Thursday, April 25, 2013

There are more excellent sources to curate content, but these are good places to start.

More and more businesses today are getting into content marketing, which is the creation and sharing of articles, pictures, videos, and other publishing content with an eye to acquiring customers. Content marketing is arguably one of the most effective tactics out there to develop a stronger presence for your website and blog. It increases traffic, builds links, and creates greater brand awareness for your business. With content marketing so important to online marketing, the quality of that content is key. High quality content makes your information channels more credible to users AND gets you higher rankings from Google and other search engines. That's why curating, or selecting, the right content is the name of the game. You need to keep looking for the best content to share to boost engagement. Here are 7 outstanding sources to tap into. 1. Is there an app for that? You bet. Actually, there are lots of apps for news and content. A few of the useful ones: Flipboard, Google Currents, Pulse News, and Zite. Most apps don't let you post right to a Facebook business page, but you can send articles you like to Evernote or InstaPaper and schedule to post them as needed, now or later. 2. Check all the top stories. The site where you can do that is AllTop. Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki launched this a while ago with tons of channels containing links to a lot of great web content. 3. Join a big forum. Participate in the Quora forum to plug into interesting conversations or get answers to your questions from the community. These comments can often provide you with compelling and unique content. 4. Create Google alerts. Set up Google searches for news about your community, neighborhood, or area of expertise, and have them go straight to your email inbox daily, or more often if you like. You can even filter to get only blog content or videos. 5. Photo search. A picture is worth a thousand words, plus it's the type of content people love to see and share on social networks. Search Flickr and Instagram for photos that relate to your business, community, and interests. Some of the images on these sites are truly amazing. Be sure to credit the source of the image when posting to Facebook. In addition, Flickr has copyright blocks that won't let you Pin a copyrighted photo on Pinterest. 6. Social by subject. Sulia is a new social network that's subject-based, making it a great source for content. You can check into channels on a variety of topics for special content to share with your readers. And Sulia is already fairly large: it's grown to 10 million users this year. 7. Google again. Google News is the third Google mention in this piece, but, hey, they ARE the leader for accessing content. Google News sources content from thousands of news outlets. And Google manually vets all the sources, to keep out questionable players. There are more excellent sources to curate content, but these are good places to start. Just remember, quality is much more important than quantity. Post as often as you can; 5 times a week would be great. But it's better to skip a posting than to share substandard content. Remember, it takes time to build a reputation for great content among your target audience. So start now. Here's to your success in content marketing as you keep putting together your best year ever.... Enjoy a great month! Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Frozen Apple-Oatmeal Sandwiches

Frozen Apple-Oatmeal Sandwiches Ingredients Reynolds® Parchment Paper 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened 2 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons apple juice or milk 2 tablespoons apple jelly 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 packages (8.6 ounces each) soft-baked oatmeal cookies 6 ounces milk chocolate 2 teaspoons vegetable oil Cook 1.Combine chocolate and vegetable oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. 2.Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir until smooth, returning to microwave in 15-second increments, if needed. Remove sandwiches from freezer. Half-dip in chocolate. Return to parchment-paper-lined sheet; return sheet to freezer. Freeze 15 minutes. Serve cold. Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Market Update ...

For the week of April 22, 2013 – Vol. 11, Issue 16 >> Market Update INFO THAT HITS US WHERE WE LIVE... Last week Housing Starts were reported UP 7.0% for March to a 1.036 million unit annual rate, 46.7% higher than a year ago and the highest they've been since 2008. But wait. The boost was all due to multi-family units, up 31.1% for the month. Single-family starts were down 4.8%, although they actually are UP a very healthy 28.7% from a year ago. Analysts tell us the multi-family sector is super volatile from month to month, but they expect large gains for home building overall for at least two years. Building Permits in March were down a bit, to a 902,000 annual rate, but almost all the drop was due to multi-families. Single-family permits slipped just 0.5% for the month and are now UP 27.7% versus a year ago. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) confidence index went to 42 from 44 in March. But get this. The NAHB index for future single-family sales rose from 50 to 53, a very positive sign. Economists say it's OK in a recovery to see up and down indicators along the way, as long as the underlying trend is upward, which it is now in housing. BUSINESS TIP OF THE WEEK... Focus. Set goals, make decisions, get organized. Don't just watch life happen; take control of your destiny. As Yogi Berra said: "If you don't know where you are going, you'll wind up somewhere else." >> Review of Last Week DOWN... It was a volatile week on Wall Street, with corporate earnings , economic data, commodities, and global growth worries keeping investors on edge. When all was said and done, it was no surprise that the three major stock indexes closed markedly down for the week. Q1 corporate earnings were a mixed bag, with IBM missing forecasts and Microsoft beating them. General Electric's profits were in line with projections, but McDonald's missed. Google happily reported a double-digit increase in net revenue from its core Internet business. Economic data was also mixed. The New York Empire and Philadelphia Fed manufacturing indexes both missed estimates, indicating slowing activity in those regions. The NAHB Housing Market index and March Building Permits also came in lower than expected. But Industrial Production and Housing Starts both pushed past forecasts, clearly positive signs for factories and home builders. Yet crude oil and gold futures were hammered and global growth concerns returned, as China's Q1 GDP rose at a 7.7% annual rate when 8.0% was expected. The week ended with the Dow down 2.1%, to 14548; the S&P 500 also down 2.1%, to 1555; and the Nasdaq down 2.7%, to 3206. Atypically, the heavy selling in stocks did not spur a flight to safety to bonds, which ended the week little changed. The FNMA 3.5% bond we watch ended the week up .01, at $106.09. After the prior week's soft retail and consumer sentiment numbers, national average mortgage rates edged lower for the third week in a row. The Mortgage Bankers Association put purchase loan applications at their highest level since May 2010, up 4% for the week and up 20% versus a year ago. DID YOU KNOW?... GDP, Gross Domestic Product, is the total value of all goods and services produced in a country in a year. It equals total consumer, investment, and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports. >> This Week’s Forecast HOME SALES SOLID, DURABLE GOODS SINK, GDP SOARS... The week should begin with solid home sales numbers for March, the annual rate of Existing Home Sales surpassing the 5M threshold and New Home Sales moving ahead nicely. But as usual, any excitement will be tempered. In this case, Durable Goods Orders for March are expected to slide 3.1%. In spite of this, the first Advanced Q1 GDP reading is forecast to show economic growth proceeding at an encouraging 2.8% annual rate. This is good news following the negative to anemic GDP growth numbers we saw for Q4. >> The Week’s Economic Indicator Calendar Weaker than expected economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and rising loan rates. Economic Calendar for the Week of Apr 22 – Apr 26 Date Time (ET) Release For Consensus Prior Impact M Apr 22 10:00 Existing Home Sales Mar 5.01M 4.98M Moderate Tu Apr 23 10:00 New Home Sales Mar 415K 411K Moderate W Apr 24 08:30 Durable Goods Orders Mar –3.1% 5.6% Moderate W Apr 24 10:30 Crude Inventories 4/20 NA –1.233M Moderate Th Apr 25 08:30 Initial Unemployment Claims 4/20 351K 352K Moderate Th Apr 25 08:30 Continuing Unemployment Claims 4/13 3.060M 3.068M Moderate F Apr 26 08:30 GDP–Advanced Q1 2.8% 0.4% Moderate F Apr 26 08:30 GDP Chain Deflator–Adv. Q1 1.6% 1.0% Moderate F Apr 26 09:55 Univ. of Michigan Consumer Sentiment–Final Apr 72.4 72.3 Moderate >> Federal Reserve Watch Forecasting Federal Reserve policy changes in coming months... Last Thursday Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota said financial market conditions requiring the Fed to keep rates super low may persist for 5 to 10 years. More cause for economists to expect no change in the Funds Rate. Note: In the lower chart, a 1% probability of change is a 99% certainty the rate will stay the same. Current Fed Funds Rate: 0%–0.25% After FOMC meeting on: Consensus May 1 0%–0.25% Jun 19 0%–0.25% Jul 31 0%–0.25% Probability of change from current policy: After FOMC meeting on: Consensus May 1 <1% Jun 19 <1% Jul 31 <1% Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

We breathe the same air!

By Madisyn taylor Seeing an image of the planet Earth taken from space inspires awe in many of us, since we can clearly see the connectedness of all of us who live upon this planet. We have created imaginary boundaries, sectioning ourselves into countries and states, forgetting that in reality we are all living together, breathing the same air, drinking from the same water, eating food grown from the same earth. We share everything on this planet, whether we are conscious of it or not, with other people, and those people are our brothers and sisters. Keeping a photograph or painting of the planet Earth in a prominent place in our homes can be a positive way to remember our interconnectedness. Meditating on the fact that any sense of separation we have from one another is truly an illusion, we will naturally begin to make more conscious choices in our daily lives. The simple act of preparing food, or determining how to dispose of our refuse, can be done with the consciousness that whatever we do will affect all our brothers and sisters, no matter how far away they live, as well as the planet herself. When we foster this kind of awareness in ourselves out of a feeling of awe, it becomes easier to be conscious than to fall back into old habits of thinking of ourselves as separate. When we contemplate the earth in her wholeness, we attune ourselves to the truth of the bigger picture, which is the Earth, and all of us, every one of us, living on her body. We are connected to one another in the most intimate way, because we literally share our living space. As more people become aware of the reality of our interdependency, things will shift in a positive direction, and much of the discord that we see now will give way to a more cooperative, loving conscious. This is happening already, so as our consciousness grows, we can join with the many other minds working to live in the spirit of togetherness. Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The present moment is all that exists, since the past and future are simply thoughts about the past and the future.

By Gina Lake Happiness is the natural outcome of being aligned with Essence, our true self, which is experienced when we are fully present in the moment. The key to happiness is being very awake and aware of what is really happening in every moment rather than being absorbed in thoughts about the past, the future, your life, other people, and the many other thoughts we tend to get lost in, which don't add to our life or enhance our experience of life but, rather, detract from the potential joy, peace, and contentment inherent in each moment. Happiness is in our control, since where we focus our attention is in our control. When we focus it on what the mind is telling us, we suffer; when we focus it on what is real and true in this moment, we experience happiness, joy, peace, and contentment. The present moment is all that exists, since the past and future are simply thoughts about the past and the future. But because we are programmed to pay attention to our thoughts, we often fail to notice what is actually going on now. Most people live in a mental world. When we drop out of this mental world into the Now, we experience a depth, a richness, and a joy and peace that feel sacred. This is the experience of our true self, or Essence. So, when we talk about being in the Now, we are also talking about this experience of Essence. The ego is the sense of being a me and all the ideas, beliefs, and other conditioning entailed in the sense of existing as an individual. The ego is called the false self because the ego isn’t who we really are, although it seems like it is who we are. The egoic mind, which is a reflection of the ego and its conditioning, is the chatterbox mind, which produces a nearly constant flow of commentary about life based on our conditioning. We experience it as the voice in the head, as Eckhart Tolle calls it. For simplicity, I sometimes refer to the egoic mind as the mind. However, the egoic mind is distinct from the functional mind, which is the aspect of the mind that we use to read, calculate, analyze, design, follow instructions, and so forth. We need the functional mind, but we don’t actually need the egoic mind to function. The egoic mind is the aspect of the mind that talks to us, while the functional mind is a tool we pick up and use when we need it. In my writings about the ego, I have somewhat positioned it as the enemy, as a device to help people detach from it. When people are identified with the ego, they are, in a sense, in love with the egoic mind, and I’m hoping to help them fall out of love with it, because the ego and the thoughts and feelings it produces are the source of human suffering. Of course, even the ego belongs to the Oneness, and the ego serves exactly the function the Oneness intended. The ego isn’t actually an entity. Rather, it is the sense of being a separate individual, which is innate to us. We feel like individuals, although we are actually manifestations, or expressions, of One Being. This is the Oneness that mystics throughout time have realized as being behind all life and which the term non-dual, which means not two, refers to. While encased in a human body, we have lost awareness of our true nature, and we are meant to rediscover the truth. That discovery is what the spiritual path is all about and what spiritual practices are meant to reveal. The sense of being a separate individual is accomplished through the mind. We are programmed to think of ourselves as separate and as having distinct characteristics and labels: “I am a man,” “I am smart,” “I am a mother,” “I am twenty years old.” Anything that comes after “I am,” defines us, and we take those definitions as who we are. And yet when you examine those assumptions, you see that they are just ideas. There is no you behind the thoughts about you. This you that you think you are is made up of thoughts! What a revelation that is! Then who are you? That is the perennial question, which ultimately results in the discovery that we are not a thing but more of a being, an experience of existing. If we strip away all labels and ideas, we are left with just I am, just existence. We are that which is existing right here and now and aware of that existence. Spiritual teachers often call the true self Awareness because the experience of the true self is that it is aware. Beyond that, who or what we really are can’t be defined. It has qualities that can be felt, such as peace, acceptance, love, compassion, gratitude, kindness, patience, wisdom, and strength, although those words don’t come close to defining the mystery of our true nature. Who we really are is indescribable because it is beyond anything the mind can grasp. But to speak about who we really are, we have to give it a name. It has been given many names: the Source, Spirit, Oneness, Beingness, Consciousness, God, Awareness, the Divine, the Absolute, Presence, Stillness, Emptiness, the Now, Essence, the Self, the higher self, the essential self, and the true self, to name a few. I usually refer to it as Essence, the Oneness, the Self, or Awareness. Those words mean basically the same thing. I generally use the word Essence to refer to the aspect of the Oneness that expresses itself and lives through each of us. Words and definitions are not important. You know Essence when you experience it, just as you know the ego when you experience it. Essence and the ego feel very different and are very distinct. Awakening is another term that may need some definition. It refers to the shift from identification with the ego, or false self, to a recognition of yourself as the spiritual being that you are. This shift happens whenever we are simply in the moment without all of our thoughts. So awakeness is possible in any moment. Awakening, however, generally implies a more permanent shift to living from a place of non-identification with the ego and alignment with our true nature. Now let us begin… Whatever you are doing, enjoy it! You have another option, of course, which is to not enjoy it. Notice what keeps you from enjoying whatever you are doing. It’s your thoughts, isn’t it? Even if you are experiencing pain, for instance, or something unpleasant, like going to the dentist, if you don’t listen to any negative thoughts, fears, complaints, and desires related to that, you won’t suffer. You will just have the experience. Your thoughts about whatever you are doing interfere with enjoying it not only because they are often negative, judgmental, or resistant to the experience, but also because thoughts—even positive ones—remove you from an experience to some degree. Some thoughts don’t interfere much with being present and enjoying what you are doing; they just float in and out of your mind, without you paying much attention to them. Other thoughts, however, grab you, and you lose touch with what you are doing and the experience you are having. When that happens, it feels like you are going through the motions or doing something just to get it done. You can go through life this way if you want, but when you are not fully in contact with what you are doing, you miss out on the potential joy and pleasure in an experience. Any experience can be interesting, since you have never had it before. And any experience can be enjoyed, because when you immerse yourself in it, you lose the false self (the sense of I or me) and discover the true self, which is always enjoying life. Essence is always in-joy. And from Essence’s standpoint, every moment is an opportunity to serve life and love, which is another source of joy. What if you approached each moment as an opportunity to experience, serve, or love? The secret to enjoying what you are doing is to get lost in it, to get involved in it. That means getting all your senses involved in it or, more accurately, noticing how all your senses are involved in it. Noticing sensory experience will take you out of your egoic mind (your functional mind is still available) and into the experience you are having. When you are present to the experience you are having, you are in the moment, and that is when you experience Presence, or Essence. The experience of Essence is highly pleasurable, so no matter what you are doing, if you are present to it, it will be enjoyable. Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Friday, April 19, 2013

There is no one right path to awareness and each of us has our own path that is perfect for us.

By Madisyn Taylor Entering into our own spirituality is a private journey. Each of us will be drawn to a different gateway to begin on our personal path to awakening to a greater experience of ourselves. Even though we may be taught certain philosophies or beliefs as children, we still need to find our own way of understanding and applying them in our lives. For those who are raised without a spiritual framework, they may not even know their process as a form of spirituality. But at some stage in their lives, whether in youth or adulthood, they are likely to recognize the resonance of their beliefs, the ring of truth in their philosophy, and their dedication to their chosen purpose. Our inner guidance will lead us, so that we will be drawn to the right doorway for us--a doorway that only we can recognize by the way it makes us feel inside. It could be a picture of an angel or the gift of a crystal. We may meet someone special who shares their experiences with us in a way that we find intriguing. While visiting the home of an admired friend, we may notice a book or statue of a diety, and ask why they chose those tools. Or a word or phrase may catch our attention in a song, or a lecture. For some they may find their way by walking through the experience of illness before they begin the search for what will help them to truly heal, while others may seek physical improvement and stumble across yoga or meditation--only to find that it leads them to an unexpected place beyond the body. As we awaken to ourselves and to life, we will become more attuned to what is right for us. The universe speaks to all of us through infinite channels, but we each have our own frequency. Others may share what worked for them, but only we can decide what truly makes us feel inspired, awakened, connected, fully conscious, aware and alive. Whatever our path, it is perfect and is meant especially for us. Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

We cannot gain a sense of power in our lives while identifying ourselves as a victim.

By Madison Taylor Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.” A Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein’s scientific theories transformed the world’s understanding of the universe and its workings, so we can believe that these words come from his personal experience and helped him to explore both science and life itself. He offered us an example of what can be learned by looking deeply into nature to reach a deeper understanding of all life and by following our ideas to their logical conclusions in our minds before acting upon them in the world. When we apply this quote to our lives, we can see that we cannot create abundance by staying in a consciousness of poverty, nor can we gain a sense of power in our lives while identifying ourselves as a victim. Situations begun from anger or fear can have little chance of reaching a state of peace and trust unless someone involved can conceive of that possibility and act upon it. We need to find ways to step outside of our limited understanding in order to seek a bigger picture. One way to do this is to shift our perspective to see the situation from another’s point of view and ideally the perspective of all others involved. Even if we can’t truly know another’s motivations, by imagining what they might be, we open ourselves up to numerous possibilities and an expanded vision. This alone can shift our feelings of anger to compassion and the desire for a positive solution for all involved. Once we have opened our mind to greater possibilities, we can connect to our higher self for inspired solutions. From the peace at our center, we gain distance from our emotions to connect to intuitive wisdom that offers us understanding of the underlying causes and the inspiration needed to guide our steps in a new direction. Albert Einstein showed us the impact that can be made when we raise our consciousness and allow ourselves to imagine the possibilities. Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator.

"This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don't. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete." Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance." "Are you paralyzed with fear? That's a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it." - Steven Pressfield Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Choosing not to be a target.

It is important to remember that if you are being attacked emotionally, it is more than likely not about you at all. Hurtful confrontations often leave us feeling drained and confused. When someone attacks us emotionally, we may wonder what we did to rouse their anger, and we take their actions personally. We may ask ourselves what we could have done to compel them to behave or speak that way toward us. It’s important to remember that there are no real targets in an emotional attack and that it is usually a way for the attacker to redirect their uncomfortable feelings away from themselves. When people are overcome by strong emotions, like hurt or anguish, they may see themselves as victims and lash out at others as a means of protection or to make themselves feel better. You may be able to shield yourself from an emotional attack by not taking the behavior personally. First, however, it is good to cultivate a state of detachment that can provide you with some protection from the person who is attacking you. This will allow you to feel compassion for this person and remember that their beha! vior isn’t as much about you as it is about their need to vent their emotions. If you have difficulty remaining unaffected by someone’s behavior, take a moment to breathe deeply and remind yourself that you didn’t do anything wrong, and you aren’t responsible for people’s feelings. If you can see that this person is indirectly expressing a need to you—whether they are reaching out for help or wanting to be heard—you may be able to diffuse the attack by getting them to talk about what is really bothering them. You cannot control other people’s emotions, but you can control your own. If you sense yourself responding to their negativity, try not to let yourself. Keep your heart open to them, and they may let go of their defensiveness and yield to your compassion and openness. Lisa Ekanger Your Hometown Realtor!