Monthly Archives: December 2017

Skillet Toffee

holidays #holidaygiving

Ingredients:
1 pound unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup chopped toasted blanched almonds

Directions:
Line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch x 15-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. As the butter melts, stir in the sugar and salt. Continue stirring rapidly with a wooden spoon, keeping the sides of pan clean by brushing occasionally with a wet pastry brush. The mixture should bubble as you stir. Cook until the mixture turns a deep auburn brown and registers 300°F on a candy thermometer, taking care not to burn it. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Allow it to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then sprinkle the mixture with the chocolate. When the chocolate looks glossy, spread it with an offset cake spatula, and sprinkle with the nuts. Gently press the nuts into the chocolate.

Cool completely (at least 6 hours) then break the toffee into chunks.

PASSWORD SAFETY: Top tips for locking down your online security

Passwords: Top tips for locking down your online security

We all know hiding your house key under the doormat is a terrible idea, but we do it anyway because it is a convenient backup. When it comes to safeguarding passwords, especially in a family setting, people often choose convenience over safety.
As families manage their digital information and online accounts, many will end up opting for that less secure key-under-the-doormat solution. People are already sharing passwords, and their methods of sharing are not always the best. Some 41 percent of adults with online accounts admit to sharing passwords with friends and family, according to an Americans and Cybersecurity survey by Pew Research Center. Yet, 90.8 percent of respondents say they know that having strong passwords helps them better protect their families.

Consider the number of security breaches that continue to make national news:
* In 2016, we learned the Yahoo data breach compromised 1 billion accounts.
* In that same month, we learned 167 million email addresses and passwords were stolen from LinkedIn.
* In September 2017, a security breach at Equifax was reported, exposing Social Security numbers and other personal data of 143 million users, which is nearly half the U.S. population.
Now more than ever, it is clear how important it is to protect our personal information online. According to a Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, 81 percent of data breaches involve weak, reused or stolen credentials. That is significantly higher than the 63 percent it was in 2016.

“If you were to dig into the reasons behind these repeated, overly simple, shared passwords, it is actually pretty understandable as to how this happens,” according to LastPass Senior Director of Product. “The average person has some 200-plus logins. If you were to give each its own strong, unique password, that is way too many for one person to keep track of and remember, let alone all the other family members that might also use some of those accounts.”

But there is no need to trade security for the convenience of digital access. With a password manager designed for individual or family use, you can create those strong passwords for all the accounts you and your family use, and store them within a secure vault that is accessed by a single master password only you know. These digital lockboxes protect your information under multiple layers of security, making it impossible for digital thieves to hack and access.

If you are debating whether to make the switch to a digital password manager, here are a few ways it can improve your family’s online security and help stop the struggle with passwords.

Create rock-solid passwords: Most password managers offer a secure password generator that allows you to set and create a long, strong and unique password for every online account. You can create a password up to 100 characters long, including numbers and symbols. Another way to do it is by using the “passphrase” approach, meaning string together words that create a phrase. Be sure to steer clear of birthdays, anniversaries, street names and other specific personal details that can be found through a social media search.

Secure more than just passwords: There is an endless number of passwords and sensitive information you can store in your password manager, including banking logins, passport and license numbers, shopping accounts, email and social media passwords and more. By storing all of this information in your secure vault, you will always have access to the information whenever and wherever you may need it.

Safely share passwords with family members: One benefit of a password manager that is designed for family use is that it lets you safely and conveniently store passwords and valuable documents in folders for flexible sharing with others in the family. LastPass Families includes unlimited shared folders, which means you can create multiple folders and store an endless number of passwords and share with those in your family. For example, you could put your banking account password into one folder and share access with your spouse, have another folder for your favorite streaming services and securely share access to them with the whole family. All the while, you can keep your personal accounts private.

Plan for the digital afterlife: When there is a death or serious emergency, it turns out that state and federal laws, along with service agreements, can block your family from getting access to your online accounts. With a password manager that allows emergency access, family members can get into your password vault and have access to whatever they need.

DIY Home Upgrades

DIY home upgrade

Do-it-yourself home projects are sweeping the nation, and it is easy to see why. DIY is typically budget-friendly and fulfilling to complete; simply find the right project to match your skill set and needs.

Make a hardware swap. Replacing your kitchen cabinets changes the entire look of your kitchen – but it is expensive and requires considerable skill. For a simpler, smaller project that can still have a big impact, replace the hardware on your cabinets instead. Select the hardware type first, then move on to style. Crisp, sleek hardware goes best with a modern kitchen, while more detailed offerings work well with classic, traditional kitchens.

Refresh your space with a fresh coat of paint. Repainting a wall or room is the perfect way to showcase your style, without breaking the bank. Try going bold with pops of color on an accent wall. It is easy to recreate a space that reflects who you are, without making expensive renovations.

Illuminate a simple change. It does not always take a huge change to reinvent a room; it can be as easy as changing the light fixture. You could choose to repaint your existing chandelier or you could give your ceiling fan a new look by replacing the blades. If you are on the crafty side, try making your own shade for an existing lamp with some of your favorite fabric.

Invite people to your gallery. If you cannot decide on the one perfect image for your wall, then why not go for several? Gallery walls are a great way to show your favorite prints and photos artistically. Pick the wall and apply a fresh coat of paint. Once the wall is ready, pick your photos or prints and set them in frames you love. Now the fun part lay your works of art on an open floor space and rearrange them until you find the perfect layout.

Bring a new vibe to your existing furniture. If a chair or loveseat is starting to show its age, reupholstering it is a great way to give the piece fresh life. Remove the current fabric and replace it with a new fabric of your choosing. Apply staples or stitching to hold the new fabric in place, and that old piece of furniture will have a distinctive new look.

Showing Tips for Sellers

Showing tips for sellers

Get your listing in showing shape with these simple tips.

Lighten up. Some people prefer to live in dark houses. When you have a listing on the market, you must let the light shine in. Leave the shades up and the drapes opened. Homes show so much better with light.

Size up the competition. Walk through model homes or similar listings in your area to see what professionally staged homes look like. You can get a variety of great ideas to prepare your home for sale.

Define the space. Creatively define each space to highlight its use. Create a mudroom that is neat and orderly, a home office workspace, or a kid’s afterschool room with chalkboards and desks. Do not make potential buyers guess what the room is the used for.

Add simple curb appeal. Thoroughly clear all little branches, rake the leaves, and trim the bushes. Every landscaping detail proves that you care, and this translates to buyer appeal!

Not your own space. Take away everything that makes you feel like this is only your home (also get a head start on packing). Think about highlighting the best feature in each room.

Real Estate Experts Want You To Know

Real Estate Experts want you to know

When it comes time to sell your house, things can become very personal quickly. This makes having an open, honest relationship with your real estate professional a key element to the success of the sale of your home.
Before you put your home on the market, here are some things expert real estate agents want you to know:

1. Your stuff is lovely, but – While your home may be beautifully decorated, it still looks like your home, not the potential buyers’ home. Clutter can make a home feel cramped and leave a bad first impression.
If you are going to be moving anyway, it makes perfect sense to start packing and putting a lot of your current belongings in storage.

2. Stop hiding things – Leaky faucets? Termites? An air conditioner that barely blows cool air? Do not keep any of your home’s flaws from your real estate professional because you are worried it might hurt your chances of selling your home.
Remember, your listing agent is on your side and knows what must be fixed or what can slide—so go ahead and share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whatever you hide from an agent will most likely be discovered later and then it will be a significant problem.

3. You need to fix a few things – You need to know that it costs money to sell your home. You will need to invest money in your home to make it look good to potential buyers.
Replace the trim, clean the scuff marks off the walls, and power-wash the vinyl siding. To you, the condition of your home is totally normal because you have lived there for years. To buyers, this may mean expensive repairs, which may cause them to lowball you or not make an offer at all.

4. Your remodeling might not pay off much – Blood, sweat, tears, and a heck of a lot of cash might have gone into your remodeling projects, but that does not mean there is a guaranteed payback for any of it.
An ROI, or Return On Investment, means that some home upgrades do not necessarily increase value. It largely depends on what kind of home improvement you do. Ask me for a list of some common renovations with their projected return on investment.

5. Don’t overprice – While listing at a high price and then coming down as necessary seems like the best way to avoid leaving any money on the table, you could be doing yourself a disservice.
If you overprice your home, buyers may not catch that, but buyer’s agents will. When a home is overpriced, buyer’s agents will either avoid bringing their buyers or, worse yet, they use it as an example to sell another property.

6. Cleanliness really does count – When you are ready to sell, put in the time or the money to make sure your home is beyond clean. Everything gets noticed during a showing. The kitchen and the bathrooms are the two main areas where cleanliness – or lack thereof – is most obvious.

7. Have some patience – Yes, we know you thought your beautiful house would fly off the market the moment you list it, but that is not always the case. In fact, realtor.com data shows that homes sit on the market for an average of 66 days.
The real estate process is long: from showings to inspections to negotiations to the close of escrow. Be patient! Persevering leads to success.