Archive | May 2014

Why Are People Leaving California?

In 2005, California faced a migration dilemma: for every 100 people that were moving into California, 160 people moved out. This high rate of out-migration has since been reduced, but this is still an issue for the Californian economy. So just who is leaving California, and why?

In 2012, Proposition 30 was passed in California. It made it so residents that earned over $1 million each year had to pay a 13.3 % rate in taxes, the highest in the country. Many people say ‘who cares?’ since the rich only make up 1% of the Californian population. But these rich residents pay 41% of California’s income taxes, while half of the state pays no income tax at all! They are a crucial part of re-building California.

As income taxes are rising for the upper class, some are leaving the state. However, it is lower income residents that are more likely to leave. They are moving to places like Texas where taxes are low, jobs are plentiful, and the quality of living is affordable. Between 2005 and 2011, California lost 158 people with incomes of less than $20,000 for every 100 people that moved into the state. California is losing more residents than it is gaining, and this is becoming an increasing problem.

 California’s high unemployment rate, high taxes, and high home prices are making it undesirable for US citizens. In fact, expensive real estate is the number one issue for Californians. Statistics show that the highest rate of out-migration from the state occurred when home prices in CA were more expensive in relation to other states – in 2004, 2005, and 2006.


As California is trying to save its economy with higher taxes and home prices, it is ultimately pushing its residents out – upper and lower class alike. We must watch the trends to see how this will affect California’s population in the long run.


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Why Are People Moving to Austin?

Austin, Texas is currently the fast growing city in the US. Just how many people are moving to Austin? Roughly 110 people each day! Here are the numbers behind Austin’s popularity.


Austin’s population growth since WWII


Austin is currently the number one US city for job creation. In fact, the city has more jobs now than before the recession! This impressive feat is due to Austin’s variety of careers in areas like technology, government, and at the University of Texas. With all these jobs, it’s no wonder that Austin has an unemployment rate of 5.4%, well below the national average.


Low Cost of Living

In 2012, Austin was ranked as the fifth most affordable city in America. The cost of living in Austin is lower than most national cities, but it is still more expensive than Dallas or Houston.  Overall, necessities like utilities, gas, and food are lower in cost.

Real Estate

Homes in Austin are typically more expensive than in other Texan cities, but still lower than the national average. And with a lower cost of living, you’re money will go farther when it comes to real estate. The median house price in Austin is $294,000 which could get you a three bedroom, two bath home like the one below!



Texas is often referred to as a ‘business-friendly state’. It has fewer regulations and lower taxes than other states, encouraging businesses to thrive. As a liberal city, Austin boasts a strong entrepreneurial atmosphere for creative types like writers, musicians, artists, designers, and filmmakers.

In case you haven’t been convinced yet, here are some additional statistics on why Austin, Texas is the place to be:

Ranked the 4th healthiest American city for women, and the 6th healthiest for men out of 100 cities

Ranked 6th on the list of lowest crime rate for cities with a population over 500,000

Ranked 2nd on Trip Advisor’s ‘Top 15 Destinations on the Rise’ for 2012

Ranked 8th on MarketWatch’s ‘Best Cities for Business’ out of 102 metro areas


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Why Are People Moving to Texas?

Texas is one of the country’s top growing states. With more than 1 million people moving to Texas from the rest of the country since 2000, it is no wonder that the Lone Star state is on everyone’s radar. So just why is everyone moving to Texas?

Low taxes

Texas is one of only seven states that have no personal or corporate income tax. It makes up for this with higher property taxes, but many residents find the lack of income tax a relief. And for businesses, the state offers tax incentives. Overall, Texas collects approximately $3,500 per resident each year, much lower than states like New York which collects $7,400 per resident. These low taxes add a new dynamic to the state’s appeal.


Low cost of living

Texas has one of the lowest costs of living in the country. Everything there from gas, food, health care, and rent is cheaper. And while you aren’t breaking the bank on daily necessities, you’ll be earning more on average than other states. Once adjusted for cost of living, Texas has the third highest average income. Plus, if you have a business that you can run remotely, moving to Texas would allow you to spend less on expenses and earn more from clients or customers in expensive states. Houston has been found to have one of the most effective pay checks; the money you earn will go much farther in Texas.

Real estate

As the second largest state, it is not news to anyone that Texas has a lot of land, and cheap land at that. More land at lower prices means that Texas is a real estate gold mine. People moving from more expensive states are able to sell their small homes and move to Texas with enough money to buy a large one. In addition, permits and regulations for building homes tend to be processed much more quickly in Texas than other states, allowing for speedy construction that can be ideal for property owners and businesses alike.



Having a very low unemployment rate is just another element that has made Texas desirable during the current economic state. Industries like gas, oil, manufacturing, and technology all offer a number of jobs for residents. In fact, out of the top 10 metropolitan areas for job growth in 2013, four of them are in Texas. This is an important factor for people looking to move, especially due to high unemployment rates in other parts of the US.

All of these perks make Texas a highly valuable state right now. With 5 of the 10 fastest-growing American cities located in Texas, it is no question that Texas should stay on America’s radar.

Graph showing fastest growing cities


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How To Compost Indoors

Composting is a great way to be more environmentally friendly. Too much of our food waste ends up in landfills, where it is unable to decompose due to lack of light, air and moisture. Turn your home into a more self-sustaining place with an indoor compost bin! When managed properly, an indoor compost bin won’t smell, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it saves you a trip from having to walk outside to your outdoor compost pile every time you peel a banana or make some coffee.


How to build your own

There are lots of different bins you can buy. Some use electricity or a special mix to increase the rate at which your food scraps decompose. However there are also bins that are quite simply designed, and which you can replicate with just a few household items. Here’s how:


1.) Find the space and a container

First, decide where you want your indoor compost to go. If you have pets or small children, up next to the kitchen sink might be best. If you’re short on counter space, below the kitchen sink might work better. Then, find a container with a cover that fits in your allotted space. Your container can be plastic or metal.


2.) Poke holes in the top

Depending on whether you decide on a plastic or metal container, you’ll need either a hammer and nails or a drill to punch holes through the lid of your container. This will allow air to get to your mix and help the food decompose. Holes about the diameter of a pencil eraser should suffice.


3.) Add newspaper to the top.

The number one way to keep odors from leaking out is to add newspaper to the underside of the lid. (This works best if your bin is dome-shaped.) Crumple up some wads of dry newspaper and stuff it in the lid. If it doesn’t stay by itself, try crisscrossing and then taping some fishing line or dental floss across the bottom of the lid (so that it forms a grid pattern.) This will allow you space to add newspaper periodically without having it fall all the time.


4.) Start composting!

Put your compost bin into its designated area, and you’re all set! All you have to do now is add food scraps when you have them. Food scraps can include fruit and vegetable scraps such as banana peels, carrot shavings and lemon rinds, and other things around your kitchen such as coffee grounds and their filters, egg shells, tea bags and dying flowers.


It’s full! What do I do?

Once your bin gets full, you’ll need to empty it. If you have a backyard compost pile, add the contents of the indoor bin to the pile, including the newspaper in the lid. Then rinse out the indoor bin, allow it to dry, add more fresh, dry newspaper and starting filling it up again. If you don’t have a yard or an outdoor compost, look around your neighborhood for community gardens, co-ops or other collecting programs that could benefit from your compost. Most cities now have such programs that help can you reduce your food waste.


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How to Compost in Your Backyard


What is compost and why do we want it?

Compost is organic material that has decomposed and is used as fertilizer for plants. It is a great alternative to chemical fertilizers and is often used in organic farming. Compost has microscopic organisms that enrich the soil and help plants fight off diseases. When you make your own compost at home, it helps decrease your household waste, which decreases the amount that ends up in landfills. When you compost you help the world become a little bit greener.


What can I compost?

When you read about composting, you’re going to hear a lot about “green stuff” and “brown stuff.” What we call brown stuff is materials high in carbon, and it gets its name from the fact that these materials are brown and dead, or have started to decay. Brown materials can include fall leaves, dried twigs, cardboard, old newspaper and straw. Green stuff is fresher, not dried, and is generally high in nitrogen. Green materials can include most of your table scraps, including banana peels, orange rinds, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags.


What can’t I compost?

You should never try to compost meat or bones, as this will attract small critters that you don’t want. If you compost cardboard, make sure that there aren’t any inorganic materials on it, such as paint or oil. You can compost banana peels and orange rinds, but if you’re looking to plant an organic garden, make sure to wash them first, as they might contain chemical and pesticide residue.


How do I get started?

Composting is pretty easy. All you need is space in the yard for about 1 cubic yard to dump your compost material and voila! If you want things a little bit tidier though, think about buying a compost bin. You have a few options. One is a wooden slated bin, which allows more air flow (a key component of composting.) Another is a big boxy plastic bin with a lid on the top. The third option is a rotating bin, which allows you to easily turn your compost and aerate it. If you want a tidy compost pile and don’t want to shell out too much cash, buy some chicken wire, wrap it around in a circle, and you’re good to go.


Now what?

Like I said, composting is pretty easy. Just dump in your organic materials and the rest will solve itself. However if you want to give your compost pile a little nudge in the right direction, there are a few things you could do.

1.) Stir. Compost piles need air, and for that they’ll need to be stirred up about once every two weeks. If you have a rotating bin you can just turn the handle. If not, you’ll need to get a shovel and stir the lot. If you put your hand on the pile, you should notice heat coming from the center. That means it’s working and that the microbes are helping your compost decompose! Stir your mixture so that the hot center is on the outside of the pile and vice versa.

2.) Water. Your compost pile should be damp. Either water it every once in awhile or let the rain do the job.

3.) 3 to 1 ratio. In you can, try to keep the ratio of your compost 3 parts brown stuff to 1 part green. Also, start out your compost pile at the bottom with some soil to get you started.


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4 Ways To Attract Butterflies To Your Backyard


Lately we’ve been posting about how to keep out unwanted critters from your backyard, such as wasps and bees. However, you don’t necessarily want all of the animal kingdom to steer clear of your yard. Hummingbirds, rabbits and butterflies are welcome visitors to most people’s yards. Here are four simple, DYI ways to attract butterflies to the area.


1.) Plant the right plants

Butterflies enjoy flowers that have a lot of pollen and nectar, and that require a lot of sunlight. Additionally they prefer stable flowers that can support them while they drink the nectar.  Flowers that are red, yellow and/or purple tend to attract the most butterflies. Some good choices are cornflower, daylily, lavender, lilac, snapdragon, mint and milkweed. Some vegetable and herb plants provide good places for butterflies to lay their eggs, so if you want to keep the butterflies coming, plant some carrots, dill, parsley and sage.


2.) Build a butterfly feeder, method 1

If you want to attract butterflies, but your allergies won’t let you plant flowers with so much pollen, why not make your own butterfly feeder? There are two ways to do it and the first method is quite simple. To make a butterfly feeder, all you’ll need is a plate or a lid (something flat but that comes up at the sides,) string and overripe fruit.

a.) Use the string and wrap it around the plate to create a hanger.

b.) Fill the plate with the overripe fruit. You can also add orange juice so that you’re fruit doesn’t dry out.

c.) Hang your feeder from a tree and voila! You’re finished. To attract the most butterflies, hang the feeder six inches above your tallest plants and 3 feet below the tree line.


3.) Build a butterfly feeder, method 2

Some butterflies prefer overripe fruit, while others prefer nectar or another sweet liquid. To make a butterfly feeder using method 2, you’ll need a glass jar with a lid, water, sugar, scissors, a sponge, a hammer, nails and string or twine. Look below for instructions.

a.) Prepare nine parts water to one part sugar. Bring to a boil and set to the side and allow it to cool. Make sure not to make the solution too sugary, as this can dehydrate the butterflies.

b.) Use the hammer and nail to punch a hole through the lid. Then cut a square piece from a sponge, about the size of a penny, and wedge it through the hole.

c.) Add some plain water into the jar, screw on the lid, and test the jar to see if it leaks. If it does, cut a larger-sized piece of sponge.

d.) Next, take your string or twine and wrap it around the jar, right underneath the lip where the lid goes. Tie it securely, and leave out several long strands that you can attach to a tree lib.

d.) Once your sugar-water solution is cool, fill up the jar, screw on the lid, and hang up your butterfly feeder.

e.) Enjoy watching the butterflies!




4.) Mud Puddle

This method alone probably won’t be enough to attract butterflies, but it’s a good addition to your butterfly garden. Butterflies drink nectar to get the food and energy they need. However you will occasionally see them drinking from mud puddles as well. This is because the mud puddles contain nutrients that are not found in flower nectar. Therefore mud puddles will help keep your butterflies happy all around.


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Tips for Living With A Roommate


Roommates can come in handy. They help you pay rent, watch TV with you and help buy supplies for the house. On the other hand, relationships with them can be tricky. Here are some tips and tricks to keeping your relationship harmonious.


1.) Draw up a roommate agreement.

If you watch The Big Bang Theory, you know all about roommate agreements. But an agreement or contract doesn’t have to be quite as complicated as Sheldon’s. At the beginning of your time as roommates, draw up a contract that both of you agree on. Outline a number a scenarios and agree on the protocol that you will both follow when they occur. Some situations to talk about could include: what to do if someone is late paying rent, the policy for bringing guests over, what supplies (if any) you will share the cost on and who will do what chore.


2.) His and hers

With most of your friends, it usually doesn’t matter if you take a stick of their gum or have your friend spot you a dollar or two when you go out. But when you live with someone, it’s important to respect their boundaries and their stuff. What seems to you like just one cookie out of 50, to your roommate it seems like an invasion. An invasion of their belongings and their privacy. So do yourself a favor and stick to your own stuff. If you really need something, just ask. And be prepared – and okay with – the possibility of a “no.”


3.) Compromise

You and your roommate won’t agree on everything. Words like “clean,” “early” and “loud” can be quite arbitrary. Try to find a happy middle ground that you can both agree on and set a minimum standard that you can both commit to. If one of you is a neat freak and the other is more of a slob, settle on a minimum of what you can both be happy with. For example, dishes can’t spend more than 24 hours in the sink, or one of you has to vacuum at least once every two weeks.


4.) Communication and understanding

Communication is key in every relationship you will have. If you’re unhappy about something, bring it up kindly with your roommate. Don’t ruminate about it and be passive aggressive. That’s just a recipe for a disastrous relationship. In addition to communicating, be understanding. If your roommate was up late the night before studying, try being quiet in the morning.

5.) Say hi

You and your roommate don’t have to be best friends. If you are friends, that’s great! But if not, just saying hi can go a long way. Greet each other in the mornings and evenings, and you’ll be on your way to a harmonious relationship.


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Ornamental Trees for Your Yard

Trees can be a great addition to any yard. They are beautiful to look at, and can provide shade or even fruit. Large trees can take years to grow, and they can be a hazard if you live in a natural disaster-prone area. However smaller trees can create a nice accent to both your front and back yards. In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day, we’re going to go over what you need to know about planting ornamental trees near your home.


1.) Ask yourself what you’re looking for

Why do you want to plant a tree? Are you looking for shade? Flowers? Fruit? Something decorative to cover up your hot water tank? If you’re looking for decorative foliage, think about getting an evergreen tree that won’t drop it’s leaves in the fall and winter, revealing whatever you were trying to cover up. If you’re looking for shade to sit under in the summer, think about whether your tree will attract birds or bees that would make your tree a less desirable location to sit under.

2.) Research your area.

You shouldn’t have a husky as a pet if you live at the southern tip of Florida, and you shouldn’t have an apple tree either. Research which trees thrive best where you live. You might have to give up your dream of an apple tree if you live in the South, but you can compromise with many other fruit trees, including fig, banana, orange and kumquat. While climate is a major point of consideration, it shouldn’t be the only one. Consider your immediate surrounding area. Some trees are able to hold up in more urban areas with air pollution and artificial lighting, and some do better in alkaline soil. A little research about your area now will save you lot in the long run.


3.) Location

Decide where you’re going to plant your tree. If you want a flowering tree, plant it away from the house or any recreational areas so you don’t have to worry about insects. Plant trees at least 5 feet away from the sidewalk to avoid interference with roots. Similarly, don’t plant trees too close to the house. A good rule of thumb is to calculate the tree’s widest reach once it reaches full maturity, divide that number in half and plant it at least that many feet away from your house. Last but not least, check to be sure that your “perfect location” doesn’t interfere with any underground pipes or other lines.


As we’ve seen, the perfect tree for you depends largely on your specific situation: where you live, your environment and your home’s needs. However here are some popular options for you to consider:


Baby Colorado spruce (evergreen)


Flowering dogwood (flowers)


Japanese Maple (foliage)


Pawpaw/papaya (fruit)

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Adding a Rock Garden to Your Home

It’s springtime! It’s a time for planting flowers, plants and vegetables. But what if you don’t exactly have a green thumb? A rock garden could be a great solution to your landscaping needs!

Rock gardens, also called zen gardens, come from Japan. Classical zen gardens were built in Buddhist temples around the time of the Renaissance, though they have origins going back hundreds of years before. The gardens and formations were meant to represent the essence, not the physical appearance, of nature. Throughout history and up to the present day, they have given people a sense of calm and have been a great aide in meditation.

Rocks gardens can be just about any size, from a small box on your desk, to a section of your backyard, to acres wide. And the best part: for those of us without that green thumb, zen gardens are relatively low maintenance.

Step One: Clear out the vegetation

A low maintenance garden will some become a high maintenance one if little green blades of grass start sticking up through the pebbles. Dig up any grass, weeds and other unwanted vegetation that could get in the way. Feel free to border your garden with plants or to keep some small plants in the middle. After you’ve cleared out the area, lay down a weed mat. This will help keep your rocks clean.

Step Two: Get the rocks

Once you’ve cleared the area, fill it in with rocks and pebbles. You can keep it simple and just use small pebbles, or you can add larger rocks and vegetation to make more of an accent.

Step Three: Make it your own!

Now comes the fun part. Get a rake and start drawing lines and circles. Your zen garden should reflect your personality. If you’re more of the classic type, look up some pictures of traditional gardens to draw inspiration. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, then let your creativity flow! The great thing about zen gardens is that they’re easily changed.


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Incorporate Roman Architecture into Your Home

Many people want to incorporate Roman architecture into their homes for good reason. It has stood the test of time for thousands of years and can create an impressive image.

A little bit of history

The Roman Empire gained a lot of Greek architects and engineers when it conquered Greece. This greatly influenced Roman architecture and made it what we have all come to know and enjoy. This art was almost lost with the fall of the Roman Empire. However scholars during the Renaissance took an interest, and the grandeur of Roman architecture has been kept alive ever since.

Ways to bring ancient Rome to your home

1.) Columns

One of the best known and used ways to imitate Roman architecture is through the use of columns. The three most commonly used are doric, ionic and corinthian, which are actually of Greek origin. There are also the lesser known Tuscan order and composite order column, which shows clearly how the Romans were inspired by the Greeks.

From left to right the columns are: Tuscan order, Doric, ionic, Corinthian, composite order.

Pick a Tuscan or doric column for a more classic and simple look. Choose corinthian or composite for a showier and grander look. (Corinthian columns are very prominent in many government buildings.) If you want something in the middle, go for the ionic.

And if you really can’t decide, go for a combination, like this house in the Garden District in New Orleans. The history of the house goes that the original husband and wife couldn’t decide on which columns they should have. So they compromised and got Doric on the bottom and Corinthian on the top.


2.) Arches

Arches are a great way to add elegance to your home. Arches can be added either to the front of the house, or the back to make for a snug patio. Because arches tend to give your patio a covered feel, they are best used for when you have a large outdoor area to look over.

3.) Mosaics

Another method for giving your home a Roman or Greek feel is to add a mosaic. Mosaics can add a sense of art and creativity. You can go for a classic look and use somewhat muted colors to create a pastoral scene, or you can take a modern twist to the ancient art and use bright colors. It’s all up to you and what kind of feel you want.

4.) Gardens

Another way the Romans exuded elegance was through their gardens. Add a fountain to your backyard to recreate the calming effect that trickling water had back in the days of the Romans.

In this picture, you can see how arches, mosaics and the fountain were all utilized to create a picturesque garden.

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