Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What not to do during Food Prep

This blog is called East Valley Living, and living refers to healthy activities too! I’m sure if you are working, running a business or busy family, it seems like there just isn’t any time to make sure everyone is eating healthy. Here is a behind the scene view of what a busy Realtor on the move does to stay firing on all cylinders! I’m sure this technique can help you too!

The term “Food Prep” refers to the act of meal planning and preparing ahead several meals at once, or batching meal preparation, so foods are ready to eat or quickly heated up. There are several reasons people Food Prep: to measure correct potion sizes for a healthy eating lifestyle, to have food to quickly prepare while zipping around a busy lifestyle, and to save money by buying in bulk and freezing meals for future use. There might be more, but these three come to mind as I tasked myself today to get a whole lotta cookin’ done.

My husband and I try really hard to eat a healthy diet. We like a Paleo plan involving humanely prepared foods, organic and grass-fed if possible, and we like butter in our coffee (Bulletproof coffee!). To achieve this, it takes some selective grocery shopping and preparation.  We are also constantly on the move and on the road. We pack lunches to eat in the car and take vitamins and eat simple prepared meals at home. Sometimes after an especially long day, we don’t feel like cooking and if there is not food already prepared, we run to a restaurant. What a waste of money and burned calories!

We decided to do “Make Ahead” meals, which kept us on track but were prepped out for a whole month. After scouring books and websites, we had around 12 entrees to prepare, and several meals worth each. We made a loooonng list and made several stops to make sure we got everything we needed. After driving from Phoenix to our local grass-fed butcher, then to Gilbert with our favorite grocery stores, back home to East Mesa it was already after noon. I followed up with some clients then ran to the kitchen getting pressure cooker, slow cooker, oven, food processor, blender, and multiple pieces of cast iron warmed up. Then there was the vacuum food saver bags. We just got the food saver and I had no idea how to use it. But we needed to freeze things, so we figured it out. I’ve never made such a mess of my kitchen.

Seven hours later, my feet are killing me. I’m glad I wore the new running shoes I got for the Phoenix Half Marathon. They definitely got broken in today. My back is killing me, but I got to play with all my favorite kitchen appliances and dance to some Spotify. The fridge, freezer, and deep freeze are full, and that’s a blessing that keeps us closer to our goals. I learned something new that intimidated me…I am a vacuum bag food saver Queen! We definitely felt epic today!
So, here’s what NOT to do during Food Prep: Plan 12 entrees with enough servings to feed a family of eight. Especially if you are a family of two. After seven hours we realized we had six entrees we just can’t cook because we have no more room and we have enough food for at least a month. And we were just too tired to keep going. The WIN of the day is now we have tons of ready-made food so we don't have to think about where our next meal was coming from.

Do a little research on make ahead meals and try new things. You may not be perfect at first, but making changes in life involve small changes and correct for what works for you and your family.

And if you want an awesome cookbook with yummy Paleo recipes, check out Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Tips to Help a Home Seller Get the Best Price

One of the most important goals a home seller has is getting the price he or she needs to sell the house. This sounds like a simple task, but has several variables including location, how the housing market is doing, how other properties in the neighborhood are doing, and so on. There are a few simple tips a home seller can do to ensure he or she gets the right price and the right buyer.

Curb Appeal
When a potential buyer drives up to the home, how the home looks on the outside makes a huge first impression. Even if a home is in a great neighborhood or has wonderful upgrades inside, a potential buyer may drive away without looking inside due to the home’s exterior. There is no second chance to make a first impression! Make sure trees and bushes are trimmed, clean up any weeds or clutter, and make sure the exterior of the home is in good repair. This may mean you hire a landscaper or handyman, but it is not necessary if the home and yard looks neat and clean.

Remove All Clutter
The primary goal is to find a buyer who walks into the home and can envision the home belonging to him or her right away. You want the home to be inviting, but neutral. This is really what the term “staging” means. Put away your family pictures and personal collections. You may be very proud of your Hummel collection, but buyers want to visualize their things in the home. Pick up the everyday things that may be left around like papers, backpacks, and dishes. Make sure your furniture is clean and tidy.

Small Home Improvements
In some cases, small home improvements can mean a big difference in home value. Perform small repairs, like nail holes in the wall or caulking around the bathtub. A new coat of paint, in a neutral color, makes the home feel fresh. Updated fixtures like lighting and fans will make the home feel more modern, and don’t need to cost and arm and a leg. New carpeting may be a little costly, but can bring a great return on the investment in the final price of the home.

Friendly family pets are wonderful, but not all potential buyers are pet lovers. Be sure your pets are put away or looked after while showing the home. Clean up toys, dishes, and litter boxes and try to discreetly keep them from view. Be sure all fur is cleaned up to be tidy and to respect those potential buyers who may have allergies.

Good lighting is a great way to make a home feel warmer, larger, and more inviting. Take down heavy curtains and open the blinds. Make sure bulbs are replaced and turn lights on all over the house. If you upgraded some lighting fixtures, be sure they accent special areas of the home. Good lighting will also accent those areas you might have missed while cleaning, so again, be sure to go through the home as a potential buyer and notice what they might see.

These simple tips do not need to be costly, but could mean thousands of dollars in your home’s final value.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Now that we brushed away the holiday cobwebs, it's time to Level Up!

Every year, it's the same thing. The holidays come in with a WHOOSH! If we have been dedicated to our success (diet, gym, business goals), then we tend to allow some wiggle room around the 
holidays. Our family joke around Thanksgiving is "Get your fat pants on!". We allow
small, or large, indiscretions. We can miss one day at the gym because we burned so many calories running around and shopping. We allow a cookie or three. We overindulge at the holiday party, then sleep in the next day when we were supposed to work on our budget. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, we look back on the year and wonder where the time went and why we didn’t reach those goals we set for ourselves last January.
January is here again! What are your goals or resolutions for this year? Do you actually have a system in place to achieve them? If not, can I make a suggestion?
Turn your life into a game.
In Steve Kamb’s book, Level Up Your Life, Kamb outlines how to create your “Alter Ego” superhero who tackles your goals fearlessly, goes on Epic Quests, and builds you a body for adventuring. While you are doing this, you are “leveling up” and building strong, long-term habits that help create the perfect You. The You that you have always dreamed of being.
Anyone who is a fan of video games, board games, or choose your own adventure books will grasp the concept immediately. You create a character, gain loot, recruit allies, level up and get stronger so you can tackle more difficult challenges. This concept can be applied whether you are young, or more mature, whether you are single or running a busy family. The key is to set very specific goals (one of mine is to attend a noodle festival in Japan
 I saw on the Travel Channel), then break that large goal down into smaller “quests” and assign point values to them (like find the date/place of the noodle festival, get passport, figure out costs). As you complete smaller
 quests and gain points, you level up!
The more quests you tackle, the closer you are to being more physically fit, traveling more, spending more time with your kids, doing the work you love, and building better habits. The main thing is to DO something. Learn from DOING, not just dreaming.
You don’t have to be an expert at Dungeon and Dragons or World of Warcraft to understand and use the concepts. Everyone should have goals. Goals get us to bigger and better things in our lives. If you have tried vision boards and checklists and The Secret and you keep coming back to January with very little accomplished, maybe you need a different vehicle.
Turn your life into a game.
Ready to play?

Steve Kamb is the founder of Nerd Fitness. His book Level Up Your Life is available through Rodale Books

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Four Downtowns in 24 Hours part 2

Liberty Market in Gilbert

Downtown Gilbert is one of my favorite places to spend a weekend morning. I was born in Norfolk, Nebraska and spent a good part of my childhood there. The small towns in the Midwest always had a quiet downtown area with brick buildings lining the street with a drug store, a bank, a bar, a thrift store, a diner and one (if any) stop light. Downtown Gilbert reminds me of that. It has kept its early 20th century feel while still attracting hundreds of people to modern restaurants and shops. On Saturday mornings there is a farmers market full of fresh local produce, teas and treats. The Gilbert water tower stands as a beacon and hovers over a splashy park that usually has small children running through tiny jets of water. Right across the street is Hale Theatre that produces year round plays and musicals performed by local actors.

The second stop in our Four Downtowns in 24 hours brought up to the Liberty Market. Liberty Market was originally a grocery store which opened in 1935. When the new owners (including Joe Johnson of Joe’s Real BBQ across the street and Joe’s Farm Grill on Higley and Ray) renovated the place and reopened in 2008, they kept much of the original architecture and style of the original market, even including the iconic neon sign you drive by while passing through Gilbert. Now, however, while they still sell some food and beverages in the original market area, Liberty Market is known for great food and great coffee.

For breakfast, they have some new twists on classics like the American Standard or the Demi Breakfast and some fresh selections like my favorite, the Salmon Plate, which is smoked lox on a bed of greens with bread crisps and olive tapenade. They also have a selection of pastries like bread pudding and scones. For lunch or dinner, you can choose the burger of the week or a wood-fired pizza or any number of soups, salads, sandwiches and amazing entrees.

We showed up a little early for lunch, so we sat at the E61 Coffee Bar while we waited and had some yummy espresso drinks. Besides a mean latte, the E61 has an item called Cortadito, which is a Cuban style espresso drink with foam and sugar, served as a tiny pair of drinks. Cute and tasty! What makes the E61 the best espresso bar in the Valley, by far, is the espresso machine, an E61 Faema. The Faema was produced in Italy and was one of the first true espresso machines manufactured that are still used today. This thing needs to be perfectly maintained and regularly calibrated so it makes the perfect pull of espresso every time. I dare any coffee drinker to come try an espresso drink at E61 in Liberty Market and not say it was the best cup of coffee in this continent!

For lunch we did get the burger of the week, which was a Red Beans and Rice Burger (which was a patty made of red beans and rice) which was served with homemade potato chips. Like everything else we have ever had here, it was delicious. Another quirky thing about the Liberty Market that you must check out are the bathrooms. They actually won New Times “Best Bathroom” in 2009. What is unusual about them is that the bathroom itself is unisex. There are a series of doors with both an “M” and a “W” on them. Each stall is a small room with a different music theme and recipes hand written on the walls by the restaurant owners. For more information on the bathrooms and this history of Liberty Market, check out their YouTube channel.

Next time you are strolling down Gilbert Road, swing inside Liberty Market. Take in the old fashioned feel while enjoying high quality food and drinks!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Four Downtowns in 24 Hours part 1

This was not planned; it was more like serendipity. My husband and I had visited some of our favorite places in the east valley (and a new one!) and we did not realize until we were driving to downtown Chandler that we had visited four downtown areas in 24 hours. I want to share with you some amazing places in the east valley. Let me know if you have been here before, or if not, go visit and let me know what you think!

Four Peaks Brewing Company in Tempe

Four Peaks is one of my favorite places in Tempe. There are so many great places to eat and visit in Tempe, but every time we are in the neighborhood, we seem to direct the car here. Four Peaks Brewing Company is located on 8th street between Rural and McClintock. It’s an unusual place for a bar and restaurant, but the Arizona State University college atmosphere surrounds the old building which delivers charm and a laid back ambiance. The original brick building was started as an ice factory in 1892, then it was converted to a creamery in 1927. The brew masters of Four Peaks renovated the building and opened their doors in 1996. Their goal was not only to make great beer, but to provide excellent food that no other bar could match.

Four Peaks has the staple wings and hamburgers which go great when watching football or baseball on their many televisions, but what sets them apart are the unusual fare. On a regular day, one can find menu items such as the Arizona Chicken Egg Rolls with a creamy and sweet jalapeno sauce, a grilled Salmon BLT on whole grain bread, a white pizza drizzled in olive oil with chicken, basil and pine nuts, or a hot Italian Beef Beer Bread sandwich using bread made in house. The brewery also has three specials during lunch and during dinner which is where the foodie in me goes nuts. I was looking at last night’s specials in the email I get twice a day and was pretty happy I wasn’t there…I wouldn’t have been able to choose: Short Rib Cannelloni with homemade pasta, spicy marinara and béchamel cheese and sautéed baby arugula, Confit Pork Belly with Yukon Gold potato pancake, and Blackened Ahi tuna with a pumpkin seed mole, sweet corn rice and broccolini.

The other night, we went with my husband’s family from El Paso. It is always fun to take someone there for the first time. It was a Tuesday night and the wait was still about 30 minutes, but it was worth it. This time of year is the best. The brewery is open with plenty of patio seating and they just released their famous, limited seasonal, the Pumpkin Porter for the first time in cans. The people watching is great, with a mix of college students studying or taking a break with their friends to groups of older men and women telling stories and rating the quality of the seasonal or cask conditioned brew. The only negative to Four Peaks is the parking. I recommend getting there before peak lunch or dinner times to get a spot along 8th street next to the brewery, or there is a small parking lot around the back, otherwise there may be a slight walk. Four Peaks has a location in Scottsdale with a full menu and a “Tasting Room” also in Tempe which features a different food truck parked next to it every day, but the 8th street location is the heart of it all and encompasses the spirit of Tempe.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Take advantage of this real estate market!

Hopefully you have heard that the deadline for the $8000 Federal First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit is November 30th. That means the home has to close escrow by that date. Many first-time home buyers are rushing to meet the deadline! It is a great time to be a home buyer! Mortgage rates are at an all time low, there are lots of homes to chose from in the market, and prices are unbelievably low. I see homes closing at unheard of prices every day in the East Valley!

The advantage of buying now, with a low interest rate and low price, means that over the next few years, your home will appreciate in value. That means that it will not be long before the house is worth more than you paid for it! I am already seeing evidence of the market started to stabilize. Prices are slowly back on the rise. I know there will still be more inventory coming! Houses are being put on the market every day that are under priced. You would be amazed...

So, my question is for the renters out there... why are you still renting? With these rates, you can own a home, with a yard (maybe a pool), no stairs, no landlord, no pet restrictions...for less than you are paying for rent. I spoke to a few renters today. The main concern I heard was about credit. Yes, that is a big factor, but it is not a brick wall. I personally know several different mortgage lenders who work with banks and private lenders to help people get approved. If you cannot buy now, then there are great things you can do to raise that credit score and make a game plan for yourself. It's good to have a goal! It makes you focused and determined. The main thing is to talk to people in real estate and ask questions. There are so many options out there and an experienced agent and mortgage lender can find what will work best for you!

There is still (a little) time left to take advantage of the tax credit. Though Washington is trying to push for an extension, it is not for sure. Let's go see what we can do now!