Locating the Right Home

Have you lived in an apartment for many years? If this is the case, you might think it is finally time for you and your family to upgrade to a house. This will obviously be a very big step in your life so you should not rush into anything. Carefully look at all of your options because it will be a very large financial commitment on your part. There are many things that you should take into consideration before you settle on a house. Being an educated buyer will allow you to find the perfect home and save you money in the process. Here are some of the top considerations you need to make while house hunting.

1. Will the house be a good investment?

This is one of the things that many people do not think about before they buy a home. There is a good chance that you will not live in your new home forever. Therefore, you need to seriously consider how much potential a home has to go up in value after you have lived there for a few years. Is the home in a desirable area? Does the house sit on an attractive piece of property? Does the house have many features that potential buyers would find attractive? Basically, you need to be certain that you will not have a hard time selling the home. You will also need to get a solid return on your investment.

2. Is the house large enough for your requirements?

You should take some time to consider the space requirements that your family has. Do you have many possessions that you will be putting in the house? Will you be buying things in the future like gym equipment that will take up a lot of space? Will you be having more children while you are living in this home? These are all questions that you will need to ask yourself. You can then limit your house hunting to homes that are large enough for the specific needs of your family.

3. You might want to think about leasing your new home.

Taking out a mortgage is not the only way that you will be able to get a new home. The option of leasing a beautiful home from a company such as Invitation Homes could be an alternative that can save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. Invitation Homes housing is something you should seriously look into if you are lacking the funds to make a down payment on a typical mortgage. Homes that are leased are also maintained by a property management company. This means that they are always in outstanding condition.

4. Does the home come with all of the features that you and your family will require?

There will most likely be features that you have in mind when you go house hunting. You might not be able to find a house that has all of them. However, you should be patient and try to find a home that contains as many of them as possible. Make a list of the features that you want and give it to your realtor. This will prevent your realtor from wasting your time by showing you homes that you are not interested in.

Fabric.com: The Place To Shop For Spring And Summer Fabrics

Get ready for Easter with these cute fabrics! Fabric.com has so many to choose from, but this is my favorite: fabric.com

If you love fabric as much as I do, then you don’t think of them as being a spring or a summer fabric. You just love them because they are prestty. But this winter has been so unseasonably warm that we are all ready for summer! Shop your favorite styles at Fabric.com to bring warmth and sunshine inside! Redecorate your pool house, start a nautical-themed project, design summer dresses for the family and more.

 
Shop all prints here, or check out our favorites below.
 
This cream print brings a bohemian vibe to any project. Sew leggings, jumpers, aprons and more with the nature-inspired fabric. It’s 95% cotton and 5% Spandex, making it a little stretchy for additional comfort.
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This lightweight cotton jersey knit fabric is perfect for t-shirts, summer lounge shorts, leggings, children’s clothes and more. Use this print to create a mother-daughter look that’s perfect for summertime beach photos.
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This bright floral fabric has hints of lime, magenta, white and peach on a teal background. The vibrant fabric is perfect for outdoor cushions or a beach cover up. Grab a similar print from the same artists with the Tumble Roses Pink fabric.
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Kaffe Fassett Collective 2012 Cactus Dahlias Red
Bring green, blue, pink, hot orange, red and maroon into your next quilting project or DIY project. The fabric is lightweight, 100% cotton and can be machine-washed in cold water, making it a good choice for blankets or apparel projects.
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Choosing A Car To Fit Your Lifestyle

When my children all still lived at home, I always took them with me when I shopped for a car. We all “tried on” the car, to make sure it would fit our family. We spent so much time in the car together in those days, that it only made sense to make sure we all fit in it comfortably before I bought a car. It is very important to make sure to choose the vehile to fit your lifestyle! 

Three Kids and a Dog?

If you are a busy mom with three kids and a dog you will need to make sure that your entire family fits comfortably inside the car. What age are the kids? Some kids grow rather quicky from ages 12 thru 15, so make sure any teen have plenty of leg room to grow into. You’ need to choose a car like a Jeep Patriot or a Dodge Durango will fit your lifestyle for quite a few years. 

Empty Nest

As an empty nester, you can purchase just about any vehicle you like. Even though there are no children living in your home any longer, think about what your hobbies are? Do you sew, knit, or enjoy scrapbooking? Make sure the trunk is large enough to hold all the things you’ll make that you will be taking to craft shows, crafting meetups, and things like that. What about camping? Will this vehicle pull a small tent camper? You can be comfortable in a Chrysler Sedan or a Dodge Ram Pickup.

Grandma Babysitter?

You brought up three kids, right? Back when we were having babies, we could just put them in a box on the back seat. Now in order to even drive down the street with a child, you have to know CPR, how to rescue a baby trapped in a mini van, and have room for a diaper bag, a box of diapers, a ton of baby milk, and directions to the preferred pediatrician. By the time you get all the stuff in the car that you will need, you will have no more room for the baby! Look at mini vans, station wagons, and hatchback models like the Chrysler Pacifica Van

There are lots of different lifestyles out there, so it is up to you to determine which model of autos will fit you for several years. Do you see yourself stiff doing the same thing for longer than five years? The point is, try to think about the things you do that make you unique, and choose an automobile that will still work for you in several years. Not only will it save you a lot of money, it will keep you smiling as you drive it every day. You can check all the  different choices  that fit your lifestyle at Brennan Dodge Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

The Natchez Trace Parkway

I a pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexie. 

 

Old Trace (milepost 221.4) on the Natchez Trace Parkway

For anyone that dreams of the open road, a place to explore and escape from traffic, powerlines, and road signs, to drive at a pace that allows you to feel that you belong, then head to Mississippi, and follow the Natchez Trace.  When one thinks of Mississippi, they may often envision the culture of the South, magnolia trees, or the War Between the States, and everyone remembers the river, but only a few know the “Trace”. Established in 1938 and maintained by the National Park Service, the Natchez Trace Parkway commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace between Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi.  Originally a trail that followed the pre-historical migratory path (or “traces”) of the bison, it was used as an important trade route for centuries by the early Native Americans and later became the main path for European exploration into the south central region of North America. Less used after river traffic and railroads replaced its purpose, it remained a seldom used route until the Civilian Conservation Corps began building the park in the 1930s.

Today, the Natchez Trace is a 444 mile two lane road, which is void of commercial vehicles and welcomes those that wish to experience a relaxing, steady, and uninterrupted drive through the history of the region.  The park encompasses more than 51,740 acres of protected lands and in many areas parallels the original Trace and includes 65 miles of hiking trails that take you along the original route, to early Native American archaeology sites, and beautiful natural landmarks.  Traffic along the Natchez Trace is generally light, especially on weekdays, and has become a popular route for many cyclists. 

Traveling the Natchez Trace is a relaxing experience and a unique park that is not to miss. Below I have outlined a few highlights of things to see along the way.  My first experience with this beautiful parkways was from the book “Blue Highways: A Journey into America” by William Least Heat-Moon, and I leave you with his description of Natchez Trace:

“Now new road, opening the woods again, went in among redbuds and white blossoms of dogwood, curving about under a cool evergreen cover. For miles, no power lines or billboards. Just tree, rock, water, bush, and road.  The new Trace, like a river, followed natural contours and gave focus to the land, it so brought out the beauty that every road commissioner in the nation should drive the trace to see that highway does not have to outrage landscape.” – William Least Heat-Moon

Natchez Trace Parkway in early fall.  All photo are from the Public Domain NPS site: https://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery.htm?id=B6BFCEF9-1DD8-B71C-07734C8CDA457AB2

Some highlights along the Natchez Trace include:

Emerald Mound Site (Milepost 10.3): An eight acre archaeological site with the second-largest Mississippian Period ceremonial mound in North America and one of the seven mound groups found along the Natchez Trace Parkway. There is an established trail that allows visitors to climb the mound and information signs describing how the mound was built and how it may have been used.

The ghost town of Rocky Springs.  One of the original European settlements along the route, Rocky Springs was settled in the late 1700s, but began to decline after the Civil War and was abandoned by 1930.  Today, the only surviving building is the Methodist church (established in 1837) along with the graveyard, although many remnants of the town can still be seen along the interpretive National Park Service trail. 

Cypress Swamp (Milepost 122.0): One of my favorite stopping points along the Natchez Trace, the Cypress Swamp trail and boardwalk, gives visitors a chance to walk among the tupelos and cypress trees of a Mississippi swamp.  The full trail system takes about 30 minutes but is an easy hike and a nice place to stretch. 

Cypress Swamp, Natchez Trace Parkway, milepost 122

Bynum Mounds (Milepost 232.4): A 15 acre archaeological site along the Houlka Creek with a complex of six burial mounds from the Middle Woodland period built between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. (LINK: 

Pharr Mounds (Milepost 286.7): A Middle Woodland period archaeological site with eight burial mounds built between 1 and 200 A.D. 

Rock Spring Nature Trail (Milepost 330.2):  A nature trail that runs along a series of wetlands across Colbert Creek past Rock Spring and through a woodland setting.  The trail takes about 20 minutes to complete at an easy pace and is a favorite for birding enthusiasts 

Jackson Falls and Baker Bluff Overlook (Milepost 385.9): From the Jackson Falls overlook there is a 900 foot long paved walkway (steep) that takes you to the base of the beautiful Jackson Falls.  Also at this stop there is a 1/3 miles (gentle) trail that takes you to the Baker Bluff Overlook above the Duck River.

Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (Milepost 401.4): One of two places within the park where you can drive on the actual Old Trace road.  As part of the more recent history of the area, a restored Tobacco Farm provides information of the growing and drying of tobacco.

 

 

Three State Parks Within A Mornings Drive Of Jackson, Mississippi

I a pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexie.  

As an environmental consultant, part of my job I often get sequestered away to client’s offices for weeks and sometime for months at a time. I generally enjoy the traveling and I love to see new places, the adventure of exploring, but after a few visits to the same city it becomes a challenge to find new inspirations.  This was my reality a few winters ago as I worked on a long-term consulting project in Jackson, Mississippi.  I had explored the city on previous trips, seen the museums, walked the streets around the capital, and I needed something different.  I didn’t have a lot of time on the weekends, so I wanted something close to the city.  My inspiration came from an unexpected source, the long ignored iconic symbol of the cheap hotel lobby; the tourist brochure stand.  

No, I didn’t go for the flashy casino ones, golfing vacation rentals, or the numerous ones advertising the battles of the Civil War.  As a child my father had saturated our family vacations with everything Civil War; I really thought that every vacation had to include a picture of my sister and myself sitting on a battlefield canon.  The one that caught my eye was the simple paper one, dull against the glare from all the glossy reflections around it, with the simple print; the State Parks of Mississippi.  It was February in Mississippi, the rental car was paid for, and I had a couple Saturdays to myself.  So, for the random encounter with the simple non-intrusive state park pamphlet, I would visit the four closest parks to my hotel in Jackson, Mississippi and spend my day off.  . Side note, I had already visited the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park in Jackson, including the Museum of Natural Science on a previous trip and since it was only about 5 minutes from the hotel, I decided to visit the next three on the list.

Roosevelt State Park (Morton, MS):

kims no bull

Roosevelt State Park Mississippi Watchtower photo (https://www.mdwfp.com/parks-destinations/ms-state-parks/roosevelt/park-photos/roosevelt-photos.aspx)

It’s not a far trip from downtown Jackson, it only takes about 40 minutes with light traffic on interstate I-20 going east. The entrance to the park is north of I-20 about half mile, you will notice the watch tower on the hill just before the turn.  It was a warm winter Saturday morning when I drove into the park and I didn’t expect to see many visitors, that was my plan, to escape and shake off some of my hours in front of a computer screen editing reports.  To my surprise there were a number of visitors down by Shadow Lake near the visitor center enjoying the sunny day.  I milled around the area, walked down to the lake and past the pools that were closed for the season.  Back at the visitor center there was an information board with a copy of the trail map, which I studied, noted the color system and names (really, trail #7 Civil War Hill; my Dad would be so proud) and then headed off to walk around the lake.  Once I was on the trail I quickly left behind the few picnickers and entered into a pleasant trail system that took me through the winter forest, past pine stands, through a couple of wetlands, past the rental cabins, and into the many campsites on the backside of the lake. I had the place to myself, except when I decided to climb the watch tower, but it was not even that busy.  The park is really nice, situated in the Bienville National Forest the scenery was beautiful and there are some great panoramic views from the overlooks and the tower.  

Golden Memorial State Park (Walnut Grove, MS):

 

My second stop of the day was a trip to Golden Memorial State Park.  I didn’t have a lot of information about this place when I set out, but I really enjoyed my time in this small park.  The park is centered on a 15-acre spring fed lake and seems to be popular among local fisherman and the park memorializes the “Patrons Pupils Teachers and Friends” of the old Golden School and their descendants (I was so tempted to put commas on the stone memorial).  When I entered the park in the late afternoon there were only a couple of cars and a few people fishing.  Since there were not a lot of trails and the park was fairly empty, I ended up walking along the road across the levee up to the trail head.  It was very relaxing and I felt like I had the place to myself.  I assume during the summer the small size of the park may hinder this feeling, but for my afternoon it was perfect.  The trails take you to the far side of the park where you can walk among the pines and see the second largest loblolly pine in the state of Mississippi, and yes, it was pretty tall.  It was getting dark by the time I got back to the car, but the drive back to Jackson was not that bad; without stops it took me about an hour. 

Lake Lincoln State Park (Wesson, MS):

Lake Lincoln State Park Mississippi photo (http://www.mdwfp.com/parks-destinations/ms-state-parks/lake-lincoln.aspx)

The next Saturday was a bit overcast with some rain, however living in Denver, I was just happy that it was not snowing and that it was almost 60 F in February.  I headed south on this trip to Lake Lincoln State Park; I figure that I had already been to Roosevelt, I should keep up with the presidential theme.  The trip from Jackson, down I-55, and through Weston took about an hour.  However, it took me a lot longer to get into the park because right across from the entrance to the park was Smokin’ Oaks BBQ & Steakhouse, and yes I am a sucker for good BBQ.  After lunch I drove/rolled across the road to the park, the rain had picked up so I slowly drove around the park roads and took in the sites of the forest and all the campgrounds. I parked my car near the boat ramp wanted waited for the weather to clear a bit before heading out to explore on foot.  The park seemed larger than the ones I had visited the week before, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of trails, however, this park is all about the 550-acre Lake and fishing.  This was obvious when I realized that everyone I saw in the park that day was either getting ready to fish or was out on the lake in a boat fishing.  I enjoyed my time in the park and I did walk around after the weather had cleared, but I was kind of jealous that I didn’t have a boat to really appreciate this park.  With the weather turning on me again, I decided to head out early and take the back roads back to my hotel.  Part of enjoying a place is to step away from the interstates and just let the roads dictate where you go.

 

Weekend Getaway To Monroe, Louisiana

Although Monroe, Louisiana is a small town, it has a ton of places to see and things to do. And, it is only a seven hour drive from Atlanta via I-20. That’s close enough to go for a weekend or for a week long vacation. Here are some of the attractions you will find in Monroe.

 

Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo

Interstate Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram

Flamingos at the Louisiana Purchase and Zoo
(Photo from http://www.monroe-westmonroe.org/Discover/Attractions)

The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo would be at the top of my list to visit in Monroe. The zoo has a flock of Flamingos, which I think are so pretty! There are more than 450 species of animals at the zoo, with exhibits that include those animals indigenous to the original Louisiana Purchase. You’ll see Bison, Black Bears, and Elk and more. I can’t wait to see the Australian Exhibit with all the animals that only live in that country. The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Tickets costs are: Adults $4.50, Seniors $3, Children $3, 2 & under are free.

Market at 7th Square

7th street market

Market at 7th Square
(photo from http://www.monroe-westmonroe.org/Discover/Attractions)

The Market at 7th Square is open year round, and offers a great variety of produce depending on the season. Early spring brings Strawberries and bedding plants. In Summer, expect to see things like corn, tomatoes, squash, peas, peppers, butter beans, okra, watermelon, muscadines, and peaches. During the Autumn months you’ll find sweet potatoes, and your pumpkins for Halloween Jack O’lanterns or yummy pies. This is the kind of place I look for when I travel, to find locally grown vegetables and fruits, either to eat while I am in the area, or to take home and freeze. They are open Monday thru Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and are located at 1700 North 7th Street in West Monroe, Louisiana. 

Landry Vineyards

After you’ve been by the Market at 7th Square for your fruits and vegetables, you must go see Landry Vineyards. Family owned and operated, Landry Vinyards was established in 1999. The first vineyards were established in Folsom, La. where the winery was also located. Hurricane Katrina destroyed that first vinyard. After that, the family moved their business to West Monroe. The 20 acre site includes a new winery, vineyards and beautiful tasting room. They offer a wide range of wines from Bayoutage Red Blend, Bayoutage White Blend, Peach Muscadine, Blackberry Merlot, Chardonay, and more. They are open Monday thru Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and offer tastings and tours of the winery. 5199 New Natchitoches Rd, West Monroe, Louisiana 318-557-9051

Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Want to go fishing on Black Bayou? Here is your chance to experience Louisiana wildlife up close. Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a 4,500-acre lake, swamp, bottomland hardwoods, mixed pine and hardwood uplands is a wildlife habitat with all kinds of plant species and everything from small alligators and turtles to coyote, deer and a wide variety of birds. You can rent a canoe and go fishing, or just look at the wildlife that lives in the refuge. Refuge is open daylight hours. Visitor Center open 8-4 weekdays; 9-5 Sat.; 1-5 Sun. Get more info here. 

Whether you stay a weekend or for the week, you’ll find lots to do in Monroe, Louisiana. Get more information here.