9 Ways to Share the Spirit of the Season—Starting From Home

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9 Ways to Share the Spirit of the Season—Starting From Home

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The holiday season is upon us, and many of us have already begun to celebrate. From trimming trees to lighting candles, it’s the time of year to fill your homes (and hearts) with holiday joy.

But there’s no need to stop at your front door. Let the spirit of the season radiate outward from your house into your community. Some homeowners hang outdoor lights and decorations to help make the neighborhood “merry and bright.” But that’s not the only way to share the magic of the holidays with others.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 9 inspirational ideas for spreading cheer far and near!

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THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

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You probably don’t have to look far to find someone who could benefit from a gift or kind gesture this time of year. Try one (or all) of these ideas for sharing the season with those closest to home.

  1. Host a Holiday Party 

Hosting a neighborhood holiday party is a great way to reconnect with old friends and welcome new families to the community. And it doesn’t necessarily require a huge investment of time or money. Plan a potluck dinner and ask your guests to bring a dish or drink to share. Or host a holiday cookie exchange and ask everyone to bring a couple dozen of their favorite cookie to swap with other guests. Hot cocoa and caroling is another great way to bring neighbors together to celebrate the season.

If you have a neighbor who you’ve been at odds with in the past, consider extending them an invitation, as well. It could be the perfect opportunity to make peace in the new year.

  1. Help a Neighbor in Need

The holiday season is the perfect time to offer help to a neighbor in need. Next time you head out to rake your leaves, take care of an elderly neighbor’s, as well. Or drop off dinner for a friend who is recovering from surgery.

If you know of someone in your community with a larger need, consider setting up a Care Calendar through a site like CareCalendar.org. Then share the link with other neighbors who may be interested in helping, too. Users can sign up to run errands, cook a meal, babysit, wash laundry, clean the house, mow the lawn, or complete other household tasks depending on the individual’s needs. Even a small gesture of kindness can make someone’s holiday extra jolly.

  1. Treat Your Mail and Package Carriers

Extend comfort and joy from your own front porch during your postal and package carriers’ busiest time of year.While many of us love the convenience of shopping online for holiday gifts, the boom in e-commerce has exponentially increased the workload for our postal and package carriers, some of whom work up to 70 hours a week during the holiday season.2

You can help brighten their day by leaving a goody and note of gratitude in your mailbox or a basket of water and snacks by your front door. Attach a sign that says: “Thank you for working hard to deliver our holiday packages. Please take a treat to enjoy on your route!”

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DON’T STOP AT YOUR STREET … BRING HOLIDAY CHEER TO EVERYONE YOU MEET

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Surprise and delight those you encounter with a small act of kindness or a generous gesture. ‘Tis the season of giving, but the reaction you get in return may be the best gift of all!

  1. Overtip

Don’t be a Grinch when it comes to tipping at the holidays. Your waiter, your Uber driver, and your hairdresser will all appreciate an extra-generous tip this time of year.

International etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer recommends that you start by setting a budget for holiday tips and prioritizing those you most want to thank.Place those who help you most frequently at the top of your list—such as your trusted housekeeper, nanny, or daycare provider. For those you regularly tip at the time service, consider frequency and length of the relationship to determine an appropriate amount.

Everyone could use a little extra cash around the holidays. If you can afford it, share a bit of your abundance with others.

  1. Thank Those Who Don’t Get a Holiday

Santa isn’t the only one working on Christmas. Emergency workers, hospital staff, airline employees, toll booth attendants, movie theater staff, and many others will be working to make your holiday safe and bright.

Say “thank you” by bringing breakfast to the firehouse or police station on Christmas morning or by dropping off a tray of goodies for the hard-working hospital staff on New Year’s Eve. Keep a stash of treats or coffee-shop gift cards on hand to pass out to those you encounter working over the holidays. And, if appropriate, a generous tip is always appreciated!

  1. Fill Stockings for the Homeless

Not everyone gets to go “home for the holidays.” You can bring a little cheer and comfort to a homeless person this year with a holiday care kit.

Pick up some inexpensive Christmas stockings from a craft store and fill them with a variety of useful items, such as:

  • Applesauce cup (and plastic spoon)
  • Baby wipes
  • Bandages
  • Bottled water
  • Beef jerky
  • Cereal or granola bar
  • Cheese or peanut butter crackers
  • Deodorant
  • Gloves
  • Lip balm
  • Lotion
  • Nail clippers
  • Socks
  • Tissues
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Trail mix

As an added touch, include a sweet treat and a handwritten note wishing them a happy holiday. Hand the stockings out at a shelter or keep a stash in your car so you can offer one when you encounter someone in need. 

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SEND JOY TO THE WORLD BY BECOMING A SECRET SANTA

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Reach beyond your sphere by sending some holiday magic out into the community. Surprise a stranger with an anonymous gift that’s sure to make their holiday shine.

  1. Offer Warmth on a Cold Day

As temperatures drop, some members of our community will be left out in the cold. Minnesota winters can be especially brutal and our local homeless population is especially vulnerable this time of year – but so are many families living in poverty. Health experts warn that a two-degree drop in body temperature can result in reduced heart rate, lack of coordination, and confusion, making it difficult for adults to work and children to learn.4

You can help by bringing your old but gently-used coats to a collection site. Leave a note in the pocket wishing the recipient a warm and happy holiday. Or tie a scarf around a tree and attach a sign that says: “I am not lost. If you need this to stay warm, please take it!”

Check with local homeless shelters to find out if they accept donations of old blankets. Well-worn blankets and towels can often be donated to an animal shelter to help keep four-legged friends warm this winter, as well.

  1. Pay Off a Stranger’s Layaway

Some large retailers offer layaway options during the holidays so that shoppers can pay for their purchases a little at a time. Media stories often surface this time of year about anonymous donors who pay off a stranger’s layaway account to the surprise and delight of the recipient.

This is a great way to help a family that may not qualify for charitable assistance but is on a limited budget for holiday gifts. If you have a particular interest in helping kids, you can ask to pay off an account that consists primarily of children’s items.

You don’t have to drop a bundle to become a family’s “Secret Santa.” Ask the layaway attendant to search for accounts with balances that fit within your budget. To make a bigger impact, ask friends and family members if they want to pitch in to help, too.

  1. Donate Toys to a Tot

One of the most popular ways to give back during the holidays is to participate in a toy drive. There are a number of great charities that collect toys for children of low-income families.

Before you shop, find out if the organization has a wish list of preferred items or guidelines for wrapping and labeling the gift. And check the drop-off deadline to ensure your gift will reach its intended recipient in time.

If you have children, involve them in the process of selecting and purchasing the gift so they can experience the joy of giving to those less fortunate, too.

One more easy way to support the community this year? Shop local! From locally-owned stores to service providers, please consider spending your holiday dollars here at home. I have an extensive network of local businesses and would love to recommend some of my favorites. Give me a call, and let me know how I can help!

 

Sources:

  1. NASDAQ –
    https://www.nasdaq.com/article/fedex-and-ups-deliver-another-record-holiday-season-cm898487
  2. The Kansas City Star –
    https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/workplace/article189245104.html
  3. Huffington Post –
    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sharon-schweitzers-2017-holiday-tipping-guide-checklist_b_5a037fc3e4b0c7511e1b398c
  4. One Warm Coat –
    https://www.onewarmcoat.org/theneed/

 

Light Your Way to a Faster Sale

Remember the last time you visited an upscale furniture showroom? The furniture and fixtures on display probably looked great. The colors and textures jumped out at you. It was a feast for the eyes!

There is a good reason why: Lighting.

Of course, the quality of the products has a lot to do with how appealing they look when on display. But smart retailers know that proper lighting is key to making those products look their best. In fact, some retailers even hire lighting consultants!

What does this have to do with selling your home quickly, and for the best price?

Obviously, when showing your property to potential buyers, you want your home to look its very best. Proper lighting can be a big help.

When preparing your home for sale, review the lighting in each room and make sure the space is sufficiently well lit. You want the lighting to be strong enough to prevent dark or shadowy areas, yet not so strong that it’s uncomfortable for the eyes.

Pay particular attention to traditionally dark areas, such as the garage and closets. Make sure those areas are bright too.

If you have a viewing scheduled during the day, take advantage of natural light through windows. Open the curtains!

Finally, one of the most important areas is the foyer. Always make sure the entrance has sufficient lighting.

Want more ideas for preparing your home for sale? Call today.

Photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti on Unsplash

How to Care for Poinsettias

They hate cold. Really hate it.

Poinsettia is the brilliant Christmas plant that, with a little love, will bloom long after the ho-ho-hos have faded.

And if you want it to re-bloom for next year, we’ve got tips for that, too (but fair warning: that’s a lot harder to do). Here’s how to care for poinsettias during the season (and beyond):

First, Buy a Healthy Poinsettia

Inspect poinsettias carefully before you buy a plant. A healthy plant looks like this:

  • Dark green foliage before color develops.
  • Bracts (colored leaves) completely colored without green perimeters.
  • Lush and filled with leaves, not yellow and sparsely covered.
  • Balanced from all sides.
  • Displayed naked without plastic sleeves that can cause plants to droop. Cover the plant only when transporting in temperatures below 50 degrees.
  • 2.5 times taller than its diameter.

Be Careful Taking It Home (Poinsettias Hate Cold)

Poinsettias originated in Mexico and don’t like the cold, even for a few minutes. So make sure you wrap the plant if temps dip low in your area, and then keep it away from hot and cold drafts, such as heating registers and drafty windows, which can make leaves drop.

Follow These 4 Tips to Care for Poinsettias at Home

  1. Display your poinsettia in indirect light for about 6 hours per day.
  2. High temperatures will shorten the poinsettia’s life. Keep room temperatures at 60 to 70 degrees during the day; around 55 degrees in the evening. You might have to move the plant around to expose it to optimal temperatures, like keeping it in the kitchen by day and in the garage by night.
  3. Water when the soil is dry to the touch. If you keep the plant in foil, puncture the bottom to allow water to drain and prevent root rot. Empty drip trays after watering. Be careful not to over-water, which can cause wilting and leaf loss.
  4. Feed blooming poinsettias every 2 to 3 weeks with a water-soluble plant food; water monthly after blooming.

Follow These Steps to Make It Re-Bloom

Coaxing a poinsettia to re-bloom each year is an exhausting process. Each month from January to December you have to snip or repot; move to the dark or move to the light; water or not water — you’ll get a migraine just thinking about it.

Since a new 6-inch poinsettia costs a ten-spot, you’re better off buying a new crop each year and spending your time and energy on other gardening delights.

But if you’re a waste-not person, here’s a look at what you can do to coax your poinsettia to bloom again next year.

January-May: Give your plant plenty of sun and enough water to stay moist, but not soggy. Fertilize every 2 weeks. In early April, prune to 6-8 inches tall.

June: Repot with fresh soil and move your poinsettia indoors where it can get 6-8 hours of sunlight. Fertilize weekly until early fall. If you put the plant on a patio, give it shade during the hottest part of the day. If you place the pot in a flower garden, lift and turn it weekly so roots don’t grow into the ground and become shocked when you return the plant indoors in September.

Late July: Pinch off the top of the plant and 2-3 leaves on each stem to prevent the poinsettia from getting leggy.

October: Bring the poinsettia indoors when nighttime temperatures fall into the 50s. Place in a sunny window, and water when dry to the touch. Fertilize weekly.

October 1 to Thanksgiving: To force the bracts to color, the plant must be kept in uninterrupted darkness from 5 p.m. to about 8 a.m., and then returned to bright sun for the rest of the day. There should be a 7-10-degree difference between the dark and light environments: optimally, 65-70 degrees at night, and 70-80 degrees in the day. Fertilize weekly.

Thanksgiving: When the bracts begin to color, suspend the dark-light routine, and keep the plant moist and in a sunny spot for 6-8 hours daily. After full color has been achieved (congratulations!), stop fertilizing and move the poinsettia to wherever it will be admired most.

Written By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon, Published: December 12, 2012

Edited for Arizona

4 Ways to Make the Home Hunting Process Easier

Shopping for a new home can be intimidating. With so many things to do and think about, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some good tips for making the home hunting process a lot easier and much less stressful.

1. Get your mortgage arranged in advance.

You don’t want to find the ideal home on the market, only to face problems arranging a suitable mortgage. You might end up losing the opportunity. So, make mortgage arrangements in advance by getting “pre-approved”. With that pre-approval, you can shop for a new home with confidence.

2. Clearly define the kind of home you want, and the neighborhood you want to live in.

You can’t view every home that’s on the market. If you try, you’ll burn yourself out! So, write down a clear description of the kind of home you want. How many bedrooms? Big kitchen? Pool?

Don’t forget to include the neighborhood. Upscale? Close to downtown? Lots of trees and parks? Urban and close to shopping and theaters?

With this information, we can quickly create a shortlist of properties that meet your criteria.

3. Take good notes.

After viewing a few homes, you may easily start to forget the details. Was it the first property that had the large elm tree in the backyard or was that the fourth property you saw? If you take good notes, you’ll be better able to make decisions later on about which homes to shortlist.

4. Take care of yourself, and your family.

Eat right. Pace yourself. Don’t try to view too many homes in one evening or on one Saturday afternoon.

Want more ideas for finding the perfect home? Call today!

Here Are 4 Things You Ought to Know About Solar Christmas Lights

Solar Christmas lights promise easy setup with no electric cords and grid-free festive lighting.

Should you switch? Here are four things about solar Christmas lights to help you decide.

1. Solar Lights Set Up Easy

A string of solar Christmas lights uses a small solar panel for power; there are no extension cords that must be plugged into outlets.

The panel — about the size of a hockey puck — powers rechargeable batteries that illuminate a 25- to 100-bulb string of LED lights.

Panels come with small stakes so you can put them in the ground, where they can take advantage of the sun.

2. They Cost About the Same as LED Lights

Pricing for solar-powered and plug-in LED holiday lights runs neck and neck. A string of 100 miniature lights costs about $10 and up for both solar and LED. Yet solar costs nothing to operate.

3. They’re Durable

They don’t have any filaments that burn out easily, and they’re made of plastic, which doesn’t break as easil as glass.

4. But They May Not Be as Bright as You’d Like

A fully-charged string of lights should glow for a few hours after the sun goes down. But if you don’t get much sun, and with the shorter days, you could see only an hour or so.

By: Alyson McNutt English
Published: December 1, 2011

For more information on Solar powered Christmas Lights: Best Solar Powered Christmas Lights – Top 11 Reviews

A Real Christmas Tree vs an Artificial One: Costs and Cons

They cost about the same in dollars, but a real tree is better than a fake one for the environment.

Live Christmas trees are better for the environment than artificial Christmas trees: They’re renewable and recyclable, unlike that petroleum-derived faux model.

In terms of price there’s not much difference between the real and fake varieties, unless you get really fancy with an artificial one. Depending on where you live and the size and species of tree you buy, the real deal runs about $20 to $150 annually.

You can pick up a basic fake Christmas tree for less than $20 at some big-box retailers. Prices go up from there to as much as $430 for a deluxe, already-lit number. Buy a used artificial tree, and you’ll save — plus have less impact on the environment.

All I Want for Christmas is the Greenest of Trees. What Do I Look For?

Visit a local Christmas tree farm. Christmas tree farmland often can’t be used for other crops, says Brian Clark Howard, an environmental reporter. When the tree farmers plant new trees, the growing young trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon. And tree farms conserve soil — farmers only till the land once every six or eight years. If you buy from a Christmas tree lot, your tree was likely shipped from Oregon or North Carolina, and getting it to you created pollution, Howard says.

Do business with a local Christmas tree farmer who grows organic Christmas trees without pesticides. Whether an organic tree costs more depends on where you live.

Written By: G. M. Filisko
Published: December 10, 2010

How Much House Can I Afford?

Applying for a mortgage and buying a house is a major financial decision that can affect your bottom line for up to 30 years or more so it is important to understand how much house you can afford.

The first step in paving a smooth financial path for yourself is to add up your monthly income and expenses. Use our calculator to help with this. The calculator will analyze your monthly income, expenses, and future property taxes and insurance to estimate the mortgage amount that would best fit your budget.

5 Surprising Benefits of LED Holiday Lights Beyond Energy Savings

For one thing, they’re less breakable than other lights.

Yes, LED holiday lights save energy. Up to 75% less energy than the old-fashioned kind, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program.

But there are more advantages to LEDs than energy savings. Here are 5 other reasons to switch to LED Christmas lights.

#1 They’re More Durable

They don’t have filaments or glass, so they’re less likely to break or be damaged as you string them up and down.

#2 LED Holiday Lights Last and Last

LED bulbs can keep your season bright for as long as 100,000 hours, says Cathy Choi, president of Moonachie, N.J.-based Bulbrite, which manufactures LED and regular bulbs. That’s substantially longer than the life of your old holiday light strings.

#3 You Can String a BIG Strand of Lights

Safety wise, you shouldn’t connect more than three traditional light strings, but you can connect at least 10 with LEDs and up to 87 in some cases, totaling a whopping 1,500 feet, Choi says. So blow your neighbor’s display away by cocooning your house in lights:

  • You won’t have to buy as many extension cords
  • You can take your holiday lighting display further away from the outlet.

#4 They Reduce the Risk of Fire

They stay cooler than incandescent bulbs, according to Energy Star.

#5 They Now Come in Warmer Hues

Some people stick with their old lights because they don’t like the brighter hue that white LED holiday lights emit. But manufacturers now offer a “warm white” bulb that more closely mimics the glow of an incandescent light. Be sure to read the label to choose a bright or warm white and to ensure what you’re purchasing is Energy Star-certified.

Written By: G. M. Filisko
Published: December 10, 2010