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How to Simplify for a More Peaceful Life

by The Hat Team


With summer in the rear-view mirror and the holidays approaching, life has likely gotten a lot more hectic. Chances are you have multiple schedules to juggle and little free time.  Now is a good time to simplify your life and eliminate as much stress as possible. Get started with the following steps:

  • Let go of extraneous possessions.  Having too many "things" can be detrimental to a peaceful life.  They cause clutter, drain your bank account and use energy and attention that could be elsewhere.  Take the time to remove unnecessary possessions from your life and you will not regret it!
     
  • Learn to say no.  Too many commitments will not only take up time, but will leave you feeling like you can’t really give 100% to anyone or anything.  Prioritize what is most important to you, whether it’s a book club or a hobby or volunteering.  After working and taking care of your family, you want to make the most out of the free time you have. Filling it with activities you don’t really care about out of some sense of obligation will leave you feeling tired and unfulfilled.
     
  • Get organized.  There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find something when you need it.  Imagine the time and energy that will be saved if you don’t have to search for your keys or the phone charger or your child’s permission slip that you signed last week.  Having a place for everything and knowing where it is when you need it will make your life much less stressful and free up more time for fun and relaxation. How Clutter Affects Your Health
     
  • Reduce screen time.  How many times have you run late for something because you just had to read one more article on the internet.  It’s easy to get sucked in when so much information is available so easily.  But too much screen time means too little REAL time.  Don’t let the screen dominate your life.  Make a conscious effort to unplug and free up more time for other activities.
     
  • Stop multi-tasking.  It may seem unavoidable when life is so busy, but research indicates that multi-tasking increases stress and lowers productivity.  Focus on one task at a time, give it 100% of your attention, and when you are done move on to the next task. How Multitasking Affects Productivity and Brain Health
     
  • Ask for help.  Sometimes life is hard.  Trying to do everything yourself can leave you feeling defeated and deflated.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

These are just a few ideas for ways to simplify your life.  If you are buying or selling a home, you can count on Sandra Nickel and Her Hat Team of professionals to make the process as simple as possible for you! Give them a call today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: frugalfamily.co.uk

Tying Up Loose Ends When You Move

by The Hat Team

Let’s face it - moving is overwhelming no matter how well you prepare.  There are what seem like a million little pieces that all must fall into place to make a move go smoothly. And even then, it is stressful.  You are upending your life; putting everything you own into boxes and bags, and making big changes.  So, it’s easy to understand how some tasks fall through the cracks and are forgotten.  Here are some important things that many people forget to do (or don’t even realize need to be done) when moving:

  • Cancel recurring charges for local memberships. During the chaos of moving, the last thing you are likely to think about are membership fees for things that may not transfer to your new place of residence, like a gym membership.  And if those fees are automatically charged to your credit or debit card you need to cancel those memberships at least a month before you move so that you don’t continue to get charged even when you’re not there to use them any longer.
     
  • Call your car insurance company. Per the Department of Motor Vehicles,  it is vital to check on your car insurance when moving, as states have varying levels of required coverage.  In fact, insurance rates can even vary from neighborhood to neighborhood in the same city.  So, make sure you call your insurer before you move to see if you need to update or change your coverage at your new address.
     
  • Change your address early.  Changing your address is easy using the Online Form provided by the U.S. Postal Service, but don’t wait until the last minute to do it! If you want to be sure that your mail arrives at your new home in a timely manner, complete the form about two weeks before you move. 
     
  • Take care of your finances.  During the whirlwind of moving, it’s easy to forget the everyday tasks that are a normal part of your routine…like paying bills.  It’s also easy to lose track of paper bills among all the boxes you’ve packed.  Take the time to set up auto pay for things at your new home like mortgage/rent, phone, utilities etc.  This can help assure an on-time payment during a hectic time.  Designate a spot for mail both in the home you’re packing up and in your new home so that paper bills aren’t lost in the shuffle.
     
  • Change your billing address on credit cards.  Don’t get caught by surprise when your billing address doesn’t match the address on your credit card because you forgot to change it when you moved.  Some transactions now require that you put in your billing zip code when using your card, so if that has changed, then you need to change it on your credit cards as well.  The last thing you want is to deal with a transaction being denied and then finding out it was simply because you hadn’t changed the address on your card.

Yes, moving is stressful. But taking care of these often overlooked tasks will make it a little bit easier!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: braybray.co.uk

Enjoy the Advantages of Downsizing

by The Hat Team

 

Have you recently become an empty nester with a home spacious enough for a large family?  Maybe it’s time to consider downsizing.  There are numerous perks to downsizing to a smaller home:

  1. SAVING MONEY. You will not only save on your monthly mortgage payment in a smaller home, you will also save money on frivolous living.  One of the advantages of downsizing your home is that you can stop wasting money on furniture and home décor that are used to fill space rather than to fulfill a function.  Filling a smaller space will allow you to prioritize what items are important and necessary for you.
     
  2. LESS STRESS. After working hard all week to pay the bills, it’s no fun to have to spend your weekend doing chores.  A smaller home equals fewer chores and less upkeep. This will free up time to enjoy leisure activities and relaxation.
     
  3. SAVE ENERGY. If you live in a large home, you know that energy costs can be expensive.  Smaller homes will not only save you money on heating, cooling and water costs, it will also allow you to reduce your carbon footprint.
     
  4. FREE TIME FOR TRAVEL. With additional disposable income and less upkeep needed, a smaller home will afford you the time and cash for travel and adventure.  Weekend getaways or even long trips are less of a hassle now that you don’t have to worry about being house-poor.
     
  5. A NEW BEGINNING. Downsizing can be the beginning of a new chapter in your life.  If being an empty nester has you feeling down, a lifestyle change might be just what you need to start focusing on how you want to spend your time, money and energy. 

If you are ready to downsize, let professional Realtor Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team help you sell the house you’re in and find a new home to better suit your needs!  Contact us today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: aarp.org

How to Host a Fantastic Game Day Party!

by The Hat Team


Football season is here and whether you are cheering for Alabama or Auburn, that means party time!  Gathering with friends and family to watch your favorite team will be all the more fun with these game-day party tips!

GUEST LIST: Make sure to invite people well in advance so that you know how many to plan for.  If you are a die-hard football fan, you may want to consider only inviting other die-hard fans, but if you are just using the game as an excuse to have a party, invite anyone and everyone you enjoy socializing with. The more the merrier!  You also might want to make it an adult only affair. A day of watching tv and eating junk food might not be the best idea for little ones, especially if there isn’t a lot of space for them to run around and burn off energy. 

PARTY LOCATION: If you live in a tiny apartment with one small couch, you are going to want to either limit how many people you invite to just a few or you might want to totally steer clear of hosting a party at your home.  The optimal setting for a football watching party is a large room with lots of seating and a casual atmosphere.  Oh…and don’t forget…a BIG television!

WHAT TO SERVE: As far as drinks go, make sure to have a variety. Remember that some people don’t drink alcohol, so you should have non-alcoholic beverages available.  Now, for the most important aspect of a game day party…THE FOOD!  Creating a game day menu is one time when you can be a junk food junkie and feel good about it!  Think finger foods that are easily consumed while sitting on a couch watching the game. You can’t go wrong with chips, dips and nachos, but if you want something a little more substantial, great options are wings, ribs and chili.  You want to stick with foods that can be prepared ahead of time and served up easily so that you don’t have to miss any of the game.  Have some sweets on hand for dessert. They should be portable and easy to eat - like cake pops, cupcakes and brownies.  If you really want to impress your guests, make some football shaped food.  Whether you keep it simple, or go all out in terms of presentation, just make sure you have enough for everyone! 8 Football-Shaped Foods for Your Game Day Party

USE TEAM COLORS FOR YOUR THEME: Make things festive by adding decorations in your favorite team’s colors.  Think streamers, paper plates, napkins, and cups. Decorating can be the difference between a gathering and a true PARTY!

If you love to host parties and relish the idea of going all out, then go for it!  But if you just want to kick back with people to watch the game, keep it simple and don’t stress.  Most importantly, enjoy the time spent with friends and family!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: mydish.com

Creating a Colorful Fall Garden

by The Hat Team

Fall gardens bring to mind vivid, jewel toned colors such as scarlet, deep purples and gold.  Planning for a fall garden needs to start early so that plants are established. Even if they bloom late in the season, they will be hardier and bloom best if they’ve been in the garden longer.  Before planting, research what kind of flowers and plants will do best in your area.  To help, here is a list of some that thrive in hardiness zone 8 (Montgomery, AL): Alabama USDA Hardiness Zone Map

Chrysanthemums:  Commonly called “mums”, these richly hued plants are true sign of fall. When buying mums, look for ones labeled “hardy mums” or “garden mums” for the best chance of having them thrive throughout the season.  Plant them as soon as you buy them.  Given the opportunity to develop a strong root system, they will last longer. Chrysanthemums: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Mums

Helenium: Part of the daisy family, this cheery flower blooms in yellow, orange and red bringing a vibrant ambiance to your garden. These tough, easy-to-grow perennials bloom late in the season and last a long time.

Asters: Available in a variety of hues in shades of pink, purple, blue and white, these perennials bloom from mid to late fall.  Loved by bees, butterflies and other pollinators, they provide a late feeding opportunity for them.   Plant them as soon as they are available in early fall so that they can establish a strong root system.

Pansies: One of the most popular cool weather annuals, pansies are favorites for fall flowerbeds. They are very hardy and can continue to bloom through winter and into spring, thereby adding lively color to your garden almost year ‘round! All About Pansies

Sedum (Stonecrop): Robust, carefree, pretty, and long-lasting, sedum is about as close to perfect as you can get for a fall flower.  Sedums comes in many various sizes and colors, including mat forming, creeping, and upright varieties. Easy to grow, they are great for beds, borders, or even a rock garden.  How to Grow Sedum

If you are thinking about selling your home this autumn, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with getting it on the market and sold for the best possible price!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

How to Stay Active When You Hate Exercising

by The Hat Team


Do you hate exercising?  Do you want to be healthier and more fit, but the thought of going to a gym fills you with anxiety?  Well, I am here to tell you that there are numerous ways to “exercise” that you will enjoy so much, you won’t even realize you’re exercising!

Seven Fun Ways to Stay Active:

  1. Hiking - Whether you like the solitude of hiking alone or you would rather go with family and friends, you will be surrounded by the beauty of nature and wildlife and you will walk miles before you know it.  There is no shortage of beautiful places to hike in and around Montgomery! Best Trails Near Montgomery, AL
     
  2. Walking - If you don’t have time for a hike, go for a walk instead.  Even a fifteen-minute walk can get your heart pumping.  Walk in your neighborhood, or during your lunch break at work.  One way or another, get those steps in! Our Free Self-Guided Walking Tour of Montgomery, AL
     
  3. Geocaching - For the adventure nerd in all of us…geocaching allows us to be real-life treasure hunters and get a great work out at the same time! Check out this Website for information on geocaching events taking place in Alabama.
     
  4. Dancing - So many types of dance, so little time!  You can try swing dancing, Latin dancing, tap!  The options are limitless!  Try some ballroom dancing lessons at River Region Ballroom or step out for some country line dancing at one of the many Country Line Dance Bars in Montgomery!
     
  5. Martial Arts - Just like with dancing, there are loads of different types of martial arts.  Not only will you learn to defend yourself, but the practice of martial arts can be a stress reliever. Try karate at the Family Karate Center or jiu-jitsu at Montgomery Martial Arts.
     
  6. Clean - I’m shaking my head as I type this, because really?  Who likes cleaning?  But by thinking of it as a great way to get fit, you can kill two birds with one stone (so to speak).  Blast your favorite music at max volume and see how much you can get done during one song. Make it a challenging game and before you know it you will not only have a clean house…but you will have worked up a good sweat too!
     
  7. Play – Get outside and play childhood games with your kids and their friends. Hide and seek, tag, red rover, kick the can.  These games will keep you moving…and probably laughing, while you enjoy quality time with your kids! 30 Unorganized Sports You Should Teach Your Kids This Summer

So, if “exercise” is a bad word in your book, remove it from your vocabulary and replace it with one of these fun and exciting ways to stay fit!

Photo Credit: nationalpost.com

Saving Money 101

by The Hat Team


The best way to save money is to live on a set budget.  Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck or you have some “fun” money left over each month, knowing where your money is going will allow you to see how much you can save each month. If you are new to budgeting, managing your money may seem complicated and overwhelming.  You not only have to be organized, but you must make challenging decisions about how to spend your money.  But there is good news for you.  You don’t need fancy financial apps on your phone or extensive spreadsheets with dozens of categories of spending to see where your money is going.  You simply need to follow the 50-20-30 rule!

The 50-20-30 rule assists you in building a budget by using three spending categories. 

  1.  50% of your income should go to living expenses and essentials including rent, utilities, groceries and transportation.
     
  2.  20% should go to savings, investments and debt-reduction payments.
     
  3.  30% of your income should be used for flexible spending. This includes everything you buy that you want, but don’t necessarily need such as travel, going out to movies etc.

Top Ten Debt Relief Programs 2019

Remember that the percentages for essentials and flexible spending are the maximum amounts you should spend.  If you use less income in these categories, you will have more to put into your other financial goals.

Here is how to start the 50-20-30 budget.  First, determine exactly how much money you bring home each month. This will be the amount on which you will base your 50-20-30 split.  Then track your spending. Every penny of it, from your rent payment down to the coffee you stop for on the way to work in the morning.  As you are analyzing your spending, split it into the 50-20-30 categories.  Once you see what you are spending where, you can make the needed adjustments to ensure you are falling into the 50-20-30 parameters.  If you find you are spending too much on things that you want, but don’t need, that’s when it is time to cut back. The 8 Best Expense Tracker Apps of 2019

The 50-20-30- rule works because it provides a simple way to track your spending so that you can pay your bills, add to your savings and have money left over for fun stuff.  It keeps you on the straight and narrow so that you can begin to meet your financial goals.  If you stay the course, you will eventually achieve financial stability.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: Kiplinger.com

Using Plants to Prevent Pests

by The Hat Team

This time of year, many of us enjoy spending time outside in our yards. Whether we are playing, dining, doing yardwork or simply relaxing, our time outdoors can be ruined by nasty pests.  There are many remedies for getting rid of annoying insects, but if you are looking for natural ways to do the job, here are several plants you can put in your yard that will repel unwanted insects.  While they will not guarantee an insect free environment, they will help!

BASIL

Basil repels house flies and mosquitoes.  Use containers for planting basil by your house doors or in any outdoor areas where you like to relax and entertain.  It will serve more than one purpose because you can also use the fresh basil in your cooking!

LAVENDER

This pretty plant repels moths, fleas, mosquitoes and flies.  Its pleasing, sweet fragrance appeals to humans, but the bugs hate it! You can place bouquets inside your home to keep flies away.  Outdoors, plant it in sunny areas or near the entryways of your house to keep those areas pest free.  Check out the Everything Lavender website to find out how you can use lavender oil to make your own mosquito repellent.

LEMONGRASS

Lemongrass contains the natural oil, citronella, which is commonly found in candles that are used to keep mosquitoes away.  Ornamental lemongrass can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide in one season.  It is an annual that does well in a pot or in the ground in sunny, well-drained locations.  Its aromatic, narrow leaves can be used in chicken and pork dishes and to flavor soups and salad dressings.  Many Asian recipes call for lemongrass.

MINT

Another plant that mosquitoes don’t like.  It’s best grown in pots rather than in the ground because it spreads aggressively.  Once established in a garden, it can be difficult to remove.  The leaves can be used to flavor minty iced tea. Containers of mint strategically placed in the garden or on the patio will assist in keeping nearby plants insect free. Fresh Mint Iced Tea

ALLIUMS

If you have a vegetable garden, beautiful, tall alliums will help keep insects out of it.  Considered a broad-spectrum natural insecticide, plants in the Allium family repel several insects that plague vegetable gardens, including slugs, aphids, carrot flies and cabbage worms.

CHRYSANTHEMUMS

The ingredient in chrysanthemums that makes them so effective as an insect repellent is pyrethrum.  Roaches, ants, Japanese beetles, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, spider mites, harlequin bugs and root-knot nematodes all will avoid chrysanthemums.  Pyrethrum is used in America’s most commonly available home and garden insecticide sprays. You can make your own bug spray using chrysanthemum oil, but make sure you know the risks of using it first. Uses of Chrysanthemum Oil

PETUNIAS

These whimsical beauties repel aphids, tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers and squash bugs.  Some people think of them as “nature’s pesticide”.  Popular because of their availability in a variety of bright colors, they require minimal maintenance and can be grown in numerous locations including beds, containers and hanging baskets.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo credits: Pinterest

Getting Away from It All in Alabama

by The Hat Team

Memorial Day is around the corner and with it comes the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.  If you’ve been thinking about where you can go to “get away from it all” this summer, you won’t have to venture far.  From relaxing coastal beaches, to historic inns and B&Bs, Alabama is home to many wonderful places to visit for a weekend getaway. Here are 5 of best weekend getaways in Alabama:

  1. Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa - Located in the charming little beach hamlet of Point Clear, AL, this resort offers a relaxing, entertaining oasis to guests of all ages and interests.  It boasts two exceptional golf courses, a 20,000 square-foot Grand Spa, a fabulous pool complex for kids of all ages, ten tennis courts, and miles of white sand beaches stretching along Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast.  You’ll enjoy dining at the Saltwater Grill seafood restaurant, and the Grand Steakhouse.  Elegant rooms and suites are beautifully decorated and include all the amenities you could ever want - free Wi-Fi, LCD TVs, a coffeemaker, fridge, and a work area with an ergonomic chair.

Photo Credit: historichotels.org

  1. Magnolia Springs B&B - This romantic Inn is set on a tree-lined street in the heart of Magnolia Springs, Alabama.  Charm oozes from this historical landmark which offers beautiful accommodations, scrumptious homemade breakfasts and a tranquil ambiance that makes it impossible not to relax.  Ideally located for exploring the area, you can venture out for a scenic drive to nearby Mobile Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, or play golf at one of the several courses in the area.

Photo Credit: magnoliasprings.com

  1. Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa - If you’re looking for elegance and romance, this is the place for you.  This resort offers 259 guest rooms with private balconies and lake views.  Upgrade to a high-level room and enjoy scenic views and a private Jacuzzi.  Lots of activities are available from jogging/walking trails, to a saltwater swimming pool, to a well-equipped fitness center. Indulge in a relaxing spa treatment, or just kick back and admire the breathtaking Alabama views.

Photo Credit: engagedbirmingham.com

  1. The Hotel at Auburn University - Located on the Auburn University Campus, this is the premiere hotel facility for all things Auburn.  Filled with charm, it offers sleek guest rooms and suites with top-of-the-line amenities for their guests, like premium linens, flat screen televisions, and walk-in rainfall showers.  You can upgrade to a room with a private living room and wet bar. Enjoy upscale dining onsite at the Mediterranean restaurant Ariccia Trattoria, and kick back and relax while listening to jazz at the Piccolo cocktail lounge.  Other amenities include an outdoor pool, state-of-the-art fitness center and the 22,000-square foot Dixon Conference Center.  There is a lot to do and see in and around Auburn, so check out this list of the 15 Best Things to Do in Auburn Alabama.

Photo Credit: agoda.com

  1. The Mistletoe Bough Bed & Breakfast - How could anyone resist a place called The Mistletoe Bough?  This quaint, romantic bed and breakfast offers a choice of five different rooms and suites with private bathrooms and Victorian-style décor.  Relaxation is the name of the game whether you are strolling through the lovely gardens or sipping sweet tea while sitting on the wraparound veranda.  Historic downtown Alexander City and several restaurants are walking distance from the B&B. But don’t worry about breakfast, because a buffet is served every morning in the Victorian dining room. Complimentary coffee, tea, and cool drinks are available throughout the day.

Photo Credit: m.alexcityoutlook.com

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Montgomery Mother’s Day Happenings

by The Hat Team


Mother’s Day is just a few days away, but it’s not too late to plan a special day for the Mom in your life.  Here are some fun events for celebrating Mom in Montgomery this weekend:

  • Mother’s Day Lunch Cruise

No Mom should have to cook on Mother’s Day…unless she wants to!  Treat Mom to a lovely Mother’s Day Lunch Cruise on the Harriott II.  Enjoy a scenic cruise that not only includes lunch, but live entertainment as well! Boarding at 12:15 PM and cruise goes from 12:45 PM to 2:45 PM.  There will be a cash bar and concessions available as well.

Purchase tickets HERE.  Ticket price includes a gift for Mom!  For more information call 334-625-2100.

  • 9th Annual Agape’s Run for Mom 5K and Fun Run

This annual run takes place on Saturday, May 11, 2019.  Dedicate your run to your Mom or another special woman in your life.  Course begins at Vaughn Park Church of Christ and continues through the Vaughn Meadows community.  All proceeds from the run will benefit Agape of Central Alabama and its mission to support women, children, and families through foster care, adoption, and crisis pregnancy counseling.  For more information call 334-272-9466. Register for run HERE.

  • Take her out to the ballgame!  Does Mom love baseball?  Then what better way to celebrate her special day than by heading out to a Montgomery Biscuits game?  The Montgomery Biscuits experience is a fun time for the whole family.  The Biscuits will be playing the Mississippi Braves Saturday, May 11 at 6:05 PM (Family Faith Night with pre-game concert and MAX Fireworks), and Sunday, May 12 at 2:05 PM (Mother’s Day Stemless Wineglass Giveaway).  Purchase tickets HERE. For more information call 334-323-2255.
     
  • Celebrate Mother’s Day at the Montgomery Zoo!

Sunday, May 12, 2019 - 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM (last admission at 4:00 PM)

Celebrate Mother’s Day with FREE ADMISSION FOR ALL MOMS!  This includes admission to Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum.  If Mom loves animals, this is the perfect way to spend her special day!  For more information, click HERE.

Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team would like to wish all Moms a very HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: lorensworld.com

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