Blog :: 2014
Whether you use colored bulbs or decorate all in white, Christmas lights bring a smile to everyone (maybe even Scrooge). You may be asking yourself where exactly did the holiday light tradition start? In the northern hemisphere the winter solstice - the longest and shortest day of the year falls on December 21st this year. Back in the day many people believed the sun was a god and winter came because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that the sun god was beginning to feel better. Evergreen boughs reminded them that plants would grow again when the sun god was strong.
Germany gets the credit for starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it and it is believed that Martin Luther first added candles in the 16th century because he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst the evergreens and to re-create this beauty he put up a tree in the main room of his house and wired the branches with lighted candles.
The first record of a lit Christmas tree was in the 1830's by German settlers in Pennsylvania. Most Americans at this time looked at the trees as Pagan symbols and in 1659 Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25th, other than church services a penal offense where you were fined for hanging decorations. This continued until the 19th century when the influx or German and Irish immigrants undermined the puritan legacy.
In the early 20th century with the advent of electricity, (Edison's assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for trees) Christmas lights became popular and lit trees began to appear in town squares (the Rockefellar Center tree dates back to 1933) and having a tree in your home became an American tradition.
Did you know:
- In the first week, a tree in your home with consume as much as a quart of water per day.
- Tinsel was once banned by the government because it contained lead...now it is made of plastic.
- Franklin Pierce, the 14th president brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House.
- More than a million acres of land have been planted with Christmas trees.
For eight days and nights Jewish people around the world celebrate "Hanukkah" which means "dedication". The story behind this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.
The story goes that the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers in 168 B.C. and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. In 167 B.C. the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus made the observance of Judaisim punishable by death and said all Jews must worship Greek gods. It got to the point where soldiers were forcing Jews to bow to idols and eat the flesh of pigs, both forbidden by Jewish law.
A Greek high priest, Mattathias, rebelled and after attacking and killing the soldiers in the village of Modiin he and his family, and Jews wishing to fight against the Greeks, went to live in the mountains. These rebels became known as the Maccabees and ended up victorious in reclaiming their land from the intruders.
After their victory the Maccabees returned to reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem. In order to purify the Temple they needed to burn the "ritual oil" in the Temple's menorah for eight days, but only had enough oil for one day. They lit it anyway and to their surprise the oil lasted the full eight days.
On the first night of Hanukkah and on all other nights during the holiday, the middle candle of the menorah is called a shamash. The shamash does not count as one of the Hanukkah candles, but is used to light all the other candles. Families usually light their Hanukkah menorah directly or soon after nightfall.
The menorah is set up by placing the candles from right to left. Not counting the shamash, the number of Hanukkah candles in the menorah match the night of Hanukkah. For instance, if it is the 5th night of Hanukkah there would be 5 Hanukkah candles in the menorah.
The shamash is lit first, then the remaining candles from left to right. This is the reverse order of how the candles were placed in the menorah, so the last candle put in the menorah should be lit first. The candles are allowed to burn down and are not extinguished.
Everyone loves a good latke! These potato and apple pancakes are fried in oil which celebrates the "miracle oil" from back in the day. Sometimes jelly-filled donuts called sufganiyot are eaten.
What would a celebration be without singing and games? One of the most popular games involves the dreidel, which is a Yiddish word that comes from the German word "drehen," which means â€œto turn.â€ A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter on each side. It is used to play a popular children's game that involves spinning the dreidel and betting on which Hebrew letter will be showing when the dreidel stops spinning. Children usually play for a pot of gelt, which are chocolate coins covered in gold colored tin foil.
So light a candle, eat a latke, spin the dreidel and if you've been good maybe Hannukah Harry will pay your house a visit if the Mensch on the Bench, a friend of the Elf on Shelf gives you the thumbs up.
You've listened to your agent's advice that listing your home during the holidays can present some advantages - less competition, real buyers & a sense of festivity. The question becomes how to balance your seasonal decorations while continuing to show your home in the best light possible.
Before doing any decorating make sure your home is spotless and that you've done your initial staging by de-cluttering and emphasizing the wonderful space your home offers.
While holiday decorating can be highly personal, this is the year to err on the side of neutral with small subtle touches giving your home a warm and festive feeling. Also important is to make sure your holiday dÃ©cor compliments your regular decorating before you start untangling your tinsel.
This is a great opportunity to accentuate some of your home's highlights such as pretty stockings hanging from your fireplace mantel, showcasing your menorah on the ledge of a bay window or hanging mistletoe in an arched doorway. On the exterior you can use simple string lighting to highlight your home's architecture or a beautiful tree in the yard, even though you usually win the neighborhood first prize for flashing lights and the inflatable Santa and his sleigh!
This may be the year to keep extremely religious decorations in storage. It's important to be sensitive to potential buyers. No matter what your religion is, no one is going to feel offended by a nutcracker.
Trees are such an important part of the season and bring a smile to everyone. Be careful the tree doesn't take up too much "real estate". This is probably the year for a skinny tree.
As always, you need to be careful with valuables. Wrapped presents can be very tempting, especially if young children are looking at homes with their parents. Save the gifts and surprises for family time.
Last but not least no matter how beautiful your decorations are, the same decorations that made people smile in December will look tired and dated in January.
Bring on the eggnog and enjoy the Holiday Cheer!
The 10 best classic Thanksgiving dishes, ranked
As we get ready to sit down and gorge on all our favorite foods, (which makes you wonder why we only have them once a year) here's some food for thought. So... loosen your belt and read on:
We eat turkey at Thanksgiving not because it is the tastiest poultry or the easiest to cook, but possibly because the bird's large size allows us to feed many hungry people all at the same time. I don't know about your house, but no one in my house gives a gobble about turkey until sandwiches the next day!
In fact, baking a turkey is not a labor-intensive exercise. It does require a few hours but not a lot of practice to do well. Yet most American households only bake one turkey per year. This is why most Thanksgiving birds emerge dry and bland, often requiring the saving graces of gravy. If it weren't for decades of tradition, you would be hard-pressed to find a household that wouldn't mind skipping the messy process of prepping and baking a cumbersome turkey.
The exception to this rule is deep-fried turkey, which emerges from the backyard Lazarus pits coated in hot peanut oil a transformed and inarguably more delicious creature. The downside, of course, is that deep-frying a bird carries the risk of setting your home on fire. Such is the nature of turkey: The bad frequently outweighs the good.
9. Corn bread Simply the best of the breads, all of which otherwise fail to crack the top 10. Corn bread strikes a harmonious balance between sweet and savory that can complement just about anything. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that rolls are an OK carbohydrate substitute. Don't be fooled.
8. Green bean casserole A relic of post-World War II efficiency, the humble green bean casserole was created in the mid-1950s by the Campbell Soup Company. It is a comfort food in the truest sense that accomplishes the improbable: It makes icky green beans palatable. Such innovation is why the casserole has carved out a place for itself in the National Inventor's Hall of Fame.
7. Mac and cheese It has been brought to my attention that many households do indulge in the gooey, al dente perfection that is homemade mac and cheese. To which I say: Who knew?
6. Mashed potatoes You can load them with garlic. Or infuse them with rosemary. If you'd like, you can fashion mashed potatoes into a bed for your turkey, or sculpt them into a concave vessel for gravy. Such versatility is truly American, and should be celebrated as such.
5. Ham Ham is moist, flavorful, textured, and requires little work to do well. It is the inverse of turkey. Simply rub with brown sugar or bathe it in cola - preferably both. Ham is as under-rated as its cousin bacon is overexposed.
4. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows Fun fact: Sweet potatoes are a near-perfect health food. They are packed with Vitamin A, B6, and fiber - and can help you lose weight. Realistically speaking you probably won't - especially with a fluffy bed of marshmallows layered on top. But it's a comforting thought.
3. Gravy The gravy boat is the most sought-after dish on the Thanksgiving table. A thick, hearty gravy can save even the blandest of meals. Think of it this way: Would you rather have a carving of turkey breast without gravy, or no turkey at all? The answer should be clear.
2. Stuffing Turkey merely provides a cavity for stuffing, Thanksgiving's true centerpiece. Stuffing is a reward, akin to delectable candy packed into a tasteless Butterball piÃ±ata. Stuffing is so good, in fact, that we willfully eat it out of the rear end of a dead animal.
1. Pie Perhaps you are a pecan pie person. Or maybe pumpkin is more your thing. Sweet potato pie is sublime, or apple reminds you it was worth getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden. All are excellent choices. Each slice is an edible, triangulated vessel for whipped cream, or, if you are ambitious, ice cream. Need to excuse yourself and change into sweatpants? Sure thing. Because pie is the light at the end of the tunnel, the reason we push ourselves and "make room." Each bit of flaky crust filled with nature's caramelized sugar is a testament to human perseverance. Pie is a triumph.
Not sure why cranberry sauce didn't make the cut. Appears as though mac n' cheese edged it out. Maybe a little cranberry mixed with some vodka will get it back in the top 10.
Âadapted from "The Week"
Something Gigantic Is Coming to Stamford Downtown!
The UBS Parade Spectacular, Presented by Stamford Town Center and The Advocate/Hearst Media, comes to Stamford Downtown on Sunday, November 23 at 12 noon. Stamfordâ€™s annual holiday balloon parade has become one of the largest events of its kind in the country. The parade features everyoneâ€™s favorite giant balloon characters, award winning marching bands and fabulous floats. Fun for the whole family!
Rappelling Santa and Holiday Tree Lighting
From 22 stories high above Stamford Downtown, watch and cheer for Santa Claus as he makes his daredevil descent, twisting and flying from the top of one of Stamfordâ€™s tallest buildings, Landmark Square, on Sunday, December 7th at 5:00pm. Then follow Santa up Bedford Street to Latham Park for an evening of holiday music and fun and join in the countdown of the annual lighting of Stamfordâ€™s Holiday Tree.
Harbor Point Turkey Trot
Thursday, November 27th, 8:30 am 100 Washington Blvd, Stamford, CT 06902
Everyone things Spring is the best time to put your home on the market, but that may not always be the case. I have listed 2 homes in the past month and they both have received accepted offers within the first week - one in multiple bids! If you're thinking about selling, this may be an ideal time --- for all the reasons listed below.
There are many questions homeowners ask themselves during the selling process. "How much will my home sell for?" "How much should I list my home for?" "Who should I select as a real estate agent to sell my home?" "What if the real estate agent overprices my home?" Last but not least, "Is this a good time to be selling a home?" is also a very common question that real estate agents are asked.
As with every decision in life, there are pros and cons, and choosing when to sell a home is no different. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before deciding when to sell a home. Many homeowners believe selling a home during the fall or winter months is not a good idea and that the spring is the only time a house should be sold. This is the furthest from the truth. Certainly most real estate markets across the United States experience a "spring market rush" every year. There is no doubt that the spring market is a great time to be selling and buying real estate, however, the fall and winter seasons may be the best fit for you for many reasons.
Less Competition One way that you can tell the spring real estate market has arrived is by driving down a street in your local community. In all likelihood there will be For Sale signs up all over the neighborhood! One great reason to sell your home now and not wait until the spring market is there is sure to be less competition. The fewer number of comparable homes for sale, the greater the probability that a buyer will look at your home.
Simply put, itâ€™s the supply and demand theory. If there are less homes for sale, there are less homes that a potential buyer can choose from, therefore increasing the demand for your home. Not only will less competition increase the probability for showings, but it will also increase the probability that an offer will be received and you will get the maximum amount of money for your home.
Serious Buyers Are Out There Homes are sold and bought 365 days a year, period! Many homeowners believe that buyers aren't out there during the fall and winter months. This simply is not the case. Serious buyers are always out there! Some buyers may stop their home search because it is the fall or winter, but serious buyers will continue to look at homes, no matter what time of year it is. The fall and winter months are also a great time for a potential buyer to see what a specific neighborhood is like. Do your neighbors have pumpkins on their front step? Are there lots of Trick-or-Treaters wandering the neighborhood on Halloween? Do any of your neighbors have any light displays for the holidays? There are buyers out there who will look at these types of things when determining whether your home is in the right neighborhood for them or not.
The Best Agents Are Always Up To The Challenge Any real estate agent who tells you that the fall or winter months are a bad time to sell is not someone you want selling your home! A great real estate agent will know how to adapt to the current season and market their listings to reflect that. A great real estate agent can make suggestions and give some of their tips on how to sell a home during the fall or winter seasons. If a real estate agent doesn't have any suggestions on making your home more desirable for the current season, you should be concerned about the creativity they are going to use when marketing your home.
Staging For The Holiday Season
Many sellers believe staging a home is the main reason a home sells. While staging certainly helps sell homes, some buyers have a difficult time envisioning themselves in a home no matter what you do. However, there are some buyers who can easily be "sold" on a home because it is staged. Simple â€œseasonalâ€ staging such as adjusting the color of the decor or having an aroma in the air that is relative to the time of year can go a long way with some potential buyers and possibly be the difference between a home selling or not.
Mortgage Rates Are Low
If you've read about real estate in the past year, it's likely you've read that the mortgage rates are very low. You also probably read that there is an expectation that the rates will increase very soon. Since mortgage rates are so low right now, buyers are able to afford more expensive homes. If mortgage rates increase over the fall and winter months while you're waiting for the spring market, it could cost you thousands of dollars as it could eliminate many buyers from the real estate marketplace! Less demand for your home will mean less money. Bottom line: take advantage of selling your home while the rates are this low.
Right now, there are fewer real estate transactions than there will be in the spring. The fewer number of transactions means the mortgage lenders have less loans to process, attorneys have less closings to do, and home inspectors have fewer inspections to do. All of these factors should lead to a quicker transaction and closing for all the parties involved. One of the most frustrating things for a seller to deal with while selling their home is not getting answers in a reasonable amount of time. A quicker transaction is going to be less stress for you.
By considering all of the reasons above, you will be able to determine whether now is a good time to sell or if you should wait until the spring. Contact me when you think you are ready...I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
What do designers see in people's houses that always drive them nuts? Here are some of the top decorating don'ts.
1. Overzealous Decorative Painting
2. Overhead Lighting
3. Candles Clustered Together
4. Furniture Pushed Up Against the Walls
5. Out-of-Proportion Lamps
6. Karate-Chopped Pillows
7. A Single Light Source
Courtesy of House Beautiful.com
We've been so spoiled by the recent 60 and 70 degree days that its easy to forget cold weather is right around the corner, (though they're predicting possible snow flurries for this weekend...looks like the party's over). In anticipation of the promise of a frigid winter, here are some thoughts on how you can slash your energy bills without sacrificing comfort. These tips can cut your heating bill by 20 percent or more. Plus, the materials are mostly inexpensive to buy and install, so you'll see a quick return on your investment.
1. Replace Worn Weatherstripping
4. Plug Holes in Exterior Walls
In warm weather you want your ceiling fans to operate counterclockwise, pushing air in downward to provide a steady cool breeze. During the winter, you can have this same fan work for you, too. By reversing the fan's direction and keeping it at a low speed in a clockwise direction, the blades will create an updraft, taking full advantage of the fact heat rises. This reverse air circulation helps to move hot air downward toward your living space and eliminate hot and cold spots.
6. Cover Windows and Patio Doors with Plastic Film
7. Keep Warm Air from Escaping Up the Chimney
9. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Scare Up Some Fun...Whether its a Trick or a Treat Here are Some Spooktacular Events:
Big or Small SAVE em ALL Halloween Costume Party
October 30, 6:00pm - 10:00pm Seaside Tavern, 891 Cove Rd, Stamford Admisssion: $10 @ the door gets you two $5 raffle tickets Best costume & most creative costume prize. Come out to support a great cause! Hope to see you there!
Ghostly Sightings Tours
October 22-31, Wed.-Sun. noon-4 p.m. Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, 295 West Ave., Norwalk Admission: $20 lockwoodmathewsmansion.com More info: Tours focus on the history of the house, when it was a private residence, between 1868 and 1938. Visitors may encounter a ghost who is haunted by those memories and walks through the first and second floors of the mansion during tour hours, but only at Halloween.
October 24, 8:30 pm - 1:30 am Knights of Columbus, 507 Shippan Ave., Stamford Admission: $49 (21 and up only) More info: Halloween party with costume contest, raffles, prizes, snacks, dj, music, dancing and more.
A Haunting at Mill Hill
October 24 & 25, Tours at 6, 7:30 & 9 pm Mill Hill Historic Park, 2 East Wall St., Norwalk Admission: $15; $10 for ages 8-12, in advance $13 & $8 respectively (reservations recommended) norwalkhistoricalsociety.org More info: Take a lantern light tour through the historic Mill Hill graveyard. Meet Anna Howard, the spirit that roams the Norwalk Riverâ€¦Hear the story of Margaret Gale, the wife of an organ grinder, who met her untimely end along a deserted Norwalk road â€¦ and others from Norwalkâ€™s colorful past. Bring a flashlight.
Zappy Zebra's Monster Mash Bash
October 25, 10-11:30 am Knights of Columbus - 507 Shippan Ave., Stamford Admission: $8 More info: Lots of family friendly activities including pumpkin decorating, zumba for kids, face painting, storytelling, costume party and more.
October 25, 6-8:30 pm Stepping Stones Museum for Children, Mathews Park, 303 West Avenue, Norwalk Admission: $15; members $10. steppingstonesmuseum.org More info: Don't be bored out of your gourd this Halloween. The 10th annual silly, funny and favorite Halloween event, filled with tricks and treats for the whole family to enjoy. Dress up as your favorite hero or heroine and join the costume party and parade!
Trick or Treat at Stamford Museum and Nature Center
October 26, 1-3 pm Heckscher Farm, Stamford Museum and Nature Center Admission: $10; seniors $8; students $6; children $5 stamfordmuseum.org More info: Don your Halloween costume and head up to Heckscher Farm to trick or treat with your favorite farm friends! Grab a map and head off in search of different "treats" at the trick or treating stations. Then, stop by Overbrook for "Ick-Fest" and get slimy with our slime table, visit live reptiles and bugs, and create crafts around some of our favorite Halloween critters.
October 26, 1-4 pm Greenwich Common Park, Greenwich Admission: TBAadoptadog.org More info: This October marks the seventh year for the entertaining â€œHowl & Prowlâ€ Halloween pet costume party in Greenwich that attracts hundreds of owners and their dogs who come together for an afternoon of fun to benefit pets in need.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
October 30; 8:30 pm Avon Theatre, 272 Bedford St., Stamford Admission: $11; members $6 avontheatre.org More info: The classic cult film. Costume contest with prizes, sponsored by Lorca and Station Eats! An outrageous assemblage of the most stereotyped science fiction movies, Marvel comics, Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello outings and rock 'n' roll of every vintage. Running through the story is the sexual confusion of two middle American "Ike Age" kids confronted by the complications of the decadent morality of the 70's, represented in the person of the mad "doctor" Frank N Furter, a transvestite from the planet Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.
Classic Night Reading of Dracula
October 31, November 1-2 Fri. & Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 3 pm Theatre Artists Workshop, 5 Gregory Blvd., East Norwalk Admission: $10 taworkshop.org More info: Come and celebrate Halloween with the quintessential vampire himself! Cast includes Drew Denbaum, Frank Piazza, Sean Hannon, Richard C. Leonard, Jim Noble, Emilie Roberts, Chilton Ryan and Nadine Willig. Reservations are not required, seating is first-come, first-serve.
Nightmare on Bedford Street Halloween
October 31, 10pm Tigin Irish Pub, 175 Bedford St, Stamford No Cover Charge Drink Specials All Night!
- older posts
- newer posts