Tag Archives: Blog 6

Is This Housing Market Right For You?

I did it. I have no idea how, but I did it. Many rejected offers and a few tears later, in the craziest market I could have possibly imagined, I managed to buy a house! The process was grueling, often leaving me feeling like I took on a 40-hour a week position just to stay on top of the market. If you also find yourself looking for a home in this unfortunate market for buyers, you should be aware what you’re getting yourself into.

It is incredibly important to be prepared by knowing what the market is like in your city. For example, in Minneapolis the market is on fire, which is raising all sorts of concerns around the city. This article, from The Associated Press, discusses the lack of homes in supply, high demand on materials for new builds, and skyrocketing prices. These are problems being faced by most major cities all around the United States right now, but you should do your research to find if anything different is happening where you are. If you happen to be looking in a suburb or even somewhere more rural, the market could be more volatile or more calm, depending on location.

It also important to consider the future when deciding if this is the right time to buy. The article linked above mentions how buyers are often being pitted against each other through insane tactics, which is driving prices higher and higher. However, the market will not always be this way, leading many to believe that prices on houses have inflated too quickly. If you are someone looking to stay in a house long-term, right now might be an alright time for you to buy. Prices will even out overtime and you likely won’t end up losing value. If you are looking to live in the home for a short amount of time and quickly resell though, you run a higher risk of losing money.

What the decision ultimately comes down to, however, is what is best for you. I am just a person on the internet who decided to make the crazy jump into this market at a very weird time. If you think you want to, and you can handle it, you should do whatever is best for you. Just make sure to do your research first!

A Homecook’s Secret Weapons

Many may be entering in to a moment of cooking fatigue after a year of lockdowns and limited access to restaurants, however many are also invigorated by the revolution that eating at home is enjoyable. Here are five secret weapons this homecook uses to make life easier while raising a family in no particular order.

  1. Homemade Stocks and Broths
Homemade Chicken Stock

Using whole and homemade ingredients gives us all the homestead vibes. It adds flavor and texture to dishes. And an added benefit is it reduces food waste. Making these elements from scratch allows the cook to know exactly what is going into their food and the ability to adjust based on preference or health need. To make this broth I didn’t measure anything as I have been doing this for 15 years and just know what to do. But it I just add the bones from a whole roasted chicken, a yellow onion, a bulb of garlic, 3 ribs of celery, 3 carrots, salt and pepper, then covered with water. I brought that to a boil then reduced to simmer and let cook for 3-4 hours before cooling and straining flavor elements from the broth.

2. Preparation

Homecooks prepare their ingredients and display them beautifully making easier and more appealing to use when it is time to make the next meal. From washed and ready to serve greens to a mason jar with fresh parsley to a table that is dressed with a table and fresh flowers homecooks love to set a feeling to everything which make the tasks of feeding yourself, friends, or family more desirable.

3. Flavorful Elements

Yellow and red onions, garlic, and red bell pepper

Aromatics deepen the flavor of any dish that you make. Onion, garlic, and pepper are commonly used in most cuisines these add an additional punch of flavor to any dish. Many of these flavor enhancers can store for awhile on your counter which make them easy to keep on hand.

4. Quick Pickles

My personal favorite quick pickle is pickled red onions. To make I chop a red onion and place it in a jar with fresh cracked black pepper. Then in a saucepan I add 1 cup water, 3/4 distilled white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt (sometimes I use a little less than that) and bring to a boil. I pour that over the red onion in the mason jar and let cool before placing in the refrigerator when that stays good for at a month. This not only adds deep flavor it provides needed acidity to any dish.

5. Fresh Herbs

Basil grown from seed that will be going into my herb garden soon

An easy way that homecooks bring freshness and the homestead vibe to their dishes is by incorporating fresh herbs into the meals they are making. Fresh herbs can be expensive if adding them to your grocery budget weekly. So keeping a small garden with herbs is fully easy and can be maintained yearly if you have window stall in your home. The pop of color and freshness herbs bring to dishes makes them a winner in my book.

The IOC will not Allow Athletes to Protest at Tokyo Games

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently announced that athletes will not be allowed to protest on medal podiums or field of play. I’m not convinced that Olympic officials have the right to make this decision. When the decision pertains to the health of athletes and the organization of events, then their word is the law. However, freedom of assembly has nothing to do with sports.

Many countries have freedom of speech, but less specify freedom of assembly. There are over 20 countries that have this particular right and all of them participate in the Summer Olympics. The officials made this decision, seemingly, in response to Black Lives Matter protests, which have grown significantly in the last year. However, consider the fact that in the last year there have been massive civil rights protests worldwide.

For example, the women’s strike protests in Poland. Since October 2020, women in Poland have been at the forefront of the fight for their bodily autonomy. I won’t say that no one in the United States is talking about this, because that’s not true. However, understandably, the strike has not been top news. When you compete at the Olympics, you’re given a rare chance to address the entire world. Think of the support that could be generated for important civil rights issues if people were allowed to use this world stage.

On a recent episode of The Right Time with Bomani Jones, Bomani Jones had this to say about the IOC’s decision, “You guys are setting yourselves up for disaster. You have decided that you are going to create martyrs.” Bomani goes on to make the point that, after someone has won the gold medal, there isn’t much for them to lose. The IOC could take the physical medal away from the athlete, but the entire world would already know that you’ve won. People are going to stand up for what is right and what is important to them regardless.

If the Olympics are being held in a country that does not allow freedom of assembly, then they can deal with their own athletes, and other countries can deal with their athletes in accordance with their laws. I recognize Olympic officials have a tough job. It has to be difficult setting rules when you’re trying to accommodate over 200 countries with different laws. I am simply suggesting that they make their lives easier and keep the decision making to athletics.

Change, Multiplied

by Leslie MacKenzie, blog 6

Six years ago, Transition Longfellow hosted a year-long discussion group we called “Sustainable Finance, Sustainable Life.” The goal of the group was to talk about how members could bring their finances in line with their sustainability values.

The conversations were wide ranging, covering questions such as:

  • Does the way you spend your money and your time reflect how you value the environment?
  • How does our consumer culture make it difficult for you to make the changes you want to make?
  • How would your life look different if you used less fossil fuel – if things slowed down?
  • What would a steady-state (sustainable) economy look like? One that does not consume more resources than can be recreated, that doesn’t “borrow” from our children’s future?
  • How can we invest our money and resources today to ensure a future for our children tomorrow?

(Looking back on that list, these were prescient questions for what we would face in 2020. What happened when the world slowed down? Quite literally, we could breathe again!)

In its first year, the group focused on personal changes – how people budgeted, where they banked, how they invested. In its second year, we went broader – how do we create bigger change in the world.

The Power of Influence

I remember sitting in a circle one evening in the church basement where we met, talking about our “circle of influence.” Who do you know who you might influence with the information you had been learning? Where might you bring in a new perspective or new ideas?

When we first went around the circle, most people said they didn’t have any influence, or maybe only with their immediate family members.

man woman talking
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels
grandma granddaughter talking
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When it was my turn, I shared that I had been very concerned about the fact that the City of Minneapolis did its banking with the #1 home foreclosure bank during the recession of 2009-2011. This bank had done tremendous harm to our community and why were we not banking with a local bank with a better track record?

My City Council member had regular coffeehouse hours for constituents, so I went for a visit. I brought with me a packet of information about Sunrise Bank, a B Corp (a social benefits corporation), a certified Community Development Financial Institution, and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. B corporations balance purpose and profits to drive “a global movement of using business as a force for good.”

I suggested he look into changing how the city banks and that he consider Sunrise as an option. (I also told the bank I would be talking with him.) He said the city would be examining its banking relationships at some future date (which I thought at the time would be sooner rather than later.)

Now we went around the circle again and the stories of influence potential were bigger. One woman said that her employer had recently surveyed employees about their retirement options. She hadn’t responded but now she would. Family members, neighbors, church friends, employers … everyone could think of someone. And everyone committed to talking to someone about something they had learned.

Lots of Ways to Create Change

For many people, when we think of the need for change, we think of protests and lobbying. Those are two ways that we can work for change. But some people are just not comfortable doing that, whether its fear, anxiety, uncertainty, shyness, or because they believe those techniques are ineffective.

There are other ways to move change forwardeven if you are shy.

Everyone has a circle of influence. Even if your personal circle is small, it may include people who have a larger circle of influence. Sometimes it takes just one person in the right place to start a trickle of change that later becomes a torrent.

Influence is not the same as access. Just because you can talk to someone, that doesn’t mean they will listen to you or act. Relationship and readiness are going to factor into that equation.

But rather than think there is little you can do, it may be more empowering to think that there is something you can do within your sphere of influence, and like a raindrop in a pond, it can ripple out.

Learn More

For the shy and anxious among us, you may find inspiration and direction in Frances Moore Lappé’s book, “You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear.” Amazon reviewer Trish Boyles said:

“This book is unbelievably timely and written in such a way that its inspiration easily translates into personal understanding and action. We truly are living in a culture of fear, and though the recognition of that is an important first step, “You Have the Power” explains the necessary subsequent steps we need to break out of that culture and live our lives in a powerful, authentic way… Like so much of Ms. Lappe’s recent work, the underlying sensation that change IS happening further inspires the reader to re-view the way he/she looks at fear. A society changes when individuals change, this book is a guide to making that individual change.”

For a more academic – yet still highly readable and practical book that touches on the power of influence, see Doug McKenzie-Mohr’s, “Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing.”

Mindfulness Matters

The past few weeks I’ve been feeling stressed from the demands of working full-time, going to school, volunteering, and staying connected with our four children (two live on the east coast). Adding to the mix is the need to clean the house, do laundry, and other obligations that pull my attention in too many directions. But, today I realized what was missing. I need to get back to practicing mindfulness meditation! When I practice mindfulness regularly, no matter what is going on in my life my stress level dissipates.

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What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of being. When you’re mindful, you purposefully pay attention to your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Instead of rushing from one thing to the next, being mindful means you’re living in the present and awakening to your experiences. The practice of mindfulness meditation teaches you how to cultivate awareness, which reduces stress.

My introduction to mindfulness was through my employer’s wellness program. At work, they offer a weekly mindfulness meditation class over the lunch hour. The mindfulness training is compatible with the aim of the wellness program—to enhance employees’ well-being.

A small group of people meets weekly for a one-hour session of guided meditations, compassion practices, and breathe awareness. The instructors provide examples of ways to integrate mindfulness into our daily lives—which trains our brains to live in the present moment. Because the class is not offered over the summer months, I’ve gotten out of my routine.

Principles to start your day off on a positive note
While I’ve abandon my mindfulness practice for the last month, I continue to use the tips from The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Dr. Amit Sood, MD, to start my day with good intentions.

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Dr. Sood says, “Your attention is like a muscle; working it out makes it stronger” (53).  He recommends beginning each day by focusing on one of the Stress-Free Living principles. So, I added them to my google calendar. I receive a reminder every morning at 8:15 a.m. They help me to start the day off on a positive note. The following list includes the assigned principle for each day:

Day of the week Theme
Monday Gratitude
Tuesday Compassion
Wednesday Acceptance
Thursday Higher Meaning
Friday Forgiveness
Saturday Celebration
Sunday Reflection and Prayer

 Benefits of Mindfulness
There are both physical and emotional benefits from practicing Mindfulness. The techniques help to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Lower pressure
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve symptoms of anxiety

Practicing mindfulness has been a positive experience, and many of the group members agree. When I practice regularly I am able to focus on and enjoy everything that I’m involved in. I feel more like I’m living life, rather than rushing through it.

For the Writing and Designing for the Web I course I designed a “Mindfulness Matters” website. We needed to provide a handout for the class on presentation day, so I created this one-page Mindfulness Matters Tip Sheet.

When I meditate, I find the practice beneficial for juggling a busy schedule. Give it a try! You, too, can reap the benefits of mindfulness meditation.

What tips do you have for dealing with the stresses of a busy schedule?

Ever Been to Greece?

According to Business Insider, Greece is # 5 on the top 20 countries to travel to. If you’re thinking of going on a big vacation anytime soon, I could not recommend Greece more. From its food to its history, you will never get bored with exploring the country.

I went to Greece in the Fall of 2014 for a two month Bible school. We did a lot of traveling around the country and the Aegean Sea (by sailboat of course); every few days, we were in a new place. Greece’s character and beauty left an impression on me and I still dream of being back there to this day (hopefully I will get to go back after graduation).

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Greece’s rich history is incredible to see with your own eyes. These places that you’ve read about in your history books are all real–it’s amazing to feel like you’re physically walking through your history book! I visited Ancient Philippi, Ancient Corinth (and the Corinth Canal), the Acropolis in Athens (and the Parthenon), and many other sites. I also visited the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, which were much more touristy compared to many of the smaller “fishing villages” and islands we spent time at.

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The difficult part about recommending Greece for travel is that I want to recommend everything because it’s an amazing country! If I had to narrow it down, I would tell others to be sure to visit Athens. This was my favorite big city because it mixed history with modernism so well. You can take a walk up to the Acropolis and the Parthenon during the day, then come down for some afternoon shopping at the stores and flea market (GREAT shopping in Athens), and cap it all off with a metro ride to Gazi for dinner/drinks/dancing. The locals will be puffing on their hookahs while lounging around on the couches outside each restaurant/club—feel free to follow suit.

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One last word: whatever you do when/if you visit Greece, be sure to eat a gyro. I dare you to eat just one (most days, I consumed a copious amount—no shame). The gyros are not like the ones we have here. In Greece, it’s more like fast food, but not that bad for you because it’s not America and it’s much fresher. Plus, it’s much cheaper than the gyros here (roughly 2 euro or $2.25). You get a choice of chicken or pork, and yes, the fries come right inside the pita bread with everything else. You will find them everywhere in Greece and I guarantee that you will be in love.

Next time you want to take a big vacation and can’t decide on a destination, look no further than the country that essentially started it all in the Western world.

P.S. My mouth is watering at the thought of a gyro from Greece…

Building Bridges

ruby-bridges

Close your eyes and imagine your first day of school.  Now imagine being told you have to go to a new school because you’re smart.  Imagine being excited and all dressed up for your first day of a new school but the police arrive to escort you to school instead of a school bus.  You walk into your new school but see crowds of people shouting at you and you feel hated.  Imagine sitting in a new classroom where no one looks like you and no one wants to be your friend.  This is not the typical experience most of us had on our first day of school but for Ruby Bridges this was reality.  

Ruby Bridges was the first African American girl to integrate into an all white public elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Around the time Ruby was born in 1954 Brown vs. The Board of Education, issued no segregation in public schools in the south.  When Ruby was 5 years old she was given a test in order to get into public school.  The school system purposely made this academic test hard so that they could keep their schools segregated a little while longer  but Little Ruby Bridges passed with flying colors.

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What Ruby Bridges and her family didn’t expect was how changed their lives would be because they had such a smart daughter going to an all white school.  Ruby’s Father had worked at the same gas station for 8 years, but when Ruby started going to school and gaining attention and hatred from the community, he was fired.  Neighbors would refuse allowing their children to play with Ruby because she was bringing in too much negative attention on their neighborhood.  There was always police watching Ruby and her families house for protection.  The local grocery store Ruby and her family shopped at told them they were no longer welcome to shop in their store.  All of this happened because Ruby proved African Americans can learn in the same capacity to all other races.

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Imagine what the school system and the neighborhoods would look like today if we didn’t have the Ruby Bridges of the world.
Ruby Bridges (1954-).  Taken From Young and Brave :Girls Changing History. “National Women’s History Museum.” Education & Resources. National Women’s History Museum, n.d. Web. 09 June 2016.