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Should You Buy a Water Filter

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 1 comments
While the bottlers and distributors of bottled water have done an excellent job of making Americans think that the healthy choice for water comes from a plastic bottle, the reality is that water from your tap is not only cheaper to drink and use for daily tasks, it’s perfectly safe. Municipal water is more highly regulated than bottled water and the fact is that ninety percent of U.S. water systems meet the EPA quality standards for tap water.
Some areas do have issues with water quality, perhaps from an aging municipal water infrastructure. Or maybe it just needs one more filtration or even has a funny taste.
You can read your local water quality report to know for sure about your tap water. You can get this either from the EPA or at your local city or town hall. The EPA can also tell you about water quality for private wells. If you’re still confused, look for the Campaign for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water which has a helpful explanatory guide. The National Tap Water Quality Data base can provide further information.
But even if your water is completely safe and tastes just fine, you may want to invest in an in home water filter as recommended by the Environmental Working Group. You’ll want to look for a filter that is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation.
No filter is going to be able to remove every contaminant. But here are the most common types of filters to consider as well as what they’re designed to remove from your water.
Carbon filters can come as countertop pitchers, faucet-mounted models, models for under the sink, and point-of-entry systems. Carbon is a porous material that absorbs impurities as the water flows through. 

Carbon filters are designed to remove lead, PCBs, chlorine byproducts (chloramines and trihalomethanes), certain parasites, radon, pesticides and herbicides, the gasoline additive MTBE, the dry-cleaning solvent trichloroethylene, some volatile organic compounds, some levels of bacteria (such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia) and a small number of pharmaceuticals.
Reverse-osmosis systems push water through a semipermeable membrane. These are often used in conjunction with carbon filters. The problem though, is that they can waste up to nine gallons for every gallon of water filtered. These filters remove chemicals carbon filters may miss, including perchlorate, sulfates, fluoride, industrial chemicals, heavy metals (including lead), chlorine byproducts, chlorides (which make water taste salty), and pharmaceuticals.
Ultraviolet light units disinfect water and kill bacteria. You can find a counter top version of this for under $100, but if you want a whole-house unit, expect to spend more than $700. Ultraviolet light units remove bacteria. Experts recommend using them with carbon filters to remove other contaminants.
The least practical method for home are distillers which boil and condense water. There are countertop models available, but they use more electricity, generate heat and require cleaning on a regular basis. Distillers remove heavy metals (including lead), particles, total dissolved solids, microbes, fluoride, lead, and mercury.
In addition to the type of filter there are several options in terms of the system itself. For the most part, you should be able to install a system on your own. So look for the system that bests removes the contaminant you are trying to eliminate. While countertop and faucet mounted filters are the easiest to install, they’re bulky and somewhat less convenient than under the sink models which stay hidden out of sight. Your other option is a whole-house filter which is placed on the main water line entering your home. These are designed to remove sediment and rust from the water as it comes into your home.
Having a water filter isn’t a necessity, especially with today’s stricter water quality controls. But it may give you peace of mind and help you and your family to better enjoy the water that comes into your home.

Should You Buy a Robot Vacuum?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 0 comments
Does the prospect of having a robot clean your floors seem too good to be true? Well, fortunately, it’s not and there are several options to choose from. Having a roboticvacuum can free up your time and allow you to focus on other things like cleaning the rest of the house or an afternoon at the pool.
Using advance technology like sensors a robot vacuum can clean your entire home, and it even stops when it comes near a pet or child. And the good thing is, while they may need to recharge, they don’t get tired.
So, is a robot vacuum right for you? Consider what you gain.
Everyone is more busy than they should be or certainly than they want to be. Hiring a housekeeper is great, but may not always be an option. But a robotic vacuum cleaner can do the work for you, and you don’t even have to be there. You can even program it to vacuum every day. Nobody wants to do that!
Robotic vacuums are automatic and work unattended. Turn it on and go about your other business. It randomly paces your room and cleans without supervision.
Generally the robotic vacuum is a flat, disk-shaped device. It’s low enough to the floor to go under furniture and can reach many places that a normal vacuum just can’t. You don’t need to move sofas, stools or tables. 

The disk shape allows it to go around corners and furniture legs. But not to worry, there’s a bumper guard to protect your furniture and wall surfaces.
Conceptually, the technology of a robotic vacuum is similar to what the military uses to clear land mines using multiple sensors to detect dirt and sweep it up. The sensors are advanced enough that the unit will focus more on the dirtier part of a room and clean it repeatedly as needed. And not to worry, the units can tell where the stairs are so you don’t need to worry about damage when using the unit upstairs.
While a robotic vacuum does its best work on hard flooring surfaces, some models can transition from floors to low-level carpeting. You’ll find some can cover thicker carpet but the transition may not be quite as smooth.
They’re not as expensive as you might think. Sure you can spend more, but generally expect to spend between $200-500 for a robotic vacuum. But if you want to look for more features and options, you can spend well over $1,000.
When you’re looking for a robotic vacuum, consider whether you need something just to dust your hardwood floors or if you need a higher priced option that includes a scheduler, memory and additional sensors.
Most models will come with cleaning brushes, remote control, a rechargeable battery which includes the charging base, a program scheduler. Some will also include virtual walls that allow you to prevent the robot from going into certain areas.
The charging time needed will depend on the model. You may need to do some research between different models to see which option is best.
The size of the dust bin on the units will also vary. Obviously a robot with a larger bin is going to be more convenient. Make sure the bin can be removed and replaced easily since you’ll need to empty it frequently, if not every time you use the robot.
Keep in mind that you can’t expect your robot to work around your clutter. So you’ll need to remove things such as newspapers, toys, strings or other small articles on the floor. Drapery hems and pull cords shouldn’t be left on the floor.

Keeping Produce Fresh in Your Refrigerator

Friday, August 3, 2012 0 comments
There’s hardly anything better than fresh produce. Unfortunately, like everything else in todays’ economic climate, the cost of fresh produce has risen dramatically. That’s why you want to make sure that you are storing and keeping your produce in a manner to keep it fresh as long as possible.
Spoilage can be cause by bacterial or micro bacterial processes when the food is exposed to the wrong levels of humidity or temperature. No one wants to find wilted lettuce or moldy tomatoes in the refrigerator. It’s just not pleasant and it’s a waste of good food.
Making sure that your produce lasts as long as possible is going to take some extra effort, but you’ll find it well worth the time. Your produce will be enjoyable longer and you’ll protect your family budget. Spend some time learning about proper food storage.
Did you know that your refrigerator has microclimates?
The cold zone is the coldest spot in your refrigerators. This area includes the top and middle shelves toward the back. The temperature here can dip below 34°.
In the moderate zone the temperature will be above 37°. This is the middle and bottom shelves, toward the front of your refrigerator.
The humid zone is the crisper drawer. This is designed to keep a humid environment to keep your produce with high water content fresher. Some refrigerators have crisper drawers with vents to regulate the humidity.
Now that you know the zones, where do you store your food?
The fact is most people know that vegetables and some fruits go in the refrigerator but never think beyond that. Then they can’t quite figure out why the lettuce is frozen or the watermelon turned sour. Knowing where and how to store your produce can save a lot disappointment, not to mention money.
Use these handy tips for your refrigerators zones.
First, keep in mind that fruit and vegetables should be in separate containers or drawers. Certain fruits, such as apples will absorb the odors of vegetables such as cabbage and carrots. At the same time, pears have odors that will affect cabbage, celery and many root vegetables. And, always watch out for onions.
In the front of the refrigerator keep things like corn and peas. It’s a good idea to wrap the corn in a wet paper bag and then put it in a plastic bag.
In your crisper you want to keep things such as artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chiles, cucumbers, eggplant, fresh herbs, green beans, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, peppers, radishes, scallions, summer squash, turnips, and zucchini.
Before storing asparagus, trim the ends and place the asparagus in shallow cool water before covering with plastic. Lettuce should be washed and dried, then rolled loosely in a clean kitchen towel before storing inside an unzipped plastic storage bag.
Things you don’t need to store in the refrigerator include tomatoes which should be left on the counter where you store them upside down. In your pantry store things like garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
If you’re storing fruit or vegetables that have been sliced, make sure to store them in an airtight container. Once the item is sliced, it can be exposed to new areas for bacteria to form.
Produce you purchase in the supermarket may actually do best if you allow it to remain in the original packaging. These items are generally processed to have longer shelf lives.
Reality is though that food is at its freshest when it’s just been harvested. So shopping at the farmer’s market is probably your best bet for the best in fresh produce. Properly stored produce from the farmer’s market can last for weeks in your refrigerator.
Make sure you inspect your produce for yellow tints, softness or wrinkles before purchasing. That’s a good thing to do whether shopping at the supermarket or the farmer’s market. Look for produce with no visible damages or bruises.

New To The World Of Wine? Here Are 3 Fun, Interesting Ways To Expand Your Knowledge!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 0 comments
Want a fun way to learn about wine? Many people these days are intimidated by the world of wines.
There are so many labels, so many types and brands - and how do you even begin to figure out the proper 
 food pairings?
Well, one of the best ways to learn about wine is through direct experience - practice and tasting. This is the best way to teach yourself how to taste and really appreciate what makes a quality bottle.
How do you do that? Easy - here are 3 unique, fun ways to learn about wine:
#1 Visit a Winery
Whether you're on vacation or live close to a wine growing region, chances are you can take a tour and visit one or even a few different wineries.
You can see how the grapes are grown, walk the vineyard, watch the process of winemaking and even do a tasting. It really gives you an appreciation for the complexities of the wine-making process.
The people who run these tours are usually full of information and can your experience both fun and educational. Go with a few friends and you'll have an experience to talk about for years. You may even find a new favorite wine on your tour!
#2 Host A Wine Tasting Party
This isn't as hard as it sounds (provided your friends aren't wine critics!). Wine tasting is very subjective after all.
But you may have to do a bit of leg-work beforehand. Make sure you buy several different types of reds and whites - preferably from different places (alternately, you can also buy the same type of red from different regions if you really want to study a certain type of wine like a Pinot Noir, Riesling or Cabernet, for example).
You may have to do a brief overview for your guests about how to taste - look at the color, smell the aromas, taste and savor the wine noticing the tastes, acidity, tannins and sweetness levels. Then after the wine is gone, notice how it finishes on the palate. You can usually find some good information on wine tasting either online or at your local wine store.
Another thing you may want to include for your guests is their own wine rating sheets so that they can make their own observations of each bottle. After the tasting it's a lot of fun to compare notes. You'll be learning via your own tasting experience - as well as everyone else's!
#3 Join A Wine Club
Wine clubs will send you several bottles of expertly-selected premium wines every month or every quarter. These usually come with tasting notes and information on the wineries and that particular bottle you've received.
You can find a wine of the month club to suit your preferences. So for example you may want to try some international reds or receive several fine sparkling whites every month. You can even join clubs that will send you bottles rated 90+ points by critics - that are almost impossible to get in stores.
A wine club isn't just a fun way to experience wine - it's also a great way to save money since you're paying less than you normally would if you bought the bottles separately. Plus most wine clubs give their members attractive discounts on future reorders.
So those are some memorable, interesting ways to expand your wine knowledge - and have fun at the same time.
Remember that you don't have to know it all - even the experts don't know everything! The beauty of learning about wine is the adventures you experience while building your knowledge!