Courtesy of BPT
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Courtesy of BPT
We can’t live without it. Water is the very source of life. That is why we are so strongly attracted to it. Maybe because we cannot live more than a few days without water, we want to have it close by. Most people would like to live next to it, whether in the form of a stream, river, lake or ocean.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough bodies of water to go around for everybody, even for those who can afford living near them. The price of beach front property reflects the fact that it is scarce and in high demand. Even for those fortunate enough to own such property, there is a major trade-off and a good share of disadvantages.
Who wouldn’t like to have a water garden on their property, or a flower and vegetable garden, or even a wonderful orchard with oranges, apples, plums, peaches, lemons and avocado? Maybe a corral with a horse or two. So much for thinking about a garden with most ocean front property. You’re lucky if you have enough land to be able to walk between the houses!
We can now see why water gardens with waterfalls and ponds are becoming so popular. If you can’t take your home to the water, just bring the water to your home!
Why is it so peaceful, yet still invigorating at the beach? Is it the sight or sound of the ocean waves, the smell of the salt water? You may be surprised to discover that the actual feelings of peace, relaxation, stress, and anxiety release has little to do with the sight or sounds or smell of the ocean. Extensive research has shown that moving water puts additional negative ions into the air. Breathing this supercharged air has an extremely positive effect on our body. The ocean creates the greatest quantity of negative ions of all moving water.
Therefore, it has the most beneficial effects on our moods while drawing the largest crowds. For the same reason, waterfalls create such pleasant and relaxing environments. You have probably noticed how wonderful the air smells and feels just prior to, during and after a rain storm – again negative ions.
For a fraction of the cost of ocean or lake front living, almost every homeowner can reap the benefits of a waterfall and pond in their back yard. Ranging from an atmosphere of intimacy to one of grandeur, it’s whatever the budget can endure. Virtually everyone can own a portion of the best that nature has to offer. There are as many different varieties, shapes and sizes of waterfalls as there are rocks. Consequently, with a pond design of your choice, no two ever look the same and they provide a natural individuality for each homeowner.
Waterfalls can cascade into koi ponds, a stream, swimming pool, spa or simply spill through a rock-covered grate into a subterranean catch basin, from where it gets pumped and re-circulated. This type of backyard pond design is great for someone with small children, since it eliminates the need for a hazardous pond. It’s also perfect for someone with a very small yard or for those looking for little or no maintenance.
The soil removed in excavating a pond can be utilized to create a mound or berm to provide elevation for a cascade. A waterfall can pass through terraced retaining walls on its way down to a pond at ground level. By passing through rather than over the top, it will give the impression that the waterfall always existed and the retaining wall was constructed later on either side.
A backyard pond not only provides allure and charm to your property, it is as though you own a part of nature. The pond’s occupants provide a never-ending and forever changing source of entertainment and education. From the antics of a pair of acrobatic turtles to the male crayfish, claws clashing and gnashing over the prize of a fair lady, each day becomes a new chapter in the life of your pond. Are you the type that might say, “I don’t ever want to own fish!” and then eventually end up with several, even giving them all names? I’ve seen this happen over and over again, because pond owners become personally attached to the inhabitants of their water garden pond as if they were family members or pets.
At night a well-designed backyard pond becomes a whole new adventure, especially if you have built-in lighting. The cascading, splashing water against the lights create an amazing symphony of light and sound. Dancing light reflected on the surrounding rocks, plants, fence or house becomes hypnotic and mesmerizing. Most people only experience this atmosphere at expensive hotels or resorts. Now you can own the same experience in your own back yard..
If you are considering a water feature as an investment in your property, may I add several words of caution. Down the road, these may save you the heartache, sorrow and aggravation of dirty, murky, green, smelly water, sick or dead fish, leaky pond or waterfall, or high maintenance and energy costs.
1. Take your time.
2. Plan it out.
3. Research the subject thoroughly.
4. Seek out an expert in the field. A few years of experience are important.
5. Make sure the expert is licensed and bonded.
6. Accept only concrete and steel rebar construction. Never use a pond liner. Proponents of pond liners will claim there is a 40 or 50 year warranty on the liner. Not true! It’s only true if you leave the pond liner in the box. It would work only in a perfect world – where there were no gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, tree roots, sharp rocks, pebbles or other such objects. Once you have a hole, it is impossible to find. Even a pin-hole will allow 5 gallons of water per day to pass.
7. Do not use submersible pumps. They are inefficient and expensive to operate and are difficult to maintain. Debris collects in them, requiring frequent cleaning. Submersibles can leak oil that may kill the pond inhabitants or, worse, short out and create a shock hazard.
8. Use a biological filter to help eliminate nitrates and nitrites from the water. (I recommend a pressurized back-flushable filter, not a gravity flow.)
9. Install a skimmer for removal of surface leaves and debris.
10. Use two anti-vortex drains on the bottom of the pond for suction line to prevent whirlpools and fish or turtles from being sucked into the drain.
11. Make sure your pond is a minimum of three feet deep to regulate water temperature in the summer months and to discourage herons and raccoons from dining out.
12. Build caves and ledges for turtles and fish to hide in.
13. Install an ultraviolet light to kill bacteria that cause smells and pathogens that kill fish and algae spores that create green water.
14. Do not use mechanical auto-fill valves; only use an electronic one like the AquaFill System. It does not stick or malfunction – thus preventing pond overflow and dead fish from chlorine poisoning.
15. Use plenty of water plants in the falls and pond. They provide extra oxygen and food for the fish and act as natural filters, utilizing the nitrate nitrogen in the water.
16. Use a high-efficiency, out-of-pond pump that conserves energy. By operating it 24 hours a day, a high-quality biofilter (such as one made by Aqua Ultra Violet) will receive a continuous flow of oxygenated water, which the anaerobic bacteria require in order to live. The bacteria are essential for breaking down hydrocarbons, nitrates and nitrites in the water.
17. Make sure you have proper drainage around the pond and waterfall so run-off from the rain storms does not enter the pond and contaminate it with silt, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.
18. Learn basic pond maintenance. (An ounce of prevention is worth a [pond] cure.)
When I say “everyone should have a waterfall,” I’m not simply promoting my life’s passion. Considering how much enjoyment a water garden and waterfall can give you, dollar for dollar, cubic foot for cubic foot, hour for hour, it is your best buy for many long, healthy and happy years to come.
From my experience with hundreds of pond owners in San Diego, I have discovered that the money spent on a well designed garden pond and waterfall will surely bring you more long term pleasure and joy than anything you ever purchased in your life.
Living is not truly living without water.
by: Douglas Hoover
Small-business owners say that managing their business creates twice as much stress as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, according to a recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report. And it is nearly three times more stressful than raising children, small-business owners report.
While technology can enhance productivity and sales, provide access to wider audiences, and, ultimately, increase profits, it also can be a major source of stress for the small-business owner. There is so much change out there, small-business owners often experience fear and frustration as they try to keep up.
When it comes to implementing new technology, the two main challenges for anyone operating a small business are: money and time. However, it’s impossible to be a competitive business owner without taking advantage of today’s technology. The trick is investing in technology that will make your life easier not harder. While there may be a learning curve, there are a variety of ways to afford the technology you need as well as the technical support to help you learn how to use it.
Here are four turnkey technology strategies that just about any small-business owner can start using today.
1. Re-think your cash register – Until recently, millions of small businesses have long been at a technology disadvantage. By using antiquated, time-consuming methods of taking payments, they have missed out on the ability to capture useful sales data for inventory and sales tracking. Today, more affordable cloud-based point-of-sale software such as NCR Silver is made specifically for small businesses. More than a simple credit card swipe system, NCR Silver provides inventory support, profitability analytics, accounting integration, and live customer service and support to help the technology-shy small-business owner. Plus, with tablet capabilities, even mobile businesses can enjoy technologies that were previously only available to their larger competitors.
2. Amp up and automate your marketing efforts – Sending meaningful and relevant communications has never been easier for small-business owners who utilize smart technologies. Social media is here to stay – so it’s a wise business move to start a Facebook or Twitter account to interact with core audiences. Plus, it’s free. Email marketing also makes connecting with customers quick and easy. Seek out systems that allow you to set up automatic email marketing campaigns as an easy way to save time and stress. But remember, no one likes spam. Be sure to communicate with your customers in ways they actually want to be reached, otherwise they’ll opt out and move on.
3. Make sure your website is up to speed – Customer impatience is at an all-time high. Customers won’t wait around if your site is slow to load or if transactions are too time-consuming. Make sure your site can handle the traffic peaks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Google Analyticsis free and offers a simple snapshot of your customers’ experiences and how fast your pages load. Also, make sure that visitors can see and navigate your site no matter what device they’re using to view it. Test your user experience on smartphones, tablets and various email services.
4. Protect your computer system – Every day, viruses infect approximately 1 million computers around the world. Viruses can travel in anything from a USB flash drive to an email message, and can completely halt the productivity of a small business. To minimize your company’s exposure to viruses, worms and hackers, be sure you use the latest patches, system updates and firewalls for your software and computer systems. You can usually find patches and program updates on the software manufacturers’ websites. If you choose a cloud-based sales system, make sure your information as well as that of your customers, is safe by adopting an encryption strategy, such as NCR Silver’s encrypted card security feature.
To thrive in a competitive marketplace, small-business owners need to utilize technology like NCR Silver, social media and free online tools like Google Analytics. These modern tools will help grow a business, save you valuable time and perhaps make your day-to-day activities fun once again.
Courtesy of BPT
First impressions are everything when it comes to selling a home, and peeling paint, stained carpets and unpleasant odors can be an instant turn-off for buyers. Fortunately, you can take simple and inexpensive steps to prep your home for a quick, top-dollar sale.
Paint is an easy, cost-effective way to improve any interior, and a new coat can make all the difference in selling your home. Cracked or peeling paint will repel potential buyers, and faded or boring walls can create a lackluster overall appearance.
Make your home stand out with a fresh coat in a vibrant color, such as those found in Dutch Boy’s Crayola palette. Perfect for showcasing a finished basement, kids’ room or accent wall anywhere in the home, these bright shades will make any space “pop.” With 96 colors to choose from – from Marshmallow and Ice Pop, to Wild Strawberry and Inch Worm – you’re sure to find a shade to help make your home memorable. And as you are updating walls with new color, use a paint that not only adds beauty but also reduces odors. Along with the exceptional coverage Dutch Boy is known for, Refresh features Arm & Hammer Odor Eliminating Technology to rid your home of unwanted odors, leaving your home smelling clean and inviting. Available for walls, trim and ceilings, use Refresh throughout the home to create a pleasant walk-through experience. Add a few scented candles or potpourri to make the home even more appealing to buyers’ noses.
The little things can make a big difference when it comes to the appearance of your home. Many buyers are looking to make as few improvements as possible, and even tiny cosmetic repairs can seem like a huge project. The more move-in-ready your house appears, the faster it will sell, and more likely buyers will be willing to pay the asking price. Some easy fixes include replacing broken counter and floor tiles, patching holes in any surfaces, making sure all lights work properly and doors open and close smoothly.
Organize and de-personalize:
To give your home a spacious showroom feel, take time to remove any superfluous stuff. Show off your kitchen countertops by storing unnecessary appliances, clear the sink and dishwashing machine, and organize refrigerator contents. Keep the bathroom vanity clear of personal items, neatly fold or hang clean towels, and clear or cover clothing hampers. Organize your cupboards, closets and drawers to maximize the appearance of your home’s storage capabilities.
Clearing your home of visible clutter will not only make it seem more spacious but also make it easier for potential buyers to picture it as their own. Minimize family photos and personal items to help visitors more easily see themselves – and their things – in your home.
First impressions can make a world of difference, so don’t neglect your home’s exterior as you prepare to sell. The mailbox should be in good condition and the house number easily visible from the street. Keep exterior doors, including garage doors, free of flaking or fading paint and freshen the trim around windows and shutters. A fresh coat of paint on the front door can add to your home’s curb appeal and affixing a seasonal display of flowers or a festive wreath on the front door also makes a warm, welcoming statement.
A few simple projects can vastly improve your home’s overall appearance, and with these tips, your home will be sold in no time.
Courtesy of BPT
Maintenance and improvement are both essential realities of home ownership. From windows and skylights to gas ranges and front doors, everything in your home will eventually need some work. But how do you know when something simply needs repair, or merits being replaced?
Of course, each situation will be as unique as the home in which it occurs – and as individual as the homeowners themselves. A few good rules of thumb, however, do apply in most cases. When you’re considering repair or replacement, ask yourself these questions:
* How old is the malfunctioning item?
* How extensive/pervasive is the problem?
* Will the cost of repair approach the cost of replacement?
* Which course – repair or replace – will yield the maximum energy efficiency?
* How does the cost of repair measure up to the value it will provide? How does replacement stack up using the same measure?
To help you get an idea of how these rules apply, here’s what some experts have to say about home elements that frequently raise the repair/replace question:
While many modern skylights are energy-efficient, qualify to use the Energy Star mark and are leak-free, if you have an older, plastic model it’s probably a good idea to replace it. Not only are these older plastic bubble-type skylights often faded and unsightly, reducing visibility, they are not UV resistant, are not energy efficient, and are much more likely to leak.
“There are millions of those unattractive, cracked and yellowed plastic skylights still out there,” says Ross Vandermark, national product manager of VELUX America, which markets the warranted “No-Leak Skylight.” “Replacing them with new energy-efficient, double-pane (insulating) glass models is quick and easy. They don’t leak, they look better, they reduce UV rays and provide substantial energy savings.”
In fact, based on an estimate of 15 cents per kwh/hr, replacing an old plastic skylight with an Energy Star-qualified VELUX skylight can save a 2,000-square-foot home about $194 a year on cooling costs, a company study shows. Add skylight blinds – which are available in a variety of styles that can be remote-controlled, including blackout to block light, light filtering to diffuse light, or Venetian to adjust light – and the energy savings can be enhanced even more. And blinds in colors and patterns can add a fresh look to your room decor. What’s more, depending on the age and condition of even older glass skylights, it’s not a bad idea to consider a modern, more energy efficient model. To learn more about replacement skylights, visit www.veluxusa.com.
Recent research shows that skylights and vertical windows can work well together to effectively daylight a home while contributing to heating and cooling energy savings.
Like skylights, windows have vastly improved in energy efficiency over the past few decades. Leaky, inefficient windows can be a major source of heat loss in a home, boosting energy bills and decreasing the comfort level indoors. Window manufacturer Pella points to these signs that old windows need to be replaced:
* They’re difficult to open or close.
* You can feel air leaking in or out around them.
* Condensation or fogging occurs on or between glass panes.
* You can see chipping, deterioration or water stains on the window or the wall around it.
* Cleaning is a major chore and you avoid it because of the difficulty.
* It’s difficult or impossible to find replacement parts for the old windows.
The Efficient Windows Collaborative (www.efficientwindows.org) site also provides extensive information on selecting both windows and skylights, including fact sheets and computer simulations for typical houses using a variety of windows in a number of U.S. cities.
Heating, ventilation and air cooling
Furnaces and air conditioning units are among the most important parts of your home’s infrastructure; they’re directly responsible for the comfort level and air quality inside your home. They’re also among the more costly items to repair or replace.
So how do you know when it’s time to replace part of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system? EnergyStar.gov offers these guidelines:
* If your heat pump or air conditioner is older than 10 years.
* Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.
* Your energy bills are spiking.
* Equipment needs frequent repair.
* Some rooms are too hot while others are too cold.
* The HVAC system is very noisy.
* Your home is very dusty.
Replacing older HVAC systems with newer, Energy Star-qualified ones can significantly impact your heating and cooling costs, according to EnergyStar.gov. An Energy Star-qualified heat pump or AC unit can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, the website says. You can learn more at www.energystar.gov.
Courtesy of BPT
Courtesy of BPT
Courtesy of BPT
Kitchens are a reflection of personal style. Just as you add new pieces to your wardrobe when the seasons change, kitchen updates keep spaces fresh and current. The following three tips, inspired by fall/winter interior design trends from design duo Blazys Gerard, offer splurge versus save ideas to bring a unique flair to your kitchen and entertaining space.
1. Go glam
Splurge: Streamline your layout to evoke a sleek and sophisticated vibe. Integrating built-in appliances, such as a Jenn-Air(®) 30″ single wall oven in Floating White Glass, adds polish and maximizes under-counter space. For entertainers, an open-concept living space with an oversized island creates a central hub at parties. The addition of an under-counter beverage centre is always a hit with guests and wine lovers alike. For texture and elegant contrast, select a high-gloss stone countertop and dark-stained floors.
Save: Back splashes are a blank canvas and offer the opportunity to create a big impact. Whether you embellish the space with mosaic tile, glass, or even stylish marble, a show stopping backsplash creates a feature wall that is as beautiful as it is functional. Another option is to install a statement light fixture, whether architectural or ornate, to shine new light onto the space.
2: Turn up the heat
Splurge: Take inspiration from a modern gastropub and incorporate a fireplace into your kitchen. While this is a significant design commitment, a fireplace is a modern addition to the kitchen and unites living spaces, particularly in open concept homes. Richly stained cabinets exude further warmth and provide a restaurant-at-home feel. Keep the lines of the cabinets and countertops slick and you’ll have a contemporary, eclectic space.
Save: If you live in a condo where the addition of a fireplace isn’t an option, bring in warmth through accessories. Cookbooks, cozy throw pillows, and banquette seating will soften the space and create a relaxed atmosphere. A vintage settee in place of two chairs at the table is another way to add a touch of luxury and comfort.
3. Add rustic charm
Splurge: Create a chic space with rustic touches: butcher-block countertops, a reclaimed wood dining table, and wide wood plank floors. Clean cabinetry with built-in stainless steel appliances provide the ultimate base and maintain the focus on your overall design.
Save: Adore the look of a built-in fridge but not ready to splurge? Jenn-Air(®) offers cabinet depth refrigerators that appear built-in and are mounted flush with the cabinets; custom overlay panels can even be added to further blend with surrounding cabinetry. Bring in additional rustic elements through thoughtful accessories: a reclaimed wood plank is a beautiful table runner, especially when stained to compliment your kitchen, and a vintage milk jug doubles as a statement vase.
As a final tip (and the quickest and most simple of all), stop by your local farmer’s market or flower shop-fresh blooms add visual interest and bring instant life to any space.
So whether you choose to do a major renovation or some quick revitalizing, keep these design trends in mind as you update your kitchen this fall to bring new energy, warmth, and style to your home.
Courtesy of Newscanada
When your business depends upon getting new leads regularly, there are some options that are open to you which can help you to achieve it. In today’s technologically advanced climate, there are many businesses that tend to focus on electronic means of contacting potential customers, such as through social media or email marketing. Although these can be effective, you should never overlook the possibility of direct mail and using those lists in order to increase the success of your business substantially. Here are some of the benefits that will be seen when you use this type of marketing and mail your list physically instead of automatically.
Perhaps one of the most important things that need to be considered when choosing direct mail over email marketing is that the majority of people look at their mail that they get in their mailboxes every day. Of course, some people are going to toss some of the information without looking at it but a vast majority of those individuals are going to sort through it without delay. This gets your message in front of those individuals easily and, compared to email marketing, the response can be substantially higher.
Another benefit to using direct mail is that you can specifically target groups of people that have an interest in what you are offering. It is important for you to consider this, not only when using direct mail but when purchasing the list of individuals that you will be mailing. The more focused the list is, the more likely it is going to be that you are going to see results from that list.
Have you thought about the customization that is possible when mailing people instead of using electronic means of contacting them? When most people gather email lists, they are only going to gather the most basic information from the potential customer. When you have a mailing list, you not only have the physical address but you often have their name and perhaps some other information as well. You can use this information in order to customize the mailing which will, in turn, increase the response. This is also something that should be considered when you are gathering a list or purchasing it from the company that generates leads.
Finally, you can measure the results of mailing those individuals in order to see if any changes need to be made to the mailing. Of course, you would always want to consider changing the copy and testing in order to increase the response. Some of the ways that you can track the response of a direct-mail campaign include sending out coupons with specific information that either needs to be filled out on your website or to be mailed back to your company. This can assist you in doing a split test as well, allowing you to easily see which is going to be more effective so that you can make those changes and send the future mailings to a larger list to increase the response.
by: Frank Ricard
Have you ever stopped to consider how much thought and effort went into the design of the spaces you visit every day? You may not realize it, but your favorite restaurants, neighborhood grocery store and go-to movie theater follow some very specific design principles in order to create a unique space that is both visually appealing and user-friendly.
Much like home designers, commercial architects and interior designers think of spaces in their totality. To a commercial designer, every area – from the entryway to the public bathrooms to the behind-the-scenes storage areas – must be considered when working on a new project. One way commercial designers help create a unique look and feel throughout public spaces is through the use of repetition. Repeating a pattern, color or texture in more than one area of a space lends a feeling of continuity. -
According to Judd Lord, director of industrial design at Delta Faucet Company, this attention to detail makes commercial environments a great place to look for design inspiration.
‘Highly-designed commercial spaces allow people to get a sense of what their own home may feel like in terms of color palette, textures, combination of materials and accents prior to actually committing to a design,’ Lord says. ‘For example, visiting high-end hotels can provide a great way to ‘live’ in a particular design esthetic to see if it suits you.’
The next time you stay at a hotel, look for hints of repetition. You may find that the orange sofas in the lobby, for instance, carry through to your guest room pillows or decorative accents. Or, perhaps the wrought iron door handles match the window hardware perfectly. The small touches that regularly go unnoticed help to create a distinct sense of place in commercial spaces. -When deciding what design elements to incorporate into a commercial building, designers consider not only how certain aspects can enhance overall design esthetic, but also how they can be used to promote functionality in the space. For example, when designing an entryway, commercial designers must think about who will be using the space and for what purpose. While a banquet hall designer may prefer curving staircases to help create the feeling of grand luxury suitable for weddings and debutante balls, it is likely that they will also incorporate an elevator to ensure the space is accessible to all guests.
The important role functionality plays in commercial buildings is perhaps demonstrated most readily when taking the public bathroom into consideration. For instance, a single-room bathroom with a plush sitting area and vanity mirror may enhance the shopping experience for customers at a high-end boutique, while busy shoppers at large malls may prefer multiple stalls to help avoid long bathroom lines. For both of these spaces, innovative products can help enhance the bathroom experience through increased functionality. For instance, on Delta faucets that feature Proximity Sensing Technology, the entire faucet acts as a sensor, activating the flow of water instantly and effortlessly when it detects the presence of your hands. Faucets -that employ this type of technology are more dependable than traditional infrared sensors – which can be unreliable in low-light or when wearing dark clothing and are more susceptible to vandalism that can impair the functionality of the faucet- and make the bathroom experience a little easier for consumers in public spaces.
Building materials must also support the overall purpose of a space. Residential building materials are often chosen solely to help portray a specific design aesthetic, while materials used in commercial developments must be chosen with both durability and esthetics in mind. Everything, from the floorboards to the light switches, must be able to withstand the wear and tear of repeated use as these spaces may be visited by thousands of people per day.- While a small amount of wear in a private home may make the environment feel more welcoming and warm, the public tends to regard the same amount of wear in a commercial space as being aged and out of date.
The next time you are out shopping at the grocery store, try to appreciate the smallest design details, such as the layout of shopping aisles that make it easier for you to navigate the store and return home more quickly. Attention to these details not only helps a business operate efficiently, but also creates a better experience for you, the consumer.
Courtesy of BPT