Our Review of the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine for Latte Drinks: 3 Reasons I Love It as Much as My Wife Does!

For three reasons, as the husband, I am very happy we now own a Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine.

First of all, my wife loves this fancy hunk of metal sitting on our kitchen counter, and the expensive-tasting coffee it makes so quickly.

Secondly, it’s saving us the money she used to spend on coffee most days at Starbucks; whether it was from our shared budget or from her own “blow money” (a Dave Ramsey term). I can honestly say this is an investment, for the money it’s comparatively saving us.

And lastly, I am happy we now own the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine because it truly does make amazing coffee. Granted, I’m just an instant black coffee kind of guy. Monday through Friday, twice a day, that’s what I drink. But on the weekends, my wife joyfully makes me a rewarding latte, which is the equivalent to the 6 dollar version you’d find at a local coffee shop; and in my opinion, better than Starbucks anyway.

Yes, it’s true: We are now technically owners of a small coffee shop in our home, in which we are the only customers. We drink up all the profits!

It’s probably no surprise to learn that the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine was my Christmas gift for my wife a couple of months ago. When it comes to us getting each other gifts, we simply directly tell the other person exactly what we want; perhaps with a gentle nudge thanks to an Amazon link.

This isn’t the kind of coffee maker most normal people own. In fact, we may be the only people you’ve heard of who actually own one of these.

But my wife had researched for months, as she wanted to find the most affordable version of the fanciest espresso machine that exists and that definitely makes great coffee. She has a talent for finding the best overall selection that exists.

So if you’re on the look-out for the best deal on an espresso machine that makes expressive-tasting lattes that will impress guests when they drink your coffee, I can already assure you the search is over. Trust me, my wife knows best when it comes to something like this. Trust me.

All you have to do is click this link for the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine. That takes you straight to Amazon, which will help you find the lowest price available. Who knows? You may even find a better deal on it that we did.

Remember, the search is over:

Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine

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Nick Shell’s Simple Self-Help System in 5 Steps: Emotions, Food, Money, Time, and Creativity All Work Together for Your Failure or Your Success

Earlier this morning, I invented a concept that I feel is so relevant, it must be should shared with the free world immediately. However, I predict it will be either widely ignored or passionately panned by critics.

It’s this simple: In order to be in charge of your own life, and therefore your own success, you have to be in conscious control of 5 main aspects: Your emotions, your food, your money, your time, and your creativity.

If you don’t learn to directly take control of these things, they will take control of you instead.

I submit to you that each of these 5 parts of your life is undeniably intertwined. I theorize that if you’re not good at managing your diet, there’s a higher likelihood you’re not good at managing your finances. If you’re not good at managing your time, you’re not good at managing your money. And so on…

Let me continue to bring my theory to life by focusing on each of my 5 Steps to Simple Self-Help:

Emotion:

I’ve realized that one of the greatest advantages (and superpowers!) I have in my life is that I utilize a valuable secret about how the world works: That I myself get to decide who controls my own emotions. However, most people live their lives the opposite way. Instead, they live as constant potential “victims” of someone insulting or offending them. Most people think, “But I’m a good person.” So when another “good person” offends them, it’s an attack on their “good” identity. I have learned that, like choosing to forgive, being emotionally affected by other people is always a choice; though it’s often not an easy one.

Money:

My wife and I have survived some intense and trying financial times. In the first half of our nearly decade of being married so far, my wife and I made some poor decisions in our naivety. In addition to already being in tens of thousands of dollars in debt due to college loans and our wedding, we then chose to move back to my home state, without landing jobs first! Needless to say, recovering from that experience made us grow up real quick. We are now faithful followers of Dave Ramsey, having been debt-free for the 2nd half of our nearly decade of marriage, and we are continuing to grow our savings; despite me losing my job 100 days ago.

Food:

We all know that America is one of the wealthiest and most obese nations in the world. America produces enough food from plants to feed the rest of the world, yet the majority of that food is used to feed the animals that Americans eat. Our culture teaches, “You need to make sure you’re getting enough protein.” The irony is, most Americans are either overweight or obese. I submit that in reality, we are getting too much protein, along with too much fat, too much cholesterol, too much oil, and too much sugar. But to be faithfully determined to eat more whole fruits, vegetables, and grains, and less processed foods and animal products, well; that would require more discipline, education, and open-mindedness. Most people will say they have a busy schedule and there’s just not enough time for that.

Time:

It’s true, our stress levels are high and we have less time in our schedules. But ultimately, we still determine how we spend what little free and unassigned time we have. I submit we naturally place a higher value on casual entertainment (Facebook, Netflix, watching sports) for our free time, than we do on using that time to create. It’s easier to consume than to create, so that’s what most people end up doing in their free time. Just like when a budget for your income, it’s just as important to budget your time; not spend it carelessly.

Creativity:

I have learned that without focusing on being creative, we tend to to consume. That goes for ideas to solutions as well. Without using our brain muscles to find a new solution or method, we tend to continue doing what doesn’t work for us. It’s easy and natural to blame the establishment or other people when there is a problem. Instead, imagine the power and respect you gain when you make an effort to find a better way and just start doing it. And then surprise… it actually works! I guess that’s what this system of mine is all about.

As we consider all 5 of these, the initial reaction is to think, “Well that’s the problem, Nick. If only other people weren’t so rude, and if meat didn’t taste better than broccoli, and if I just made more money, and if I had more time in my day, and if I was wired to be creative like you are, then everything would be easier.”

No.

I submit that it would not.

My system teaches that it’s a conscious decision to take control of your life, regarding your emotions, your diet, your finances, your time, and your creativity.

I think my system makes life easier.

But I also think most people won’t be able to get past the first thing on the list. Most people would rather give other people control over their own emotions. It’s identity protective cognition to remain as the victim instead of choosing to be victorious. I say as long as you continue to think that way, it will inevitably affect how your control the other 4 entries on my list.

I am hereby inviting you to accept your potential superpower. It’s your call. It depends on no one else but you.

I assume this article will either be ignored and hated by the general public. I completely understand why. But in the rare event anyone agrees, I’d appreciate you letting me know; not because I need the confirmation, but because it will show other readers that I’m not as crazy as I sound!

I’ve Now Owned My 2004 Honda Element for a Decade; Looking to Trade It In

I’ve Now Owned My 2004 Honda Element for a Decade; Looking to Trade It In Now

It was a decade ago, in January 2006, that I got my first real job out of college. And 10 years later, I’m still at the same place; which is unusual these days, especially for a Millennial like me.

Just a couple of weeks after I got hired, it just so worked out that I was able to get my dream car: a Honda Element.

It’s been a wonderful decade. I’ve had no mechanical issues with it. It’s been faithful.

My Element was the car that my wife and I took our first date in.

It’s the car that I’ve carried our son to and from day care/pre-school each day for the past 5 years.

I’ll always remember the first time I ever asked him a question and he legitimately answered me; it was as I was placing him in his car seat in my Honda element when picked him up from school one day.

I asked him what he did that day at school that day.

To my amazement, he answered me, “I played.”

My 2004 Honda Element has been a great car. I still love my car and I wish they still made Honda Elements.

However, we have another child on the way, due in April. The plan is to trade in my Element for a new car by the time she arrives.

By “new car,” I mean “slightly used” car. I personally fundamentally can’t see myself buying a brand new car when I can get a better value by letting someone else “drive off” the warranty; and therefore, much of the price for me, as I will be the 2nd owner.

I’m looking for a Honda Fit that has between 30,000 and (up to) 60,000 miles on it. That puts us in the budget range we are prepared for.

A week ago at Darrell Waltrip Honda, they evaluated my 2004 Element being worth $5000 as a trade-in. (It has 153,000 miles on it.)

I’ve Now Owned My 2004 Honda Element for a Decade; Looking to Trade It In

My wife and I are planning to trade it in for a “slightly used” Honda Fit. While Fits are smaller than Elements, Fits have 5 seat belts whereas Elements only have 4.

Plus, my car is mainly used just for commuting Monday through Friday; we always drive my wife’s Honda Accord on the weekends and on road trips.

Basically, I’m just looking for a newer, slightly smaller version of what I already have, but also with another passenger seat, as well as cruise control. The way I see it, a Honda Fit is what I’m looking for; a quirky commuter car that will hold its value, like my Element has.

My research has shown me that Honda Fits definitely hold their value.

Because my wife and I are faithful Dave Ramsey followers, we already have the cash in the bank to pay for our “new” car. It’s not that we make more money than the average household in Nashville, because we don’t; that’s not why we are able to pay cash.

It’s instead because we have live by a strict budget where every dollar has its place, so that we tell our money where to go… instead of our money telling us where to go.

We are not in a desperate situation where we have to hurry up and by a car. We obviously will not be making payments on it or paying interest. When the time is right and the perfect Honda Fit presents itself, we shall strike.

The money will be paid. The car will be purchased. Sale complete.

Our plan from there is to eventually trade in my wife’s 2006 Honda Accord for possibly a “slightly used” Honda CR-V.

I am happy about moving forward with a newer vehicle and I am happy for whoever ends up with my Honda Element next. Ole “Jedi” has been good to me.

As for now, a decade later, it’s a year of change and new beginnings.

Dear Jack: Why We Didn’t Buy a 2011 Suzuki SX4 This Past Weekend (& Trade in My 2004 Honda Element)

4 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Wednesday, as I was driving Mommy’s car back from a work trip in Kentucky, Mommy called me to explain that while she was driving you home from pre-K in my 2004 Honda Element, the passenger side window just rolled down by itself.

Dear Jack: Why We Didn't Buy a 2011 Suzuki SX4 This Past Weekend

And it wouldn’t roll back up.

Knowing that this upcoming January makes 10 years I’ve owned this car, Mommy and I decided we should heavily consider trading in my car for a “new” used car.

So she starting emailing dealerships. Meanwhile, I went to one dealership in person last Thursday on my lunch break.

Because we are Dave Ramsey followers, we are refusing to “finance” a car; despite those natural temptations that we are exposed to. We will only pay cash for a car. If we don’t have enough cash to afford the car we want, we simply can’t afford it. So we walk away.

We found a 2011 Suzuki SX4 with less than 50,000 miles, in our “cash only” price range.

So I spent my Thursday lunch break to check out the car. It was everything I needed. However, I did some research that night and discovered Suzuki stopped production in America back in 2012, and they have no parent company.

In other words, it’s a great deal on a dependable car that ultimately I would have great difficulty trying to maintain, as there are no shops that readily have proper tools or parts available to fix it.

After that, Mommy and I realized it’s best we hold out until January, when we have that many more thousands of dollars (from ongoing monthly savings) to pay in cash.

Dear Jack: Why We Didn't Buy a 2011 Suzuki SX4 This Past Weekend

Here’s the twist on this story: Over the weekend when we picked up my Element after they fixed the window, the guy that evaluates the worth of used Hondas there for trade-ins left me a message.

My 2004 Honda Element is worth $5,850, which is about $3,000 more than I had anticipated; nearly double!

That’s because, according to the elevator, “People aren’t trading in Elements- they’re keeping them. That’s why your Element is worth more than whatever it says online. You’re the first person to ever come back and tell me you’re actually interested in trading yours in.”

So in the end, it was totally worth it in the end to pay a few hundred dollars to fix my window.

Dear Jack: Why We Didn't Buy a 2011 Suzuki SX4 This Past Weekend

It’s like instantly making $3,000! We’re still planning on holding out until January, when we can have that much more money to buy a “barely used” vehicle for our family, when we trade in my Element.

Something else this experience taught Mommy and me is just how boring and unattractive we are to used car salesmen the moment we begin the conversation with, “I’m a Dave Ramsey follower; I will only pay with cash.”

You can literally see the hope in their eyes disappear once you say that. Because most people are willing to “finance” the car. That means there’s virtually no real limit on price, since the focus becomes on the monthly payment, not what person can actually afford.

That’s something I equate with a magician distracting his audience by waving a pink handkerchief with one hand while he hides the “disappearing” object in the other.

I will make sure you always understand the true meaning of the phrase “affording a car.”

It’s this simple: If you can’t buy it on the spot in cash, you can’t truly afford it. That’s why dealerships are so eager to have you finance the “purchase.”

Similarly, an individual or a family is only as financially wealthy as their savings account in addition to having no debt other than their house; that’s because a home is considered an asset growing in value, not a depreciating liability like a vehicle.

So our family will wait. By January 2016, our savings should be that much higher if everything remains on course; meaning we can pay cash for the vehicle that we really want. And as I mentioned, coincidentally, this coming January will be exactly one decade since I purchased my 2004 Honda Element.

Ultimately, I’m not sure if I’m technically going to be downsizing or upsizing…

My Honda Element is a decent sized SUV, but it only has 4 seats. That’s never been a problem, but I think it would be a good idea to have 5 seats for the next car, even if the next vehicle is smaller over all.

Until then, I’ll keep driving my green toaster and saving green cash.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Why We Didn't Buy a 2011 Suzuki SX4 This Past Weekend

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

4 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack,

For this past week our family was given a 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring Sport Edition to review as a family.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

With us having just got back to Tennessee from our annual family vacation in Sacramento, where we reviewed a 2015 Toyota Camry, we decided to lay low this week.

Yet still, Saturday we managed to travel to midtown Nashville to visit the all new Baby+Co.; a spa-like place to give birth, sans the epidural.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

Then on Sunday we decided to trek to Franklin to see the iconic Natchez Parkway Bridge. You nor Mommy had ever been there; whereas I had last summer when I reviewed the 2015 Lexus NX.

While I had the camera rolling as you used the parking lot curb as a balance beam, you stopped in your tracks as you discovered a butterfly that had breathed its final breath.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

You were inspired to give it a proper (yet impromptu) funeral, so we did.

As we were getting ready to leave, after taking some family pictures, you were concerned:

“Where is the food? I thought there were nachos?”

I explained that the name of the place we were at was “Natchez”, not nachos.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We are a family who essentially never goes out to eat; not only because we are vegan/vegetarian and our options are extremely limited, but also because we are Dave Ramsey followers and it’s difficult to justify weekly restaurant money when it could be going to our “new car” fund.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

However, you apparently caught Mommy and me at the perfect moment, because on the drive home Mommy discretely asked me, “Is there somewhere on the way home we might want to stop for lunch?”

Granted, I was happy to oblige; it would save me from dish duty.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We saw a Chili’s coming up on the right. Mommy told me that she recently went to a Chili’s with Grandma and your Aunt Jenny while we were on vacation, and she was surprised how accommodating they were to her vegetarian lifestyle.

n9

So we turned into the Chili’s parking lot. They were so accommodating to my vegan and your and Mommy’s vegetarian requirements, that they actually had a whole page for “dietary restrictions” on their kiosk on the table.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

I’ll keep that in mind the next time we’re on a road trip…

Of course, I made a fun video about all this so you could see it all; along with my super catch jingle I made up, “Come along, in an Avalon…”

You and I also made a walk around video for the Avalon…

And of course I made a video for your 1st day of Pre-K, which also featured the car as well…

So it looks like even on a “lay low” week, we still managed to have a lot of fun!

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

A few weeks ago, Cast Iron Productions reached out to our family about the possibility of us being in a brand-new show on NBC, called The Family Project.

I have to admit, I feel honored that they chose us because A) they found our family simply because of my blog, which makes me very happy about my SEO, and B) because they said we seem like a really fun family based on what they saw on my blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog.

After an email exchange, a phone interview, then a 2 hour Skype interview with our family, we were told we were good material for the show.

They liked specifically that we are a Christian, vegan/vegetarian family who doesn’t believe in spanking and who lives by an extremely enforced “Dave Ramsey” budget and who keeps our home spotlessly clean and who doesn’t own smart phones.

As far as what the show is about, here’s my best understanding:

It sounds like the concept of Wife Swap and The Real World combined. Instead of 2 polar opposite families swapping the wives in each family, it sounds like The Family Project will combine all the family members of both households in the same house.

They were clear with me that we would still have to work jobs, but it would be whatever my wife and I consider our “dream jobs”. As for me, that would mean full time blogging and making videos for my YouTube channel.

We had a lot of fun during the Skype interview, but I do have good reason to believe that ultimately, NBC will not be officially choosing us:

I was very clear with the casting agency that we have a complete Libertarian approach when it comes to our lifestyle:

In other words, we have no desire to enforce our beliefs on others. Therefore, I seriously doubt a camera crew would be able to get a rise out of me, which typically makes for “good reality TV.”

After all, conflict and chaos serves as the fuel of reality TV. From there, the audience watching is subconsciously prompted to pass judgment, thinking to themselves, “At least I’m not as crazy as that person!”

If one of the parents of the other family in the house tried to get me to debate with them on why we are vegans/vegetarians or Christians or why we won’t spank our child or why we live by a super strict budget, I simply wouldn’t argue back.

I am a man who is completely confident and secure in my beliefs. I have no desire to seek confirmation from anyone else.

While I’m always happy to explain any parts of our lifestyle, I back off the moment the other person thinks I am defending myself.

I have nothing to defend.

And I especially have no reason to argue with a non-Christian. Jesus didn’t argue with or try to fiercely convert those who were close-minded to His teaching.

Instead, He said time and time again, “Whoever has ears, let him hear.”

In other words, His teachings were meant for those who were listening; not those who tried to heckle him or prove him wrong.

I am a man who is completely confident and secure in my beliefs. I have no desire to seek confirmation from anyone else.

Where would the drama be in a reality show episode like that? Where is the conflict and chaos?

The only thing I can think of is to “try to get the Christians to crack” after being so irritated by the other family’s opposing “annoying” habits.

I’m not saying that’s impossible, but as Christians, our role isn’t to judge, but to serve others.

So I’m thinking, if their dirty dishes in the sink got in the way of our family making our own vegan meals, then we should probably help them out with their dishes.

Why would NBC pick us at this point? Yes, we’re a fun (and interesting) family; and yes, we have a different lifestyle compared to the American mainstream, I would assume.

But we have nothing to prove… or to defend… or to be offended by.

I have a feeling that just like with Steve Harvey and Katie Couric, when they approached me a couple of years ago about being on their shows, only to never call me back after they realized I wouldn’t argue with other guests on the show about my beliefs, that The Family Project will air without the Shell family.

Even still, I’m very curious to check the show out when it premieres in a few months!

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

Photos by Aimee Cornelius.

5 Reasons Our Townhouse Sold In Just 3 Days

5 Reasons Our Townhouse Sold In Just 3 Days

Last week I revealed that my wife and I sold our townhouse after it was on the market for just 3 days; for more than our asking price. See Dear Jack: We Sold Our Townhouse… It’s Official! Thank The Lord!

And yes, we made a profit. Today, I would like to highlight what enabled that to happen.

I have to start off with what is, for me, the most obvious part of it: God orchestrated all the events I’m about to talk about.

5 Reasons Our Townhouse Sold In Just 3 Days

#1: We prayed for the right people to find our house. More important than focusing our prayers on our house selling for our personal benefit in our time, we focused on the future buyers being blessed by finding it. That way, they would know our home was the right one once they found it. Here’s an email excerpt from the buyer of our townhouse:

“As for selling points these are the things that really sold us: Open concept, large bedrooms, more bang for your buck with a townhouse versus detached home, safe neighborhood close to entertainment and work, reasonable HOA fees. The extra half bath was also huge; huge garden tub and double vanity in the bathroom.

We looked at 2 others. One was unimpressive and we actually put in an offer on another one that was an end unit. It was a blessing in disguise that we missed out on it because this home really is so much more perfect for us.”

5 Reasons Our Townhouse Sold In Just 3 Days

#2: We had an excellent real estate agent. I have known Dave Stanley with Reliant Reality for most of the time I have lived here in Nashville, since 2005. He is assertive and calculated. He went through the process of figuring out exactly the perfect price point for our model in our neighborhood. We actually received more than our asking price for our townhouse which set a new record for that model in our neighborhood.

5 Reasons Our Townhouse Sold In Just 3 Days

#3: We had kept our house immaculately clean. I mean this as a compliment to my wife: She is obsessed with cleaning to the same degree as Monica from Friends. We don’t smoke, we don’t have pets, and we clean everything weekly. Here is another excerpt from the buyer:

“The fact that [your home] came from what looked like a good family who kept it very clean and up to date was huge. At least 50% of our decision if not more.”

5 Reasons Our Townhouse Sold In Just 3 Days

#4: We staged our home well. It went on the market in October, so we made sure we set out a pumpkin, as well as seasonal flowers, in our staged home. As for the bigger stuff, my dad and I put in a backsplash in the kitchen (seen in the picture above, where I had my smoothie station set up). Not to mention, we painted some of the rooms to bring them to life, but not that same dark red color that most people in the neighborhood used: Another email excerpt from the buyer:

“YES! I totally forgot to mention the backsplash. This was the only house we saw that had a backsplash. That really set the house apart from the rest. I can’t believe I forgot that! It’s one of my favorite features!… We [also] really liked the paint y’all had which made the transition easy.”

5 Reasons Our Townhouse Sold In Just 3 Days

#5: We were debt-free when we put the house on the market. Like most “normal” young couples, we were tens of thousands of dollars in debt for the first several years of our marriage. Thanks to following Dave Ramsey, on our 5th wedding anniversary we official paid off our final debt (as seen when I originally posted about it on my corporately sponsored blog, The Dadabase on Parents.com). That enabled us to be better prepared financially for when we found our new home. Had we not been debt-free, the time would not have been right for us to be able to afford a bigger home when we did; taking advantage of a good deal when we saw it. Additionally, we were able to put our townhouse on the market when the market was ready; not simply just when we were ready.

Hopefully our experience in selling our home in just 3 days for more than the asking price can help you. Individual results may vary.

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