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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Seven Secrets To Getting The Best Auto Leasing Deal

1. Watch Out For Advertised Specials-Advertised specials are not as appealing as they seem. Sometimes car makers keep the monthly lease payments low by allowing 10,000 miles instead of 12,000 miles. They also may require steep down payments which are more than lessees normally pay.

2. Select A High Residual Auto - The size of your lease payments will be based on how close your vehicle's residual value or worth when you turn it in at lease end. Acura, Toyota, Honda, BMW, Lexus,  and Mercedes  hold their value quite well. American brands don't do as well.

3. E-mail Or Call Three To Five Dealerships - Contact the Internet department and explain that you are "shopping for a lease payment" on your vehicle. This lets dealers know that you are contacting competitors and will improve your odds of getting a competitive price. Also, keep in mind that "advertised lease deals" are negotiable! Tell each dealer that you won't visit their lot until you have received a written quote and have agreed to terms. The only exception is to visit a lot for a test drive. But whatever you do, DO NOT enter into the salesperson's office.  Remember, arriving on a lot without a deal in hand reduces your leverage.

4. Get A Work Sheet - Ask the dealer with the lowest monthly payment to email you a "work sheet".
This sheet puts the details  of the lease offer on paper. Some dealers will balk about emailing you a work sheet, but tell them that they will eliminated from your list if they fail to comply.

5. Get The True Market Value & Dealer Invoice - Go to www.Edmunds.Com  to get this info. Note that the true market value may be below the dealer invoice price if there is a factory rebate on the car. If the capitalized cost listed on the work sheet is higher than the true market value, then subtract the dealer invoice price from the capitalized cost. Then email the dealer and say, " I noticed that this lease is based on a capitalized cost of ( X  number of dollars ) above ( or below ) the dealer invoice price.My research indicates that this car is currently selling at ( X number of above or below ) the invoice price."To get this figure subtract the dealer invoice price from the true market value to get this figure. In most cases, these numbers will be quite close. Then say, I'm looking for a dealer that will lease to me at that figure." Try this first with the dealer that gave you the lowest monthly payment.Then try the others if the first dealer won't give you a capitalized cost close to true market value.

6. Check The Money Factor - This is also called a "lease factor", "lease rate" or just "factor". It is the lease equivalent of the interest rate on a car loan. But it is presented in a confusing way to make it difficult for lessees to tell if their getting a good rate. To convert the money factor  to an interest rate, multiply it by 2,400. For example, A .00125 money factor x 2,400 = and interest rate of 3%. If the figure is higher than the going rate on a car loan, you might be paying too much. This is usually something that a dealer can't negotiate since it is st by the bank or leasing company. However, a high money factor may indicate that the leasing company considers you to be a high credit risk. If that doesn't seem right to you, obtain copies of your credit reports from www.AnnualCreditReport.Com  and get your FICO score too. You get get it free on a monthly basis if you have a Discover IT card. If  you have a current Discover card, Discover will change it over to an IT card for free. Go to www.Discover.Com for more details. 

7.  How To Handle Your Trade-In  Go to www.Edmunds.Com   again and get the value of your used car. Look for the drop down menu that reads, "trade-in value and pricing".You'll get three numbers. The trade-in or wholesale value, the private party sale value and the dealer retail. Try to get the dealer to give you  a trade-in value as close as you can get between private party sale and dealer retail. If not, try to locate a www.CarMax.Com   used car dealership to sell your car. If there's not one near you, sell it yourself on www.Craigslist.Com            

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

How The Latest Carpet Cleaning Scam Can Lead To Burglary, Home Invasion Or Identity Theft

Just as sure as the sunrise, it’s guaranteed to happen every Spring. They promise  to clean all the carpets in your  house for  $59.00. Sound too good to be true?  It probably is. To make matters worse, they finally show up–three hours late-in a beat up pick-up truck with no company name,  and hop out in torn jeans and a soiled tee-shirt. Then you realize it: you’ve been the victim of a bait -and -switch campaign.   What is bait and switch?

 Bait and switch scams work like this: a company advertises cleaning a roomful of carpet of carpet for a  ridiculously low price. When they arrive, they inform you the price they quoted is only for the traffic lanes and doesn’t include any cleaning chemicals. So you agree to pay extra for  the chemicals  because you are thankful someone  showed up. In the end, the final bill ends up costing you hundreds of dollars.   

 Another typical scam is hearing that a company will clean a set amount of rooms for  a very low price ( like 5 rooms for $49.00). After they begin, you discover a linen closet, hallway, foyer, or regular closet counts as a room, and you wind up paying a lot more than you thought you would. Bait-and-switch scams are especially targeted at the elderly. Seniors are more likely to be intimidated by high pressure tactics and by someone who “promises” to  give then a good deal.   

The latest carpet cleaning ruse  is promoted  through deal-of-the-day websites. That’s where you’re offered 3 rooms  of carpet cleaning for $49.  To take advantage of this offer, you have to prepay for a non-refundable certificate that expires in 90 days. Also, the website that makes the offer  IS NOT responsible for the quality of the work. Plus all sales are final. What you don’t know is that most companies that do this went into business yesterday. 

Then, they have have to give half of the $49 or $24.50 to the deal-of-the-day websites.  Do you really think that they can afford to clean 3 rooms of  carpets in your house for $24.50 and still make a profit? Of course not.  Most of the time, they don’t even show up for appointments. If they do show up, then  they'll tell you that you're going to  get a quick dash and splash job that just uses water. If you want a better job, you'll have to fork up  more money for them to use a cleaning chemical.  Or they get so many calls, they’ll book you out three months in advance and then the certificate expires. If they do show up, the job won't be guaranteed.

If  you complain about them to the BBB, Yelp or Google+, that’s OK. They’ll be in business tomorrow under another name as quick as you can change your socks. Then they’ll do it all over again.               
One  reason why they may clean for such a low price  is because they may be gang bangers or illegal aliens with criminal records or foreign nationals.  And entering your home allows them to "case" your home to plan a future burglary or home invasion. They also may sell your credit card info to an identity theft ring.       
 Professional carpet cleaning technicians will arrive in a company vehicle with company identification on the side. They may also be uniformed, should be well groomed, and should provide some sort of business or certification card.  If they are more like person described at the beginning of this story, then don’t let them in.                                
                     So how can you avoid these latest carpet cleaning  scams?

The best protection against these scams  is to ask some pointed questions before the cleaner arrives at your home. Call several local cleaning companies. If the company cannot answer simple questions, move on to another company. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

                                       Here are  9 questions you should ask:

    1.  Are you certified in carpet cleaning? Do you have any formal training?

    2.    How many years has your company been in business? ( the longer, the better)

    3.   Can you provide a list of references I can call? 

    4.  Is your company  drug, alcohol and criminal free? ( Companies that don’t screen their  employees can put you and your loved ones at risk. To be on the safe side, DO NOT deal with companies or cleaners who don’t pre-screen and drug test  their employees)
     5. Can you provide proof of insurance and a  business license?

     6.  What steps will be included in your cleaning process?

     7.   How long will it take for the carpet to dry?
     8.   Do you offer free, no-obligation, on-site  written quotations?

     9 .  Do you offer a written, satisfaction or money back guarantee?       

   10.   Are your cleaning solutions certified organic and  natural , and do you
           warrant that they are completely safe for my family, my pets and the earth?           
After your questions have been answered, you also may what to check the firm’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau at www. bbb. org . You can also check  the consumer affairs department of your state’s attorney general’s office. “You’d be shocked at the number of well known companies that have lousy reputations  when  it comes to addressing consumer complaints. 

 When you have decided on a cleaner,  make sure  you pay your bill with a major credit card. Sometimes it’s difficult getting a cleaner to  come back to fix a problem after you’ve  paid the bill. Paying by credit card will give you an option to dispute the bill if the problem is not resolved to your satisfaction.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Phenominal Pizza Dough Recipe

Active Time:     1/2  hrs
Total Time:       3 hrs plus risng time
Yield:               3 large pizzas

This recipe is for a long, slow refrigerated rise. For a quicker rise, you can leave the dough in a warm spot for 2 or 3 hours, but it's flavor and texture will be slightly compromised.


4 cups unbleached bread flour plus extra for dusting

1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

1 3/4 cups of filtered or bottled water at room temperature

2 1/4 teaspoons of coarse salt

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and yeast. Slowly add water, mixing with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Stir in salt and oil. At this point, the dough should be rough and raggedy. Brush with olive
oil. Cover bowl with a dry kitchen towel and let it rest for one hour.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and pat with flour. Holding tow opposite ends, pull the dough until its about a foot long. Then fold the dough back onto itself and pinch the ends together. Repeat the process 4 more times, rotating the dough each time to stretch alternate sides, until it feels smooth.

Then place dough in a well oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in the refrigerator until it doubles in bulk, or at least 24 to 48 hours.

Turn the dough on a floured surface. Cut into 3 equal parts and form it into balls. Brush each ball with oil and cover them to rest for an hour. 

Then transfer one of the doughs to a 9 x 13 inch  rimmed baking pan. Pull edges to fill pan. Apply your favorite tomato sauce then spread on shredded  mozzarella cheese and bake. Preheat your oven to 450 F and cook pizza for 15 to 20 minutes on until done.

If you wish to freeze the dough it will keep beautifully..    

Recipe's For Incredible Edible Gifts

House-Jarred Marinated Feta

Makes: one 9-ounce jar

Cut 6 ounces feta into ¾-inch cubes. Pick the leaves from a 6-inch sprig each of thyme and rosemary. Use a vegetable peeler to remove four 2-inch-long strips of lemon peel from 1 lemon. // In a clean 9-ounce jar, lay down ⅓ of feta cubes, followed by ½ of thyme and rosemary. Sprinkle 5 pink peppercorns and a pinch of Aleppo pepper on top, followed by 2 lemon strips. Repeat process once more with the same amounts of feta, pink peppercorns and Aleppo pepper, then top with remaining feta cubes, leaving a ½-inch gap at top of jar. // Pour in olive oil to cover feta completely. Seal and let sit in refrigerator at least 7 days before using. // To serve, remove from refrigerator about 20 minutes in advance to let oil come to room temperature. Store, refrigerated, up to two months.

Fruited Sugar

Makes: one 16-ounce jar

In a 16-ounce terrine jar, sprinkle ¼ cup amber sugar crystals, followed by ¼ cup dried fruit. Repeat three more times with the same amounts of sugar and fruit, placing 1 cinnamon stick in after the second layer, leaving a ½-inch gap at top of jar. // Pour in 1 cup dark rum (at least 50% ABV), until top layer is just covered. Bring ¼ cup honey to a boil and pour it over top. Seal immediately. // Once opened, store in refrigerator up to six months.

Thyme Oil and Blood Orange Vinegar

Makes: one 12-ounce jar of oil and one 12-ounce jar of vinegar  

 Peel 4 small or 2 large blood oranges, reserving a 2-inch strip of peel, free of pith. Use a paring knife to remove orange flesh in sections from membrane. Pour 8 ounces red wine vinegar into a blender and squeeze in any remaining juice from orange membrane. Add orange flesh and purée until smooth. Store in a sealed container in refrigerator for 24 hours, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve and transfer to a 12-ounce bottle. Close tightly. Vinegar will keep up to four weeks. // Make thyme oil: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Wash ¼ bunch fresh thyme under running water and dry with paper towels. Arrange sprigs on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake just until brittle, 5-10 minutes. In a medium pot over low heat, combine 12 ounces olive oil and dried thyme. Cook just below a simmer 4-5 minutes. Transfer thyme to a paper towel and let oil cool to room temperature. Once oil has cooled, pour into a sterile 12-ounce bottle. Add reserved thyme. Close tightly. Oil will keep, refrigerated, up to four weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

Brain Dead Simple Desserts That Will Drive Your Dinner Guests Bananas

Best Banana Cake Around

Active Time: 45 minutes Total Time: 10 hours (includes overnight chilling) Serves: 12 
For the cake:
2¼ cups sifted cake flour, plus more for flouring pan
1½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon, plus a pinch of salt
½ cup vegetable oil
5 large egg yolks
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1½ cups shredded, sweetened coconut, toasted (optional)
3 firm-ripe bananas, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds (optional)

For the icing:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2¼ cups sugar
6 tablespoons cold water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1½ tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the banana filling: 
2 cups cold heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
3 large overripe bananas, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
5½ ounces instant vanilla pudding mix
1¼ cups whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
2. Sift flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt together into a bowl. In this order, add the following, one at a time, to flour mixture stirring after each addition: oil, egg yolks, juices and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer at low speed to whisk egg whites, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until opaque. Slowly add remaining sugar and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form. Stir in a quarter of beaten whites into flour mixture, then fold in the rest.
4. Pour batter into greased pan, smoothing the top and rapping once on the table to eliminate air bubbles. Place on middle rack in oven and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan, upside down, on a rack.
5. Remove cake from pan, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
6. Make icing: Place all ingredients except vanilla in a large stainless steel bowl. Use an electric mixer or a whisk to beat until combined. Fill a wide, deep skillet with 2 inches of water and set over medium heat. Bring to a steady simmer and place bowl in skillet, making sure water level is at least as high as egg whites inside bowl. Beat on low speed until mixture reaches 140 degrees, using an instant-read thermometer to monitor temperature. (Do not stop beating or egg whites will overcook.) Increase speed to high and continue to beat exactly 6 minutes. (Icing will be very thick.) Remove from heat, add vanilla and beat on low speed to cool, 2-3 minutes. Set aside. (Use within 6 hours.)
7. Make banana filling: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, 2-4 minutes. In a large bowl, toss bananas with lemon juice. Add instant pudding and milk to bananas and stir. Gently fold in whipped cream. Set aside.
8. To assemble, use a large knife to slice cake horizontally into three even layers. Place bottom cake layer on a large plate. Spread half of banana filling on top, then lay second cake layer on top of filling. Spread on remaining filling, then lay third cake layer on top. Spread icing over top and sides of cake. If you are garnishing with coconut or banana rounds, distribute them over top and sides of cake. (Bananas should be added just before serving as they will brown quickly.) Serve immediately or refrigerate and then serve.

Banana Cream Pie

Active Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 3½ hours (includes chilling) Serves: 8

For the vanilla cream filling:
⅔ cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
6 large egg yolks, well beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small bits
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the pie:
1 homemade 9-inch basic pie crust, or store bought  pre-baked, or frozen + thawed
4 large very ripe but not overripe bananas, cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Make vanilla cream filling: In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt until well-blended. Gradually whisk in, one at a time, milk, heavy cream and egg yolks, whisking until no yellow streaks remain.
2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. Custard will begin to lump. Off heat, scrape sides of saucepan with rubber spatula and whisk until smooth and no lumps remain.
3. Return to heat and, whisking constantly, bring to a simmer and cook 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in butter, then vanilla. Lay plastic wrap directly on surface of filling, to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool. (Cooled filling can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.)
4. Make pie: Spoon a third of vanilla cream filling into crust. Scatter half of sliced bananas evenly over filling. Repeat process. Top with remaining filling.
5. Lay plastic wrap directly on surface of filling. Refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 6 hours.
6. In a medium bowl, whip cream with sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form, 2-4 minutes.
7. Before serving, spread whipped cream evenly over pie. (Pie may be slightly runny when cut.)

Bananas Foster

Total Time: 15 minutes Serves: 1
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 banana, sliced in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Small pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon dark rum (such as Myers's)
1 large scoop vanilla ice cream
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and cook until it turns light brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Add banana to pan in one layer and cook until fruit browns and begins to caramelize, about 1 minute per side. Toss with sugar and cinnamon and cook until sauce thickens and begins to caramelize, 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat.
3. Meanwhile, warm rum in a small saucepan over medium heat. Use a match or a lighter to ignite alcohol and pour flaming rum carefully over bananas. Shake pan and stir until flames die out.
4. Serve in dessert bowls with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Long Shelf Life Food You Should Stockpile For Emergencies

 Keep in mind that the shelf life durations are based on foods being kept in a cool dry place away  from sunlight 

1. Baking Soda -                   25 years      
2. Beans (dried)                     7 years       
3. Carrots (dried)                   7 years
4. Coccoa                              20 years        
 5. Cormeal                             5 years         
 6 .Freeze Dried Fruits           8 years
     & Veggies
 7. Fruit ( dried )                      5 years
 8. Honey                             FOREVER
 8. Milk ( dried)                       5 years
9.  Pasta                                   7 years
10. Potatoes (instant)           20 years
11. Rice                                    7 years
12. Rolled Oats                     25 years
13. Salt                                   25 years
14. Soup Mix                           5 years
15. Sugar                                 7 years
16. Wheat                              25 years
17. Most Canned Foods        3 years
18. Meals-Ready 2 Eat           4 years