RE/MAX 440
Peter Patkos
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-327-7491
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Fax: 267-354-6879 
peterpatkos@remax440.com
Peter Patkos

My Blog

Sowing the Seeds of Spring: How to Start your Garden Indoors

March 11, 2014 3:54 am

(BPT) - While cooler temperatures slowly fade, gardeners across the country eagerly await the arrival of spring - and the chance to get outdoors and grow something. If gardening is your passion, you don't have to wait until the weather is perfect to get started. In fact, working ahead by growing your own seedlings is a great way to ensure your garden is successful throughout the warmer months.

"Planting seedlings indoors before transplanting them into the ground is a great use of time and money," says Darin Brockelbank, owner of Metro-Greenscape, landscape design and outdoor specialists, and members of the Porch.com home improvement network. More than 1.5 million professionals participate in the network, offering services for more than 90 million projects. "Growing seedlings is something homeowners can easily do on their own and save their money to hire professionals for larger projects."

Starting your own seedlings offers many advantages, including the ability to get a jump-start on spring planting. Growing your own plants from seed is less expensive than buying small plants and provides access to a much wider variety of plants. The pros at Porch.com offer these tips for starting seedlings to get your garden growing:

* Selecting seeds

Some seeds can be planted and started indoors, while others need to go directly in the ground outdoors. As you're choosing seeds for your garden, read the packets thoroughly to ensure the seeds you're buying are appropriate for indoor planting. Be aware that many vegetable seeds need to be planted directly in the ground.

Most packages will also include information on what time of year to plant, so follow the guidelines for best results. In general, start seeds about six weeks before the last frost date. Check the Farmer's Almanac Frost Date Calculator to find out when that is in your area.

* Choosing containers

Seed starter kits are available for easy planting, but any container will do as long as it is about 2 to 3 inches deep and has drainage holes. Egg cartons and paper cups are inexpensive and easy options; be sure to poke drainage holes in the bottoms. Fill your containers with a good soil mix - never use regular soil from your yard. Seeds need just the right texture and mixture of nutrients to succeed. Covering your containers with plastic wrap or plastic lids will help keep soil and seeds moist.

* Setting the environment

In order to germinate, most seeds need a steady temperature of about 78 F. You can create localized warmth for seeds through use of electric heaters or heat mats placed under containers. You can also try placing containers atop warm appliances, such as a refrigerator, as long as they will also receive ample light in the location. Once seedlings push through the soil, you can move them to a windowsill where they'll get more natural light.

* Caring for seedlings

It's important to provide seedlings with constant moisture, but don't let the soil get soggy. If you used plastic wrap or covers, remove them from containers once seeds have sprouted. When leaves appear, begin fertilizing with a liquid fertilizer. Pay close attention to the dosage amounts recommended on the fertilizer packaging; seedlings are fragile. Check on seedlings daily until you're ready to plant them outdoors.

"If your plants begin to bud before you transplant them to the outdoors, wait to move them until they are fully bloomed,"-Brockelbank says. "If you transplant them while they are buds and cool weather hits, they could get frost bite and die. When it's time to transplant the seeds, make sure the soil is no cooler than 60 degrees."

Of course, not everyone with the urge to grow a garden has the time to invest or the green thumb to achieve it. If you find yourself lacking the resources to plant and care for seedlings, Porch.com has plenty of professionals who can help you get - and keep - your garden growing.

"The hardest part of planting seeds indoors is caring for them before they are transplanted," Brockelbank says. "Once they are transplanted, the plants should be very low maintenance."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Daily Tactics to Defy Aging in 10 Minutes or Less

March 10, 2014 3:45 am

(BPT) - Determined, vivacious, passionate - a lot of words describe America's estimated 78 million baby boomers. This spirited group is redefining their golden years, staying active by working, traveling and enjoying the great outdoors. They know that in order to live life to the fullest, they must make their health a priority, and many are dramatically affecting their personal well-being with a few key activities that take 10 minutes or less a day to complete.

Tavis Piattoly is a sports dietitian, expert nutritionist and co-founder of My Sports Dietitian. He stresses that small daily activities can have a cumulative effect on health, and therefore, encourages baby boomers to consistently stay active and eat well.

He suggests five ways boomers can keep their health on track in 10 minutes each day:

1. Quick exercises

"Exercise should be enjoyable, so whether it is a brisk walk, strength training or participating in a sport, enjoying what you do will increase your chance of sticking with that activity," says Piattoly.

He recommends boomers incorporate strength training into their workout routine to prevent loss of muscle tissues - a concern that increases with aging. Here are three simple exercises:

Chair squats - Use any chair and perform 10 to 12 repetitions standing up and sitting down. To increase difficulty, hold a light dumbbell to add resistance.

Wall push-ups - Place arms against a wall and perform 10 to 12 push-ups. If this is too easy, get into the push-up position on the floor, using your knees for support.

Dumbbell curls or soup-can bicep curls - Use a light to moderate weight dumbbell (2 to 10 pounds) and perform 10 to 12 bicep curls. Don't have dumbbells? Substitute soup cans.

2. Nutrient-dense foods
It takes only minutes to eat a snack or a meal, and what's on your plate fuels your overall health. Piattoly recommends starting with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables.

"As we age, our immune system is not as strong as it once was to fight off infections and illnesses, and fruits and veggies could play a big role in fighting off heart disease, cancer and age-related diseases," he says.

Next, Piattoly recommends eating lean protein like farm-raised eggs, extra lean beef or omega-3-rich salmon at every meal. "Since we lose muscle mass at a rate of around 1 percent per year starting at age 35, a diet rich in protein may minimize the rate at which we lose muscle," he says.

Piattoly also suggests a balance of healthy fats. "Focus on a mix of healthy fats from sources like olive oil, avocados, almonds, sunflower seeds, pistachios and natural peanut butter."

3. Select supplements
"Omega-3 fatty acids, especially from fish oil, are beneficial for both brain and cardiovascular health," Piattoly says, noting that multiple research studies have demonstrated that fish oil supplementation is linked with lower levels of beta-amyloid protein, which may lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, research shows fish oil supplementation can reduce arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death, improve triglyceride levels, and increase HDL (good cholesterol). "I recommend taking between 2000 and 3000 mg per day of triglyceride-based fish oil. I personally take and recommend Nordic Naturals. They're the leading manufacturer of omega-3 supplements and all their products are tested for purity and safety."

Additionally, because between 50 to 75 percent of the population has a vitamin D deficiency, Piattoly recommends a vitamin D supplement. "Optimal levels of vitamin D may reduce your risk for cancer and heart disease, as well as improve bone health. Shoot for 2000 IU per day but be sure to speak with your doctor to determine how much you should take," he says.

4. Embrace technology
Numerous applications for smartphones and tablets make it easy to track your exercise progress, stay motivated and eat healthy. Best of all, most apps are free and only take a few minutes a day to use.

"I'm a big fan of MyFitnessPal, a nice fitness and nutrition app where you can track your activity and what you eat. You can visit www.myfitnesspal.com or download the app to your smartphone."

5. Be social
"One of the best things boomers can do is form a social network of friends who enjoy living a healthier lifestyle," says Piattoly. "Surrounding yourself with active people increases your opportunities for healthy activities. Habits are contagious, so associate with people who enjoy regular exercise."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Latest Trends Heat Up Barbecue Industry

March 10, 2014 3:45 am

As the May-September peak outdoor cooking season approaches, consumers can expect to see grills, smokers and outdoor living products in high demand. The trends that will drive sales during 2014 and beyond include:

Wood Pellets on the Rise: Made from compressed sawdust, wood pellets are heating up grills and smokers across the country. An all-natural product, wood pellets produce a strong, slow-burning source of heat that gives a unique, smoky flavor to foods. This year, new wood pellet grills and smokers are making it easier to cook outdoors no matter what time of year. Wood pellets grills and smokers use a variety of pellet forms to create different smoky tastes, all with a simple and easy cleanup process.

Portability: Whether tailgating for the big game or cooking on the beach, portable grills and smokers make it easy to cook delicious foods wherever you want. Industry manufactures are making it easier to take the party anywhere—from parking lots to campsites—by making light-weight and durable grills and smokers. Collapsible, small portable parts and all-terrain features make it simple to cook and smoke foods on-the-go.

Ovens in the Outdoors: New innovations are making it easier to do anything you can do inside, outside. With outdoor gas and wood-fired ovens, cooking enthusiasts can make a pizza, roast vegetables, bake desserts, and more all from the convenience of the backyard. Outdoor ovens provide an extra cooking space during the holidays, and allow families to cook their favorite dishes while enjoying the outdoors any season of the year.

Keeping Accessories Organized: When entertaining in the outdoors, it's important to have everything you need right at your fingertips. New innovations such as countertops with drawer storage and drink coolers make it easy to enjoy any party outside. With full sinks, refrigerators and lighting, you can bring all the amenities of your indoor kitchen, outdoors.

Source: Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

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Valuable Fraud Prevention Tips for Homebuyers and Homeowners

March 10, 2014 3:45 am

March is Fraud Prevention Month. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has consistently been a leader in the fight against mortgage fraud and offers the following tips to protect yourself from becoming a victim of mortgage fraud.

Misrepresentation of Information

Mortgage fraud occurs when someone deliberately misrepresents information in order to obtain mortgage financing that would not have been granted if the truth had been known.

This can include:

• Misstating one's position or inflating one's income or length of service at their job;
• Misstating employment status (ie. salaried/full time versus contract, part time, hourly or commission-based or self-employed);
• Misrepresenting the amount and/or source of the down payment;
• Purchasing a rental property and misrepresenting it as owner-occupied;
• Not disclosing existing mortgage and/or debt obligations;
• Misrepresenting property details or omitting information in order to inflate the property value;
• Adding co-borrowers who will not be residing in the home and do not intend to take responsibility for the mortgage.

Another common form of fraud is when a con artist convinces someone with good credit to act as a "straw buyer." A straw buyer is someone who agrees to put his or her name on a mortgage application on behalf of another person. In return for their participation, straw buyers may be offered cash or promised high returns when the property is sold. Often, straw buyers are deceived into believing that they will not be responsible for the mortgage payments.

Consequences of Misrepresentation

Borrowers who misrepresent information and straw buyers who allow a property to be purchased in their name are committing mortgage fraud and will be responsible for any financial shortfall in the event of default. They may also be held criminally responsible for their misrepresentation.

Reporting Fraud

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been the victim of mortgage fraud, please contact your local police department.

Source: CAAMP

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Americans Weigh In On Best Options for Updates to Nutrition Label

March 7, 2014 2:33 am

The FDA unveiled proposed changes to the 20-year-old nutrition label on food packaging. Changes include increased focus on calories, added sugar, critical vitamins and minerals, recalibration of the daily-recommended value of sodium, and how serving sizes are determined. Data show missed opportunities, as the top three most beneficial changes are not addressed in new design proposal.

A new poll from Heart+Mind Strategies shows the single-most beneficial change to the nutrition label to be a radical design change as opposed to what information is shared. Nearly one third of Americans (32 percent) reported creating a star or check system for each food (where more stars means a healthier food) would be the most beneficial to them personally.

Additionally, some of the least beneficial changes involve the new nutrition label, such as the increased emphasis on calories and revised serving size calculations. Full ranking of the changes tested for the poll follows:

• Creating a star or check system for each food (32 percent)
• Separating good fats from bad fats (19 percent)
• Ditching the metric system (14 percent)
• Separating out natural sugar from added sugar (14 percent)
• Calculations based on larger serving sizes (12 percent)
• Enhanced focus on calories (7 percent)
• Listing added wheat (3 percent)

Notably, all changes tested in the poll were public recommendations by a variety of experts, organizations, and individuals.

"People are always looking for a quick, reliable way to digest a lot of complex information," said Heart+Mind Strategies CEO Dee Allsop, Ph.D. and research consultant on two government labeling projects. "In point-of-sale environments from the car dealership to the grocery aisle, a picture really is worth a thousand words and enhances consumer confidence in the decision-making process."

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, more than 60 percent of Americans use the nutrition fact label when deciding to purchase food. Yet Heart+Mind Strategies found just over one-quarter (28 percent) report the nutrition label as being the most important decision-making influencer when buying food—taste is the leader (39 percent) and price just barely trails nutrition (26 percent).

When it comes to food and diet in general, Americans are predominantly focused on what they put in their bodies (70 percent) as opposed to what they keep out (30 percent). And more than half the country (53 percent) considers themselves the best judge on whether or not a food is right or wrong for them. Importantly, the nutrition label has the second most influence on that diagnosis (41 percent), while a doctor's recommendations bear relatively little weight on that decision at all (6 percent).

People are making food choices in a broad range of settings every day, from a grocery store or vending machine to restaurants or their own homes. Whether looking for something convenient, filling, or quick, there is always competition. The new nutrition label must not only be easy to understand, but easy to see (from say behind the vending machine glass or top shelf of the store), and quickly comparable to other choices.

Source: Heart+Mind Strategies

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Learning the Difference between Mold Contractors

March 7, 2014 2:33 am

Mold removal in a home or business is an expense that most property owners do not plan for. However, when toxic mold spores infest a residential or commercial building due to excessive moisture, flooding, sewage backup, or any other water damage, remediation is necessary to prevent harmful health risks to occupants of the property as well as preventing deadly structural damages to the building itself. Due to the inherent health risks, mold remediation is part of an industry that is heavily protected by third-party governing bodies like the Institute of Inspection Cleaning Certification (IICRC) as well as the United Sates Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and OSHA.

Hiring a mold removal contractor is a process in which property owners must exercise extreme precaution before choosing the right company for the job. Finding the right contractor means more than finding the best bargain price for services. Residential and commercial mold remediation requires certified technicians and project managers to carefully map out a scope of work while completing the service with precision and caution. Knowing the difference between mold contractors who follow these strict guidelines as opposed to the general restoration companies who may potentially cut corners to save time and money can save property owners a lot of time, money, resources, and property damage.

First and foremost, proper containment must be set up in order to ensure the safety of the property's inhabitants as well as to prevent the spread of the toxic fungus to other areas of the home or business. Setting up suitable containment can only be learned via certification courses offered by third-party governing bodies of the restoration industry like the IICRC. Without utilizing proper training techniques or adhering to the IICRC's S520 Guidelines for Mold Remediation, home and business owners risk their health as well as the structural integrity of their infested property.

Another detail that highlights the difference between mold contractors and general contractors only attempting to remove mold is the use of chemicals and cleaning agents that should not be utilized when dealing with the eradication of toxic mold. The EPA and OSHA have devised a precise list of safe and eco-friendly cleaning agents that should be used during mold remediation. Many of these cleaning agents are deemed safe enough to use in hospitals and schools around the U.S. If a general contractor is unaware of the IICRC Guidelines and practices, it is likely that harsh, unapproved chemicals may be used during the mitigation process.

Source: SI Restoration

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Parents Urged to Check Their Window Coverings

March 7, 2014 2:33 am

The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) is reminding parents and caregivers of the potential dangers posed by window cords, and is urging them to only use cordless window covering products in homes with young children. Owners and renters alike should replace all corded window coverings in their homes with today's safer products.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), corded window coverings are one of the top five hidden hazards in American homes, with infants and children dying each year from accidentally strangling in window cords. Some of these incidents involve older products that are still in use and do not have the safety devices or designs instituted in the past decade.

"Parents who replace their window coverings with the cordless products available can feel more confident about their child's safety," explains WCSC Executive Director Peter Rush.

To maximize window cord safety when young children are present, consumers are urged to follow these safety guidelines:

• Install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children. Replace corded blinds, shades and draperies with today's safer products.
• If you cannot install newer products, order a free window cord retrofit kit from www.windowcoverings.org. The installation of the retrofit kit is not intended to be a substitute for installing cordless products in homes with young children.
• Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
• Ensure that all window cords are out of sight and reach, and that they are inaccessible to young children.

Source: Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC)

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It's Time to Spring Your Home Forward

March 6, 2014 2:27 am

It's hard to imagine that spring is just around the corner when parts of the country are still buried in snow and winter keeps on packing a frigid punch. This weekend marks the start of daylight-saving time, offering a welcome sign that spring is indeed calling while giving us all something to look forward to after a long, cold winter.  

On March 9, set your clocks ahead one hour and prepare to savor more daylight in the evenings. Daylight-saving time is the perfect reminder to complete basic maintenance projects that have been forgotten or postponed, so as you circle your home resetting the clocks, take some extra time to complete the following tasks and projects that are sure to bring the feeling of spring a little closer.   

Switch Out Light Bulbs – Replace conventional bulbs with energy-efficient LED and CFL bulbs so you can start saving more energy and money. With the recent phase out of incandescent bulbs, energy-efficient halogen bulbs, a favorite among interior designers, have also emerged as a popular replacement option.

Replace Batteries – Remove your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector batteries and replace with fresh batteries. Consider testing your devices to ensure they are working appropriately.

Change Air Filters – It's important to change air filters regularly to maximize the efficiency of your home's heater and air conditioner while ensuring the air you breathe is clean.

Spring Clean – Use the extra hour to conduct a thorough cleaning of your home. Start by clearing the clutter and organizing your kitchen, closets and commonly used living spaces. Freshen your home by adding a purifying houseplant with a favorite spring blossom to complement your home's decor.

Add Color – Let go of the blues and grays of winter and add a pop of color to your home in a fresh, airy paint color. Paint reigns as the No. 1 do-it-yourself project because of its ability to make an instant impact without breaking the budget. In just a few hours and with as little as $50, you can makeover the look of a room by adding an accent wall or reviving a dated piece of furniture.

Source: Lowe’s

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Insulation: The Key to Ending Drafts and Cutting Utility Bills

March 6, 2014 2:27 am

(BPT) - Whether it's the chill of winter or the heat of summer, our natural instincts are to adjust the indoor temperature so it is comfortable through every season. But if your home has any drafts or air leaks, expect indoor temperatures to fluctuate dramatically.

Leaks and drafts can hinder the performance of your heating-ventilation-air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and cause your utility bills to skyrocket. Why? Conditioned air continually escapes the home due to the gaps within the building envelope, and HVAC equipment will work overtime to reach the thermostat's set temperature. What's more, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that air leakage contributes to potential moisture problems that can affect occupant health and the home's durability.

While traditional stop-gap solutions, such as placing runners by doors, may provide some relief, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends homeowners take a comprehensive approach. First, detect where the air leaks are within your home. A certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Rater will be able to help you identify such areas as well as help assess your ventilation needs for indoor air quality.

Once all sources of air leaks have been identified, air sealing techniques and materials can be applied. Caulking and weather-stripping are two of the most popular and common techniques that can help address air leaks. However building experts will suggest considering solutions that go further in terms of air-sealing. A recent study by the Building Science Corporation showed that heat transfer was much lower in a home equipped with spray foam insulation than with other, more traditional materials such as fiberglass or cellulose. The reduction, about 15 percent, indicates minimal thermal transmission and better block of heat transference, which can have a significant impact on how homeowners heat and cool their home.

Installed by professionals, spray foam insulation works well in all climates to completely seal the building, filling every gap to stop air leakage and help reduce the strain on HVAC equipment. Spray foam insulation both insulates and air seals the entire building envelope letting homeowners cut their monthly heating and cooling bills by as much as 50 percent in some cases.

As a long-term solution, spray foam insulation helps maintain a comfortable temperature year-round while helping to control monthly heating and cooling expenses. Thanks to spray foam insulation's air-sealing qualities, homeowners can reduce the size of their heating and cooling equipment since less effort is required to heat or cool the home, according to InsulationSmart.com.

While air leakage can cause energy bills to sky-rocket, a well-insulated home and economical winterizing can help you get through the cold winter months.

Source: www.icynene.com

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How to Find a Qualified Window Installer

March 6, 2014 2:27 am

If you’re thinking about replacing the windows in your home, make sure to invest as much time in finding a qualified window installer as you do in selecting the right windows for your house.

Locating a qualified window installer in your area may be easier than you think. Along with the traditional ways of locating installers, such as the Yellow Pages and searching businesses online, here are some fast and easy recommendations from the experts at Simonton Windows to help you find the best installers in your area:

Tip #1 – Go to a window manufacturer’s website to see if they have a preferred installer program. Many window manufacturers require contractors to go through classes and training sessions to make sure they understand the specifics of proper window installation. Once they achieve a preferred installer status, these professionals are then promoted on the company’s website in a geographic breakdown, so it’s easy for you to locate an installer that meets the company’s criteria in your area.

Tip #2 – If you’re purchasing your windows through a major home improvement center, such as The Home Depot, they will have an installer program. You can hire your installers through the home center at the same time that you order your windows.

Tip #3 – Ask your local lumberyards, distribution centers and building product dealerships for recommendations on quality window installers in your area.

Tip #4 – Visit a website like 1800contractor.com, Home Advisor or Angie’s List. Let them match you up with installers in your specific geographic area to receive installation quotes.

Tip #5 – Ask family, friends and colleagues for recommendations of installers they’ve used in the past. Select those whose services have been stand-out top quality with your friends.

Source: Simonton.com

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