Do It Yourself Home Improvement

Many of us are participating in the home improvement thing today. There are a number of great benefits to be derived from doing your own home improvement. We can save money of course. We can also design our own projects so that they typically satisfy our needs and add the personal touch exactly as we envision it.

A number of software packages are available to produce a 3D home design and show us the results before we ever spend a penny on materials. This new home design software has not only become much easier to use, while becoming much more sophisticated in what it can produce, it has also become wider ranging.

Packages are now available that target specific home projects. You will find that these products allow you to fully design a new deck, complete a new landscape design outside, modify your house interior design, or the big one will let you design a new house from start to finish.

The computer and software are great but more help is available today. The big box home improvement stores have come a long way since the original Lowes concept. These big box stores maintain a complete inventory covering every imaginable product you may require in your project. The also carry a large educated staff that is most often quite willing to offer you assistance. That is good but they also appear to be well founded in the knowledge required to provide you with assistance.

If that is not good enough, the big box home improvement stores also conduct routine seminars to educate you regarding specific products. All this assistance comes at no cost to the customer. The intention is to encourage and help you to complete your own home improvement.

Not only will these projects save you money but they will also increase the value of your home. It is quite practical for the average handyman to purchase a fix it up house, do some small improvements itself and then resell the house at a profit.

A wide range of near professional quality tools is available at your home improvement stores. Competition in the marketplace has been beneficial to the consumer. You can now purchase excellent quality tools to complete any phase of the job from preparation of raw, rough lumber to spray painting the completed project. All this is available at very competitive pricing.

One final benefit to this whole experience may be the chance to work together with the rest of your family. It will never be lost time when you pass on some of your knowledge and abilities to children and grand children. A world of opportunity is available.

Using GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices

It is estimated that it cost about $ 500 a day to put a delivery or service vehicle on the road. If you are a business that depends on these resources you know how hard it is to manage them effectively. The advent of sophisticated and smaller GPS vehicle tracking devices now allows every fleet manager to efficiently manage their resources. Many companies have realized tremendous savings as a result of employing this technology.

Private citizens are also utilizing the new technology as well. If you own more than one vehicle, boat, motorcycle, travel trailer or motor home know exactly where they are important. In addition if you have young drivers inside your house hold you will sleep easier knowing that you can at anytime find your child and your vehicle. In addition you can monitor their driving habits in order to keep them safe while on the road. The liability of owning a vehicle that is being driven by a teenager can be serious in this litigious society. The use of GPS vehicle tracking devices that feature real time uploads will go a long way in preventing any serious problems to your financial well being.

The laws concerning the use of GPS vehicle tracking devices vary from state to state. It is generally accepted that you are legally able to place a tracking device on any vehicle that you own as either and individual or a business. Placing a tracking device on a vehicle that is not under your legal ownership or control is generally considered to be illegal in most circumstances. Penalties for violating privacy laws in some circumstance can lead to serious fines and even incarceration. Many businesses and private individuals have ignored these laws because it is reliably difficult to detect GPS vehicle tracking devices. Business that seek trade secrets or information that will give them a competitive edge frequently conducts illegal tracking activities. The very small size of the new real time GPS tracking devices makes it very easy to place a device just about anywhere on a vehicle.

In the same venue individuals also are violating the law by placing tracking devices on the vehicles of ex-spouses, girl or boyfriends. In addition there are several cases where stalkers have also used the technology to keep track of their victims. Many people think it is impossible catch someone doing illegal surveillance tracking but they are mistaken. Technology that detects cell phone transmissions can easily detect the tracking device uploads to the GPS service company that provides the tracking information you are receiving. Again this is a violation of the law use GPS vehicle tracking devices to track another private citizen. It is just not worth the risk.

What You Need to Know about Vacation Rentals before You Go

That time of the year is finally here. You know what I'm talking about, the one or two weeks you get every year to escape from "real life" and just be you. Relax, eat and drink well, enjoy your family, catch up on some much needed sleep. But, before you pack up and head out, rethink the all-too-normal hotel stay. Believe it or not, you have options, one of which is the vacation rental.

Would not it be nice to leave your own home, arrive in your destination city and settle into a "home away from home" for your next vacation? That's what vacation rentals are all about. These are homes waiting to be rented out by people on vacation. Each vacation rental owner will have different criteria in what type of renter they are looking for, each vacation rental house will vary in amenities, and each price will be dependent on the time of year and the length of stay. So, it sounds like a great idea, but how do you figure out how to make it all happen? Not a problem. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding vacation rentals. Read on, my friend, your next "home away from home" vacation rental is right around the corner.

Frequently Asked Questions on Vacation Rentals

What are the advantages of a vacation rental?

Do you ever wish your hotel room had just a little more personality? Yeah, I thought so. Well, renting someone else's home for your vacation might just be the thing you're looking for. Usually offering larger living spaces than hotel rooms, these vacation rentals are all about living like you were in your own home. They offer greater privacy than hotel rooms and most rentals have a kitchen area for cooking, which in the end will save you money if you prepare some of your own meals.

You'll enjoy several rooms, and maybe even different levels, instead of one big room where the whole family sleeps. Many owners will leave information on things to do and see in the local area. Vacation rental homes are clean, friendly, comfortable and inviting. This is because many of them are not just rental homes, but also function as the owner's own residence for part of the year.

A majority of vacation rentals tend to be cheaper on a per night basis than their hotel. By renting directly from the owner you will avoid taxes, tips and other external charges. However, there is a wide variation among others based on a number of factors (see How Much Should I Expect to Pay below)

What are the drawbacks of a vacation rental?

Of course, there's always the other side of the coin. As vacation rentals are not usually monitored by a central managing company, you'll only know what you're getting yourself into when you actually arrive to your rental. Many owners require pre-payment, or at least a large deposit fee, before arriving. Therefore, if things are not the way you anticipated after arriving, or if you find your dwelling unacceptable and decide to head to a local hotel, you may lose any money you prepaid. This is also true for last minute cancellations. There is not usually a refund. You always run the risk of getting less than you expected, but, it's rare.

Most times, vacation rentals tend to be cheaper than an average hotel room per night. But, not always, so make sure you are comfortable with the price you will be asked to pay.

Another disadvantage to vacation rentals is the lack of a managing member on site to deal with any problems that you may encounter with the home or during your stay in general. Most owners get around this by having a list of emergency numbers, utility companies and other such items available to the renter should they need anything.

What amenities are included in a vacation rental?

Since every rental is owned by a different owner, each will include different amenities. Some come with swimming pools, hot tubs, others with golf packages, and horse stable privileges. In cities with tourist attractions, some owners include tickets to local attractions.

Most vacation rentals come with the essentials: TV, equipped kitchen, towels, linen, and everyday appliances, but it never hurts to ask these questions when searching for the perfect place. Be sure to understand exactly what you are paying for before sending in the payment.

What types of rentals are available?

Pretty much any type of dwelling that you would want to live in during your vacation is available somewhere. From studios in downtown Manhattan to a villa in the south of Spain, you'll be able to find what you're looking for. The range of available options is mind boggling. Additionally, each week, month and year there are new possibilities as owners put their homes up for only certain weeks or months of the year, the choices are constantly changing.

Are vacation rentals only available in the US?

Vacation rentals are available worldwide. They can be found in every state of the US and almost every country in the world. Do not be fooled by their different names, though. Vacation rentals are also known as holiday cottages, tourist rentals and holiday rentals. If you are looking for one in Europe, the Italians call them agriturismi, while the French say gites. If you are in Germany you will be looking for ferienwohnungen (yep, try to say that three times fast with a bratwurst in your mouth!)

Regardless of what you call it, though, a vacation rental is a great option for those getting ready to take a few weeks off from reality and enjoy the good life a bit.

How do I find a property?

There are several ways to go about finding the perfect vacation rental for your next trip. Check with your local travel agent to find someone in your area that specializes in finding owners and renters and getting them together. Another option is the yellow pages. Finally, there is a wealth of information on the Internet. Type in a search for "vacation rentals" and over 13,300,000 websites can be found just on http://www.google.com alone. Some websites only list vacation rentals in the United States while others specialize in vacation rentals worldwide. There are some sites that will allow the potential renter to look for a residence by specific search criteria such as a particular destination, certain number of bedrooms and types of amenities that are included in the property.

Most of the vacation rental services on the internet are only the "go-between" or the "classified" section of the newspaper. They take no responsibility for the truth or correctness of the ads that are listed on their sites. So, do your homework by making phone calls, speaking with the owner and asking specific questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with the answers, if not, move on to the next rental, there are plenty.

If you're not comfortable with the whole renter / owner thing, there is another way to rent a vacation home. Some companies exist that strictly buy and rent out homes to vacationers. They offer a bit more security so that you feel you are really getting what you bargained for (although nothing is ever 100% fool proof). Additionally, sometimes these agencies will give you cancellation insurance. In other words, if you cancel before arriving, they may be able to refund a portion of your deposit or payment instead of keeping it as most owners do if a cancellation occurs. With some agencies you'll find that you pay a higher price than going directly to an owner. This is how the agencies make their profits. There are always pros and cons to each scenario. Ensure you know which one works best for you.

How much should I expect to pay?

This is a tough question to answer. The amount you pay will depend on what country or state you are visiting, number of days you are staying, and type of house you are renting. Some owners offer package deals including tickets or sightseeing events along with the rental, others include bonus days if you stay for a certain length of time. There are other owners who may offer free or add-on house cleaning service with your stay while some go to great efforts to ensure you have everything you need, even additional items such as a crib, highchair or wheelchair. Each vacation rental will be entirely different from the next. Your best bet after deciding on your destination is to review multiple rentals to determine which is better suited to your needs and overall budget.

Are there any hidden fees?

Hidden fees usually only emerge after you have arrived. These may include extra for phone calls, house cleaning service, extra person fees, excess heat and air-conditioning bills, pet deposit, computer access … etc. Again, be extremely thorough when interviewing the owner of your prospect vacation rental. Ask about any "extra" fees, or if the house is "all-inclusive". Do you have free access to all the pantry and food items? How about the laundry supplies? All utilities? It never hurts to ask!

Vacation Rentals

In summary, cover all bases by asking lots of questions. Getting your agreement in writing is also a very smart idea. After these basics are out of the way you will be ready to take off for your home-away-from-home vacation rental. Try one this year and see for yourself that vacation rentals can be a fantastic means to really getting the full enjoyment out of your next vacation.

7 Best Tips For Healthy Clay Pot Cooking

Clay pot cooking is the oldest and time-tested method for healthy cooking. While people are struggling to fight the ill effects of modern ways of cooking, with this safe and simple way of cooking, nobody ever had complaints. This is probably the reason people are slowly going back to their roots by switching to clay cookware.

There is a new challenge with clay pot cooking today it is rare that people are making it with the health value in mind so the clay pots available in the market are unfortunately chemical laden and coated with toxic enamels and glazes (like ceramics). The more beautiful and colorful they look on the outside, the more toxins they may leach while cooking. The cheaper they are, it’s possible that additives are used to make them faster and smoother. It’s important that you choose a truly healthy pot and here are 7 tips to choosing and using the best clay pots:

1. Always Choose Primary Clay

Primary clay is the purest form of clay – it has absolutely no toxins. Only primary clay is naturally inert, so doesn’t react to food like metals and ceramics. There are many clay pots available in the market that are made from secondary or tertiary clay but they have contaminants that may leach into your food while cooking.

2. No Chemicals, Glazes or Enamels

Most makers start using chemicals to make the process easier. In fact, every mechanized process needs the raw material to be treated with chemicals. The glazes and enamels might make your clay pots and pans colorful, attractive and even robust but they contaminate food. So always choose a cookware made from unglazed primary clay (or pure clay).

3. Seasoning Is Important

Seasoning your pure clay pot as per instructions is very important for cooking delicious food every time and it also increases the life of your pot. Pure clay is naturally non-stick, so after proper seasoning, if done right, the food should never stick to the bottom.

4. Choose Ingredients Carefully

You have finally chosen the healthiest clay pot – great, but it will all be in vain if you won’t use the right ingredients. For healthy clay pot cooking, make sure you choose all-natural organic ingredients that are unprocessed and nutrition-rich. A balanced diet is all you and your family needs for a healthy body, so always pay attention to the nutritional value of your ingredients.

5. Cook At Medium to Low Heat

Pure clay pots are great retainers of heat and the near infrared heat radiating from their walls cooks food evenly with gentle heat. It keeps nutrients intact and food cooks in almost the same time at low-medium heat as it does on high heat in metal/ceramic cookware.

Cooking at low-medium heat not only prevents food from burning and sticking to the bottom, it also improves the durability of your pure clay pot.

6. Choose A Pot That Manages Steam Well

Steam management is an important aspect of healthy cooking. In conventional cookware, the steam pressure inside the pot gets too much while cooking with harsh, near-infrared heat from metals/ceramics. So their lids have vents to release excessive steam in order to protect the pot from exploding.

Not many are aware that steam is water-soluble nutrients. As the body can’t store them like fat-soluble nutrients, they are needed every day. If the steam is released freely while cooking, the food becomes nutritionally deficient.

An ergonomically designed pure clay pot and lid make sure when steam rises from food, condenses at the inner surface of the lid (the lid being cooler than the pot) and settles back into the food before cooking is complete. This way, the water-soluble nutrients are preserved and your body is nourished with them regularly.

7. Clean With Water – No Soap

Regardless of what the label says, all soaps are toxic. When you are using a 100% non-toxic cookware, it’s important that you keep it away from anything toxic or chemical laden. Pure clay pots are naturally porous, so food doesn’t stick to the surface. You can always clean them with bare hands in normal water. Though you can scrub it a little if burnt food sticks at the bottom.

By following these simple yet useful tips, you can do wonders with healthy clay pot cooking. This will not only keep your body nourished with essential nutrients but will also protect you from common infections and diseases by strengthening your immunity.