The Apartment Search

When you are apartment hunting, prepare a rental search plan. Be sure to know in advance what you want in an apartment and what you can live without. Decide in advance what areas of the city you could consider living in and make a list of apartment buildings within that perimeter.

Be sure to consider how far and how convenient it will be for you to travel to your job or your school or your family and friends. Also, how far is the apartment from stores, banks, hospitals, Church (if you attend) etc. If you have a car, make sure that there is adequate and convenient parking space 24/7. If you don’t drive make sure that there is close by public transportation.

Narrow your apartment locating to the size of rental unit you need. Studio apartment or one bedroom apartment or 2 BR apartment or more. Are you considering a furnished apartment or do you possible need a short term rental. If you are renting an apartment with a cat, dog, or other pet, you need to find out which apartments allow renting with pets and which do not. And, if they do allow pets, is there an additional security deposit required and if so, how much it is. Do you need an apartment complex with an exercise room or tennis courts or a pool or a recreation room, etc. or do you simply need and desire a nice clean and quiet pad.

Be realistic about what you can afford. Most apartment renting guides suggest that your rent should not be more than 25% to 30% of your income. This can vary depending on the income bracket, but be sure to be “real world” when budgeting additional apartment expenses such as heating and air conditioning and other utilities. If you fall short of affording the apartment of your choice, you might consider sharing an apartment with a roommate or roommates. Keep in mind that living with roommates can help you afford an upscale apartment or even, in some cases, luxury apartments, but it also has extreme restrictions to your privacy.

If you are familiar with the area and its neighborhoods, that gives you a distinct advantage for your apartment search. If, however, you are relocating to a new city or are not particularly knowledgeable about the city, you may want to contact an Apartment Locator or an Apartment Finder.

Once you narrow your search for apartments down to apts which suit your needs and desires you must be well organized & well prepared for your visits to the apartment complexes. When inspecting the rental premises be on the alert for unsafe conditions, excessive noise from traffic or playgrounds or neighbors. Visit the apartment building at night as well as the daytime hours. This will give you a more comprehensive understanding of the total space you will be residing in.

When you find the apartment complex that meets your renting needs and desires, you must be ready to put your “best foot forward” when you meet the apartment’s rental agent. This person may be the apartment building manager or a renting agent for the apts. You should prepare for this apartment renting interview in a professional and intelligent manner. Be advised that you are going to be asked to provide proof that you are a reliable prospective tenant. You are most likely going to need references from previous landlords. You may also be required by the apartments to show that you are gainfully employed and can afford the rent. Many landlords may require a credit report. If you are a first time renter and/or you have limited credit history you may be asked for references from family, friends, employer, professionals, etc. Likewise if you are renting with bad credit you will certainly want to come to the interview with a strong selection of references.

You are not necessarily restricted from apartment renting with less than perfect credit, but you may be required to put up an additional security deposit and possibly have a credit worthy person co-sign the apartment lease with you. Don’t unprepared for by requests for any of these things. Be sure to fill out a 100% truthful apartment rental application and come to the interview with references, proof of employment, credit information and any other renting resources at the ready. If you do have a credit history or renting history that might be detrimental, going through an apartment locator or apartment finder may be the best solution. They will present your history to the landlord for you, (make sure they are 100% truthful about it) and they can also be quite helpful and save you a lot of time because they most likely will know which landlords and apartments are more lenient in these circumstances. They can also advise you as to exactly what kinds of references and documents you might need to prove that you can be a responsible tenant.

You Have Located Your “Dream Apartment”

Once you have located your “dream apartment”, or as close to your perfect apartment as possible, now it is necessary to pay extremely close attention to the particulars of the rental agreement. An Apartment Lease is a contract between you and the landlord. Once agreed upon and signed by the tenant and the landlord, the rental lease creates obligations and restrictions for both parties. The most obvious covenants of the apartment lease are the length of the rental, (Six month lease, one year lease, two year lease, etc.) The amount of the security deposit, when the rent is due, who is responsible for what utilities. Also in that apartment lease, however, are stipulations, (sometimes in small print) that can cover a great variety of landlord and tenant obligations and restrictions. They can include, but are not limited to, the following:

o Maintenance of the apartment

o Care of the premises

o Cleanliness

o Insurance

o Governmental regulations

o Eminent Domain

o Nuisance and noise clauses

o Stipulations as to the circumstances whereby the landlord can enter the premises

o Use of Common Areas

o Keys and locks

o Loss or damage

o Parking

o Pets

o Plumbing

o What the landlord may do if the rent is in arrears

o What the tenant can do to bring the rent current before any kind of action might be started

o Non performance or breach of the contract by the renter

o Renter’s penalties in the event of early termination

o Circumstances which might cause the tenant or the landlord to break the lease prior to the end of the term

o Heat and other utilities

o Removal of goods

o Surrender or Non-Surrender of the premises

o Waivers of various obligations

o Prohibited reprisals

o Garbage disposal

o Recyclables

o And the list goes on and on and on.

Prospective tenants should read an Apartment lease thoroughly. Prospective apartment renters should understand everything that is contained in that lease and make an informed decision to be 100% accepting of all the provisions for both the tenant and the landlord, that you are positive that you can live up to your end of the bargain and that you are comfortable with the provisions on the landlord’s end.

If you do not understand every single clause of that apartment lease then do not sign it until you do understand it. If necessary and if possible, request assistance in interpreting the lease from a trusted source such as a knowledgeable friend or family member or employer or professional, or anyone else who can understand it and explain it to you. If necessary get legal advice. It can cost additional funds if you do not qualify for free legal assistance, but that additional cost might save you a ton of money and save you a ton of heartache and aggravation down the road.

If you do not agree with any of the provisions of that apartment lease and/or you feel that you can’t live up to the tenant’s obligations, or if you are not in agreement with any of the landlord’s rights under the agreement, then do not sign the lease until/or unless it can be changed to your satisfaction. If the apartment rental agreement cannot be amended to meet your needs and desires and comfort level then do not sign the lease and do not rent that apartment. The Apartment Rental agreement that you sign as a prospective tenant will not change once you become the actual tenant of that apartment.

Offshore Online Banking Guide – Critical Information You Must Know

There are several legal and regulatory compliance implications with offshore banking that I’d like to cover in this article. However, please don’t construe information on this site as legal guidance. I am providing this information for free based on my own experiences. Please consult your professional attorney or CPA (accountant) before you get involved with offshore internet banking.

What is an Offshore Bank

To be over simplistic, an offshore bank is a financial institution outside the shores of your country. If you are in Australia, a bank in the United States is an offshore bank to you. If you are in the United States, a bank in Singapore is an offshore bank to you. Therefore, the idea of offshore banking is relative.

A business or an individual, in this case you, may select an offshore bank account in a jurisdiction that is typically favorable in terms of taxes (often referred to as a tax haven by media), as well as in terms of legalities. In addition to choosing a jurisdiction with no to little income tax, for many, privacy and “secrecy” of banking activities are two of the bigger key considerations.

It goes without saying that access to your funds is important, as well as protection from corruption and stability in terms of certainty.

List of Common Offshore Online Banking Services

This is a brief list of services offered by offshore banks. This list is by no means a full comprehensive list of an offshore bank’s offerings, but rather a list of some of the most common offshore online banking services that businesses and individuals are offered:

  • Remote Deposits of funds
  • Direct Deposits of funds
  • ACH / Wire Transfers / EFT – Electronic Fund Transfers
  • Consumer and Commercial Lending
  • All Basic Credit Activities
  • Access to Capital – Offshore Debit Cards
  • Forex – Currency Exchange
  • Wealth Management
  • Offshore Trading Account
  • Offshore Brokerage Account
  • Administrative Services
  • Trustee Services

Note: Offshore banks typically tend to focus on either consumer or commercial banking. Within consumer, banks differentiate between retail consumer (the average individual) or private banking (meant for high net worth individuals).

Because each concentration involves a different cost structure from the bank’s perspective, when selecting an offshore bank for yourself, be clear on what type of consumer you are and what offshore online banking services you need. Gaining this clarity will ensure you are not disappointed in your choice.

List of Common Offshore Banks

No doubt the two most common names in offshore online banking are Switzerland and Cayman Islands. Just pick up any business journal or pop in a business based Hollywood flick. There is likely a mention of a Swiss bank account somewhere.

This is because as of at least 2012, these two jurisdictions held the most number of total deposits amongst all offshore online banks. Some other jurisdictions that offer offshore online banking are the following:

  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Panama
  • Cook Islands
  • Dominica
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Antigua
  • Malaysia
  • Anguilla
  • New Zealand
  • Luxembourg
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cyprus
  • Cook Islands
  • Channel Islands
  • Monaco
  • Mauritius
  • Hong Kong
  • Malta
  • Macau
  • Regulating Offshore Online Banking

With complexity comes increasing regulation. The regulation around offshore online banking activities has steadily increased over the years, but according to many of its supporters it is still not enough. This means much more is in the pipelines. Regulation has particularly increased significantly after the significant events of September 11, 2011.

Regulatory guidance is issued and monitored by global bodies such as the International Monetary Fund or the IMF, who require financial institutions worldwide to maintain a certain level of operating or performance standard, specifically in terms of capital adequacy and liquidity. These key performance indicators are to be reported by banks on a quarterly basis to its designated regulator (such as the Fed or the FDIC in the United States).

The list of regulations is endless and quite comprehensive to say the least. Some notables are the Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulation and the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). These acts require banks and financial institutions to immediately report suspicious activity resembling money laundering to local government authorities despite stepping out of the BSA jurisdiction.

Another example is the information sharing requirements between a certain group of countries with regards to capital flow and taxation which was initiated by members of the European Union. On the other side of the pond, the taxing body of the United States, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires financial institutions to report to it names of businesses and individuals who benefited from interest income resulting from deposits in US based institutions.

The most notable in my opinion of recently enacted regulations is the US Patriot Act, which permits the US Government to seize all assets of a financial institution if it suspects that the institution holds assets that belong to a potential criminal. Several other countries have since followed suit.

I personally feel these regulations strengthen the global banking infrastructure. But then again I am just one person. There are others who feel in all sorts of ways about offshore online banking.

Interesting Fact: Did you know that just until the 1990s, individuals were allowed to create their very own offshore banks. This practice was stopped and now only large institutions are allowed to do so.

Connotations and Implications of Offshore Online Banking

It is not illegal to conduct offshore online banking, but such activities tend to carry with them a certain set of connotations and legal implications that you must be aware of and comply with. There can be severe fines, penalties and legal repercussions if you fail to comply with the legal and regulatory requirements.

Why you must be thinking? Because offshore banking historically has been used and abused by those who intended to evade taxes, as well as those that used funds for illegal causes. For example, organized crime networks heavily use offshore online banking to launder money.

But like I said, conducting offshore online banking isn’t an illegal activity. All persons conducting offshore online banking are required by most countries (depending on their residency) to disclose the activities and the outcomes, such as interest income for example.

Specifically in the United States for example, a US resident’s income is taxed on a global basis. This means that even interest earned overseas is subject to taxation by US authorities. Now although financial institutions are not required to disclose this information to countries of interest due the bank secrecy guidelines, individuals are required to disclose this information.

Similarly, one can legally avoid taxes in certain situations. For example, a resident of Country X living and working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may not have to pay taxes if Country X does not tax the individual’s global income.

Because there is no taxation on income earned in many Arab nations, interest income earned from deposits in a UAE bank account is not subject to tax. Further, the income is also not taxed in Country X. This is a common reason why so many affluent folks change residency and citizenship status, one that resonates most with their financial goals and objectives.

It’s a very interesting dynamic and there is a ton of opportunity for strategics as you can imagine.

Dollar Concentration in Offshore Online Banking

Although offshore online banking is not a subject delved into by the average individual, the numbers involved (concentration of wealth and financial activity) are quite significant. You may find a lot of these simply fascinating.

For example, specialized banking economists and analysts indicate that half of the global capital (money) flows through one of the many offshore banks out there. The so called Tax Havens (think Switzerland) have over a quarter of the global wealth (think high net worth individuals and big companies). These Havens also hold over 30% of profits generated by companies based in the United States.

And that’s not it. Over 6 trillion US dollars owned by high net worth individuals are also reported to be held in offshore bank accounts in one shape or another.

Illegal Monies in Offshore Bank Accounts

Opportunists have identified weaknesses in the offshore banking system and thus have taken advantage of the systems to launder monies generated through illegal means and used for illegal purposes. According to the IMF, this amount is as large as 1.5 trillion US dollars on an annual basis. To put things in perspective for you, this is roughly 5% of the world’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In addition to illegal monies, there are also monies that have evaded taxation as well as monies that were generated through fraud, graft and corruption. All in all, the amounts are super significant. And as I stated above, the two jurisdictions with the biggest concentration of these amounts are the Cayman Islands and Switzerland (as of 2012).

Offshore Internet Banking for Corporations of All Sizes

I have already stated this earlier, but offshore online banking is not only for large companies, but companies of all sizes as well as individuals. There are a certain set of requirements that any institution, an individual or a company have to meet in order to open and maintain an offshore bank account.

In fact, it is easier for individuals to open and maintain an offshore bank account before companies are required to complete additional forms in a specific manner when establishing an offshore internet bank account.

Corporations typically engage in offshore online banking when they contemplate one or any mix of the following purposes.

  • Cost containment (bank fees and charges)
  • Paying and receiving payments from vendors and customers in local jurisdictions
  • Asset protection strategies
  • International acquisitions and investments
  • Compensating local employees in an offshore jurisdiction
  • Political reasons – Stability and predictability
  • Establishing a local business presence
  • Again, this is not a comprehensive list of why companies engage in offshore online banking. There are several other reasons why a company may decide to establish an offshore bank account. The only true way to find out the best offshore bank for you, and whether your objectives will be met through offshore internet banking is by speaking to a professional who can walk you through the entire process.

Concluding Thoughts on Offshore Internet Banking

I gave you a ton of information to read and digest in this article. As you have read, offshore internet banking is used by several different constituencies for several different purposes with several different intentions.

There are some significant advantages that can be derived from opening an offshore bank account such as entering new global markets and some serious offshore tax planning. I obviously recommend opening an offshore bank account for the right reasons, with full compliance with laws and regulations. For those contemplating abusing the system, understand that bank secrecy is a weakening concept, and one that will continue to weaken over the years.

Countries are increasingly sharing information, some voluntarily and some while succumbing to pressure by more powerful nations such as the United States.

Premium Home Furniture

The utility of premium home furniture

You can get premium home furniture at a fraction of the cost that you can expect. Such furniture will go well with ceramic garden pots because they are made from good quality materials that tend to last a long time. You should also consider the relative merits of developing your own brand of fashion within the home so that you have something that is bespoke and targeted towards fulfilling your needs. When we work with the classical pots we are looking for something that is both manageable but also effective in terms of storing some of the decorative items that we have on board. The choices are really open to you to select the right product for the right price.

The contemporary pots are normally handmade but the increased commercialization of the market has meant that they are now produced on a factory basis. This has advantages for the manufacturer because they can fully realize the economies of scale. However the quality tends to suffer and you do not get the feeling that they are individual items that say something about the owner. Rather you are dealing with the bog standard stuff that is not particularly inspiring apart from those that lead really vacuous lives. You might have to pay some money in order to get the handmade modern pots. Some people feel that this is a price that they are willing to pay in order to get good quality.

This is not to say that all the modern accessories that are made in the factory are of a poor quality. In fact there are many examples of these items that are made to a very high standard so that you do not have to worry about the quality of the output that is going out there. It all depends on the context and the way that you deal with the requirements that come into the system. The people that can make an impact are the ones that are carrying the torch for the good quality stuff. Therefore they are willing to make that extra payment if it means that they get a good outcome from whatever they are doing. That is how to deal with modern products.

Those that do not care about the stylistic elements can go for any sorts of modern items. They are just utilitarian items that have no intrinsic beauty for them. It is not wise to denigrate the choices of individuals because they are the very best judges of what they want and what they need. We can only look to them to see whether those choices are feasible and whether they make sense to us. We cannot go behind and then claim that we are in a position to move them about without the relevant knowledge about their choices of garden furniture or accessories of the highest order. Generally speaking this is an item that is selling very well on the markets because of its tradition and reputation.

How Does Urban Wear Relate to Hip Hop Music?

Over the years because of hip hop music stars who also design clothes, urban wear has become some of the most popular types of clothing on the market. There is a definite iconic status for people who design urban clothing and the fact that the clothing is related to the hip hop music culture. These clothes reflect the attitudes of the rap culture itself. In fact, as hip hop continues to thrive and move forward the clothing that comes with it will remain hot! As the hip hop culture continues on it becomes more popular among young people especially in the urban clothing lines. Some of these lines are designed by the hip hop artists themselves like. This increases the popularity of hip hop and this type of urban clothing will be the stamp for future hip hop admirers.

Urban Wear is definitely more for open minded people. Today’s urban fashion is worn around the world and is considered the most fashionable. It may seem to be American but this type of clothing was actually inspired by African culture. That is why the term hip hop seems to bring to mind colored people wearing over sized shirts and jeans. This type of clothing is also known as street or urban wear. It really begins from the music genre that brings out the personal expressions and goes against the mainstream music scene. It has been known to feature huge accessories that are known as bling! There are also the basketball caps and t-shirts that tend to be at least one or two sizes bigger then the way clothes are worn on average. These types of shirts could come from plain basketball jerseys or feature some sayings that express what the individual wants to get across to society.

The fact is that hip hop style has been accepted all over the world. It was first accepted in the poorest American cities like the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. The urban wear phenomenon is made up of various styles and different ways to wear pieces. There are some vital pieces that you should have in your wardrobe. Society So when hip hop music stars look good in their clothing then the fans want to look good in it too! The hip hop industry is collaborating with the fashion industry and getting the urban culture out there which includes hoods, military printed cargos, custom sneakers, hip hop hats and more.

It is not uncommon to see urban wear appear in music videos and on rap icons. This is the way that they contribute to the flavor of fashion today. It is quite common to see these labels under the leadership of famous rappers and producers that want to build their business and get into urban clothing deals. Many hip hop musicians will get into the business or urban clothing because they know it will be a huge business accomplishment. Many music artists get signed to a record label and get paid huge sums for their recorded work but may not see more money until the label gets back all the money from promotions. This is when artists may want to invest in other ventures and urban wear has become one of these popular outlets.

This is a way for these artists to make their money work for them. It will also benefit them as far as their public image and self expression which they want to give to their fans. With these kinds of ventures it is a way for them to market and sell their clothes. P. Diddy with Sean John, Nelly with Apple Bottoms, Jay-z with Rocawear, 50 Cent with G-Unit and more are all managed by rappers and many other labels have grown in appeal as rappers continue to get their names and music and urban wear out into the main stream where the public is just eating it all up.

Fast Money Recap – An Overview

One of the keys to becoming successful in the stock market is by getting access into the inside stories, trends and updates regarding the country’s economy. One of the show’s in America that has all these information is Fast Money Recap. If you are serious about making tremendous amounts of money, then you can get insights from this show.

Undeniably, Fast Money Recap is one of the most watched American programs when it comes to money matters. This stock trading talk show will show you everything from financial trends, investment techniques and stock predictions. If you miss an episode you can always watch it again through this program, even get updates via your mobile phone and make use of their widgets if you are into affiliate marketing.

All you need to know about stock trading is in this program. Well-known experts in this field talk about the trends and how to invest well in the trade. They also divulge secrets on who to make it well in Wall Street. Produced by CNBC, it deals with topics like technical analysis on the stock market movements, commodities, stock exchange options, and the basics of investing.

Providing information for six years now, fast money has all the details that will arm you for success. In any other venture it is important to have an in-depth knowledge in what you are getting yourself into. This program caters to various third-party companies like the NASDAQ, American Stock Exchange (AMEX), Reuters and the New York Stock Exchange. With these date collated from these companies you will get an overall picture on how the economy works.

So why watch Fast Money Recap? As shown via live telecast from NASDAQ Market Site, New York City, the program brings you the latest and most credible information about the stock market. They have blogs to keep you in the know, and have updates from their show. For sure these programs will not only educate you into the financial trends and how to invest well but it will also inculcate passion and motivation in making money.

In the fast paced internet age getting updates and latest news for your line of business and information from the stock market is important so that you can make accurate predictions and investments. Fast Money Recap has everything that a trader needs to know, and to always keep in touch with financial news it is advised to register and stay informed.

Fast Food Dangers – Is Your Health Worth It?

Our diet and lifestyle have altered dramatically in the last 50 years. At one time culinary skills were passed from one generation to another, and a woman’s role was the ‘home-maker’. She wasn’t expected to work outside the home whilst her family was growing, and she often had other female relatives living close by as back-up.

The car was a luxury, so her daily shopping was usually done locally on foot. She purchased fresh food regularly, which contained far more nutrients than produce purchased from the supermarket weekly. As fast food didn’t exist, her role included cooking wholesome family meals daily.

Fast forward to now. Women learned the art of the short-cut, often through necessity. We drive to the supermarket once or twice per week to purchase food. We gravitate to fast option choices, which when short of time and adequate information, seem both convenient and appealing. Most of the food we buy is preserved, sprayed with chemicals, injected, or grown in chemically rich soil.

It’s no wonder we develop problems. We probably treat our cars with more respect. Few of us would dream of denying our car the appropriate fuel or oil, so why do we neglect our bodies so?

How Our Diet has Changed Over Time

Our love for sugar escalates uncontrollably. In the UK alone we consume 500,000 tonnes of chocolate each year, which is mostly made from refined sugar. Table sugar contains no vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre or starches; perhaps tiny traces of calcium and magnesium if we are really lucky, but apart from that – empty calories.

  • Sugar lurks in some of the most unlikely foods: cheese, fruit yoghurt, tomato sauce, baked beans, pickled cucumbers, muesli, beef burgers, Worcestershire sauce, sausages, peas, and yes, even cornflakes.
  • Be careful with steak and kidney pie. Saturated animal fats clog the arteries that supply the heart, brain and other major organs. This leads to poor circulation, and then to heart attacks and strokes. Smoking accelerates this process.
  • Foods high in animal fat have been blamed for the increased incidence of breast cancer. So go easy at the fast food counter.
  • We consume too much salt – often 10 – 20 times more than our bodies require each day. Result: high blood pressure.

Don’t let your eating habits be a recipe for disaster. With a little enlightenment and effort, you can come out ahead.

With most of us living life in the fast lane, we don’t have the time prepare meals like our earlier generations. But we can get healthy food on the run if we’re aware of the roadblocks and learn to detour around them.

Want to Know More about Healthy Fast Foods?

Learn how to live an active life with healthy foods that won’t leave you feeling greedy and weak-willed.

When we talk about living on a fast food diet many of us think of America and their menu of shakes, fries and hamburgers. Understandably, the US has been blamed by many researchers for setting the trend in the rise of obesity issues.

But let’s not be so quick to judge.

A new study reveals that America is not the country with the highest fast food consumption. Remarkably, Britons have begun to out-guzzle their American counterparts when it comes to fast food. When asked to identify with the statement, “I like the taste of fast food too much to give it up”, 45 percent of the British agreed, compared to 44 percent of Americans.

Despite menu changes, the major burger and pizza chains offer few healthy options. An investigation of the food sold by the four of the big fast food chains found that 17 of 20 products were high in salt or saturated fat or both. On average, the fast-food meals sampled had 274 calories per 100g of food, more than double that of a home-cooked roast dinner.

Some fast-food meals scored mega calorific counts. A Big Mac, medium fries and small vanilla milkshake contained 1,169 calories. You’d need to walk 16 miles to work that off. A margherita pizza and garlic bread had 5.4 grams of salt in the same analysis, almost the entire recommended daily allowance of 6 grams.

Is Fast Food Always Unhealthy?

Surprisingly, the answer to that question is no – if you know what to look for.

California Travel – From Santa Barbara to Monterey by Car

Northern Santa Barbara County, and the California coast beyond, offer tourist attractions worth spending a few days enjoying. There are a number of natural wonders and great tourist stops to be seen driving north from Santa Barbara. This trip is suitable for both couples and families.

Take the San Marcos Pass road as you leave the city of Santa Barbara. This is a breathtaking mountain drive that heads up the side of La Cumbra Peak on Highway 154. Along the way to the highest part of the highway, there are many scenic turnouts for a panoramic view of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands National Park and the many miles of coastline.

Once over the pass, you’ll drive by Cachuma Lake. This is a state recreation resource for camping and fishing.

Santa Ynez, for which this valley and region are named, is an old California mission town. Here you will find a number of fine art galleries and the county’s fine wineries. Notable celebrity homes here include President Reagan’s ranch and the Neverland retreat of entertainer Michael Jackson.

The quaint community of Solvang is just a few miles west of Santa Ynez on Hwy. 246, just west of Hwy. 101. It is a remarkable replication of an old Danish village, complete with a giant windmill. The town boasts some of the best Danish bakeries and buffet smorgasbords in the country. Spend a few hours here for lunch, and to visit the Scandinavian craft and souvenir shops. You’ll forget, for just a while, that you’re in the heart of Southern California horse and wine country.

The beautiful state beach parks just a few miles north of the city are yet another group of attractions. Leaving town, travel north along the coast on Highway 101. The road today retraces the historic El Camino Real, or King’s Highway. Check out El Capitan, Refugio or Gaviota state beach parks. They offer fishing, camping, and picnic sites on remarkable beaches.

Santa Maria is the next town up the highway. Santa Maria Tri-Tip barbecue is a local tradition. It’s not like anything you’ll find in Texas or other barbecue meccas. This is rubbed and marinated barbecued sirloin roast. It’s sliced thin, and is usually served rare. Typically it is eaten with corn tortillas or on a sandwich bun, and along with Santa Maria’s slow-baked Poquito beans. It’s well worth the stop to try.

Less than half an hour north of Santa Maria is the picturesque seaside town of Pismo Beach. Most of the motels and restaurants are on the ocean side of the highway, set on the cliffs overlooking a view of miles of coastline. Pismo Beach claims to be the world’s clam capital, owing to the unusually large, tasty and abundant Pismo clam. Several versions of clam recipes are available in a number of the local restaurants.

The nearby Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. It is a 1,500 acre sand dune state park for ATV and 4-wheel vehicles. There are camping and RV facilities available. This is one of the few places in California where driving on the beach is permitted. Bringing folding beach chairs is a good idea.

Continuing north from Pismo Beach, you can drive up the tiny coast road to the town of Morro Bay. It’s a town with a distinctive New England coastal flavor. This is where the Pacific Coast Highway becomes part of the National Scenic Byways Program. Enjoy the road stretch from Morro Bay on the south, along the Big Sur coastline, up to Monterey at the north. Without exaggeration, this is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking roads anywhere in the world.

Exploring the central California coast is a great and affordable journey. There’s no need to forgo travel plans because of today’s high cost of living.

Traveling Single Doesn't Mean You Are Alone

If you have never been traveling alone, you may believe that it is boring. Not at all. Here are some of my tips and experiences for traveling alone. First of all though I would want you to consider why someone would be traveling single.

The benefits of traveling alone

I have traveled all over the world from a couple of days to months in a row. I have traveled with others and I have been traveling single. I love both, and don’t mind having a travel companion at all. It’s fun. However, there are several benefits of traveling single:

1. When you are traveling alone you don’t depend on someone else availability. If you go on a vacation for a week you will probably find one of your friends willing to join and being able to take off. But what if you want to trek through Asia or South America for three months, or even a year. How many people do you know that have the money and the time to do that? I don’t and since I don’t want to depend on that I’m traveling single. If friends want to join for part of the trip, they are more than welcome of course.

2. Traveling single is the ultimate self-indulgent. You can go wherever you want and can decide on your own whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it without having to bother about someone else. Sounds selfish? It is, but so be it.

3. You meet more people when you are traveling alone. How is that? Well, it’s easy and very comfortable to just stick to your friend and hang out with him or her. There is no real need to meet other people since you already have your buddy. When you are traveling single you better start talking to other people though. Also, other people that are traveling single are less likely to walk up to pair or groups since they are more closed-off. Don’t believe me? Try it in your local bar.

Isn’t traveling alone boring?

Traveling alone doesn’t mean that you are alone. Read the third benefit above again: You meet more people when you are traveling single. As a matter of fact in all those years that I have been traveling single, I had a travel companion almost all the time. How did that work? Simple: Take my trip from Western Europe to India over land. I started of traveling alone, but in Russia I traveled for a week with some Russian people I met, then in Siberia and Mongolia I traveled for a month with some Swedish guys who I had met on the train. In Tibet I traveled with a Canadian girl and a Dutch guy, in Nepal I traveled with an American girl for two weeks and ran into some people I met in Tibet again.

Is traveling alone boring? Not at all! And the good thing is, even though those people became my friends, I didn’t have to travel with them anymore if I didn’t want to. I could just go left when they turned right: benefit number 2: traveling single is the ultimate self-indulgent.

Tips for traveling alone:

1. Stay in hostels
2. Try couchsurfing
3. Go out to bars/clubs
4. Get off the beaten path to meet locals
5. Most important: be open minded. This applies to traveling single as well as with others of course

Gold Rings Leave Black Marks on More Than Just Fingers

Traditionally, gold has been the metal used in rings, for a number of reasons. From its value and social status to its malleability and comfort, gold rings have been the standard for as long as people have been making jewellery. But if you are in the market for a ring, there are some downsides to sticking with tradition and reaching for the gold.

For one thing, there’s the softness issue. Gold is a very malleable metal, which is great for jewelers. It means it doesn’t take much in the way of heat or force to get gold to do what they need it to. Unfortunately for you, it doesn’t take much for you to do significant damage to your ring, either. A gold ring will not hold up well to frequent bumps and impacts. What might seem like a soft bump to you can dent or scratch your ring. And of course, with time, that gold ring will warp and bend from the heat of your hand, turning your perfectly round ring into a slightly misshapen oval.

Then there is the irritability factor. For some people, gold jewellery is simply not an option. Whether it’s discolorations of the hands, or a more significant reaction, gold can sometimes be an irritant to the skin. While outright allergies to gold are somewhat uncommon, the alloys used to produce gold jewellery can react on some people. Black marks around the finger that you wear the ring on are the most common reaction. A higher karat or quality value of gold will sometimes cure this problem, but it will increase the cost of your gold ring significantly.

Aside from those problems, there is the originality factor. A gold ring is a common piece – odd as that may be for such an expensive metal. Gold has been used in jewellery for hundreds – if not thousands – of years, and many people who would rather not put much thought or importance on the originality of their ring simply select gold out of habit or the suggestion of others.

All of this is not meant to dissuade you from purchasing a gold ring. There are many fine designs available in gold, and despite its common use, it is possible to find an original design that will stand out slightly from the crowd. But before you drop a large amount of cash, you should consider all the factors that go into a ring purchase, and make sure that a gold ring is right for you. If it is not, there are certainly many fine alternatives out there, including silver, platinum and titanium, that would make a fine addition to your jewellery collection.

Roofing Techniques – Have You Tried These?

There are several roofing techniques you can employ to assure that your project meets quality and code standards. These may apply to new roofs, re-roofing or roof repair. Depending on the task at hand you will employ specific tools and techniques to accomplish your goals.

Some of the decisions you make will have to follow municipal guidelines and laws, while others will be determined by your personal preferences. There a many online resources for the details of how to best implement the processes in protecting the life and functionality of your roof system.

The roofing techniques involved in laying down a new roof follow a fairly standard process. The first layer of your roof system is the sheathing. These are the plywood sheets you can see attached to the rafters in the attic. These provide the foundation upon which the rest of the system is built.

The next layer added is called the underlay. There are a variety of materials used during this technique with the most common being builder’s felt. This second layer is now required in municipal codes and provides added protection from the elements. The valleys, eaves, rakes and protrusions all get an application called flashing. This technique directs water away from these vulnerable spots.

The final step in roofing techniques is laying down the outer covering. These options include many varieties of materials and styles. Choose your contractor based on their experience with your specific choices. This way you are guaranteed that they will know the proper techniques for installation, because all roofing material has its own installation requirements.

If you are re-roofing an asphalt surface, for example, you must check the rake, or sloping edge, to see how many layers are currently on the roof. There are laws governing the number of layers a house is allowed to have.

There are differing roofing techniques for roof repair as well. Once you have identified a problem, you should research the specific recommendations for addressing the concern. Do not let the problem continue as this will result in more serious damage that will be costlier and more time consuming to fix.

If you have noticed a leak inside, go to the attic and search for the exact location of the problem. You can use a screwdriver to check the wood for rot in determining what degree of repair is needed. If you must replace shingles or tiles on the roof, learn the specific techniques for your particular materials…