17 November 2017

Are You Ready to Purchase? Buying a House vs Renting an Apartment

Buying a House

Pro – Owner’s Equity
When one purchases a home, the buyer is not just buying a structure, but an investment.  Yes—even if it is the buyers first home!  Each payment the homeowner makes reduces the total balance due. Over time, the homeowner may choose to fix, or update, parts of the home, which creates appreciation (an increase in the value of an asset over time).  This added value, in combination with one’s monthly mortgage payments, allow the buyer to increase his/her homeowner’s equity – an option that renter’s simply do not have.

Pro – Doing What You Want to Your House
One of the greatest benefits of purchasing a home, is the freedom to alter it as you see fit, no matter how unusual the change. The home belongs to the buyer, so when it comes to knocking out walls, adding on new partitions, painting, or installing an in-ground pool, they buyer has the freedom to do as he/she pleases – (of course, you have to follow community rules, which means attaining simple building permits, which are very-rarely denied. We can go through this in another blog post).  Renters have absolutely no freedom when it comes to these things, their living arrangements are at the will of the landlord.

Con – Being Responsible Owners
Unfortunately, when you own your own place, you are responsible for attacking whatever chaos may ensue. If appliances break, you are responsible for fixing/replacing them, or you go without. For larger problems, let’s say that if your pipes burst, and your bottom floor is flooded out, there’s no landlord to the rescue. You have to deal with the situation in its entirety, meaning contacting all of the proper companies (i.e. property/homeowners insurance), paying the deductibles, and supervising the repairs yourself. YOU are the property owner, so YOU are solely responsible.  Obtaining good homeowner’s insurance (can’t emphasize this enough) should be a top priority before closing.
Con – Feeling Stuck
Lastly, one of the worst things that can occur to a homeowner is the feeling of being ‘stuck’. This can happen when you don’t like your neighborhood, you don’t like your house, or the value of your property falls below what you owe. Sadly, a home isn’t anything like an apartment, and there’s no easy way out. You cannot just ‘up and leave’ without repercussion. Mortgage contracts don’t havev those types of clauses, so if you want out, you have to try and sell your home, or pursue other options.
Renting an Apartment

Pro – Freedom with Limited Contracts
If you know that you are a person that lacks the commitment to purchase a home outright, then perhaps renting an apartment may be the right decision for you.  Rental contracts offer the tenant much more freedom to move at smaller time intervals (1, 6, or 12 months). These contracts give the tenant ample time to think, plan, and decide on when, and where, they would like to move. If not, you can simply sign the lease for another term. So, renters can stay put, or move coast to coast at will, it’s entirely up to them. There are so many apartments available across the US that the possibilities are quite endless.

Pro – Guaranteed Rent without Ballooning Rates
Another excellent argument towards renting is that rental rates are guaranteed for a specified term, without ballooning rates.  That means if a person signs a 1-year lease, paying $500 per month, then that price point will not change for the term of the lease (12 months). This rate cannot increase, but a ballooning mortgage rate contract can; and many first-time home buyers fall victim to these rates, as the payment amounts are much less in the beginning months of the contract, and are often too good to be true long-term. 

Con – Having to Ask Permission for Everything
Sadly, there are negatives to renting as well.  One of those negatives is that you have to ask, and receive, the landlord’s permission for every single thing that you want to do to make the apartment/home your own. This can regard anything, whether it be for the number of pets you can have (if any), to the number of guests that can walk through the door.  It can become overwhelming at times, and it can go as far as landlords restricting what you do outside the home structure, such as grilling, or having parties.

Con – Limited Freedom on Décor and Design.

Lastly, one of the worst aspects of renting is the lack of freedom on design and décor.  Sure, most rental properties allow the tenants to paint, so as long as it is re-painted white at the end of the lease term (on your dime). Most apartments start out bland to appease a neutral décor-sense, and usually require the apartment to be restored to this at contracts end.

Simple Decorations to Make Your Home Feel Like Christmas

When you have guests over for the holidays, whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, it’s almost unheard of for your home not to be decorated. Of course, you’re going to decorate for the holidays, but when you’re hosting everyone at your home, decorating can sometimes feel like just another stressor thrown into the mix. Some Idaho Falls home builders have a solution for you – this list of simple decorations that make your home feel like Christmas.
Instead of going all out with decorations streaming from one wall to the next, pick some simple decorations that give your home the “less is more” effect.
Candles are a powerful decoration in their simplistic beauty. Pick out some candles in holiday colors, like reds, greens, orange, white. Not only do these candles add a pop of color reminiscent of holiday cheer, but they also have the capability to set the mood with ambient lighting and scents. Choose some candles that smell like cinnamon, pumpkin spice, or fresh pine – or whatever scent brings memories of childhood Christmas gatherings to you and your family. Smell is powerful when it comes to memories, so even if you don’t have a ton of decorations up, just the memories of past Christmases with a perfectly scented candle will bring the Christmas spirit to life in your home.
Lighting is everything. Just like the candles can add some ambient light, so can Christmas lights. All you need are the lights and some nails or hooks to create a cozy holiday atmosphere. Whether are putting lights in your Christmas tree or hanging them along the stairwell, they will make your home feel more like Christmas, with minimal effort.
A Tree--
If all you have for your Christmas decorations is a decorated pine tree, your home is guaranteed to feel more like Christmas. The Christmas tree has become a symbol of this wonderful holiday. Whenever we see it (or smell it), the first thing we think of is Christmas and all of the memories we have of opening up presents on Christmas morning by the tree or reading a Christmas Carol by the tree light. Even if it is only a small tree with one string of lights, it will help to cultivate those feelings that emanate so strongly at this time of year.

Holiday Gift Guide - Gifts and Christmas Presents for New Moms

With the holiday season just around the corner, it is time to start thinking about what to get to that special new mom! Whether she is your partner, sister, or a friend, it can be really difficult to come up with a gift for Christmas.
This is especially so if you are not a mom yourself (yet?). Most families do not make a big deal about their moms during the holiday. This trend must change by bringing mom the best gifts to make them feel appreciated.

We are here to help you pick things that the new mom in your life will not only enjoy but they might also come in handy when it comes to her little one. Below you will find a list of 5 items, which are perfect for new moms. 
That might not come in use right away but surely in a few short months there will be a little cutie learning how to crawl! Playmats come in all different sizes, colors, and shapes, so be sure to take into account the space that the new mom in your life has at her disposal. We have to say that our favorite playmats are also part-soothers (see next gift idea).
Crib Toy or a Soother-- 
This Christmas gift is rather self-explanatory. Imagine a little solar system attached to the crib! Or a lovely tiny circus with figurines in a circle! Remember to check that all parts are well attached, and generally baby-friendly, though. 
Feeding Bottles--
Yes, we know that some new moms choose to breastfeed-- but don’t forget about water and juice a little longer down the road. You can never have too many feeding bottles with a baby around!
Winter Baby Clothes--
It is Christmas, and perhaps you want to spend it on the beach with a cocktail. But depending on where the new mom in your life lives, she might need some new winter baby clothes. Babies grow so fast too, it is difficult (and expensive!) for most new parents to accommodate for all the winter clothing sizes. 

Diapers might not be your first thought when it comes to Christmas gifts and presents. But they will certainly be much appreciated! This is the number one item that gets used the most. If you can find them in your area, perhaps try the biodegradable ones – perfect not only for the baby but also for the environment. Who could resist that? 

Digital Camera--
Now that the baby has winter clothes and a (hopefully) endless supply of diapers and toys, there is one last thing that will make this Christmas unforgettable. Getting the little one and the new mom a memento from their first Christmas together! There is nothing better than being able to make photos together, or record fun family video! We use digital camera mainly to capture our exceptional moments like Christmas, birthdays, marriage, vacation, etc. We do it to keep our memories in the form of photos.
These photos will act as remembrance of the party and the events that occurred during the holiday. The camera is a wonderful gift to moms because they bring reality in their lives and make it last forever.
Lastly, we think that is also can be a great idea to ask the new mom in your life what would she really love for Christmas. Whichever Christmas present you pick for the new mom in your life, remember that the best ones are those from the heart. What stays with us are the nice memories, that keep us warm in the long winter evenings.

14 November 2017

Veganizing Favorite Recipes - New England Clam Chowder

My Mom definitely gave me a challenge this week as I was to recreate a vegan-version of New England Clam Chowder.

Originally from a cooler climate, I am a chowder-fanatic. I do admittedly miss a decent chowder every once in a while, and I have yet to actually attempt to make one.  I suppose there is a first time for everything!

Here is her original recipe that she emailed to me (and please, feel free to use the non-vegan version if you are so inclined):

Vegan Version Ingredients:

(1) pack of veggie bacon strips
(2) celery ribs, chopped
(1) large onion, chopped
(2) garlic cloves, minced
(3) small potatoes, peeled and cubed
(1) cup water
(8 fl.oz.) vegetable broth
(1) non-chick'n cube
(1/4 tsp) white pepper
(1/4 tsp) dried thyme

(1/2 c) shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
(1/4 c) white wine
(1/2 tsp) celery seed
(1 tsp) vegan butter

(1 c) cauliflower, steamed
(3/4 c) nondairy milk, unsweetened
(1 tbsp) vegan butter
(1 tsp) sea salt
(1/4 tsp) pepper


Before I started on the soup, I decided to make the two most 'vegan' components of this chowder-- the cream base and the 'clams'.  I found a good recipe from Fork and Beans that outlines exactly how to do everything from start to finish.  They do everything a little bit different, and they use a different soup base.  My goal for this chowder was to keep it as close to my Mom's original recipe as possible, so I just used the components that I needed to.

For the cream base, I grabbed the ingredients:  cauliflower, soy milk, butter, sea salt, and pepper.

I steamed the cauliflower, and mixed everything together and blended it with my immersion blender.  It formed a semi-thick sauce, much like a half & half would be ... and it tasted delightful.  I am going to use this base for many more meals!

Next, I made the 'clams'.  I gathered my ingredients:  shiitake mushrooms, white wine, butter, and celery seed.

I melted the butter and sauteed the mushrooms.  I added the white wine until the mushrooms absorbed all of it and poofed up. 

When all of the wine absorbed, I added the celery seed.

Now that the 'components' are complete, it is time to start the soup.  I grabbed all of my ingredients: veggie bacon strips, celery, an onion, garlic, potatoes, vegetable broth cubes, non-chick'n cubes, white pepper, and dried thyme.

First, I got out my Dutch oven.  I crisped up a few more than the recommended (4) bacon strips because the veggie bacon is smaller in size than normal bacon.  I also added a little olive oil for more 'grease'.

I chopped up the celery, onion, and garlic as per the instructions and  sauteed them in the Dutch oven until tender.

Next, I stirred in the cubed potatoes, the water, the vegetable broth, the non-chick'n cube, pepper, and thyme, brought it to a boil, and simmered (uncovered) for 20 minutes.  I also added about 5 pieces of shredded veggie bacon for a little added flavor.

I totally omitted step number 2 because my cream base was completely smooth to start with.

Finally, I stirred in my 'clams', and served in my Dutch oven alongside the crumbled bacon and crackers.  

EDIT:  I must say, this soup was divine.  As I mentioned above, I haven't had a chowder in oh-so-long, so being able to indulge without the guilt was priceless.  The flavors were all there, the textures were on point, and everybody enjoyed it.  I couldn't ask for better results.

13 November 2017

..::Product Review::.. GlassesShop.com

THE REVIEW:  I was provided the opportunity to test out a pair of glasses and let you guys know if and how they work.  I chose the 'Callan Rectangle' style in black/blue. There are tons of other options available on their website, but since I was going to be wearing them, I chose the ones I thought were going to look the best on me.  The website has a neat 'Try On' feature that allows you to try on each style to see what it looks on your particular face shape.

I used to wear glasses every single day.  About a year or so ago, I had LASIK eye surgery, so I no longer have to wear prescription glasses.  I can't say that I miss the hassle.  However, as a prior-glasses wearer, I can definitely relate to the routine.  Wearing glasses is not cheap.  They are expensive themselves, and the upkeep is expensive.  Heck, even a good case is expensive!   

Finding a place where all of these quality components not only come packed together, but are shipped directly to your home in with the utmost precision and care is actually kind of hard to do.

I was lucky to have stumbled upon a place so quickly, but glad I did.  The best thing of all?  

Everything is incredibly affordable.
Before I even begin the 'official' review process, I would like to share my first impression notes:

+ This arrived in a very small box. I love companies that don't play around with packaging.  This was simple and to-the-point.

+ Everything was of the highest quality.

+ The glasses came with a cleaning cloth and storage case.

This pair of glasses can be found here and costs $19.95.  Shipping is calculated at $4.95, but is free for orders over $49.00.  

Here is a little bit of information about GlassesShop.com:

GlassesShop is an American owned and operated online retailer of eyeglasses. Since the website launch in 2004, we have delivered over a million pairs of eyeglasses while maintaining our standard of providing the highest quality at affordable prices. 

+ We are a group of eye doctors that understands your struggle with the high cost of eyeglasses. We strive to make your experience with GlassesShop.com one that is not only user-friendly but also professional and reliable. 

+ Being able to deliver superior eyeglasses at an unbeatably-low price has allowed us to help people all over the world see clearly and, in turn, has provided our team with a more rewarding experience than we could have ever anticipated. We guarantee your satisfaction.

The glasses arrived in a magnetic stamped hard storage case.

The case has a soft cleansing wipe to keep your glasses clean.

My pair of glasses frames is dual-colored -- blue and black.

The nose-pieces are non-moving and do not bear down into my nose.  They are very comfortable to wear.

Each pair is stamped with sizing identifiers.

Each pair is quality-checked for accuracy and and evenness before it is sent.

My pretty new glasses!
+ Buying glasses online is extremely convenient -- they ship directly to your door.
+ Extremely comfortable to wear.
+ Great quality.

+ Many different options.

+ Easy 'Try On' option on their website.

+ Great pricing.

- Nothing.

+ YES-- excellent customer service.
+ YES-- very high quality.
+ YES-- great prices.
STAR RATING: On a scale of 1 to 5, this gets a 5.
RECOMMENDATION:  YES, I 100% absolutely recommend this!  Please reference the above photographs, and the subtext for information on why I recommend this product.
Order here (pricing may vary).  Use code GSHOT50 for 50% off on eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses (sale frames excluded).

Please visit GlassesShop.com
I received this product for free in exchange for inspection and an honest and unbiased review.