June Croissette
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RE/MAX 440   June Croissette
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309  Quakertown, PA  18951
Office Phone: 215-538-4400    Phone: 215-538-4400 Ext. 1210  Fax: 267-354-6834  Cell: 215-872-4966
jcroissette@remax440.com

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Consumer Sentiment Up as 2014 Begins

January 16, 2014 5:15 am

As the new year begins, consumers are feeling better about the economy than they have since last summer, according the latest monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey that examines how gas prices affect consumer sentiment.

Though most consumers still say that they are pessimistic about the economy, 43 percent of consumers say that they are optimistic about the economy, the highest level of optimism since July 2013. The rise in optimism is seen consistently across all parts the country, even in the Northeast and Midwest, where consumers were affected by record-cold temperatures during the January 7-9 polling period.

For more than a year, at least 83 percent of consumers have said that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy and that sentiment continued in the first month of the new year, with 85 percent of consumers indicating that.
However, for only the third time in the past 12 months, a rise in gas prices did not lead to a rise in pessimism, or vice versa. The increase in optimism occurred in a month of rising gas prices in which gas prices increased by roughly a nickel a gallon.

Instead, consumers are feeling very optimistic about gas prices in the near future. More than half (53 percent) of consumers say that gas prices will be the same or lower in the next 30 days, with a record-low 7 percent saying that prices will be much higher.

Also reflective of the current consumer optimism, drivers say prices would have to increase significantly before they would consider reducing the amount that they drive. On average, gas purchasers say prices would have to reach $4.04 a gallon before they would cut back driving— a 71 cent price increase beyond the current national average. This price differential is the second-largest since NACS began measuring this statistic in May 2013.

"Future prospects are outweighing current conditions in defining consumer sentiment," said NACS Vice President of Government Relations John Eichberger. "While it remains to be seen if conditions do in fact improve, consumer optimism is great news for consumers, retailers and the economy as the new year begins."

Source: National Association of Convenience Stores

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Tips to Stick to Your Resolution

January 15, 2014 5:15 am

The start of a new year is often a time for reflection and a resolve to change. Whether the resolutions are big or small, most people by now are already starting down the path to a new and better version of themselves. A new WebMD survey about resolutions revealed that one in three people are making 2014 resolutions each January but almost 60 percent end up dropping them by the end of March.

While the WebMD survey results indicated that most people resolve to exercise and lose weight, others vow to commit to different healthy habits such as getting organized (39 percent), being happier (39 percent), and learning something new (37 percent) – all of which make the list for 2014 resolutions.

An overwhelming 79 percent said that the best way to get them motivated to stay on course would be by following small, achievable tips and advice that would make a measurable impact on their health. These tips, provided by Colgate, offer easy-to-follow steps to help you stay on track for a better, healthy lifestyle this year.

See Your Doctor – Many of us can fall into the habit of just going to the doctor when we aren't feeling well. Break that cycle by scheduling your annual physical and check-up and start going to the doctor when you are feeling fine.

Take a Walk – Working in front of a computer all day can lead to poor posture and eye strain. Try taking a short walk every 30 minutes to give your eyes a break and get a boost of energy.

Disconnect – Technology is everywhere. Take some time to disconnect and get away from the TV and other gadgets. Spending time away from the screen with your family or even alone may be just the break you are looking for.

Bring the Gym Home – Expensive gyms aren't the only way to get fit. Purchase a jump rope or resistant bands and look for small pockets of time throughout the day when you can get in your own personal workout without having the leave your house.

Refresh Your Mouth Health - Add oral care to your healthy checklist this year.

Source: www.ColgateTotal.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Manage Hunger with Wholesome Foods

January 15, 2014 5:15 am

(Family Features) Whether you’re following a weight loss plan or simply maintaining healthy habits, finding foods that are nutritious sources of protein and promote satiety can help curb your urge to snack throughout the day.

Wholesome soy foods can replace other foods in your diet that might be adding too much fat, sugar and cholesterol. Soy foods also provide high-quality, complete protein, shown to increase satiety, the feeling of fullness.

“Soy protein can play a major role in satiety,” said Russ Egbert, director of protein research at Archer Daniels Midland Co. “We know that diets that are high in protein are more satiating than diets that are high in carbohydrates or high in fat.”

Regardless of your lifestyle or age, protein is an essential nutrient your body needs, and compared to other common protein sources, the soybean is a giant. The soybean is upwards of 38 percent protein, says Karl Weingartner, director of the International Soybean Program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Fish such as salmon contain about 18 percent protein, while a T-bone steak is about 22 percent.

In addition, a recent study published in Molecular Food & Nutrition Research found that soy fiber has “favorable effects on body weight, body mass index and fasting LDL-cholesterol levels in overweight and obese adults,” all factors that are helpful in weight loss and managing high blood pressure.

“The soy bean by its nature is a complete food. It’s very high in protein, it contains valuable oils, essential fatty acids, fiber, even the sugars in it are considered to be prebiotics,” said Peter Golbitz, director of international business development for the SunOpta Grains and Foods Group.

Simple substitutions make it easy to incorporate soy into your favorite dishes:

-Combine an avocado, a cup of extra-firm tofu and salsa for a lighter guacamole
-Substitute soy milk into garlic mashed potatoes
-Energize your child’s morning breakfast with protein-rich soy yogurt
-Fix a quick, healthy dinner with soy-based burgers in place of traditional ground beef
-Toss fresh edamame on top of your favorite salad
-Select delicious whole soy nutrition bars as snacks

Or, you can experiment with new recipes such as this protein-rich, low-carb Soy and Spinach Artichoke Dip for guilt-free indulgence.

Soy and Spinach Artichoke Dip
12 servings

1 pound silken tofu, crumbled
1 pound low fat cream cheese, cubed
1 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 pound marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish

Beat tofu until smooth. Mix in cream cheese, mayonnaise and pepper in mixer bowl. Fold in spinach, artichokes and green onions.

Divide mixture equally into 12 (4-ounce) au gratin dishes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, if desired.

Bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly and browned on top. Serve with low-carb crackers or bread for an all-around low-carb snack or lunch!

Nutrition per 4-oz. serving: 62 calories, 6.6 g protein, 5.7 g carbohydrates, 1.5 g fiber, 1.4 g fat, 254 mg sodium

To find more recipes featuring soy protein, visit www.soyfoods.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Getting a Better Night's Sleep

January 15, 2014 5:15 am

Adults need on average 6 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If you wake up already feeling tired, then you probably aren't getting enough sleep. In 2007, motivated by her own struggle with insomnia, Cool-jams founder and CEO Anita Mahaffey launched her signature line to help everyone sleep easier. Seven years later, Cool-jams has a few suggestions for getting a good night's sleep based on their continued research combating insomnia.

"A good night's sleep is controlled by temperature," Mahaffey explained. "Research shows that decreasing core body temperature is essential for falling and remaining asleep."

While the ideal temperature varies from person to person, experts suggest keeping bedroom temperatures no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Other ways to help regulate body temperature is taking a bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime, sleeping with a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed, and sleeping in comfortable, moisture-wicking sleepwear and temperature regulating bed sheets.

"Light governs sleep patterns," Mahaffey said. "Your body's wiring tells you to get up when there is light and to sleep when it is dark."

When it is dark, the body produces melatonin, a hormone that initiates sleep. This hormone not only promotes good sleep, it also impacts long-term health. When sleep is disrupted by light, it leads to lower melatonin levels, which can increase cancer risks. To reduce insomnia, avoid TV before bed, sleep in a pitch-dark room, install blackout drapes, cover up the clock radio's light, and avoid night-lights.

"What you eat plays a role in how you sleep," Mahaffey said. "Certain foods keep you awake while others promote a better night's sleep."

When consumed late in the evening, grains and sugars make it harder to sleep because they cause blood sugar to rise, which inhibits sleep. Yet, eating a high-protein snack near bedtime can aid in melatonin and serotonin production, helping promote a solid snooze. Additionally, it's wise to avoid alcohol.

"Even though alcohol causes drowsiness, it prevents you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep," Mahaffey explained.

Source: Cool-jams

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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'Soft Modern' Trends To Drive Home Design in 2014

January 14, 2014 5:12 am

Cool, soft colors, open spaces with natural lighting and modern, angular details are the top home design trends of 2014, according to newly released information by Pulte Homes.

"Many of the prevailing trends from 2013 will be seen in 2014, but with a softer and more modern edge," said Janice Jones, vice president of merchandising for PulteGroup, Inc.  "We'll still see soothing colors, bold accent pieces and open layouts, but 2014 is about mixing and matching a warm, comfortable environment with modern finishes and angular details."

Jones, along with her 20-person design team, uses direct merchandising experience and expertise to implement the latest trends when designing interiors for nearly one million square feet of model homes on an annual basis.  Gleaned through experience in space planning, as well as consumer focus groups and surveys, Pulte Homes has identified the following home design trends for 2014:

Open layouts and natural light: The company's consumer research also reinforces that buyers continue to prefer open layouts. The kitchen continues to serve as the home's "hub" while the rest of the home freely flows off the kitchen. There's also a growing trend toward large windows and the use of natural light. Traditional, hanging, decorative light fixtures are being replaced with simple can lighting and under counter lighting and spotlights, which offer more flexibility for furniture placement and room design.

Shades of grey: Color continues to be a driving force in shaping the mood of a home. While blues are shifting to lighter, brighter hues to create relaxation and serenity, it's really grey that's providing the broadest spectrum of opportunity. Grey tones continue to have a multi-dimensional affect as they range from cool shades to warmer, heather tones. Paint and highly textured woven wall coverings in light grey, illuminated with blue tones, are a growing trend.  These shades create a calming effect on the senses and are complimentary with the increased use of purples and plums. Grey cabinets, wood flooring, and hard surfaces continue to grow in popularity, too.

Mix and match: Mixing reclaimed furniture and natural wood tones with high-gloss, bright white accent pieces offer a rustic, yet contemporary look and feel. The introduction of natural textiles, such as linens and cottons, keeps with the trend while creating a fresh, organic look to the room.

"The contrast of whites mixed with rustic wood furniture creates an aesthetically pleasing affect," commented Jones. "An easy way to accomplish this is to pair a modern white sofa or slipcover with accent tables made from reclaimed barn wood, box cars or even driftwood."

Squaring off the details: Muted colors, wood furniture and organic textiles create a soft, vintage appeal, but Pulte Homes is also seeing a trend toward strong, angular details to add a modern flair. For example, countertop edges are now squared off and simple, while angular trims are replacing ornate crown moldings. Rectangular flooring and wall tiles of varying sizes are becoming more popular. Fireplaces, too, need to fit in with the modern surroundings. They're becoming more linear and less ornate to match the growing trend toward angularity.

Source: Pulte Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top 10 Home Staging Tips

January 13, 2014 5:12 am

With all the competition in today’s marketplace, professionally staging your home has never been more important. Here are some top tips from Sure Fit on how to beat your competition and allure the attention of buyers.

1. Consider curb appeal
You may not have the funds for a professional landscaper, but homeowners should make sure lawns are freshly mowed, leaves raked, and paths cleared. Scrub the front door, porch, railings and steps, pick up a new mailbox and welcome mat, and add a fresh coat of paint where needed. Add seasonal potted plants and a bench to the entryway to welcome visitors into a clean, fresh and relaxing space.

2. Forgo Family Photos
You may consider it the crown jewel of the living room, but future buyers will see outdated family photos as years of wear and tear. Clear the room of family portraits and other items that say "you don't live here" to potential buyers.

3. What Once Was Old, Should Be Newly Slip-covered
No need to splurge on new furniture and home assets when your budget is already tightened up, especially in the midst of a move. Cover up outdated, worn and loud furniture with neutral colors. Even coordinating your curtains and dining room sets can make your home décor look like new.

4. Rearrange Refresh
Arrange the room in a conversational way. You may have preferred for every piece of furniture to face the television, but potential buyers will appreciate more of an open room vignette.

5. Kitchen Clean-Up
Kitchens play a big part in home resale value, so make sure buyers are impressed. Spend extra time scrubbing, cleaning and de-cluttering, and make sure counters are clear of appliances. Re-stain shabby cabinets, replace any mismatched hardware, add fresh cut flowers, turn on lights and open curtains for a clean, bright and attractive gathering space.

6. Let in Some Air
Keep stuffiness and odors at bay by opening windows for at least 10 minutes prior to showing. Go easy on the air freshener, but bring in fresh cut flowers for a natural look and smell.

7. What’s Behind Door #3?
While shoving everything into a closet has been your go-to cleanup plan since your teen years, potential buyers will undoubtedly look behind every door in your home. Keep bedroom, linen closets and storage spaces neat and tidy to avoid any embarrassing surprises.

8. Scrub Until it Sparkles
Clean bathrooms until they look like the model sets at Home Depot. Signs of use, like soap scum and toothpaste stuck to the sink, will turn buyers off. Replace any outdated fixtures with sleek and modern ones, and add fresh cut flowers to help with aroma and appearance.

9. Sleep Tight
Keep bedrooms neutral, comfortable and spacious. Buyers want to picture themselves relaxing here, so use soft colors, light scents and earth tones to “set the mood.” Make bedrooms appear larger by limiting items in the room to a bed, dresser and small seating area for the Master Bedroom. Update any outdated bedding and use a lavender oil diffuser to keep relaxation a priority here.

10. Better Backyard
Outdoor living spaces have become exponentially more important to potential buyers. Treat your back deck or patio like any other room in your home. Scrub down patios, touch up worn fences and banisters, and make sure your yard is free of clutter. A few decorating touches can make your space much more than just a “backyard.” Cover a worn picnic table with a bright tablecloth and replace worn chair cushions with new ones.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Protecting a Home from the Ravages of Winter

January 10, 2014 5:03 am

As temperatures across the country reach dangerous levels, now is the time to make sure that your home is prepared to deal with the icy conditions. Fremont Insurance offers a few tips to help homeowners protect their homes against two of the most significant winter risks: ice dams and frozen pipes.

Ice Dams occur when heavy snow buildup melts during the day then refreezes as temperatures drop overnight. After several days of this cycle, the melted water and ice work up under the shingles entering the attic and damaging ceilings, walls and contents. To help prevent dams from forming:

• Keep gutters and down spouts clear of debris, snow and ice, so melting roof snow can flow.
• Keep snow on your roof to a minimum. Roof rakes let you stand on the ground to safely pull the snow off the roof.
• Evaluate attic insulation and ventilation. Good airflow is essential to a cool, dry attic.

Frozen Water Pipes cause extensive damage to many homes and businesses every winter. If you think turning the heat down while you're away or on vacation will save you money, think again. If your water pipes freeze and burst, it could cause thousands of dollars in damage. Homeowners can take some simple preventive measures:

• Locate and insulate pipes susceptible to freezing – typically near outer walls, in crawl spaces, or in the attic.
• Wrap pipes with UL-approved heat tape and seal air leaks.
• Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
• Drain and shut off the water supply (except indoor sprinkler systems) if you expect to be away for several days.
• Have someone check regularly to ensure the heat is still on and things are okay.
• Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water to your home.

If you do discover frozen pipes:

• Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
• If pipes burst, stop the flow of water as soon as possible to minimize damage.
• Be mindful of the risk of electric shock in and around standing water.
• Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent right away.

Source: Fremont Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Stay Largely Unchanged

January 10, 2014 5:03 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, showing average fixed mortgage rates little changed amid a week of light economic reports.

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.51 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending January 9, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.53 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.40 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.56 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.55 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.66 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.15 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.05 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.67 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.56 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.60 percent.

"Mortgage rates were little changed amid a week of light economic reports. Of the few releases, the private sector added an estimated 238,000 jobs in December, which exceeded the market consensus and followed an upward revision of 14,000 jobs in November, according to the ADP Research Institute,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Also, the Institute for Supply Management reported a greater slowing in growth in the non-manufacturing industry in December than the market consensus forecast."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Eating Clean All Week Long

January 10, 2014 5:03 am

With the New Year in full swing, let’s face it: eating healthy is hard work. Sure, eating fruits and vegetables can be healthy, delicious and rewarding, but it’s also a lot of work! It takes lots of planning and shopping to set yourself and your family up for success. Here are a few things you can do on Sunday night to prepare yourself for some home cooked and healthy meals throughout the week.

Take Inventory: Before hitting the grocery store, look inside all of your cabinets, your refrigerator, and your freezer and see what you already have. What items can you make meals with? What do you need to make that happen? Plan for meals based around what you already have and save money while doing it.

Rinse and Chop: Wash fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk and get ready to chop. Using a chopper or a really good knife, chop everything you think you’ll need for the week and store them in individual Tupperware or plastic bags. Having common items like onion and garlic chopped and ready to go will save you precious time midweek and will make it a cinch to throw together quick sauté-based meals during the week. It’ll also be easier to grab fruits and veggies on the go this way and it’ll prevent you from grabbing chips or other salty snacks.

Cook in Advance: If you find yourself with free time on Sundays, pre-cook 1-3 meals in advance. Split up meals into portions using Tupperware or carefully store it for the following night’s dinner. Having a healthy veggie stirfry cooked and ready to go will help you eat healthier come Monday night. Meat eaters can simply cook or grill some lean protein whenever they’d like and add it to the already prepared meal. Cooking in advance is the best way to help you stay on track throughout the entire week.

Pro Tip: Rinse your fruits and vegetables in a solution of 10 parts water, 1 part vinegar. Using this solution will help your healthy snacks stay way longer than simply sticking them in the fridge.

Always remember that a little planning can go a long way. If you put in a little extra time on the weekends, you can be well on your way to clean eating in no time.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Keep Those Resolutions in 2014 with Almonds as a Go-To Snack

January 9, 2014 5:00 am

Happy New Year! How are those resolutions sticking? Whether your 2014 goal is to get back on a healthier lifestyle track after a decadent holiday binge, or if you are simply looking to make smarter snacking choices, keep in mind that the simplest solution is the one with crunch power: almonds help give you the nutrition and power you need for a successful year ahead.

Apart from being tasty, nutritious and satisfying, almonds pack a powerful punch, making them the ideal snack to help you tackle New Year's resolutions, whatever they might be. A one-ounce handful of almonds provide six grams of protein, four grams of hunger-fighting fiber, good fats, and important vitamins and minerals. Ounce for ounce, almonds are higher in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin than any other tree nut. What's more, almonds are endlessly versatile and 100 percent gluten free, so they're a pantry essential for those living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Heart-smart, nutrient-rich almonds can help maintain weight and improve cholesterol levels. In fact, nearly two decades of research shows that almonds can help reduce the risk of heart disease. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of almonds as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

What's more, a recent study suggests snacking on almonds can be a weight-wise strategy. Despite consuming approximately 250 additional calories per day from almonds, 137 adult participants at increased risk for type 2 diabetes did not gain weight over the course of the four-week study. The combined positive effects of daily almond consumption seen in participants on blood glucose response, hunger and appetite control, and vitamin E and monounsaturated fat intake without any impact on body weight suggests almonds are a smart snack choice that can help support a healthy weight, although the study did not measure the long-term impact of consuming almonds and almond consumption was self-reported.

Source: California Almonds

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