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Meaningful local recipients for your household goods.

June 23, 2013

Summer is a busy season for moving, downsizing, redecorating, and combining newlywed households.  Expedite Group receives frequent requests from clients wondering how best to pass along their old furniture.  Here’s a quick rundown of local organizations doing meaningful work for our communities with your no-longer-needed items.

The Green Chair Project.  This non-profit was founded to help Raleigh’s population in need with gently-used household furnishings from the community, keeping furniture out of crowded landfills and into empty homes.

Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network.  This Durham organization assists families transitioning out of homelessness with temporary shelter solutions.  Part of their uniqueness lies in that families room together nightly, unlike other shelters which often separate the men from the women and children.  When permanent residences are established, these families need help equipping their new homes.  Durham IHN welcomes donations of furniture, linens and kitchenware.

Helping Hand Mission, Inc.  The Helping Hand Mission Inc. assists families on a one-on-one basis with food, clothing, furniture, and shelter.  The Mission receives reusable items from families all over Wake County and surrounding areas. The mission also provides pickup services for large items such as furniture and appliances. These items can be picked up within 24 hours.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  Habitat for Humanity helps all of us because they create homeowners in our community, and increasing home ownership causes a multitude of positive changes in our neighborhoods.  While this store operates like any other thrift store, by supporting their efforts you can know your community will benefit directly.  Furniture as well as hardware items (such as light fixtures and cabinet knobs) are welcome.

Durham Rescue Mission.  This organization houses and supports men, women and children in crisis.  They operate several thrift stores in the area to provide low-cost shopping as well as buoy their operating costs.  Furniture and appliances are accepted as well as clothing and other household goods.

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Now you can feel great about the positive ways your old furnishings are helping your community!  Clear it out, move it on, spruce it up, and help our neighbors at the same time.

Free concert fun in your neighborhood!

June 12, 2013

When summer rolls around, Expedite Group clients often ask for assistance finding low-cost entertainment in their parts of the Triangle.  These free events are a great way to get out and enjoy North Carolina’s long summer evenings, meet up with old friends, and connect with your community.   I thought everyone could benefit from the list as a way to blow off work stress without blowing a whole pay check!

(If you know of any I have missed, by all means fill us all in with your comment below!)

RALEIGH:

Oak City 7 is Raleigh’s free summer concert series, taking place Thursdays in Downtown Raleigh at City Plaza starting at 5 pmhttp://oakcity7.com/

North Hills Midtown Beach Music Series is a happening place to be on Thursdays, 6-9 pm on the Commons.  See the schedule here: http://www.northhillsraleigh.com/event/midtown-beach-music-series/

Sunday in the Park is a free, family-friendly concert series at Pullen Park or Fletcher Park.  Check the schedule for time and place, and bring your own seat! http://www.raleighnc.gov/arts/news/content/CorNews/Articles/PRecSundayConcertSeries.html

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DURHAM:

Brightleaf Square hosts a concert series on Fridays, 7-9. http://www.historicbrightleaf.com/news/index.html

WUNC Back Porch Music at Diamond View Park at the DPAC is replacing the series on the American Tobacco Campus, which outgrew its space.  Four concerts are scheduled with food trucks and kids’ activities. http://durhamnc.gov/ich/op/prd/Pages/Rock-the-Park-Movie-and-Concert-Series.aspx

9th Annual Warehouse Blues Series at Durham Central Park, 502 Foster Street, Fridays 6-9.  Coolers are fine but not alcohol. http://durhamnc.gov/ich/op/prd/Pages/Warehouse-Blues.aspx

Music on Main at Streets of Southpoint, at Cinema Circle, Satutrdays 6-8:45. http://www.streetsatsouthpoint.com/events/music-on-main

Durham Parks and Recreation “Rock the Park” is offering intermittent concerts and outdoor movies in rotation throughout local parks. durhamnc.gov/ich/op/prd/Pages/Rock-the-Park-Movie-and-Concert-Series.aspx

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CARY:

The Sertoma Series at the amphitheater in Bond Park takes place on various days of the week, so check the schedule here: http://www.townofcary.org/Departments/Parks__Recreation___Cultural_Resources/events/concerts/sertoma.htm

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CHAPEL HILL:

Music on the Front Porch is a bluegrass series at Carolina Inn.  Fridays, 5-8. http://livemusicnc.com/quick-links/free-concert-series/carolina-inn-fridays-chapel-hill/

Southern Village’s Music Maker Relief Foundation series, Fridays 6-8 on the Village Green.  Carolina Brewery brew van is onsite, donation a portion of all beer sales to the Music Maker Relief Foundation. http://www.southernvillage.com/events.htm

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CARRBORO:

Weaver Street Market has two offerings each week: Thursdays 6-8pm  is their After Hours party, Sundays 11am-1pm is their Jazz Brunch.  http://carrboro.com/wsmjazz.html

For non-recurring free music events every week, check this link: http://livemusicnc.com/calendar/weekly-live-music/

How I lost 13 pounds in 6 weeks

June 5, 2013

Expedite Groupweight loss is all about helping you enjoy your life as much as possible.  Whenever something works out really well for us, we want to share it with you, whether it’s a lawn service, a homemade ant deterrant, a vegan restaurant in Charlotte, or a few weight loss tips.

Below are the six simple changes that helped me shift from struggling to losing.  Chances are you’ve heard it all before, but these have my stamp of endorsement based on legit success.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the first 13 of an ideal 60, so if you’re lucky enough to not have as far to go as I do, these changes may not make as big of a difference to you.  But I hope they help!

1.  Write down everything that you eat.

Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal, both popular and effective programs, are built on this principal.  If I knew it was going on a record, I thought twice about ingesting it.

2.  Drink before you eat.

This tip came from our awesome pediatrician who had read a medical study that showed it worked.  An 8-ounce glass of water before any meal or snack will help you feel full sooner.

3. Ditch carbonation.

Feeling thinner can encourage healthy choices, and when I cut out non-caloric carbonated beverages (I swapped in iced red tea with stevia), I stopped feeling bloated.  I also save money, since a box of Rooibos tea bags is less than $3 and makes at least 6 quarts of sun tea.

4. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Nope, can’t get around this one.  The great thing is, delicious options are so accessible these days.  The most flavorful food is farm fresh, so hit the Farmer’s Market (or have Expedite Group run the errand for you) or join a Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) group (Expedite Group can help you find one).

Make it a game if that works for you.  See if you can really get five a day.  Then go for more, swapping out higher calorie foods.  I, for one, am hooked.

One meal a day, usually lunch, is a smoothie made in my humble blender using any combination of frozen berries, banana, peaches, mango, or pineapple, with soy milk, spinach or kale (YES, spinach or kale) and a splash of OJ.  Delicious, nutritious, filling, refreshing, simple.

5. Don’t exercise too much.

This is tricky.  I’ve always had regular exercise in my routine, but somehow my weight didn’t really start to drop until I slacked off a bit.  My thinking is that because I was not doing actual workouts, I tried to compensate by choosing more activity during the day.  I stood rather than sat during my sons’ baseball games  (have you read the EGinsider entry from May 12?!).  I parked farther away at the grocery store.  I went to get the mail myself instead of sending my children.

And with less frequent actual workouts, I have more mental stamina for higher intensity.

6.  Enjoy everything.  Just enjoy less of it.

With three young children, the occasional treat is an inevitable part of life.  This past month that has meant that instead of getting my own dish of frozen yogurt, I tasted each child’s concoction.  Instead of filling a plate at a reception, I snacked one bite at a time.  Instead of opening my own beer, I asked my husband to pour a third of his into a glass for me (it’s carbonated, yes, but we’re talking moderation, people!).

And then, like I told you in number 1, I write it down.

Favorite tips: Household cleaning products

June 2, 2013

At Expedite Group we are always assisting our concierge clients with product research.  If you’re as busy as I am, you may just be rolling around into spring cleaning now that the school year is wrapping up.

Here are a few of our favorite finds related to household chores to inform our loyal readers.  Thanks for visiting, and happy cleaning!

Spring Cleaning

1. What popular vacuum cleaner gets terrible reviews from Consumer Reports?

Dyson.  Yep, you can save your money.  The DC40 and DC24 earn just 45 and 44 out of 100, respectively, with mediocre performance on carpet and total airflow, not to mention noise.  The DC41 Animal does better, earning a 56 with at least 3/5 across scoring categories, but it also costs a cool $600.  And forget the DC26 City Multi floor.  For a price tag of $400 it earned a poor 31 with 0/5 for carpet performance.

I received a Dyson upright as a gift in 2009.  Its under furniture clearance is miserable (I have to detach tools to vacuum underneath a 15-inch-high coffee table?  Really?) and its bare floor performance is lacking.

Better bets: For a bagless upright, Hoover Windtunnel models cost less than $150 and earned scores of 69 (best score was a 70 for the $400 LG Kompressor), receiving Consumer Reports’ “Best Buy” title.  Eureka Airspeed earned a 66 and runs about $120.

 

2. A vacuum can’t clean stains, though.  What is the best carpet spot cleaner?

Spot Shot.  Occasionally I find coupons in the Sunday paper for this, but this product is not heavily advertised like its main competitors, Resolve and Woolite.  Why not?  Because its performance speaks for itself.   Whatever has gotten onto your carpets or upholstery, no matter how long ago it got there, this is the stuff that gets it out.  Look for the blue can with the orange cap alongside its more recognizable shelf mates.

 

3. But toxic cleaners scare me.  How can I make my own cleaning products?

Chemistry doesn’t have to involve toxic products.  Natural products contain the power to deodorize, sanitize, and polish your entire home.  Of all the sources out there, this one was the favorite for our testers and clients:

How to Make a Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/make-your-own-non-toxic-cleaning-kit.html

Most modern synthetic cleaning products are based on age-old formulas using natural ingredients that were passed down through the generations because the chemistry was right. Going back to the original naturally derived ingredients is a way to make cleaning products that work, don’t pollute and save you money.

As an added bonus, ounce for ounce homemade cleaning formulas cost about one-tenth the price of their commercial counterparts, even with the costlier essential oil and concentrated, all-purpose detergents for homemade recipes.

BASIC SUPPLIES
Baking soda
Washing soda
White distilled vinegar
A good liquid soap or detergent
Tea tree oil
6 clean spray bottles
2 glass jars

CREAMY SOFT SCRUBBER
Simply pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and wash the surface. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit.

Note: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise just make as much as you need at a time.

WINDOW CLEANER
1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Spray bottle

Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.

OVEN CLEANER
1 cup or more baking soda
Water
A squirt or two of liquid detergent

Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven. If this recipe doesn’t work for you, add more baking soda and water.
ALL-PURPOSE SPRAY CLEANER
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
A dab of liquid soap
2 cups hot tap water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. Apply and wipe off with a sponge or rag.

FURNITURE POLISH
1/2 teaspoon oil, such as olive (or jojoba, a liquid wax)
1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely.

VINEGAR DEODORIZER
Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight 5 percent vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board and in your bathroom and use them for cleaning. I often spray the vinegar on our cutting board before going to bed at night, and don’t even rinse but let it set overnight. The smell of vinegar dissipates within a few hours. Straight vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet rim. Just spray it on and wipe off.

MOLD KILLERS

Tea Tree Treasure
Nothing natural works for mold and mildew as well as this spray. I’ve used it successfully on a moldy ceiling from a leaking roof, on a musty bureau, a musty rug, and a moldy shower curtain. Tea tree oil is expensive, but a little goes a very long way. Note that the smell of tea tree oil is very strong, but it will dissipate in a few days.

2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups water

Combine in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and spray on problem areas. Do not rinse. Makes two cups.

Vinegar Spray
Straight vinegar reportedly kills 82 percent of mold. Pour some white distilled vinegar straight into a spray bottle, spray on the moldy area, and let set without rinsing if you can put up with the smell. It will dissipate in a few hours.

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What does “work-life balance” mean to YOU?

May 27, 2013

Image At Expedite Group our mission is to help our clients establish and maintain an ideal work-life balance.  We use this phrase constantly in attempt to describe exactly what it is we do.

You, our clients, may have your own idea of what “work-life balance” actually is.  And because you, our clients, are the reason Expedite Group concierge services exist, we would love to hear what it means to you.

So here’s your chance!  Leave your comments here or email us to let your concierge know what work-life balance means to you.  Thanks for helping us help you better!

Five Simple Computer Safety Tips

May 19, 2013

AtSafety First Expedite Group we spend a lot of time doing internet research, making sure our clients get the best deals, products, vacations, service people, physicians, jewelers, vitamins, snake repellent… you name it.  Imagine the ad cookies our browsers collect!

In order to provide the best personal assistance possible, we have to keep our computers safe.

We came across these tips to do just that from Katharine Knibbs at Techlicious and thought you needed to know about them, too!

1. Update, update, update.  From your operating system to your browsers to your antivirus software, staying up to date is crucial.

2. Banish Java. This surprised us for sure, but even the Department of Homeland Security recommends disabling or removing Java because of its vulnerability to attack.  Check out a guide here to determine if you are running it and how to protect your equipment.

3. Malware Protection is not negotiable.  Best rated options include Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Kaspersky Antivirus, according to TopTenReviews and Malwarebytes  according to CNET.  If you’re looking for other good free options, check PCMag’s suggestions.

4. Passwords like Fort Knox.  You’ve got to vary them everywhere you go online, you’ve got to use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and if it’s a site like your bank, you’ve got to change it once a season.  Another tip: Use a sentence strung together, because when it comes to passwords, Longer is Stronger.

(Knibbs recommends lying on security questions, too, but personally I’ve gotten into trouble trying to remember my false answers.  if you choose to do this, try to lie consistently!)

5. The Back-Up Plan.  The Back-up needs to be your Plan A.  Keep your data stored on an external drive.  Cloud-based storage is a good option, but for your ultimate security and information retrieval, nothing compares to a physical storage spot.  CNET just released a review of its top recommendations here.  The Buffalo DriveStation DDR is the only product under $200 to make their list.

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That sums it up, but you can read the whole blog by Katharine Knibbs here.  While you’re there, check out the other information Techlicious has to offer.  Expedite Group loves to be your source for the information you need, but part of being a good concierge is sharing other great resources with you!

Don’t just sit there. Stand up while you read this, for your health.

May 12, 2013

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Expedite Group’s main mission is to help you balance work and life, and maintaining your health is crucial to both.

I spend my workday in front of a computer.  I bet a lot of you do, too.  And while I make a strong effort to exercise regularly, this got my attention.

Earlier this year the Mayo Clinic published a study about how sitting at our desks all day long poses a health risk that cannot be eliminated with a regular gym routine.

According to author Dr. James Levine (in the article linked here), “the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall — and your health risks increase. When you’re standing or actively moving, you kick the processes back into action.”

David Worthington of Smart Planet says “you can lose as much as 8 pounds per year standing three more hours per day” in his article on the research.  (That gets my attention too.  Talk pounds lost to me any day.)

So what can you do about it?  Dr. Levine suggests modifying a treadmill to become your new desk.  Theoretically a nice idea, but that’s not happening in my office.  Other ideas:

  1. Stand up to make phone calls and read emails.
  2. Set an alarm on your computer, smart phone or clock to go off at ten till every hour.  Use those ten minutes to fill your water bottle, head to the restroom, walk a lap around the office (include a flight of stairs if you have them!), and hand-deliver messages to co-workers.
  3. Modify your desk so that you can stand while you work.  Place a few fat books under your monitor and keyboard if you have to.  Your body will thank you.
  4. Do leg exercises once an hour (at twenty past, to maintain the movement effect) while you work.  It’s not the same as standing, but if you brace your core while stretching out it’s better than being idle.  Here’s plane-travel tip from Dr. Elaine Schattner that you can use at your desk:”While seated, move your feet and legs around as much as cir­cum­stances permit, and at least every hour or so. Flex your feet 10 times, and stretch your legs as best you can, bending and extending the knees, one at a time, in any available direction, 10 times each. Another exercise is to raise each foot and swivel it, piv­oting the toes from side to side while keeping the ankle rel­a­tively still.”  Read her whole article here.
  5. Be the gopher, or the Go-Fer.  Volunteer to bring co-workers their coffee, carry the files to accounting, or empty the recycling.
  6. Stretch your abdominals at the end of the day.  Lay on your belly and prop yourself on bent elbows, and take some deep belly breaths.  Physically stretching out your organs like this will help counteract being crunched up all day.  (You can trust me, I have a New York State license in massage therapy.  True story.)

The added benefit to moving more is more than physical.  It’s mental.  More oxygen in your body means better brain function.  Better brain function means less effort for better results in your work.  Everybody wins!

So what are you waiting for?  Go get a drink of water–from a cooler on a different floor, of course.