Now is a Great Time to Get Into Investment Real Estate.
It has been over fifty years since real estate prices and interest rates have been this low at the same time. After the zillion megaton explosion of the real estate bubble, prices have dropped to all time lows and bargains abound. It does not take a genius to see that right now cash is king and if you have a few bucks set aside you need to look into investment real estate.
You need to be extremely careful however and use all of the tools at your disposal before making the leap. All you need to do is a drive a few blocks in any urban area to see all of the For Lease signs that are there, and many that have been there for a long, long time.
Because of the floundering economy, many businesses have gone belly up and one of the biggest casualties of the entire recession (can you say depression?) has been and will continue to be commercial investment real estate landlords. They are the ones that are left holding the proverbial bag when businesses collapse and tenants are forced to flee, many of them without paying any lease severance penalties. When businesses can no longer afford to stay in a commercial space for want of revenue, the onus goes onto the landlord to make sure that there is a great dialogue with the tenant.
In the old days a landlord would just evict a defaulting tenant without too much thought and then raise the lease prices for the next incoming business. With today’s epidemic of failing retail shops, service establishments, restaurants, auto and body shops, and ever other kind of small to medium sized businesses, investment real estate leasing space is begging for tenants.
The landlords can avoid a hasty departure by failing businesses by working with them to temporarily reduce or defer lease payments. This will give the establishment much needed breathing room and free up some cash flow. The benefit to the landlord is that he will eventually see some rents from the businesses when the economy picks up. One thing is for certain and that is that the economy will improve eventually. It may take longer this time to recover, but historically speaking, economies are cyclical and they always come back. When the economy and the failing businesses do recover the landlord will have looked like an angel to the business, eliciting loyalty, plus it will have made sound business sense.
For commercial real estate owners who cannot work out a plan for their tenants the consequences are grim. Take away that large payment each month and pretty soon you will feel it in your pocketbook, even if your pockets are deep. Many have been forced to default on their commercial loans and have watched their properties get seized by the banks.
If you are an investor looking to get into investment real estate then this is a great time. You can pick up an REO (bank owned) property for very little. Just make sure that you have a tenant or two lined up before you purchase or you could be the next one facing a foreclosure of your own.
School Music Programs in Desperate Need of Funding.
Across the country, school music programs are shutting down or being down-sized due to lack of funding. The economic situation has caused massive cutbacks to the public school systems around the United States and art and music education are regrettably the first to be cut most of the time. In no state is this being felt harder than in California, where legislators are trying to find Federal funds to make up an estimated $21 billion budget shortfall for the 2010 fiscal year.
Schools have had to eliminate many of their most popular programs including sports, after school activities, art, music, band, and even tutoring programs. Many schools have slashed teaching jobs wholesale and have cut back hours for the ones that remain. This is a critical test of our public education system and it is up to our good parents and concerned citizens as well as educational professionals to band together and fight these massive cuts. Nothing less than the future of our children is at stake.
Because of the core mandated testing system that is currently in place in the California school system, the only things that absolutely have to be funded is test preparation for the spring assessments. Since the districts get allocated money based on student assessments and testing averages, test preparation gets funded first. Students are taking tests on average between 20 to 40 days each semester.
That is way too much testing and is not necessary. Students should be learning, not cramming for tests. Most education experts agree that when students cram they donít absorb the material and days later (if not minutes) the material is forgotten. The cost to prepare, administer and score these tests is very high. The Corona-Norco school district in Southern California for instance has had to cut several music teachers, effectively eliminating their music program.
In March of 2009 students from Capistrano High School in Capistrano, California came out in force and used their rights to demonstrate to protest the unfair cuts to their program and brought to light the plight of school music programs throughout the state that are in jeopardy.
A study done in 2008 presented findings that school music programs actually help students to excel in their assessment and standardized testing. Score boosts of 22 percent in English and 20 percent in Math were recorded. This should come as no surprise to musicians who have known for years that their ability to focus improves significantly when they practice music regularly. A lot of learning music is memorization and repetition and being able to focus your energies on a task. These are some of the same attributes necessary to excel in academic work.
When you think of Caribbean cuisine most people think of seafood and bean dishes, not necessarily beef recipes, but especially in Cuba, beef has been a traditional staple of the populace since before the 20th century. In Cuba these days however regular citizens can’t afford beef. A pound of ground beef costs over $20 dollars or the equivalent in Cuban pesos. Taking into consideration that the average Cuban makes less than $30 per month, beef just is not an option for most Cubans unless they work in a dollar restaurant or one of the tourist hotels.
Cuban beef recipes include the ever popular picadillo (pronounced pick-a-dee-yo) which is basically seasoned ground beef. You need to make the seasoning, or sofrito first which consists of fried onions, a little oil, and some garlic. Let the sofrito cool and then add it to one pound of 80% lean ground meat. The ground meat is then mixed with about half a cup of tomato paste or tomato sauce (paste is better). The mixture is then cooked on a skillet for half an hour. Add chopped or sliced green pitted olives at the end and it is ready to serve over plain white rice and accompanied by fried plantains and black bean soup.
Another one of the great tasting Cuban beef recipes is beef empanadas, which are pastries filled with picadillo. These meat filled treats are deep fried until crispy and perfect. Most good Cuban restaurants will also offer beef, ham, chicken, or bacalao (dried smoked cod) croquetas (croquettes). Croquetas are made with finely ground meat or fish filling and spices, then rolled and formed into little Finger shapes, then rolled in egg yolk and finally into bread crumbs. Once they are ready the croquetas are deep fried until golden brown and crispy. Both croquetas and empanadas are really tapas, or appetizers but can also serve as a main dish when accompanied by traditional fried green plantains and some form of rice dish, or black beans.
Cuban beef recipes from the island include the famous ropa vieja, which literally translates as old clothes. This is a dish of shredded skirt steak sauted in a sauce of red bell peppers, onions and tomato sauce. All of these dishes begin with the traditional ìsofritoî and then the meat is mixed in and cooked.
Most Cuban recipes go better with plain white rice and a black bean soup, or potaje (pronounced po-ta-heh). Add some fried sliced sweet or green plantains and you have a great traditional Cuban dish right at home.
Cuban beef recipes go well with mixed rum drinks such as rum and coke with a slice of lime, also known as a Cuba Libre (free Cuba) or the favorite drink of Ernest Hemingway, the Mojito (pronounced mo-hee-to) which is white rum, lime juice, soda, simple syrup, and crushed mint.
If you really want the entire experience you need to put on some spicy Salsa dance music and invite some friends over for a party. They will love the tropical drinks and the delicious Cuban food that you serve.
Your Family History Could Reveal Some Interesting Facts.
I had always heard that my family arrived in this country from Ireland right at the turn of the 20th century, and that I was third generation Irish-American. All of that is true, but I recently discovered that I have distant relatives that were in the United States long before my family arrived.
One thing that I quickly discovered is when you research your family history, it can reveal some interesting things that you may have never known.
The biggest thing for me was finding out that one of my ancestors was the rather mediocre but nevertheless well-known U.S. general, Ambrose Burnside. He was a Union general during the American Civil War.
Burnside was the commander during a few successful campaigns in Tennessee and North Carolina, but was routed at the Battle of Fredricksburg by Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Burnside was actually the commander of the Army of the Potomac, but still lost badly.
He eventually resigned and went on to work in the railroad industry. The thing that he is probably the most noted for was his unusual facial hair at the time, which came to be known as side burns because of him. I am proud to say that I am the proud owner of side burns, though not quite as fluffy as my great-great-great-great grandfather’s.
Studying your family history can be fun for reasons just like this. To learn that I was related to a famous Civil War general was pretty amazing. Now, it would have been even better if I learned that I was descended from Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant, but you can’t change your family history.
In researching your family history, you sometimes come across things that seem too remarkable to be true. For instance, I learned that a distant cousin of ours was another Civil War figure, P.G.T. Beauregard. He also served as an engineer during the Mexican-American war.
Your family history is something about which you should feel proud. I had always thought that I was exclusively of Irish ancestry and knew a lot about my culture. However, in learning about my family history, I came across a Scottish-American and French-American to whom I am related. It was fascinating to learn.
I would suggest to anyone interested in learning your family history to go online and research it, or speak to some of your older relatives who may know a little bit more about your lineage than you do. It is really amazing to see how your family came to live where it does and who you are descended from, so that you can pass it on to your children.
Tips For Taking Vacations With Kids.
Taking vacations with kids can be a great experience and a bonding time for families. However, it can also be a hard thing to do without a lot of problems popping up. If you think about where you are going, what you are going to be doing, and how you are going to get there and back, you can come up with some idea to help you make things go much more smoothly. If you keep the fact that children are very excitable as well as prone to boredom, you can come up with ways to keep things on an even keel when you are experiencing downtime.
The downtime on vacations with kids is often during travel to and from the vacation spot, and also at night when everyone else is trying to sleep. This means finding ways to keep them happy. Normally this might be time that they are sleeping at home, but when away on vacation, they are likely filled with energy and excitement, leaving it hard for you to get the sleep that you need. If you are traveling a long way, it can be hard to keep them calm in the car or even on the plane. Have some plans in place before you go.
Some parents like to have kits ready for vacations with kids. This type of kit can be compiled with things that are going to keep them happy and busy. What you want to put into these kits depends on your children, what they like to do, and how old they are. Babies, for example, won’t need much as long as they can sleep and eat, but you may want to make sure you take some of their favorite toys with you to keep them occupied if they start to get restless.
Kits for taking vacations with kids that are under age ten can be a lot of fun for them, but you want to think about mess. Modeling dough can be a fun idea, but you can not allow them to have that on a plane, and you don’t want it in the backseat of your car. Think about books, paper activities like Mad Libs, and perhaps some electronic games and movies that they can play and watch. Take some of their favorite toys as long as they are small and portable. These can work for older kids, but get them things that are age appropriate. Teens are notoriously easily bored, so allow them to bring a music player with them. This often keeps them happy.
No matter what you do, you are always going to have moments during vacations with kids that are going to be boring for them. However, there are also going to be times when they are having so much fun and seem so content you won’t know what to do. If you can find parts of a vacation that do not seem like much fun for you, but that are going to be a blast for them, make sure you incorporate those things into your time schedule. This helps them appreciate what you want to do because you choose things just for them as well.
A capsule guide to cooking with herbs and spices.
With busy schedules and an abundance of ready-made dishes, it’s an unfortunate fact that the art of cooking is fast becoming a lost art, particularly in the U.S. If both Mom and Dad are working, there may be little time to spend creating dishes from scratch. As a result, plenty of kids go off to college not knowing a spatula from a tong, how to bake a pie or make a roast with gravy. This makes for dull meals indeed. At the same time, there are a few cuisines (which shall remain unnamed) that use very little in the way of seasoning, producing some albeit nutritious, but bland tasting dishes.
Knowing the basics of cooking with herbs and spices provides any cook with the secrets to dishing up some memorable meals, no matter how elementary your cooking skills may be. Let’s see how basic mastery of cooking with herbs and spices can change your life. Food is, after all, one of life’s main pleasures. Just to pique your appetite, so to speak, let’s look at a few everyday foods that are greatly enhanced with a few herbs or spices. A plain dish of applesauce becomes oh so much better with a spoonful of cinnamon and sugar mixed filling, but becomes a gourmet standout when roasted with sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Steamed rice, with a dab of butter, is an acceptable side dish, but see what happens when you sprinkle that rice with Chinese Five Spice! In short, knowing your way with cooking with herbs and spices is your ticket to gourmet stardom. The spice aisle at the supermarket is organized alphabetically, to make it easy for you to find a given herb or spice. What you need to learn is how to group those herbs and spices to match them up with the foods they best enhance. The savory herbs go best with meats and most produce, while sweet spices make sweet foods taste better. The famous combination of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme is invariably successful with beef. Sweet herbs, such as tarragon and dill, are good with mild tasting meats, such as shrimp and most fish fillets. Sweet basil and tomatoes are a match made in heaven.
As you progress in your adventures in cooking with herbs and spices, you’ll discover that there are many surprises and exceptions. For example, tarragon is an herb many cooks reserve strictly for use with fish. Tarragon can be tricky to use with other foods, not for the faint-hearted cook; however, it’s absolutely perfect with strongly flavored game dishes, such as venison, elk and buffalo. Here’s another surprisingly delightful combination: roast beef with cinnamon gravy, a medieval favorite.
You can see that cooking with herbs and spices doesn’t require extensive culinary skills, but just a little imagination and a willingness to experiment. To learn more, make your next stop the bookstore. There are many excellent books filled with herb and spice mixtures that you can try out on your very next meal. There’s simply no excuse for boring meals.
Everyone could use a little time away from their everyday life. With the economy in shambles and people’s stress levels at an all-time high, planning a vacation may be a necessity to even survive. Of course, not everyone can plan and pay for some lavish getaway. Sometimes, finances may hinder the actual destination of your getaway, but you can still make something happen.
Ideally, the best way to escape is when you look into all inclusive travel. Some of the prices may look at little bit intimidating but when you’re going to be needing a flight, hotel and meals, it truly can be the best way to go. When booking all inclusive travel, you may actually end up saving quite a bit of money.
How is that possible? Its simple. Your all inclusive travel is most likely going to include your round trip airfare, your room or overnight accommodations, all meals and drinks and taxes and tips. If you have to pay for all of that on an individual basis, you may find that those little details could add up to double the price that you will be paying for an all inclusive travel package.
Going on a cruise? You don’t want the see what your bill would be for all of the alcoholic beverages, or even non-alcoholic drinks for your entire trip. Many travelers have just about had a heart attack or a panic attack when the cruise reaches its final destination and they are responsible for paying for not only the drinks, but the gratuities as well. Suddenly, the end of their vacation leaves them not as peaceful as they should be at the end of a relaxing trip.
Your all inclusive travel package could lead you to places that you never thought that you could afford to see. Right now, travel is quite a bargain. You may not be able to name your own price, but you may be able to get a much better deal than you would have a few years ago.
Let’s face it people can’t afford all of the luxuries anymore. Their travel plans may be the first thing that they cut back on. When there are not as many people travelling the world, the prices tend to go down. If the price goes down travel destinations want to lure in as many people as possible. The best way to draw people in is to lower the prices. Suddenly, an all inclusive package may end up being a price that you can afford.
You can find tons of all inclusive travel deals all over the internet. However, before you decide to make any payments or purchase anything definite, make sure you do some shopping around. Just because one site has a great deal doesn’t mean that another site won’t have another price that will save you a few extra dollars or offer a different location that may be even more appealing.
You could contact a travel agent and put them to work to find you the best all inclusive travel deal. Or, you could take advantage of a travel agentís knowledge and your own research to truly find the ultimate and affordable all inclusive travel package and treat yourself to a wonderful vacation.
NFL Football Cards Are Still Fun to Peruse.
The other day, I was going through my closet and came across some of my old NFL football cards, and it was as if I had been magically transported back to my childhood. I sat there for several hours, just looking at the cards and remembering some of the great players I saw growing up.
Of all of my NFL football cards, my most prized possession is a 1990 Action Pack Emmit Smith rookie card. I am a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, and I was so thrilled when I actually came across this card at a reasonable price.
It is very special to me because it always reminds me of the Cowboys’ heyday back I the 1990′s, when they won three Super Bowls with Smith at running back. I remember watching him in his prime and thinking he was the best running back I had ever seen. I found some of my old NFL football cards from the 1980s as well, and remembered how great the quarterbacks were of that era. I found my John Elway, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Warren Moon cards, and I began to wonder if there was ever a better time for quarterbacks in football than that decade.
I also found some of the receivers among my card collection from the ’80s and ’90s, guys like Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin. When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a receiver because I thought it was the position, other than quarterback, that got the most glory on the field.
Eventually, I found some of the great defensive players of those two decades among my NFL football cards, including Reggie White, Jerome Brown and the rest of that Philadelphia Eagles front four, as well as Charles Haley and Russell Maryland for the Cowboys.
I think the best thing about taking that trip down memory lane was the fact that football was so special to me then, probably because it was so new to me. I remember being fascinated with everything about the game, from the players’ uniforms, to team mascots, to how players stood, ran or did anything, really.
Don’t get me wrong I still love the game with every fiber of my being, but being around those NFL football cards reminded me of a time when I truly appreciated everything about football and a time when I was still so innocent.
Looking through my old NFL football cards was something I had a lot of fun doing that day, and I hope that my son feels the same way about the sport now. I showed him some of the cards that I had and talked about some of the players that meant so much to me, and I think he really enjoyed it, too.
Nutrition and Wellness are Forever Linked
As a person who has worked and sometimes struggled with his health and fitness for most of my life, I have come to understand that nutrition and wellness are forever linked and critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
My father had to go through heart surgery eight years ago, and when he got out of the hospital, he had a problem with his stomach where he could not eat without feeling nauseous. There were a few things that did not bother him as much, so we loaded up on those items, like bread, crackers, chicken and so forth, and that was pretty much all that he ate for a month or two.
It was not long before I realized that proper nutrition and wellness are forever linked, because he became very lethargic and achy. He would tell us that he felt weak and didn’t really have the energy to do much of anything.
The problem was, he was supposed to be doing physical therapy to rebuild his strength and get back into shape, but he did not feel like doing anything. He was also getting tired of the diet he was on, because it was rather bland and he was eating the same things over and over. He was taking a multivitamin, but I still had a suspicion that he needed to be eating a more balanced diet.
I went online and found a web site where doctors would answer questions about a variety of topics, so I decided to ask about nutrition and wellness, and see what a professional had to say. The doctor who responded confirmed my suspicions and was actually kind enough to outline a diet plan that was balanced but still mild enough to not upset my father’s stomach.
I went to the store that night with my mother, and we bought the various foods that the doctor had recommended and started my father on that diet the next day. It worked like a charm.
Within a week, he was feeling more energetic and was not tired nearly as often. Within two weeks, he started going to physical therapy three times a week and was rebuilding his muscle in the process. After a month, he was walking around with no problem at all. It was almost as if he had never had the surgery.
It is amazing to me how good nutrition and wellness go hand in hand, and what I mean by that is how much nutrition helps you recover from physical or medical problems. Whenever I talk to somebody that is going through surgery, is injured or has an illness, I always tell them to make sure they are eating a nutritious diet. My father is a prime example of how much it can help.
Piano Lessons For Children Are Beneficial in More Ways Than One.
My son recently came to me and asked if he could take piano lessons. I was very impressed, as I had taken lessons when I was his age, and I knew that piano lessons for children were beneficial in a number of ways that went far beyond learning how to play a musical instrument.
I started on the piano when I was about 12 years old, and my instructor was an old lady named Mrs. Winn. She had been a high school music teacher for many years, and when she retired, she started teaching private lessons on the side. She told me that piano lessons for children were important for aspiring musicians, because they helped children to understand the elements of music.
I had always fancied myself the next Van Cliburn, so I thought this was a great opportunity for me, and then she told me that lessons were good for children in other ways, too.
I asked her what she meant, and she said that learning to play the piano taught children a sense of responsibility and accountability. Each week, I would play for her and she would critique me, and then give me music to work on at home. When I returned the following week, she expected me to know the music, and if I didn’t, I had to tell her why I had not practiced.
She added that piano lessons for children are also important to give them something to do other than watching television or playing video games. She said she loved hearing about children playing a musical instrument or participating in a sport, because they were being productive.
The most important reason my teacher gave for why piano lessons for children are so beneficial is because children have the opportunity to create something beautiful through hard work. She told me that even if I did not appreciate what I was learning at the time, one day I would.
Well, it is many years later, and I do really appreciate learning how to play the piano. It was during that time that my great love of music was first fostered, and it was there that I learned a number of important life lessons.
When my son came to me and asked if he could take piano lessons, I thought back to what my teacher told me all of those years ago. Piano lessons for children are beneficial for a number of reasons, and I am always grateful for what I learned from my piano teacher. I am just hopeful that my son has an excellent teacher like her.