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July
29

 

The Psychology of Design

There's a psychological reason behind everything we like or dislike in our lives, and our favorite design trend is no exception. Your favorite color, design style, and furniture type says a lot more about you than you may think.

Color and Pattern Trends for 2020

The current trends for 2020 are very exciting! Designers are pushing the boundaries with color, and the spaces they go into. These colors lend themselves to organically combining solids and prints. Whether your design style is traditional, modern or trendy, you can't go wrong with a neutral color or by adding natural wood statements and big vintage pieces to you room.

 

  • Darker Oceanic Greens and Navy's
  • Pantone color of the year: Classic blue
  • Accents in pinks, apricots, caramel, grey and yellows
  • Beautiful Garage Doors
  • Use of Fiber Cement Siding
  • Natural Wood Elements
  • Metal Roofing
  • A Bridge between Working and Living Spaces
  • Solar Panels
  • Bigger Driveways and Walkways
  • Floral Wallpaper
  • Dramatic Vintage Pieces
  • High Contrast Décor- Black is Ok Now
  • Non-White Kitchen
  • Color Pop Cabinets
  • Patina Patina Patina 
  • Indoor Olive Tree and Going Vertical Garden Boxes
  • Kitchen and Antique Art
  • Outside Furniture comes IN like Wicker and Rattan 
  • Cozy Curved Furniture with Warm Soft Accents. 
  • Mohairs and Worn Leathers.

Whether you choose just one or two, or want to hold on tight and run with all of these ideas, you will be on trend with your upgrades. From the sound of rain on a metal roof, living a little greener with solar panels, or being excited to see your garage door because it isn't boring anymore, a simple change can make such a difference. Turn your rooms into art pieces! Your home tells the story of your journey through your upgrades.



July
29

 

 

After adjusting to our lives during quarantine, we are now beginning to think about the end of the crisis, and what the world will look like afterward. As our states emerge from lockdown at different paces, opening back up one-by-one, we, as a nation, are adjusting to our "new normal", asking ourselves, "What will our new lives look like?"

Lessons From the Past

The 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed about 675,000 people in the U.S., changed hygiene forever. In the following years, signs bearing the message, "Spitting is Unlawful" sprouted up in places like train stations. Covering your cough grew to be considered common courtesy, where before the pandemic, this etiquette was almost unheard of.  

In the wake of COVID-19, certain habits we've adapted will likely stick around as well, says Kate White, a behavioral scientist at the University of British Columbia. "Our vigilance around things like disinfecting surfaces — that's probably going to continue," she says.

Our new ways of greeting (elbow bumps or "live long and prosper" salutes instead of handshakes), and interacting with each other (video chats instead of conference-room huddles) are also likely to stick to some degree. 

People are accessing more educational resources online for their kids; finding unconventional ways to connect with coworkers, friends, and family; and employers are being more flexible in how they respond to employee needs through more dynamic, cloud-based technology. 

Working From Home Will Become the New Normal

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, says "The pandemic has resulted in what is effectively the largest "work from home" experiment ever conducted in human history. I think we'll see these shifts last well beyond the immediate fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak."

Companies are becoming more comfortable with at least some of their staff working from home. Some CIOs say they might consider letting as much as 25% of their staff work from home. That would mean less people in the office, and in turn, possibly less demand for office space. According to Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies, "I believe that this could signal the death of open space work environments. The experience with COVID-19 will for years make people more aware of working in shoulder-to-shoulder open offices where it is easy for viruses to spread."

Vivek Ravisankar, CEO and cofounder of programming-challenge platform HackerRank says,

"Remote hiring of technical talent will become the norm, accelerated by the normalization of remote work. This is a win-win for the economy and the talent pool, as it allows companies to fill positions quickly with qualified talent and opens up high-paying tech positions to developers everywhere."

Connecting Digitally Will Accelerate

It's becoming more evident every day that the way people are using technology to spend quality time with loved ones, engage with businesses, and perform their jobs is fundamentally shifting to a new normal. Stan Chudnovsky, VP of Messenger, Facebook explains, "Loved ones who hadn't seen each other in years are now seeing each other daily, people are getting creative with virtual happy hours and keeping up with their formerly "physical" lives with shared workouts and virtual birthday parties on products like Messenger. Of course, there will be some tough consequences when we come out the other side of this, but I believe the growing acceptance of technology to help us feel connected will have lasting benefits."

Education Goes Virtual

The change we are seeing right now in education is not something that is likely to revert back to "normal" in the fall. Although teachers will always be integral to the education process, there will need to be continued flexibility and agility when it comes to things like the delivery of content, testing, and grading. "I expect that we will see an increase in blended learning environments that include learning in both the physical classroom setting and online," says Simon Allen, CEO of McGraw-Hill.

Healthcare Will Embrace The Digital Age

The healthcare industry will be greatly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and we can expect digital health technologies to form an essential part of the way forward. Dr. Claire Novorol, cofounder and chief medical officer, Ada Health, explains, "The adoption of digital health tools—from assessment services to telemedicine—has rapidly accelerated…and we are witnessing a step-change in the adoption of digital health solutions, and that this has long-term potential." 

Other Possibilities

  • Restaurants might permanently link up with delivery service platforms or expand their reach via ghost kitchens.
  • Quantum computers "Within the next 12 to 18 months, we're expecting quantum computers to start to routinely solve problems that supercomputers and cloud computing cannot. When humanity faces the next pandemic, I'm hopeful that a quantum computer will be able to model the virus, its interactions within the human body that will drive possible solutions, and limit the future economic damage and human suffering." - Peter Chapman, CEO and president, quantum-computing company IonQ
  • According to Joe Brotherton, chairman of Democracy Live, proven technologies now exist that offer mobile, at-home voting while still generating paper ballots. "This system is not an idea; it is a reality that has been used in more than 1,000 elections for nearly a decade by our overseas military and disabled voters. This should be the new normal."

 

AARP's List of 10 Things the Pandemic has Changed for Good

  • Working from home
  • Seeing your doctor
  • Shopping for groceries
  • Staying in touch
  • Wearing face masks
  • Going to the movies
  • Traveling by air
  • Riding public transportation
  • Protecting your privacy
  • Washing your hands

https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/coronavirus-lifestyle-effects.html

 

As the world emerges from the crisis, employees will find new ways to interact, entrepreneurs will realize business opportunities, consumers will take advantage of new environments, and policy and regulation will adapt to keep everyone safer in the future. With foresight, the results of these innovations may allow our economic infrastructure to grow stronger as it overcomes these challenging times.

 

Categories: Community, Health, Education, Safety, COVID-19, Wellness

 

July
29

 

After you have read all the books you have and binge watched Ozark on Netflix 6 times, why not broaden your horizons by visiting a national park or touring a famous museum? "But I have to stay home!" you say. Well, yes you do…but don't let that stop you! You can visit all those wonderful destinations you've always hoped to see right from the comfort and safety of your own home. Check out some of our favorite virtual destinations!

 

Feeling like you need a bit of culture after hours of Tiger King?

Visit all those famous museums you've always wanted to see but never had the time or money. Best thing is; you can now do it for free and in your jammies!

> Start your tours here <

 

Cancel your vacation this year? 

Check out these GORGEOUS 360 degree aerial panoramas and virtual tours of some of the world's most interesting places. Travel around the world without jet lag:

> Choose your destination here <

 

Missing the adrenaline rush of your extreme hobby? 

Go to YouTube and search for VR 360 Extreme for videos of everything from roller coaster rides, white water rafting, hang gliding and rock climbing.

 

Craving the excitement of attending a live concert?

NPR has a continuously updated list of artists performing live or sharing previously recorded concerts. You can find just about any musical genera that you can tune in to at almost any time. 

> Click here to find NPR's list

 

Feeling cramped in your home?

Feel like a royal for an afternoon while you virtually tour some of the world's most famous castles. Appreciate that you don't have to worry about cleaning a space that big!

> See them all here <

 

Needing to enjoy some of the great outdoors?

Try virtually visitng some of the country's best National Parks. These places are full of beauty, history and excitement and you don't even have to leave the couch to see it all. 

> Visit your favorite here <

 

And when you can't endure any more excitement, take a walk around your neighborhood. Sometimes there's nothing better than moving your bones and breathing some fresh air.  Stay safe!



July
29

 

With so many people out of work due to the COVID-19 crisis, we are living in a different world right now. One huge effect is that the mortgage industry is teetering on the lowest interest rates in history. During the Coronavirus pandemic, the home purchase market has not slowed down. There are currently more eager buyers than willing sellers. What does this mean to you?

Are You Thinking of Refinancing?

If you are looking to refinance and do not plan to take any cash out of your new loan, and if your loan is currently guaranteed by Fannie Mae, you can do an exterior only appraisal because of COVID-19.  There are also many property inspection waivers where appraisers can sit at their desk and look at the pictures in MLS without ever stepping inside the home. But, if you want cash back, then you have to do an interior appraisal.

When Does it Make Sense to Refinance? 

Ask yourself how much you are really spending to get this loan. You will find your Loan Costs on your Loan Estimate, page 2. Also, check to see if there is a Lender Credit offered to pay all or some of this amount. Look for the Mortgage Tax amount and government fees. Your loan amount may be adjusted by these amounts. You will need to decide if it is worth it, and how long will it take you to recoup this amount. Measure the benefit of refinancing against upfront costs you will spend. 

Shopping to Buy a New Home?

The mortgage world has adapted to continue to facilitate home purchase mortgages and refinances, but if you are shopping to buy a home, the rules are changing, and underwriting criteria is tightening:

  1. One of the largest lenders, Chase Home Mortgage, announced April 14 that any new mortgage application will require 20% down (or 20% equity if you are refinancing), and a minimum of a 700  FICO   score – which is a significant tightening. (There is a special program for low and moderate income people that will allow for less than 20% down.) 

Note: There are independent lenders who are still offering 3% down as a minimum for loan amounts of up to $510,400.

  1. The mortgage industry is under great stress right now. Jumbo loans (or loans over the Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac limit of $510,400) are becoming rare. Many mortgage companies and banks have stopped doing loans above $510,400. That's a big deal. 
  2. FHA and VA loan mortgage servicers have increased their minimum credit score. Historically, FHA allowed and insured credit scores as low as 550, but what we are seeing now is a requirement of 640 to 680 to try to minimize their risk.

The mortgage lending industry is a moving target right now. As quickly as the rules keep changing, if you applied for a loan and received your pre-approval letter even two weeks ago, you need to call your lender to make sure you still qualify.

 

State of the Mortgage Business

According to Brian Wickert, CEO and founder of Accunet Mortgage, remember that a lot of people are losing their jobs, and, "You have to have a job and income to refinance or get a new loan."

The CARES Act 

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act -The CARES Act provides fast and direct economic assistance for American workers. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has a website giving you information about the CARES Act. For everything you need to know, plus information about your personal finances, check out: 

https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares

In short, if you are having trouble making your mortgage payment, and you have a federally backed mortgage (a loan owned by Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac and insured by FHA, VA or USDA ) you can call up your mortgage servicer and tell them you have a financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 emergency. Because of the CARES Act, that mortgage servicer has to ask you if you would like the Forbearance Plan where you don't have to make any payments for 180 days, (extendable for another 180 days after that) or reduced payments. Key is: Forbearance is not free. Delayed payments must be repaid. That repayment plan will be worked out between you and your mortgage servicer. They will want you to pay it back as soon as possible. After the Forbearance period, you may be asked to make double payments or add a few hundred dollars a month to your regular payment until the total amount is paid back. So if you don't really need the relief, don't ask for the free ride. Also, there are a lot of people who do need it, so the phone lines to all mortgage lenders are jammed right now and you may have to start the process early. One good resource about Forbearance:

 https://www.accunet.com/blog/the-mortgage-f-word-of-the-day-is/

If you are in the process of getting a new mortgage loan, do not ask for Forbearance before making that first payment. During the period after closing until the first payment is made, your funds are not federally backed or insured and the Cares act only applies to federally backed loans. So find out first if your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac. If you have a freshly closed mortgage, it may not be yet. If your loan is a few years old and you really need the help, then it is an excellent method to help with your loan payments. Don't ever just stop making your payments! Have a conversation with your mortgage servicer so that foreclosure doesn't begin.

Current mortgage rates are very low, and demand has gone through the roof. The wait is a bit longer, so think ahead, and get in line!

If you decide to buy a home, have a conversation with your lender to see if they can get it done by the time you want to buy. Refinance can take 90 – 120 days. Your lender may not be able to lock in a rate until you've been approved. Be clear and do not make assumptions. Also, because of the high unemployment, lenders are checking within three days of closing to make sure your employment status and income has not changed since your application.

July
29

 

Social distancing can take a toll on our mental wellness. It seems like one minute our lives were normal - going to work, eating dinner in crowded restaurants, and gathering with our friends in each other's homes or public meeting places – and the next, we were asked to stay home, alone

"Understand this is a new and unique situation that will take some adjustment. Cut yourself some slack and realize you will be unproductive and anxious initially, but with mindfulness and creativity, we can adjust to this new normal," says David Stern, M.D. and co-director of the Office of Student Mental Health and Wellness and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. 

For most of us, connecting with friends, family, and coworkers has moved online. While it may take some getting used to, it is comforting to see a familiar friendly face. Choosing which platform to use to get this digital face-to-face can be overwhelming. Below is a list of some of the best programs for digital meetings with links to a tutorial for each. 

Connecting in person is still an option, it just has to be adjusted. By maintaining safe distance, you can still see and talk to your circle of friends and family. Get creative:

  • Do a drive-by visit to see family. Establish a drive-by time; get out and wave, cartwheel or dance…whatever feels right!
  • Deliver a surprise package on someone's front porch. Whether it is a sack of necessities, flowers, or a book or puzzle to help pass the time, your gift is sure to lift spirits.
  • Invite a friend to meet for lunch at a drive-thru restaurant. Park you cars side-by-side with the windows down, and enjoy food and conversation at a safe distance from each other.
  • Invite a neighbor to take a walk or bike ride with you – on the opposite side of the street! 
  • Don't stop your weekly wine night, morning coffee or book club. Just meet now on screen.
  • Have the kids on the block visit using walkie-talkies, just like you did as a child.
  • Form a neighborhood seed swap. Choose a drop-off place where everyone can "take some, leave some" to complete everyone's new gardens.

Sometimes when we feel helpless, helping someone else is the best remedy. Your whole community has been effected by this disruption. Think of ways you can help those around you that may be in need.

  • Add groceries to your local food bank each week
  • Donate Blood at your local blood bank
  • Build a network of neighbors who gather specific items to keep on hand for others in the same area. Each household is designated to store an essential item such as toilet paper, eggs, or flour, keeping it on hand so everyone in the network never goes without.  
  • Help others find the best deals on groceries. Communicate which store is cheaper this week, or has just stocked up on certain items. Let you friends know where they can go on-line for coupons
  • Send cards, notes or joy items to nursing homes

Remember, as we isolate from close human contact, loneliness can be a side effect…but loneliness is avoidable. Stay connected!

Categories: Entertainment, Tips, Health, COVID-19, Wellness



July
29

 

Time keeps ticking away, reminding us that another day has gone by and we are still mostly quarantined to our homes. We've binge-cleaned, exercised, watched TV series, baked all the bread, and boredom is really setting in. So what do we do? Some of us have work to keep us busy, but even that work doesn't fill the void. Where is the fulfillment we used to get when completing a project in the office, and how do we get it back? 

There is something in the nature of each of us that generates joy when we are being generous to others. Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." During this time of COVID-19, there are many ways to help others. 

 

  1. Get connected!

How fortunate we are to live in a time when socializing with a person is just a click away! Take advantage of the wonderful technology at our disposal to communicate with others: 

  • Help lift your spirit, as well as your circle of friends or family by having group phone calls or zoom meetings. 
  • Use social media to get connected to your community. Many neighborhoods and complexes have a community Facebook page. Check to see if yours does.
  • Create an event on social media to help out in your neighborhood or community, such as grocery delivery for those that can't leave their house, or a car parade to celebrate graduating seniors whose graduation ceremonies were canceled. 
  • On your community page, post humorous videos of how you are handling quarantine so your neighbors don't feel so isolated during this period. 

It only takes a few minutes out of your day so grab your phone or computer and connect with someone in your community today!

 

  1. Knock, knock, "Who's there?" "Orange"

As mentioned above, some people in your community need help getting groceries. It could be an elderly person, an immune-compromised friend, or a neighbor who lost their job. During your trip to the grocery store, why not pick up a few extra items for a home-bound neighbor (and deliver to their front door), or to donate to your community food bank? 

If you feel more comfortable donating money, many schools are taking donations to help feed needy families. Contact your child's school teacher to find out how to contribute.  If everyone in your school district contributed $10 each, think how much food that would buy!

 

  1. Eat. Drink. Shop...Local!
  • Order take-out

We have been sheltering at home long enough now that most of us have run out of meal ideas and are ready for a dinner out. This is the perfect time to help local restaurants that may be struggling. It's a win-win for both parties. You don't have to cook and they get to stay open during and hopefully even after COVID-19. 

  • Order local produce 

There are several websites set up to help local farmers deliver produce to your home. One is:  https://localfarmok.com/. Buying from your local farmer ensures your produce will taste better and last longer. Eating fresher, less processed produce can help you to eat and feel better, all while supporting your local food movement. Shopping on-line for a farm near you that will deliver it to your home eliminates the stress of going to the grocery store and trying to figure out which veggies to buy. 

  • Shop local

When you need to shop, try to patronize your local merchants. Their business has likely been hit hard by this virus and they will be appreciate your support during this hard time.

 

  1. Gifts! Gifts! Gifts!

Everyone loves getting gifts, even if it is a little thing: 

  • It could be as simple as a postcard or a funny letter to bring joy to your friends. You could get your sister one of those makeup box delivery for the next month. Sign your cousin up for goofy socks delivered twice a month. 
  • Send an Edible Arrangement or buy lunch for people working at the hospital, fire stations, and police stations.
  • Create a gift basket with essentials like Germ-X and fuzzy socks for someone special. 
  • Get your children involved and have them make art and letters saying how thankful they are for essential workers. 

 

A little something goes a long way. When you give to others, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, it can really make you and someone else feel better!

 

Get inspired to help your community during this time of challenge. Remember, in addition to helping someone else, giving will also bring you joy.



July
29

 

These days, living life looks a lot different than how it did at the beginning of this year. We all want to do our part to keep ourselves, our famlies, and our community safe. But, with all the media hype and rumors going around, it can be hard to figure out what you really need to do (or not do) to stop the spread of COVID-19. Here is a an easy guide with actual facts from the CDC. Follow the link at the bottom to get further information.

  1. Wash your Hands!

Washing your hands is a good practice in general, but during this time, washing your hands is so important to stop the spread of COVID-19. The standard for washing hands is with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Some people get very creative with this 20 seconds and sing portions of classic songs that are 20 seconds long to make sure they wash for the proper amount of time. Some favorites are: "Staying Alive" by the Bee Gees (chorus), "Truth Hurts" by Lizzo (chorus), and the classic "Happy Birthday".  If one of those doesn't fit your vibe then there is a website that generates a poster with the song of your choice that last 20 seconds (https://washyourlyrics.com/)! Washing your hands should be done frequently, especially when you cough or sneeze or when you have been in a public place. So, get you grab your favorite tunes and have a happy hand washing party!

  1. Distance makes the Heart grow Fonder.

Staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with others when you do go out are essential right now. The easiest way to do this is to try to limit your shopping trips to once a week or every two weeks. You can also get things delivered to your home or use curbside pick up. Many local restaurants are even doing curbside or carry out, too. If possible, try to support your community by shopping local! If you do have to go out remember to stay 6 ft. apart from others. If you have a hard time visualizing how far that is just imagine your 6 ft. husband or brother army crawling to sneak a donut out of the kitchen. Also, remember to avoid shaking hands, high fives, and hugs. This one is probably the biggest adjustment to most of our lives, so be kind to yourself and take a deep breath when you are figuring out how to maintain social distance

  1. *Aaachoo*

If you become sick stay home. See if you can have a friend pick up your groceries for you and leave them at your front door. If you are coughing and sneezing use a tissue and then immediately throw away the tissue and wash your hands. If you absolutely have to go out, wear a face mask and gloves. Although this doesn't protect you, is does keep your germs from becoming airborne, potentially infecting others. If you are unable to find any to purchase because of the current shortages, you can fashion one out of a bandana, sew one with old t-shirt material or check out Facebook for friends that might be making them in their own homes. 

  1. Clean, Clean, Clean

Sanitation is key to kicking COVID-19 to the curb. Use surface cleaners and disinfectants to clean your house and car frequently, especially the places you use a lot like the kitchen and bathroom. Get some gloves on and go to town on cleaning, just make sure to read the instructions on the container first. If your kids need something to do, you could create the clean my house olympics and give them points every time they do a cleaning task in the house. Turn on your favorite dance music or clean a little every commercial break or between binged episodes and your house will be sanitized in no time!

CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

July
29

 

With the country on lockdown, you may find yourself with idle time on your hands. Some days seem to stretch endlessly before you as you isolate or self-quarantine. You may be at a loss as to what you should do to fill the hours that used to be so full of meetings, deadlines, and productivity. 

This time will pass whether you have used it wisely or not. One way to make the most of it is to learn something new - something that you never had the time to learn before. Some skills may take years to master, but now is your opportunity to take the first steps. Think of your new found knowledge as an investment in your future. These skills might help you not only progress in your career but allow you to jumpstart your way into a whole new chapter in your life.

Five New Skills to Learn During Sheltering In Place

Learn a New Language

Becoming fluent in a new language may take more than our social distancing time, but you don't necessarily need fluency to add value to your life and find that you are more in demand in the workforce. And once the travel ban has been lifted, you can go to the country of your chosen new language and be able to talk to the locals.

You can do a Google search for "How to Learn (add language here)", or view YouTube tutorials on learning a language. Also, check out:

https://www.duolingo.com/referred?user_invite=BDHTZTB5CWWKTKTZ2S2U6CLZDM&inviter_id=563798349

Before you begin, you might check out this good advice on choosing a language, at: https://tim.blog/2007/11/07/how-to-learn-but-not-master-any-language-in-1-hour-plus-a-favor/.

 

Learn Sign Language

Not only is learning a second language good for your brain, it's also a great way to expand your communication skills. This is especially true for American Sign Language, ASL, which according to Healthy Hearing.com is the fifth most-used language in the U.S. Learning ASL may enhance your career and give added benefit to the workplace. Used by educators, first responders, and service providers, mastering this skill could open many new channels for you professionally. 

While you are home, take on-line courses such as: https://www.classcentral.com/search?q=sign+language

But first you might want to read the information at:

https://www.hearinglikeme.com/how-to-learn-sign-language/

Once quarantine is lifted, consider taking a sign language course at a community college near you.

 

Learn How to Build a Website

https://www.udemy.com/course/build-website-scratch/?ranMID=39197&ranEAID=AZ4srzPoHNo&ranSiteID=AZ4srzPoHNo-d4ysDvDLCJhJELOwZw2W2Q&LSNPUBID=AZ4srzPoHNo

For a small fee you can learn web development essentials and gain a thorough understanding of HTML and CSS. With the current spike in demand for web conectivity, this is a great skill to have in your pocket. 

 

Learn CPR

This self-directed, personal learning program is an all-in-one solution that includes everything you will need to complete high-quality training anywhere. You never know when adding this skill to your arsenal could potentially save a life! This video-based program teaches basic lifesaving skills in about 20 minutes:

https://cpr.heart.org/en/courses/adult-and-child-cpr-anytime-training-kits

 

Get Started on that Novel!

So you have always wanted to write a novel, but never had the time to start. No more excuses! Grab your lap top and get started:

https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-write-a-novel/

 

The best skills to learn durring quaarantine are those that will help you become more hirable as an employee or more self-sufficient as a person once everything returns to normal. There are endless courses available to you on-line. The hard part is choosing which one to start with!

https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/500-free-online-courses-from-ivy-league-schools.html

 

July
29

 

During the COVID19 crisis, we have discovered that there is a new normal including standing six feet apart in lines and in public, sanitizing items we have purchased before bringing them into our homes, wearing a mask in public, and not touching our faces, to name just a few. Another new normal is the realization that working remotely is likely here to stay.

New to Working From Home?

Stay safe working from home with these handy tips

"If I can't keep up with my own password, how can a hacker figure it out?"

Passwords are one of the more important security items on home devices. Passwords are a pain, but they probably won't go away. Why can't we just have one password, and why do we keep having to change them? A lot of companies are talking about biometric ways to get around them like fingerprint, retina and facial scans – offered on our phones now, but remote systems still require passwords.

If you use the same password everywhere, you are opening a door for a hacker to get in. Services are breached every day. Hackers go in and grab passwords and email addresses from breached websites and, using automated tools, see if they get a hit that works on other services such as your Amazon or Apple account, or anywhere your credit card information is stored. They can find out where your email lives because that is public information. If they break into that, then it is game over.

Use a password manager and have the passwords completely randomized for every new site you sign up with.

Sites like LastPass -  https://www.lastpass.com/  - has a free plan for husband and wife users to share passwords. 

And, LastPass uses a second authentication method, such as sending a text message to your smart phone, so that even if a hacker got your last password, they wouldn't be able to get past the second authentication step.

If you are leery of storing anything in the cloud, there are password managers that you can store on your computer that encrypt your passwords that can be stored in a locker on your computer.

Don't rely on the default password for your devices to keep you secure. Be sure to update your password on your WiFi router, Alexa, home security camera systems, Ring Video Doorbell system – anything that you have on your home internet system.

 

Think before You Click!

Never reset your password by clicking on a link in an email that was sent to you without you asking for it first. In other words, if you receive an unprovoked email from a random site saying "Please reset your password by clicking on this link" don't do it!

Watch out for emails that you are not expecting. If you receive an email with an attachment or links that you were not expecting do not open the attachment, even if it is from a friend, relative or colleague. Call the sender to confirm that they really sent it. That person was probably just hacked and that is how the hacker got your email address. 

 

Have a Backup Strategy

Use the 3-2-1 backup plan:

  • 3 copies of everything
  • Use 2 different spots
  • One offsite away from the computer

In other words, have the first copy on your computer; the second is on a device you can grab if something happens to your computer, such as a thumb drive; and the third copy is somewhere offsite in case of fire or disaster to your home and computer.

 

Follow Simple Rules for Better Security

  • By having an insecure home network or by reusing passwords for your devices, you give an attacker a way to access your device. 
  • You can put these devices on a different WiFi network from your computer, that way they are segregated from your regular network. 
  • Turn on every security device offered on the website, especially the two step authentication system.
  • Try to keep your business and personal work separated. If your company offers you a laptop and a company email to use while working from home, use them whenever doing company work. Don't use your personal computer or email for conducting your company business. Don't share your company laptop with your family members. Think of it as being like letting your teenaged son drive your company vehicle that you bring home.
  • If your company offers IT Security training, take it! They probably have encrypted system that you should know about. 
  • Don't reveal anything too personal about yourself on social media. Limit details you share about going on a trip or what days you might be going into your company's office that would let an attacker know your whereabouts. 
  • Many systems come with an anti virus protection, but it is a good idea to have an added layer of anti virus protection on top of that. An internet security filter can keep out information that is unfit for business as well as help keep your children safe from visiting something inappropriate online.
  • A breach identification vendor who is familiar with and studies how hackers work – actively looking for any hacker footholds on your computer 

 

Hackers Are Doing Business On The Dark Web  

The dark web is a place where information about us is traded. The information that is gathered from a security breach is posted on the dark web, such as user names, and passwords, as well as viruses that are available and how to use them. It's a scary place. You can check to see if you have been involved in a data breach and if your information might be posted out on the dark web at https://haveibeenpwned.com/.  Subscribers will be notified if their information has been put out on the dark web.

You can hire an IT Professional for remote work guidelines and checklists for general home computer safety. The information in this article was supplied by Brad Otto, owner of P3C. Check out his website at https://www.p3ctech.com/category/tips/

 



July
29

 

What Are You Waiting For?

If you have toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but responsibilities and life events always seemed to get in the way, NOW is your chance to cease the day and start! You may have sound bites in your head telling you, "You have no talent" or, "You are too old to start now" - but nothing is further from the truth. Playing an instrument is a craft that can be learned by almost everyone. According to Charles Cleyn, a musician, marketer and life-long learner, there are approximately 500,000,000 guitar players in the world! If that many people can play a guitar, then so can you.

No More Excuses

If the reason for not pursuing your artistic talents has always been, "I don't have time", you can now scratch that excuse off the list. During this period of sheltering in place, there is plenty of room in each day for music lessons and practice time.  If you procrastinated in the past because there were no teachers nearby, well, say goodbye to that one too. Thanks to the internet, there are endless options for learning to play an instrument. 

Pre-recorded video lessons, Skype lessons, training modules, and online exercises are all examples of the new ways musicians can fine-tune their skill, or learn a new instrument, without even having to walk out their front door. There are a lot of advantages to taking music lessons online, but there are a few disadvantages to be aware of, too.

The benefits of online music lessons far outweigh the drawbacks

There are so many benefits to taking lessons online, and just a few disadvantages:

Benefits:

Convenience – The biggest advantage is that it is ridiculously convenient. You can learn at your own pace, on your own schedule and from the comfort of your home.

More Choices – No worry about finding a teacher in your area. Online lessons mean you can find the perfect teacher for you, even if they live 1,000 miles away. But do try to access a teacher in your community. Supporting local businesses is of major importance during the COVID19 business shutdown. 

Cost Effectiveness – Due to the convenience, flexibility and lower overhead costs to teachers, online music lessons can be lower-priced than traditional, in-house lessons.

Support Opportunities – Online sites offer support tools like community forums, training modules, and digital content. Sharing and connecting with others online is beneficial, and offers you a supportive online community to lean on.

Drawbacks:

Physical Guidance – Beginners often struggle with the physical challenge of how to handle the instrument, how to place their fingers, posture, etc. Not having a person there to demonstrate physically can be a little daunting at first, and requires perseverance.

Motivation – With online lessons the only person holding you accountable is YOU! Be sure you are ready for the commitment.

Now all you need to do is drag your 7th grade band clarinet from beneath your bed, dust off the case, and start your Google search!

July
29

 

If you were in the early stages of selling your home when social distancing began, now is the perfect time to get serious about preparing your home to show. While you are sheltering in place, use this time at home preparing it to show both physically and virtually. If you already have a real estate agent, request a video walk-though for their suggestions prior to showing. Your realtor can be a fresh pair of eyes with no emotional ties to the house or its contents.

According to The Mortgage Reports, Feb. 2019, the most common home improvement items agents recommended to sellers are:

  • Decluttering (95 %) Remove "junk" from rooms, closets, and cupboards. This adds immediate appeal and gives the illusion of more space. We all love our stuff, but let's face it – lookers need to be able to see the "bones" of the house. Homeowners often have too many memories and attachments to belongings that can cloud seeing the whole picture. Begin packing up your personal items including pictures and mementos from vacations. 
  • Entire home cleaning (89 %), and carpet cleaning (78 %). Clean one room a day until the whole house looks clean and inviting. Consider re-caulking your kitchens and bathrooms, too. Bright caulk gives the appearance of cleanliness, which can help to sell your home. Look at your walls and trim. If the colors are outdated, or look dingy, PAINT! New paint can mask home odors while insanely brightening a room.

You should also make repairs or replace items in your home which are broken, worn out, or in obvious need of an update, such as electrical outlet covers, door stops and door handles. A home buyer will look at the "little things" in your home and, if those items are neglected, the buyer will wonder what else is in disrepair.

Five Most Important Rooms to Stage

According to On Stage, the five most effective rooms to stage are:

  • Living Room 

Your living room should be an inviting space, without feeling cluttered or closed in. In a small living room, you need to show that furniture will fit. 

  • Dining Room

Potential buyers need to be able to envision entertaining guests at formal dinner parties, as well as hosting their family Thanksgiving dinners in your dining room. Remove anything that blurs that image such as children's toy box or pet's kennel and feeding bowls.

  • Master Bedroom

The master bedroom needs to offer a relaxing sanctuary to viewers. Neutral paint colors and soft carpet and window coverings add to the calming feeling it should offer. 

  • Home office

With the current trend of working at home, there has never been more demand for a space designated as an office. If you do not have a designated home office, stage a spare bedroom as one.

  • Kitchen 

The kitchen is the heart of your home. Edit what is on your counter tops to allow potential buyers to see the space available. Bring in fruit and greenery to add color for photos and showings. 

View virtual open houses on social media to see how they are prepared. Listen to what your agent tells you because they see all the listings. In this competitive market more homes than not are staged. Remember: Quarantine will soon be lifted. This time will pass whether you have done anything to prepare your home to sell or not. The final goal is to sell your home and sell it quickly. Your home has served you well – now is the time to prepare it to be someone else's home.



July
29

 

 

Is Your Home Ready to Sell?

Getting your home ready to sell already has a huge list of tasks, but on the top of that list is painting. Have you customized all the paint colors in every room? If you are an eclectic paint person, chances of finding another quirky person to love all your choices is like finding a diamond. When wanting to sell your home it is best to choose several like colors in the same family and paint each room that way. You never want to paint the whole house one color, like the 2005 band-aid tan but you DO want to paint in like colors. If you are going with a grey, then stay within the family or tones of that color. If you choose a warm color, then you can also branch out to warm white or beiges. 

Colors that pump up your ROI are essential in not only selling your home, but also getting more bang for your buck!

Colors to Add:

By painting your front door in a charcoal or dark grey or navy blue can possibly attract $1500 more to an offer.

Having a taupe living room allows the space to feel warm, inviting and flexible for would-be buyers to see changes they would like to make. This can raise your potential by $1500.

Blue in any of these rooms also ups the selling power. In the kitchen add classic blue (the 2020 color of the year); bathroom and bedrooms, think periwinkle. You probably do not want to do more than one room blue, but whichever you choose could add another $1000 of value to your home. 

Colors to Avoid

If your living room is blue, you could possibly devalue the price by the same amount of money, as well as, yellow kitchens, dark brown or stucco exteriors, red dining rooms or white bathrooms. 

Colors like orange, purple, black and red are color you want to avoid. People usually do like these colors, but they make it hard to visualize anything else because they are so bold. If a looker can't visualize what they would do in this house they simply will not buy it. 

Use yellow with care. Yellow is a very helpful buying color when done correctly, but incorrectly could look like big bird instead of a sunny morning yellow.

When painting your exterior, plan to use a "Greige" - somewhere in the middle of beige and grey. Not only is it a neutral color, but it adds value to your property.

Minimum is Key

Painting goes a long way and if it's something you can DIY - it will be a huge cost you saved and get in return. 

July
29

 

If you are thinking of selling your home, adding curb appeal can increase your home value 3% – 5% according to Consumer Reports. You can utilize this time while sheltering at home to get your house ready to put on the market, and remember, staging does not stop at the front door!  Your home's curb appeal makes a great first impression. Create a vision that will make everyone want to see what's inside. 

Here are a few simple, low-cost curb appeal improvements that you can do in a day, a week, or a month, by yourself without hiring a landscaper or handyman. 

Your Front Door Makes a Statement

  • Paint your front door a distinctive color. Polish or replace your doorknob and hardware. Your front door is the focal point of curb appeal!
  • Create a welcoming entryway by placing symmetrical elements such as topiaries or sconces on either side of the front door.

Create a Mood

  • Install low voltage landscape lighting to walkways, flower beds and trees. In addition to creating a warm inviting curb appeal, they add security to your home.

Mailbox Makeover

  • Your mailbox should compliment your home. Apply a fresh coat of paint to match the house's exterior color. 
  • Replace old house numbers with new ones. 
  • Surround it with a beautiful flowering garden.

Get Your Flowerbeds in Shape                                                                                                         

  • Prune back new growth
  • Pull weeds
  • Plant contrasting colors and staggered heights of flowers
  • Add mulch

Note: Prime spots for flower beds creating curb appeal are at the front corners of the yard, along driveway or walkway, and immediately in front of house.

Guttering

  • Clean out your gutters. Look for peeling paint or rusty spots and repaint them if necessary. 

Patio/Deck/Front Porch

Add an artistic flair with containers of potted flowers and nice patio furniture to your front porch and back deck. Many times, your existing patio furniture needs to be thinned out. Notice if your deck has become a storage place for outdoor toys and mismatched outdoor furniture. 

You may need to rent a storage space to start moving extra items and furniture into. Be objective and try to see your home as if for the first time. Give your potential buyers a blank canvas to paint a picture of what their dream home looks like, starting with curb appeal!



July
29

 

Oftentimes, closet space (or the lack thereof) is a deal breaker when deciding which house to buy. So, it is your responsibility to present every square inch of closet space that you have, favorably. That may be a challenge if you only have shallow reach-ins. But there are steps you can take to help sell would-be buyers on what you do have to offer.

A dirty home can greatly reduce your asking price, and dirty closets can turn buyers away. Unfortunately, closets collect dust, cobwebs, and odors, (like smelly tennis shoes). Before beginning your closet organizing project, grab your cleaning supplies and a step ladder, then dig in for some deep cleaning. 

One Step at a Time

  • Remove everything from your closet. Don't grab an armful of hangers, but take out one item at a time. Take no more than 30 seconds per item to decide whether to keep, toss, or donate, and put it in its respective stack. Same goes for shoes, belts, scarves and boots.
  • Once your closet is empty, wipe down every surface with a warm wet rag or sponge. Use your ladder to reach the ceiling and high corners where cob webs gather. You may want to use an all purpose spray cleaner on walls, baseboards and shelves to tackle grime and odors.
  • If you see any indication of mold, use a mixture of Clorox Mold Eliminator Bleach to kill 99.9% of tough mold found lurking there.
  • Now is the time to vacuum and spot clean the carpet, or dust mop and polish the hardwood floors.
  • Let your closet air out and dry completely, leaving the doors open. You might want to wait a day before resuming.
  • If your closet is painted a dark color, now is the time to paint. Dark colors make the space look smaller, so choose a light, neutral color like biscuit or vanilla. Remember, the goal is to make it look spacious!
  • Place your favorite scented dryer sheets in closet drawers, on top of shelves and even inside of your clothes pockets to make your closet smell as if you just pulled your clothes out of the dryer.

Now comes the magic trick. Create the illusion of more space by putting back LESS STUFF!

Rule of thumb is to get rid of 50% of the items originally in your closet. If you just can't bear to toss or donate them, box them up and move to a storage facility. That may only be your garage or attic, but seriously consider renting a space until your house sells. It doesn't help if you just move clutter from one space to another in your home.

  • Leave 1" of space between each hanger. You should be able to see the back of the closet wall between your clothes.
  • Same goes for shelves with folded clothes and linen closets – leave open space above and wiggle room between each stack.
  • No shoes on the floor! This can be challenging, but get creative with this one!
  • You should have 20% - 30% of wide open space when this step is finished.

Now on to the Nitty Gritty!

You don't want your closet to look disorganized in ANY way. Mismatched hangers create the sense of chaos.

  • Replace all hangers with the same style and color.
  • Make sure they are all pointing in the same direction.
  • Experts suggest having all of your clothes facing left, sorted by color.
  • If you closet is dark, think about adding a light fixture.

Home buyers expectations are sky high due to DIY and staging TV shows. You have your work cut out for you, but during this time of isolation, you may be able to complete some projects you always talked about doing, but never seemed to find the time. Do what you can to give prospective buyers their dream closets!



July
29

The Coronavirus pandemic has forever changed our world, and no industry has been changed more than the travel industry. Airlines have gone bankrupt, travel companies have laid off countless employees, and empty hotels became temporary hospitals.

We are all ready for things to return to normal and are anxious to move about the world. We don't know when travel will recover completely, but before the flood gates open, you need to have a plan so that you are ready when it does. Here are a few tips to consider before paying the outlandish prices we know are coming and getting in line with everybody else: 

Track Flights

Think about where you want to go and begin your research with Google Flights. Once you put in your desired destination, Google Flights will track every flight over $300, giving you an idea of how high or low these prices are. It will also track the history of the prices of these flights compared to what they have been in the past. 

https://support.google.com/travel/answer/2475306?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

Southwest allows you to switch at the last minute from one US location to another US location for no additional fee. A real plus if you decide to extend your vacation to visit family or friends while you're out and about. 

Do You Have the Right Credit Cards?

Finding the right credit cards is difficult at first, but once you get into it, it's not hard to gain traction. Some cards give you a mile for every dollar spent. Many people travel only using their card miles. To earn miles fast, use your card for everyday items like daycare, groceries, gas  – then pay off the card balance with your debit card, or even by making monthly payments. Some cards give you more flexibility, rewards, insurance or protection while you're traveling outside of the US. 

Have You Heard of the Trusted Traveler Program?

US Customs and Border Protection offers a global entry option. It requires a $100 non-refundable fee and in-person interview, along with a lot of the same items you need to get your passport. Once approved, you receive the benefits for five years. (After five years, you will have to re-enroll.) Some benefits you will receive:

  • For re-entering into US airports, you can just check in at the Global Entry kiosk which keeps you moving - saving you two hours or more in lines
  • Faster entry into other countries
  • TSA pre-check, meaning no paperwork or long processing lines
  • Some credit cards will actually reimburse you the $100 fee

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/how-apply

Refunds

Book hotels that will allow free cancellations. If at some point you are unable to travel, or there is another COVID19 recurrence, you will not be at a loss. 

 

Handy Hacks 

Make a list of the WIFi passwords to the airports you'll be in ahead of time: 

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1Z1dI8hoBZSJNWFx2xr_MMxSxSxY&ll=40.64131110000006%2C-73.77813909999997&z=8

 

Go Incognito

Browse through your travel plans in INCOGNITO. Don't do any searches without doing this!

https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95464?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

Airlines store your cookies, giving them information about your travel plans and leverage to raise their prices. 

 

Order Ahead

At Grab.com you can order any menu items at the airport you are going to. Your order can be ready for pick up as you breeze your way through to your gate. No lines, no waiting and you get fresher food!

 

Label Your Luggage "FRAGILE"

 Luggage labeled "Fragile" is usually put on top of the piles, which also means first one out.

July
29

During this time of pandemic, more so than in years past, many people are starting vegetable gardens right where they live. Growing your own vegetables means not only fewer trips to the grocery store and venturing out into public, but a way to help you feel like you are making a difference when your world feels out of control. 

Where To Begin?

For people who are new to farming, it is hard to know where to begin. Luckily for us all, there is limitless one-on-one advice on line, teaching us the "a, b, c's" of how to grow your own vegetables. Gail Langellotto, a professor of horticulture and statewide coordinator of the Master Gardener program at Oregon State University offers a free course through the end of April. Even if you miss the free introduction period, it is worth taking her introduction to gardening course. 

You Don't Need 100 Acres 

In fact, you don't even need any land at all! You can start your home garden on your porch or deck, using containers or decorative pots. With container gardening, all you need is a vessel, good soil, and plenty of sunlight. 

Jennifer Blackwell, one of our very own Chinowth & Cohen Realtors agent, has joined many Oklahomans who have started home gardens on their porches, big and small. She was recently featured in the Oklahoman talking about her experience.

As a segway from containers to raised beds, many people have adopted straw bale gardening, or tilled soil gardens. Straw bale gardening is when you use straw bales like raised beds in the yard so that no additional soil is needed.

Get Started With Seeds

Starting out may seem overwhelming but once you get going, you'll be done in no time. In 30-75 days you will have a productive garden of your own!

Start your seeds early, so that when the weather is consistently warm and your garden is ready, they will be too.

You can use used teabags to put seeds into, as it activates the growth process. Use empty Keurig cups or empty egg shells as the container for the teabags. Once the plants are big enough and the weather is warm enough, plant your seedlings right into the garden, giving them plenty of space to stretch their feet. Different varieties need different amounts of space, so be sure to do your research before you plant. 

Do you Prefer a Traditional In-ground Garden?

If you want to forgo the decorative pots or straw bales, and plant directly in the ground, you will need to apply some old fashioned hard work to get the ground ready. 

  • Getting the Grass out - This step requires elbow grease, or better still, a teenager! Skim the grass off the top after wetting it to soften. You can either compost or throw this grass away, but you want to save as much dirt in this process as possible. Smothering the area with a clear plastic tarp may do the same trick, but it could take up to several weeks to kill pests and grass depending on how hot it gets.
  • Preparing the Soil - Begin layering with black ink only newspaper, weed barrier cloth, or cardboard before adding any new dirt to keep any new grass or weeks from growing up in your new garden. 
  • Know your region - Choose plants that will thrive in your planting zone. Test your soil. Some areas have more acidity or clay which makes growing difficult. Depending on your soil quality, you might need to add conditioners to make the atmosphere more hospitable to your new plants.

Handy Tip - Make a blueprint of where you planted which vegetable in your garden because it is easy to forget!

Becoming an urban farmer provides countless benefits to you and the environment. Whether growing a single tomato plant or enough vegetables for you and your entire neighborhood, it can improve your physical health by supplying your diet with nutritious vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Gardening is a way to get outside for some fresh air, physical activity, and absorb vitamin D from the sunshine, all promoting physical health. And don't forget, you can save money by growing your own vegetables!

 

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