Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I spent the weekend in Chicago and just returned this evening and have been reflecting on it. It was naturally a great time and we got to reconnect with friends that we haven't seen for a while. We also went to a Cubs game and enjoyed the game from a rooftop that is across the street from the stadium. A great venue (for a reasonable cost) with unlimited food and drink, no bathroom lines, and great company.
Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.
-Mary McLeod Bethune
Picture from: http://chicago-cubs-tickets.com/images/clip_image001.jpg
Let me just say, I love Wrigley Field and the Cubs and my reason for writing about this is because of mine and my friends faith in the Cubs. Every year we hope it's going to be "that season" and we'll get another playoff opportunity, and maybe even a World Series win if we really do well. What is it that makes true, hard core fans keep believing and keep supporting teams that have losing streaks or have adverse outcomes in their seasons? For me, it's the atmosphere of Wrigleyville and especially the field with ivy growing on the walls, the spirit of the years of baseball there, the vibe of Chicago, the people, and of course, the Cubs players and announcers. Oh, then there's the epitome of cased meat; the great Chicago hot dog. It's fantastic and is not to be overlooked when in Chicago. If you're not familiar with Chicago "dogs," check this site out (http://www.hotdogchicagostyle.com/chicagodog.php) for the ingredients that go on it.
Driving out of Chicago this morning, I couldn't help but enjoy and envy the Chicago residents and their great Lake Michigan drive on "Lake Shore Drive." The running/biking paths that go along the beach, with the numerous volleyball courts, outdoor restaurants, sailboats, and other spectacles that make up the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago. I love to run and cycle and I couldn't help but wish I could have that ride/run every day.
Hope everyone had a great weekend! Have a great Monday.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
So, if you know me, you know I'm a finance guy and with a career in real estate finance. I am constantly calculating ways to get my mortgages paid off (rental properties and owner occupied house all the same). I've found some easy ways that you can make this happen a lot sooner. Some may argue that having a mortgage is good for tax reasons because of the mortgage interest that you can write off, etc. but what's better than truly being free of debt?
So, here's the easiest and laziest way that you can pay off your mortgage sooner without changing too much about the way you're doing it now. My first piece of advice is to round off the check to the highest tenth of hundredth dollar. For example, if your payment is $893, make it $890 or even $900. This is an obvious way that you can apply extra to your payment every month to pay the loan down without strapping the budget. My second piece of advice is very, very easy as well. Set up bi-monthly automatic deductions for your payment. Your bank with automatically withdraw your normal payment at 2 intervals in the month, both of your choosing if you want to set the exact dates. What this effectively does is that it cuts the compounding interest that occurs throughout the month on your mortgage and you end up paying far less in interest over the life of the loan.
Here's a numbers-centric example of this in action. Take a mortgage amount of $132,000. Let's assume we have a 30 year mortgage at 6.5%. If we make these bi-monthly payments every month, we'll cut 5.67 years off our mortgage. It also saves approximately $36,953 in interest over the life of the mortgage. The normal payment is made, you just happen to cut it in half at two intervals in the month. So, if you normally get paid on the 15th and the 30th (for sake of argument), have the automatic withdrawals made on these dates and you'll find an easy and no hassle way to pay off your mortgage in 25 years (as opposed to 30) and save you over $36,000 over the life. That's a lot of savings!
If you wish to plug in your own scenario in to a calculator to see how much this will save you, see here: http://www.hsh.com/calc-amort.html. Just put your loan amount in, if you pay extra each month, add that as well, put the years left in on your loan, and wa la... you'll find out when you'll pay off the loan.
Nearly every loan company or bank has the option to do bi-monthly automatic payments. Just give them a call and they'll let you know what the procedure is. If you have questions about this, shoot me an email as well. It's what I do.
Have a fantastic Thursday!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It was a beautiful Tuesday here today, full of sun and 80 degree temps. I was thinking today about how our groups of friends are really good at coordinating activities that are not expensive and are quite fun. For instance, over the weekend we participated in a group outdoor fun day which involved adult kickball, relay races, corn hole contests, among other activities. I felt like a kid again and it was good moving around and being active. I love that.
We also went to a birthday party for another friend and really we all like to find reasons to throw a party and get together. My favorite part of all the get togethers is the food that seems to show up from each person or couple. Man there are some wonderful dishes that I've been a part in destroying.
Both of these groups of activities don't have to cost a lot of money and can be great social events that bring friends together to create closer friendships. That's really the awesome part. I've made some life lasting friendships with people in the last few weeks and years that I wouldn't trade for anything.
This topic has given me great inspiration for growing older as well. It seems that as I approach the milestone of 30 years of age, I had worried about becoming less active. That's seems to not be the case at all, and quite the opposite actually. My weekends are booked up until September with fun stuff going on. I hope to keep at this pace for a long time. Cheers.
Have a great Wednesday everyone and keep on keepin' on!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,I hope that everyone had a great weekend. I know I did. Had a great birthday party with friends and also had a great outdoor field day in which our friends competed in different outdoor events, including: kickball, soccer kicking courses, relay races, etc. The fun was really in hanging out with friends that are fun and make life happier and more uplifting.
I would still plant my apple tree.
On that note, I've found a great TV show that really inspires me. I don't like watching TV unless I can get something out of it, and this show is awesome. The Adventures of the Incurable Optimist (http://abc.go.com/specials/michaeljfox/index) is a wonderful show in which Michael J. Fox travels around the country and the world to exploit optimistic groups and individual people. Just hearing Michael J. Fox's outlook in inspiring to say the least given that he has Parkinson's Disease (more reading available here if you're not familiar with Parkinson's: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/parkinsons_disease/parkinsons_disease.htm). He talks about people that have a natural inclination toward being optimistic and different aspects of a society that create the optimism. I found it very inspiring and hope you will too. I found it on the cable station TLC (http://tlc.discovery.com/) and you can check the site for the channel schedule to watch it in your area if interested.
I always find inspiration in people that seem to overcome struggle by being unwaveringly positive. It's so easy to become jaded in this world by challenges and then some comes along that really puts you to shame in regard to the level of challenge that you face. Life isn't a competition and it really helps to have perspective when seeing others' challenges and how your diminish in size and scope.
Have a great week everyone! I hope you make it a great one.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Oh wonderful, beautiful Saturday morning. I love the peace and quiet of my Saturday mornings. I find that my creative mind is in full gear on Saturday mornings when I am relaxed and unworried/unhurried. So, this particular morning I was strolling around the yard weeding around plants, checking for ripe vegetables, and checking progress on others. I harvested two large tomatoes, two cucumbers, some husky cherry tomatoes, and some basil. Nice day really for the home garden.
The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. ~Hanna RionWhen doing the math online for how much money that just saved us I came up with about a little over a $5 savings. The basil can drastically differ in price depending on where you go. Tomatoes are about $.80 per pound for the organic, yellow variety that we grow. The cucumbers are on sale for $1 a piece right now. Our cucumbers are the pickle variety and a massive variety that is bigger than anything I've ever seen. It's probably 2-3 pounds on its own. My point in all of this is that it's pretty easy to grow your own food and save money without a lot of effort. It's great food too. Nothing tastes better than a home grown vegetable that you grew with your own hands.
So, with all that in mind I've been looking up some good pico de gallo recipes because nothing on earth is better than pico de gallo and salsa in my mind, and we have a ton of tomatoes that need to get used. We also have some jalepenos that will be ripe soon, as well as onions and cilantro (although the cilantro is fading fast as it flowered when we were away for the weekend). In the spirit of pico de gallo, here's a recipe that I found online that I plan to use:
* 6 medium Tomatoes diced
* 1 medium Onion diced
* 1/4 cup fresh Cilantro chopped.
* 2 to 4 Fresh serrano or jalapeño seeded and minced
* garlic powder just a pinch * Salt to taste
Put all ingredients in a bowl add 1/2 cup of cold water, mix well. Let set a few minutes. You will find a lot of recipes in this site, where we can use the pico de gallo for cooking and a garnish.
I got this recipe from: http://www.mex-recipes.com/pico-de-gallo-recipes.htm
The simplicity of pico de gallo and Mexican food in general is what makes me to drawn to the cooking. I love that you can use tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and peppers in so many different ways. You just add tortillas and meat and you have tacos, or many other Mexican dishes in different variations of the same ingredients.
I hope you all can enjoy a garden or at least some tomatoes this summer that someone grew with their own hands. Have a great Saturday!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I consider music a vital part of my life and I'm sure most of you do as well. I can't imagine a life without it as I've been intertwined with it for the last 20 or so years of my life. I know that picking up my guitar or mandolin can have great calming effects on me and how I deal with stress. Music can actually help to secret endorphins in your brain that make you heal quicker as well. Here's a great article that supports this: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/effects-of-music-on-the-mind-and-brain.html
He who sings scares away his woes. ~Cervantes
I also find that music is a great social ice breaker. When you meet up with friends and they play an instrument also, it's a great way to find an immediate bond. Especially when you find a common musical thread. Friends can meet to see a band that they all like together. It can be a social glue that brings a group together.
I like to think of music as my happy place that I go when life gets to be stressful or overbearing. I find my music that inspires me and create my musical bubble that makes me happy. I also love to help others get in to music. I used to teach guitar lessons regularly and I miss that feeling of seeing someone "get it" and begin to find their musical muse.
The reason I bring all this up is because I'm beginning to get back in to a musical realm again within a band setting. I don't want to discount the playing that I frequently do with my very good friends as well, which provides an awesome musical outlet too. We have this cool, folksy vibe that we revel in and I look forward to growing that musical side as well.
I'm getting together with friends to jam next week (drums, bass, guitar, singer setup) and am really looking forward to it. I began playing in bands in high school and really included that as a part of my life. Music has shaped how I think and become inspired. I can't wait to be immersed in this environment again and welcome the journey that's a part of it. Music and performing do wonderful things for self image, personal growth, inner peace, and life inspiration. It can give you a renewed sense of purpose and reconnect you to the passions that you have taken for granted.
I hope that everyone finds their musical happy place and you explore your musical muses. Have a great Friday!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Hello to everyone from my couch. So, if you know me, you know that I like to read and I've been reading a ton since I've been done with school this time around. I like to use my tax dollars and utilize the Marion County library and it's online reservation options that allow me to 1.) reserve the book online and 2.) get it routed to your favorite or most convenient library. I love this as the Nora library is close to my office and I can run there at lunch and grab my books off the shelf in the reserved area. I encourage everyone to use their local library, if nothing more than to rent movies or get music cd's as they are a great resource for that as well.
The reason I bring this up: I found a great alternative to the library if you have a bunch of books that you have around the house that you aren't going to likely read again and they're taking up space. The site is called: http://www.paperbackswap.com/index.php and you can trade books, hard back and paperback, as well as audio books and textbooks as well. Pretty cool when you consider the service is free. This is another way to beat the recession and have some free entertainment. Enjoy!
In case you're artistic and trying to hawk your wares, I really like the website http://www.etsy.com. It is a great alternative to EBay and allows you a more soulful way to sell your artistic wares without compromising your integrity. It's also a great place if you're looking to buy handmade arts, crafts, etc. as well. Pretty cool stuff for pretty cheap. I've been surprised at the quality of work you can buy for really low prices.
I'm sure everyone is very aware of the options that exist within the realm of online banking, but I happen to really love the option to pay my bills online. I pay everything online...and I do mean everything. Even when it seems like I can't pay a bill online, there are round about ways to actually pay that bill all the same. For example, my Forum Credit Union has one account number for my checking, savings, and home equity loan, so when I send the online bill payment to them, it automatically goes to the checking account. Luckily for me, I just go to the Forum online account and transfer the money over to the equity line and ta da...the bill is paid and all is well in the world.
Even better, I have found a great way to monitor your mail online when your not around to get it from your mail box. A website and service called "Earth Class Mail" will do it for you. Check it out: http://www.earthclassmail.com/. This site has a couple different levels of service options but the overall concept is that you can monitor your mail from any location, at any time, without having physical paper in your hands. Pretty cool stuff. This makes international travel and international living more practical and makes the world just a little bit smaller.
Credits: Photo taken from http://www.carolina.org/pics/forever-stamp.jpg
Everyone have a great Tuesday!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Hello to everyone. It's been a great weekend for me, even though I was working through most of it doing home improvement projects on properties, however, it was fun working with Evelyn. She provides entertainment in many ways and we just generally have a good time working side by side. We are now "pro" painters having painted quite a few rental properties now. It's getting fun turning a nasty looking property in to a nice, clean living area. Tearing up carpet and restoring hard wood floors, revamping kitchens, painting, and fixing problem areas are just a few of the challenges that we faced. All in all, we made it and we're back home on Sunday evening.
Recently (read a week ago) we came across the idea of making dog treats at home because of the fact that dog treats can be either a.) extremely unhealthy for the canines, or b.) extremely expensive if organic and all natural. So, in the essence of being frugal and health conscience for our mutts, Evelyn, being the "Susie home maker" that she is decided she would make some. Here's the recipe in all it's glory in case you have pups that you wish to spoil from time to time:
To make this organic, just buy the ingredients in organic options. Whole Foods usually has most of the items in organic form. Lots of chain grocers are carrying them now also though.
Peanut Butter Puppy Poppers
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 cup milk
Here's where we got the recipe from (there are tons more on the site): http://www.bullwrinkle.com/Assets/Recipes/Peanut%20Butter%20Puppy%20Poppers.htm
Preheat oven to 375'F. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, then add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Bake for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container. --- This is the original recipe, but I have found the cookies burn easily.
I want to give credit where credit is due so, in full disclosure, we got the idea from the show called "The Lazy Environmentalist" in which he discussed organic options for pets in an episode. We love to watch the show and get ideas. We're implementing ideas in to all facets of our life and are trying to be more conscientious of our actions and purchases that we make.
Have a great week everyone!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Happy Friday everyone! Hope it's a good one for all. I've got a pretty great day planned so far and was getting my daily dose of music in the morning, which made me think about the resource I use frequently. I love the site www.pandora.com for the free music that can be streamed based on an artist or song that you choose. Pandora will then put together a streaming playlist based on your selection(s), which is equivalent in my mind to your favorite playlist on Itunes that seems to go on forever. I absolutely love the site because I get new artist info when I hear a new song, then go find that artist on my favorite music download site. It's great for that.
So when I read that the www.pandora.com site may be going to the way side recently, I got a bit bummed naturally. But, all is well in the land of streaming music thanks to a recent agreement that the site made with the music industry securing a long time royalty agreement that concedes to pay 25% of it's overall profit from the U.S. This is much better than the 75% total profit sharing that was thought would come about, thus putting the site in to the ground. Here's the link to the news if you're interested: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/07/07/pandora-and-other-internet-radio-has-officially-been-saved/ .
What this means? Well, potentially this sets a precedent for streaming radio on the internet, but it only protects www.pandora.com for the time being. Other sites could be vulnerable to the music industry and their shrewd, royalty driven operatives. It's understandable that the music industry is seeking alternative sources of revenue given that cd and other physical media sales are down (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/arts/music/01indu.html). This is an article from the end of 2008 but the info is still relevant.
My advice to you: enjoy these streaming music sites now while you can! I love Pandora, but you may find another that's even more to your liking. Have fun.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Well, I rode my bike to work on Tuesday and was going to do so again today (Thursday), but rain prevailed and I don't like being soaked when I get to work. My goal for myself is to ride at least 2 days a week, if not more if my schedule allows it. I figured up the distance from my home to my office and it's officially 9.32 miles one way by the route that I take. I like to ride most of the distance on the Monon Greenway Trail (http://www.indygreenways.org/monon/monon.htm). It's peaceful and there's minimal traffic to contend with until I get to 86th St., which is a different story altogether. My reasons for riding are twofold: 1) to be more healthy and feel good at work and at the end of the day when I ride home and 2) to be a bit more green and save some gas. I figure that it saves me roughly a little over a gallon of gas (pending that I don't go anywhere once I get to work and no side trips) from my home to work and back. That's only about $2.50-3 or so per trip, but added up it will be good. This doesn't really account for the stop and go traffic which eats up your gas mileage too, so that's something I probably should consider as well.
All in all, I just prefer the lack of traffic jams, hurried people in their cars, and stop lights every corner to riding peacefully on a path intended for bikes and people. A great alternative.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I found some ways to be lazy and still be green at the same time. Buying the compact florescent bulbs is a bit more expensive now, but saves money over the long run. Check out the site for other money saving tips as well. http://money.cnn.com/video/pf/2009/05/27/pf.hw.lighting.moneymag/
There's also a cool video about collecting rainwater from your gutters, etc. to water your lawn with. This requires a bit of work upfront but could be very useful and resourceful. Here in Indiana in the spring, we get a ton of rainwater, so it would be pretty plentiful.
Another helpful tip that I have acquired is to lower the temperature on your water heater down to 120 degrees from 145 (if not already turned down). 145 is pretty standard so there's a good chance that that's where its at right now.
I found some pretty sweet deals on flights if your looking for a weekend getaway from Indianapolis or other midwest cities. You can also plug in your current city and find other specials as well. No financial interest for me, just sharing: http://travel.southwest.com/specialoffers/topOffers.html
Hope everyone is having a great Wednesday!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
What this blog is about: Everything in my life that is geared toward enjoyment and creation of a more rewarding and "simple" lifestyle. I enjoy the finer things in life, but only if they don't create detrimental by-products that harm others, hurt others, etc.
My life has been pretty complicated up to now (and still is really), but since I've finished up my college degree I've found that I have some time to do things that I want to do, read books I want to read, and generally indulge in things that I haven't had time for in a while. Mainly playing my guitar more, listening to more music, reading books, and writing. I'm reading a couple books right now as a matter of fact. One is "Marco Polo Didn't Go There" by Rolf Potts (the author of the Vagabonding, which changed my whole perspective on travel and long term travel in general). I also just started an awesome book called "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" written by J. Maarten Troost. This book is fantastic so far. I really love travel writers and these two are some of the finest. I've read books by these authors before and wanted to get more of their ideas and thoughts, thus the interest in these....
Simplifying our produce selection: Evelyn and I have been harvesting out of our garden in the back yard lately as well. We've decided to grow organically and we're grateful for the results. I'll admit, I thought that she was getting crazy with the amount of plants that we have accumulated but I'm thankful now. I love, I mean love, the home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and herbs that we've been able to enjoy. We have egg plant on the way, zuchini coming, and lots of others as well. This has saved money, made our life a bit more connected to the ground, and made us more concientious of what we put in our bodies. All good stuff...
So I really love island music. Lately I've been listening to a ridiculous amount of reggae music, surf music, Jack Johnson, and other such island or tropical music types. It puts me in a great frame of mind and reminds me that I can live in the Caribbean in my head. This helps me keep a good perspective on life's pressures as well. Running a business with rental properties and being a mortgage banker in today's economic climate can be a bit stressful and happy music seems to help me transcend this.
This weekend we spent time on the lakes up in northern Indiana and also went on a canoeing/kayaking trip on the Pigeon River as well. I remembered why I love kayaking and being in nature again. That place is beautiful and I totally took it for granted growing up around there. You don't realize how beautiful a place is until you have perspective. Living in a city for the last 11 years has given me a different view daily. It's nice to step away from that and see the other side from time to time. I still like the options that a city provides though.
That's it for now..... Stay tuned and let me know if something strikes your fancy...