BBQ Maintenance

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 160 people are injured each year in BBQ mishaps. That doesn’t sound like a lot considering the thousands of people who flip burgers on their backyard grills each year. But, you certainly don’t want to be one of those injured!

The best way to prevent fire and injury is maintenance. Remarkably, few people are even aware that BBQ maintenance is necessary. But, it is.

Every spring, experts say you should clean out the venturi tubes. Those are the little metal pipes that carry propane or natural gas. Pipe cleaners work well, although hardware stores also carry specialized tools for this purpose. The goal is to clean out any built-up dirt and debris. Don’t be surprised if you find spider webs inside a venturi tube!

Your BBQ grills should also be cleaned with soap and water each year. Just scraping them before barbequing isn’t enough. Fat and oils from cooking can build up on grills and harden. If you’re getting a lot of flare-ups, this may be the cause.

Finally, make sure nuts and bolts are tightened regularly and replace any rusty hardware. Regular use, heat, and weather can loosen or weaken bolts, particularly on the frame. Several fires each year are caused by BBQs tipping over or collapsing.

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Indicators it’s Time to Sell

There are many good reasons to put your property on the market. Some examples include a relocation, the kids leaving the nest, the need for something bigger or smaller, and the list goes on and on.

Here are some you may not have thought of:

Your Property is no longer a Good “Fit”

Your home may have been perfect for you when you bought it. But things change. Families grow. Needs evolve. For any number of reasons, your property may no longer be a good fit for you. If that’s the case, it makes sense to at least take a look at what’s available on the market. Who knows? Your next “perfect” home may be for sale right now — within your price range!

The Neighborhood is Changing

You may have been in love with the neighborhood when you first moved in. But, over time, the characteristics of any area can change. Those changes don’t necessarily mean the neighborhood is getting worse. In fact, it may be changing in a positive way; perhaps adding an HOA. But, “an HOA” may not be what you want. So take a look at the direction your neighborhood is heading. Ask yourself, “Do I still want to be living here in two years?”

You’re Ready for Your Dream Home

Remember when you purchased your current property? Did it have every feature you wanted? Was it your dream home? Or, did you have to compromise on a few things, such as the size of the kitchen? If you had to make some tough choices back then, it might be time for you to finally get the home of your dreams.

Those are just three indicators it may be time for you to make a move. Of course, there are many others.

If you’ve been entertaining the idea of selling your property and finding your next dream home, give me a call. I can show you what’s available on the market, and keep you informed of new listings that match what you’re looking for. Contact me anytime.

Planning for a Successful School Year!

ACK! Is it already that time again? If feels like we JUST went to the last day of school ceremony. On the other hand, it feels like ages since we had any type of schedule beyond breakfast at noon and way too much video gaming. The hot days are individually long and slow, but the months themselves are a flash. Suddenly it’s time for registration and back-to-school nights.

Maybe you’re the type of family that is so busy with summer camps and activities that the coming school year is a reprieve of your summer schedule, in which case, good for you! Preparing for back to school will be a cake walk.

The rest of us need to get our lazy-yet-chaotic summer selves into school mode. Here are five things we can all focus on:

  1. Supplies: Make it easier on yourself by getting your supplies early. Many times I’ve been a two-days-before-school-starts shopper. Picking through the dregs of the supplies isn’t fun for kids or parents.
  2. Clothes: Purge. Your kids have probably either outgrown or destroyed most of last year’s wardrobe. Plan out the basics of what is needed for the new year—a few pairs of pants, several shirts, a new pair of sneakers, and of course some new socks and undies—and let your kids pick out that one special outfit for the first day of school.
  3. Re-schedule: A few weeks before going back to school, we all need to start re-adjusting. Go to bed earlier. Get up earlier. Get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy food, at regular mealtimes. No more pizza for brunch and ice cream for dinner, or board game marathons until 1am. Sadly.
  4. Get involved: Show your kid that school is important. Be present. Even if you dread that back to school open house, go. Volunteer to help in the classroom, even a little bit. Get to know their new teacher(s) as well as other parents. Even if they don’t say so, kids appreciate it, and it demonstrates that we value school…so they will too.
  5. Goals and organization: Think back, way back, to last year—what did and didn’t work in terms of homework and studying. Discuss with your children to give them some responsibility and autonomy. Formulate a plan and maybe some goals. Get a study space ready, somewhere distraction-free.

Best of luck! But don’t panic. Even if you can’t fully accomplish these steps, you’ll be fine. Your kids will be fine. Even a chaotic first week of school will smooth itself out, at least into a slightly less chaotic school year routine. And you’ll always have your fond summer memories of midnight games and ice cream to keep you warm when the snow falls.

Art and Homes – An Individual Choice

A friend recently told me about her experience registering for wedding gifts over a decade ago; scanner-crazy walking through the stores. As well as the needed kitchen gadgets and bathrooms towels, she scanned a definitely not “needed”, but much loved red wooden duck. She also scanned artwork.

One piece was a print on canvas, except it was that cheap, plastic-y, fake canvas; it was during the height of popularity for Italian-themed landscapes in orange and red. It had black silhouetted trees and dramatic shadows and was clearly painted in 5 minutes (if a real, human artist even painted it) and mass-produced to beautify thrifty shoppers’ homes for years to come.

Over the years, her décor has evolved in a number of ways. Now walls are adorned with kids’ art, family photos, ornamental mirrors, and a few original artworks. She still displays the large, yellow wall clock from her Target registry, but the tree print is in the basement somewhere. They’ve struck a balance between classy, adult design and homey, personalized design that fits them.

It made me think of how we evolve in many areas of our lives, including our homes. The small apartment I lived in when I was single compared to the 3 bedroom house with a pool that we bought in Arizona after getting married. Our 2 story colonial on a tree-lined street in Virginia is vastly different from our contemporary home here in the mountains.

We learn, grow, and change over time. Those experiences alter who we are and what we want. My friend’s taste in art has changed. Does that mean she was wrong then or now? No, they are just what she desired at the time. Was my apartment or colonial home wrong? No, they were right at the time.

Looking for a home is personal. Having a realtor truly listen to what you want and help you find that gem is important. When you are selling, it is equally important to have a realtor that can help you understand what buyers want and how to stage your home to meet those needs. Just like that orange silhouetted tree artwork will bring my friend back to 2007, avocado green and harvest gold will leave a buyer feeling like your home is outdated, no matter how much you love them.

If you are looking to buy or sell a house, I would welcome the chance to listen to your wants and needs and help guide you to what is right for you in this stage of life.

Dads: Red Fish Blue Fish

As parenting roles have blended over the last few decades, dads aren’t just responsible for “bringing home the bacon”. Sometimes moms are the bacon-bringers and dads are the primary caretakers of the kids and the home. Usually, however, it’s a mix, which I think is better for everyone involved.

I’m pretty sure playfulness is a universal dad trait. I suppose that’s part of why “dad jokes” are such a thing now. Even the most serious, masculine dads often get to be the “fun parent”, cracking a terrible pun with a wry smile. While Mom reminds the kids how to correctly brush their teeth, Dad splashes them with sink water. While Mom has a heart-to-heart at bedtime, Dad becomes the tickle monster. These roles reverse often, but for many families, Dad likes to think he’s just one of the kids.

This is in stark contrast to the career-oriented dad, who is all about performance and work and planning. This dad works long hours and expects the same from kids regarding schoolwork. He is very driven and goal-oriented and probably wants his kids to go to Harvard. He wants the best for his kids, like all of us, but might not be quite as playful as other dads.

Some dads are very casual in their parenting, very free-range. “Eh, he’s fine!” is this dad’s mantra as his toddler goes headfirst down the slide and face plants in the dirt. Others are the distinct opposite: the helicopter dad, the safety dad. Whereas the “whatever” dad shrugs off suggested car seat regulations, helicopter dad has his 14-year-old in a five-point safety harness.

Then there’s the emotionally tuned-in, sensitive dad versus the stoic, man’s-man dad. One says “let it out” while the other says “be strong”. Both love their kids to the moon and back, but one prefers tough love and the other wants to discuss feelings. And let’s not forget Mr. Fix-it, who is both handy and athletic. He can build a deck and install a light and then go coach soccer. He’s a bit of an overachiever, like career-dad, but with A.D.D. He doesn’t know how to relax, but he’s really excited about it.

Of course there are countless combinations of these dad personalities in each individual, and lots more types of dads than I can list. Dads are fun, dads are strong; dads are strict, dads are loving. Some are quiet, some are loud. Some are silly, some are serious.

To quote the great Dr. Suess…

“Some are thin. And some are fat. This one has a yellow hat. Some are fast. And some are slow. Some are high and some are low. Not one of them is like another. Don’t ask us why. Go ask your mother.

From there to here, from here to there, Funny [dads] are everywhere.”

No matter what, if you have a dad that loves you, he’s doing his best, so take this holiday to express love and appreciation to your special, unique father (aka fish).

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Image result for messy house
You know how people say, “This is why we can’t have nice things”, usually pertaining to their pets or children? Well it’s also true for us. Yes, our pets and children ruin everything constantly, but we are no better.
A few years into owning our first house we got new appliances. A whole. New. Set. It was a very exciting moment. Yet we, the responsible adults, each ruined a new appliance the moment they were installed. Thinking he was handyman of the year, my husband messed with the door on the new dishwasher and broke it. I used Goof Off on the new microwave to remove sticker residue, permanently damaging the shiny plastic. This was THE FIRST DAY we had them. But that’s not all. I also managed to MELT aluminum foil in the bottom of the oven, and crack one of the plastic crisper drawers in the refrigerator when I closed the outside door on it. I’m officially worse than kids and dogs.
 
I also went about repainting some walls and trim, and accidentally poured half a can of white paint on the carpet, which was a lovely dark shade of plum. I always thought how great it would be to get rid of our purple floors, but I knew the moment we installed beautiful new carpet, it would get trashed. As far as I know, the purple carpet lives on to this day with the new owners, for the same reason: pets and young children. I can’t imagine the adults are as bad as we were, but who knows.
The good news is that carpet can be replaced. Appliances can be repaired. One day we’ll get new furniture and update the house; maybe even one day we’ll have a clean house. In the meantime I’ve learned to forgive myself, ignore imperfections and enjoy life through the mess…and blame it on the kids and pets while I can. 

Moving, Market Swings, Remodels, and Raising Kids

Image result for home sweet home
We moved into our first home a month before our son was born in 2009, at the height of the recession. We had looked at countless trashed foreclosures before lucking into that “needs work” HUD home with purple carpet. We were able to buy it dirt cheap with first-time home buyer incentives. It was on two dry acres of middle-of-nowhere prairie where the kids could drive their little electric cars (once they could reach the pedals). My sister and I rolled out a tiny patch of sod one summer so the kids could have a lawn, but they still always found mud to play in. My husband finally built us a magnificent new deck… right before we moved out of it.
It was the house where they grew from newborns into kids that read and write. It was the house where we worked and cleaned and painted and mowed. The house where we screamed and yelled and laughed and cried and played as a family. I hated the prickly weeds, how far we were from things, and how the neighbor’s dogs never stop barking, but it was our home.
 
When job changes prompted us to move after seven years, it was such a crazy mixture of excitement, sadness, and fear. I found some consolation in the fact that the couple that bought our house loved it. They had a baby boy of their own. They also had horses. We listed our house for sale on the *same day* they got out of a problematic contract with another house. I’m told that the wife said something to the effect of “everything happens for a reason…this is the one”. Our house sold in four days, over asking price, with a bidding war. The market had more than recovered from the recession at that point.
 
Even though they gave us two months of rent-back, we still ran out of time and had to settle on a house in the suburbs—not in the mountains west of Denver that we had originally wanted. It was a 1970’s trilevel, like every other house in the neighborhood, in dire need of updating. It still wasn’t cheap. We scraped popcorn ceilings, ripped up carpet, tore town unnecessary half walls, put in new floors, painted the entire thing—inside and out—and that was only half of what needed to be done. The yard was tiny, but it backed up to a big, beautiful park: our connection to country living. The kids, much bigger at that point, still played in the mud. They enjoyed the fact that there were trees to climb. We enjoyed the proximity to work, shopping and school, but it didn’t feel like home.
 
A year and a half later, we were able to move to the mountains. The market was still nuts, but our city house sold instantly and we lucked into the place we’re in now, only because we were able to see it before it was officially listed. We had made maybe 5 failed offers on other places before that; we offered on it before I even saw it. Outdated and overpriced, it doesn’t have a coat closet or a guest room. The property is steeper than we’d like, but it has amazing views and a great little barn. And most importantly, it feels like home.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from these moves, it’s flexibility. Flexibility in search criteria, including location, price, and even closet space demands. Flexibility in your timeline–even if it means living in town for a year or two. (Also, kids are way more flexible and adaptable than you might realize.) Patience, faith, and a willingness to work on the property have come in handy too. 
Just remember “everything happens for a reason,” and one day you’ll find yourself saying “this is the one”.

Unsung Heroes of the Home

In honor of moms everywhere…

 

If a mom wants to do a workout video, she’ll see that the floor needs to be vacuumed first.

If she gets the vacuum out of the closet, she’ll see that the canister needs to be emptied.

If she takes the canister to the garage to dump it in the trash, she’ll see the garage needs to be swept.

If she goes to get the broom out of the laundry room closet, she’ll see the litter box needs to be cleaned.

If she cleans the litter box, she’ll notice the washer and dryer are both full of laundry that needs to be processed.

If she processes the laundry, she’ll have to fold the dry clothes so she can put the next load in the dryer and another in the wash.

If she folds a load of laundry, she’ll have to take it to the bedroom to put it away (or at least to let it sit on top of the dresser for a week).

If she goes to the bedroom, she’ll see that she needs to pick up the kids’ toys and bring them to their rooms.

If she goes to the kids’ rooms, she’ll see that they are a complete disaster and she’ll holler at the kids to come pick up.

If she hollers at the kids to come pick up, she’ll realize it’s their lunchtime.

If she heads to the kitchen to make lunch, she’ll see all the dishes in the sink.

If she goes to do the dishes, she’ll see that the dishwasher needs to be emptied.

If she empties the dishwasher, she’ll see how badly she needs to organize the cup cabinet.

If she organizes the cabinet, she’ll need to have a beer (seriously—it’s that bad).

If she gets a beer out of the fridge, she’ll see how much the refrigerator needs to be cleaned.

If she cleans the refrigerator, she’ll have to throw away her husband’s old leftovers.

If she throws out his old leftovers, she’ll remember his laundry.

If she puts the laundry away, she’ll see her new dress and have to try it on.

If she tries on her new dress, she’ll see how wide she thinks she looks from behind.

If she sees how wide she thinks she looks from behind, she’ll want to do a workout video.

If she wants to do a workout video, she’ll need to vacuum first.

 

Thank you to all moms by birth or choice and those that bless others by acting like one.

Creating a Practical Home Office

Is your home office the dining room table? Is it anywhere you can sit down undisturbed with your laptop? If so, you might be interested in converting a room or nook into a dedicated home office. Depending on what you do for a living, there could be a tax advantage to creating this space too.

 

The first step is to pick a spot. Ideally, you want an area where you can work without too many distractions.

 

Next, make sure the spot you’ve chosen can accommodate a desk and any other furnishings you’ll need. Think about what you want within easy reach of your work area. Will you need a place for books and other papers? An extra chair for client meetings? A flipchart? A filing cabinet? Think about all of the options in advance.

 

Then, you’ll want to make sure the spot you picked has the electrical outlets you need, especially if you’re going to have a printer, special lighting, a computer and other items that need power.

 

Finally, you’ll want your home office to be a place where you can enjoy working. So decorate it with that in mind. If you like plants, get plants. If you enjoy golf, have your golf trip pictures hanging on the wall.

 

With a little work, you can quickly create a home office space that is comfortable, functional and enjoyable. It sure beats the dining room!

5 Ways to Make the Selling Process Stress-Free

For some homeowners, the process of listing, showing and selling their home can be stressful. Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to make it much less nerve-racking—and even exciting and enjoyable. Here are some ideas:

Make a plan. Decide when you’re going to show your property, search for a new home, view listings, etc. Block out these times in an agenda book or calendar. That way, you and your family can see what’s coming up.

  1. Be flexible. Few things go exactly as planned! So, it’s important to build in flexibility. For example, you may plan to see homes for sale on Saturdays, but if an opportunity comes up on a weeknight, give yourself room in your schedule to jump on it.
  2. Eat well. There are numerous studies that connect poor nutrition with increased stress. When people are selling and moving, there’s a tendency to rely on quick fixes, such as hot dogs and pizza! Try to plan more nutritious meals that will keep everyone healthy and energized.
  3. Get stuff done early. Doing things last minute, such as finding a real estate lawyer or getting rid of clutter, can quickly lead to stress and frustration. Whenever possible, get tasks done early. That way, you won’t have to worry about them.
  4. Hire the right professionals. By far, the surest way to a stress-free move is to get the right professionals working for you: everyone from contractors to mortgage brokers to movers.

By the way, a big part of what I do for clients is help make every aspect of buying, selling and moving go smoothly. Contact me to learn how I can help you.