Friday, January 29, 2010

Habitat for Humanity.....Orlando

"If you haven't any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble." -Bob Hope

Who will build it? If you think for one minute that Exit Real Estate Realtors only sell homes, think again......they are also building homes! On January 28, 2010 we participated in the first of several scheduled "construction days" on this Habitat for Humanity project.
"Habitat Orlando's First Multifamily Community Habitat Orlando is in the midst of constructing its most ambitious home building effort to date: Stag Horn Villas, an $8 million, 58-town home community. The community has been blessed with several generous sponsors that are making construction possible. Not only is this Habitat’s first multifamily development, it is also the most green and energy-efficient. Currently, 16 families have moved into the three completed buildings; the fourth building is currently under construction."
Since 2004, EXIT Realty Corp. International has been the proud Corporate Sponsor of ten home builds for Habitat for Humanity. Currently Exit Realty Corp. is involved with the Orlando project and several of Exit's Realtors actually had the wonderful opportunity for "hands on involvement".
How much do you need to know about construction to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity? I'm not a carpenter, plumber or painter. I don't know that I have an occupation or hobby that makes me a good fit for Habitat for Humanity. That's why I was amazed to find myself and my peers from the office using power saws and crawling on scaffolding on our first Habitat project. You don't have to be an expert. You just have to listen when they teach you. They won't ask you to do anything you can't handle. If for some reason they do, just tell them you're not prepared to do it.
Habitat for Humanity can be an amazing hands-on service project, but make sure you know what you're getting into.
To have a satisfying, productive and fun time with this organization, be prepared for manual labor. This seems like a no-brainer, but this can be quite a wake up call for inactive people.
Most people expect that if they volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, they'll be building a house. They're most often imagining the framing process -- hammering the home's wood skeleton together. Sometimes, that's what you're doing. But the home building process is much more than just that, and all under the supervision of an experienced Construction Crew. Some of the tasks
done by volunteers can be: the framing of a house, siding , window framing, cutting boards, moving dirt, painting or whatever else needs to get done, etc.
Once complete, the 3.9-acre neighborhood will provide affordable homes for 58 local families. Located on Stag Horn Drive and Silver Star Road, the community will feature 10 buildings, each of which will include four to eight town homes surrounded by green spaces and play areas. The model home is now open for viewing thanks to the help of Schmidt Design, IKEA and several other generous donors who contributed time, services and products, Stag Horn Villas is slated for completion in spring 2012.
When volunteering, dress for manual labor. Your clothes should be comfortable, layered, and ready to get dirty and stained.
As Realtors, we know, there are few things more meaningful than helping a person get a home. And because the families that are chosen to live in Habitat homes have to contribute their own time in the form of "sweat equity" (which I think is at least 400 hours), you often get to work side-by-side with the family/people who will directly benefit from your labor.
It's also the type of job that when you leave for the day, you can look and say "I did that." And whether "that" is bathroom tile, insulation or seeing a future home owner's smile, it's very satisfying.
( complete photo album available for viewing on my face book page)

"I wanted to select a charity that was close to Real Estate
and where you could see it helping people".
-Steve Morris
Founder & CEO
EXIT Realty Corp. International

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why Edible Landscapes....

Gardeners are turning landscapes over to edible planting for a variety of reasons.....feeding the family and stocking the freezer or pantry are just a few of the dollar-saving reasons for planting an edible landscape. Many gardeners also grow food for the fun of it. There is plenty of wholesome fresh air and exercise in tilling the soil and tending the crops. Planting a garden and managing plants can keep you outdoors just about every day of the year.

A four foot x six foot raised bed is my first attempt at an edible garden! Using the "Square foot gardening " method allows planting many more plants in a small area that is extremely accessible and easy to manage. This photo above was taken just several weeks prior to the 2010 "Florida Freeze".

Knowing the cold weather was on the way, I picked the lettuce that was ready for harvest. I will admit that there is a very personal pride from producing food. That evening I enjoyed a wonderful salad, which I did photograph to share, but cannot locate.

We would all love our produce supply to look like this photo below, wouldn't we? This photo was taken several months ago during my visit to a week-end farmer's market near Port Saint Lucie Florida. Now this is what I call produce, don't you agree! And the breads that they sell there is certainly worthy another story.

Our local news here in Central Florida just this afternoon did a story about how the recent "Florida Freeze" will effect all of us around the country....where it hurts, in our wallets!

Florida farmers produce “nearly all our nation’s domestically produced fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter,” according to a statement released by the state’s agricultural commissioner, Charles H. Bronson. “There is much at stake, both for our state’s farmers and for consumers all across the United States who count on Florida to provide them with fresh domestic produce in the winter.”

The simple truth is since Florida supplies such a large part of the vegetable/produce and citrus fruits during the Winter months, we can all look for a substantial increases in prices very shortly!

If you have ever thought about trying your hand at growing your own produce....this is the time to do it. Perhaps, starting with growing a pot of herbs to dramatically add to the flavor of your family meals. Even the White House has added an edible garden!

Since growing produce has become the "in-thing" to do in our current economy, don't think for one moment that it will not increase desirability of your property if you are considering putting your home on the market. People will see the potential of your property and feel the ease in continuing what you have started.

Perhaps an edible garden in your back yard will become the new "curb appeal", in the Real Estate arena.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Freezing cold weather everywhere....

Warning, It's not going to be pretty......

This morning on Live With Regis & Kelly, Kelly said "maybe it's not getting colder, maybe we are just all getting wimpier"! Eveyone all around the country are talking about the extreme cold. Pretty much the entire country has experienced extreme cold temperatures this last week. Here in my hometown near Orlando, Florida for the 4th straight night we have seen sub-freezing weather. Historically, this has only happened twice before.

Interesting fact, prior to the holiday season as part of the "decorations" one home in my neighborhood actually had the grass spray painted to appear as though it had snowed.

I say, be careful what you wish for!

Around Central Florida, folks have covered up their landscaping with blankets and sheets. Something that is never done up north. But with Central Florida being a "normally" sub-tropical climate, we plant some things, that cannot tolerate these temperatures.

Despite the frigid temperatures, two days ago, my Grand Crinum Lillies still made an imposing presence in my landscape. What a difference a day makes, the bitter cold last evening changed all that.

Sadly, this morning I discovered them to look like wilted spinach when it is in the frying pan getting sauteed. Hopefully they will quickly recover their attractiveness in the Spring.

Additional victims of Frosty Florida.

There really is no way to protect the entire landscape. I hope that most of the landscape plants will recover.

I told you it wasn't going to be pretty. Tonight the temperatures are expected to go down to the mid twenties again, however not quite as cold as last evening. This will make 11 nights in a row under 38 degrees and 4 nights of freezing temperatures. Remember this is Central Florida, home of the famous mouse, where many folks visit for the sunshine and warm weather.

Whatever part of the country you live in, you may be thinking you have it much colder, and that is fact. This Florida frost will however take it's toll on many of us. It is already projected that the cost of Citrus will increase by at least 30% to us all. It is too soon to judge the damage and effect/cost to the end user for additional crops damaged like cabbage being grown in Florida this time of the year.

Time will tell the permanent damage to some of these plants. Obviously this one did not fare well at is pretty sad.

Some plants protected by larger trees or adjacent to the houses just got burnt on the top leaves so far. They should do fine with some pruning once all danger of additional frost passes. With delayed pruning, if these frigid temperature happen again, the upper dead foliage will protect the lower unaffected foliage.

I am so glad that I did move my African Violets into the house about 1 1/2 weeks ago, knowing how fragile they are. They are temporarily residing in the bath tub.

For anyone who questions why I take the time to journal on line like photos and thoughts of better days in my garden are permanently here for my own enjoyment.

This sign sits on my counter in the bathroom.

Gardening a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow.

That sums it up, doesn't it?

I think for now with another very cold evening ahead, I will put a fire in my fireplace and pull out some of my Garden & Seed catalogs and plan my gardens for the Spring.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Years Resolutions.....and one done!!

How are your New Year's Resolutions going?

With January almost two weeks in, I am wondering how many of you have kept your New Year's resolutions" In the past I have done a so-so job of doing so, but this year I have made up my mind to set realistic goals and just get going on them.

I have always wanted my pantry to be in order, with everything labeled so I could easily find what I needed quickly....I will admit, I never did have this order in my pantry. When I first moved into my home, I just wanted to get things put away quickly into the empty pantry and things just got unpacked and put away and the door shut. Nothing really got organized as I would like. This year I have committed to doing the pantry clean-out and clean-up. I started by emptying everything out of the pantry and washing all the containers that I would use. Now this was a commitment, if you have not seen my pantry. You see, I always shop sales in the grocery store and shop like I will be stuck in for the "big storm". I will admit my grocery resources got completely out of hand. I probobly have enough pasta to last a lifetime. If there were a 12 step program for "grocery shopper over doers", I would be there. That would be my group! Emptying this closet was a task that took several days, now I didn't work on it 24/7, I did take some breaks from know like to sleep & eat. Here we are almost half empty. They say a positive attitude would be to look at something as "half full", not in this instance, I am making headway and the pantry is now half empty. Stuff was stacked all over so that things could eventually get organized. Some more stuff. At one point, I was on the phone with my daughter as I was emptying and telling her what I was finding. I even surprised myself in a way as to how much I had. I know that she could not really envision what I was doing and finding, so I emailed her some of the photos. It was crazy, one of those moments that I guess you needed to be there. We laughed so hard till we cried, when she saw the photos. Carrie made a pretty funny comment to me. She said that with all that stuff in the pantry, as I empty it I may even find a lost boy friend in there! It was funny at the time anyway. One of those moments you had to be there.
This is how it looked before I started. Ugh!! Things no longer fit on the shelves, so I just stacked stuff on the floor. Here's another peek at my mess. Remember how when your babies were little, you never happened to notice how gross the high chair got? But when you went to visit a friend or relative it was always obvious how gross their babies high chair was! My pantry was like a high chair. I just accepted it as it was and never saw it's grossness. Until now.............. My first New Year's Resolution is done!! I keep opening the door and peeking in to see if it is real. Everything is labeled and organized and I actually know exactly what I have now. A huge box of food was set aside to bring to a homeless shelter. My next resolution if you haven't guessed: stay away from the grocery stores, Publix, Winn-Dixie and Albertson's you will not be seeing me for awhile. And my next reslution then, to cook with and use up what I have.

Now, wasn't that easy?
What are your resolutions? If you're trying to pay down your credit cards, quit smoking, get a new job, find a mate, or shed some excess poundage, abandoning New Year's resolutions won't get you off the hook you will still have these issues until you decide to take action.

But by setting more realistic goals for yourself and not limiting yourself to a once-a-year, do-or-die, all-out assault on that mountain of debt, those flabby thighs, or the hideous wallpaper you keep meaning to replace, you may find that the finish line isn't so far away after all.

In thinking about my New Year's Resolutions, I did a little research. Popular New Year's Resolutions Americans commonly make every January are:
· Lose weight
· Manage debt/save money
· Get a better job
· Get fit
· Eat right
· Get a better education
· Drink less alcohol
· Quit smoking
· Reduce stress overall and/or at work
· Take a trip
· Volunteer to help others

I could not find cited the sources for these popular New Year's resolutions, nor any statistics on how often they are broken.

A little history on the tradition of New Year's Resolutions seems to date back to the first century B.C., although the event had a more religious significance back then. Janus, the Roman God of Beginnings, was considered the ruler over the past and the future and was often visited by believers who wanted to entrust their future hopes to him. The name Janus is also the origin of the word January, which eventually became the traditional time for resolutions. Some modern religions have close connections to the idea of resolutions as well. For example, Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday, is a time to reflect about the year gone by and analyze mistakes and wrongdoings in the hope of improving them in the year to come.

Will you keep your new years resolution? Don't let your motto become "In One Year, Out the Other". Tackling goals one at a time makes sense and might lead to success. I'm going to give it a try! Want to join me?

P.S. as a Realtor, I suppose that I should add here that having organized and neat closets makes them appear more spacious and will add value to your home if you are attempting to "sell" in just the same way that excellent "curb appeal" does.