Friday, December 31, 2010

Your New Year's Resolution...

With this being the last day of a tumultuous year, I thought it best to help all of us look forward to a new year - a new beginning.  Each year millions of people make resolutions for the new year, but according to loose statistics, only about 35% of us actually keep them. And of that 35%, 78% are gone by the end of February.  Wow!

So I was wondering where did this tradition really start.  I was shocked to learned that setting resolutions dates back to 153 B.C. when Janus, a mythical Roman king, was placed at the head of the calendar.  He had two faces which allowed Janus to look back on past events and forward to the future. Consequently, Janus became the symbol for resolutions and thought of as the god of beginnings.  Even though the new year did not always begin on January 1, when Julius Caesar developed the 365-day solar calendar in 46 B.C., he set January 1 as the first day of the year.  And the first month was named after Janus.

Okay so this tradition dates back a long time, but why are we not able to keep our resolutions?  I think it's because our resolutions are either too lofty or too expensive.  When we resolve to do something that is essentially pie in the sky, it's hard to get there.  Instead we should look forward to making gradual progress.  And then on the other hand, many of us resolve to do things that will cost us a great deal of money.

I have no statistics for this, but I would think that gym memberships increase by 600% in the month of January.  And that the gyms are carried financially through June from all the money collected in January.  Why in the world would you even consider joining a gym when you are not, have never been and probably will never be a morning person.  And with your three children and homework, dinner, baths and so on, you have no time left in the evening.  And then with your work day so sporadic.  Why would you even torture yourself and waste your money on a gym membership that you will never use???  Instead how about investing in a Wii console and Wii Fit or a Kinect system?  Or what about just taking a 30 minute walk around your neighborhood or in front of the TV while you're watching Desperate Housewives?  Resolutions shouldn't cost us money unless we are really committed to keeping them.

Now let's compact the lofty ones.  I want to quit smoking.  Now if you have smoked for the last 20 years and you are putting away a pack a day, saying that you will quit cold turkey is pretty lofty.  So instead how about setting small steps, triumphants if you will instead.  This year I resolve to reduce my smoking to half a pack a day on the way to quitting.  Small steps are the one we can keep.  And be sure to insert times of the year that you will update your resolution.  So you may say that by March I will be down to half a pack and by June I will be down to a quarter pack and so on.

But even though I say all of this, many of us are still going to set resolutions that are unrealistic for who we are.  So I want to present some resolutions that I think we can keep.  Enjoy.

  • I will no longer waste my time reliving the past, instead I will spend it worrying about the future.

  • I will not use the same excuse for being out at work. I will think of some more excuses.

  • I will try to figure out why I *really* need nine e-mail addresses.

  • I will stop forwarding e-mails that promise change in the next 24 hours.

  • I will read the manual... just as soon as I can find it.

  • I will think of a password other than "password."

  • I will not tell the same story at every get together.  Instead I will get out so I can get new stories.

  • I will be more imaginative.


    Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    Black Eyed Peas for the New Year

    There are a lot of traditions we follow, especially in the South.  The first person to cross the threshold should be a man.  The first thing you say in the New Year sets the precedence of the rest of the year.  You shouldn't sweep or dust on New Year's Day because you may sweep out the good luck. Eating collards greens on January 1 will bring us money through the year.  And then there's the eating of black-eyed peas will bring you luck throughout the year.

    Where do these traditions come from and why are they so ingrained in our lives?  Well I did a little research and found two theories for the black-eyed peas.  One said that American slaves waited up on December 31, 1862 until the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.  At the stroke of midnight, they ate what they had a celebration: black-eyed peas collard greens and fat back.  Another theory says that when Sherman invaded the South, he and his troops avoided the black-eyed pea fields so this was taken as a sign of luck. 

    Either way the tradition is here and I believe here to stay.  So let me contribute to another you can prepare your lucky charms.

    Black-Eyed Chick Salad
    This is a cute little twist on an established recipe.

    3 cups of black-eyed peas
    1 cup of chickpeas
    2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    1 tsp of sea salt
    1 and 1/2 tsp of sweetener (use either raw sugar or agave)
    1 cup olive oil
    1 clove of garlic, crushed or diced
    1 tsp dried basil
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1/2 cup of pimentos, diced
    1/2 cup of celery, chopped
    1/2 cup of green onions, chopped
    1/2 cup of yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
    1/2 cup of green bell pepper, finely chopped

    If you want the salad raw, you can sprout the peas first.  Check here for how to sprout chickpeas and black-eyed peas.  Otherwise you can use the canned peas or cook them from the dry state.  In the end you should have a three-to-one ratio of black-eyed peas to chickpeas.

    First you want to dissolve the salt into the vinegar.  If using raw sugar, then you want to add the sugar to the vinegar as well.  If using agave nectar, then no need. To this add the olive oil, garlic, basil and black pepper.  Whisk until everything is mixed together well.

    Next, mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.  Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl.  Gently stir until all the ingredients are coated with the liquid.  Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled somewhere around 2-3 hours.  Serve chilled.

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    Since You're In the House Anyway

    Christmas has come and gone.  Most of us scheduled vacation around this time.  Especially those who have children out of school.  So why not take this time to make some changes around the house.  Before you do, think about the information below.  And choose colors for ambiance.
    Color personality tests are fun to take. Who doesn’t enjoy being told that they’re true blue or mellow yellow?
    The color tests help confirm who you already know you are, or perhaps which shades you wear best, which you may also already know, but they may not help you when it comes to decorating your home.
    You may look dynamic in red, but red might not be the right color to surround yourself at home, especially if you want to relax. Why? Red is a color that excites, not calms.
    If you want your home to be a relaxing haven, soft blue or green may be more your style, even if you don’t call those colors favorites in your wardrobe.

    Color psychology and décor

    Back in the 1940s, a Swiss psychiatrist named Dr. Max Lûscher found that colors impact your emotions and behavior. The Color Test Chart that he developed is still in wide use today in environmental psychology to help workers become more productive, students to concentrate better and so on.

    From the foundation of Dr. Lûscher’s studies, we’ve learned that colors used in residential environments can also impact residents’ enjoyment and behavior. 

    That means that red might not be so wrong for you after all. There are areas where using red in your décor will help you achieve the ambiance you want. Since red is exciting, dynamic, and energizing, it’s often used in dining rooms to enhance appetites and to stimulate conversation.

    Does that mean you should paint your dining room fire engine red? No, there are so many shades of red that are a little calmer that can still supply the stimulating effect you want, such as reds that lean more brown or burgundy.

    The important test when choosing color is what effect you want it to have on yourself or others:
    • If you’re looking for drama, sophistication, colors that are oppose each other on the color wheel, like black and white, are excellent choices. Soften the effect with an infusion of calming light blue or green accents. 
    • Whites, greys and beiges, for example, are quiet and conservative, which may lead you to be more introspective and thoughtful. When decorating with neutrals, jazz them up with jolts of strong secondary colors such as fuchsia or orange. 
    • Both pinks and blues are tranquilizing, so they both make excellent colors for living areas and bedrooms. 
    • Purples and greens are refreshing and relaxing, and send a subtle suggestion of wealth and opulence and luxury in darker shades. 
    • It’s counterintuitive, but yellow is optimistic but it’s not relaxing, so skip this color for babies’ rooms and master suites. However, it’s a good color for studies and kitchens, where concentration is essential.
    If you’re not sure what colors to put where, here’s a simple rule that may help. The closer a color is to brown, the more neutral it is. If you like a certain color, you can always choose a ramped-up or tamped-down version of it for your home.

    So go ahead – make it red!

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Pescetarian, Vegetarian, Vegan: What's the Difference?

    Seeing that I practice all three and one more, I thought it appropriate that I share the differences.

    A pescetarian is a person who does not eat any red meat, pork or poultry.  They consume fish or fish oils which are high on Omega-3 fatty acids.  They choose this lifestyle usually for two reasons: 1) the belief that consumption of fish is necessary for optimum life; and 2) as a stepping stone to a vegetarian diet.  The word is derived from the Latin word piscis.  Looks a lot like Pisces, huh???  And you know the symbol for Pisces, right?  In English, pesce means fish.  In Spanish, it's spelled pesca. 

    The word "vegetarian" is derived from the Latin word "vegetus" meaning lively or vigorous.  A vegetarian is a person who does not eat any animals, but does eat eggs and dairy.  There are two catergories of vegetarians.  Ovo vegetarians eat eggs, but no diary.  And lacto vegetarians eat diary but no eggs.  The eggs and dairy are maintained in the diet for the purpose of getting protein.  Good vegetarian protein sources are beans, peas, nuts, rice, dairy products, eggs, lentils, seeds, tofu and soya.  Vegetarians also do not eat anything that was derived from dead animals such as gelatine or rennet.  Gelatine is made by boiling the ligaments, tendons, skin and bones of pigs and cattle in water.  Rennet is an enzyme taken from the stomach of a slaughtered calf and is used to curdle milk to make cheese.
    A vegan is one who eats nothing derived from an animal.  This means no eggs, no dairy and no honey.  Many concerns around a vegan diet is the lack of protein.  However, vegans get a great amount of usuable protein from seeds such as flax, pumpkin and hemp.  Also, protiens can be found in a variety of vegetables such as kale, sprouts, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, celery and tomatoes.  And of course protein exists in nuts such as almonds and walnuts. 

    From an historical point of view, I want to share how the term vegan was derived.  In 1944, Donald Watson, a member of the Vegetarian Society in Leicester, England, set out to create an organization of vegetarians who did not eat any dairy.  The Society rejected them starting an alliance within so they ventured out.  They coined the term vegan (VEE-gn) from the first three letters of vegetarian and the last two letters.  Watson
    explained, "veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion."

    The other category that I mostly ascribe to is rawism, raw foodie or raw foodist.  In this diet, the foods consumed are uncooked and unprocessed.  The exact definition of raw food varies, but generally the food is considered raw if it has not been heated to more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although there is debate over what quantity of raw food intake actually defines one as a raw foodist, it is mostly agreed that one who consumes 75% or more of raw food fits.  In this diet, a rawist consumes food with the most energy because it is living.  Heating food above 116 degrees F is believed to destroy enzymes in food that can assist in the digestion and absorption of food. Cooking is also thought to diminish the nutritional value and "life force" of food.

    I certainly hope this information has assisted you in understanding the differences between the alternate diet lifestyles.  Personally I am mostly a raw foodie, but in certain situations, I will go as far a pescetarian diet.  This generally occurs when I'm eating out and I'm not interested in a piece of lettuce and sliced tomato for my meal.  It's absolutely amazing to me how so many restuarants resist expanding their options.  But oh well.

    I encourage you to do research yourself on the foods you consume.  I guarantee that you will be shocked to learn how many of them are simply not good for your body.

    Please share the things that you doscover or have discovered.

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Another Advantage to Owning Real Estate

    If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, real estate is still the best investment you can make.  There are dozens of advantages to owning real estate, but I want to highlight one here.

    Purchasing your real estate using OPM (other people's money) means that you get the benefit of paying what you can afford monthly and you can write off the interest at the end of the year.  What an advantage!!!  You get a tax break from the interest charged to you during the year.

    Also, for those of you who purchased this year, you can write off the monies spent to acquire the real estate.  On this note you will want to check with you tax advisor because some of those costs may not be allowed.  Some of these costs include any points paid to obtain the financing, money out down on the mortgage, qualified mortgage insurance premiums and others.  Again check with your tax advisor.

    Now you know the reason so many people rush to close on real estate in December.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    When Common Sayings Come to Life

    We use common sayings all the time, but rarely do we actually see them in life.  Some years ago I was able to see one.

    I was had pulled up to a traffic light.  On the sidewalk on the corner I saw a man standing there with a cane for the blind.  There was another men standing there with him.  As I came to a complete stop they both stepped off the curb into the crosswalk.  The one with the cane was in front and the other was holding his arm to the side.  As they got closer to me and I noticed that the second man's eyes were closed in a way that appeared they were sealed shut.  So there it was, "the blind leading the blind."

    Share the common sayings that you have witnessed.


    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    A New Twist on Broccoli Salad

    Last week we had a potluck in my office.  I was going to bring the Cucumber Salad/Salsa I shared a couple of weeks ago.  While in the store with a good friend, she suggested I bring broccoli salad.  I have had broccoli salad before.  To my surprise, it is usually made with bacon.  Needless to say I was not able to enjoy it.  So I set out to make it still flavorful and vegetarian.  I was successful.

    Here's the recipe:

    Broccoli Salad

    Broccoli                          Mayonnaise or Vegenaise               Pepper (black or cayenne)
    Onion                              Apple cider vinegar
    Craisins                           Sea salt

    Note: I didn't include measurements because I made the salad totally on taste.  I would suggest that you make it proportionally.  2 parts broccoli to 1/2 part onion to 1.5 part craisins.  The amount of mayo/veganaise will be added depending on how moist you want your salad.  Keep the amount of vinegar light because it can overpower your salad.


    Cut the stems off the broccoli and place in food processor.  Chop until they are in crumble size pieces.  Meanwhile cut the crowns into smaller pieces.  Place the chopped stems and the cut crowns into a bowl.  Dice the onion and place with broccoli.  Add all the other ingredients.  Mix and enjoy.


    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Everything Must Change

    As I have said many times before and will continue to say, real estate is the best investment you can make.  Remember, he who controls the land has the power.  This is true, has been true and will remain true until the end of time.

    However, there is something that you need to be aware of before you endeavor upon buying real estate.  With the crash of the economy and the banks lending money simply based on whether someone had a pulse has caused many new developments.  There have been a lot of changes and they are still coming.  Laws are changing monthly, rules are being updated weekly and standards are being revised daily.  What does this mean to you?  It is vital that you work closely with a professional real estate agent like myself and your loan officer.  Those of us who are in the business are charged with staying on top of the latest changes.  We are here to guide you through the process of purchasing real estate.

    More than any other time, you need to have professionals on your side to navigate through all the changes.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    A Quick Summer Salad/Salsa

    I was asked to bring an appetizer for Thanksgiving.  For some reason I pondered over what to bring for a few days.  My dilemma really was around the fact that my eating habits have changed so much that others may not enjoy the same foods that I enjoy now.  So I had to think of something that would be acceptable to the diners.  And since I waited so long to make a final decision, there was no time to go to the store and purchase ingredients.

    So the challenge was on.  Make a dish with the ingredients in the house and that the others will enjoy.  I believe I came up with a great solution - a cucumber salsa.  Everyone enjoyed it and the comment was made that it would be a wonderful summer salad.  Thus, the name, A Quick Summer Salad/Salsa.  Here's the recipe:

    A Quick Summer Salad/Salsa

    1 and 1/2 cucumbers (peeled and diced with seeds)
    1/2 onion (red, white or yellow)
    3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (soaked for at least an hour)
    1 can of yellow corn (rinsed and drained)
    Sea salt taste
    Pepper to taste
    Cumin to taste
    Juice of one lime

    Diced the cucumber, onion and tomatoes.  Pour in corn.  Add remaining ingredients.  Chill for a while if you have time.  Serve with tortilla chips or eat by itself.  Enjoy!

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Choosing a Lender for Financing

    Today my post will be short and sweet.  Financing has become a nightmare.  The very ones who got us in this mess are now making it nearly impossible for people to get financing.  I recently closed a loan that should have closed two months ago.  It was truly by the grace of God that the buyer hung in there.

    So how should you choose a lender?  Well first of all, avoid mortgage brokers if you can.  In the days of glory, brokers were the better option because they could shop your loan and get you the best rate and terms.  However, now brokers are stuck having to kowtow to the "investor" or the real lender.  And the borrower is suffering from it because they are having to pay two set of fees and are experiencing delays.

    Second, direct lenders have more latitude and actually have more products to offer.  Think about one of the big ones like Wells Fargo.  If they can make a lot of loans which makes them a lot of money, then they can offer more competitive terms to the next borrower.  And since the money is coming directly from them, many of the hassles have been eliminated.

    So in this current market, I would definitely suggest that you choose a direct lender as opposed to a mortgage broker.

    Also, if you are in the market to purchase and need assistance, there are still a good number of down payment assistance out there.  Contact me for more information.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    A Mess in the House

    Lately I have been doing some thinking about the state of the world and more specifically the state of the United States.  So before I get into that I want to paint a picture as a foundation.

    Imagine if you had 30 children in your house for the weekend.  Let's go further and say that you were not there, but perhaps you let a teenager serve as the supervisor.  I will give you a minute to let that soak into your imagination.  You return home Sunday afternoon to an absolute mess.  There is no space or place in your home that has not been affected.  Where do you start?  Do you attack your bedroom first since you have to sleep there?  Or maybe you want to get to the kitchen under the control for fear of rodents and pests.  Where do you start?  Well you map out a plan and start to execute it.  Other members of your household start to question your methodology.  They wonder why you would neglect certain rooms in the house to clean others.  You stay your course and keep moving forward.

    Now it's Tuesday and your house is nearly back to normal.  But you start to smell something awful.  You start sniffing around and discover some spoiling food behind the bookcase in the den downstairs.  How did food end up behind a floor to ceiling bookcase?  Doesn't really matter because it's your mess to clean up now although you didn't make it.

    Now let's consider the current state of affairs.  President Bush had a bunch of his friends over and allowed them to completely mess up the house.  President Obama came into the house with a mess.  He had to decide which room to clean up first.  There is a rhyme to his reasoning even though some of the world can't see it or refuse to try to understand it.  He has stayed his course and slowly, but surely the house is getting cleaned up.  The unfortunate part is that he occasionally has smelled something foul and discovered a mess behind the bookcase.  So he has to adjust his plan and address this issue before rodents and pests invade the space.

    Now that you have thought about the state of the country from this perspective, can we all just support what President Obama is trying to do.  He walked into an utter mess and is doing what he can to clean it up.  He had to pick a room to attack first.  We may not have chosen that room first, but either way the whole thing has to be cleaned. 

    I am very proud of what President Obama has accomplished.  I hope that people will reduce their criticism and give more support.  We are all in this mess.  What are we doing to help clean it up???

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Dieting: The Secret to Success

    Recently I re-invented myself by losing a significant amount of weight.  It interests me that so many people make the same comment, "you are keeping it off."  Well when I first heard this comment, I would be a bit put off.  But now I embrace this view.  So today I want to share the best kept secret about dieting. 

    First let me say that any diet can and will work.  It doesn't matter what you do as long as follow the prescribed program, you can lose weight.  Now this does not mean that I support every diet program out there.  Actually I don't support hardly any of them.  Most of them are not healthy and only allow water lost.  But my point is this, if you view a diet program as a jump start, re-focusing moment, meditation time, self-discipline practice, then you can use this "diet" time successfully.

    So many people have inquired, asked, begged about what I did to lose the weight.  I happily share with them, but the program is not the key.  The key to any weight loss program, diet or fad is not what you do while "on the diet," but what you do once off.  Many people believe that there is some miracle diet out there.  That when they complete it, they will the body of their dreams.  Then when they gain all of the weight back plus some bonus pound, they become depressed. 

    The secret to success in weight loss is how you change your life after the diet.  If you go back to eating and living the way you had previously, you will surely fail.  You can't think that you will be able to do whatever you want and maintain your dream body.  You have to adopt a lifestyle change.  You have to recognize that every decision has to be considered.  So before you reach for that candy bar, you should reach on your bag for a piece of fruit.  But of course if you are thoughtful about your lifestyle there will be no fruit in there.  Each day has to be approached with planning and self-discipline.  You have to anticipate what your body needs through the day.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  You've heard this all of your life, but maybe you don't know why.  Breakfast breaks your fast from the day before and it starts your metabolism.  Breakfast provides you the energy needed to get started.  Then a mid-morning snack gives you that energy boost.  But choose wisely.  Breakfast should not be a frosted doughnut or sugared cereal.  Your snack should be a king size candy bars and a soda.   The rest of the day should continue in the same manner: lunch, snack, dinner, snack.  This is how you can eat six small meals a day.

    So the response to the comment I get so much is simple.  I pay attention to what I consume.  I have adjusted my lifestyle so that I can continue my success.  Before I put something in my mouth I ask, "is this worth the consequences?"

    Now that you know the secret to dieting success, I wish you much success.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Buying Real Estate Options with Bad Credit

    Lately I have been approached a lot by people wanting to buy real estate, but can't because of bad credit, bankruptcy, recent foreclosure and so on.  So I thought I would post my thoughts on viable options to purchase a home in this real estate market.

    The days of "rent to own" are gone.  Why you ask?  Well, let's think about it.  First, you agree to rent someone's home and pay them more than the rent each month.  The overage is supposed to be held by the owner and applied to your down payment.  Well the bank will view the overage as your down payment and will reduce the loan by the amount you have paid ahead.  For the sake of an example, let's say that your rent payment is $1,000 monthly with you paying an extra $200 to be applied towards the purchase.  Over a two year period, you would have paid $4,800 towards the purchase of the home.  You agreed to purchase the home for $150,000 at the conclusion of the two years.  So now you go to the mortgage company to secure your financing.  Instead of being financed for $150,000, you can only get financing for $145,200.  And on top of everything else, you also have to produce the required down payment of anywhere from 3.5% to 10%.  The better option is this case is just to lease the property for $1,000 monthly.  At the conclusion of the lease term, you obtain financing for $150,000 and only put down the required amount.

    Some people think that lease-purchase agreements are the way to go.  These are viable and legal.  However, I don't advise people to do them right now because of the instability in the market.  For sake of example, you agree to purchase a home for $150,000 after a two-year lease period.  You begin the financing process.  The appraisal reveals the value to be $128,000.  Guess from where the difference of $22,000 has to come?  You!  The mortgage company is not going to finance more than the appraised value and the seller is not going to reduce the sales price just because.  There are protective clauses that can be included to protect the buyer, but any astute agent will advise the seller not to agree to them. 

    A lease purchase agreement is one where the purchasee price of a property is agreed upon today with the actual sell of the property occurring at a later time.  Since the market is so volatile right now no one knows if the property will appreciate, depreciate or remain level.  If you have been following my posts, then you know that I believe we will experience more depreciation over the last two years.  For the buyer, this means they will have to come out of pocket in order to complete the transaction.  For the seller, this means that they will make a good deal of money in a down market, but most likely they find that they have lost a great deal of time during the lease period only to realize missed opportunities to have sold to other potential buyers.

    Clearly, at this time I do not encourage anyone to go "rent-to-own" or lease purchase.  But don't fear there is still a viable option for those with struggling credit: FROR.  It is best for you to enter into a straight lease agreement and include a very important clause, "first right of refusal."  With this clause, the tenant/buyer is protected because the house cannot be sold from under them.  And for the seller, they enter the agreement knowing full well the time the house will be off the market.  It's a win-win for both.

    Once the real estate market recovers, lease-purchase agreements will make sense again.  But for now, I advice against these two options.

    Just as a footnote I want to give a bit of information about bankruptcy.  Chapter 7 is where the slate is wiped clean.  However, you are required to liquidate assets and creditors are paid off as much as possible from the proceeds.   Chapter 7 remains on your credit report for 10 years.  Chapter 13, on the other hand, is where a payment plan is established.  You are not required ti liquidate your assets and it remains on your report for 7 years.  With either, I have been told by several lenders that you will be able to obtain financing for a home anywhere between 2 and 4 years after filing.  Be aware that a higher down payment may be required as a result of the bankruptcy.

    I included this information so there is an understanding of how long any lease should be in order to exercise the FROR option.   For more information, check out my website,

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    What I'm Thankful For

    I use this time of the year to reflect on what I am truly thankful for.  While others are fighting at the stores to get the lastest bargain, I am sitting at home with my son enjoying life.  This year has been the toughest financially I have ever survived.  Real estate has taken a nosedive and my income went with it.  However, through it all we, my family, still have our health, we still have clothes on our backs and shelter over our heads.   But most importantly, I am still able to smile.

    I told a good frined of mine not to long ago that I was looking forward to the day when he got his smile back.  That may have appeared rather trite, but it means a lot to me.  I believe that the inner smile can make or break a lot of people.  When you lose your inner smile, you are very close to giving up or you are really at the bottom.

    So I have to say that I am most thankful for my inner smile.  Be thankful for the things that are truly yours.  The rest can be replaced.

    Happy Holidays!

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    A Savory Dish to Soothe My Aching Bones

    Last week I was suffering with the ailment my son brought home with him.  My body was aching all over.  My head was pounding.  I had chills and could not get warm to save my soul.  However, I still had to be a mother and prepare dinner for my son.  And I guessed while I was up I would go ahead and make something for myself.  from some unknown place within I prepared a raw lasagna.  And it was delicious.  So I am calling it Lasagna filled with Joi.

    I made it a bit hot because I was trying to clear out my system.  I would suggest if you don't like your food hot, then go light on the cayenne pepper or omit it altogether.

    Lasagna filled with Joi

    Eggplant - sliced thinly lengthwise.  (I had a large eggplant so I only used half of it.  And I used a peeler to slice.)
    1/2 cup water
    1/4 cup Bragg's Amino Acids
    Soak eggplant in water and amino acids for at least an hour.  I did this first so that by the time I prepared everything else, the eggplant was ready.

    Cheese Sauce:
    1/4 cup Sunflower seeds
    Cashews - half a handful
    2 tablespoons Lemon juice
    2 cloves Garlic
    2 heaping tablespoons Tahini
    2 tablespoons Olive oil
    2 tablespoons Amino acids
    Sea salt to taste
    Water - start with one tablespoon and add as needed to get the desired consistency

    Mix all the ingredients in a food processor.  The above measurements are estimates seeing that I really threw in the amounts that felt right to me.  I think I'm pretty close to what I actually did.  Once satisfied with the taste, place in a bowl.

    Tomato Sauce:
    1/4 cup Sun-dried tomatoes - soaked for at least fifteen minutes
    2 heaping tablespoons Tomato paste
    1/2 Onion
    1 teaspoon of each - basil, marjoram, tarragon, oregano
    Sea salt to taste
    Cayenne pepper to taste

    Mix all ingredients in food processor and place in bowl.

    Other Layer Ingredients:
    Chopped spinach (I didn't have fresh so I used frozen allowing it to thaw)
    1/2 Zucchini - sliced thinly

    Putting it all together - lay the eggplant out on a paper towel so that some of the liquid can be absorbed.  In a storage dish with sides, lay out a layer of eggplant followed by a layer of tomato sauce then a layer of spinach followed by a layer of cheese sauce then a layer of zucchini.  Repeat until you run out ingredients or space in your dish.  Honestly the order of layering doesn't matter.  Just be sure that eggplant is on the bottom.

    That's it, you're done.  Slice off a chunk and enjoy.

    This is a slice in my tiffin which I brought for my lunch the next day.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    My Real Estate Predictions

     Eva Kröcher (Eva K.)
    Many experts have stated their predictions of where they see the real estate market going.  These predictions have run the gamut.  Some said that interest rates would increase in the second half of 2010 while others said that housing prices would steadily increase.  And still others predicted that just the opposite would occur.  So as a real estate professional actually practicing in the Atlanta market, I want to offer my predictions. 

    1. Foreclosures will increase over the next 12-18 months.  With the increase of foreclosures, the market will be flooded with new listings.

    2. Short sales will decrease drastically if not disappear altogether.  Mortgage companies will not find it advantageous to expend the time and effort to process short sales.  It will be more economical for them to simply foreclose on the property and move ahead.  This also means that the mortgage companies are going to lay off most of their short sale negotiators.  I don't like to see people lose their jobs, but many of these "negotiators" were not skilled or trained to conduct this work anyway.

    3. Loan modifications will not be considered in cases where the modifications are actually needed.  However, they will be offered and approved for those whose accounts are current and paid on time.

    4. Housing values will not increase until the end of 2012.  This is where appraisal reports will start to reflect values closer to, equal to and in many cases exceeding the purchase price in the purchase and sale agreement.

    5. We will see what I am calling "false projecting" beginning as early as February 2011.  False projecting is where mortgage companies place foreclosed properties on the market at higher prices than the market can bear.  Ultimately the mortgage companies hope to stabilize the real estate market by increasing the prices.  Even if a buyer comes along and makes a full price offer which in theory should drive the value up, this is all false because the appraised value will still be generated from recent sales activity. 

    6. We will see new construction begin again in 2011.  however, we will not see all of the bells and whistles from before.  Builders will build sound housing stock with standard finishes.  Gone are the days of granite countertops, travertine back splashes, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, plush carpet, jacuzzi tubs and so on.  Now we will see a lot put into energy efficiency and a focus on making sure that the product is built to last.  In regards to new construction and the appraisal issue Pat Curry wrote a great article, 10 Ways to Beat Low Appraisals

    This may all sound like doom and gloom.  But it's not.  As I stated in an earlier post, this is absolutely the best time to purchase real estate.  Prices will never be this low again.  What we witnessed a few years ago with high prices, steady appreciation and the easiest financing process is gone.  I don't think we will ever see the real estate market operate like that again.  We are now on the other end of the spectrum with extremely low prices and interest rates.

    It will take some time.  Be assured the real estate market will recover and even out.  This will not happen as a result of "false projecting," but as a result of slow and steady increases in sold prices. 

    The Complete Guide to Locating, Negotiating, and Buying Real Estate Foreclosures: What Smart Investors Need to Know - Explained Simply

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Questions from the Side of Pregnancy

    It's funny how messages can be misinterpreted.  Don't you think?

    Q: Should I have a baby after 35?
    A: No, 35 children is enough.

    Q: I'm two months pregnant now. When will my baby move?
    A: With any luck, right after he finishes college.

    Q: What is the most reliable method to determine a baby's sex?
    A: Childbirth.

    Q: My wife is five months pregnant and so moody that sometimes she's borderline irrational.
    A: So what's your question?

    Q: My childbirth instructor says it's not pain I'll feel during labor, but pressure. Is she right?
    A: Yes, in the same way that a tornado might be called an air current.

    Q: When is the best time to get an epidural?
    A: Right after you find out you're pregnant.

    Q: Is there any reason I have to be in the delivery room while my wife is in labor?
    A: Not unless the word "alimony" means anything to you.

    Q: Is there anything I should avoid while recovering from childbirth?
    A: Yes, pregnancy.

    Q: Do I have to have a baby shower?
    A: Not if you change the baby's diaper very quickly.

    Q: Our baby was born last week. When will my wife begin to feel and act normal again?
    A: When the kids are in college.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Develop Your HealthStyle

    Recently I changed my lifestyle in order to live a healthier life.  HealthStyle is a take on healthy lifestyle.  Here I want to explain what a healthstyle is and then give tips and information to guide you to your own healthstyle.  

    Healthstyle is a personal set of healthy decisions that suits your personal lifestyle and preferences.  You must develop a new way of living which means that you have to make a permanent change.  in other words, you must develop a new habit.  Please understand that you are not going "on a diet," but rather changing your diet and other healthful habits forever.  These are lifestyle changes which are more than just with food.  Thus, you must consider every facet of your world including the amount of sleep you get, how much exposure to the sun you get and most importantly, how much you laugh each day.  Developing your healthstyle has to be consistent which leads to better health and permanent weight loss. 

    Begin today.  Set some goals that you can reach.  Perhaps decide that you are going to get no less seven hours of sleep each night.  Wake up to laughter.  Keep a joke book on your nightstand.  Read a joke at night before retiring and again when you wake up.  Commit to drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning.  These are just some things you can do to improve your healthstyle.  I will post more suggestions each week.

    But for now, I want to share a great healthy recipe to get you strated.  I found this recipe for Marinated Collard Greens from Green Spirit.

    Marinated Collard Greens

    ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
    ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
    ¼ cup chopped scallions
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    ½ teaspoon black pepper

    1 bunch collard greens, washed
    2 tablespoons olive oil olive oil
    1 teaspoon sea salt

    In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Set aside.

    Cut hard stem from collard leaves. Take several leaves and roll into a cylinder, the shape of a fat cigar.
    Using a knife, cut through the collard cylinder, making strips.
    Repeat using all collard green leaves.

    Places the collard green strips in a large bowl. Pour olive oil on the strips and sprinkle with sea salt. Massage the oil and salt into the strips until all are well coated.

    Transfer the collard strips to the bowl with the apple cider vinegar marinade. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

    Makes 4 Servings

    Quick Note:
    I replaced the red pepper flakes with cayenne pepper and added paprika and cumin.

    Oh by the way, I am a vegetarian going towards vegan headed to raw foodie.  So all of the recipes provided will not include meat.
    Vegan on the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies that Save You Time and Money

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Welcome to Joiful Thoughts

    It's finally here.  Joiful Thoughts will come to you three days a week.  As a professional full-time Associate Broker of real estate, it only makes sense that I include real estate information.  Thus, Mondays will feature real estate related information.  I would appreciate feedback on the information and any topics to which you want me to respond.  Wednesdays will feature health-related information.  Why, you ask.  Because I want to share all of the knowledge I have gained over the years to live a healthier life.  And Fridays will be the day that I will present light-hearted fare: quirky anecdotes, funny stories and motivational words.

    I look forward to being able to share useful information with you.  And remember, if you know anyone looking to buy or sell real estate, I'm ready, willing and able to assist them through the process.

    Real Estate: Still the Best Investment

    With all the bad and negative information in the media these days, many people are leery about pursuing real estate as an investment options.  But I'm here to tell you that real estate is still the best investment.  I tend to be very simple in my thinking.  And of all the investments out there, 401K's, stocks, bonds, t-bills, and so on real estate is the only one with "real" in the name.  And that speaks volumes.

    Prices are the lowest they have been in years.  Just to give you an example, I closed a duplex with a remaining tenant in one side for $7,000.  Yes you read that right.  I closed a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home built in 2005 for $15,000.  I have a 3BR/ 2BA home on the market for $15,700.  And I have a 2BR/2BA home on an acre of land under contract for $7,500.  When you can buy real estate for less than a used car, you should really consider making the step.  As of today, there are 1,296 single family, condo, town home and multi-family properties available for under $25,000.

    As an added bonus to investors, you have for the first time in my lifetime the best tenant pool.  Why?  It's simple, with all the foreclosures and short sales occurring, these former home owners need a place to live while they repair their credit.  So what makes them part of the best tenant pool is that they know how to care for a home.  They have been used to not calling someone else for repair and maintenance issues.  They have the home owner mentality not that of a career tenant. 

    So don't you want to get a great investment while you can???

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    From the Mouths of Babes

    We don't always give credit to what children say, but they sometimes have the wisest advice.  Enjoy these and follow the advice.

    "Wear a hat when feeding seagulls." - Rocky, age 9
    "Sleep in your clothes so you'll be dressed in the morning." - Stephanie, age 8
    "Don't flush the john when your dad's in the shower." - Lamar, age 10
    "Never ask for anything that costs more than $5 when your parents are doing taxes." - Carrol, age 9
    "Never bug a pregnant mom." - Nicholas, age 11
    "Don't ever be too full for dessert." - Kelly, age 10
    "When your dad is mad and asks you, 'Do I look stupid?' don't answer him." - Heather, age 16
    "Never tell your mom her diet's not working." - Michael, age 14
    "Don't pick on your sister when she's holding a baseball bat." - Joel, age 12
    "When you get a bad grade in school, show it to your mom when she's on the phone." - Alyesha, age 13
    "Never try to baptize a cat." - Laura, age 13
    "Never spit when on a roller coaster." - Scott, age 11
    "Never do pranks at a police station." - Sam, age 10
    "Beware of cafeteria food when it looks like it's moving." - Rob, age 10
    "Never tell your little brother that you're not going to do what your mom told you to do." - Hank, age 12
    "Remember you're never too old to hold your father's hand." - Molly, age 11
    "Listen to your brain. It has lots of information." - Chelsey, age 7
    "Stay away from prunes." - Randy, age 9
    "Never dare your little brother to paint the family car." - Phillip, age 13
    "Forget the cake, go for the icing." - Cynthia, age 8
    "Remember the two places you are always welcome - church and Grandma's house." - Joanne, age 11
    "When you want something expensive, ask your grandparents." - Matthew, age 12