Once Upon a Time Vacations

 

Once Upon a Time Vacations

by Amy Lignor

 

Whether you are a lover of history or you simply have the “Beauty & the Beast” obsession – which, according to movie revenue data, millions all over the world are suffering from – just think how amazing it would be to stay in an actual castle. We already know what the beauty would be from the female perspective, but when it comes to the gentlemen out there, just think about how much better that “moment” on bended knee would be if you popped the question in a very real castle.

 

There are once in a lifetime vacations. However, here we delve into those “Once Upon A Time” trips that include a stay in some of the most elegant homes ever built; homes of royals and historical heroes and heroines that will have you impressing that girl you love, or giving that history-loving mind of yours an unforgettable gift.

 

When you talk about castles, Europe is the hands-down winner of the oldest and most highly esteemed palaces ever built. Not a surprise, considering you are talking about countries ruled by kings and queens who erected walled cities and grand battlements to be able to withstand centuries of war.

Balfour Castle

BALFOUR CASTLE  Photo Credit: Stephen McKay

Talk about a rich history. We begin at Balfour Castle in Scotland, which is the most northerly castle in the world where you and yours can stay. 5-Star luxury is an understatement. At Balfour, you will be amongst some of the most impressive wilderness as you dwell in the castle on the small island of Shapinsay, which is quite famous for its sheltered bays that once provided safety to Viking ships.

 

If wishing to head to Italy for the amazing culture and even more amazing food, you can stay in Castel Relais Porrona, which is a 12th century castle located in the midst of olive trees and vineyards in Tuscany. From saunas to pools to horseback riding, this is one palace that is beyond compare.

 

Built almost 1000 years ago, situated just 60 miles from London, Amberley Castle can be found. This is one choice that will live in your memory for all time because of the fact that the castle has maintained its original medieval architecture. Each of the 19 rooms available feature whirlpool baths and other modern-day amenities, of course; yet the gardens, walls and magnificent twin-tower gatehouse still stand and add to the beauty of a world that has not existed for quite some time.

 

If France is the country of choice, the luxurious Chateau de Bourron can be found just an hour’s ride from the heart of Paris. Built in the traditional brick and stone style, this fortress was constructed in the early 17th century and even has the spring-fed moats to add to the perfect picture of what a castle should be.

 

If looking for a Spanish experience, Pousada de Óbidos is the place to visit in Portugal.

The actual city of Óbidos is walled; the castle, itself, was begun in 718 AD and not completed until the mid-1300’s. This is where the troops that defeated Napoleon for the first time were dispatched from – which feeds into that historical mind of yours. And when it comes to irresistible beauty, Pousada de Óbidos is close by the white-sand beaches and the pristine waters of the Silver Coast. From hot air balloon rides to sailing, this is one castle adventure that should not be missed.

 

The architecture in India is breathtaking, and the Neemrana Fort Palace near Delhi is one that steals the show. It was back in 1464 that the palace was constructed on a hillside by order of the king, so that he could see his lands at any time he wished to view them. Seven palace wings built over 14 layers make up the tiers of the hill, making this one of the most unique castles in the entire world.

 

And there is no other way to complete a list of the best castles other than with Ireland and the beautiful Ashford Castle. This is literally the oldest Irish castle in existence. Medieval, Ashford was constructed in 1228, and the Guinness family (who purchased Ashford in the 1800’s) added to the property, yet did not disturb the natural beauty that made up the castle in the first place. A true recipe of the ‘old’ (ramparts, chandeliers, medieval armor) mixed with the ‘new’ (spas, horseback riding, golf courses, and more), this Irish castle is most definitely one that will take your breath away.

 

So…ready for a historical walk through a royal world? Ready for the perfect spot to propose? Or are you simply ready for your own chance to have a true castle-in-the-air experience? Then check out these stunners as you move forward to book a magical vacation.

 

The Hottest Locales for Small Business in the U.S.

 
The Hottest Locales for Small Business in the U.S.

by Amy Lignor

 

No, Silicon Valley is not being replaced. However, with the Kauffman Foundation releasing its annual Startup Activity Index last week showing, in detail, trends in U.S. business startups for 2017, it was revealed that California has been booted out of first place. The top spot for new businesses to be built and thrive in the United States has been taken over by the big, sunny city of Miami, Florida.

Kauffman Foundation, Knight Foundation, South Florida, StartupBootCamp, small business startups, Miami

For those out there looking to not only land five minutes on “Shark Tank,” but also want to know where small businesses are thriving as opposed to hanging up For Sale signs in windows, they should most definitely read up on Kauffman’s latest data. Not only did Miami come in first overall but they also tied with L.A. for having the highest rate of new entrepreneurs – 0.56 percent. What that means is that in a given month 560 out of 100,000 adults living in Miami actually started a business in 2017, and there are nearly 108 startups for every thousand employer businesses currently operating in Miami.

 

Now this may not mean, of course, that all new businesses beginning in South Florida in 2017 will end up being venture-backed startups that succeed brilliantly. But when it comes to California losing the top spot, the major blow for that state comes in the form of San Francisco and San Jose dropping significantly where new business openings were concerned. The rate of new entrepreneurs giving it a go, so to speak, has declined dramatically in both areas; whereas the Miami startup scene grew by leaps and bounds when the Knight Foundation made 200+ investments totaling $25 million in entrepreneurs and their initiatives in South Florida. But they weren’t alone in doing so. StartupBootCamp, the largest helper of entrepreneurs stemming from Europe, began helping fund startups in the U.S. in 2015. Beginning in Miami in the digital health field, StartupBootCamp has truly helped Miami’s small business activity grow exponentially.

 

If looking at small business success on a slightly smaller-town angle, more data was released (WalletHub) in regards to where small businesses are doing the best in 2017, when it comes to opening in non-cities. Bigger is not always better when you’re talking about where to open up “a shop.” By comparing various locations using factors like, available workforce, cost of labor, office space, and growth potential, there are five specific smaller towns that rated extremely high for small business startups. Not only are they business friendly, but they are also worth making the move to live in.

 

If your particular business is something that would be more successful in a smaller pond, the locations of Holland, MI; Carbondale, IL; Springville, UT; East Chicago, IN; and Jefferson City, MO, come in as being the top five U.S. locations for producing successful new small businesses.

 

Flipping the coin over, whether you wish to live and open your new business in a big city or a smaller community, a multitude of data has been compiled and is out there waiting for you to research. But to narrow down that search even further, it is important to note ahead of time which five states scored the worst when it came to producing successful 2017 business startups.

 

For Hawaii, it is the state’s high cost of living that is the top challenge small business owners have to face, causing the state to come in dead last as being the worst for startups. Maine also comes in on the negative side of things. The state’s low density of startups is debatable, but the state also puts up extremely low productivity numbers, with $37,958 GDP per capita being the seventh lowest in the country. Along those same lines, Vermont has too many unemployed residents and only about 3,000 jobs open. On top of that, the costs are far too high for the small business to incur. Wisconsin and Arkansas round out the five states that new startups should most definitely stay away from in 2017.

 

So as you move forward researching the future of your business, know that the sunny world of Miami is, thus far, the right place to start.

A Sport Where You Feel the Thrill Without Going to the Extreme

 

A Sport Where You Feel the Thrill Without Going to the Extreme

by Amy Lignor

 

There are many sports “fanatics” out there who literally dive head-first into an extreme sport in order to get their adrenaline pumping – taking on a sport that comes hand-in-hand with a monumental amount of risk. But for those who are not interested in being scared to death, yet wish to feel the thrill, data has shown that zip lining has become the sport that millions are now experiencing worldwide. From riding down the “wild” Fremont Street in Vegas and watching those flashing neon lights; to zipping over the stunning beaches and crystal blue waters of Hawaii; to soaring over the wild jungles of Sri Lanka without having to worry about the risk, zip lining allows you the opportunity to glide through the sky with ease.

Zip Lining, glide through the sky, popular sports, thrill ride, flying fox, kids, adventure, Superhero

Photo Credit: David Berkowitz

It’s important to note that zip lines come in all shapes, different sizes and strengths, so that long rides, fast rides and rides with vertical drops can be had. For those who have yet to hop on one of these incredible zip lines that can be found all across the globe, its’ fun to get a little data on exactly what it is and why it has become such a popular sport. The line is designed to enable a user, propelled by gravity, to travel from the top to the bottom of a cable that has been set in place on a steep incline. They do this by attaching themselves to the free-moving pulley that carries them through the air, and allows them to have that jaw-dropping trip as they view the incredible sights below.

 

This particular sport and/or form of entertainment, however, is not new. In the past, zip lining was actually used as a form of transportation in some of the oddest locations. In what is now an old ghost town (also an artist colony that brings in tourists every day), Jerome, Arizona once used the zip line to get people up and down the high mountain that the town sits atop. When it came to their line, they attached a canoe to the pulley and sent people barreling down the hillside. Of course, back then this was actually quite extreme considering the peoples’ inability to stop the canoe once it reached the bottom of the mountain.

 

Thankfully, as technology grew far smarter over the decades, zip line tours actually became popular. And with the data being releases as of late, it is shown that zip lining tours have actually become the number one “thing to do” on vacation. Lines are going up all over the globe, from outdoor adventure camps to upscale resorts where vacationers go to have a grand old time. Higher lines that access more remote areas have people soaring over a rainforests as well as through the jungles of Costa Rica, Puerto Vallarta, Nicaragua and more, creating zip lining enthusiasts all over the world.

 

Children, too, have an option of embarking on a zip line adventure. It is the term “flying fox” that is used when speaking about a small-scale zip line. With the Flying Fox, the pulley(s) attached to the car are then affixed to the cable. And seeing as that the children’s versions of the zip line are not set up on a steep incline, speeds are kept low which negates even more risk because there is no need to set up a means of stopping.

 

When you think about what a thrill the zip line would be, allowing you to soar like a Superhero without having to risk life and limb while doing so, look into some of the coolest zip lines out there. In St. Lucia, you can literally book a package that has you experiencing a true rainforest; and, if wanting a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you can set up a chance to zip over the Mojave Desert. You can even head to San Diego, California where, in 2015, the state’s longest zip line opened at La Jolla Indian Reservation. Riders actually soar through 1.25 miles of tree tops, canyons, valleys, and mountains, catching speeds of up to 50 mph. While in San Diego, you can even head to the exciting zip line at Flightline Safari, which is located in the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park. It is truly an outstanding experience to zip through the sky and catch views of the incredible wildlife below.

 

In other words, if you are looking to embark on a new sport that will allow you a bit of exercise and a whole lot of thrills (and does not require you to be in the greatest shape of your entire life to enjoy), get on that zip line and have a whole lot of fun. This is one of those sports that, if chosen, will help your health improve as you view some truly magnificent places from up above.

 

The Good, the Bad & the Really Ugly: Summer Movies Are Upon Us

 

The Good, the Bad & the Really Ugly: Summer Movies Are Upon Us

by Amy Lignor

 

Heading into your local theatre is wonderful in the summertime. Not only do you get to sit back and cool yourself off in the dark, air-conditioned place, but you also get to smell that amazing scent of freshly popped corn. Of course, it helps if the movie is actually good. So to help you out, here are the movies that will make you happy and those that are sure to disappoint. But remember, even if the movie deserves two thumbs down at least you’ll be cool and relaxed in those amazing reclining seats.

 

What’s first, you ask? Well, the biggest movies that people were waiting all winter to see have just begun with the release of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” This is the second installment of this space saga that Marvel minds created, and the first was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alien: Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Spiderman: Homecoming, The Mummy, Stephen King, Johnny Depp, The Emoji Movieso good that Chris Pratt returns and even Bradley Cooper stars in this new volume. It’s an incredibly fun movie and Baby Groot is sure to be the “big toy” when Christmas comes along.

Soon (May 19th to be exact) one of the really ugly blockbusters will be hitting screens in the form of “Alien: Covenant.” Let’s face it, this is one series that should have stopped when Sigourney Weaver said “so long.” Actually, it should have stopped after film one, which was extremely well-acted and produced that godawful but highly memorable scene of the thing sprouting out of the guy’s stomach, which is still among the scariest moments on film. Not scary in the least, this new chapter has already received more thumbs down and rotten “vegetables” than you can imagine from film critics. The original Alien will be holding his head in shame.

 

What is bound to be a great one arrives on May 26th with “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Even if you dislike Johnny Depp, he has proven to be the perfect pirate. This time around Captain Jack Sparrow will go up against a ghost captain, played by the very cool and usually scary Javier Bardem, who loves to kill the swarthy buccaneers of the sea. This will be swashbuckling in the best of ways. Depp has surely been missed!

 

Summer cannot possibly go without a superhero, and although Spiderman will get yet another shot come July 7th in “Spiderman: Homecoming,” most critics and fans are buzzing about Wonder Woman being the big hit. After being applauded in the hideous movie “Batman v. Superman,” this incredible character finally has a movie all her own. The Amazon princess is leaving her island behind to help an American pilot. Only Wonder Woman could bring about an end to World War I and it’s already being said that millions will be sitting in those reclining seats to watch this icon kick butt.

 

What looks to be another bad flick comes from Universal on June 9th. As it is with the new “Alien” movie, “The Mummy” will also return. The first two were smash hits: the dead guy who actually had scenes with only half a face was both handsome and frightening, and Brendan Fraser did a fantastic job of taking him down. Unfortunately, some brain in Hollywood thought it would be great to resurrect this franchise, but alter it completely. Tom Cruise is at the helm now – the actor who has shown in his later years that he should put in his job application to head that Scientology clan and leave acting behind. Worse yet, the actual dead guy is now going to be a dead girl covered in tattoos. She will be awoken from her banishment (not sure what she was banished for yet, but I assume it wasn’t for sleeping with the Pharaoh’s wife), and embark on a path of vengeance with only Cruise to stop her. Something tells me what should have been stopped was the making of this movie.

 

Those gigantic robots will also once again arise, and even if you find them mediocre, they are perfect for the big screen. After all, Director Michael Bay loves to blow up things and this time out he’s bound to give fans another fiery spectacle. Real actors, such as Anthony Hopkins will star in “Transformers: The Last Knight.” And Mark Wahlberg will return to provide fans with a war between humans and this colorful robot race. Get your tickets for this one ASAP!

 

If you’re looking to be scared to death this summer, there’s one horror/supernatural film destined for greatness and one that should have been shelved. The latter is based on the past as fans are taken back to a famous haunted house in “Amityville: The Awakening.” When it comes to the “must see” of this genre, the plot comes from the best writer in the business – the master of horror, Stephen King. “The Dark Tower” hits screens August 4th and should be a massive hit for star Matthew McConaughey. Fans have been waiting for this one for a long time and should be very pleased with the result.

 

If you’re looking for something for the kids, the “Cars” series is once again coming to the screen, as well as “Despicable Me 3” that is filled with comedy both kids and parents will enjoy. And in July, those ridiculous ‘faces’ we see every day are receiving their very first chance in “The Emoji Movie.” The story follows a ‘sad’ emoji who simply doesn’t understand why he can’t make other facial expressions like the rest of his friends. It may not be an Oscar winner for Best Animated Film, but something tells me the emoji’s will be more fun than walking down the blood-soaked halls of the Amityville dwelling.

 

Whatever happens, enjoy the popcorn!

 

 

It’s Time to Travel to These Wonders of the World that May Soon Disappear

 

It’s Time to Travel to These Wonders of the World that May Soon Disappear

by Amy Lignor

 

When it comes to travel, there are many locations you and your family should take the chance to see. However, there are also a few that should be seen now, before they become listed among the “missing” Wonders of the World. It is a fact, no matter how you look at life, that the Earth is in danger when it comes to global warming, air pollution, rising sea levels, deforestation and a list of other environmental and ecological problems. Whether by human hands or simply the changes Mother Nature has decided upon, the landscape is being altered, causing one-of-a-kind areas to slowly disappear.

jungles, rainforests, Alaska, Tuvalu, Antarctica, Venice, Italy, Disneyworld, Glacier National Park

So as you sit down and begin researching that next big family trip, take a look at these areas that provide excellent guides, adventure, fun, and create memories that will last – even if the areas themselves do not.

 

A good place to start is Alaska. Falling under the already sparse category of “unique,” this state experienced output from several Canadian copper and gold mines, posing a hazard to Alaska’s major salmon rivers. Now is the perfect time to book a true, authentic Alaskan fishing lodge where you and other passionate anglers can cast for Pacific salmon, char, and more. In addition, with animal and plant species facing extinction as they lose their natural habitats, heading to Alaska and viewing the wildlife makes for a great time.

 

Along the same lines, with jungles and rainforests shrinking because of oil drilling, logging, mining, etc., taking a trip to the country of Rwanda would be a jaw-dropping experience you’ll never forget. Here, you can encounter some of the last remaining mountain gorillas, as well as golden monkeys and chimpanzees. Studies have been released showing that 60 percent of primate species are threatened with extinction, which means now is the time to soak in a Rwanda experience with some of the best guides in the business.

 

A very remote location that’s not appearing on vacation “bucket lists,” considering that only about 1,000 tourists visit here per year* (*UN data), Tuvalu in the South Pacific is perhaps the one true paradise still on Earth that should be seen. With stunning beaches, brilliant blue waters and colorful lagoons, this little nation is sinking into those rising waters at a rate of 0.2 inches per year. Seeing as that Tuvalu lies just 6.6 feet above sea level, taking pictures of those lagoons, enjoying the culture and cuisine, and walking those beaches are a must.

 

Along the same path as Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands are also being “drowned” by rising sea levels, with five of the islands already gone from view. Stunning villages have had to be relocated because of erosion on other islands, so if looking to capture that cultural experience while relishing in secluded bays and snorkeling in coral reefs, the Solomon Islands are your top choice.

Solomon Islands

Although most people want only those relaxing, warm beaches in the summertime, there are those (believe it or not) who love to partake in more adventurous pursuits. If you rate in this category, than it’s time to head to Antarctica. With the major ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula breaking, retreating or losing volume over the past decades, exploring the peninsula is definitely something you’ll never forget. From snowshoeing to mountaineering to kayaking and camping, an Antarctic excursion offers it all.

 

Greenland, as well, is suffering from its melting ice sheet. This is a country that actually logged its highest average summer temperature on record just last year. If looking for a phenomenal adventure that includes seeing those Arctic landscapes, Greenland is the perfect location. But if looking for a trip closer to home, head to Glacier National Park in Montana. If you are unaware, this is one of the most popular spots in all of the U.S. Unfortunately, those increasing numbers of visitors come from the fact that people are attempting to get a last look at the once giant glaciers that originally shaped the park. At one time this was home to approximately 150 glaciers but is now down to 25. Some scientists call for their complete disappearance by 2030, but other estimates call for the demise to be sooner than that.

 

Although there are a slew of others to be seen, one that must be mentioned is not only one of the most beautiful places on Earth but is also one of the most romantic cities and has been utilized in films galore, and been written about in tons of books. It is Venice, Italy: The city where you can take that authentic gondola ride down the canal and view the hundreds of bridges, stunning waterways and amazing architecture. Yes, Venice has been sinking for centuries, but scientific evidence has suggested that the process is speeding up, causing the one-of-a-kind city to sink almost five times faster.

 

Knowing this information, when booking your next vacation try to remember odds are positive places like Disneyworld will be around for a long time to come, but there are others out there that are just too fantastic to risk missing.

The Best Car Investments of 2017…So Far

 

The Best Car Investments of 2017…So Far

by Amy Lignor

 

When the automobile industry ushered in its ‘best’ with the New Year, the rankings were released by U.S. News & World Reports, as well as other critics out there. And some have most definitely lived up to the hype. As we get ready to place the first half of 2017 behind us, and more and more buyers are looking to invest in a new automobile, it’s time to review what can arguably be called the most efficient autos with the safest technology features ever produced.

Honda Accord, Malibu, Maxima, Mazda3, Volkswagen GTI, Honda Fit, Kia Forte, Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai’s Sonata

Beginning in the most popular category – midsize automobiles – the 2017 Honda Accord is among one of the best. For decades this car has held a high-quality reputation among other sedans out there. Now, a Sport SE trim has added to the visual appeal, as well as advanced updates that make this a comfortable ride and allows the owner to save money on fuel because of its excellent CVT transmission. Add in a dual-screen information/entertainment system that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and you have a wonderful investment.

 

Staying in the midsize category, Chevy has done well with the Malibu. A nine-speed auto transmission and a choice of engines that include the 1.5 liter (36 mpg on the highway/27 mpg in the city) and the 250-horsepower 2.0 liter gives buyers a great line-up. Not to mention, a spacious interior, comfortable, roomy seats and the Chevrolet MyLink information/entertainment system is provided.

 

But it is Hyundai’s Sonata that earned the No.1 ranking from U.S. News at the beginning of the New Year and has yet to let anyone down. Cabin and trunk space is huge when it comes to this comfortable ride that offers a slew of features. Among these are smart tech for accessing all that space, like the hands-free power trunk, and upfront tech that includes the BlueLink system.

 

If you’re looking at purchasing a large vehicle, the 2017 Maxima has kept its high ranking among them all. The interior is pure luxury, the entertainment system is top-of-the-line, and the 300 horsepower V6 engine provides the owner with 30 mpg when it comes to heading out on the highway.

 

Buick can also claim a hit in the large car arena with the 2017 LaCrosse. This is one of those rides that was completely altered. The old, tired look is gone (which all the commercials tell you.) This car is now sleek, stream-lined and modern, with a 310-horsepower V6 engine giving 31 mpg on the highway, while also providing the driver with intuitive safety features and customized screens in the interior.

 

For those searching for a compact vehicle, the Kia Forte has also received a ‘face-lift’ for 2017 and people are enjoying the new look. Kia also adapted the car with safety features like autonomous braking and adaptive cruise control – two things that are normally found in larger automobiles. Buyers and critics have been admiring the interior that gives the ‘look’ of a European luxury car with easy-to-use touch-screen systems for information and entertainment purposes.

 

Also proving to be a fantastic compact car of 2017 is the Volkswagen GTI. A lot of fun, this Sport model has a turbocharged engine that brings up to 220-horsepower. Because of the hatchback layout, there is cargo room and comfortable rear seat space, with the driver and passenger also getting extremely well-crafted seating to enjoy the ride.

 

Jumping into the high-ranked compact car arena is Mazda with the Mazda3. Extremely fun to drive, the handling of this car is perfect and offers excitement and adventure with great fuel economy that comes in at 37 mpg on the highway. Ergonomic, a floating center stack screen is just one part of the upscale interior.

 

Last, but not least, the subcompact car category has seen the Honda Fit become the hands-down winner. Giving the owner extremely good fuel economy with 40 mpg on the highway, this small car has an intricate, versatile interior that provides multiple seating configurations and ample cargo space with the rear seat folded.

 

So no matter what category you are looking into, make sure to research these great names before spending that hard-earned cash. And always make sure to drive safe.

Traveling to the “Stars”

 

Traveling to the “Stars”

by Amy Lignor

 

Astronomy can be daunting if you’re just starting out. After all, there’s a whole universe out there to see. The best way to begin, however, is not by investing in those expensive telescopes. Instead, simply travel to the most amazing areas in all of America and start…looking up. There, in the night sky, you will see the most incredible sights as you gaze at constellations, shooting stars, and basically relax and enjoy while being surrounded by a world that not even the master painters could recreate on canvas.

Astronomy, night sky, Joshua Tree National Park, Cherry Springs State Park, Big Bend National Park, Badlands, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, myriad of colors, brilliant skies

There is an unforgettable place located in California where surreal and unique sights await. Binoculars are a must for this one, because you will not want to miss a second of the brilliant skies that shroud Joshua Tree National Park. At the Jumbo Rocks Campground, you are talking about the sun setting on an absolutely pollution-free area that holds a fascinating menu of plants and animals that you most likely have never seen before.

 

The geologic features, the culture, the history – this is one area to stargaze that will be locked in your memory for all time. It is the Colorado Desert that makes up the most eastern part of the park and meets up with the slightly cooler Mojave Desert on the western side – the side that plays home to the Joshua tree. And by pitching your tent among the park’s giant granite rock formations, you find yourself 1,000 feet higher than some of the other park’s sights and sounds where you will literally watch in awe as the Southern California sky lights up in a myriad of colors.

 

Only a short hop away is Phoenix, Arizona, which is ideal for seeing those stars. You are offered places such as, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, where the skies offer stellar views of planets, star clusters and galaxies; as well as Tempe Town Lake, where you can actually be a part of a glow-in-the-dark paddling event.

 

Heading higher up into the atmosphere, Badlands National Park in South Dakota offers an incredible nighttime sky. So brilliant, in fact, that “sky viewing” is offered Friday through Monday nights. And after the ranger program is over, you can continue to stay and be impressed by the striking views that more than 7,500 stars provide. Telescopes are on-site and the campground there is actually created with 96 level campsites, where you are given an extraordinary spot to get what feels like an up-close and personal view of the Milky Way, itself.

 

And for even more depth and clarity of the Milky Way, head to the Lone Star State. Big Bend National Park in the great state of Texas boasts the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48. There are no towns, no dwellings – nothing casts light upon that world other than the stars themselves.

 

Not to leave out the East Coast here, in the state of Pennsylvania, one of the greatest and most talked about places for stargazing is at Cherry Springs State Park. Named for its numerous stands of black cherry trees, this park is remote, wild and sits atop a mountain where it truly feels like you can touch the stars as well as see them in all their glory. This location is so incredible that they even offer a facet of the Stars-N-Parks Program for stargazing enthusiasts. The magnificent night sky at Cherry Springs can also be viewed at the Night Sky Viewing area located north of Rt. 44 (opposite the gated Astronomy Observation Field). Public parking lots are located here along with several information kiosks about the area. Visitors can either camp or simply follow the walkways, sit on the benches and gape at the stunning night sky that’s decorated with everything you can think of, including “falling stars” that make the sky look like a glittering oasis. Here, your vacation will be more than fun…it will be magical.

 

From Utah to the City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico, stargazing trips can be had no matter where you live or where you wish to visit. Mother’s Day is coming. Summer is around the bend. Perhaps you can bring the ones you truly love to get a glimpse of these breathtaking places where they can literally reach for the stars!

The Brotherhood of Politics and the Economy Drop Mortgage Rates

 

The Brotherhood of Politics and the Economy Drop Mortgage Rates

by Amy Lignor

 

The political arena and the financial arena always walk hand-in-hand. As it is with the healthcare field being up in the air right now and people rushing to their doctors in order to get their “free” health services before they are, perhaps, all taken away again – the real estate world is seeing a rush to buy attitude because of lower mortgage rates.

international tensions, weak economic data, Treasury securities, 2017 mortgage rates, Trump’s decisions, find the best lenderWhen it comes to the 30-year mortgage rate, numbers fell 11 basis points to 3.97 percent, dropping below the 4 percent level for the first time since November of 2016. This comes from the combination of weak economic data and the ever-growing international tensions between Trump and others that are driving investors to jump aboard the much safer world of Treasury securities and taking their money out of the “risky” arenas. With this shift in investment, based on politics, mortgage rates have won – with rates moving lower than they have in a good long time. (It was more than a year ago that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged only 3.59 percent.) When it comes to the 15-year FRM, the average is 3.23 percent. (A year ago, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.85 percent.)

With these numbers, thus far, 2017 has made home ownership far more attainable for families out there.

Now, this is an extremely difficult ‘world’ to view, seeing as that all of the so-called ‘experts’ out there across America have far different opinions on where 2017 mortgage rates could eventually go. They talk consistently about Trump’s decisions eventually forcing mortgage rates to turn and go up throughout the latter part of 2017; some even stating that by the end of the year – worst-case scenario – 30-year FMR’s could knock on the door of 5 percent.

 

So…who can you believe? It is a fact that with each new political day, mortgage rates will remain unbalanced because of all these new policies and problems America is experiencing with the international community. But if searching for a home, what you need to do before diving in is to learn about the mortgage rates in your state. From there, you must truly use that Internet search to find the best lender with the best rates that will actually care about you and your family coming out ahead. This process is necessary for those who are purchasing for the first time or even refinancing in order to do renovations that will better the home and increase re-sale value.

 

After comparing rates, the next step in the process should be to polish your credit score. Make sure to keep your credit in tip-top shape. The higher your score the better your interest rate and the more loan choices you’ll have to choose from.

 

Then, attempt to increase your down payment. Paying more up front will also help you to grab that better interest rate and save you money as you pay down your loan. Many lenders out there will charge you higher costs when it comes to mortgage insurance if you come in with a lower down payment.

 

Last, but not least, before diving into the purchase of a house, take more than a few minutes to consider how long you’ll actually be living there. If you already know that you will sell in a short amount of time, put your focus on the adjustable-rate mortgages. This way, you can take advantage of the lower initial interest rates of the ARM’s and then sell before the rates can reset. If ARM’s seem too risky, there are also the shorter-term fixed rate mortgages that will cause larger monthly payments, but bring a much lower interest rate at the same time. With this path, you’ll pay less over the life of the loan and build equity much faster.

 

In the end, the brotherhood of politics and the economy in 2017 will cause the mortgage rates to waver. It all depends on what the ‘men in charge’ think of next.

Would Curry Versus James be the Ultimate NBA Championship?

 
Would Curry Versus James be the Ultimate NBA Championship?

By Amy Lignor

 

Yes…there are questions, quite a lot of them this year when it comes to “Who will take it all in the end?” But the most talked about continues to be whether or not LeBron James will reach his 5th straight finals, and, if he does, could Stephen Curry finally top a spectacular season with the Warriors by beating the ultimate LeBron and his Cavaliers and taking home the championship?

According to SI, the championship will be all about the Cleveland Cavs meeting up with the Golden State Warriors – pitting these two ‘best of the best’ players against each other. However, unlike a great deal of polls going on out there, SI has decided that Golden State WILL cap off this season by granting Curry the championship and allowing him to beat “The Man” everyone continues to cheer for.

 

So…what do you think?

 

People seem to forget that as of right this minute, there are other teams in this ‘hunt,’ although most have stated that the Raptors are already gone. Although the Cavaliers will play the Raptors again at 3:30 p.m. today (March 7, 2017), the Cavs and LeBron have had little competition thus far. Cleveland leads this series 3-0 and LeBron is definitely going for the sweep.

 

The Raptors were literally destroyed by the Cavs in the first two match-ups in this Eastern Conference semifinal series. They won the first two games by a total of 33 points, yet the funny thing was, the games didn’t even ‘feel’ close. Even the people in the arena didn’t seem to be shocked by the outcomes. In Game 3, at least the Raptors changed their tact, showing that they indeed did have the people with talent who could at least stand up and fight against the big name of the NBA. Unfortunately, even with the fight, Cleveland came away with a win. So…would it be all that shocking if the Cavs did sweep and move on to the next? Nope. Not a bit. In fact, that’s what most lovers and haters of LeBron are expecting. Even the haters would be happy if he kept winning…until, that is, he stepped on the court with Curry and Golden State.

 

There are even more in the playoffs, however. The Celtics are up 2-1 in their series and visit the Wizards tonight at 6:30 p.m. And the Spurs, who lead their series also 2-1, play at the Rockets tonight at 9:00 p.m.

 

These other names are being swept under the carpet and barely spoken about on all sports shows and in the headlines, however, because only two names are taking the spotlight this year. If this NBA Championship does not have LeBron standing tall against Stephen Curry and Golden State it will actually be a huge letdown for basketball fans across the country. They’ve waited for this one. The sentimental/emotional value is on LeBron’s side. But Curry is dying to prove himself. He has already proven he is among the best and will be placed in the Hall of Fame because of his style and talent. But the biggest award for him would be to raise the trophy with his team while LeBron and the Cavaliers walk off the court.

 

We shall just have to wait and see…

 

Source:  GIG News

An A+ Class Makes Their Entrance into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

 

An A+ Class Makes Their Entrance into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

by Amy Lignor

 

This Saturday night, the airing of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony brought the roof down! Amazing moments that will be remembered by music fans for a long time to come were mixed with humor, pure emotion in regards to careers that will never be matched by anyone in the industry – past or present, and some truly poignant goodbyes.

Tupac, Nile Rodgers, ELO, Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Yes, Lenny Kravitz, Prince

The list of inductees were: ELO, Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and the band Yes. In addition, the Award for Musical Excellence went to Nile Rodgers. But these were not the only tributes or celebrations. In fact, there were extremely surprising guests that no one thought would appear. Leave it to the Hall of Fame to bring about surprises.

 

One of the biggest questions before this evening arrived was who would take the time to pay homage to Tupac – the man who went into the R&R Hall of Fame who was absent because of tragedy and violence. It was almost endearing (and certainly beautiful) that Alicia Keys was chosen to honor the man with a medley of Tupac’s songs that struck a chord with millions across the globe. Alicia spoke about her love and belief in the man and the performer, and her sincere passion for his words and his music. But once the beauty of Alicia departed the stage, in came rappers Snoop Dogg and YG. In addition, Treach (Naughty by Nature) performed “Hail Mary,” while dressed up in Tupac’s bowtie bandanna. From sweet and lovely to loud and proud, these performers paid tribute to a man whose life was cut far too short.

 

Being that this was the first ceremony held since the most important person in rock and roll history passed away, ELO took to the stage and gave Chuck Berry fans a delight when they delivered “Roll Over Beethoven.” It was so loud, chances were Mr. Berry, himself, was rocking along up in heaven and having a grand old time.

 

Another inductee, Joan Baez, kept to her roots during the ceremony. Yes, Baez has been a protester of peace during her lifetime. She has stood up for great causes and great people, so she simply wouldn’t have been her if she hadn’t brought our new President (if you can say that word without getting sick), into the limelight. She sang about everything from deportees to social activism. And when Joan did a solo of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” she tried to make Trump feel better by saying that: “I saw a band of angels, and they were coming to carry you, me, us, even Donald, home.”

 

Now, Pearl Jam and Yes were two of the biggest bands of the night. Both Class ‘A’ rock bands, the audience basically freaked out for both of them when they made their appearances. It was Geddy Lee who helped induct Yes into the Hall of Fame. This bassist from Rush joined Yes onstage and burst out “Roundabout” for all to scream and yell to. As far as Geddy is concerned, Yes is his all-time favorite band and wanted nothing more than to not mess his moment up. And he most certainly did not.

 

Unfortunately, for many, it did not happen that singer Steve Perry reunited with Journey during the ceremony when the band was inducted. He did not sing, yet did give a very nice speech in regards to the fact that the band he once played with most certainly deserved the honor they were given by the Hall of Fame. And, yes, when “Don’t Stop Believin’” began, the entire hall erupted with applause. Just shows that no matter how old you get, there are some songs and some performers that just stick with you for the rest of your life.

 

Inductee Nile Rodgers got highly emotional during his acceptance speech, but perhaps one of the most emotional moments of all came when a man not inducted this year (but certainly will be soon) was given a tribute. It was Lenny Kravitz who appeared onstage to bid goodbye to the late artisan, Prince. This is one man who is truly missed!

 

David Letterman added some humor, Eddie Vedder shouted out for Climate Change, and even a very humble Michael J. Fox was revered. But when it came to say goodbye for the night, the all-star finale was truly a conglomeration of musical genius.

 

The entire Class of 2017 brought down the house with an unforgettable jam session. Eddie Vedder did his victory lap around the stage and an iconic song – “Rockin’ in the Free World” was literally brought to life by Pearl Jam, Journey, and every other “Class A” act that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame made a permanent place for inside their walls!

 

Music fans everywhere are already excited about what next year will bring.

 

Source:  GIG News