Video Game Tester Jobs Can Jump Start You on Almost Any Game Development Path

September 23, 2016

Video game QA testing may be low on the game development totem pole, just above “personal projects” you’d never think about including in your resume. But used correctly, both can carry you a long way towards becoming a game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer.It’s all about broader experience inventory and growth through progress.It would seem fairly obvious. Look at anyone in college working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine, and what do you see them doing? That’s right, working at any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment) which they can find. They know even a role only loosely related to the one they aspire towards in their chosen field serves as a stepping stone towards more relevant positions once the opportunity becomes available.As is the case in medicine, software development is a industry made up of many narrow roles. If you’re only focused on “qualifying for your desired role”, you may end up short changing yourself in two ways. First, by not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained through non-professional work and personal hobbies. Second, by overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you.Let’s look at the first problem: “not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained”.I don’t see this problem a lot in sales and marketing, regardless if it’s computer entertainment sales, advertisement sales, or used car sales. In fact, newer “greener” aspiring sales reps often need to learn a page from aspiring software developers about “Never put anything in your portfolio that someone wouldn’t pay you for”. Where the aspiring gaming professional falls short is recognizing what actually counts as valuable to those they present their resumes and portfolios to. They’ll often include what they consider “real job experience”, such as “Manager at Macy’s”, or “Audits and Accounting at Wells Fargo” (neither of which has anything to do with game or software development); but avoid including things like “my dorm mate and I wrote “Squares vs Circles” (an iPhone app) for fun while we were in college, it got 500,000 downloads within a month of release” (so what you are saying is, you wrote, developed, tested, and published popular and successful software on your own for fun?)It’s as if those aspiring to game development roles almost seem to have an “inferiority complex” when it comes to the kinds of experiences relevant to the gaming field. While considering any work they think of as “from a real company” with “a real paycheck attached” automatically more important. The thing is: the person looking over your resume doesn’t care about any of that. They’re not your dad who thinks you should get a “real job”, or your mom who worries about you’re “spending too much time on the internet”, they are people looking for someone with experience that has to do with games. Don’t discount experience because it was “just a personal project”. If you want to be hired in the area of game development you need to show how you have already performed successfully in game development. Whether or not you got paid, and regardless whether or not it resembles what you or your peers think of as “a real company”, “real work”, or “real professional”. What matters is that it was developing a game, and you completed the project as defined – or better. That’s what people want to hear about.

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Now take a look at the second problem: “overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you”.This one is a little trickier, because it requires a balancing act. You see, another important thing to remember is “Build your portfolio around a single focus”. I’m not going into detail about that here, as it mostly goes beyond the scope of this article. But, it needs to be mentioned as it’s the other end of the spectrum in so far as: on one level, you don’t want to overlook potential resume building opportunities, but at the same time, you don’t want to build a portfolio of non-relevant experience and garbage either.The best way to look at it is, if you have an opportunity to work in a position which is highly relevant to your desired role in gaming – say for example story line creator – by all means favor that work over work that’s less closely related. But when such positions are scarce or highly competitive, don’t overlook opportunity to work in any game development role – even if it falls outside the scope of the game development area you ultimately aspire towards.The reality is, jobs in game development are places where many come – but few may enter. There simply aren’t enough positions to fill in any one role for everyone who applies at the door. And even experience outside the role you aspire towards can help you as it gives you familiarity, exposure to a variety of technology, and broader experience with the roles of others you might have to later work with.The lowly and relatively low paying Video Game Tester Jobs.Compared to other gaming industry roles, video game QA tester is the lowest paying. According to The Game Developers 12th Annual Salary Survey (conducted in 2013), freelance and temporary assignment video game QA testers, with less than 3 years’ experience, earn an average of $22,000/yr., roughly equivalent to $10/hr. – assuming a 40 hour work week. This is because of the much lower amount of education needed to enter video game QA testing.However, consider those “working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine”, who I described at the beginning of this article; the ones taking “any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment)”. They’re doing this for a few good reasons. It helps to offset college costs, gives them a chance to gain experience and familiarization within a related work environment, and the jobs they take are often the “lower paying roles” due to lower entry-level education requirements – which equates to ease of entry. High turn-over rates as people in these positions attain the qualifications to move on to their desired careers, make these jobs readily available. And those who later move on to higher positions will have previous industry relevant experience to add to their resumes if needed. If needed being the key. If they don’t need it, or feel it would distract from experience more relevant to a particular job, they can always make less mention of it or leave it out entirely.Which bring us to the real question – why are those seeking software development careers so averse to including video game tester jobs along the way? Think back about the “inferiority complex” among “those aspiring to game development roles” which I spoke of earlier. And the corresponding “superiority complex” among those becoming “material” for higher paying, more respected roles such as graphics designer or programmer. When people think of, for example, becoming an environmental art designer, they often think of highly sophisticated technical skills, and expensive but well-worth-it college degrees – leading to well-earned and well-respected salaries. When people think of a QA tester job, they often think of someone who was lucky enough to get paid to play games.Video game quality assurance testing is seen by many as almost a kind of “red-headed-step-child”. Some treat it the same way one might treat a cheap book promising the secret to unbelievable income sold on a poorly done website alongside thin porn, payday loans, and mesothelioma related attorney services.The reality is – a video game tester job can provide the same things to the soon to be 3D character model designer that a clerical position with a small clinic provides to the soon to be medical technician, nurse, or doctor. Video game tester jobs are readily available, industry related, work with which you can offset other costs while in school or training for your desired role, gain experience and familiarity with the software development process, and which comes with relatively low entry requirements.Video game QA positions require only that you have a high aptitude for basic skills applicable to any job, such as attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, diligence, and being able to write reports. Yet they provide game industry experience, familiarity, and exposure to a wider variety of related technologies. Also, while QA testing may be “low paying” compared to other development roles, it’s actually on par with many part-time jobs that aren’t even career connected which people typically take while working towards their desired career path.

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The key is, don’t look at QA tester work as a job you “don’t take seriously”, consider it instead as a useful tool in a strategic plan. Consider those too good to be true offers you see promising “$4,000 a month playing games” for some small monthly fee. These offers are usually made by assignment aggregators. Assignment aggregators are companies in the business of offering a central location for freelance video game QA testers to find temporary video game QA assignments. Whether the promises of easy money come true or not, you could use those to get work (resume experience) handed to you even though you have not yet attained any work history or qualifications, in addition to some extra income. What you really want is for the assignments to serve as documented work history in QA Testing to support obtaining a regular entry-level position with a gaming company. You want to be able to say “I’ve completed projects in the gaming field”… as opposed to the other applicant who hasn’t.From here it depends on the options available to you, and your desired career path. If you’ve already chosen a career path in another game development role, then I’d recommend NOT moving all the way from freelance to full-time QA testing – as you want to focus your efforts on obtaining a job closer to your desired role. Until you do, you may wish to simply remain a freelance tester. Despite the lower hourly pay, this will give you the greatest flexibility and control over your time. Should you decide to become a regular part-time tester with a gaming company, the pay could actually outstrip many other non-career connected part-time jobs.If you’re still deciding when it comes to what role you want to have in game development, you may want to consider that QA testing does become more lucrative with experience – all-be-it not as quickly as in other development roles. It rises to just under $40,000/year as a full-time job with 3 years’ experience, and “maxes out” around $70,000/yr. Not as much as the $85,000/yr. you could be making as a programmer, but still fairly decent compared to other professional roles.Video game QA testing may be the lowest paid type of work in game development. However, those aspiring for such roles as game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer would be wise to look beyond just work related to their desired role in game development.

Affordable California State Child Health Insurance Plans – I Can’t Pay Much

September 9, 2016

Finding Affordable or No Cost Insurance For Your ChildEvery child needs dependable health insurance. However, not all parents can afford the full cost of private medical insurance. As a result, there are a variety of programs offered by the state of California and private organizations that can provide health care to financially strapped families. Through these programs, there should be no child in California that doesn’t have health insurance.In the sections below we will give an overview of the child health insurance programs that are available in California. Some of these plans provide complete coverage for children at no cost, and others provide just the basic services. Then we’ll outline the steps parents should take to find the best program for their children.Medi-CalThis is the name for California’s Medicaid program. The program is administered by California, and is financed equally by the Federal and State government. Medi-Cal provides no cost health insurance to low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. People that qualify for Medi-Cal can receive free preventive care, treatment for injuries and illnesses, dental care, vision screening, and mental health treatment.This program is one of the cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act, and will expand considerably to take in new people in 2014.Healthy FamiliesThe healthy families program provides low cost health insurance to the children of low income families. This program provides a variety of services such as medical, dental, visions, and preventive care. The program requires families to meet certain income requirements which may viewed at the following link: http://www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov/HFProgram/Income_Guidelines.aspx

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The Healthy Families program is being rolled into the Medi-Cal program during 2013. The transition plan will ensure that families do not see a disruption in services, and will increase the benefits that children receive once inside of Medi-Cal. Healthy Families is still accepting applications for new children.Child Health and Disability Prevention Program (CHDP)This is not an insurance program. However, the program does assist low income families in obtaining preventive care and health assessments for their children. CHDP provides checkups, nutrition evaluations and guidance, immunizations, hearing, and vision screenings. This program is administered by the state Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). The program helps families determine their eligibility for assistance programs, and enroll in the appropriate care program, such as Healthy Families and Medi-Cal.Children’s Health Initiative (CHI)Children’s Health initiative is run by an independent non-profit known as The Institute For Health Policy Solutions (IHPS). CHI works with many counties to reach the low-income families with children that don’t have health insurance. CHI works with families whose income is less than 300% of the Federal Povery Level. By providing technical support and guidance, programs are created in each county to create “Healthy Kids” insurance plans in a partnership with the local communities and businesses.CHI helps families determine which state programs they qualify for, and can assist in the enrollment process.For information about CHI in your county, see the following map of California: http://www.ihps-ca.org/localcovsol/cov_initiatives.htmlCalifornia Children’s Services (CCS)CCS is a state program that provides health care assistance to children up to age 21 with special health problems. The program works with Medi-Cal and Healthy Families to provide case management and ensure that children receive the right care and see the right physicians for their special health needs. Examples of special health problems are cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, cerebral palsy, heart disease, cancer, and traumatic injuries.Steps You Should Take To Find Affordable Child Health InsuranceIf the mother of a baby is enrolled in Medi-Cal or the Aid for Infants and Mothers (AIM) program, then the steps below will not apply for getting baby health insurance after birth. In this situation, the baby will be transferred into Medi-Cal with the mother, or into Healthy Families or Medi-Cal if the mother is in the AIM program. For all other situations, use the steps outlined below.

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The first step is to look at the coverage map for the Children’s Health Initiative above. If CHI has an active program in your area, then this program can act as your partner in helping you get into the correct health program.

If CHI is not active in your county, then contact the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program. This office can help you through the process of finding the correct program and assist you in filling out the necessary forms, or they will put you in contact with a local office for assistance.

If neither of the steps above works, then you should contact your local Medi-Cal office. Medi-Cal will be your lowest cost solution, so start with this program

If you do not qualify for Medi-Cal, then contact the Healthy Families program.
No child in California should be left without health insurance. By providing the proper care and nurturing, we ensure a better future for our state. The programs we have outlined above can provide families with financial difficulties, the health care their children need. The first move is to follow the outlined path, taking one step at a time, and enrolling your child or children.

Benefitting Health With a PhD in Health Education

October 19, 2016

Imagine this real case scenario: In Africa, many people die daily due to malaria. This can be avoided by the use of mosquito netting, which protects the malaria-carrying mosquitoes from biting them. However, people are still ignorant and uneducated about how these nets can save their lives, and go on living without them.Now, picture this: If the people in Africa were educated from young about the dangers of these deadly insects, they would take precautions to save themselves. If, with that knowledge, they also knew that mosquito netting can reduce the number of incidences, many would be alive today.

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As the examples given, the education of living healthily is extremely important. Even without such an extreme case, health education helps us maintain a healthy life. Health education refers to learning about how health can be promoted, restored, and maintained. ‘Health’ does not only refer to the physiological aspect; it also includes the psychological and spiritual aspects.A profession in this field is where one educates others about health and wellness. Being in this profession demands a big heart and dedication towards helping others live a good life. While many might come in as volunteers, having a PhD equips you with the proper knowledge and credentials to educate others on health and wellness. You will also be able to conduct researches, formulate, implement, and evaluate health interventions, one like the mosquito netting example. Of course, this would mean that you would continuously be monitoring and correcting interventions so that society will be more aware of their health, which on the long-term is beneficial to our future grandchildren as they would have known how to live healthily.

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Lastly, with a PhD in Health Education, you are also able to advance your career in the field of health education. This field is never outdated as our society is constantly seeking methods to improve their lives and well being. At the same time, you are also able to discover ways to improve your own mental, physical and spiritual health.

Viral Advertising Business Performance

October 15, 2016

Why use viral advertising strategies in your business marketing efforts.
Using shock therapy to implement an online advertising campaign for your business.
Using viral advertising in your social media marketing and Facebook Fanpages will excel your results much faster.
Don’t shove your advertising message down their throats, let it go viral naturally.
Present unique and creative advertising campaigns to increase traffic and expose new prospects.
Creating a viral epidemic of buyers is your main business goal with your advertising strategy.
Learning to leverage your advertising budget for sustainable momentum.
Establish a success formula that can be repeated in your business viral advertising over and over again.
Add the most important ingredient to your advertising campaigns and that is creativity.
Be prepared to embrace new technology, software and APPS in your marketing strategy.1. There is nothing more effective in promoting your message as a good viral advertising campaign. Viral advertising is designed to use the power of many and inspire others to promote your message for you. This is simply “word of mouth” advertising, is amazingly effective. A business owner can start a viral advertising campaign with no money invested, and let the online community spread your message like wildfire. You can now save advertising money that you were spending on newspaper ads, flyers, door hangers, and even TV commercials. Viral advertising is estimated to be 500 and even up to 1000 times more effective that a regular ad campaign.If you can learn how to express an idea with commitment and dedication that has an emotion attached to it, you will get people’s attention. It doesn’t matter if you are a madman or idiot, even bad press gets good press time. You can’t please everyone but you can get an emotional reaction out of most people, when owning a strong opinion and sharing it. Being neutral in your viral advertising will not bring you in the sales. Have something to say that will impact their life, or at least make them react a bit. Don’t worry about whether or not they love you or hate you, just be confident that your product is worth their attention either way and stay committed to gaining their trust.2. Get your business noticed by shock marketing, state something completely unexpected that will make them stop and read more. Being dramatic and doing something out of the ordinary with your product gets attention. Are you just marketing advertisements, or are you marketing an extraordinary exiting story about your product. If you Ad is interesting and highlights your product in a subtle way, you will keep people’s attention longer, and get closer to bringing them to the “I want” it stage. Viral advertising is 100% about emotions, so take them by surprise and do something totally unexpected.3. Set Up Exciting Viral Content in Parts and then sequels, where the viral advertising message continues.Ever hear of Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 – once you create Part 1 they start looking for where do I find Part 2 as they want to know the end of the story or the end of the feature comparison prompting them to purchase your product. Make sure you keep their attention once you have it by providing a “Call To Action”. Sell them on the value of why they need your widget, gadget or useful product then introduce an offer they can’t refuse to purchase the product.

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The next step is to motivate them to share your awesome and exciting presentation with another associate. This is the meat and potatoes of viral advertising, present information that is so interesting and unique that everyone wants to tell someone else what they read, heard or saw. Set up your “Shock Wave” content so that others can download and then embed it into their own blog or email to others. Upload a short video series on all your advertising “bloopers”, or business bloopers, maybe trying to put together a piece of furniture or equipment and getting it all wrong the first time. Then provide another “Call To Action” using your Facebook Fanpage that they can “Like”, along with the other top social media sharing sites.4. It is not surprising to hear that many consumers feel jaded when it comes to online shopping. Nobody wants products shoved down their throats through mass advertising methods and using hard sell marketing. If you want to get the consumers attention in this fast paced modern world, you need to be unique and most importantly interesting. Smart consumers are quickly distracted from boring content and they will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to your viral advertising message.A proven and trusted method of advertising and marketing that get results is viral advertising, and fortunately for the marketer new software developments can make all the difference. Your personal recommendation is still stronger than any other form of advertising on the planet period! People trust people, and with smart phones using text messaging by the second, and social media sites getting posted on every event of the day, if you have presented your product offer in a way that makes them remember you, you have one half the battle.5. By fulfilling some unique marketing strategies you remove your business from the mainstream humdrum advertising practices. It’s a known fact that many people feel frustrated with the usual conventional way many businesses sell their products. Don’t let your business fall into this pitiful trap of no return. Step to the plate and be the one who stands out in the crowd, who motivates prospects to burn blisters on their fingers, texting about your great buy of the day.Business owners are becoming much more conscious of profits and losses due to advertising decisions they have made, and it’s impact on their ROI (return of investment). So the questions comes forth “can we affect people from the inside, from their emotional self and not just from the mind”? So is viral advertising becoming not only the new trend but the must have trend to succeed online. It is our ability to influence the mass public at large that creates successful viral advertising campaigns. Ads that influence the behavior of the viewer in such a ways that they are motivated to share their exciting experience is the purest testament of what viral advertising is all about. If enough of their friends and contact embraces their excitement over what they have been exposed to the viral advertising cycle begins to circulate.6. Your ultimate goal of course would be to create an viral advertising campaign that causes a behavioral epidemic of buyers. An infectious viral result where everyone wants to be able to say “Yes I Saw That”, or “Yes I heard about that”, or “Yes I watched that”, so that they appear to be in the loop with the latest and newest hot selling protégé. Some marketers prey on the idea of owning a “Secret”, something so special that only a few get access to it. It then becomes an obsession everyone wants to know the secret and will go to any length to get access to it. If you can only offer medium media exposure of your product, then relying on these viral advertising methods becomes essential.So is your goal to place an advertisement that is seen by 10 who tell one person each, becomes 20 who tell one person becomes 40 and so on. Or do you want real viral advertising success where you place your viral advertisement and get 100 who tell 10, who tell 10 who tell 10. So who is in control here, the business marketing manager of course, the one who decides how the advertising budget is allocated. Is he reserved and old fashioned, or is he brave and uninhibited and adventurous. It is an knows fact that Viral Advertising does in fact work very effectively, and it is the business owners goal to seek out a reliable viral advertising business source.7. Once your viral advertising campaign has become viralized, it is proof that you have found a suitable target market audience for your product. Once this is identified, you can leverage your viral advertising budget maintaining a perpetual cycle and not a static ad campaign. In order to always be able to identify your most effective viral advertising campaign, it is important to use proven methodologies with specific tracking measures built right in.8. So does your business have an “Online Viral Advertising Formula”? Is your business aiming high for thousands of hits, a true testament of a successful viral advertising campaign. Marketing consultants know that the more informative your advertising the more persuasive it will be to the consumer. What really makes the consumer decide to purchase your product is based on the content provided in the advertisement more than it’s layout or and whether or not their is something worth sharing, or texting about.With the ever changing fast moving internet world coming up with a formula for viral advertising is not an easy task. A good rule of thumb is “What motivates you to share a viewed advertisement is different to what motivates you to get out your credit card and finish the purchase.9. Going back to our conversation about emotions, if you can make someone laugh or gasp or look in disbelief to what they are viewing your chances are the best that they will share that experience with their friends, associates, and followers on social media sites.The magic of every successful viral advertising campaign begins with a great unique idea. The one main ingredient in all online successful advertising campaigns is creativity in your graphics, your presentation, your keywords and your identified target market. Training business owners though to give each viral advertising campaign they embark on time to mature, time for the seed to sprout, time for the momentum to build and the rewards to pour in from all their hard work and efforts.

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10. Don’t be shy to take advantage of the ever fast changing technology world to benefit your business advertising efforts. Finding a great viral advertising business can be a real game changer for your online advertising results. Most importantly look for a viral advertising business that is free to join, and that uses state of the art software designed to drive your business into the next galaxy.Viral advertising will always win in the end simply due to the abundant measure of viewing numbers. A strong viral advertising strategy will encourage individuals to share an article, a podcast, a video or simply an online advertisement, resulting in exponential exposure by it’s massive influence.The rippling effects of one single viral advertising message can literally reach hundreds and even thousands of readers in a few short hours. You can quickly enhance your viral advertising success by offering a free give away product. This “FREE” product can be a small physical product that can be mailed out, or it can be a digital product that is delivered instantly online.It is a well known fact that “FREE” if the most powerful word a marketer can use in any viral advertising campaign. Often the business owner experiences what can be called delayed gratification when using the “FREE” power word in their viral advertising campaign. Add the common expression “OTO” or One Time Offer” that almost always follows a free give-a-way, and you have a winning combination. First you got their attention, and then you offer them something of such great value, they can’t afford to say “NO” and purchase it while it is so cheaply priced.Always keep in mind that the whole purpose of engaging in viral advertising methods is to spread an idea, and that idea while it is spreading throughout the internet, actually helps market your niche business or product and is attached to your website.Have you noticed how business owners have become obsessed with Free exposure in any arena? Too many times marketing campaigns have been thrown together much too fast and may get attention but your product or company does not.ClosingPeoples attention are so fragile, try designing your viral advertising campaign with a strong viral element built right into it. Getting your media to go viral is not the hardest part of your marketing strategy, the most challenging part is getting your media to produce tangible results that show up in your bank account.

Flavor Pairings: Why Grow Herbs For Cooking, Cocktails, And Culinary Crafts

September 10, 2016

I remember my first herb class on growing herbs for culinary and creative crafts. I left that annual herb sale with young fragrant plants, with just enough knowledge to be dangerous wielding a trowel, and a perpetual enthusiasm that all contributed to help me form my first edible garden oasis.After a trip to Home Depot, I was armed with shiny silver tools, bags of potting soil to house my foliage friends, fertilizer to make them grow, and the inner drive to begin digging my way to becoming a green thumb farmer girl!Now, 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine my kitchen without a bunch of basil on the counter, herbs drying on racks, and jars of dried oregano and chocolate mint within easy reach at each meal. From summer’s juicy ripe berries, peaches, and tomatoes to fall’s vibrant harvest of squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, onto holiday turkey and ham feasts, and into hearty winter stews and casseroles, herbs enhance every season’s fare!

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I’m still thrilled to witness the miracle of propagation each time with every plant. I shelter them in stormy weather, talk to them while watering, trim their leaves, and weed their beds. In return, I’m rewarded with savory, spicy, and fruity aromas, a relaxing hobby, a healthy method of adding flavor to food and cocktails that lasts all year long, and great natural photography backgrounds!Do you have herbs and are looking for ideas on how to use them? Do you see those little plastic packets of greenery hanging in the grocery store but have no clue what to do with them? Maybe you want to expand your culinary horizons and explore your green thumb capabilities? Many people are lured into using fresh herbs through the culinary route.This is the first in a series of articles on growing herbs for cooking, cocktails, and culinary crafts. Plus tips on pairing all kinds of flavors, from custom infused oils and balsamic vinegars to herbs, spirits, sweet and savory dishes. When you marry the right foods together into a succulent harmonious balance, the results are amazing and herbs contribute such character to your cuisine.This isn’t about becoming a food snob or being tethered to rules, except for this one; seasoning is vital in cooking and herbs go hand in hand with that philosophy. I’ll offer general guidelines along with novel combinations I’ve discovered but there’s no one taste fits all. It’s thrilling to develop original recipes and tweak the traditional dishes we savor. Play with new ingredients. It’s great fun to use homegrown edibles but if you don’t want to grow plants yourself, buy a few freshly packaged herbs from the store and practice cooking with them.Be daring with oil and vinegar selections. There’s a wonderful store called Savor The Olive in Virginia Beach that is a tasting room full of unique fused and infused oils and light and dark balsamic vinegars. If you have one of those in your area as well as wine tastings, take advantage of going for a visit. Experiment, so that your sense of taste gets stronger and more acute and it will tell you how much to use.

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Herbs add to the enjoyment of cooking and help you personalize what you’ve prepared. Being a chef is an art. Each person has a unique touch and flavor palate. The kitchen is your studio, the plate your blank canvas. Let instinct and imagination guide you. Herbs are one of the tools in your aromatic arsenal that enable you to present a mouthwatering masterpiece.Hope you’ll join me on a tasting tour of my fertile little deck farm as we pinch and smell the herbs, swirl and taste the wine, envision what main course will be the star of the plate, and tempt your taste buds with food that’s appealing to the eye and tongue.

Equestrian Style in Your Home

September 9, 2016

Your love for horses doesn’t need stop at the barn. Horse people enjoy having decorative horse elements in the home. Whether you are a lifelong equestrian, an admirer of horse sport, or someone who loves the equestrian look, having equestrian style in your home adds character and tradition. How you bring equestrian elements together can make the difference in telling a story or having your items overlooked.Equestrian style was popularized when Ralph Lauren hit the fashion world by storm. He made both nautical and equestrian styles livable for mainstream people. It became possible and affordable to have the sporting lifestyle look. And while many people took up stirrup pants and hacking jackets, decorating with equestrian style has been around for hundreds of years. Look no further than the English countryside. Whether you have acquired equestrian pieces from the barn, or you are just starting out, giving your home or space an equestrian estate feel is not difficult. As with any design, the key is to start with a plan that includes well-thought-out furniture placement and a good color scheme. Traditional furniture works best when designing an equestrian style space. Dark, substantial wood furniture with good quality upholstery or leather gives mind to the English countryside, where most equestrian trends originated. Steeped in custom and tradition, equestrian elements have changed little through the centuries. Garner ideas from books and magazines, or search the internet for ideas.

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Once furniture placement has been established, anchor the space with a good rug. Vintage rugs protected fine wood floors from muddy hunting boots, numerous hounds, and country parties. These rugs were handmade and vegetable dyed. Today’s production rugs lack some of the character of the older rugs, but can still lend the style and are always a smart choice to bring a space together.Equestrians love art, and art that includes the horse is always a favorite. Some equestrian artists have stood out through the years, with George Stubbs being immensely popular during England’s sporting days. His works are traditional, beautiful, and have color schemes that are easy with which to work. Reproductions of his paintings are available on the internet.No equestrian space would be complete without horse tack, the equipment leather goods used in riding and training horses. Whether you choose stainless steel stirrups or bits, old horseshoes, or leather strap goods, these pieces strategically placed are key elements to bring your space to life. A favorite of ours is a silver mint julep cup used to hold pens or flowers. Stirrups make good bookends. Harness brasses can be framed or mounted cleverly over light plates. Snaffle bits can serve as window panel tie backs. Equestrian books are another design element that is readily available and brings authenticity to your space. These books are available as novels, training books, or picture books.

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To add softness and comfort to your space, yet still maintain style, consider adding needlepoint or horse themed equestrian pillows. Throw pillows come in many styles and colors. Look for traditional fabrics and authentic embellishments like fox hunt buttons, harness brasses, or other pieces of horse equipment.Bringing equestrian style to your home or space adds character. Horses have had a close relationship with man for most of human history. Only since the invention of the automobile have we been so distanced from him. Bring equestrian style to your home by using these design ideas, and bring horses into your decor.

The Controversy of UK Agricultural Land Conversions to Housing

September 11, 2016

What are seen as the controversies around converting land from agriculture to housing?The value of UK Green Belt and agricultural lands is undisputed. But the environmental costs of modern farming and housing needs are part of the conversation as well.Anybody considering making an alternative investment in strategic land will know that Britain unquestionably needs more homes to accommodate a growing population. According to the Office for National Statistics, more than 4.4 million homes should be built by 2016, largely in response to two factors: A decennial growth rate of 7 percent, as measured in Census 2011, and lagging new home construction that fails to keep up with this population increase, largely attributed to the stringent lending standards of banks following the 2008 economic crisis.At least one group claims the solution is to build on Green Belt land. The Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank, said in late 2012 that the supply of land near cities that is kept unbuilt is a drag on the housing market. They argue that swaths of English countryside that typically surround towns should be opened up for development. The fourteen Green Belts in England cover about 13 percent of the country, enveloping about 60 percent of Britain’s population (about 30 million people).The Policy Exchange faces plenty of headwind in its positions. Since the “garden city movement” of the early 20th century, the effort to combat urban sprawl led by such groups as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the London County Council sought to maintain open spaces dedicated to recreation, forests and agriculture as a social good. But the Town and Country Planning Association has proposed since 2002 the adoption of more flexible policies toward Green Belt lands, suggesting that instead of a growth-stifling “belt,” that “wedges” and “strategic gaps” might allow a natural expansion of urban areas.

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Famously, the head of Natural England, whose charge is entirely to ensure protection and improvement of flora and fauna, said in 2007 “we need a 21st century solution to England’s housing needs which puts in place a network of green wedges, gaps and corridors, linking the natural environment and people.”Agricultural land outside of Green BeltsOf course, land away from the major cities is green as well, much of it in use for agricultural, forestry and recreational purposes. More than 80 percent of the landmass in England and Wales, 12 million hectares, are used for farming and forestry. Local planning authorities can more easily rezone the lands outside Green Belts when market factors, such as the demand for housing development, call for it. Since 2000, about 1500 hectares of agricultural land has been converted to housing development every year.Of course, similar sentiments understandably still exist relative to the bucolic perceptions of farming in the U.K. But environmentalists take exception to how modern agricultural methods, which include excessive application of fertilisers, can actually burden nature with its by-products:• Toxic build-up. 100 million tonnes of sewage sludge, compost and livestock manures applied annually to agricultural lands is leading to a build-up of potentially toxic elements such as zinc and copper, and more than half of sensitive wildlife habitat experiences harmful acid and nitrogen pollution, according to a paper published by Environment Agency UK.• Loss of soil. About 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil is lost each year due to intensive cultivation, some of which is instigated by compaction from heavy machinery and livestock, which precludes plant growth and leads to runoff in rain. (source: Environment Agency UK). To be fair, some runoff is noted as well from building sites before landscaping is completed.• Water quality compromised. About 70 percent of sediments found in water come from agriculture, and those sediments can carry metals, pathogens, pesticides and phosphates.Such problems due to modern agriculture plague the planet, as similar pollution levels are reported throughout Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. Africa, Brazil and Argentina, the newer frontiers for agriculture, are expanding arable croplands to meet global food demands but also exhibit a host of environmental sins.The food-housing tugThere is no denying that the housing needs in the UK must be met – and soon. A whole generation of families are postponing children or living in cramped quarters, awaiting homes they can afford or at least rent to accommodate their members.But Brits need to eat as much as sleep. So how to balance the use of land for each?A number of approaches are being tested. One is to encourage development of so-called brownfield lands, which include properties that may require remediation from previous industrial uses. These lands are often within towns or immediately adjacent to them, some with excellent access to existing urban infrastructure while others are cost-prohibitive for a variety of reasons (no existing infrastructure, undesirable locations for housing or extensive environmental remediation required).

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SustainableBuild.co.uk is a web publisher that considers the balance between development and environmental sustainability from a very pragmatic standpoint. The site offers several points on how land conversions to development can have a negative effect, which include: converted greenfields are quite unlikely to be converted back to nature; there is inevitable loss of habitat for animals and plants; a loss of employment for agricultural workers; and a loss of Green Belt land that provides geographical definitions and separations of cities, towns, villages and hamlets (I.e., American-style urban sprawl).Answering the problem of diminishing agricultural lands is a nascent movement to small-scale, organic agriculture on greenfield lands. SustainableBuild notes, “There are greenfield sites that are not being used for any purpose, for whatever reason. Development must consider all human and environmental factors, not just consume land and space for short-term solutions. A sustainable vision would look at all the options for land use, human population expansion, urban sprawl, economic considerations as well as environmental needs.”Which, in a country with a growing population and a concurrent appreciation for the environment, is perhaps the most realistic and pragmatic approach.

Skip The Lines – Bring The Amusement Park Right To Your Own Back Yard

September 21, 2016

There’s no shortage of things to do in Atlanta. From professional sports to amusement parks, there’s something for everyone. In fact, Atlanta is proud to house some of the nations largest amusement attractions, including the ever popular Six Flags Over Georgia. Children (and adults) love the thrill and adrenaline rush of the large roller coasters. However, one thing most people don’t like about amusement parks is the long lines. By the time it’s all said and done, you can spend several hundred dollars for your family to have an afternoon of fun, and only get a few rides in. This year, instead of spending the day waiting in long lines for short rides, why not bring the fun right to your back yard? With today’s technology, you can literally do just that! One of the advantages of living in a large city like Atlanta is that we have large rental companies that can make your special event feel just like a trip to Six Flags… complete with a train and an ice cream cart!

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If you’re trying to replicate the amusement park feel, there are definitely specific items that you’ll want to be on the lookout for. As mentioned previously, ice cream carts and trackless trains help make the special event feel more like a day at Six Flags.In order to make your next special event more special, try some of the following tips:

Head online to do some research on the party rental company that has the selection your looking for. If you want an ice cream cart to complete your theme park adventure, look around until you find what you’re looking for.

Don’t settle for the first website you see. There are literally hundreds of inflatable party rental companies in Atlanta. Keep looking for a website that offers a wide variety of rental items that you’re looking for.

It’s better to rent everything from one company. Renting in bulk can help you save money. Larger companies will offer discounts for larger purchases of multiple units and rental items.

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Having a day of amusement park fun is cheaper and easier than ever before. By bringing the amusement park to your front door by using a party rental industry, you can include more people at a lower price. So next time you’re planning a special day, instead of spending tons of money for just a few people and braving the long lines of amusement parks, invite the whole neighborhood and bring the amusement park right to your own back yard!

Retire a Young Military Millionaire

August 21, 2016

Being young and in the military has its advantages. One of the biggest rewards is a powerful force that will almost ensure that you can become a young military millionaire. There are simple steps you can take when you’re young that will help you harness the power of this force; making becoming a military millionaire a breeze.Attention young military personnel. You can turn that military paycheck into a million just by following a simple, consistent, investment plan. Just by automatically investing on a regular basis you could be on your way to an early military retirement. For example:-A $174 invested monthly starting at 18 years old could make you a young military millionaire by age 53.-A $701 invested monthly starting at 18 years old could make you a young military millionaire by age 40.Knowing how to handle your military money gives you advantages that the most people miss out on. You can afford an early military retirement just by following a simple investment strategy. Starting an investment plan young may be enough to ensure you become a young military millionaire.Because you have the power of compounding interest on your side it’s easy to become a young military millionaire when you start young. Compounding interest is defined as the interest earned from the initial money you personally invested from your military money plus the interest earned from the amount your investments have already returned. To clarify, the money that you already made from your investments starts to earn you money. That means that every year you are making money off money your investments have already paid you.

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By investing your military paycheck at a young age you are able to fully harness the power of compounding interest. This is due to the fact that your investments are earning you a return on the money already paid to you from the investment. The younger you start the faster and larger your investment account may grow. That’s why investing while you’re young and earning a steady military paycheck gives you a huge advantage.1) Save Money. The first step on the road to becoming a young military millionaire is to set up a simple savings plan. Pay yourself first by setting money aside into an investment before you start spending your military money. The habit of paying yourself first will benefit you throughout your life and will help you retire young.2) Invest Young. You may not of been taught how to invest in high school but don’t let that hold you back. There are simple investments available to the beginner investors that will get allow you to invest your military money young.The stock market offers some investment vehicles that are perfect for the new military investor. There are lower-risk investments that offer the potential for long-term gains that may help you to put your military money to work.One type of investment, known as broad based market index investments, may offer you a simple way to get your military money working for you. ‘Broad market index investments’ are simply investments in the overall market like the NASDQ 100 and S&P 500. To illustrate, one S&P 500 index traded fund will allow you to own a portion of all 500 stocks in that index. The S&P 500 index is one way for the new military investor to profit from the stock market without having to have a lot of experience.3) Consistent Investments. There is a basic military investment technique called ‘dollar cost averaging’. A dollar cost averaging plan is simply buying a fixed dollar amount of your broad market index investment at the same time each month. Your bank and brokerage firm can be set-up so it automatically invests the amount you want at the same time each month. Once this structure is set up you can sit back and just review your monthly statements. With a consistent military investment plan you could reap huge profits over a long-term.The basic investment method discussed will get your military money working for you. If you’re looking to become a military millionaire young there are other ways you can increase your returns. The investment vehicles discussed below take more effort however you will be able to reach your military millionaire status sooner.5. Real estate. Real estate investing can be credited with making the majority of young millionaires. It gives you the power of leverage so you are making money of money the bank loaned you. When done right you could expect to double your investment each year! Just by purchasing real estate while you’re young could easily make you a young military millionaire.

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The military offers many benefits that will allow you to become a homeowner. VA loans allow you to borrow 100% of the purchase price which means you won’t need money for a down payment in most cases. Combine that with BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) for civilian housing and you can have your mortgage payments paid for.This is a huge benefit because you purchase a $100,000 home your property could be valued at over $570,000 in 30 years. The best part is using BAH you could of not even made a payment with your own money.6. Entrepreneurship. Being in the military you can start a part-time business that earns you an extra few hundred a month or one that surpasses your military paycheck. Either way it can help you to become a young military millionaire or just added another income so you can invest more. There are also tax benefits available to business owners that will keep more of your military paycheck money in your pocket.Becoming an entrepreneur can help you become a young military millionaire and give you the luxury of being able to retire young.The sooner you start investing the sooner you can become a young military millionaire. Start now and the take steps to become a young military millionaire today!

How To Make Sure The Toys You Buy Are Safe

September 16, 2016

There are some very strict safety regulations in the United States that attempt to insure the safety of toys that are sold. But even with the strict regulations there are occasions from time to time where unsafe toys make it into the market.As a whole the regulations that are in place to ensure toy safety have been very successful. When compared to the number of toys that are sold on the market each year there have been very few incidents which were caused by unsafe or defective toys. Most accidents are caused by improper usage or common accident such as tripping on them.In the few cases where defective or unsafe toys have actually made it into the market they were recalled fairly quickly. But this is no reason for parents not let their guard down when buying toys.Check The Label: Safety Labels Are A MustThe first thing that should be checked when buying a toy is whether or not is has the appropriate safety labels. The primary label in the United States would be that of the Consumer Product Safety Commission which signifies that the toy meets the minimum safety standards.The next important labels to look for when shopping for toys would be age labels. You should always follow age guidelines, as they are an essential part of toy safety.Most toys have age labels, even if they are not legally required. Any toy that is not suitable for children under 36 months must have a visible label stating so.

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Though, in general most toys give guidance as to what age group they are designed for. These guidelines let you know what age group will benefit the most from the toy, in terms of development, fun, and understanding. Here is a brief guide of different kinds of toys and what age group they are intended for:Under three yearsFor this age group the greatest threat that toys pose is a choking hazard. Most everything a baby or toddler gets their hands on, ends up in their mouth. For this reason, very small toys or toys with small parts are especially unsuitable. Be sure to keep marbles and small balls or buttons out of their reach; be careful with inflatable toys and balloons; and avoid toys with pointy or sharp edges.Three to five yearsChildren of this age are full of discovery and are capable of playing with more sophisticated toys. However, you should still be cautious as certain toys could still pose a risk to them. Avoid toys made with thin plastic that might break and cause injury and still watch for small parts that they may still be tempted to put in their mouth.Six to twelve yearsBy this age children will be able to safely play with almost any toy they are given. However, always read hazard warnings and instruction pamphlets for maintenance guides. For example, if you buy a trampoline you will need to carry out maintenance on it on a regular basis. If you buy a bike or skateboard for your child, you should also buy appropriate protective equipment. Always make sure you get the right size ride on toy for your child, so he/she can handle and enjoy what he/she is given.Things can get a little complicated when you have children of varying ages. When you have lots of different toys that are suitable for varying ages you have to stay vigilant. For starters, you should teach older children to keep their toys out of reach of younger children, especially when they contain small parts and/or are breakable. It is also best if you do not put different age appropriate toys into one toy bin. Have a separate box for each child and make sure they do not swap out toys. To help keep organized, you should follow and separate based on the age labels on the toys.In general it is a good idea to be organized and keep toys in order. Having toys lying around the house is a common cause of accidents. If you have children of varying ages, this can be dangerous and allow smaller children to get to toys not intended for their age group. Keep in mind that children are intended to play with the toys, but all maintenance, such as changing of batteries should be carried out by an adult.

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Toy safety labels offer an important safeguard against dangerous toys reaching our children, but it is just as important to use your own common sense. Before purchasing a toy, examine it thoroughly yourself to make sure that it is sturdy and well constructed. Check for any sharp edges or pointy corners, especially when buying toys for younger children. For example, if you are buying a stuffed animal make sure all stitching is secure and small items like the eyes or nose will not come off easily.If your child has an accident with a toy or you suspect a toy is potentially harmful, you should take immediate action. The first step is to take the toy out of the reach of all children. Once the child is cared for and the immediate danger has passed, you should report the toy to the appropriate authorities. You will need to keep the toy safe for examination and you should also try to provide details of where and when you bought the toy. It is important to regularly check online for toy recalls. This way you can remove a potentially dangerous toy before any incident occurs.