – No need to buy cleaning solutions for a single purpose. Fill a squirt bottle with four tablespoons of baking soda and a quart of warm water. Use it to clean kitchen counters, appliances, inside the fridge and more – or add one-third cup vinegar to a quart of water to clean glass, countertops and even floors.

Burnt food on burners – Remove burnt-on food from stove burners by soaking them overnight in a zip-lock bag filled with a cup of ammonia.

Burnt food in pans – No need to throw out or replace that badly burnt pan. Heat a cup of white vinegar in it until warm. Remove from the heat and mix in two tablespoons of baking powder. After 15 minutes, rinse with warm water and voila!

Microwave magic – To degrease and clean the inside of your microwave, cook ½ cup of water mixed with ½ cup of vinegar in it for two minutes. A clean rag should wipe the mess right off.

Forget paper towels – They’re expensive and they often leave a residue. Buy a pack of micro-fiber cleaning rags that will clean better and can be used over and over again.

Zap the sponge – It’s a breeding ground for bacteria. Disinfect it often by squeezing it out and microwaving it on high for a minute. No need to replace it until it is shredding or smelly.

Shower curtain bath – If mold or mildew are attacking the shower curtain, throw it in the washing machine with a few towels, which will help scrub it, then hang it back up to dry.

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Halloween Safety Tips

October 27, 2017 1:39 am

From long hours outdoors after dark, to strings of lights and choke-sized candy, Halloween can be a safety minefield. Below are some top safety tips from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include:

- Don't use open flames in jack o' lanterns or other Halloween decorations. Battery or electric-powered tea lights or glow sticks in jack o' lanterns are much safer than candles.
- Wear flame-resistant costumes and never walk near lit candles or other open flames.
- Keep walking areas, steps and porches well-lit and free of obstacles to avoid falls.
- Wherever possible, use established crosswalks and look both ways before crossing the street.
- Inspect all treats before consuming to assure they have not been tampered with.
- Decorative lights should be approved by Underwriter's Laboratory and carry a UL seal on the tag. Red UL marks indicate the lights are approved for indoor or outdoor use, while green UL tags indicate approval for indoor use only.
- Outdoor lights and decorations should be plugged into outlets that feature Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs).
- Indoor lights should not touch window treatments, carpet or furniture.
- Place all lights on a timer if you'll be away from home, and turn off all lights before you go to bed.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Making the Most of Medicare Open Enrollment

October 27, 2017 1:39 am

(Family Features)--Eating well and regular exercise are part of a healthy lifestyle, and so is making sure you have the right health care coverage. Medicare's annual Open Enrollment period is a good time to review your current coverage and decide if there may be a better fit based on changes to current plans, your budget or health needs.

During Medicare Open Enrollment, which runs Oct. 15 - Dec. 7, 2017, you can enroll in or make changes to your Medicare health or prescription drug plan for coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2018. If you miss the deadline, you will likely have to wait a full year before you are able to make changes to your plan.  

To make Medicare Open Enrollment part of your healthy lifestyle, follow these five steps:

1. Review your current plan notice. Read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your "Annual Notice of Change" letter. Look at your plan's information to make sure your drugs are still covered and your doctors are still in network.

2. Think about what matters most to you. Medicare health and drug plans change each year and so can your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Does your current plan cover your new medication? Does another plan offer the same coverage at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change.

3. Find out if you qualify for help paying for Medicare. Learn about programs in your state to help with the costs of Medicare premiums (through Medicare Savings Programs), your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, coinsurance and copayments, and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs (through Extra Help). Visit Medicare.gov or call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to learn more.

4. Shop for plans that meet your needs and fit your budget. Starting each October, you can use Medicare's Plan Finder tool at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan to see what plans are offered in your area. A new plan may:

- Cost less
- Cover your drugs
- Let you go to the providers you want, like your doctor or pharmacy

If you find your current coverage still meets your needs, then you're done. Remember, during Medicare Open Enrollment, you can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you're already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch back to Original Medicare.

5. Check your plan's Star Rating before you enroll. The Medicare Plan Finder is up-to-date with the Star Ratings for Medicare health and prescription drug plans. Plans are given an overall quality rating on a 1 - 5 star scale, with 1 being the lowest performing and 5 stars representing excellent performance. You can use Star Ratings to compare the quality of health and drug plans being offered.

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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Tips for a Safe and Happy Halloween

October 25, 2017 1:36 am

Americans love Halloween. According to a recent survey, Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of how much we spend on decorations. But before the Great Pumpkin sends a host of little ghosts and goblins trick-or-treating on your street, the cautious underwriters at Traveler’s Insurance urge us to do what we can to make sure the evening is safe and happy:

Clear the way – Walk your property to minimize potential accidents. Roll up hoses and get them out of the way, and make sure the walkway is well-lighted and clear of obstacles.

Place decorations carefully – Set up lawn displays with foot traffic in mind and place them to prevent tipping over, blowing away, or becoming a tripping hazard.

Choose safe décor - Avoid dried flowers, cornstalks and crêpe paper because they are highly combustible – and keep decorations away from heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.

Take care with lighting – Avoid open flames. Use LED lighting or battery-operated candles, and never drape fabric over light bulbs, which can generate heat and start a fire.

Minimize electrical risk – Plug all outdoor lights and decorations into ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to help reduce the risk of electric shock. Avoid daisy-chaining extension cords when plugging in decorations, which can cause overheating – and never staple, nail through, or fasten electrical wires or extension cords in any way as that can damage the wire or insulation and cause electrical shock or fire.

Drive with extra care – Parents everywhere will be rushing home in time to get their kids ready for Halloween. Drive neighborhoods slowly and with caution, looking out for less cautious drivers and/or costumed kids crossing the street.

Choose costumes wisely – Utilize bright colors and or flashlights to make sure your child is easily visible in darkened streets. Young children should trick-or-treat in small groups with parents supervising nearby.

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5 Ways to Celebrate the Season of Giving

October 25, 2017 1:36 am

(Family Features)--Giving is the true spirit of the holiday season. However, in addition to gift-giving in the traditional sense, there are other meaningful ways to make a difference in your community and give back to those in need - including the 3.5 million people who experience homelessness each year, according to the United States Census Bureau - during one of the most critical times of the year.

By giving money, time or material items, or partaking in other small acts of kindness, you can spread holiday cheer and help instill a sense of giving in others. To get started, here are some ideas you can put into action this holiday season.

Donate to a Food Pantry
Churches and food pantries are always in need of donations, and the holiday season is a great time to help provide a meal for someone who may not otherwise be able to eat. Canned goods and other non-perishable items like cereal, oatmeal, rice, peanut butter, canned tuna and spices are often needed. Some pantries can also use non-edible items, such as soap and other toiletries, and simply donating money is always an option, as well.

Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen
Because extended exposure to cold weather can be dangerous, soup kitchens and homeless shelters are often more crowded during this time of year. While soup kitchens and other aid facilities often see an influx of volunteers during the holidays, most are still grateful for the extra hands to help serve a meal or assist with other tasks around the facilities.

Host a Coat Drive
Providing clothing, specifically coats, for the less fortunate during the colder months is another way to assist those in your community. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a warm winter coat is considered a "budget extra" for nearly 15 percent of Americans living in poverty. National non-profit organization, One Warm Coat, is dedicated to providing a free, warm coat to any person in need. The organization has facilitated more than 27,000 coat drives nationwide and has a goal of collecting 1 million coats this winter in celebration of its 25th season of giving. Through its six-step process, the non-profit provides all the tools necessary to hold a coat drive and to distribute the coats in local communities where they were collected. Learn more about how you can get involved at onewarmcoat.org/youcanhelp.

Attend a Benefit Event
Concerts, theatrical performances, walks and other exhibits are often held during the holiday season with the proceeds going to benefit a local charity or service organization. Many community service clubs also offer benefit dinners or bake sales that can provide a positive impact for those in need in your area.

Adopt a Family
There are many organizations that can help you sponsor a family in your area to help provide gifts and other necessities for over the holiday season. Most can provide you with a list of items each family member needs and wants to make shopping easier.

Source: One Warm Coat

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And the Winners Are...2017’s Best Mattresses

October 25, 2017 1:36 am

If you’ve ever shopped for a mattress - or slept on a bad one - then you know how important making the right choice is. Luckily, Rave Reviews, a ranking site that uses data-driven analysis to arrive at its research, recently published its Best Mattresses for 2017.

Since mattresses are as particular as the individuals who sleep upon them, the ranking is subdivided into 11 different categories: Best Rated Brands, Best Organic/Natural Mattress, Best Adjustable Mattress, Best Mattress for the Money, Best Mattress for Side Sleepers, Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers, Best Mattress for Sex, Best Mattress for Heavy People, Best Mattress for Back Pain, Best Mattress for Joint Pain, and Best Mattress for Kids.

The mattress industry is filled with specific terminology and lingo, making mattress hunting even more confusing and overwhelming. This master list, relevant for all different kinds and types of sleepers, aims to cut through the confusion.

The selection process for this list of the Best Mattresses of 2017 is based on a weighted score of a variety of factors that include: owner satisfaction, mattress lifespan, comfort, value, price, quality of materials used and reputation of the company. In the Best Rated Brands category for 2017, Nest Bedding came in first, followed by Zenhaven by Saatva in second, and Astrabed in third.

Here is the ranking within three of the more popular categories:

Best Rated Mattress Brand
  • Nest Bedding
  • Zenhaven by Saatva
  • Astrabeds
  • Amerisleep
  • Loom & Leaf by Saatva
  • Saatva
  • Layla
  • Novosbed
  • WinkBeds
  • Helix
Best Mattress for the Money
  • Amerisleep AS3
  • Zinus 10' Green Tea
  • Layla
  • Ghost Bed by Nature's Sleep

Best Mattress for Back Pain
  • Alexander Signature Series by Nest Bedding
  • Astrabed Solace
  • Astrabed Serenity
  • Astrabed Serenity
  • Loom & Leaf Relaxed Firm by Saatva

Source: Rave Reviews

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Important Tips for New Job Hunters

October 24, 2017 1:36 am

Maybe you’re a recent college grad or maybe you’ve been at the same company for more than a decade and are a bit rusty on the job-search process. Whatever the case may be, when it comes to landing that job, the devil is in the details. While you may have every qualification listed in the job description, a misstep can quickly remove you from consideration. Keep the following in mind when applying for your next gig.

Provide the information that’s requested. If the job listing asks for a cover letter, examples of your work or salary requirements, be sure to provide them. Not doing so sends a signal to a prospective employer that you’re not paying attention or that you’re not that interested.

Be ultra responsive. In today’s age of instant gratification, if a job prospect reaches out to you for more information or to request an interview, respond as soon as possible. So be sure to check your email and job posting sites regularly and arrange for instant notifications.

Dress appropriately for the interview. Even though a business may have a casual dress code, show up for the interview looking your best. It shows respect and that you care about landing the job. Overdressed is always better than underdressed, and - unless you’re applying in the fashion industry - err on the side of conservative.

Don’t show up empty handed. Nothing says disinterest like showing up to the interview with nothing in hand. Even though you know the prospective employer has already seen your resume, show up with several hard copies and hand them out. Bring examples of your work or an ipad to show what you’ve done online. Use your ipad or a pad and paper to take notes - it shows interest in the job and what the employer has to say.

Do your research and ask questions. Never show up to an interview without finding out about the company in advance, and be ready to go with several questions. And make sure it’s not “how many vacation days would I get?” Save all questions related to benefits until you’re closer to landing the position.Follow up right away.

Whether you’re interested in the job or not, send a thank you note by email right away. If you are interested in the job, use this as a chance to outline why you believe you’re the right choice and what excites you about the position. Throw out a couple of ideas about what you might do if you had the job. Employers want team members who are enthusiastic, hard-working and creative thinkers. This is your chance to show that you are all of the above.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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