December 28th, 2010
January has arrived in a big way, and it’s hard not to get drawn into the whole resoloution thing.
While we may want a new set of circumstances, that whole actual change-thing…well, maybe not so much.
Many find the allure of setting a new path, and aiming high for the New Year comes to metaphorical fisticuffs with the realities of the cold, short days of winter.
What if I had a suggestion that could help save, even make you money? Required no special clothing, no measuring or weighing, no renouncing of anything. No lifestyle change, or on-going time commmitment; in fact it could free up some time, and make you more productive??
There is a lot of pressure in January, but if you are a REALTOR, or a property owner who wants to sell in the New Year, here’s your key to a long-term lease in a happy place: resolve to start a conversation with a Professional Stager.
Sorry, no Ginzu steak knives will be thrown in, but finding out more about how to put your property’s best foot forward could be the most most productive hour you will spend all year. Buyers who want to be in a house by summer are looking now, is your house ready?
Be in touch directly, or come see me. Saturday January 29th I will be speaking at the Mount Kisco Public Library; Saturday February 5th at the Ossining Public Library. Send-or better yet-BRING-your sellers.
December 22nd, 2010
Courtesy of my friend, Evelyn Zecchini, enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sghwe4TYY18
December 21st, 2010
…with apologies to Julie Andrews…and my most sincere wishes for the love and light of the season to be with you and yours.
2011 is going to be GREAT-can’t wait!!
Curtains on windows, and high-wattage light bulbs;
Organized closets and de-cluttered tables
Groupings of artwork to balance the space-
These are a few of my favorite tips!
Fresh new toss pillows, and crisp matching linens;
Floor plans and color schemes that are pleasing to others
Kid’s toys that stay in their place-AT ALL TIMES-
These are some more of my favorite tips!
When the Dow’s down-
When the market stinks-
When you NEED to sell-
Re-member, just call on the re-ee-freshed home
And then you won’t feel so bad!!!
December 20th, 2010
Of all the posts I planned for this series, this has been the hardest one to write. Have you ever had so many thoughts that all want to be heard at the same time, where there’s gridlock in the brain?
Have written about my fondness for whimsy before, and the simple truth is, I am crazy about this place. Don’t want to have this read as blather; but just can’t imagine a more aptly-named gift store than Whimsies Incognito.
Whether you are scrambling for a last-minute hostess gift, or just haven’t found that something special for that someone special, there is something wonderful here for everyone.
After outgrowing 2 different storefronts on Main Street, they are now located around the corner at 35 South Broadway in Tarrytown, their biggest location since first opening in downtown Tarrytown almost thirty years ago.
Jacqueleen Golabek, the owner explains, it just evolved as she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do ‘when she grew up’.
My pictures don’t do the store any justice, but it’s a sensory feast. There is vibrant color and textures everywhere you look, and thoughtful, creative displays that beckon, and draw you in.
Unusual, finely hand-crafted gifts are their specialty. Whimsies represents about 500 vendors; some local, but most in the US, the others through Fair Trade. Recycled, and creatively re-purposed materials are prominent.
From the upper right: a hand-painted wood fish clock with lovely pewter details ($105.00), wooden cheese tray and slicer sets with laser-cut details at either end ($28.-38.00) and quite an array of multi-colored hand-blown glass hummingbird feeders ($65.00).
Look closely at left and you’ll see hand-strung bottle-cap garlands on the tree ($22.00 for 3 feet). At right, figures of all nationalities holding hands encircle a round mirror, laser cut, then hand-detailed Hatian oil drum art ($100.00 )
Colorful weathered turquoise shutters have been re-purposed to display the handmade pewter and ceramic switch plates (starting at $20.00 for single switch/ceramic), and depression-glass plates are set into stained glass and framed ($98.00).
The printed word is also very important here. A 2011 quote-a-month calendar starts the New Year boldly proclaiming ” HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF, AND IN THE FUTURE”. ($13.00…I bought 6-how could I not??).
Ceramic squares with simple images that proclaim ‘peacable’ ( 3″ x 3″, $30.00 each), a metal switch plate cover that states, in all different fonts-”Home is where you are happy” ($28.00).
Books with titles like “Today is Super”, and local son Benjamin Cheever’s … umm…whimsical “The First Dog”, the story of Adam and Eve’s dog.
Handmade jewelry, crewel belts from Guatemala, the list goes on.
I have shopped at stores that have tried this model before, but none ever came close to succeeding like this.
Walking through, the store is a balm to the jangled-out soul. The care that has gone into selecting and displaying the merchandise is palatable, but never overdone or cliched.
Go-even make an afternoon of it-there are so many great places nearby to relax and have a bite to eat. Your gift worries will be over, and your heart will be happy.
December 20th, 2010
Ghandi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
There is nothing wrong with malls, we all need a new scarf/tie/pair of gloves/etc. every so often…but if you are looking for something with greater meaning, how about supporting a change you, or a loved one would like to see in the world?
Wherever you or your loved one is, there are non-profit (501c3) organizations that would welcome donations of both time and money, at any time of year. Kids or teens pledging volunteer time as a gift to a parent/grandparent could pay great dividends to all concerned.
There is no shortage of good causes. The typically most at-risk seniors and women with young children are now joined by all the other segments of the population, all in need of the most basic support-food and shelter. Here are some local organizations, and links to their websites to get you started/inspired.
Meals on Wheels is both a local and a national program, started originally to serve the elderly and otherwise home bound. They operate year round, bringing prepared meals, as well as companionship to those they serve.
Food Bank of Westchester The statistics are sobering; almost 200K Westchester residents are hungry, or at risk of being hungry; and 83% of them are either seniors, or under the age of 18.
Formerly known as FoodPATCH, Food Bank for Westchester collects, warehouse and distribute 6 million pounds of food a year, supplying 95% of all the food for approx 200 front-line food providers county-wide: soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, day care centers and other hunger-relief centers in Westchester.
The Bridge Fund Founded here in Westchester in 1991, and since has been the model for organizations in NYC, CT and MA; The Bridge Fund aids working poor families/individuals who are in imminent danger of losing their housing. Last year they handled almost 2800 requests for help, and ultimately prevented 312 evictions and foreclosures.
All of what they do, and the individualized way they do it doesn’t fit this 5-8 sentence format, so I would urge you to click the link above, and find out more about them.
Furniture Sharehouse Near and dear to my heart, Furniture Sharehouse collects and re-distributes clean and serviceable furniture free, to clients of about 3 dozen local agencies.
Started in April 2007, they crossed their 1000th Westchester family served in September.
Pets Alive is the new name of the Elmsford Animal Shelter. Still the only no-kill shelter in the area, they merged with Pets Alive rehabilitation sanctuary in Middletown NY earlier this year.
They support animals, and the people that want to adopt them. Again, their programs and needs are varied, please click link above to find out more.
December 19th, 2010
Thank you to my friend Deb Yaciw, in Oneonta NY for sharing this story.
A man named Robert L. May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap, quietly sobbing. Bobs wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.
Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?”
Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life. Life always had to be different for Bob.
Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to
compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.
Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.
Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.
Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined a make one – a storybook!
Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again, Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.
Who was the character? What was the story all about?
The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.
Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print and distribute “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” it to children visiting Santa in their stores.
By 1946, Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.
That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned al
l rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller.
Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn’t end there either.
Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. The song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , but was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.”
The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.
Wishing you and your family the light, and goodness of the season. MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
December 17th, 2010
Jonesing for a romantic movie? But it’s a week before Christmas, you need to get some spirit, relax and have some giggles too, but only have a little time?
Love Actually is the Christmas movie that gets me in all those groves. Well, it’s more of a lovee story…OK, more like 8 love stories. And yes, at Christmas.
Set in England at the start of the holiday season, we come to know some very different people with amazingly intersecting lives, all in search of meaning, and love.
Before your gag reflex kicks in, or the menfolk suddently remember it’s time to get those outdoor lights up-let me tell you, not all the stories are happily ever after. Some are light-hearted and sweet, others bittersweet; and Liam Neeson’s character has become particularly poignant.
Some characters meet in quite unorthodox ways (hence the “R” rating), so wouldn’t make it part of Family Fun night.
Since it came out in 2003, probably have seen it close to a dozen times. Have been a fan of Colin Firth since his days as Mr. Darcy (no one plays the sensitive, still-waters-run-deep persona better), but I still cheer Hugh Grant, opposite an obnoxious Billy Bob Thornton.
I still feel Emma Thompson’s pain, and grin with Kris Marshall’s Wisconson-bound, unlucky-in-love Colin Frissel. I ache with Laura Linney, and angst along with Mark, in his unwanted love triangle with Kiera Knightly.
Funny, endearing and contemporary; the opening and closing scenes are unabashedly sentimental and uplifting. See it this week if you can, and let me know what you think.
December 16th, 2010
Courtesy of my friend Sue Stokes Pippinger, of Denver CO.
* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs
* 1 bottle tequila
* 2 cups of dried fruit
Sample the tequila to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the tequila again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat.
Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.
At this point it’s best to make sure the tequila is still OK. Try another cup… Just in case.
Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried dru it gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the tequila to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the tequila. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don’t forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the tequila and wipe counter with the cat.
December 14th, 2010
Being in NYC’s backyard, we in Westchester are doubly-blessed. Close to the big blow-out events, closer to that same range of talent, in a more intimate setting, with a lot less hassle.
Be it comedy, drama, music or dance-the gift of entertainment is unexpected, both open-ended and specific, and always the right size. PLUS-because outdoor activities are limited in the winter, theater schedules are usually the fullest, so lots to choose from.
Gift certificates can be purchased in any amount at the box offices, or online; check with theaters for any subscription offers they may have. Wrap a great idea creatively, to surprise that special someone, how about tucking it inside a big box of Good and Plenty, or Jujubes?
Here are a few good local places to start your search…with Christmas 8 days away, don’t delay!
The Emlin Theater in Mamaroneck is in it’s 39th year of providing quality entertainmentof all varieties. One third of their programs are children/family-friendlyl their Family Subscription discounts 20% for 5 or more of the many, many upcoming kids shows.
Jacob Burns Film Center Located in the heart of Pleasantville, I have written about this gem before. Very thoughtfully chosen mix of films, but of special note are their festivals-a chosen topic or star is featured in various works over say two weeks. Also-’An Evening With’ series, where actors/directors view a film with the audience and then Q&A.
Paramount Center for the Arts Debuting in June of 1930, the Paramount has been fully, beautifully and lovingly restored this past decade-just walking in and sitting down is a pleasure.
Great selection of music, theater, dance, and courtesy of Franzoso Contracting, Free Movie Nights, and looking into the future, I have 2 words: Englebert Humperdink. (4/27/11, REALLY).
Tarrytown Music Hall Opened in 1885, this is another historic treasure. Work to historically renovate and green update is on-going, and the craftsmanship is something to behold.
They typically draw 80,000 visitors annually, almost half of them children. Over the years we have seen Dave Brubeck, Dave Bromberg, several classic movies. They are ringing in the New Year big-time with Greg Allman, and have a heck of a schedule in the months to come.
Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase If I had to define a difference, PAC shows are uncommonly good.
Ballet, opera, chamber music and symphonies, make up the bulk of their programming, often hosting artists from around the world. But I also saw the late comedian George Carlin there 2002. And Pilobolus is coming!!
December 12th, 2010
“Astonished” is a good word to describe most people’s reaction when the first super bookstore opened here. BOOKS?? And they want you to sit down, drink coffee and read, even if you don’t buy??
Conventional wisdom had them there not too long. Well, WHO KNEW, these would come to be such hopping places, full of people seeking both knowledge and camaraderie at 10 PM on Saturday nights?
While recent years have not been kind to places like this, our passion for ongoing learning has not abated.
A holiday gift that embraces, enhances and encourages another’s gifts and curiosities could be a most welcome surprise, so here are a few local ones you may not have thought of:
The New York Botanical Gardens -They offer year-round programs/classes for kids and teens; Gardening, Horticulture, Photography, Floral, and Landscape Design are some of the adult ed classes coming up. There is also a dandy of a Winter Lecture Series starting in January.
Gift certificates are available for classes or lectures, they can also be separately purchased for the gift shop; additionally gift memberships are $75.00. How cool would it be to find one of those folded up inside a new pair of garden gloves, or in an emptied seed envelope, in the toe of your stocking?
Know someone who’s had the interest, but perhaps not the time for music lessons? No time like the present (!!) to start.
The Westchester School of Guitar works one on one with any age or experience level, on every facet from traditional lessons for the beginner, to composing and techniques for the more advanced students.
Owner and founder Jeff Brown (left) has s been teaching guitar for 30 years, and feels it is the intuition he has developed on how each different student can be best taught that has accounted for the success and growth of the business.
Very conveniently located in Briarcliff, they offer a complimentary intro lesson, and a 4-lesson ‘try-out package’, as well as 12 week tri-mester.
Any drummer wanna-bes in your life? Simply, John Arrucci is the one you want to know.
As a percussionist, John has composed, performed, taught, recorded and traveled extensively for nearly 3 decades. He works with percussion instruments from many different cultures, all around the world, and offers private classes in composition, drumsets, percussion and piano.
Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, and theIce Casino at Playland both offer ice-skating classes for all ages and levels, both figure skating and hockey instruction.
Don’t overlook WCC! A SUNY school, their Spring schedule (starting mid-January) is chock-full of things include lessons in 9 different languages; plus courses in Writing, Dance, Film, Art History, Cooking, Politics, Wine Appreciation, Tai Chi, Area Rug Making, Boxing and …well, you get the picture.
It’s close, and quite affordable: while costs vary, but many 5 or 6 session courses are in the $60.00-100.00 range. While the student would have to register themselves, you can still surprise them with an appropriate small gift-like a book, or accessopry on the topic, with the course description tucked away inside…
Like the idea, but none of these exactly right? Or maybe you’re not so local? Just look around, chances are the perfect gift is right there, in your own backyard.
December 11th, 2010
Come close. Closer.
And yes, that’s the first thing.
1. It is not easy being involved in the housing industry these days, but of all the things I know for sure, the desire for a space to call one’s own is in our DNA is near the top of the list. If we all took a deep breath, we’d all be a lot better off.
2. Start the conversation What most people know about Staging is what they see on TV. HGTV elevates your level of pain, but it’s not reality. Stagers know what buyers like to see, and how to make your house look it’s best, but a good Stager will welcome your questions, because that’s how we come up with solutions you can live with.
3. You can do more than you think you can. REALLY.
December 11th, 2010
Beyond ‘because’, I never knew why…
“Red wine has a higher molecular weight, and gives off vapor less readily. The more solid and substantial the wine, the more the release of its aroma and bouquet depend on gentle warmth.
The lighter and sweeter white wine is better when chilled to around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Above that temperature range, the subtle aromas of the wine may be masked by those given off by the alcohol as it vaporizes.”
And ohyes, on this day, Venetian blinds were patented (1796), Indianna became the 19th state (1816), Nitrous oxide was first used in dentistry (1844), Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson (1936), UNICEF was established (1946), and the the Concorde was unveiled (1967).
If you are looking for quick bits of trivia, information and history, Reference.com sends out a daily ‘On This Day’ email to it’s subscribers. Free and spam-less, I’ve subscribed for years. Quick links to follow up on if you’re interested, otherwise, 30 seconds will gift you with unique and timely bit of info.
December 10th, 2010
Seems the sweet spot is both shrinking and shifting in the discussion on if/how/when/where to use social media in business. In fact, am listening to a webinar on that topic as I write this.
The conversation focuses on the dichotomy of how to use the myriad of technologies to personally connect with the masses. But they are not using the word ‘dichotomy’, they’re talking about how to do it. Oh boy.
I have written about this before…I sincerely try to be honest with myself and separate out my lack of skills from my dislike of over-reliance on fake-friendly technology… yes, the kind that personally reaches the masses-and my belief that in the end, this is not how I’m going to best connect with clients.
Interior Decorating and Home Staging are intimate propositions. You invite me into your home-or your listing-I’m meeting your family, looking at, and touching your stuff. We talk about money, your hope, your dreams. To give me a frame of reference, I also ask about Staging and Decorating things that didn’t go so well. Pretty personal stuff.
I don’t have anything personal against the highly-wired, just probably wouldn’t feel comfortable doing business with them. And that’s ok. They might not be thrilled to work with me, either.
Isn’t that the greatest thing about being in business for yourself??
Earlier in the fall Loreena Yeo wrote a great post on what a brand is-and isn’t. I’ve saved the link and go back and read it from time to time. While I “still” don’t have all the answers, I sure have a lot less questions.
There is no ultimate best strategy, we all need to find who we are, and what we want to be first, then define our way. If that doesn’t work the way we want it to, we re-evaluate. Simple, right?!
December 9th, 2010
Gifts are an expression of affection, and meant to bring enjoyment. Gifts that also help support and grow that source of enjoyment are among the most delightful to receive.
The gift of a membership to an organization is also a heck of a good value. Besides keeping the fan posted on upcoming events, there are perks like discounted, or even free event admission, upgrades, members-only events, product giveaways, and reduced pricing at affiliated shops or sponsors. For families with young children-you just cannot go wrong.
Here are some local favorites that do a great job of elevating us all.
Teatown Lake Reservation is an 800+ acres of nature preserve and education center, centrally located in Ossining, minutes off the Taconic Parkway, Route 134 exit. They offer a non-stop calendar of events; hands-on and family friendly-to specialty hikes and workshops, many free of charge.
Advocates of nature-friendly living, and steward to the land, Teatown is a treasure-you have to go to their website to believe all they offer.
A big favorite is their their annual EagleFest: an annual celebration of American Bald Eagles, as they return to the Hudson Valley; it’s for Sat 2/5.
Individual memberships are $35.00 (Students/Seniors) to $50.00, and $75.00 for Family.
WFUV 90.7FM is a listener-supported public radio, licensed to Fordham University for-wow-almost 60 years. They feature contemporary/alternative music of every stripe, lots of original programing, NPR news and and have some of the most engaging hosts on the New York airways-names we have grown up with-Dennis Elsas, Darren DeVivo, Pete Fornatale, and Vin Scelsa’s Idiots’ Delight-running now 35 years.
My husband Doug never met a style of music he didn’t like, this station is a favorite. Membership was a great anniversary gift for him a few years back, this program has especially generous member perks and programs.
Basic membership is $60.00 and has several different levels, with thank-you gifts that escalate in value as the membership level rises.
Have written about museums before; very little can shake a funk, or inspire me like a stolen few hours learning about a time, idea, style or artist.
Hudson River Museum is one of my favorites for several reasons: it’s in a contemporary structure, joined to a great old house, right on the Hudson River. Maybe 15 minutes away, lots of free parking, they have a quality regular programs, a genuinely interesting schedule of shows and events, great gift shop and OHYES, there’s the planetarium. Seeing the seasonal night skies is such a change of pace fun adventure.
Unlimited free admission, then there is FWMA…Fairfield-Westchester Museum Alliance. Short story is that membership to one gets you free admission to the other seven. For a whole year. REALLY. $25.00-35.00 for Seniors, $50.00 for dual adults, $60.00 for a family.
December 8th, 2010
It’s been a beautiful fall, but winter and the holiday season arrived in tandem on Thanksgiving Day, and actual snow flurries on Monday!
Ahhhh, Yes. Winter/Holidays-the season of so much to do, so little time….well, a very little bit of planning now in your home can save you loads of time, money and heartache down the line.
Charles Brown, a State Farm property and casualty agent in New Rochelle has seen first-hand the damage winter weather can cause. Helping prevent loss is his goal; here are some of his favorite tips on trouble-proofing your home this season.
Ice Dams form in your gutters when under-insulated attics let warm air up from the living space below. Warmer attic temps melt roof snow fast, and when the melted snow hits the colder eves, it re-freezes.
A few days of this builds up an ice sheet that traps other melting snow below, and with nowhere to go, it pushes water thru the roof covering into the house.
Same under-insulated attic, but now air coming into the attic is both warm and moist-cold temps condense the water vapor and can cause rot in the wood framework.
Remedy: Right now-before ‘real weather’ hits-clean out gutters/downspouts and install gutter screens. Also-insulate the attic, and insure there is good ventilation to keep interior and exterior temps closer.
Freezing water pipes that burst ruin about a quarter-million homes a year, and it can happen to both PVC and copper piping. A one-eighth inch crack can spray 250 gallons of water… a day.
Before the temps nose-dive, insulate the exposed pipes in your attic, crawlspace and garages. The more insulation, the better. Seal any leaks around pipes or wiring that could let cold air in, and turn off the outside water from the interior shut off valve.
Inside, keep temps at 55 degrees or higher. Open cabinet doors that conceal pipes to let warmer air circulate around them, and let both cold and warm water trickle out of one faucet. Going out of town? Even if it’s one night, arrange for someone to come over and check.
If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out, your pipes may have frozen. Keep faucets on, turn main water valve in house off and call a plumber. NEVER try to thaw out a pipe with any type of flame. Warm air from a hair drier may help-start close to the faucet and work towards the frozen section.
Unless you are uber-handy, consider licensed professionals to do these jobs easily, correctly, and safely.
Click here for more tips on how to keep you and your family safe this holday season. Just like anything else preventative, it’s best to know about these things before you have to.
December 7th, 2010
December brings an onslaught of things to do: people to see, places to go, holidays to observe and calories to consume. How to pace yourself, and enjoy is always a challenge, but in today’s ever-widening multi-cultural world, how to be embrace it all as a gracious host, or be a welcome guest in all these different situations?
Good etiquette is about making others feel comfortable. Long before ‘politically correct’ was Emily Post, an esteemed expert on proper behavior. She wrote: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feeling of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.”
SO-if you are hosting an event: Offer a range of foods, include things like raw veggies, fruit kabobs or hummus on the buffet table. Similarly, keep a lot of non-alcoholic drinks on hand. Sparkling cider, flavored seltzer and juices, with pretty glasses and creative garnishes make every beverage festive.
For décor: Bowls of pine cones, fresh cut evergreens and spiced cider simmering on the stove create great ambiance. Start some paperwhite bulbs now: all you need are some shallow bowls, pebbles, and bulbs (8 for $5.99 at Home Depot)-you’ll have a beautiful and fragrant centerpiece in no time.
Good lighting encourages mingling. Have lots of it, but consider swapping regular bulbs for pink ones (softer, everyone looks better) or lowering the wattage. Or-group pillar candles of different heights together, tie with a simple bow, place on mirrored mats throughout the space.
Unless it’s an intimate group of good friends, gift exchanges are best kept for another time.
Guests-first and foremost, RSVP in a timely manner. If ‘bring a guest/date’ is not specified, clear it with the host before inviting anyone else.
If you-or your guest has specific dietary issues, let the host know in advance, and offer to bring something that would fit everyone’s plans.
For all sorts of reasons, do not bring anything that must be eaten or drank immediately, unless requested, or cleared by the host. If you must bring something, a nice bottle of wine, tastefully wrapped is pretty much always a good bet.
Keeping the focus on what is universal and shared: making new friends, reconnecting with old, along with best wishes for all in the coming New Year will ensure a good time will be had by all.
December 6th, 2010
The words ‘Bush Tax Cuts Extended’, are flooding the airwaves, but the details are still murky, and the debate continues-will it even pass the House? No one knows yet what will actually become law on January 1st, but is there anything a taxpayer can do besides wait?
“Yes” is the short answer, but don’t delay. Carmine Filippone is a CPA and a partner in Rudinger, Heller & Filippone LLP, located in White Plains. As a specialist in individual taxes and the tax needs of family run business’ he explains:
The Bush Tax cuts went into effect in 2001, and made significant changes in several areas of the US Tax Code, which affected the majority of the population.
For 2010, the Long Term Capitol Gain rate most people will pay is 15%, but if the extension is blocked, those rates could go up to 20%.
If you have stock or any other capital assets that have appreciated in value, it could be beneficial for you to sell it by the end of the year, to lock in that lower rate; but the time to start the conversationwith a tax professional about your individual circumstances is n-o-w.
Individuals might also want to consider pre-paying their state taxes. By paying your state income taxes before the end of the year, you would be eligible for a deduction in the current year. This is a tax-saving strategy that’s been around for a while, but it might not be for everyone, but it might be worth revisiting this with your tax-planning professional.
Some business owners, and those that are self-employed have some perks coming their way also.
Are you a business owner who made any improvements to your restaurant building, the interior of you retail store, or to your leased/non-residential building in 2010? Or are you planning any of these for 2011? OR perhaps you have one of these as a listing-a buyer could have a whole year to update his new property….
Welcome news, for the first time ever, up to $250K of qualified improvements to these types of buildings can now be immediately deducted (under Section 179) for 2010 and 2011.
Carmine concludes: If you are self-employed, your health insurance premiums can be deducted as a business expense that reduces your self-employment tax liability. This change applies only to 2010 and was included as part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.
Tax laws change frequently and are complicated; tax planning strategies are going to be different for everyone. While you can still improve your circumstances for 2010, consulting a tax professional on a regular basis saves you time, money and stress-what a great way to start the New Year!!
December 5th, 2010
Today’s local news broadcast covered the numerous area Christmas tree lightings, including the stories of where many of these trees came from. Local donor families were interviewed, and the countdowns to the actual lightings were shown.
One of the stories involved a gentleman who owns a tree firm, but was also described as a tree-hunter. He looks for and helps procure mature, photogenic trees for high visibility locations in the area. He estimated one tree to be approximately 65 years old, planted as a 5 year old sapling on the property of new homes built in the 50′s.
Is it that at 52, 65 does not seem so old to me now? Perhaps the metaphor of a live and vibrant entity taken down, only to be shortly disposed of is just too strong of a visual.
YES>of course, some trees just need to come down. YES>I understand the economic implications of all the tree-growing/harvesting industry, and YES evey year more and more municipalities pick up and recycle the spent trees. And oh yes, I am a Decorator, so I get all the sensory and traditional elements.
But did you know that the average live, intact tree supplies enough oxygen for 18 people?
Can an enviornmentally sensitive adult come to terms with their lights and glitter mesmerized-inner child?
Yes!! While plastic/otherwise artificial trees have some good points, but here are a few other other greener alternatives:
Consider investing in, and decorating a typically indoor tree-like a ficus or hibiscus. Unconventional, but effective especially if you are of limited space/funds. Plus it’s a year-round boost to your indoor air quality, and your decor.
Loved this idea, too.
If you have the property-and an existing tree-consider decorating it with lights and treats for your ‘other neighbors’-strung cranberries and popcorn, and hanging suet baskets for the birds and squirrels. No semi-mandatory January 1st clean up, and if you have small children, it’s safer than glass ornaments and can be refreshed and still awe-inspiring, throughout winter.
Last, going to a local nursery and buying a live tree with root ball intact and wrapped in burlap, then re-planting come spring is always a good idea; there are many how-to guides out there, my favorite is almost 30 years old. And if you don’t have the property, consider making it a donation to your local parks dept or garden club.
This is the busiest week for Christmas tree procurement, please make it a green one if you can.
December 2nd, 2010
Channeling John Belushi
John Belushi had a recurring character, Science Editor on the Weekend Update. He offered commentary on ordinary current events, like St. Patrick’s Day, Skylab falling, or the weather.
They started out as expected, but he’d go off on a tangent, until what he thought was the real insanity would get him so worked up that he literally would go flying off his chair.
I can identify.
Recently there’s been a change in how I talk and blog about Staging. I’ve always felt passionate about what I do; but there’s been a different tone. Yesterday on ActiveRain I was one of close to 200 who commented on a post 7 Reasons Why Your House Won’t Sell.
Written by a Realtor, mostly for other RE professionals, and all were in agreement…yet I’m writing my own pro-Staging manifesto, out of breath and drained after I hit the ‘submit’ button.
Have never been one for those caterpiller-into-butterfly metaphors, but changes are coming. Stay tuned!!
December 1st, 2010
One of the founding beliefs behind the refreshed home is that local, greater good and supporting the community will enrich us all, exponentially.
Art could have been one of the earliest examples of paying it forward. Art makes you happy, and by extension, makes the rest of the world a better place.
With these statements I am very pleased to launch the beginning of a series that will be running thru the month of December: Giving the Gift.
Each post will introduce you to some of the smart and creative people we have right in our own backyard: their talents, and where to find them, so any gift-giving you may do this season will not only be unique and meaningful for the recipient, but will pretty much guarantee your becoming a better world citizen, too.
Today I visited the Mamaroneck Artist’s Guild. Roughly 250 members strong, and showcasing original art in a dozen different mediums, the gallery is located on the corner of Boston Post Road (US 1) and Larchmont Avenue. Even on a grey and rainy day, it was a light-filled space, chock full of things I know you will love.
There were a number of artists as well as staff on hand, all very busy, checking in work, and setting up displays in anticipation for the opening day of their Holiday Sale on Wednesday 12/1…talk about timing, I got to see it all, first!!
Suzanne Montresor, the Gallery Manager was very gracious in letting me wander about, and pull some things out to create the vignette you see here. Ready?
Framed photo in back is a beautiful shot of fall foliage reflecting in one of the streams in the Rockefeller Preserve, roughly 18×24, $125.00 (Evelyne Aponte). Working clockwise: a textured vase in mossy tones, approx 12″ high, $95.00 (Gia Sachidanand), resting on top of a silkscreened silk scarf 12×54, $55.00 (Joan Stern).
Unintentionally the next pieces are from the same artist. Carol Flick has been collecting unique and exotic beads for 30 years. Her keychains are $10.00, the heart pendant, made of picture jasper and vintage beads, strung on a silk cord-$19.00. Rounding out this group is a journal-unlined paper inside, handmade silkscreened paper outside, $22.00 (Mitchell Visoky).
This original unframed oil Provence, 18×14, and $300.00 had great character, but was also peaceful (Lorie Gurion). Lastly-for this post anyway-were these from Kathy Pure Wright. What to say except, ummm, de-lightful? (Sorry, couln’t resist).
Re-purposed lightbulbs (note the CFL on far left) that are painted, glittered, decoupaged and otherwise decorated-as ornaments, $12.00-20.00.
These are just a small sampling of the treasures that lie within. Your purchases not only support local artists, you are supporting the pursuit of art, as MAG gets behind a number of community events throughout the year. SO-what are you waiting for-GO!!
My thanks to the artists, and to Suzanne and Annette DeLucia Lieblein, the Assistant Gallery Manager-for taking the time to answer all my questions. MAG is open year-round, and runs a new show every 3 weeks.