10 Shocking Facts About Jasmine Roth That’ll Rock Your World

Jasmine Roth

MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images / Contributor / Getty Images

Jasmine Roth is reality TV’s latest home renovation darling, and for good reason: While she got her start turning boring, cookie-cutter houses into custom masterpieces on HGTV’s “Hidden Potential,” she’s also pitched in on the “Brady Bunch” house, won “Rock the Block” in 2019, and helped numerous homeowners fix their failed home improvement projects on “Help! I Wrecked My House.”

Clearly, Roth is a rising star, and though she’s quite open about her life and her family, there’s still a lot more to this home design-construction-renovation whiz than meets the eye.

Curious about what you might have missed? Brush up on these surprising facts about this Jill-of-all-trades.

1. She started building things as a kid

As a child growing up in rural Virginia, Roth spent much of her free time with her dad, a DIY carpenter. Working together in the family garage, they built treehouses, playhouses, furniture, and sheds.

Roth is a huge advocate for women and girls getting involved in carpentry, construction, and other traditionally male-dominated careers. This effort has paid off, since many of the biggest fans of “Hidden Potential” are middle school girls.

Roth says she regularly gets messages from parents thanking her for introducing their daughters to a potential career path. She also uses the #WomenWhoBuild hashtag to encourage a sense of community.

“Just historically, construction trades aren’t pitched as viable options for girls,” Roth told the Orange County Register. “Had someone told me when I was at school and sketching little houses on a notebook that I could have [built those houses], I would have loved that.”

2. She got into the renovation business by accident

Roth didn’t set out to become an HGTV star or a homebuilder/renovator. In 2008, she got a degree in entrepreneurship and new-venture management at Northeastern University in Boston (that’s also where she met her husband, Brett).

Next, she moved to California to launch a career in corporate consulting. Roth and her husband bought a piece of land in Huntington Beach, CA, and planned to spend their nights and weekends building their dream home, as well as a separate investment property. They learned as they went.

With this experience under her belt, Roth decided to quit her job to focus on these renovation projects full time. In 2012, her company, Built Custom Homes, was born.

3. HGTV discovered her on Instagram

Roth began documenting the home-building process on Instagram, which is how TV producers discovered her.

After HGTV producers got in touch, Roth filmed a 2-minute pilot video about herself. She mentioned that she was transforming her mother-in-law’s boring cottage into a custom home, which planted the seed for “Hidden Potential.”

The show began airing on HGTV in April 2017 and has run for two seasons. Roth’s newest show, “Help! I Wrecked My House,” premiered in September.

4. You can rent out her house

Roth and her husband have outgrown the first house they built together. But Roth couldn’t bear to part with it completely, so she decided to make it available as a vacation rental on Airbnb.

It’s called the 11th Street Retreat, and you can stay there for around $1,000 a night. It’s 2,875 square feet and can accommodate up to nine people, so grab a few friends and make a weekend out of it!

5. She has her own home decor shop

One of the rugs available from The Shop by Jasmine Roth

The Shop by Jasmine Roth

If you’re seriously digging some of the chairs, rugs, dishes, knickknacks, and other home decor that Roth uses on her HGTV shows (and in her own house), you can buy your favorite items through Roth’s retail operation, The Shop by Jasmine Roth.

She handpicks and curates everything that’s for sale, so even if Roth can’t personally show up to help you design your home, you’ll be able to add a little of her personal style to your house anyway, like with this clever rug (The Shop by Jasmine Roth, $50).

6. She loves designing for dogs

Roth has two dogs—Nala the bulldog and Tiger the Chihuahua—so it’s no surprise that she loves to integrate pet-friendly projects into her home designs.

In fact, one of the first custom features she built in her own home was a “dog cave” underneath the stairs, complete with recessed lights, baseboards, a cozy dog bed, a gallery wall, and wallpaper.

In the end, this seemingly off-the-wall project helped Roth learn a valuable lesson: You don’t always have to follow the rules.

“Just because they’ve always filled in that area in the past and never done anything with it doesn’t mean that we have to do it that way forever,” Roth told Country Living.

“That’s how I look at construction now. If there’s a space that I can do something cool with, instead of just drywalling it in, let’s do it!”

7. She designed the cutest nursery for her daughter

In April, Roth and her husband celebrated the birth of their first child, Hazel. And, in true Roth fashion, she built a gorgeous nursery for her new baby girl.

Roth’s design is full of bold colors in a muted pastel palette, so they make a statement without being overwhelming. She also fixed up an old dresser with whimsical drawer pulls and built a custom accent wall using small vintage crates, which not only add style to the room, but also serve as functional storage.

8. She can build your home from the ground up

On HGTV, Roth does a lot of renovations and home improvement projects on existing properties. But when she’s not on TV, she’s actually designing and building homes from the ground up.

Her business Built Custom Homes helps would-be homeowners build exactly what they want in downtown Huntington Beach, CA. Roth has helped build homes in all sorts of architectural styles, from Craftsman to industrial Cape Cod to contemporary. The prices of the homes she builds range from $750,000 to $2 million.

9. She loathes spending money when renovating

Jasmine Roth helps homeowners save money on “Help! I Wrecked My House” by using reclaimed wood and other budget-friendly tricks.

HGTV

When she works with homeowners on TV, Roth’s natural frugality shines through. She understands that most homeowners are working with a limited budget—and she proves that she can make that money stretch.

She leans heavily on home renovation tricks to help make the most of her budget, such as simply painting a home to give it new curb appeal, using reclaimed wood, and making art and home decor do double duty as functional storage.

10. She still makes mistakes—and learns from them

In case you were starting to think Roth was superhuman, she does still make mistakes. Case in point: When building her house, Roth decided to ignore the builder’s suggestion of frosting the glass window in the second-floor bathroom.

Later, when she was actually living in the house, she realized the error of her ways. She installed shutters over the windows instead, but definitely considers this a lesson learned the hard way.

The post 10 Shocking Facts About Jasmine Roth That’ll Rock Your World appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Home Buyers During Covid Say It Takes a Village To Find a House

Masood Qazi and his wife Anicham Kumarasamy with their son, Kumar, in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif.

Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal

Before Covid, Masood Qazi didn’t spend much time in his San Jose, Calif., neighborhood. He went to work at Qualcomm, his wife, Anicham Kumarasamy, commuted to her office at Amazon, and their 3½-year-old son attended day care. On weekends, the family went on outings around the Bay Area.

But once both parents started working from home, and their son was no longer in day care, Mr. Qazi started to pay more attention to a nagging feeling they weren’t living in the right spot. They hadn’t made many friends, even though they’d been there six years. It bothered him that people didn’t smile at each other very often when they passed on the street. He also felt that posts on the social network Nextdoor for his neighborhood lacked compassion toward the homeless.

Over the summer, the couple started looking at Bernal Heights, a neighborhood in San Francisco they’d read had a tight community where people held socially distanced street parties and started a sidewalk food bank. They started hanging out there for a few hours every weekend, taking their dog for walks and going to the parks. Mr. Qazi noticed people would say hello and strike up conversations.

Mr. Qazi and Ms. Kumarasamy paid 18% over asking price for their house in Bernal Heights, the white home, above.
Mr. Qazi and Ms. Kumarasamy paid 18% over asking price for their house in Bernal Heights, the white home, above.

Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal

Their house in San Jose, shown here, was bigger, had a better yard and was closer to their offices. But they found the neighborhood less friendly.
Their house in San Jose, shown here, was bigger, had a better yard and was closer to their offices. But they found the neighborhood less friendly.

Google Maps

“We felt comfortable there,” says Mr. Qazi, 36. He and his wife bought a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Bernal Heights earlier this month for $1.9 million (18% over asking price), even though their house in San Jose was bigger, had a better yard and was closer to their offices. “Covid switched our emphasis from the house to the neighborhood,” he says.

Since the pandemic, real-estate agents say they have noticed a change in how people shop for houses: Neighbors have become a more important factor. Remote schools mean neighborhoods can be packed with children playing outside on weekdays. That’s great for families with children, but maybe not for empty-nesters.

Noise matters even more to people who have switched to working from home—especially if it is a continuing construction project or a crowing rooster. The spontaneous coffee with the co-worker in the next cubicle has been replaced with a walk outside and a chat with the neighbor.

SF playground
When the couple took their son, Kumar, and dog, Mr. Traddles, for walks and went to the parks in Bernal Heights, Mr. Qazi noticed people would say hello and strike up conversations.

Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal

Driveway cocktail parties have filled the social gap that live parties and events once did. During the recent national and local elections, a car parade in support of one candidate, or too many yard signs in support of another, was sometimes enough to make clients reject a house, real-estate agents say.

“Neighborhoods are just so much more important now,” says Francie Malina, with the Francie Malina Team in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. There is more of a need to belong, since neighborhoods now form bubbles, where people travel and socialize together, and organize their children into learning pods. This Halloween, many neighborhoods closed their streets to outside trick-or-treaters.

A recent survey from online home-improvement marketplace Improvenet of 2,500 Americans showed 69% of them have gotten to know their neighbors better during the pandemic and 65% have made an effort to be more friendly than usual. Fifty-seven percent say neighbors have helped to fill the void of visiting with friends and family during the pandemic, 54% say they have had at least one socially distanced gathering with neighbors, 67% have offered help of some sort to their neighbors, and 62% say they have received the same offer in return.

Bernal Heights
The couple had read that Bernal Heights had a tightly knit community. To get a sense of that, the couple started hanging out there for a few hours every weekend.

Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal

Existing-home sales rose 4.3% from September to October, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.85 million, the highest level since February 2006, the National Association of Realtors reported. The October sales marked a 26.6% increase from a year earlier. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June, around one in five adults in the U.S. either changed their residence due to the pandemic or know someone who did.

“A lot of people can’t stand where they’re living now. They want to feel part of a community,” says Helen Pederslie, a broker with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty in Bellevue, Wash.

Getting the feel for a neighborhood isn’t as easy as just asking an agent. The Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968 as part of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, religion and other factors. That means agents can’t give clients any information about the neighbors’ race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or familial status, according to Kris Gomez, a real-estate broker with San Diego Castles Realty in San Diego. So if buyers want to learn about the neighbors, the best way is to talk to them.

“You’d be surprised at how candid neighbors can be,” says Dana Bull of Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty in Marblehead, Mass. She encourages her clients to write letters and emails to neighbors to ask questions before they buy anything. She also suggests they join Facebook neighborhood groups, where postings by members offer clues about neighbors’ concerns, or check Google Image to see if there are trampolines or swimming pools at the houses nearby, or anything else noteworthy.

“We always give them the names of people to talk to,” says Jennifer Burden, founder and associate broker with Legacy Real Estate in San Francisco.

Kirkland, WA house
Joe Platzner and Michelle Banks bought this house in Kirkland, Wash. in October for $1.1 million. Built in 2017, the house is part of a development that includes a communal barn, storage space, yards and a homeowner’s association.

Brooke Fitts for The Wall Street Journal

Lauren Pacella put notes into the mailboxes next to a house she was thinking about buying in Beverly, Mass., in May. She and her fiancé, James Cassin-Reed, wanted to leave the city of Boston and move somewhere where they would know their neighbors, she says. One person called her back and answered her questions: Yes, he said, people were friendly and nice—and there was nothing she needed to know, he said.

Ms. Pacella had been to seven open houses in a range of areas, but her googling revealed that the street in Beverly was full of young families with children, which was what she was seeking. She and Mr. Cassin-Reed bought a five-bedroom, five-bathroom, 4,539-square-foot house, with an open floor plan and a large kitchen, for $1.28 million in May in Beverly. “Everyone knows what everyone is doing, and I like that,” says the 31-year-old director of a staffing firm.

Kirkland, WA, homeowners
When Ms. Banks and Mr. Platzner went to see the house in Kirkland, people were outside and immediately included the couple in conversation.

Brooke Fitts for The Wall Street Journal

Finding a friendlier neighborhood was important to Joe Platzner and Michelle Banks. Mr. Platzner, 56, who works at Boeing, and Ms. Banks, 50, who is a fundraiser for the Seattle Zoo, were each living separately in their own rental apartments, Mr. Platzner in West Seattle and Ms. Banks near Greenlake. They didn’t notice until Covid, when they started working from home full time, how estranged and transactional their neighborhoods were: No one knew each other, people were loud, and they were lonely in their apartments all day, seeing no one else. “It really changed my perspective,” says Ms. Banks.

The couple, who are not married, decided they wanted to live together in a house somewhere friendlier. The presence of neighbors at a house they went to see in Kirkland, Wash., made an impression. People were outside and included the couple in conversation. They liked that there was a shared common courtyard, a converted barn that everyone could use and a small homeowners association—and that the owners of the seven other houses all seemed to be around their age.

House with barn
When Ms. Banks and Mr. Platzner went to see the house in Kirkland, people were outside and immediately included the couple in conversation. They liked that there was a shared barn, shown here.

Brooke Fitts for The Wall Street Journal

They bought their new house together in October for $1.1 million, which was full price. “There’s a lot of human interaction—getting the mail, going in and out of the barn, wine on weekends,” says Mr. Platzner.

Taylor Bigley spent time walking around and talking to people in the neighborhood in Greenville, S.C., where she was interested in buying a house. Then she found out that her supervisor lived across the street from the house she was looking at. That clinched the deal: They see each other all the time, both for work conferences and on weekends with their children, who are around the same ages.

“Relying on who you are around became the most important thing in the pandemic,” says the 32-year-old marketing executive, who bought her house in September. “Who you live around, who is across the street is what matters.”

The post Home Buyers During Covid Say It Takes a Village To Find a House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Start Your Engines! Condo at Charlotte Motor Speedway Is the Week’s Most Popular Property

most popular homes on realtor.com 11/20

realtor.com

Good morning, race fans! A residence right on top of a racetrack sped away with the most clicks this week on realtor.com®.

The most popular listing in the country this week is an incredible fantasy property for die-hard gearheads: a condo overlooking Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, with floor-to-ceiling views of the entire track and pit.

If you don’t mind the roar of high-powered engines or the occasional car wreck outside your window, this two-bedroom unit must take pole position in your housing search.

It’s a man cave perched over the track, ideal for entertaining friends, family, or corporate clients. It features a huge bar in the middle of it all, to toast your favorite drivers and crews.

Coming in at a close second is a New Jersey log cabin dating to 1638, which came on the market last week. Currently in operation as a museum, it’s offered at a steep discount for any history-minded buyer.

You also clicked on Missouri’s most expensive home, a precious pink house in Florida, and a California megamansion headed to auction with no reserve bid. (The latter is also the most expensive home to be sold at auction ever.)

Folks, start your engines! Scroll on down for the top 10 of this week’s most popular properties.

10. 8516 Wittmer Rd, Pittsburgh, PA

Price: $74,900
Why it’s here: An oddball in Steel City, this two-bedroom geodesic dome was built in 1980. It’s 1,126 square feet of curvy living space.

It doesn’t qualify for a typical mortgage—but that’s because there’s nothing typical about this house. The listing notes that the home needs some structural work.

The interior looks as if it’s been transported to another world. Described as “parklike” in the listing, the lot has plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the outdoors.

Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, PA

realtor.com

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9. 504 W. Virginia St, McKinney, TX

Price: $1,300,000
Why it’s here: A glorious and welcoming porch with arches makes a favorable first impression at this historic Folk Victorian home, which was built in 1903.

Once used as a bed-and-breakfast, the six-bedroom home recently underwent a $500,000 remodel, including the addition of antique European windows and doors.

There’s also a separate cottage area, as well as a large backyard with a kids’ playhouse.

McKinney, TX
McKinney, TX

realtor.com

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8. 67 Beverly Park Ct, Beverly Hills, CA

Price: $160,000,000
Why it’s here: This massive estate in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Southern California has consistently appeared on our countdowns of the most expensive homes in the country.

On the market for three years, the megamansion is now headed for auction with no reserve price. We’ll keep an eye on the bidding and let you know if the auction process turns out to be a winner for the seller.

Beverly Hills, CA
Beverly Hills, CA

realtor.com

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7. 2206 N. Morgan St, Tampa, FL

Price: $769,900
Why it’s here: Awash in pink and pretty as a picture, this four-bedroom home dates to 1912. Fully restored in 1991, it’s been immaculately maintained ever since.

Highlights include a large, airy kitchen, hardwood floors, and high ceilings. There’s also an apartment above the garage, a charming front porch, and a carriage house built in 2006.

Tampa, FL
Tampa, FL

realtor.com

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6. 23284 Plumbrooke Dr, Southfield MI

Price: $249,900
Why it’s here: Midcentury modern makes its mark in Michigan!

This split-level residence from 1963 has maintained its groovy feel, with wrought-iron railings, beamed ceilings, clerestory windows, built-ins, and vintage lighting.

Southfield MI
Southfield, MI

realtor.com

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5. 3204 Flora Ave, Kansas City, MO

Price: $500,000
Why it’s here: This colorful five-bedroom house dates to 1899. Most recently, it operated as a day care, which helps explain the choice of exterior paint.

The top-floor den has a lovely domed ceiling and fairy-tale reading nook. Bring your paintbrush if you don’t plan to go into the child care business.

Kansas City, MO
Kansas City, MO

realtor.com

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4. 46 Kingdom Rd, Montville, ME

Price: $225,000
Why it’s here: The listing photos for this locale paint a tranquil scene. Built in 1900 and known as the Mill House, the structure served as the home of Waterfall Arts, a community art center.

Now that the art center has moved to a new location, the 2,500-square-foot residence is an ideal spot for a new owner to commune with nature. The 3-acre property includes 1,000 feet of Georges River frontage.

Montville, ME
Montville, ME

realtor.com

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3. Undisclosed address, Brumley, MO

Price: $13,500,000
Why it’s here: This 825-acre estate is the most expensive home on the market in the Show-Me State. Dubbed Horse Power Ranch, the home took 20 years to build and was finished in 2012.

The offering includes a 13,000-square-foot mansion, a 10-acre private lake, an infinity pool with swim-up bar, a dock, patios, outdoor cooking areas, and an 11,000-square-foot barn with one-bedroom apartment.

There’s also a ranch manager’s home and a studio apartment.

Brumley, MO
Brumley, MO

realtor.com

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2. 406 Swedesboro Rd, Gibbstown, NJ

Price: $875,000
Why it’s here: This one-of-a-kind property includes the C.A. Nothnagle log house, which was built in 1638 as part of the New Sweden Colony. Of course, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of the fireplace ironware dates to 1590, and the original home was built out of bricks carried over as ship ballast.

The home is the oldest of its type in the Western Hemisphere still standing on its original site. The current owners operate the original cabin as a museum and live in the adjoining three-bedroom home.

Gibbstown, NJ
Gibbstown, NJ

Gibbstown, NJ

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1. 4741 Morehead Rd, Unit 3B, Concord, NC

Price: $575,000
Why it’s here: This race fan’s dream home took the checkered flag this week, with tens of thousands of clicks.

The two-bedroom condo overlooks the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The living room walls are glass, and it has a full bar, for a race-day experience that you can get only by living at the track.

The condo sits at the first turn and has a full view of the track and pit. Could you live day in, day out with this scenery as your front yard? Shift into high gear and make an offer!

Concord, NC
Concord, NC

realtor.com

The post Start Your Engines! Condo at Charlotte Motor Speedway Is the Week’s Most Popular Property appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

The 2020 Effect on the Housing Market: Homeowners Aren’t Immune to the Pain

fstop123/Getty Images

The financial pain wrought by COVID-19 has rippled through the housing market. Even folks lucky enough to own their own homes in a time of record-high house prices and a historic shortage of properties for sale haven’t been immune to the harsh economic impact of the pandemic.

While homeowners have typically fared better than renters, many lost income and fell behind on their mortgage payments. Roughly 36% earned less money from March through September, with about 6.3 million homeowners falling behind on their mortgages in October, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing 2020 report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Those numbers were even bleaker for communities of color. While 7% of white homeowners couldn’t pay their mortgages in September, 18% of Hispanic, 17% of Black, and 12% of Asian homeowners suffered from the same problem.

While some homeowners may ultimately lose their residences to foreclosures, real estate experts don’t predict another foreclosure crisis like the one the nation experienced in the mid-aughts.

“We’re not having a crash in housing prices. … People don’t have as much mortgage debt,” says Managing Director Chris Herbert of the Joint Center.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be an uptick in foreclosures if mortgage forbearance and unemployment benefits run out.

“We expect to see a rise in the number of homeowners who are distressed,” he says.

Many folks have been able to hold on to their homes due to the federal government stepping in this spring to offer mortgage forbearance. Homeowners with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government-backed loans were eligible for up to 12 months of forbearance on their mortgages. At the end of that period, they’ll have options for loan modifications that include tacking the missed payments onto the end of the loan so nobody owes a big lump sum all at once. The government may also wind up extending the program.

However, about a third of homeowners aren’t covered by this program. Most manufactured homes, like trailers, aren’t eligible either. That makes millions of Americans vulnerable to foreclosures.

Homeowners “tend to have more resources, higher incomes, higher net worths. Those resources better equip them to weather storms like the current health and economic crises,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. The pandemic “has hit lower-income and minority homeowners harder.”

While home prices have shot up, rental prices could fall

Renters, who often make less money than homeowners, have been hit the hardest by this crisis. The lowest-income renters were among the most likely to have lost their lower-paying retail, restaurant, hospitality, and other sector jobs—and have trouble paying their rent.

Just under half of renter households lost income from mid-March to mid-September. Roughly 15% were behind on their monthly rents. Many have been helped by a patchwork of eviction moratoriums and other local, state, and federal protections and assistance, including unemployment benefits. Some of these benefits are about to run out.

“There’s a limit to how long [landlords] can … survive without income coming in,” says Herbert.

The good news for renters: Prices are beginning to dip. Home prices remained at record highs due to a lack of properties on the market and insatiable demand. But the opposite is true for rentals—as there are more units available than potential tenants. That’s particularly true in some of the bigger, more expensive cities that residents have been leaving during the pandemic.

Rental prices slipped 0.6% nationwide in the third quarter of this year—compared with rising 2.8% last year, according to CoStar data used in the Harvard report.

That’s because builders have put up more apartment buildings and other rentals in recent years. Vacancy levels hit their highest point in a decade, at 7% of all units remaining unoccupied. The vacancy rate was even higher, at 10.5%, for the fancier, higher-end rentals that have gone up in recent years.

However, there were fewer tenants to fill them. Those who held on to their jobs and are doing well during the pandemic are more likely to buy. Those who didn’t fare as well are more likely to move in with family members or find more roommates, which translates into more people living in fewer units.

Yet despite the economic struggles, most folks have been able to hold on to or find new housing.

“The concern about a large wave of evictions has yet to materialize,” says Herbert. But “we are not out of the woods by any means yet.”

The post The 2020 Effect on the Housing Market: Homeowners Aren’t Immune to the Pain appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Store Your Food Safely with these Vacuum Sealers

Give you food some added life and continued freshman with a vacuum sealer.

Give you food some added life and continued freshman with a vacuum sealer. (Mueller/)

How many times have you thrown food in the trash because it went bad? Maybe your week went crazy, and you didn’t have time to use that steak in the fridge, and you ended up throwing it away. Perhaps you bought fruit but couldn’t eat it all before it went bad. Many people toss hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of food in the trash each year. Ready to stop tossing spoiled food in the trash? Here’s a look at several great vacuum sealer machines we like.

Compact design ensures easy storage and LED-lit control panel offers a user-friendly experience.

Compact design ensures easy storage and LED-lit control panel offers a user-friendly experience. (Geryon/)

This vacuum sealer machine from Geryon comes with a full starter kit, so you have heat-seal bags, an air suction hose, a user manual, and a vacuum sealer roll, too. The lightweight design and compact size make it easy to store the machine when it’s not in use. With LED indicator lights, digital buttons, and automatic operation, it’s simple to use the machine, even if you’re new to vacuum sealing. The machine’s separated design allows you to take off the upper led for easy cleaning. It comes with two sealing modes, ensuring you can select the best option for preserving different types of food.

Accidental spills are easy to clean and won’t stain or damage the exterior of the machine.

Accidental spills are easy to clean and won’t stain or damage the exterior of the machine. (Mueller/)

The Mueller vacuum sealer machine offers dual sealing modes, whether you need to vacuum seal dry food items or you are preserving moist items like steamed, simmered, or poached foods. Everything you’ll need comes in the box, including an air suction hose, an extra-long vacuum bag roll, and five medium-sized vacuum bags.

The included removable drip tray collects liquid and debris for easy cleaning.

The included removable drip tray collects liquid and debris for easy cleaning. (FoodSaver/)

This compact, lightweight vacuum sealer machine fits easily on your counter and is small enough to store with ease. It’s easy to use. Add food to the vacuum sealer bag, insert the open end into your machine, and the sealer handles the rest, automatically stopping once the seal has been created. This machine features a removable drip tray, which collects any debris or liquid that may be left behind when you’re vacuum sealing food. This makes cleanup easier and keeps your countertops clean. Simply toss the drip tray in the dishwasher when you’re done.

Features a double sealing option that provides additional strength when you need it.

Features a double sealing option that provides additional strength when you need it. (NESCO/)

This vacuum sealer machine from NESCO comes with three sealing choices, which include moist, dry, and double. The double line seal gives you added strength. Choose from normal or gentle vacuum pressure, with the gentle setting ensuring that soft foods are kept safe during the sealing process. The 130-watt double vacuum pump extracts maximum air and handles even larger food items with ease. The machine also features built-in storage and bag cutter, storing rolls and bags right in the unit while the bag cutter creates the custom bag sizes you need for any job.

Soft touch digital buttons and LED indicator lights make this vacuum sealer easy to operate.

Soft touch digital buttons and LED indicator lights make this vacuum sealer easy to operate. (NutriChef/)

Once you take this vacuum sealer out of the box, you can plug it in and start preserving food immediately, with soft-touch digital buttons and LED indicator lights that make it easy to operate. The machine features two sealing modes – dry and moist – ensuring you get the right type of preservation based upon the food you’re sealing. The housing is easy-to-clean and stain-resistant, which means you can wipe it down with ease after use. The black, modern design looks great in any kitchen, and it’s small enough to store in a cabinet when not in use. Along with the vacuum sealer, in the box you’ll find a wine stopper cork, air suction hose, an extra-long vacuum bag roll, and five medium vacuum bags, so you’re prepared to get started immediately.

5 Best Hotels for Social Distancing in the Florida Keys

Celebrating its 100th birthday on New Year’s Eve, Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is the epitome of old Key West beauty and casual luxury.

Celebrating its 100th birthday on New Year’s Eve, Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is the epitome of old Key West beauty and casual luxury. (Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort/)

This article originally appeared on our sister site Islands.com

It’s the craziest time that any of us have ever known—and, if you’re like us, you are itching to escape as soon as possible. The Florida Keys is one of the best options right now, offering that tropical vibe and gin-clear water, all reachable by car—or domestic flight. Below are our picks for the five best resorts to book now, offering peace, quiet and a whole lot of undeniable Keys charm.

Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Six-and-a-half beachfront acres on the south side of Key West are reason enough to choose Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort for your next getaway. The resort is in the heart of the island, just a mile from the Hemingway House and the Green Parrot Bar. To reach either, you can ride a rented bike from Key West Bicycles, which drops off to the hotel so you get around without being in contact with Uber drivers.

On property, four categories of ocean-view rooms offer the most fresh air, with balconies or walk-out lanais. The hotel is asking that social distancing be practiced at the pool, as well as the rest of the property.

Perhaps the biggest reason to choose this resort is the white sand beach stretching along the front of the property. Onsite, you’ll also find the watersports concessioner Barefoot Billy’s, offering Jet Ski tours around the entire island, as well as sunset cruises. We love that you can also rent a scooter to explore as much of the island as you like—on your own time and free of unnecessary contact with others.

(Before booking and arranging travel plans, please be aware of Casa Marina’s Covid-19 protocols and safety guidelines.)

Little Palm Island Resort

This is exactly what we have in mind when it comes to physical distancing.

This is exactly what we have in mind when it comes to physical distancing. (Little Palm Island Resort/)

For starters, this upscale enclave sits on its own private island, set apart from Little Torch Key by a 15-minute boat ride—it’s the very definition of social distancing. On site, we love the stand-alone bungalows offering a total of 30 suites, all opening to indoor-outdoor living, welcoming in fresh sea breezes.

The full dining menu is offered in the open-air main restaurant, and in-room dining is a choice for a more private affair. The menu impresses whether you’re choosing a la carte items, such as grouper ceviche, grilled Spanish octopus or foie gras crème brulee, or truly wows if you opt in for the five- and eight-course meals with wine pairings.

As beautiful as the dining area is, right now, we’d opt to stay in room for a meal, followed by a soak in the outdoor copper tub (available in the island romance suites, island grand and island premier category suites). And, yes, the spa is open. We’d say yes to the island wellness massage, which includes a CBD treatment to help wash away the anxieties of this stressful year.

(Before booking and arranging travel plans, please be aware of Little Palm Island’s Covid-19 protocols and safety guidelines.)

Kona Kai

Just 13 cottage-style suites make up the Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Garden on Key Largo, creating a quiet and very private atmosphere. Each room has its own unique styling, from the white faux-coral chandeliers of the Banana Suite to the headboard made of oars in the Guava Room suite. Surrounding each room is an abundance of greenery, from clusters of palm trees to hibiscus shrubs—all adding to the feeling of a tropical escape that so lush, it’s easy to forget you’re just 90 minutes from the Miami airport.

On property, the resort only allows guests 14 years and older, further adding to the serenity. We like that the resort centers on an outdoor experience, including a beach with ping-pong, hammocks and ample chaise lounges. You’ll find it on the Florida Bay side of Key Largo, with calmer waters that you can explore with the resort’s kayaks, paddle boats and paddle boards. Best of all, there is WiFi free of charge, so if you can make it a working holiday if need be.

(Before booking and arranging travel plans, please be aware of Kona Kai’s Covid-19 protocols and safety guidelines.)

Hawks Cay Resort

Whether lounging or paddle boarding, guests will thoroughly enjoy the lagoon at Hawks Cay Resort.

Whether lounging or paddle boarding, guests will thoroughly enjoy the lagoon at Hawks Cay Resort. (Hawks Cay Resort/)

We love that you can spend your whole day outside at Hawks Cay Resort, a 177-room escape on Duck Key, a 2-hour drive from the Miami airport. The resort doesn’t have a beach, but it has its own marina, offering an array of watersports, including fishing charters, paddle boarding, snorkel tours and private excursions where you can be the only ones onboard.

With five outdoor pools, you can spread out when catching sun. Note that there is an adults-only pool for those who prefer more quiet to read and recharge. For kids, the pirate ship pool packs raining palm trees, water cannons and shallow areas to keep the little ones entertained.

Onsite, you’ll also find five restaurants. Angler and Ale, with tons of outdoor seating, dishes up Keys’ seafood classics, including conch fritters to fish sandwiches with the local catch, blackened. The resort also offers boxed lunches and takeaway options, so you can get as private as you like come mealtime.

(Before booking and arranging travel plans, please be aware of Hawks Cay Resort’s Covid-19 protocols and safety guidelines.)

Bakers Cay Resort

We love the modern, minimalist vibe of this 200-room resort located on the Florida Bay side of Key Largo. The resort offers four categories of room, all with private outdoor balconies as well as indoor seating areas. As much as you’ll love retiring to the privacy of the rooms, the real treat might be the waterfront, as Bakers Cay is one of only a few Key Largo properties with an actual sandy beach.

On the grounds, we especially love the hanging chairs in the Dry Rocks restaurant, where bartenders expertly mix cocktails such as the Some Like It Hot—with pineapple and lemon juice, as well as cinnamon syrup, jalapeno and angostura bitters—that will appeal to a more discerning palette. Of course, you’ll want to stay for sunset, and the fare, from ceviche and smoked fish dip to cilantro lime shrimp tacos.

(Before booking and arranging travel plans, please be aware of Bakers Cay’s Covid-19 protocols and safety guidelines.)

Help Your Kids Learn to Swim With Floating Aids

Relax and have fun around the pool with these floating aids.

Relax and have fun around the pool with these floating aids. (Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash/)

Floating aids are a must have at some point for every kid. Both you and your child will be more at ease when you know there’s something keeping them afloat. You can go classic with a traditional vest or dive in to the life jacket with arm floaties. Here are our recommended finds.

Help your child make a big splash with this floating aid.

Help your child make a big splash with this floating aid. (Stearns/)

Want to make wearing a floating aid fun? Pick from a variety of styles to find a life jacket your child will love to wear. This one offers all kinds of sea creatures and bright fruits. This floating aid fits kids who are 30 to 50 pounds. Kids will also enjoy the freedom this floating aid offers while you can trust they won’t slip out thanks to the snug fit. The additional security of the safety buckle keeps kids from removing the vest without help so they can stay safe next time you’re relaxing by the pool.

A safety harness will keep your kid from removing the vest without help and keeps it from sliding off.

A safety harness will keep your kid from removing the vest without help and keeps it from sliding off. (Body Glove/)

Note the different safety perks of each floating aid. It should be durable, include safety buckles, and not be easy for the child to slip out of. Knowing these features will keep your mind at ease as your child is learning how to swim. Get this floating aid for your child who is 30 to 50 pounds. Then, take advantage of the adjustable chest straps and quick release safety buckle to keep your kid snug and safe.

Different floating aids work for different sized children, so make sure to check the weight range before you make a purchase.

Different floating aids work for different sized children, so make sure to check the weight range before you make a purchase. (Blue Mars/)

Don’t get caught off-guard. Just like a bathing suit, not every floating aid will fit your child. These floaties, which come in styles ranging from pink rainbow unicorn to red and yellow dinosaurs, work best for kids that are between 25 and 45 pounds. Use the extra slide buckle to make sure the fit is just right and to keep yourself from worrying about their safety around water.

Kids stay afloat with this traditional aid.

Kids stay afloat with this traditional aid. (Speedo/)

A classic vest allows your child’s arms to remain free while they learn to swim. This will give them the buoyancy they may still need while building their confidence to eventually swim without an aid. This vest is made of durable neoprene to keep your child warm while they float in every body of water. The front zipper allows for easy application and removal no matter how wet your kid is. However, the safety closure at the top keeps them from removing it without your help and the adjustable buckle strap keeps it fit to their body.

Our Favorite Propane Heaters for Outdoors

Liven up your outdoor spaces with a propane heater.

Liven up your outdoor spaces with a propane heater. (Hampton Bay/)

Why are outdoor propane heaters so popular? Because propane heaters put out more heat than electric models and are generally more pleasant – and safe – to be around. Their secret is heating up the ambient air instead of heating people up directly. And today’s propane heaters are designed with plenty of safety features and weather-proof construction to make them long-lasting additions to your outdoor entertainment regime. Here are a few models we recommend.

Operates with a 20-pound standard propane tank, which is not included.

Operates with a 20-pound standard propane tank, which is not included. (Garden Treasures/)

This outdoor heater from Garden Treasures has thought of everything. The stainless steel construction means it’s durable and long-lasting. It has a pair of wheels at the bottom so you can roll it in and out of storage painlessly. And small brackets are attached to the base so it can be secured to a wooden surface for safety. Oh, and just use your regular grill’s propane tank to fire it up.

It's been tested and certified to work as good as new.

It’s been tested and certified to work as good as new. (Hampton Bay/)

This 48,000 BTU outdoor heater from Hampton Bay – a name probably best known for its ceiling fans – can quickly heat up to 200 square feet (roughly the size of most common patios). Stainless steel construction makes it a wise pick if it’s subjected to rainy conditions. Even though it’s refurbished, it’s been tested, cleaned, inspected and repackaged with all relevant accessories.

Automatically shuts down in the case of tipping over, the pilot light going off or detection of low oxygen levels.

Automatically shuts down in the case of tipping over, the pilot light going off or detection of low oxygen levels. (Mr. Heater/)

If you’re looking for a heater that’s safe indoors and outdoors, take a closer look at this model from Mr. Heater. It operates with a 1-pound cylinder propane tank so it’s even safe for enclosed areas up to 200 square feet. This compact radiant heater is ideal for porches, garages, campers, picnics, sheds and more.

Our Favorite Half-Caff K-Cup Coffee Brands

Take the pedal off your morning cup of coffee with a half-caffeine blend.

Take the pedal off your morning cup of coffee with a half-caffeine blend. (Unsplash/)

Did you know health experts say adults should have no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day? That’s about four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola (or two energy shots – let’s just agree that’s an awful lot, okay?). While caffeine is a generally safe substance, certain consumers should limit their intake, including women who are pregnant (or trying to get pregnant), young children and those who mix alcohol with caffeine.

If you’re not ready to let go of coffee as a daily ritual, a half-caffeine blend could be a great switch. Scores of coffee manufacturers now produce tasty “half-caff” blends in K-cups, adding convenience to the equation as well. Here are our favorite half-caff K-cup coffee blends.

The small batch, artisan roasted approach delivers a superior taste.

The small batch, artisan roasted approach delivers a superior taste. (Maud’s/)

We’ve long been fans of Maud’s coffee and tea K-cup blends, but suspicious of half-caff options, fearing they would taste watered down. This medium roast half-caff option wows from the first sip, delivering an ultra-smooth flavor that had us making a cup of this brew a daily ritual. The key is Maud’s sourcing their 100 percent Arabica beans from carefully selected growers around the world.

Arabica beans with hints of chocolate and raisins provide a unique finish.

Arabica beans with hints of chocolate and raisins provide a unique finish. (Green Mountain/)

We don’t miss the full dose of caffeine in this flavorful brew from Green Mountain. And we sleep better at night – not just for the reduced stimulant level but because we rest easier knowing it’s certified Orthodox Union kosher. In addition, Green Mountain has long sought to create responsibly sourced brews, so have an extra sip knowing it’s Earth-friendly as well.

When you're ready to graduate to a darker coffee, put this on your list.

When you’re ready to graduate to a darker coffee, put this on your list. (World’s Best/)

Normally we chuckle when we see “World’s Best” – thinking of Will Ferrell’s line in “Elf.” “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee!” But this dark roast blend will have you toasting the brewer as well. Gone is the bitterness traditionally associated with this variety; instead, enjoy a sweeter aroma and extraordinarily smooth finish.

Sugar-free, gluten-free choice for those who want to enjoy a cup of Joe without any guilt.

Sugar-free, gluten-free choice for those who want to enjoy a cup of Joe without any guilt. (Skinnygirl/)

Skinny Girl brews its half-caff recipe by combining regular coffee with decaffeinated coffee. Arabica beans – sourced from farms where standards for environmental and economic conduct are high – are the key ingredient. In addition, this blend is Rainforest Alliance certified. (Notice the little frog logo on the box.)

Our Favorite S’mores Makers

These are the ingredients to a sinful, but simple dessert.

These are the ingredients to a sinful, but simple dessert. (Unsplash/)

If you’re thinking the image of a s’more cookout is a group of cherub-faced Boy Scouts gathered around a crackling fire in a Norman Rockwell painting, you’re pretty close to reality. According to many reports, s’mores first appeared in cookbooks in the early 1920s. Commonly called “graham cracker sandwiches” back then, they were already popular with both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, whose recipe books included the instructions for the “Some More” dessert.

Fast forward to the 1950s when “S’Mores” officially made their appearance in “Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls.” Good luck finding the original list of ingredients unless you have a copy of it. What you can find, however, is an easier way to prepare these sweet treats. Here are several great s’mores making kits that can work indoors and outdoors.

Forget building a fire and cutting up wood to use as roasters. This option is safer and just as fun.

Forget building a fire and cutting up wood to use as roasters. This option is safer and just as fun. (Nostalgia/)

More than one epic s’mores roasting session has been ruined by the fight to build a fire – or bugs landing in your perfectly toasted marshmallows. This kit from Nostalgia – so aptly named – takes a more “fondue” type approach to the experience. A “Lazy Susan” setup organizes your chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows, while an electric flameless heater handles the cooking duties.

Fill the water reservoir and let your appliance do the work.

Fill the water reservoir and let your appliance do the work. (Progressive/)

This looks like it’s a tool straight out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. (We just need the Oompa Loompas to sing a song about it.) If you can make nachos in a microwave, you can make s’mores too. Just fill the water reservoir, assemble graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow on the tray and heat for 30 seconds. When you’re full, just clean it in the dishwasher.

This model has a roasting screen for even toasting and flame safety.

This model has a roasting screen for even toasting and flame safety. (Sterno/)

If you think microwaving or electric heaters don’t provide a realistic enough s’mores experience, this could be the kit you’re looking for. It uses Sterno heat fuel for cooking, but also includes a metal screen to keep the roasting safe for those of all ages. A serving tray and two stainless steel roasting forks are also included. (For the ingredients, better hit the grocery!)

Forget the aggravation of watching your dessert fall into the fire.

Forget the aggravation of watching your dessert fall into the fire. (S’more to Love/)

Technically, this s’more maker from Smore to Love can be used indoors using a regular oven or even a toaster oven. But we think it’s a genius invention for outdoors, where it will fit perfectly on your barbecue grill. Make up to six treats at a time by locking each s’more into an individual basket. Place a piece of aluminum foil underneath to catch any marshmallowy drippings, and in about five minutes, you’re ready to chow down. Clean it quickly with simple dish soap and sponge.