Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Should You Update in Your Home?

I was talking to a friend this past weekend, and he was telling me about some improvements he'd been making to his house. It seems there's always something to be improved, doesn't it? What gets done and how soon all depends on time, money, and priorities. His home improvements involved pulling the carpet out of a couple bedrooms to expose the hardwood floors underneath, which sounds like a project that mainly takes time and manpower, but not a lot of investment. That's my kind of improvement. I was especially interested because we have a wood floor underneath the carpet in our bedroom, and I would love to pull that carpet out and expose the wood. The upstairs carpet is in decent shape, so it's not a huge priority, but it would be nice. We've been a bit worried about how the staples that hold the carpet down may have damaged the floor, but my friend said it wasn't a big problem on his floor and reminded me that the tack strips for the carpets are only around the edges. We may have to think about pulling that carpet out one of these days.

We've already done quite a few improvements around here since we moved in, the major one being pulling all of the carpet out of the downstairs and putting in wood floors, and replacing the laminate floor in the kitchen with ceramic tile. We certainly like it better, even if it isn't one of the things listed in this HGTV article entitled Which Home Improvements Pay Off?

Unsurprisingly, kitchens and baths made the list.
So exactly what should you improve when you redo your kitchen or bathroom?  Think traditional: all-wood cabinets, commercial-look appliances, natural wood or stone floors and stone countertops.
I certainly can't argue with that. One of the big pluses in this house was that the kitchen had been remodeled a few years back. I may not have chosen the exact marble slab or granite counter top they chose, and I never would have chosen the light cabinets they chose, but I got a great kitchen, and I didn't have to make all those decisions and live through the tumult of a kitchen remodel. The few days I couldn't get into or use my kitchen while the tile was installed were hard enough. I use my kitchen a lot.

If you're planning an update to your kitchen, I say definitely go for it. I think the kitchen is the most important room in the house, so every house deserves a great kitchen. Get some expert advice on which counter materials will work best for what you want and how you use your kitchen. As the HGTV article says, "if you're not planning to move in the near future, spend your money remodeling in a way that you'll most enjoy... Even if you get less than 100 percent of your money back, you're really ahead of the game over time because you get the use of all that space"

What kind of improvements have you made to your home? Did you do them with the idea of increasing the value of your home, or to increase your enjoyment in your home?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Drop Everything and Read

This phrase keeps running through my head. It's something the kids used to do in school. I'll have to ask Jason if they still do during the school day. I know he has a certain amount of reading he has to do at home. I'm not doing a very good job of actually listening to that voice in my head, though, no matter how much I might like to take a day and spend it reading. Or even just finish some of the books I've got started. Maybe next rainy day...

Except there will always be something else to do, and I always feel that I need to get all that other stuff done before I can actually sit down. I may just have to start making to-do lists (something I really need to do anyway), and put reading time on the list. If it's on the list, I have to do it, right?

Also, I set a goal on GoodReads of reading 40 books this year, which isn't a lot when I compare with some other people I know, but I thought it was reasonable. And I still read more books in a year than a lot of other people. But now here we are in September with only about 3 months left in the year, and I'm only 50% of the way to that goal. Either I'm going to have to count some of the books Jason and I read together when he was here, or I'm going to have to make a lot more time to read.

Or just accept failure.

Not sure this actually applies here, but I saw it on Facebook...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Three Reasons to Sell Your Timeshare

CondoOwning a timeshare is like owning a vacation home or property. The resorts behind these homes offer larger units with enough space for your family and friends and smaller units that are suitable for just two people. Though some function more as vacation clubs and let you visit different destinations and book different unit types, many require that you stay in the same place and the same unit year after year. Even if the resort makes it hard for you to terminate your contract, you may still want to sell your timeshare and end that contract for a few clear reasons.

  • Your Lifestyle Changes
    A common reason to get rid of your timeshare is that your lifestyle changes. While a small timeshare in a romantic destination might be great during the early days of your marriage, you may need more space once you begin having children. If you own a timeshare in a party city, you'll also want to sell because that resort doesn't offer opportunities or activities for kids. Timeshare termination can also happen because you recently separated or went through a divorce and no longer want to visit the same place you visited with your former spouse.
  • Medical Issues
    When you learn that you have a serious medical issue, you may want to stay home and care for yourself rather than travel to another part of the country. The same thing is true when your spouse receives a diagnosis of a serious medical condition. Caring for your loved one is more important than taking a vacation. Medical conditions can also limit the amount of money that you have to spend on your travels too. You'll need to pay for hospital visits and medications and won't have the money to fly to your timeshare resort.
  • Loss of Income
    Another reason why you might want to sell your timeshare is that you lose your job, take on a new job or have your hours cut back at work. As you make less money, you need to prioritize how you spend money. Paying for a timeshare and a luxury vacation will take a backseat to paying your mortgage and putting food on the table. 
Depending on the contract that you signed, timeshare termination can be easy or it can be really hard. Thankfully there are experts who can help you terminate your contract or find a buyer willing to take over your timeshare.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Is it Too Early for a Fire?

I know summer isn't quite finished, but I've been seeing signs of fall all over the place. Suddenly the leaves on the trees are starting to turn yellow and red and even falling to the ground. It won't be long until they're all brilliant and gorgeous like this picture from last year. Mornings are cool, and I need to wear a long sleeved shirt when I go for my morning walks.

It seems like it happened overnight. One day it was summer and the next fall had arrived. (Let's just ignore the fact that the temperature is supposed to be in the 80s by the weekend)

These cool evenings have me pulling out the cozy flannel pants and wondering if it's too early for a fire in the fireplace.  Our fireplace isn't really a source of heat, but it's just enjoyable to have a fire going. We enjoy a fire many evenings when the weather turns cool. Since it's a gas fireplace, it's fairly easy to get a fire going, and put it out at the end of the night.
Dec 21
When I was growing up we heated our house with a wood stove, and I use that term 'heated' very loosely because we really only tried to heat a couple rooms in the house while the rest of the house was closed off and very cold at times. I still appreciate being able to get warm when I go to bed at night and not waking up with snow on my pillow some mornings. But we did survive, and I guess we have memories and stories to tell because of it.

I did not have much responsibility for the fire except for carrying in wood quite often after school. The boys may have played with the fire a bit more. Isn't that a guy thing? I remember one time us kids were home alone and the chimney behind the stove started getting hot, and the cover in the next room started turning black. We were terrified that the house was going to burn down and ended up calling the fire department. Everything turned out fine, but it was very scary. I think it was something as simple as the damper on the stove not being closed so all the heat from the stove was going up the chimney instead of staying in the stove where it belonged. I know it could have been a lot worse.

I've been reading about how birds' nests and other debris like weeds, twigs, and grass can accumulate in a chimney during the summer when the fireplace or wood stove isn't being used, meaning that the first fire of the season could inadvertently spark a blaze that could spread to the rooftop. It sounds like it's not a bad idea to hire a DC chimney sweep, or general handyman to inspect and clean the chimney and roof before that first fire of the season.

Unless you want to climb up there yourself, which isn't exactly the best idea because it can be nearly impossible for the typical homeowner to figure out how to sweep out the chimney.  It also takes special equipment long enough to reach past the stack at the very top and vacuum hoses that can extend far enough down the chute to reach everything embedded inside. Professional sweeps come to your home with all of this equipment on hand and ready to use.  Before they get started, they inspect the chimney to make sure live creatures like squirrels or raccoons are removed safely.  They can then start removing nests, grass, weeds, and other debris from inside the chimney.

I don't think we ever had any such thing done to our old farmhouse in the country. Thankfully, we survived to tell the stories anyway.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

First Days

I had a memory pop up on Facebook this morning - some pictures I'd scanned in a while back. There was a really cute one of my precious daughter Beth. It was kind of weird to realize that she was not that much older in that picture than her son is now. How did that happen?

And that's when I thought it would be fun to put some pictures side by side. Jason started first grade this week. What if I put his first day of first grade picture next to his mom's first day picture?

Aren't they cute?

Here's what my baby girl looks like today (with a brand new first grader of her own):

I think we're pretty blessed to have both of them. <3

Friday, August 25, 2017

Wellness Tips for Great Health

Many people want to get healthy, but then they engage in behaviors that are diametrically opposed to the realization of that goal. If you realize that getting healthy takes work and are ready to put in the required effort, here are some tips for you. Utilize some or all of the information found here to make great health yours:
  1. Stop Watching Television And Become More Active.
    Research studies have indicated that people who watch more than three hours of TV may be compromising their brain health. As indicated in a LiveScience article, one study found that individuals who watched a lot of television performed more poorly on cognitive tests than those who didn't. Thus to promote not only your physical health but also your brain health, put that remote control down and become more physically active. You'll reap a wide range of brain benefits when you engage in exercise, some of which include improved memory and enhanced cognitive function.
    Some of the other great benefits of exercise include:
      • increased pulmonary ventilation
      • increased cardiac output 
      • increased respiratory capacity
      • improved body composition
      • increased aerobic capacity
    Note that the ideal exercise routine will include stretching, cardiovascular activity, and weight-bearing exercise. Also keep in mind that if you don't like lifting weights, you can do resistance exercises using your own body weight. If you haven't exercised in a long time, it is a good idea to speak with a physician like one of the professionals at Cypress Family Medicine before you begin.
  2. Get Off The Standard American Diet (SAD) Right Now. junk food
    If you eat like most Americans, know that your food habits are not conducive to optimal health. In fact, the SAD is chock full of harmful processed goods and sodium-rich items that can take a toll on your heart and weight. To really eat in a manner that is conducive to wellness, be sure to incorporate more leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale into your diet. Also consume a wide range of delicious fruits such as apples, bananas, pears, cherries, and peaches. Finally, make a point to educate yourself about nutrition. For example, note that vitamins perform specific physiological functions that enhance your level of well-being. Vitamin E is responsible for protecting blood cells and fatty acids from destruction within your body. You can obtain vitamin E through foods such as nuts and green leafy vegetables.

So, basically - get off your butt, get moving, and stop eating all that junk food!

Turning the television off, exercising regularly, and abandoning the traditional American diet are three keys to attaining optimal health. Make these lifestyle changes immediately so you can begin to thrive inside! I promise it will all be worth it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Best Storage Option

2012_212X_11I thought it was awesome when my Dad bought a boat. What I didn’t realize was that he would have nowhere to park it.  So it sat and sat until it killed some grass.  The thing also got covered with leaves in the fall.  Then he decided that it needed a place to live permanently.  So we did some research into how he could store it.

Self Storage
The first idea we investigated was a self-storage unit, but those are really expensive.  Plus you don’t have ready access to your boat. Say it's a nice day, and Dad wants to go out on the lake and take my kids with him. That’s a win-win for me, but first he has to go and pick the boat up at the storage place, and by then the kids are cranky and tired of waiting.  Paying a monthly fee for someone to keep your boat locked up just doesn’t make sense.

New Garage
Then we looked into building onto his house.  This was his idea not mine. I already knew I couldn’t afford it, and I doubted that he could. Sure enough, the quotes he got for building a new garage were over $20,000.  He could buy another boat for that! What’s more, there would be a lot of turmoil during the process. A foundation would have to be dug. Heavy equipment would run all over the yard.  I saw that happen with a renovation a few years ago at a neighbor’s house. In the end, they spent another $1,000 just to reseed and replant their yard.   

Free-standing Carport
So then we looked into getting a free-standing carport.  I was surprised that a metal carport was such an affordable option.  It wouldn’t disturb the yard or require much in the way of installation.  Sure enough, Dad went for it.  The new carport was installed quickly. Mom was happy because it was a no-mess, no-fuss solution. Dad was very happy because it cost a tiny fraction of what a garage would have cost, and it protects his boat. This seems like a good option for cars and campers, too. You protect your investment from the worst of the weather, but you don't spend a fortune doing it.

Disclaimer: This is a guest post. My dad did not buy a boat, though it would be cool if he did. He did build a carport, though.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Because I Have So Much Free Time

When I first started blogging, I used Photobucket to host a lot of my images. Thinking about it now, I'm not sure why. I've used Blogger for ages, and I can just use Google for all the images I need for my blog. They even make it super easy to add photos from my phone - which happen to be pretty much the only pictures I seem to take these days. (see example 'eclipse' photo on the right)

And now, after all this time, Photobucket has decided to change things (read: they want money) so that I can no longer use my Photobucket images on my blog - not only all images going forward, which would be OK since I haven't actually used them to host any blog images in ages (did I mention how easy it is to use Google?) - but every single image that I have ever used. So, everywhere that I have an image I hosted on Photobucket (and included in my post with code provided by Photobucket), I now have this super ugly graphic telling me that I need to upgrade my account. Oh Yay.

So now I have to go back through every post looking for those ugly graphics, figure out what image was supposed to be there, and then get them downloaded from there and re-uploaded (to Blogger and Google), and then fix the code so that the images display properly. Because, of course, I have nothing else to do with my life...

Thanks, Photobucket. I love you too. (jerks)

And, yes, if I wasn't such a perfectionist, I'd just let it go. They're all old posts anyway. Except for those things in the sidebar - what were those, anyway? And the background on my recipe blog. That is the final straw! (or was - got that one fixed at least)


Monday, August 21, 2017

Independent Health Insurance Options

doctorsMany small businesses and families need independent health insurance. In Florida, the Office of Insurance Regulation reviews health insurance plans that offer wellness and preventive care benefits. Insurers must provide access to health care and medical services when the insured needs them.

Independent health insurance Florida plans offer a few different options. Most insurers offer the same kinds of health services, but plans differ in cost sharing and the manner in which services are provided to beneficiaries. The following type of independent health insurance plans are offered in Florida:

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Options

A private Florida PPO allows the insured to receive health care and medical services for any provider or doctor. Costs to the insured are less when he or she uses the PPO’s in-network providers. All PPO plans in Florida require the beneficiary to pay a deductible. It’s necessary for the insured to meet the deductible threshold before the PPO plan begins to pay a portion of healthcare costs.

If you’re scheduling a surgical procedure, take the following steps to ensure your medical costs are covered by the PPO plan:
  • Check the PPO provider directory. Confirm that the surgeon, surgical center or hospital, or other healthcare providers are participating in the PPO network.
  • Call the healthcare provider’s office to confirm that he or she is in the PPO network.
  • Realize that you must pay more for healthcare providers who don’t participate in the PPO network.
  • Note that some plans, such as Florida Blue, allow the insured to receive services from any healthcare provider or physician, but out-of-network costs may be significant.
  • Check “pre-determination of benefits.” Ask the provider to estimate the costs of the procedure. Alternatively, use the private health insurance plan’s cost estimator tools.
Before receiving any care from the provider, surgical center, or hospital, the insured must show his or her plan member identification card. This information can help the provider to determine the insured’s costs of care.

Standard and high-deductible PPO plans are available in the state of Florida. To offset the out-of-pocket costs of care, it’s possible for the insured to use funds in a Health Care FSA or a Limited Purpose FSA for vision and dental costs.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Options

HMO plans can help the insured to save money on private health insurance plans in Florida. Unless the insured goes out of network, he or she typically has no deductible to meet for the plan year in a standard HMO plan. The insured may need to make copayments for provider visits or make higher contributions for coverage. A Health Care FSA can help members to offset the costs of healthcare in Florida.

A high-deductible HMO costs less in premiums to the insured but includes a higher deductible, such as an in-network per person or per family deductible for the plan year.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

No Totality Here

One of my Facebook friends just posted this neat site that lets you put in your zip code to see a simulation of next Monday's solar eclipse in your area.

Here's what the peak coverage should look like at my house:

We won't be in the area of complete totality, but it will still be interesting to check it out. Of course, I haven't picked up any of those eclipse glasses or even figured out the best way to 'watch' it. I'm thinking I'll definitely be checking out the shadows on the driveway through the leaves on my tree, but other than that, I don't know.

ABC News is planning to do a live special Monday afternoon, and NASA will be streaming it live with views from NASA research aircraft, high-altitude balloons, satellites and specially-modified telescopes. They'll also include live reports from Charleston, as well as from Salem, Oregon; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Beatrice, Nebraska; Jefferson City, Missouri; Carbondale, Illinois; Hopkinsville, Kentucky; and Clarksville, Tennessee.

What are your plans for viewing the eclipse?