Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Should I cut the cord on cable?

Unless you've been living without internet for the last few years, you've probably heard about cord-cutting, and have either made the break yourself or at least thought about it. Perhaps the only thing stopping you from dropping cable or satellite TV is a little confusion.  To help you decide whether or not to cut the cord, we've answered several questions you may have about leaving your cable box behind.

Are People Really Cancelling Cable?

In the past, the cable cord-cutting phenomenon may have been exaggerated by the media, but recently, the number of people tossing their cable boxes has gone up. Last September, research firm eMarketer estimated that 22.2 million American adults would've shifted away from traditional pay TV services by the end of 2018, an increase of 33.2% over the previous year.

So yes, plenty of people are cutting the cable cord, opting to use other means to watch TV and movies. At the same time, there has been a rise in the number of people who have never had pay TV, from 32.5 million in 2017 to 34.4 million last year, according to eMarketer. This upward trend stands to continue, as more young people grow accustomed to accessing media via streaming and other internet-based options.

Will I Save Money If I Cut the Cord?

Many factors determine whether you'll actually save money by cord-cutting. The first is how much TV you watch. If you watch a lot of shows across an array of channels, you may be better off keeping your cable bundle, as opposed to switching to the a la carte options of streaming. That said, live streaming TV services like Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now have package deals that are cheaper than cable.

If your television consumption is less voracious, though, you can probably tune in to all your favorite shows by subscribing to a couple of streaming services and viewing the others via iTunes or Amazon, as needed. Besides, you may find a new favorite among the original programming that most streaming services now offer.

One advantage of streaming over cable is that many of the a la carte options let you turn service on and off at will. For example, if you only watch Showtime for Homeland, you can turn your service on whenever a new season starts and turn it off when the season's over, thus saving you the fees for the months you don't use it.

The other thing to consider, however, are the startup costs associated with cord-cutting. Unless you have a Smart TV, you'll need to buy a streaming device of some sort, which could cost anywhere from $30 for the Roku Express to $179 for the Apple TV 4K. You'll probably also want to purchase a digital antenna for picking up over-the-air broadcasts. An indoor antenna typically costs $20 to $100. You may also need to upgrade your cable service and/or modem if your internet speed isn't at least 5 Mb/s per device.

The amount of time it'll take to absorb these miscellaneous costs depends on how much cord-cutting will save you — which of course depends on how much you're currently spending on cable.

Does a Technician Need to Set Up My Streaming Service?

As streaming devices have improved, they've become more and more user-friendly. These days, whether you choose a streaming stick or box, it's pretty much plug and play. Plus, Smart TVs are more prevalent than ever, so there's a good chance you don't have to plug in anything at all. Signing up for streaming services is also a breeze. After entering in some basic details, you'll be binge-watching your favorite shows in no time.

Will I Be Able to Watch Shows When They Air?

In the past, streaming services only made shows available after they were originally broadcast. But now there are many options that allow you to watch programs as they're aired. One example is HBO Now, the network's cable-free streaming app. As its name suggests, it airs Silicon Valley, Game of Thrones, and other series as they're shown on TV.
At the same time, streaming services like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue allow you to tune into live TV by offering packages with dozens of channels. And with a digital antenna, you can tune into the major networks.

If you miss your show when it airs, know that you can access many programs on demand via their network's app. And if you've become accustomed to recording your favorite shows, Sling TV, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu with Live TV all have DVR capabilities, while DirecTV Now is currently beta-testing its DVR service.

Can I Watch Sports?

If you're the type of sports fan who always has a game on year-round, you may fare better by sticking with cable. Otherwise, streaming now offers many options. Most of the professional sports organizations have their own streaming service, from MLB.TV to NHL.TV, with each offering multiple subscriptions. Plus, you can always watch live via the options previously mentioned.

Will I Have to Become a Pirate?

Not only will you not have to don an eye patch and start forcing people to walk the plank, but you'll also never need to download any illegal material. Most networks are aware of the popularity of streaming and have made their shows available through one or more channels. Often, they even have episodes available to view for free directly on their websites. It may take a little legwork to figure out how to view your favorite programs, but sailing the seven seas of piracy is completely avoidable.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Have You Visited Death Valley?

What is Death Valley?

Despite the forbidding name, Death Valley is a beautiful area of unique desert wonders. Sand dunes, salt flats, mountains, craters, and the lowest lake in North America make for some of the most spectacular and dramatic scenery in the Southwest.

The valley, protected as a national park, covers 3,000 square miles and is known for being the hottest, driest, and lowest point in North America. Roadside lookouts offer stunning panoramas, and hiking trails allow easy access to the terrain.

The main service center in the park is the centrally located Furnace Creek, with the park visitor center, as well as campgrounds, restaurants, a store, gas station, and the Furnace Creek Resort. On the west side of the park, is Panamint Springs, with a restaurant, gas station, and some limited accommodation. This is a convenient stop if you are entering the park from the west side and a good lunch option if you are visiting Father Crowley Point and Darwin Falls, the two main attractions on this side of the valley.

Driving through Death Valley National Park

Most visitors are coming from either California, entering from the west off highway 395 onto highway 190, through Panamint Springs, or from Las Vegas, where there are a couple of routing options. You can easily visit Death Valley on a Day Trip from Las Vegas. The best way to do this is to head out on highway 160 (leaving from the south end of Las Vegas) to Death Valley Junction, where the road becomes highway 190, entering the park. This road runs past the turnoff for Dante's View, Twenty Mule Canyon, and Zabriskie Point, and on to Furnace Creek with a park visitor center and some amenities.

From Furnace Creek, you can head south to Badwater, passing the pullouts for Desolation Canyon, Artist's Drive (Artist's Palette), Devil's Golf Course, and Natural Bridge. When you have visited Badwater, backtrack via Furnace Creek and beyond to the Harmony Borax Interpretive Trail, Mustard Canyon, and the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells.

If you started early in the day and still have plenty of time, you may want to continue on. It's a little over a half-hour to Panamint Springs and another 20 minutes to Father Crowley Point. After this, you can turn around and head back to Stovepipe Wells, and beyond to Scotty's Castle Road, and head out of the park on the Daylight Pass Road (374) that leads to Beatty. Before getting to Beatty, stop at the Rhyolite ghost town to see the ruins of this old mining town and some unique art installations. From Beatty take Highway 95 back to Las Vegas.

If you have time for a second day in Death Valley, you can spend the night in the park or in Beatty. With two days, you'll be able to add on a visit to the Race Track and a few more stops for hiking and sightseeing.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Know Before you Go: Apartment Cleaning Guide

After months of waiting, it’s finally happened: you’re moving out! You’ve closed a great deal on a new place, it’s in a better neighborhood and at a better price, and you’ll never have to look at your old apartment again. That is, after you’ve cleaned it out  – which might just be the hardest part of all.

Most renters don’t pay close attention to the details of vacating their space when they first sign the lease – why would you when you’re eagerly trying to get into the place? But most leases stipulate that, before handing over your keys, you need to clean up your space (or risk kissing your security deposit goodbye). So before you say goodbye to your old place, here’s what you need to know about legally leaving it in the right hands:

Before Putting Down Another Deposit, Check Your Current Lease

This seems like common sense – if you have a lease already in place, check it before you move out. But what you need to remember is to not just check what financial repercussions are in place when you move out (if you’re breaking the lease early, prepare for a hefty fine), you also need to remember to see what additional cleaning and maintenance fees you’ll need to pay. It’s not uncommon for a landlord of a large complex to charge tenants for carpet cleaning, blinds cleaning, and in some cases, even carpet replacement after moving out. Some leases have the exact amount stipulated in the lease, others will depend on which company the landlord uses for this service.

You should also speak to your landlord to clarify “cleaning expectations.” In some cases, landlords will pay to have a cleaning company deep-clean the entire unit before a new family moves in, often at the old tenant’s expense. On the opposite side, you may be on the hook for the cleaning yourself, and if you don’t do a satisfactory job, the landlord can bring in a cleaning crew anyway – with you fitting the bill. You don’t want to spend time cleaning if your landlord has impossibly high standards, so clarify with them on what they expect.

Most important of all, talk to your landlord about how these costs are being covered. It’s better to know before you put down a deposit somewhere new that the $600 unit-cleaning fee will be pulled out of your old security deposit, meaning you’ll get $600 less back than you thought.

If You’re Cleaning Before Move-Out, Make Sure You Really Clean

Most landlords define “clean” as sparkling, brand-new, barely able to tell someone ever inhabited the unit. Which means that if you’re cleaning it yourself, you’ll need to be thorough in your cleaning – very thorough.

This goes beyond just scrubbing out the toilet and wiping off the counters. You’ll want to make sure you clean these often-forgotten areas:

Tops of cabinets & the fridge
Crown molding
Cabinet shelves & inside drawers
All parts of the toilet (including the back)
Fridge shelves & freezer
Oven (should be scraped out and self-cleaned)
Drip pans
Tile grout

All of these are important but don’t forget the basics (like the kitchen sink, your shower, or the front entryway) either.

Clean Out More Than Just Your Unit Before You Move

When packing, it’s always a good idea to start earlier rather than later for two reasons:
 1) it makes the task less annoying, and
 2) it gives you lots of time to think about your stuff. There’s no need to drag everything from your old place to your new one if you’re not going to keep it, so now is a good time to purge.

The best method to do this is “ditch or donate.” It’s simple: set aside two boxes, one marked “ditch” and the other marked “donate.” As you’re packing your stuff, ask yourself if you really want to bring it all the way to your new place – if the answer is no, decide if it’s high quality enough to donate or if it’s trash that you should ditch. You’ll be surprised to find how much stuff you’ll have in the “ditch” and “donate” boxes by the time you’re signing your new lease.

Don’t Leave Your Junk Behind

It’s easy to think, “This box is marked ‘ditch,’ so I’ll just leave it in my building’s dumpster!” But that’s not always the best method. For smaller items, this is okay, but for big furniture or tech pieces, you may get stuck with a big bill from your landlord – especially if they end up needing to call a specialized junk removal service.

Your large items likely need to go to the dump – that’s where Dolly comes in. With Dolly, you can request a pickup truck and background-checked Helpers to move your items, anytime you need it. Just request a Dolly and your Helpers will come to take your old furniture to the dump for a guaranteed price. Saves you money and saves your landlord headache – win-win!

Get Your Security Deposit Back With Easy Fixes

In addition to pulling money out of your security deposit for cleaning, your landlord will pull money out for anything out of place they happen to notice, whether that’s a scratch on the hardwood floors or a cracked outlet cover, they’ll look for opportunities to pull all the cash they can out of your deposit.

So how do you avoid this? Take care of the repairs yourself. Now, that doesn’t mean go messing with the electrical or trying to fix a known plumbing issue, it means making sure the small stuff is taken care of. Simple fixes, like filling holes in the wall and removing dents from the carpet, can save you quite a bit of money – money that you can put towards furnishing your new place.

Most important of all when moving out, remember that someone is coming to live in your place. What condition would you like your new place to be in when you move there? Try to make your old place as clean as you hope your new place will be. After all, someone’s going to have to live there now (and luckily, it won’t be you).

Thanks to Miranda Benson at dolly.com for the information!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Dog Days of Summer

Tips to Save Energy and Keep Cool During the Dog Days of Summer

  1. Raise your thermostat to 78º. This is the number one way to conserve energy.
  2. When you are away from home for more than eight hours, raise the thermostat setting and you can expect to see a 1% savings for each degree of setback. This will reduce the amount of energy used to cool your home while you're away. You can learn more about your thermostat online by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy website.
  3. Keep shades closed when the air conditioner is on. Sunny windows account for 40 percent of unwanted heat and can make your air conditioner work two to three times harder.
  4. Check and clean filters. Cleaning and replacing air conditioning filters monthly allows the system to run more efficiently.
  5. Use ceiling fans. Don't underestimate the importance of ceiling fans. Moving air over the body provides a cooling effect. The use of ceiling fans can mean savings of around 25% on cooling costs and can make the temperature seem 10 degrees cooler.
  6. Make sure ceiling fans are blowing down. Most fans have a switch to change the fan direction. Make sure ceiling fans are blowing downward (in a counter-clockwise direction) to send air past your body.
  7. Run appliances with large energy use late in the evening. Use the dishwasher and clothes washer late in the evening. When used during the day, these appliances produce additional heat, causing your air conditioner to work harder.
  8. Use cold water to wash dishes and clothes. This will save on water heating costs.
  9. Unplug equipment not in use. Electric chargers, televisions and audio/video equipment use electricity and produce heat even when they are not in use. Running an older refrigerator can use up to three times the energy of a modern one. Unplug any appliance when it's not in use.
  10. Turn off lights. Turn lights off when exiting a room. Consider replacing incandescent bulbs with energy efficient compact florescent lights (CFLs). And remember to recycle CFLs whenever possible.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

It's Time for the Antelope Valley Fair!

The Antelope Valley Fair and Alfalfa Festival returns for another year of fun and thrills! With world-class performers, mouth-watering delights, and a full carnival, this fair will surely be one to remember!

The fair runs from August 16th - 25th.

Bask in the glow of the carnival lights at the Fair! With special admission discount days, a wide variety of food and drink vendors, and dozens of thrilling rides the fair is sure to have something for everybody!

Be sure to check out this year's concert series.

8/16    Collective Soul and Gin Blossoms’ “Now’s the Time Tour”
8/17    REO Speedwagon
8/18    Christian Nodal
8/19    Gabriel Iglesias “Beyond the Fluffy” World Tour
8/20    Travis Tritt and Charlie Daniels “Outlaws and Renegades” Tour
8/21    Big & Rich with Cowboy Troy “Peace, Love, and Happy Hour Tour” and Williams & Ree

Click HERE to buy tickets.  Tell them the folks at GCC Partners sent you!

Monday, July 22, 2019

It's time to Start Grilling!

Barbecues are a nice way to enjoy great food and great company.
Here are some tips to make grilling a hit.

1. Pick a theme for your barbecue. Eva Ingvarson, a trend expert from Evite says, "Select a theme and carry it through from decorations to food preparations." By the way, "grilling meat" is not a theme.

2. Bring the entertainment. Sure, your friends are great, but don’t expect them to entertain themselves while the ribs are on the grill. Set up some classic backyard games, like horseshoes or badminton so they’re not forced to sit around listening to your crazy Uncle Lou tell his stories. 

3. Don't stop at the burgers. Barbecues aren’t just for steaks and burgers. Expand your company’s palate range and grill up some seafood and vegetables—you lumberjack. 

4. Keep it safe.Your guests are there to have a good time and to eat some great food, not to catch salmonella. "Use a probe thermometer to accurately measure temperature," says Doug Huemoeller, president of Kitchen Window, a gourmet kitchen store in Minneapolis, Minnesota "A dual probe is best—one to measure the grill temperature and one to measure the temperature of the meat," he says. And when you’re cooking different foods on the grill, make sure they all have some space. "Not only can marinades mix and lead to less-than-desirable results in terms of flavor, but uncooked juices from chicken can end up on other grill items, which can lead to salmonella poisoning," says Daniel Stevens, executive chef of Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill. 

5. Quit playing with the meat. When the food is on the grill, relax. Don’t move it around too much or too quickly. "The natural sugars in the meat need to caramelize before the food will release from the grill," says Huemoeller. 

6. Seriously, quit playing with the meat. "When food comes off of the grill, it will continue to increase in temperature. Plan ahead and pull it early. Then let it rest. Most food will increase in temperature 5-10 degrees. The bigger the cut of meat, the greater the increase in temperature," says Huemoeller. 

7. Watcha burning? Looking to go beyond just the usual charcoal and lighter fluid? Class it up with a premium natural charcoal or wood chunks like apple, cherry, hickory, cedar, birch or maple. 

8. Start 24 hours earlier. Be sure to plan ahead. Marinating meat 24 hours ahead of time will give your food great flavor, says Jose Aléman, Chef de Cuisine of BOA Steakhouse in Las Vegas. 

9. Have some consideration. Know your guests and what they like. Sure, PBR is great when you’re vegging out in front of the boob tube, but maybe your friends and family would prefer a glass of cab with their steak? Nothing wrong with having both on hand. 

10. Don't be cheap. Get the good stuff. Sure, dogs and burgers are classics, but try talking to your local butcher and get some great cuts of meat that will give your barbecue a much needed kick in the pants.

As Always, have fun and enjoy the time with friends and family!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Let's Go to the Beach!

Summer's here!  Living in Southern California, we have access to some of the greatest beaches in the world.  Here's a top ten list of the best.  All are within driving distance!

Laguna Beach

Laguna is one of Orange County's most fashionable towns, as well as one of the most culturally rich, but the beach is a big draw, too. The water at Laguna is generally clean and calm, though occasionally the Pacific tends to be cool with strong tides. Clean, white and warm, Laguna's sands are perfect for strolling, volleyball matches or simply unwinding on a blanket.


For well over a century, Coronado's beaches have been its fortune, namely the seaside in front of the glamorous Hotel Del Coronado open since 1888. For non-hotel guests, the main beach, Coronado Central Beach, stretches 1.5 miles behind the great houses along Ocean Boulevard. Swimmers, bodysurfers, boogie boarders, sand sculptors, tide poolers and, from December through February, whale watchers all take to the sand and sea. North Beach attracts surfers in the morning, and at the extreme north is Dog Beach, where leashless canines can frolic in the surf.

El Matador Beach

If you've come to El Matador to savor the beach rather than get sucked into the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, then you're in luck -- there's blissfully little else to do here other than bask on Malibu's most glorious stretch of beach. The best way to enjoy your time is to check the tide schedule, pack a picnic lunch or sunset dinner, grab a blanket, and trek down to one of El Matador's hidden nooks and coves to enjoy the incredibly romantic atmosphere.

Venice Beach

No beach in the world is like Venice Beach. Sure, other California beaches have sand, surf and sunshine. But they do not have a 3-ring urban street circus, complete with philosophizing artists, trash-talking hoopsters, preening weightlifters, barefoot sand sculptors and more. All of this frenetic activity happens on Ocean Front Walk, a 3/4-mile concrete boardwalk with stores, fast-food spots, flea markets and artists.

Newport Beach

Trendsetters, jet-setters, and beach lovers in the know have been taking advantage of Newport Beach's coastal charms for decades. There's the ritzy harbor most folks will only dream of docking a yacht in; beachside "bungalows" worth many, many millions; a shopping district so chic, Rodeo Drive looks discounted; and, oh yes, an utterly magnificent stretch of beach. This wide bed of sand, silky and blonde, rolls south from Newport Pier to Balboa Pier, and plays host to diehard surfers, serious sunbathers, trendy 20-somethings and families. Sitting by a weathered pier, gazing past wooden lifeguard stands toward a fiery sunset, one can't help but wax nostalgic for days when Beach Boys records and long boards were all the rage.

Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach takes pride in its abundance of outdoor beach activities, which include surfing, swimming, paddleball, sunbathing and, of course, volleyball -- there always seems to be intense serving and spiking action on the 1.5-mile stretch of sand. By day, the Strand, a paved boardwalk that borders the beach, is a thoroughfare for bikers, bladers, joggers and strollers. At night, the Strand is a great people-watching spot as crowds fill the restaurants and bars.

La Jolla Cove

With its small crescent of sand tucked between towering sandstone cliffs, La Jolla Cove is one of the smallest but also the most photographed beaches along the Southern California coastline. And things are just as lovely below the surface at this is popular spot for scuba-diving and snorkeling, thanks to visibility that extends up to 30 feet and wildlife protected by the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve.

Catalina Island

Located 22 miles off the Southern California coast, Catalina Island is known for its myriad of outdoor activities like snorkeling, scuba, horseback-riding, kayaking and hiking. After an active day, stroll around the quaint social center of the island at Avalon for window-shopping, gallery-hopping and a gourmet meal. Bring a camera as photo opportunities present themselves at almost every turn; shutterbugs should be on the lookout for grazing buffalo. Boats depart from Newport Beach, Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point; for jet-setters who don't want to waste any time traveling, helicopter trips are also a possibility.

Crystal Cove State Park

A secluded beach stretching some 3.5 miles, an official "underwater park" teeming with reefs and 2,000-plus wooded acres for exploring make Crystal Cove State Park a remarkable escape from the crowds and bustle of Newport Harbor. Tide pools and coves delight visitors to the beach year-round, though rangers advise exploration of these during winter, when lower tides present clearer views of the aquatic life. Carved into the park's ridges and canyons are more than 23 miles of mountain-biking, horseback-riding and hiking trails, many of which feature steep, rocky climbs.

Santa Monica

There’s never a shortage of seaside fun at Santa Monica Pier where the beach meets the boardwalk in a festive display of amusement park rides, aquarium wonders and festival food. It’s free to stroll the historic boardwalk and peruse the goods, and even if you don’t go for thrill rides, there’s no charge for the show-stopping sunset at the end of each day.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Does Renters Insurance Make Sense?

Renters insurance may seem expensive or even esoteric if you're among the more than two-thirds of tenants who lack it. But it's the best way to avoid losing thousands of dollars if you're robbed or your apartment is damaged by water or fire.

New York apartment dweller Rose Lichter-Marck, 28, had to pay cash to replace all her furniture, housewares and books after a fire in her old building that started with an electrical problem on another floor. Cleaning the smell of smoke out of her clothes cost another $2,000, even with a "pity discount," because she didn't have insurance, she said. Then she had to stay with friends and relatives until she found a new apartment.  With insurance, the whole experience would have been less painful — and less expensive.  "They would have put me up in a hotel, paid for my cleaning and moving fees and even the broker's fee for a new place," Lichter-Marck said.

A basic policy can be had for 50 cents a day, roughly the cost of one large pizza per month. But many renters, mostly young adults, think — incorrectly — that their stuff isn't worth enough to insure, according to Apartments.com, which found in 2010 that 70 percent of tenants don't buy renters insurance.

"If something were to happen, it's going to cost a lot more than people imagine to replace dishes, computers, a big-screen TV, clothing," said Ben Rabinowitz, an agent with Allstate Insurance Co. in Pikesville, Md. "It begins to really add up."

Renters insurance covers more than what's inside your apartment. Say you happen to leave the bathtub running too long and water damages your neighbor's ceiling below; renters insurance will cover the repairs. Or, if your laptop is stolen from your car, that's generally covered by renters or homeowners insurance — and not auto insurance.

Here are five steps to take if you're considering renters insurance:

• INVENTORY YOUR POSSESSIONS: Go room by room and photograph everything you own to get a sense of how much it would cost to replace all your things. While you're at it, write down the serial numbers of all your electronic devices and appliances to guarantee you are fully reimbursed if you do choose to buy insurance and you suffer a loss.

• SEEK OUT DISCOUNTS: Take note of any special safety precautions in your building, such as deadbolt locks, a 24-hour doorman or a sprinkler system, that will earn you a break on your monthly premium. If you buy coverage from the same company that insures your car or provides you other types of coverage, that can earn you a multi-policy discount.

• THINK ABOUT PARTYING: If you like to entertain, renters insurance can be especially helpful. Most policies will offer your guests medical coverage, so if someone visiting your place slips and smacks his head on your kitchen counter, his trip to the emergency room will be covered. (And it's no-fault coverage, so you won't have to wait for a court to decide who is liable before your insurance kicks in.

• CHOOSE REPLACEMENT VS. ACTUAL VALUE: Most insurers will cover either your belongings' actual cash value or what it would cost to replace them. A cash value policy will be cheaper, but the payout for things you have to replace will be reduced by how much they've depreciated since you bought them. Replacement-cost coverage will cover the cost of replacing your belongings new, now.

• UNDERSTAND YOUR POLICY'S LIMITS: Basic renters insurance policies cap reimbursements, meaning that a diamond ring may be covered for only $1,200, even if it's worth six times as much. So be sure to buy the extra coverage you need for pricey items like jewelry, electronics and musical instruments. Some people even carry riders against identity theft. But extra coverage adds up quickly so be clear about your priorities.

Friday, June 28, 2019

How To Start A Simple Garden – Even In An Apartment

There are few things more enjoyable for a frugal person than to eat food you’ve grown yourself, picked, and brought almost straight to the table. Unfortunately, with today’s busy lifestyle, most of us don’t have time for a large garden, as they require a lot of maintenance work, so we replace this by visiting farmer’s markets or, even worse, buying vegetables and herbs at the grocery store that have been sitting there for days.
The truth is that one can have a small garden anywhere. All you need is a bit of time and the desire to grow some vegetables and herbs in your domicile. It’s quite easy, too. Here’s what you can do if you’ve never tried it before.
Start small – very small. This is especially true if you live in an apartment and don’t have much space anyway. Get one or two small pots and just grow everything in those. The first year I grew my own, I had a cherry tomato plant in one pot and some cilantro in another one; the pots sat near the window in a guest bedroom that also had a single natural light in there, too.
Focus on a very small number of different plants. What vegetable do you most enjoy? For me, it is usually cherry tomatoes, so I like growing two or three cherry tomato plants each year; during their harvest, I’m in heaven. I also grow a couple very hot pepper plants (habaneros) and some cilantro almost every year, giving me nearly enough material to make my own salsa. The advantage here is that things aren’t too complicated and it’s easy to tend to them.
Choose a place with adequate sunlight – or get some natural light bulbs. If you have a window with room for potted plants nearby, this is the place to use. Even if you have a window, I also recommend a lamp with a few natural light bulbs that do a good job of replacing sunlight.
Research your plant and buy an appropriate pot. For example, I had one small cherry tomato plant in a single flower pot, and then a flat bottomed, larger pot full of cilantro (and in future years other herbs). These two took up the top shelf of a small bookcase and provided a good harvest of cherry tomatoes and a ton of cilantro.
Use good soil. I reuse it for years, but the first batch you should get should be good stuff. Stop by a gardening store, tell them what you’re doing, and ask for their recommendation.
Get a handful of worms. These can usually be had at a bait and tackle shop. The worms get down in the soil and do a good job of breaking down some of the organics in the soil for easier absorption by the plants.
Set a clear watering schedule. Find out how much water the plants need (again, a simple internet search will tell you what you need to know), and plan a clear watering schedule. This makes it easier to keep up with what you need to do. I often water the plants using water I used to boil vegetables, as that would otherwise be waste water.
Weeding. Surprisingly, weeding is almost nonexistent with such a situation, especially for the first year (you can reuse the soil for years, esp. if you have worms). This is a big advantage of a “potted” garden.
Enjoy it. For the effort you put in (which isn’t that much), the enjoyment of an abundance of truly fresh vegetables at harvest time is well worth it.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Rainy Day Ideas

With the cold weather in full swing in California, many of us can look forward to quite a few rainy days ahead. When it’s cold and wet outside and you just can’t be bothered to leave the house, use your time inside well. Here are five ideas beyond “Netflix binge” (though hey, no judgement) to keep you busy on those rainy days.

Water Your (Indoor) Plants
So, this task probably won’t take up an entire rainy afternoon (unless you happen to live in a greenhouse), but this is a great rule of thumb: when Mother Nature is feeding the plants outside, you do the same for the ones inside. As someone who pretty much ignores her houseplants, rainy weather is just about the only time I remember to give them a drink.

Clean or Organize Something Really Well
This isn’t the most fun suggestion of the bunch, but it’ll make you feel great afterwards. A few hours of enforced indoor time is the perfect opportunity to scrub your kitchen cupboards, sort through the linen closet, or apply the Dewey Decimal System to your home library.

Start a Rain Project
What’s a rain project? Something you’ve always wanted to do, with no time limit, that you can work on incrementally. It can be home-related or not, anything from stripping wallpaper in the spare room to coding your first website. Whenever it rains, you’re gonna work on it; you might even find yourself looking forward to the forced productivity.

Say what?!? I know this goes against everything your gut tells you about rainy days: you should be chilling out, not working
Stock Your Freezer
Rainy days are made for the kitchen, and a full freezer of meals and to-go snacks will make the nicer days ahead that much more enjoyable. I often make and freeze unbaked scones and cinnamon buns for morning emergencies and trays of mini frittatas for my workday lunches.