Archive for March, 2013

29
Mar
13

Waking up without coffee

Waking up without coffee

One of the rituals of the American morning is coffee. People love it. Coffee makers come in all shapes and sizes. Some people search to find THE coffee makers that match their kitchen. They can be pre-set, they have alarm clocks and some will even brew just one perfect cup of the stuff that wakes them up and gets them moving.

Next to oil, coffee is the commodity that generates the most revenue worldwide. Entire industries have been built on this morning ritual. Starbuck’s corporatized the corner coffee shop, made it cool and built one of the biggest companies in the country. Coffee houses and chains sprang up after Starbuck’s initial success. In response, McDonald’s changed their coffee and started to offer gourmet coffees for the morning commute. And Dunkin’ Donuts, which sells more coffee in theU.S.than anyone, focuses its corporate advertising on the coffee, not the donuts.

Coffee, or more accurately, the caffeine in coffee, is addictive. It can also be expensive. If you find yourself with some of the symptoms of too much caffeine – jitters, heartburn or acid reflux, irritability, trouble sleeping, stack of coffeehouse receipts in your wallet – you might try these alternatives to the morning joe.

Take a cool shower

Not a COLD shower, a COOL shower. A cold shower can shock your system and there’s no sense in that. A cool shower will get the mind and body going. Try an invigorating body wash, too; something with peppermint in it.

Let there be light

Getting some light is a way to make your body realize that it’s time to get up. Getting outside in the sunshine is a great way to start the day; however, like many, you may be up before dawn. Just turn on the lights in the bedroom and the house. Dark is the enemy to waking up.

Listen to something

Set your alarm clock to your favorite radio station. Turn on the TV. Listen to an audiobook. Quiet is the enemy to waking up.

Get moving

Taking a brisk walk or jog around the neighborhood is a great way to start the day. Any exercise is beneficial. Take your dog for a walk. It benefits them just as much as it does you. Stretching, calisthenics, or yoga are also great ways to get moving in the morning.

Drink a glass of ice cold water

A glass of ice cold water, and we’re talking as cold as you can make it, will help wake you up as much as a cup of coffee will.

Don’t skip breakfast

Eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism. Make sure you get some protein and good carbohydrates. If you absolutely HATE eating breakfast, some people find that eating an apple is beneficial. The natural sugars in them give you energy. (And there is some truth to “An apple a day…”)

Try herbal tea

Hot teas may not be your bread and butter, but you probably didn’t LOVE coffee the first time you tried it, either. There are hundreds of different teas to try so you’re likely to find one that you like. Teas have great properties to help your health, too; many are high in antioxidants, which can help you fight certain types of cancer.

If you’ve tried to cut down on coffee, what’s your favorite way to start the day?

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27
Mar
13

Waking up without coffee

 

One of the rituals of the American morning is coffee. People love it. Coffee makers come in all shapes and sizes. Some people search to find THE coffee makers that match their kitchen. They can be pre-set, they have alarm clocks and some will even brew just one perfect cup of the stuff that wakes them up and gets them moving.

Next to oil, coffee is the commodity that generates the most revenue worldwide. Entire industries have been built on this morning ritual. Starbuck’s corporatized the corner coffee shop, made it cool and built one of the biggest companies in the country. Coffee houses and chains sprang up after Starbuck’s initial success. In response, McDonald’s changed their coffee and started to offer gourmet coffees for the morning commute. And Dunkin’ Donuts, which sells more coffee in theU.S.than anyone, focuses its corporate advertising on the coffee, not the donuts.

Coffee, or more accurately, the caffeine in coffee, is addictive. It can also be expensive. If you find yourself with some of the symptoms of too much caffeine – jitters, heartburn or acid reflux, irritability, trouble sleeping, stack of coffeehouse receipts in your wallet – you might try these alternatives to the morning joe.

Take a cool shower

Not a COLD shower, a COOL shower. A cold shower can shock your system and there’s no sense in that. A cool shower will get the mind and body going. Try an invigorating body wash, too; something with peppermint in it.

Let there be light

Getting some light is a way to make your body realize that it’s time to get up. Getting outside in the sunshine is a great way to start the day; however, like many, you may be up before dawn. Just turn on the lights in the bedroom and the house. Dark is the enemy to waking up.

Listen to something

Set your alarm clock to your favorite radio station. Turn on the TV. Listen to an audiobook. Quiet is the enemy to waking up.

Get moving

Taking a brisk walk or jog around the neighborhood is a great way to start the day. Any exercise is beneficial. Take your dog for a walk. It benefits them just as much as it does you. Stretching, calisthenics, or yoga are also great ways to get moving in the morning.

Drink a glass of ice cold water

A glass of ice cold water, and we’re talking as cold as you can make it, will help wake you up as much as a cup of coffee will.

Don’t skip breakfast

Eating breakfast kick starts your metabolism. Make sure you get some protein and good carbohydrates. If you absolutely HATE eating breakfast, some people find that eating an apple is beneficial. The natural sugars in them give you energy. (And there is some truth to “An apple a day…”)

Try herbal tea

Hot teas may not be your bread and butter, but you probably didn’t LOVE coffee the first time you tried it, either. There are hundreds of different teas to try so you’re likely to find one that you like. Teas have great properties to help your health, too; many are high in antioxidants, which can help you fight certain types of cancer.

If you’ve tried to cut down on coffee, what’s your favorite way to start the day?

26
Mar
13

Why your down payment should be at least 20 percent

 

If you’re like most people, you’re planning to have a mortgage in order to pay for your house. It’s almost unavoidable to buy a home without financing.

Conventional wisdom until a couple of decades ago was that a home buyer needed to save at least 20 percent to put down on a house. Recently, though, many people have gotten away from that rule of thumb. In order to promote home ownership, some programs require much less. There are some options that offer zero down.

Simple math

For the sake of this example, the home you’re buying is $200,000. The interest rate is 4 percent. Taxes are 1.5 percent. Private mortgage insurance (more on that later) is 0.5 percent.

Rates calculated using: zillow.com

Lower mortgage payments
Simple math dictates that the more you put down, the less your monthly payment will be. All things being equal, your mortgage payment drops $191 if you have 20 percent down as opposed to zero down. As a new homeowner, that will definitely help your monthly budget.

No mortgage-insurance fees
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) protects the lender in case you cannot pay the mortgage. PMI is required if your down payment is less than 20 percent in most cases. Your lender requires the fee be paid until you reach 20 percent equity in your home. Mortgage insurance can be expensive, ranging from 0.5 to 1 percent of the home’s value annually.

Lower interest rate
With a larger down payment, you could qualify for lower interest rates, a fact not taken into account in the example above. Using the same example, if your interest rate dropped to 3.5 percent, your monthly mortgage payment would be $926.80 and the total interest payment would be $98,649.74. Compared to the 10 percent down payment in our example, you’d save $30,715 over the life of the loan in interest and PMI payments just by paying an extra $10,000 down.

Patience pays

As stated, the example above is simple math, but there’s nothing simple about mortgage math. Ask your REALTOR® and mortgage lender to crunch the numbers for you. Patience pays: taking the time to save money for a down payment offers solid return on investment. Over a 30-year mortgage, having a bigger down payment can save you tens of thousands of dollars on your starter home, helps you build equity faster and puts you on firmer financial footing.

22
Mar
13

Spring cleaning checklist (and how to keep it green)


 

One of the annual events that no one looks forward to (well… almost no one) is spring cleaning. If you’re like me, you dread it. But it’s one of those things that have to be done.

For many people, spring cleaning is daunting because as they’re working, something else that needs to be done draws their attention. Don’t let that happen! Concentrate on the task at hand, one room at a time. Here’s a checklist for your spring cleaning.

 

Keep your spring cleaning environmentally friendly

You don’t need to buy cleaning products heavy on the chemicals. Be sure to check out the tip at the end of each checklist to help make your spring cleaning green this year. Most of these cleaners can be made inexpensively with common household products.

 

Kitchen

Dust everything, including tops of cabinets, door frames, baseboards, chairs, tables and window sills.

Refrigerator – Clean out the coils of the refrigerator vent. Wipe down the outside. Pull everything out and wipe down the shelves and drawers.

Microwave – wash out the inside and outside.

Wash the windows and the light fixtures.

Clean any small appliances such as toasters and can openers.

Cabinets – Pull everything out to check the condition of pots and pans. Replace shelf lining if needed.

Pantry – Just like a grocery store, it’s a good idea to rotate your stock of staples. Remove all boxed and canned goods and throw away anything that is out of date.

Stove – Even if your stove has a self-cleaning mode, it doesn’t get everything, especially on the door. You’ll need to use a cleaner to get it really clean.

 

Environmentally friendly oven cleaner: Make a paste using baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. When oven is cool, rub it on to the oven door and bottom. Leave overnight. Then wipe away.

 

Bedrooms

Dust – baseboards, door frames, window sills, lamp shades and any small items on shelves

Bed – Turn and rotate the mattress. Vacuum and clean under the bed, as well as the mattress and box springs.

Carpet – Attack any spots and shampoo the carpet.

Closets – Pull out winter clothes for storage. Organize by style and color, which makes your closet look great and saves you time in the morning.

Windows – Wash the curtains and the windows.

14
Mar
13

14 Facts to Help Improve Your St. Patrick‚Äôs Day Trivia

On March 17, everybody in America becomes Irish for a day. A religious day in Ireland, drinking a pint or two to celebrate really began here in the U.S. Here are some things you may not have known about one of America’s favorite holidays and the man it celebrates.

  1. St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was born Maewyn Succat in Great Britain, near Kilkenny, Scotland. At 16, he was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Ireland. He escaped after six years, entered the monastery, became a priest, and returned years later to spread Christianity in Ireland.
  2. Although everyone wears green on St. Patrick’s Day, his color, and the one most associated with the holiday until the 19th century, was blue.
  3. Although generally accepted and widely known as St. Patrick, he has never received formal canonization by a Pope.
  4. The legend of St. Patrick says that he drove the snakes from Ireland. While it’s true there are no snakes indigenous to Ireland, the snakes of the myth more likely symbolize the Pagan beliefs held by most in that country before the arrival of St. Patrick.
  5. March 17 does not celebrate St. Patrick’s birthday. No one really knows upon which day he was born, but it is generally accepted by historians that he died on March 17, 460 A.D.
  6. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737. Irish soldiers serving in the English army, missing their home, organized the parade.
  7. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York has been held every year since 1762.
  8. Boston still hosts one of the largest parades in America. New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Kansas City also host very popular parades.
  9. The city of Chicago turns the river that runs through it green to celebrate the day.
  10. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade held in Dublin was in 1931.
  11. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday to celebrate Lent. In fact, pubs in Ireland were actually closed on March 17 until the 1970s.
  12. More than 33 million people in the U.S. claim Irish heritage. There are only about 4.4 million living in Ireland.
  13. Although many people celebrate the day with a pint and corned beef and cabbage, that is almost exclusively an Irish-American dish. Corned beef was inexpensive, and probably the only meat poor Irish immigrants could afford.
  14.  A popular Irish toast on St Patrick’s Day, is “may the roof above us never fall in, and may we friends beneath it never fall out.”
07
Mar
13

The Art of Herb Gardening

Are you interest in stretching your green thumb this spring? Perhaps a gourmet herb garden is the solution for you. Not only will herb plants fill your home or yard with their lush color and beautiful smells, but cooking with fresh herbs is a great way to give your meals that extra splash of flavor. Here are a few tips to help you get started on your own fresh herb garden, so you and your family can enjoy flavor-enhancing herbs all year long.

Which herbs should I grow?

When deciding on what herbs you’d like to plant in your garden, be sure to consider your favorite meals; you want to make sure you’re growing the right herbs for you. If you’re unsure which herb plant to include then take a look at these chef favorites.

Rosemary – This is a warm climate herb, so if you live in climates with cold winters it’s probably best to grow this plant inside. Rosemary is primarily used in a lot of Mediterranean dishes and nothing beats a rosemary-roasted chicken.

Chives – From the onion family, chives have a similar but milder taste. If you’re a fan of eggs in the morning or a baked potato for dinner chives would make a great addition to your garden.

Thyme – This woody stemmed sweet herb is very popular in French cuisine and pairs well with lamb, chicken and tomatoes. It’s commonly found in stews and sauces.

Mint – You will find mint in two varieties, peppermint and spearmint. Spearmint is milder in flavor and can be used in cooking and even in beverages. Peppermint is nature’s own cure for an upset stomach. 

How do I care for my herbs?

Before you start your herb garden, there are a few things you’re going to want to consider. First is light, because most herb plants will require about 6-8 hours of light. If you find your herbs with long stems and few leaves, this is the tell-tale sign they aren’t getting enough light and are seeking it.  Next is space; most herbs will grow to fill the space you provide, if your garden is relatively small, you will have to prune your herbs more regularly; not only does this stimulate more growth and better harvest, but it will also prevent herbs from crowding out other plants it shares the garden with. Tip: Mint is a super invasive plant; it’s probably best planted in its own container. Lastly, you need to take water and soil into consideration. Most plants will require about an inch of water per week. Also, if you decide to plant your herbs inside, they’ll occasionally require fertilization. To make sure they’re growing in healthy soil, add vegetable potting mix once during mid-growing season.

More care tips.

  • Potted herbs need good drainage, so make sure there is a large hole at the bottom of your plant’s pot and a dish underneath to catch water runoff.
  • If you live in an area with hard winters (below freezing), you need to plant your herbs inside to maintain a healthy garden all year long.
  • Make sure you’re regularly harvesting or pruning your herb garden. This will encourage stronger growth from your plants.
  • Be sure to harvest in the morning, when freshness and fragrance will be at their peak.
  • Make sure you give perennial herbs time off in the fall. You can harvest them all year, but they’ll require some time to prepare for winter.