Sous Vide Cooking

How do professional chefs consistently recreate great food with such confidence? They use an industry art perfected in the finest restaurants called sous vide, and you can easily try it in your kitchen. 

Sous vide simply means “cooking under vacuum” in French. How it works is that the food to be prepared is vacuum-sealed in a reusable container, then immersed into a “water bath” until done to the correct temperature. Cooking sous vide is a slower preparation method, making it ideal for fish, vegetables and tougher cuts of meat. You’ll use less oil, fat, and salt and the food will retain more nutrients for a healthier lifestyle.

You don’t need much in the way of equipment and can start with immersible ziplock freezer bags, mason jars or silicone cooking pouches and a pot to hold the water. But you’ll get more uniform results with a standalone immersion circulator designed for home chefs, such as the Anova Precision Cooker. It clamps onto the side of any pot to circulate the water and regulate the temperature. There are countertop appliances approximately the size of a microwave also include the water bath or water oven. Some home chefs get their own vacuum sealing system, such as the Miele vacuum drawer, to get the air out of each seal for longer-lasting freshness.

While there’s nothing new about submerging a sealed packet of food into water, sous vide techniques allow you to cook, freeze and reheat food with the ease of a master chef.


Using Drones for Real Estate

Whether you intend to fly a drone for fun or for professional use (such as real estate photography to help market your home), there’s a lot to know about using this technology. All drone users need to know the laws, courtesies and safety practices of drone flying.

The FAA requires a drone operator to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. The only exception to this rule is for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, which is only available to drone operators flying for hobby or recreational purposes. Drone operators should register their drones with the FAA.

The FAA also provides a helpful list of safety and privacy rules:

  • Fly your drone at or below 400 feet
  • Keep your drone within your line of sight
  • Respect FAA airspace restrictions. Never fly near other aircraft or airports.
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
  • Never fly near emergencies or disaster relief efforts
  • Respect the privacy, safety and property of others
  • Never fly a drone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

In addition, there may be local laws for you to follow. Dartdrones.com explains that local restrictions can “prohibit flights anywhere from state parks to state infrastructure.” Local ordinances can even restrict the areas where you can and can’t launch your drone in certain cities.

Despite precautions, drone accidents happen. Check your liability insurance carrier, or you may prefer a drone-specific insurance policy. Dronetrader.com offers lists of insurance carriers for both recreational and professional drone use.


What’s the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary?

Two words widely used in interior design are modern and contemporary, which sound like interchangeable synonyms, but really have different meanings. What’s confusing is that they have some traits in common along with others that set them apart.

Thespruce.com defines modern design as representing an era that’s passed, while contemporary design is all about the present and the future. Both styles share common characteristics – clean lines, simple uncluttered spaces and artistic flair. But they differ in the following ways:

Modern design began in the early to mid-1900s, when society was excited by inventions such as the skyscraper, jet aircraft, the space program, the cross-country highway system and major scientific advances, such as antibiotics and polio vaccine. The most popular modern concept is mid-century modern, when post-World War II housing was revolutionized by the low-slung ranch-style suburban home. Modernism departed from traditional comfy elements like ruffled curtains and overstuffed chintz chairs and embraced space age simplicity, sleek furniture with exposed legs, geometric lines, and wood accents. Colorful abstract art was juxtaposed against warm earth-bound colors. It’s a great motif for anyone who wants a recognizable design scheme. 

Contemporary design began in the 1970s as postmodernism rose in popularity. It is not tied to a specific era but borrows from past movements such as art deco and modernism as well as adopts new ideas, building materials, and technology, resulting in an eclectic living space. It’s an ideal choice for the homeowner who enjoys change and likes to stay ahead of new trends.


Choosing a Housemate

To make your mortgage more affordable, consider temporarily renting out an extra bedroom or garage apartment to a tenant. Having a housemate can be a wonderful experience or a frustrating one, depending on how well you vet candidates, communicate your expectations and protect yourself with a written legal leasing agreement.   

Begin your search for a housemate by asking friends, family, coworkers, and church or professional organization members for referrals or visiting online roommate-seeking sites. Set the terms of the lease and screen potential tenants by credit-worthiness, personal references, pets, smoking and other criteria, but you must follow Fair Housing laws to avoid illegal discrimination and to protect the tenant’s rights.  As you interview potential tenants, discuss key issues such as schedules, habits, and other living preferences.

According to Lawyers.com, you can minimize disputes with a detailed rental agreement that covers rent, deposits, responsibilities, house rules, and which items can be shared, such as food and living spaces. You should also include a dispute resolution method agreeable to both you and the tenant.

Should you need to evict your tenant for not paying the rent, damaging your home, making too much noise or other violations of their lease, you’ll have to take the tenant to court where an eviction can be approved by a judge. Hopefully, it won’t come to that if you diligently check your tenant’s credit report and references and confirm their employment in advance. In the best case, you’ll make a new friend instead


A Better Alternative to Bagging Raked Leaves

With warmer weather across the country, it’s taking longer for trees to drop their leaves, so you may find yourself doing a lot of raking in late October and early November. But after the work is finished, you have to bag the leaves and let them sit on your curb for collection.

Or, you can put them to good use and save using plastic bags, too.  

Popular Mechanics suggests that mowing your leaf-covered lawn is a great way to create organic mulch. It mixes grass clippings with shredded leaves and reduces the leaves to one-tenth their volume. This nutrient-rich mixture, according to Gardeningknowhow.com, helps soil retain moisture, improves fertility and reduces erosion. It also helps protect your lawn from winter damage.

Mow your leaves often to prevent rotting that harms your grass. You can use a regular lawnmower, but you may have to go over the leaves several times to turn them into mulch. You can also use a mulching lawnmower, with a blade designed to shred and return clippings to the lawn.

You can also shred leaves with a leaf mulcher. These tools are lightweight, portable and can make mulch from leaves, pine needles and other small organic materials, wet or dry. Leaf mulchers can be placed on top of large trashcan that makes clean up easier and faster and allows you to take the mulched leaves and distribute them as you like it. Mix in some cedar chips and sow the mulch around trees to protect the roots.


How Long Should a Roof Last?

Angieslist.com suggests that a typical asphalt shingle roof will last about 20 to 25 years, depending on variables such as the quality of the shingles, the professionalism of the installation, homeowner maintenance over the years, and, of course, the weather.

Your roof should have several lines of defense or redundancies. If one part fails, such as when a shingle blows off, there should be other protective layers such as an underlying membrane, flashing around chimneys and sealants that prevent the roof from leaking.

Because 70 percent of U.S. homes have asphalt or composition shingle roofs, replacement roofs tend to be similar. According to Roofingcalc.com, the average roof size in the U.S. is 1,700 square feet. Professional roofers calculate area by 100 square feet, so it would take 17 “squares” to reroof the average home. Materials and labor can run anywhere between $350 and $550 per square, or approximately $6000 to $9350.

Leaks through the ceiling, missing shingles, frayed or curling shingle edges, or erosion of the mineral granules are all signs that it’s time to repair or replace your roof.  Have your roof inspected by a reputable roofing contractor, who can tell you if the roof was properly installed and maintained.

Check with your homeowner’s insurance company about coverage. Insurance.com warns that many companies will amortize coverage according to the age of the roof and refuse coverage if the roof has two or more previous layers of roofs or if the roof is 20 years or older.


Portable Gardens for Curb Appeal

To make your home more attractive to homebuyers, you could plant fresh flowers or you could put plants in containers and take your garden with you when you sell your home!  

Containers can accent your home’s personality – like washtubs for a farmhouse look or colorful fired pottery for a bohemian vibe. They’re the perfect solution for styling a porch, entry or walkway.

Follow these easy tips to make sure your potted gardens thrive:

Pick the right container. A confined space means substituting what the plants would get if they were in the ground. You need to have enough space for plants to grow and proper drainage holes so your plants don’t become sodden.

Use fresh potting soil. Good potting soil doesn’t clump and allows roots to spread. It contains nutrients to give plants a good head start.

Group plants according to sun and water requirements. A mix of cascading plants, tall leafy plants and various flowers make a beautiful composition. You can even mix in edibles like vegetables and herbs, but make sure all the plants in one container require the same amount of sun and water.

Water frequently. Container gardens dry out quickly, especially smaller pots. Check that the container is draining properly and you don’t have to worry about overwatering. Water daily in warm weather.

Bigger is better. Larger containers hold more soil, allow plants to grow larger, offer more room for variety and require less frequent watering.


How to Challenge Higher Property Taxes

According to the National Taxpayers Union, between 30% and 60% of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, yet less than 5% of homeowners appeal their assessments.

Your 2020 tax assessment will outline county, city and school taxes, as well as special assessments. Look online or call the assessor’s office for a list of factors used to evaluate properties and render assessments, including time frames. Compare them to your bill and make sure your square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms and baths are listed correctly.

If you can’t find the assessment rate on your statement, call the taxing authority and ask what the assessment rate is for your home’s location. There should also be directions for how to file an appeal, by mail, electronically and in person. You’ll be given a specific time and date for your appeal.

Your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional may be able to help by providing you with a comparable market analysis of similar homes sold or on the market in 2019. Choose three to five properties with the same age, size, and condition of your home, noting any differences between the homes, such as additions or other improvements.

Your estimated property taxes could be escrowed, but you might owe more. You could also owe less if any discounts available apply to you. Some taxing authorities give seniors, workforce personnel (teachers, police, EMTs and fire personnel) and military veterans a break.


HIRING AN INTERIOR DESIGNER

Interior designers are degreed and licensed professionals who make your home more functional and beautiful. If your home could use more space, better traffic flow, or an additional room, an interior designer is your answer.  

They save you money. Interior designers can buy appliances, furnishings, and more from “to the trade” vendors. While they charge for their time and/or add a mark up to each item you agree to, you’ll pay about the same for unique wow-factor results as you would for big-box, off-the-shelf items. 

They save you time. The interior designer learns your lifestyle, personal preferences and space concerns. They know the latest products and design solutions, and do the research so you don’t have to.

They help you prevent mistakes. An interior design is like a symphony – every detail should compliment everything else in utility and beauty. Designers give you what you want, but they also expand your tastes.

They have resources. Many design solutions must be customized, so designers have their own go-to teams of contractors, upholsterers, artisans and craftspeople. 

Most designers offer a free consultation to help you decide if you’ll work well together. Contact the American Society of Interior Designers for more information.