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.