First Home Purchase – To Buy or Not to Buy a Home

We have all said at some point when we look around at our apartments “I wish I had a house”. In reality besides cost; your first home purchase can be a nerve wrecking prospect.
Owning a home is not a realistic prospect for everyone. Besides cost there is responsibilities with owning a home. It is always better to sit down and take a serious evaluation of your situation before signing a contract on a home you may not be able to handle in the long run.
Unless you are rolling in cash, you will have to get a loan from some kind of lender to get a mortgage. Whether you qualify for a loan or not is based on several factors and your credit is a big one.
So, the first assessment for you to decide if you can take on the responsibility of a first home purchase is that you have to see if you are credit worthy to own a home. If your credit rating is 620 or less rest assured that your interest rates on a home will not be good.
They will run extremely high. In a case like this it is better to fix your credit first before even considering a house.
If you decide you want a home anyway with bad credit then you have to be careful. The lending predators will come out of the wood work to prey on you because of your situation.
Your job situation is another factor in deciding whether to rent or pursue your first home purchase. If you do not have a secure job that will make a problem when it comes for you to make your mortgage payments.
Beside mortgage payments there is upkeep and maintenance issues you face to maintain a house and all those things cost money too.
What you have to do if you are thinking about buying a home is to sit down with a paper and pencil and seriously analyze your finances. You have to make sure that you can afford a home on your budget.
For example if you are renting a dwelling for $2,000 dollars why would you decide to buy the same dwelling for $6,000 dollars a month. If you do the math to own the same home you would be renting would end up costing you $48,000 dollars more a year. Think of your first home purchase as a business decision.
To top that off if you are in a 30% tax bracket you will never recoup what you are putting out. Just food for thought.
In addition to the mortgage there is other costs that have to be met when you become a home owner. These costs include utilities, heat, property taxes, repairs, insurance, service costs for things like trash or snow removal, landscaping and assessments and replacement for appliances when needed.
This does not include your food, clothing and other things you need to survive with. All these things have to be looked at closely to see if you really want to take the plunge from renting to buying a home.
Most importantly (and I say this time and time again), your first home purpose has to be made upon good, sound, logical reasoning. Emotion has no place in the decision making process. If you are “desperate” to get into a home, fall in love with a house or feel you need to purchase a home because “everyone else is”, then you are not in the right mindset.
Buying a house should be like a business decision, do your sums, work out your needs then find a home that ticks all the right boxes.

How to Grow Roses – Five Important Steps

The rose is the most beautiful flower in the world, as least in my opinion and also in the opinion of hundreds of thousands of others around the world. Anyone can learn how to grow roses with a little instruction.
Growing roses is not as difficult as some make it seem and the amazing blooms that result from your effort are extremely rewarding. All you need is a desire to grow these beautiful flowers and some basic knowledge of gardening.
As you move forward, it would be wise to learn a little more about rose gardening in particular. Educate yourself to the specific needs of roses, which must be met in order for them flourish.
This article will give you a brief overview of five key steps.
First, rose plants require sunlight – at least six hours of unfiltered sunlight every day. Even if the planting instructions state that a particular species will do well in the shade, they will still need a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight to be at their best.
The second is well-prepared soil. Roses require nutrient-rich, well-turned soil, which means that you must take the time to prepare it properly. Then, once the roses are planted and begin to grow, they must be fed at regular intervals to keep them happy and healthy.
Check with your local nursery for recommendations. Preparation of the soil and the nutrients that must be added will vary depending on the climate and soil conditions of your area. I highly recommend that you use organic products as much as possible.
The third is proper watering. For the roots to grow deep, the plants must be soaked at least once a week. The frequency will vary depending on your climate, so check with an expert.
Frequent, shallow watering will cause the roots to stay near the surface, making them more susceptible to damage when there are high temperatures and extended dry spells.
Fourth – there is no doubt that you will have to deal with pests from time to time. Rose bushes are susceptible to a number of damaging insects – rose midge larva, rose cane borer, thrips, Japanese beetles, stem girders, aphids, rose slugs, mites, caterpillars, scale insects, and rose chafers.
Pests are annoying, but can be controlled. So, if you want to protect your plants, you must take care of the problems as quickly as possible, whatever they are. Once you know the type of bug you are dealing with, you will usually have several options for treating them.
If there is only an occasional bug, you can try removing them and the entire leaf on which they are found and destroy everything. However, you must watch the plants closely after that to see if you solved the problem. It is easy to miss eggs that have already been laid on the underside of neighboring leaves.
If you hate pesticides and toxic chemicals as much as I do, you can always try using the natural enemies of the pests. Lady bugs and some types of wasps (although not a favorite of mine) eat pests that can damage rose bushes.
Check with your local garden center to see if this is an option for you when dealing with the type of pests that you have found. You may also be able to find information Online.
Sometimes you are forced to resort to using the synthetic or natural chemicals to help you get rid of the pests. Always follow the directions carefully when applying any type of chemicals, which can be harmful to people and pets if used improperly.
And finally, number five. Everyone knows that roses must be pruned. This is a critical step to have full-blooming plants. For the majority of rose plant it is quite easy if you have heavy-duty gloves and good pruning shears.
Proper pruning in the spring before the blooming season begins is the recommended time for full pruning. It is important to remove dead twigs and leaves to allow for proper air ventilation and new growth. Pruning can also be used to shape the bush and train it to grow the way you want it to grow.
Cutting the roses as they bloom is part of the ongoing pruning process. I love the fact that I am supposed to cut my roses because there is nothing quite as lovely as fresh roses in the home. If the flowers are allowed to wither on the vine, the rose will set seed and stop producing new flower shoots.
Many gardeners believe that a garden is incomplete without one or several rose bushes, and I am one who agrees with that opinion. There are so many varieties it should not be difficult to find at least one or two that suit your preferences in color, shape and even fragrance.
If you take the time to learn how to grow roses correctly, your effort will be rewarded with amazing flowers that will beautify your garden from early spring until the cold sets in, and grace your home with elegance for years to come – two wonderful gifts that you should definitely give yourself.

A Short Guide to Moscow – Above and Underground

The Russian Federation spreads across eleven time zones and two continents. It’s home to nearly 143 million people. It covers approximately 6.6 million square miles. When you’re traveling, sometimes time and money only allow for a taste, a nibble. So, on arriving in Russia, we make like nearly a quarter of the federation’s population, and head for the city. In this case, Moscow.
Let’s start below ground, deep within the earth under the city of Moscow, where more than 9,000 Metro trains run along 12 lines that connect some 170 stations.
It’s a Monday, and we’re standing on the platform at the Komsomolskaya station on the Kol’tsevaya line. We’ve hustled down the escalators and joined the Muscovites on their daily commute. There are as many as 10.4 million people living in the city above us (compare this to 8.3 million in New York City), and more than 7 million of them ride the Metro during the week.
During rush hour, we can expect to wait no longer than two or three minutes for a train. But we won’t get on just yet. We’ll wait for the next car, or the one after that. We’ll wander around the station for a bit, which, for the cost of our subway tickets (22 rubles each, or about 75 cents), will turn out to be an inexpensive museum. We’ll breathe out and in. Each city’s subway has its own unique smells, and this one has undertones of robust men’s cologne and exhaled smoke from cigarettes puffed above ground. If we’re lucky, we’ll catch sight of a painted train.
The Metro was first named in honor of Lazar Kaganovich, one of Josef Stalin’s key advisers who turned out to be an important figure in the construction project (it was subsequently renamed in honor of Lenin). Stalin wanted to build a “people’s palace”, a living art museum accessible to every citizen.
And when we glance upward, it does feel palatial. Corinthian marble columns marble reach to the ceiling. Between the elegant chandeliers, a series of mosaics consisting of colored glass, marble, and granite present a pictorial timeline of Russia’s fight for freedom and independence. As the series progresses, Jesus becomes progressively smaller and Lenin bigger.
It’s time to board one of the trains. We’ll hop off at the Novoslobodskaya station, also on the Kolt’sevaya line, where we’ll find 32 stained glass panels, each framed in brass. They are at eye level, but they are unscathed and intact. We’ll consider that a moment. Thousands of commuters and no broken glass. No graffiti.
As with most architectural wonders, we must consider the labor and effort that went into it. Just as the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, and our own transcontinental railroad were built on the backs of unpaid and/or severely underpaid workers, there are reports that this transportation system was built in part by German POWs and by youth brigades that may or may not have been voluntary. So as we admire what surrounds us, we pay silent tribute to those who built it.
We can’t leave the Metro without seeing the Ploshchad Revolyutsii station at Revolution Square. There we will be greeted by 72 bronze sculptures depicting the people of the Soviet Union. Soldiers, aviators, farmers, athletes, writers, industrial workers, and school children. We’ll spot commuters rubbing the nose of the statue of a hunter and his dog, hoping for riches.
In search of fresh air, we’ll take the Arbatkso-Pokrovskaya Line to the Izmailovskaya station. Before we exit, we’ll pause upstairs. Passengers hurry and hustle, intent on making it to their destinations. It can seem impersonal and cold. But we’ll stand still and observe for a few moments. Among the throngs of people, we’ll see an older lady with a large rollie piece of luggage picking her way up the staircase, one step at a time. We’ll vow to go back through the turnstile and help her if no one else does. And then, as we consider how to do this with our nonexistent handle on the Russian language, a twenty-something male will run up the staircase, see her struggling, and stop. He’ll lift the luggage, heft it up the steps, and deposit it at the foot of the staircase. He’ll look back at her, and motion toward the luggage with one hand, as if to say, Done.
And in that brief interchange, we’ll bear witness to a lovely moment of humanity.
We emerge from the station at Izmailovo Park, one of the largest urban parks in the eastern pocket of Moscow. It’s fall, and the air is crisp and cold. The birch trees offer up a contrast of skinny, white trunks and orange, yellow, and green leaves. Walking paths snake through the pine and birch groves. Mothers pad along behind toddlers who bumble along the paved paths in several layers of clothing. Businessmen take pensive strolls. Bikers pedal down the trails.
In the early 1600s, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich built a model economy at Izmailovo. Over the course of a summer, hundreds of peasant families were relocated to the site. Its parks and gardens boasted such exotic crops as watermelons, cotton, and grapes. Tsar Peter the Great also spent time here during his youth, sailing around the park’s water reservoir.
Only some of the amusement park attractions are open in the colder months of fall and winter. Even though the ride on the Ferris wheel costs about three times more than the Metro ticket we bought earlier (about $2.50) it does afford a beautiful panoramic of the city.
Just before we head back to our room at the Hotel Izmaylovo Vega, we’ll dip into the nearby Izmailovo Market, where we can buy anything from leather pants to matryoshka nesting dolls to piroshki and beer to go.
Tomorrow we’ll go on a guided tour and stand humbled before the Red Square and the Kremlin. Today’s excursions above and below ground were just a taste of what the city has to offer.

Deniz Türkmen

Deniz Türkmen knows how to make a concert colorful

Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Singapore, Macau, Dubai, Paris, New York, Shenzhen and Kuala Lumpur are few of several places where the virtuoso Deniz Türkmen enchanted the listeners. The German-Turkish pianist and composer is now one of the absolute exceptional talents in the world.
His concerts are very versatile and always include different composers from the classical period, songs of different nations he has arranged for the piano, as cherry on the cream cake some own compositions.

Many of his own works reflect his mysterious personality, as he always leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which makes it interestingly difficult for the audience to gain an insight into the deepest sanctum of his inner world.
Being part of his audience is like going away on a trip to another planet – many people might think of an LSD trip when they read that, but music itself is regarded as a ‘drug’ by many individuals, as it is something magical that connects human beings, which Deniz Türkmen does with his repertoire in an outstanding way.
In fact, this ‘drug’ is the earth – his home – for the virtuoso and the “earth has its music for those who will listen”, as George Santayana once said.

Part I
From Bach to Prokofiev, the exceptional talent has a challenging repertoire that he always shows in his concerts. Deniz Türkmen also differs from other concert pianists in bringing less known composers such as Guillaume Lekeu to the program, a composer who died at just 24, but a composer far more demanding than Schubert or Beethoven.
Also popular are his Chopin interpretations. He become well-known as the “Young Chopin” among piano lovers. So much sensitivity and laxity make his way of playing Chopin unique and marvelous.

Part II
Songs like ‘Kalinka’ or ‘Hava Nagila’ have already been arranged by so many concert pianists, but the arrangements of Deniz Türkmen are pieces to break the fingers, which can count as a competitive sport. A lot of flexibility and perseverance are required in his arrangements to master these.
He has also arranged songs of Turkish art music, which are rich in beauty and elegance. The song ‘Sari Gelin’ evolves from pianissimo in C minor to fortissimo in E minor and is truly one of the greatest arrangements in the piano history. An arrangement that blows at the beginning like a spring wind, but later suddenly explodes like a volcano. Only a master can arrange with such a fire.

Part III
‘Poems’ is the latest composition by Deniz Türkmen. Various thundering and stormy pieces that reach the limits of the possible, but at the same time pieces with romantic and profound passages that lead one into a completely different world.
Such majestic, diabolical and thoughtful compositions the world has never heard before, these works are a treasure chest of music.

Part IV
Even with the encores Deniz Türkmen knows no limit. One encore after the other. The master pianist plays with great tenderness and all harshness if need be.
He gives the impression that he could play the concert again. The passionate marathon runner simply knows no exhaustion.

Deniz Türkmen, a musician with so many colors on the palette. His naturalness on the piano is always remarkable. May this genius continue to enchant this world with beautiful music.

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson and Beethoven’s Concerto No 5

Garrick Ohlsson, one of the world’s most esteemed pianists, is in his element when performing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5 known as the “Emperor.” He loves the blue skies and optimism Beethoven projects as he pushes the boundaries outward to give the feeling of spaces with great vistas. He regards it as a grand piece containing the small dramas found in all concertos when the individual voice enters.
The “Emperor” opens with three chords by the orchestra before the piano comes in and plays the main theme. Beethoven is the first composer to announce the piano in this way. When the explosive power and range of the piano gets warlike, there is a brief tug of war between the piano and strings before the setting evaporates into a quiet, pastoral place.
“The sheer beauty and romanticism of the slow movement is dreamy with a spiritual and warm welcome,” Ohlsson said. “When the piano enters with the theme from the last movement, there is a joyous outburst and a tremendous moment of assertion.”
Ohlsson’s repertoire is wonderfully broad and eclectic, but he initially was thrust into the limelight by Chopin. Upon winning the 1970 International Piano Competition, he became regarded as an expert on the composer. Although he has recorded many albums and CDs of Chopin works, he has also devoted considerable time to Beethoven, performing the complete cycle of the composer’s piano sonatas at numerous venues and winning a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance of Volume 3. His prolific discography includes works by Bartok, Barber, Brahms, Busoni Prokofiev, Gershwin, Scriabin and other composers too numerous to mention.
Most music students get to know Chopin early, but Ohlsson did not like him as a teenager and preferred Liszt. It was only when he got to know Chopin’s music more intimately that he appreciated his wide range and decided to enter a major competition, always the first step in a solo career.
Ohlsson compared the nature of an artist to that of an actor in that some can do small, exquisite roles while others can perform a wide range. By immersing oneself in a single composer for a given period, a musician learns his language system, his frames of reference and his strategies for outbursts of lyricism. Ohlsson likens the process to moving chess pieces or armies.
He is not only a superb artist, but also a witty speaker with the gift of getting inside a composer. His intensive research of favorite composers has unearthed intriguing information that allows them to be better understood. When he speaks before an audience, he likes to present information about a composer that can interest a layman and often take him by surprise. But when he performs a work such as Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, he wants everyone to forget what they know about the piece and to be as open as possible. There is no right way to hear a work, he cautions. Just listen. Just appreciate.

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder Pursues Many Interests

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder does not spend his valuable time practicing for hours on end; he fills his days with projects that illuminate him. One of the world’s most prolific recording artists, he boasts a discography of more than 100 albums encompassing the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas, the complete Beethoven and Mozart’s concertos, all of Haydn’s compositions for piano, both Brahms concertos and numerous other major works. No wonder he is called the “Viennese oracle.”
To close his U. S. tour with the Dresden Staatskapelle conducted by Daniel Harding, he chose Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor for the Kennedy Center. He enthuses over the concerto, one of the great ones in the repertoire, pointing out that Schumann, like Beethoven and other composers of his period, is romantic and sensitive with feeling and soul in his music. He snubs the idea of classification done by people who came along later and wanted to put everybody into a neat package.
Laughing, he said, “These poor guys didn’t know they were supposed to be organized and classified as classical, romantic, modern, or what-have-you.”
The Dresden Staatskapelle, one of the world’s oldest orchestras, has been led by many outstanding chief conductors since its founding in 1548, including Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner. As the orchestra of the Saxon State Opera, it is based in the opera house. This season, in his role as the orchestra’s Artist in Residence, Buchbinder will participate in two subscription series in Dresden and over a period of seven days will perform all 32 of Beethoven’s sonatas.
What might be a daunting task to others is sheer joy to the man who welcomes every opportunity to express himself live. He recorded all five Beethoven concertos live in two concerts on a single day and recorded the newly released Brahms piano concertos live with the Israel Philharmonic in Tel Aviv, Zubin Mehta conducting. He never goes into a studio if he can avoid it because he seeks the emotion that eludes him there. He enjoys recording live so much he doesn’t mind people coughing, especially if they cough when he plays wrong notes.
Buchbinder is not only one of the world’s greatest pianists, he is also a serious collector of autographed scores, first editions and original documents which he seeks out worldwide. He is equally interested in painting and modern art and often sketches for his own amusement, as evidenced by his intriguing signature in the form of a figure at the piano. Just for fun, he is an avid collector of great books and movies. Ask him about Abbott and Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Danny Kaye or Frank Sinatra and you quickly learn that all are represented in his collection of more than 4,000 movies. He even relishes bad movies.
“One day is not long enough for me,” he said. “Instead of using the piano as one would go to the office, I use my head, not my fingers, and become involved in many interests.”

Wildlife Viewing and Photography in Alaska

The North American continent is one of the premier wildlife viewing and photography spots in the world. It covers 10 time zones and is home to majestic mountains, stunning glaciers, lush temperate and coastal rain forests and countless miles of beaches, fjords and inlets. In addition to its scenic beauty, there are approximately 1,000 species of mammals and birds each, native to the land. The opportunities for wildlife and landscape photography are so diverse it is impossible to capture everything on a single trip, or even a single life span. For this article, I will limit my discussion to one particular place in North America – the State of Alaska, because one can see all three species of Ursi, namely Black, Grizzly and Polar Bears, majestic Golden and Bald Eagles, plus many different species of birds (including hummingbirds) and exciting whale species, like the Blue, Humpback, Bowhead, Orca, Beluga and many other cetaceans and pinnipeds.
I have been photographing wildlife in Alaska for some years now and have encountered many visitors from Australasia and Europe, especially the United Kingdom. My recommendation is to prioritize the species one would like to see before focusing on capturing their images. Black and Grizzly bears can be found from Ketchikan in the south, all the way up to the Brooks Range and other mountains in the southern Arctic region. Some great spots to see and photograph them are in the Tongass National Forest, near towns like Ketchikan, Wrangell, Hoonah and Haines. Kodiak Island and the Katmai National Park are prime locations to see the Kodiak brown bears. Polar bears are usually found near towns like Barrow, Wainwright and Kaktovik, deep in the Arctic Circle. Southeast Alaska is also a great spot for whale watching, especially the waters around Juneau, Seward, Kodiak, the Inside Passage and Icy Straits. Bald and Golden eagles are quite prevalent with the former rather ubiquitous around towns close to the water. The town of Haines boasts the largest concentration of Bald eagles in the world during the month of November due to the late run of salmon in the Chilkat River. The Alaska Bald Eagle Festival is held every year in town and attracts thousands of photographers from around the world.
The Northern part of Alaska, deep inside the Arctic Circle, is a favorite spot for birders and photographers. Although the number of species are not huge, millions of waterfowls and shore birds feed and nest around numerous lakes and puddles across the Arctic tundra. Snowy Owls and Arctic Foxes are often seen hunting on the frozen ground. For those who want to photograph the Aurora Borealis, early to mid Autumn is the best time. Fairbanks is probably the most popular spot for photographers chasing the Aurora but on clear, dark nights, one can see the Aurora from many parts of Northern Alaska. Late Spring to mid Summer, around the whaling season, is a good time to visit Barrow. The Northern most town in the US, named after Sir John Barrow, the second Secretary of the Admiralty. Polar Bears can be seen scavenging the remains of whales after the butchering. The Inupiat Eskimos are permitted to hunt a small number of whales every year for subsistence living.
The state of Alaska is big – over 663,000 square miles. It is about twice the size of Texas, over three times the size of California and about seven times the size of the United Kingdom. Although Alaska is home to lots of glaciers and snow, the summer months can be pleasantly warm, by Alaskan standards, of course. Protected by the Chugach Mountains and the Alaska Range and warmed by Pacific Ocean currents, Anchorage, the largest city in the state, has a temperate maritime climate. Summer temperatures can reach into the high 70s. Low humidity also contributes to Anchorage’s comfortable climate. However, temperatures can vary greatly depending on the region one may visit. Therefore, careful clothing selection is important to anticipate the unexpected. The best advice is to dress in layers, whether one is hiking in the wilderness or just walking around town and always have a waterproof parka available at all times.
Getting around Alaska is not easy and can be expensive because there are only a few main road systems and the rest of the state is very pristene and wild. For most people, flying into Seattle or Anchorage would be the start of their Alaskan adventure, if they are visiting the Southeastern or Northern part of the state, respectively. Fortunately, there is the robust Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System to connect most cities and towns. In addition, Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary, Horizon Air, can fly visitors into many big and small towns. Lastly, there is an army of bush pilots and a fleet of small planes and seaplanes ready to take adventurous photographers into almost anywhere not reached by the other modes of transportation. For the first time visitor, I advise sticking to one or two National Parks or towns and try not to overextend oneself. There is never any guarantee in wildlife sightings and photography but if one is willing to do some thorough research before going to Alaska and is prepared to spend at least two weeks, I can assure any traveler and photographer an unforgettable experience in one of the most spectacular scenic and wildlife locations in the world.

African Safaris Are the King of Adventure Vacations

It is a vacation full of incredible scenery and beauty, an untamed frontier of danger and mystery that sits on most bucketlists everywhere. It is the African Safari.
A safari is without a doubt an adventure that cannot be match anywhere in the world. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, going on a safari through the Savanna Plains of Africa is one of those things that while you are experiencing it, you can’t help but think… “Wow, and this happens every day!”
A trek through Tanzania with Mt. Kilimanjaro as a backdrop sets the scene for one of the most spectacular events in the animal kingdom, the Great Migration. This incredible annual event of over 2 million herbivores grazing their way across the Serengeti plains in search of newer pastures and water is an awesome spectacle of cat and mouse as herds of zebra, gazelle and wildebeest fight for survival against the elements and prey, in what can only be described as one of the most phenomenal natural wonders of the world. The circle of life reaches its peak at the Grumeti Senengeti Tented Camp as over 1.5 million wildebeest attempt the terrifying river crossing in crocodile infested waters in order to continue north.
When you think of an African safari, images of The Big 5 come to mind. Originally chosen by hunters listed by difficulty in hunting and the danger they possess, the lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and Cape buffalo are still tracked and stalked by safaris every day. Good news for the Big 5 is that for the most part, they are being looked at through a telephoto lens instead of a rifle scope. Of course, cruising along in your 4×4 safari truck also presents opportunity to view other favorites such as the giraffe, hippo, hyena, baboon and cheetahs just to name a few. The experience of waking up in your resort and stepping out on to your porch to see giraffe walk by as the sun is coming up over the plains is something that you will never forget. The best viewing of these icons of the animal planet is on a safari in Kenya but modern-day safaris are not just about the animals anymore. While visiting Kenya or Tanzania, a stop to a traditional Maasai village is just as rewarding as crossing “male lion” off of your “must see on safari” list.
The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is an amazing place to get year-round viewing of the extensive wildlife, to interact with the Maasai and while not out on a day safari, being pampered in some of the most exclusive and first-class accommodations found anywhere in the world. However, at up to $3000/night, you’ll be glad know there are alternatives for accommodation.
Accommodation on safaris range from traditional “under the stars” tent camps to first class resorts that you wouldn’t expect out in the middle of the African plains. Unique living such as tree-top style resorts or spending nights with the Maasai, it’s all available and fits into your budget and style, it all depends on your comfort level.
While not on safari, or for a change of pace, take a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro for a spectacular view of the Savanna laid out before you or take a hot air balloon ride for an aerial view of the thunderous herd below.
As humans we are often fascinated by the animal kingdom and sure, you can go to a zoo, but there is nothing like seeing the nature of the beast in its natural environment and its raw and pure form. It is the attraction of seeing the incredible power of the elephant, the stalking ability of the lion, the gracefulness of the giraffe and gazelle, and the daily fight for survival that draw us to the safari and it’s the natural instinct or bond we have to these beasts that we associate ourselves with that allow us to leave the safari knowing we experienced something really special.

California Travel – From Santa Barbara to Monterey by Car

Northern Santa Barbara County, and the California coast beyond, offer tourist attractions worth spending a few days enjoying. There are a number of natural wonders and great tourist stops to be seen driving north from Santa Barbara. This trip is suitable for both couples and families.
Take the San Marcos Pass road as you leave the city of Santa Barbara. This is a breathtaking mountain drive that heads up the side of La Cumbra Peak on Highway 154. Along the way to the highest part of the highway, there are many scenic turnouts for a panoramic view of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands National Park and the many miles of coastline.
Once over the pass, you’ll drive by Cachuma Lake. This is a state recreation resource for camping and fishing.
Santa Ynez, for which this valley and region are named, is an old California mission town. Here you will find a number of fine art galleries and the county’s fine wineries. Notable celebrity homes here include President Reagan’s ranch and the Neverland retreat of entertainer Michael Jackson.
The quaint community of Solvang is just a few miles west of Santa Ynez on Hwy. 246, just west of Hwy. 101. It is a remarkable replication of an old Danish village, complete with a giant windmill. The town boasts some of the best Danish bakeries and buffet smorgasbords in the country. Spend a few hours here for lunch, and to visit the Scandinavian craft and souvenir shops. You’ll forget, for just a while, that you’re in the heart of Southern California horse and wine country.
The beautiful state beach parks just a few miles north of the city are yet another group of attractions. Leaving town, travel north along the coast on Highway 101. The road today retraces the historic El Camino Real, or King’s Highway. Check out El Capitan, Refugio or Gaviota state beach parks. They offer fishing, camping, and picnic sites on remarkable beaches.
Santa Maria is the next town up the highway. Santa Maria Tri-Tip barbecue is a local tradition. It’s not like anything you’ll find in Texas or other barbecue meccas. This is rubbed and marinated barbecued sirloin roast. It’s sliced thin, and is usually served rare. Typically it is eaten with corn tortillas or on a sandwich bun, and along with Santa Maria’s slow-baked Poquito beans. It’s well worth the stop to try.
Less than half an hour north of Santa Maria is the picturesque seaside town of Pismo Beach. Most of the motels and restaurants are on the ocean side of the highway, set on the cliffs overlooking a view of miles of coastline. Pismo Beach claims to be the world’s clam capital, owing to the unusually large, tasty and abundant Pismo clam. Several versions of clam recipes are available in a number of the local restaurants.
The nearby Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. It is a 1,500 acre sand dune state park for ATV and 4-wheel vehicles. There are camping and RV facilities available. This is one of the few places in California where driving on the beach is permitted. Bringing folding beach chairs is a good idea.
Continuing north from Pismo Beach, you can drive up the tiny coast road to the town of Morro Bay. It’s a town with a distinctive New England coastal flavor. This is where the Pacific Coast Highway becomes part of the National Scenic Byways Program. Enjoy the road stretch from Morro Bay on the south, along the Big Sur coastline, up to Monterey at the north. Without exaggeration, this is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking roads anywhere in the world.
Exploring the central California coast is a great and affordable journey. There’s no need to forgo travel plans because of today’s high cost of living.

Are Economy Cars Always Cheap To Own?

Are Cheap Cars Really Cheap To Own?
I know that the sticker price is very important to most auto shoppers. This is true if people are looking for a new or used vehicle. However, the actual price of the vehicle should just be one factor to consider. It may not really illustrate the cost of owning a vehicle very well at all!
Consider an obvious example. A lot of people are trying to sell their gas guzzlers for very cheap prices today. You may not pay much for the used vehicle, but with rising gas prices, keeping it fueled can be a larger expense than paying for the car. In addition, if you have not done your homework, you may take home a used car with some mechanical problems. Repair costs can eat into your budget too. All of a sudden, the bargain you picked up at the used car lot is not looking like a very good choice any longer.
Sometimes, paying more for the vehicle, and getting a car that is easy on fuel and does not need major repairs, ends up being a much more frugal choice. Before you purchase a vehicle it is a good idea to have it checked out, and to do some research on fuel economy.
I gave a used car as my first example. However, you can have the same problem if you are shopping for a brand new car from the dealer’s lot. The low end economy car may seem like a great deal. It may even have great gas mileage and a warranty that will save you from a lot of extra costs.
However, you also need to consider the cost of insuring your new car. If you look at a list of the least expensive cars to cover, you will find a lot of minivans, sturdy SUVs, and even some pickups on the list. The lowest priced, economy models may actually cost more to cover. If you have purchased an inexpensive car to control car payments, but then end up with an expensive insurance bill, you may not have really gotten such a good deal after all.
You might have paid $50 a month less for your compact car than you would have for the slightly larger SUV. But you may end up sinking that extra cash into insurance. You could have paid the same total amount of money, and ended up with a more expensive car.
Are Used Cars Always Cheaper?
If you want to buy a reliable used vehicle to save money, be sure it will really save you money in the long run. Some financing companies charge higher interest rates for used car purchases. The difference in interest rates can mean higher car payments in the end. You also have to check into how much money you might save by getting a new car with a good warranty.
Some new cars have advanced safety features which also make then less expensive to insure than used cars. If you want to estimate the cost an auto policy, you cannot always go by the vehicle sales price either!
What Is The Cost Of Car Ownership?
You have to consider the total cost of car ownership. This is not always possible to predict, but you can find out a lot about most makes and models. Look into estimated repair bills, warranty coverage, the cost of an auto policy, and available financing. These are important factors, and they can change the equation much more than the selling price of the car!