Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pittsburgh Yellows

Here are some yellows you will see when you drive around Pittsburgh area. Actually there's lots of them but these are the big ones that my ever photographer wife captured while I am driving.

We will be going to church today and proceed to visit my Dad afterwards, hope you guys are having a great Sunday. Thanks for dropping by and leaving your valuable comments.

Originally posted on April 20, 2010

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We Struggled To Get Onto The Housing Ladder. Are Things Any Better Now?

When we got married and bought our first home many years ago, everything seemed much simpler that it is today. Money was harder to come by back then though and this presented problems for us. 

There was a housing boom back then, and house prices rocketed very quickly. We were able to get a one hundred percent mortgage which obviously needed no deposit, but it left our finances under considerable strain for many years.

So, for a young couple just starting out, how easy is it to get on the housing ladder right now? Here's some things to think about.

The House Buying Process

As a first time buyer, you are going to feel a little apprehensive about committing yourself to a huge debt that will not be paid back until you are well into your middle aged years. House prices are staggeringly high at the moment, and they are not likely to ever come down, so there is good cause for your apprehension.

The first step to buying a home is to secure a mortgage, in theory anyway. There are a vast array of mortgages out there which seem over complicated to me. How many ways can there be to borrow money and arrange to pay it back?

There are companies, such as that will maximize your chance of owning your own home. They will build the new home for you and guide you through the process of securing the funding needed in the form of mortgages or government grants.

If, however, you decide to buy an existing house you will need to acquire a loan. Before you will be offered a mortgage, the lender will delve into your personal finances to find out if you are trustworthy and whether you can afford the repayments. The first step they will take is to contact credit reference agencies to see if there are any bad debts or missed payments on your file. If the mortgage is to be in both names, then your partner will be checked too. Often, if there is the slightest problem with either partner's credit history, the application fails at this point. 

If your credit history is good, the lenders will look at your income and decide, provisionally, how much they are willing to lend. They will write to your employers to confirm the details of your salaries and job security, but this shouldn’t bring up any surprises to you. You will need to complete a personal income and expenditure statement of your own. You can expect to be questioned in all aspects of expenditure such as food bills, clothing, utility bills, transport costs; anything that will give the lender a clear idea how much money you have left for repaying a mortgage. Lenders were criticised in the past for lending too freely to people who would struggle to meet the repayments, and these are all ways in which they are trying to clean up their act.

The simplest form of mortgage is the variable rate repayment. You borrow the money and pay it back at the interest rate in place at the time. For the first ten years or so, most of your payments will go to service the interest on the loan and less to reduce the loan itself. After some time, when the capital borrowed reduces, the interest charged on it is less, and the balance begins to shift in your favour. Towards the end of the mortgage, most of your payments are to reduce the capital and very little interest is paid. Other, more complicated mortgages often offset payments for a number of years to attract people,

but it seems that they always end up paying more in the long run. I firmly believe in keeping things simple and clear so everyone knows where they stand. The scandal of endowment mortgages that were sold unfairly back in the 1980’s must not be repeated. It left people with massive shortfalls on their mortgages when the time came for the endowment to pay for the house.

You are going to need to put down a sizable deposit on any house purchase. The normal rate at the moment stands at around twenty five percent of the loan. That would work out to be twenty five thousand pounds out of every hundred thousand pounds borrowed. I think you will agree; this is the make or break point for most people who simply can’t raise that amount of cash.

The help to buy scheme is currently in operation to give a lift to those that are unlikely to be able to raise a deposit any other way. If the buyer is able to raise only a five percent deposit, help to buy will provide the other twenty percent in the form of an interest free loan for five years. After this period, a low interest rate applies that is currently below two percent. This interest rate rises each year from then onwards. This scheme sounds too good to be true, and in some ways it is. The buyers has effectively lost twenty percent of the value of their homes to the government who will not expect only their money back if you sell, they want twenty percent of the sale price. Some people think this is a price worth paying; I believe the scheme was designed for the wealthy to buy second, or even third, homes.

Once you have a figure in mind that you can borrow you are able to look around for properties that you would like to buy. Soon enough you will find your ideal home and make an offer on it. Hopefully, the offer will be accepted, and the ball will start rolling. You will now be faced with the cost of solicitors and surveyors, all who are there to protect you.

By the time someone moves into the home it is a wonder they have enough money left for a slice of bread. The first five years are tough, but as wages rise the burden gets a little lighter. That is until they decide to move to a bigger home.

I have come to my own conclusion, and that is; it is harder to get on the housing ladder now than it was thirty years ago. Prices are unreasonably high, and lending is hard to source. I don’t think we could have done it if we were just starting out now.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Elves Presley Bike

Although we had some snow last Tuesday night, the weather is getting better now.  Our kids has been  hitting the sidewalk once in a while riding their bikes. We noticed that they  have outgrown their bikes already so we will be needing new ones for them.  

Anyway, one of the displays at Carnegie Science Center   that we spent  time exploring was the  Bikes.  You can read the origin of the bikes below this  post.
Below is a bicycle that reminds me of my grandfather.  He used to  ride his bike everyday when he goes to work and it is similar to this one.
Our son is fascinated by the Elves Presley bike.  He think it is so cool to see  his idol's bike on the display.

Here's an outline of the Bicycle Origins from

While a bike rider of the 1800’s would still recognize the machines of today, bicycles have changed and improved as our technology and materials have allowed innovation and experimentation.

Predecessors to the bicycle were called “velocipedes”, which comes from the Latin words for “fast foot”.

Early velocipedes, which first appeared in 1817, looked like wooden bicycles – but without pedals! The rider used their feet to push the machine along the ground! By 1863 pedals were added – but directly to the front wheel - and the bicycle was born.

Early bicycles were made of wood and had wheels similar to wagon wheels, while others were made of cast iron at the local blacksmith’s shop.

As bicycles grew in popularity they helped to shape our culture and society. Cycling groups were the first to lobby and pay for the paved roads that are used by automobiles today. The popularity of bicycles with women changed the style of their clothing from stiff and complex Victorian dresses to more practical attire. Even products like ladders and playing cards have been named after the bicycle!

Velocipede comes from the Latin words for “fast foot.” Velocipedes were the forerunners of modern bicycles and share many characteristics: two wheels, handlebars, and many had brakes – but not all of them had pedals! Early velocipedes and bicycles were often crafted of wrought iron by village blacksmiths.

Tricycles (Child)
In geometry, three points define a plane - the simplest stable surface. Tricycles - once common for adults! - are still popular for children because of the stability provided by having three points of contact with the ground. This child’s tricycle was built in 1875 by George Marble in Chicago, who had a patent for improvements to the axle and pedals.

Tricycles (Adult)
Tricycles were a popular option for women of the day to break into the bicycling world. This 1891 Singer, made by Singer & Co. in Coventry, England, is a typical example of one such tricycle. Today, adult rickshaw tricycles are in common use in many cities (including Pittsburgh!) as ‘green’ alternatives to urban taxis.

The ‘Penny-Farthing’ (Adult)
Columbia Expert – 1885
Early bicycles had pedals attached to the front wheels, rather than attached to the back with a chain. The large front wheel allowed riders to go faster – but they were notoriously dangerous. If you hit a bump or pothole you would be catapulted over the front wheel! Thomas Stevens rode a Columbia Expert like this 13,500 miles around the world in 1886.

The ‘Penny-Farthing’ (Child)
Child’s Highwheel Bicycle – 1890
Many bicycles were custom-made to fit each rider, including special sizes for children. The highwheel bicycle was often called the ‘penny-farthing’ because the large and small wheels reminded English users of the difference between their large and small coins.

Rover Safety Bicycle – 1886
The Rover incorporated many of the things we associate with modern bicycles: direct steering, two wheels of equal size, chain drive to the rear wheel, and the diamond shaped frame for rigidity. This machine embodied all the basic features that form the pattern of all contemporary bicycles.

American Safety Bicycle – 1887
The rider sat farther back from the front wheel, which provided the leverage needed to keep the rear wheel on the ground and prevent the rider from taking a header when hitting a bump in the road. Even this advancement was soon made obsolete by the advances in the Rover safety bicycle.

Bronco Safety Bicycle - 1890
This c. 1890 Bronco was a traditional safety bicycle, but did not represent an ideal design. The cranks were too far back and it was geared too high, but it represented many of the steps (and missteps) toward the elegantly simple diamond frame that would become standard within a few years.

Pierce Chainless Bicycle – c. 1900
While the roller chain developed in the 1880’s has remained the primary mechanism to move bicycle wheels, engineers have tried other methods. This rare piece uses a drive shaft to turn the rear wheel, much like an automobile.

Commercial Bicycle – 1915 (BMA)
Built by the Commercial Cycle Manufacturing Company in 1915, this bicycle with a basket was designed for delivery services. Models like this moved the bicycle from a novelty and hobby to an important business tool.

Dayton Men’s Safety – 1922
Manufactured by Davis Sewing Machine Company in Dayton, OH, which would later become the Huffy Bicycle Corporation – one of the largest bicycle companies in the world and still in business today. Many companies, such as Davis Sewing Machine, took up the secondary business of bike-building. At the same time, some bike makers expanded into other areas - Orville and Wilbur Wright, the inventors of the first successful airplane, were bike builders by profession.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hyacinth and Blooming Secrets

I took some photos of my father-in-law's hyacinth plants with buds in them. We are supposed to get snow tonight and I am praying that these will survive the cold.  I am bummed out  that  snow is still coming even it it's Spring already, sigh.
The rain  and  the snow will definitely affect little critters like this lady bug.  I don't like it when it's raining and it's cold because the ants wants to get inside your house.  They look for some dry place to stay while their house on the ground is flooded and  your home is their first escape and target.  
Anyway, my husband is  participating to  the Biggest Loser program at his work so he is  trying to  work out and eat a healthy diet.  He lost 16 pounds already  since  last month.  IN the quest of living h a healthier life, he wants us to widen up our vegetable garden at the back so we can grow more vegetable.
We went to the store yesterday and checked out their plants and  my oh my, as expected, the prices of the plants are ridiculously high.  So I went online and  look for some  ways I could   find a good deal for vegetable  seedlings.  I came across Blooming Secrets website.  I found some organic gardening solutions from their website.  The three photos below are taken from their site as a reference of what you can expect from their site.  

I am getting used to using different herbs in cooking so I am planning to grow my own herbs that I can use  when I cook.  Hopefully when the weather  is fully-free from Winter aftermath, I will be start digging and tilling my vegetable garden so I can grow my own vegetables.
For the meantime, I have to deal with a possible snow tonight so my plans are on hold.  I hope that  snow won't be so heavy  so the plants won't die.  I am just starting to enjoy the daffodil blooms at my garden and now snow is coming ugh.

Symptoms of Cancer

My husband have lost  love ones from cancer-related diseases.  His Mom died  with lung cancer and so his brother,  then he lost his Aunt to cancer-related disease as well.  He sometimes  feel paranoid that he might get it as it runs in  their family's blood so he is extra cautious.  

Two of the reasons why he is scared    is the fact that he  worked  as a sailor for 20 years and working on a submarine was one of his  frequent assignments.  Although he knows that it was a safe place, at the back of his mind, he can't shake off the fact that he might be exposed to harsh chemicals.  Another thing is when he was younger, he took an accutane for his severe acne condition and one of the  side effects that he has been feeling is being sun burned so easily.  He is very careful when  going in an open field  where he is  sun exposed as he doesn't  want to develop any skin cancer related  diseases.    

He has been reading     skin cancer symptoms and even looked up and read the    melanoma symptoms.  Below are some symptoms that you might want to look for.

According to Molemap, a website  founded by dermatologists:

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and may appear without warning but it may also begin in a mole or other dark spot in the skin.  Melanoma can spread very quickly and once it penetrates below the surface of the skin it can become deadly. Survival rate is largely dependent on the thickness of melanoma; a patient with a melanoma of less than 0.75 mm thick can expect to have 95% cure rate. If left until greater than 4mm thick, the cure rate drops to less than 55%. This is why it is so important to detect melanoma early.

I did not even know that Melanoma differs with women and men.   It is scary to know that even a mole can be  a sign  of a cancer.  If you suspect that you might have the above symptoms, check out the website and book for an appointment.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beautiful Sunrise

I took these shots with my Samsung Galaxy phone one morning last week when I walked my children to school. It was a chilly bu-t beautiful morning. Beautiful sunrise like this  inspired me to go for a walk even if it's cold.
When I was a kid, we lived near a  rice farm that my father used to till.  Every morning, when I wake up, I would go outside and watch the sunrise for a little bit and  then accompany my brother to the  river to get water.  We did not have a well or pump nearby our home.  We got our drinking water from a live Spring water that ran down through  a bamboo that my father put there.  I miss drinking that kind of water.  It tasted different.  It was sweet like it would fill you up.  I wish I could experience that again!

Shop For Bags

I first saw this website, at one of the blogs I have  visited yesterday.  The blogger have  posted the  clothes that  she bought for her and her husband from Shop for Bags.  I always  look for ways where I can shop affordable clothes without sacrificing the  quality of the products and this  websites seems  to provide that.  I like this top that I saw from their website.

Katydid Studded Aztec Fashion Women's T-Shirt

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sprinkle of Snow

Last Sunday was the last  hurrah of the snow.  We had a good bit of accumulation so I took some shots of it.  I am hoping that it would be  the last of the snow sprinkle till next Winter again.  This would be good to look during the  summer heat so enjoy!
I don't like it when  the weather is  suddenly warm and then  goes back to cold because that is when  people, especially children, get sick.  This week has been hard for my kids because they had fever but it was State testing in school so we did what we had to do so they  feel a bit better so they can go to school and  take the test.  I feel bad.  

Keeping your static caravan safe for your guests

You have a legal responsibility for the safety of visitors to your static caravan – whether or not they are paying guests, friends or relations. Those obligations may be a matter of English common law or prescribed in a host of laws and regulations imposed by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive. As the owner of the caravan, you may face stiff penalties for any breach.

Common law
There is a well-established principle or doctrine in English common law known as a duty of care. If you breach that duty, you may be considered negligent and liable to pay damages to the injured person or persons.

The doctrine is rooted in an especially famous judgement arising from the case of Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks, 1856, when Judge Baron Alderson summarised the concept of negligence in a ruling that is known by heart by practically every student of English law:
  • “Negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do” (
In its statement of an essentially common sense interpretation of how people ought to relate to one another, it might be considered to be typically English. But what does it mean in practice? Typically, there is a four stage determination:
  • is a duty of care owed? – if you are the owner of the caravan and have invited someone else to share that accommodation, the assumption is likely to be that you do indeed owe your guest a duty of care;
  • is the duty of care breached? – this is typically one of the more difficult questions in such cases and a question that frequently returns to the judgement of Baron Alderson. Quite simply, was it reasonable to do or not to do something that may have averted the harm incurred;
  • was any injury caused? – this is probably more straight forward. Did someone suffer an injury as a result of the failure of your duty of care; and finally
  • was the person’s injury a result of your negligence? – this simply links the effect of the person’s injury to the cause of your failing to exercise a due duty of care.
What much of this is likely to boil down to, therefore, is whether the injury or loss was reasonably foreseeable – was a reasonable person going to foresee the loss or damage suffered?
Protecting yourself against such risks may be an especially complicated business and you may therefore want to consult specialists in the provision of caravan insurance third party liability such as Cover4Caravans.

You might also want to take into account the fact that, given the somewhat slippery definition of “reasonableness” in English common law, specific legislation has been put into place with respect to particular aspects of the relationship between a landlord and any tenant – including tenants of caravans.

In addition to common law, there are a number of particular legal requirements stemming principally from Health and Safety legislation, relating specifically to the safety of utilities such as gas and electricity. In this respect, there is little difference between letting your caravan or letting a home of conventional bricks and mortar construction.

A faulty or poorly maintained gas appliance may lead to life-threatening poisonous leaks or the risk of fire.
For that reason, anyone letting their home – including a static caravan – is required by law to conduct an annual inspection of the gas installation. Indeed, that annual gas inspection may be a condition for the continuing validity of your caravan insurance.
The safety inspection may vary from one qualified agency or engineer to another but is typically going to include:
  • a test of the gas appliances and any related safety apparatus;
  • flue checks and smoke spillage tests;
  • checks for the adequacy of ventilation; and
  • an examination of the condition of gas pipework, and any evidence of leaks.
Clearly, it is important that any annual inspection is conducted by an appropriately qualified engineer and you might want to confirm that this is the case through the official Gas Safety Register website.

Rather similar regulations apply to the electrical supply and safety of appliances in your static caravan – they are obligatory only if you are letting the caravan to others.
If that is the case, you are obliged to conduct regular inspections, conducted by suitably qualified electricians.  Your responsibility for the safety of any guests extends to ensuring that each and every electrical installation (light fittings and power sockets, for example) and appliance (kettles, cookers or anything you plug in) has been checked and certified safe.

As the landlord, you also have a responsibility for ensuring that it is easy to make an exit from the caravan in the event of a fire; that the furniture and furnishings in your caravan are fire safe; and, depending on the size of your caravan, for supplying fire alarms and extinguishers

Staying safe
In terms of your duty of care according to the common law and your responsibilities under Health and Safety legislation, there are a number of standards that apply to the safety of any guests in your static caravan (somewhat different rules apply to touring caravans).
You may agree, however, that the onus of responsibility is not unreasonable, since the safety of your guests is also your paramount concern.

Nevertheless, for all your compliance with the fire, gas and electricity safety laws, accidents may happen and you may find yourself held liable for some breach of a duty of care. Depending on loss or damage to property, or any injuries sustained by your guest or guests, your liability may be considerable.

For that reason, adequate public liability insurance is likely to be important since it typically covers the cost of any damages awarded to your guest (as the claimant), your legal costs in defending the claim that has been made, and, if you are found to be liable, the claimant’s legal costs, too.

Because of the scale of potential damages and costs for which you may be held liable, basic public liability cover typically protects claims of up to £2 million.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring has Finally Came

Spring has finally begun at my neck of the woods after the last hurrah of the snow last Sunday.
I finally get to see  signs of Springs at my garden.  Inspired of what I saw, I  spent  an  hour and a half cleaning my yard this morning after my  morning run around the neighborhood.  Oh, it was so nice to finally get to do some gardening again.
Shadow Shots
I removed all the dead twigs in my flower beds.  I look forward to do some gardening sometime next week when the weather is fully warm already.  I am afraid that there would be  cold weather surprise again so I am not celebrating just yet although I am very  excited.
April is  the national gardening month so yeah, Spring time is gardening time!

Wedding Photography

I wish I could further my  skills in photography so I could take great photos like nc photographers could.  You can see their  sample shot in the photo below.  They do know how to capture the perfect  moment.   Weddings and other special occasions  should be captured in order for the  story to continue to live on from generations to generations.  Whenever my  kids are asking about  my husband and I's wedding, we always look at our photo albums all together.  
photo isn't mine

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