Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Safety Patrol

As the weather outside gets frightful in some parts of the country, heading indoors sounds delightful. But staying warm inside is not without its hazards. According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires during December, January and February. Portable and space heaters can be especially dangerous. To make sure you and your family stay safe and warm this winter, consider these tips from NFPA:

· When buying a new space heater, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory and is legal for use in your community.
· Plug your electric-powered space heater into an outlet with sufficient capacity — never into an extension cord.
· Use the proper grade of the proper fuel for your liquid-fueled space heater, and never use gasoline in any heater not approved for gasoline use. Refuel only in a well-ventilated area and when the equipment is cool.
· Turn off space heaters in unoccupied rooms and when you go to bed; portable space heaters are easy to knock over in the dark.
· Do not use your oven to heat your home.
Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, that the venting is kept clear and unobstructed and that the exit point is properly sealed around the vent. All of these measures keep deadly carbon monoxide from building up in the home.
· Test smoke alarms monthly; install a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.
· Inspect all heating equipment annually and clean as necessary.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tips on Holiday Tipping

There are no hard and fast rules on holiday tipping, experts say. How much to tip, or whether to tip at all, depends on several factors, including the quality and frequency of service, the relationship you have with the provider, how long they have worked for you, where you live (since amounts can be higher in large cities), and your budget.

The Emily Post Institute offers the following guidelines for holiday tipping, but also advises consumers to let common sense and the holiday spirit be your guide. If financial circumstances limit what you can give, a handwritten note is always appropriate.
  • Babysitter – One evening’s pay, plus a small gift from your child
  • Barber/Hair stylist – Cost of one haircut or a gift
  • Child’s teacher – Check the school’s policy. If allowed, give a small token gift of appreciation, not cash
  • Day care providers – $25 to $70 each, plus a small gift from your child for providers who give direct care to your child(ren)
  • Dog walker – One week’s pay or a gift
  • Personal fitness trainer – Up to the cost of one session
  • Housekeeper/maid service – Up to one week’s pay or a gift
  • Doorman – $15 to $80
  • Garage attendant – $10 to $30 each
  • Letter carriers – Gift up to $20, no cash per U.S. Post Office regulations
  • Massage therapist – Up to one session’s fee or a gift
  • Handyman service – $15 to $40
  • Real Estate Agent – One or two referrals of people you know who will buy or sell a property in the next 30 days

Monday, December 15, 2008

Are You Ready?

For many, the holidays can be an emotionally distressful time. Some psychologists even associate this time of year with the highest amount of distress and depression. So what is it about the change in weather, overwhelming bombardment of commercial ads to buy buy buy, ending of the year with thoughts of all those things we just didn’t get around to, shorter daylight hours, kids with colds and traffic traffic traffic that can bring us down during these most festive of holiday times? Wow, that’s a lot for anyone’s plate. I find these tips below helpful to ease the distress level back to a manageable stress level and assist motivating good tidings.

· Look towards your Faith- Take a moment and reconnect with your spirituality. What is this season truly about? This is a great time to build those habits of faith formation that will carry us through the rest of the year.
· Plan a realistic schedule with enough balance for work, family needs and yourself. Sleep is very important during this season. Some will even go to the extent of time blocking just for the holidays.
· If you will be driving or traveling, plan extra time for the traffic, road conditions, parking and packing.
· Keep a close watch on eating and especially drinking. No one wants to be remembered as the one who “got so drunk” at the Holiday Party. Over eating and eating rich or unaccustomed foods can drastically change how your body responds.
· Airborne- Taking Airborne or a good vitamin supplement daily as well as washing your hands will help keep those nasty little colds at bay. Especially when we are in contact with more people than normal through traveling, shopping, office parties, etc.
· Hug those that are important to us. Let them know they are loved and give them a chance to love you back. We are not alone. We have our communities. And communities build love.
· Always remember that we can only control the choices we make for ourselves. The consequences of our choices are ours to keep. When things feel like they are slipping out of control I remember the words of Reinhold Niebuhr,

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; and the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I hope this helps. It has been a pleasure to be a part of everyone’s lives this year. I wish everyone much love, health, happiness and prosperity for the holiday season and upcoming New Year. Enjoy the season and remember to call me for all your real estate needs and referrals.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Fire Safty Tips

‘Tis the season to deck the halls, but don’t forget to keep fire safety in mind. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fires that occur during the holiday season claim the lives of more than 400 people, injure 1,650 people or more, and cause over $990 million in damage each year. Follow these tips to prevent holiday fires.
Select a fresh tree. Needles should be green and attached firmly to the branches, and they should not break if the tree is freshly cut. Don’t place the tree near a heat source, such as a heat vent or fireplace. Keep the tree stand filled with water to keep it moist, and don’t leave the tree up longer than two weeks. When it becomes dry, discard it immediately.
Inspect holiday lights each year. Check for frayed wires and burned out bulbs before putting the lights on the tree. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Periodically check the wires to make sure they are not warm to the touch. Link no more than three light strands, don’t overload the electrical outlets, and don’t leave lights on unattended.
Use nonflammable decorations. Keep decorations away from heat vents or fireplaces. Avoid putting wrapping paper in a fireplace, which can throw off dangerous sparks and cause a large fire. Artificial or metallic trees should be flame retardant.
Avoid using lit candles. But if you do use them, make sure their holders are stable, and place them where they won’t be easily knocked down. Never leave the house with candles burning. Don’t go near a Christmas tree with an open flame (candle, match or lighter).
Most important, install smoke alarms on every level of your home and test them monthly. The holiday season can add extra stress to most everyone's lives. Take care of what is important and share in the wonderous of the season.

Happy Festivus!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why Be Lonely for the Holidays?

Typically, the holiday season is a time for reflecting on what was accomplished over the past year and to take a look ahead to what our goals and resolutions will be for the New Year. We have a fresh slate from which to paint the perfect picture of what we want the new year to bring. Having a healthy, loving and passionate relationship is a goal for many of us. If it is important for you to find your soul mate, then you must make it a priority and come up with a strategic plan to have your dreams come true.

For men, the once taboo idea of going to a matchmaker to find your perfect partner has now become not only acceptable but is also seen as having many advantages. A recent New York Times article stated that there is an increase in busy professionals between the ages of 30 and 60 who don't have the time, inclination or drive to be in the “dating scene” to find the right significant other. These people are now turning to experts who can make the process easier and more successful for them. Matchmaking services used to see a 30/70 split between men and women. We are now witnessing a shift to a 50/50 split across America.

Challenges of internet dating:
  • Very time consuming
  • Much sorting by the client needed
  • Potential for people to lie about their age, background, careers
  • No Privacy—others can see that you are dating and watch your status

Joys of private matchmaking:

  • Matchmakers are your personal headhunters for the heart.
  • Sorting, by pre-screening and pre-qualifying your target market for potential candidates to make sure they are in alignment with your personal values and life goals.
  • Lasting Joy Matchmakers work with you to recognize what patterns have benefited you and which have not in your past relationships, next they work with you to aid you in being able to be your most authentic self.
  • It's more dignified and safe. None of the awkward indignity of blind dating or barhopping.
  • With a matchmaker, you are guaranteed to meet people who you want to meet and who want to meet you one-on-one.
  • Matchmakers extol your virtues and achievements to potential matches.

A Certified Matchmaker since 2005, Joy Nordenstrom, CMM, MBA, has just launched a new matchmaking division of her company called Lasting Joy Matchmaking. The Lasting Joy Matchmakers distinguish themselves from other agencies by working with their clients to define their relationship and life goals, thus helping the client be the best that they can be.

To do this, her match makers combine:

  • Dating and relationship coaching
  • Etiquette and style consulting
  • Outlining of deal breakers to gain a clear understanding of what matters most to them in a life partner
  • A customized strategic plan to aid them in finding this lasting love.

Once clients feel that they have found their perfect match, the Joy of Romance will work with them as a couple to keep their relationship thriving by teaching them how to cultivate a passionate, love-filled relationship to last a lifetime.

If you have been thinking about taking the next step or are already looking, Lasting Joy Matchmaking can help you streamline and enjoy the process fully. For more information please contact Joy Nordenstrom at 415.602.1999 or

The A+ Student

How Do I Help My Child Become An A+ Student?

Is your middle school or high school aged child not reaching his or her true academic potential? Do you believe your child’s performance in school does not measure up to his or her true aptitude?

Does your son or daughter spend inordinate amounts of time on websites such as My Space or YouTube instead of studying? Many parents are surprised when the report card arrives and the grades are significantly below where the student should be performing. But do parents really know how much time after school is actually spent studying and how much time is wasted in chat rooms or on teenage web sites? Not only are these sites time wasters, they are also potentially very dangerous as has been documented in all forms of the media.

Procrastination through the use of teenage chat rooms, complaining about the teacher, or saying there is “no homework” can often clearly be viewed as a child’s cry for help. There are several signs to look for when parents are trying to determine whether their child could benefit from extra help from a teacher or tutor. Signs to look for would be:

· Child does not bring home all books and binders from school or brings very small amounts of work home with them. Even if there is “no homework,” the A+ students always studies their class notes in order to prepare for upcoming tests or quizzes.
· Child often makes comments such as, “The teacher just really doesn’t like me,” or “I just don’t get along with this particular teacher.” The A+ students often seek help from teachers whether they like them or not.
· Child’s backpack is highly unorganized and full of loose papers. The A+ students usually have one binder for each subject and use dividers to organize loose papers, tests and homework.
· Child spends excessive time in room after school on the computer for reasons other than schoolwork. The A+ students always know to finish their homework and study time first and save recreational time for the weekends.
· Child does not keep an up to date calendar to record all homework assignments, long term projects and upcoming tests or quizzes. Child may keep a calendar, but it is only partially filled in or not filled in at all. The A+ students always record their daily assignments in an organized fashion and all dates are filled in with accurate information.

A good tutor often provides immeasurable support for the student who underperforms for any of the above reasons. A good tutor not only acts as a motivator and role model, but is also very good at teaching time management skills, organization and test taking strategies.

When interviewing a tutor, it is a good idea to find out how many years of experience the tutor has and exactly which subject areas he or she specializes in. For example when looking for a Geometry tutor, ask how many students the tutor has worked with in Geometry and how recently they have tutored Geometry. Some tutors may say they can tutor math, but haven’t had much experience with a certain grade level or are out of practice in a particular area. One great question a parent asked in an interview was, “Is there any subject you are not comfortable tutoring?” This forces the tutor to look at his or her strengths and weaknesses.

A very good friend of mine, Shannon Mulligan, is a fabulous tutor and operates the company, Marin Tutors, based here in Marin County. Shannon has a B.A. in Economics from U.C. Berkeley and a M.A. in School Counseling from Boston College. She comes highly recommended and has several tutors working for her to accommodate all of the varied subjects as well as PSAT and SAT prep.
Shannon can be reached through her website or by phone at 415.378.3324. If you have or know of a child, I would advise to contact a competent tutor to make sure the child is given all available tools necessary to succeed in any academic endeavor. An education will last them a lifetime.

Fire Power

Fireplaces have irresistible appeal. Just picturing a fireplace conjures feelings of warmth and coziness. Even in warmer climates where people don’t rely on them for heat, fireplaces add charm, character and value — about $12,000 per fireplace, according to the National Association oF REAlTORS ® — to homes. They lend ambiance to just about any room, and with so many varieties and options available, it’s easy to see why people want them.

If you don’t have a fireplace in your home, it’s easier than you might think to add one — without undergoing a complete remodel or major construction. Gas and electric models are more popular and in some states are the only ones allowed. They are also more affordable than ever and easy to install. And with so many options for every space and budget, the hardest part is choosing one that best suits your needs.

If you do have a fireplace in your home, whether it’s the wood-burning, gas or electric variety, the most important factor is maintenance. Like cars, fireplaces need annual tune-ups. If you have a chimney-based fireplace — traditional wood-burning or top-vent gas — you should have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the chimney at least once a year or after approximately 80 fires. It’s also a good idea to have a certified service technician come out once a year to inspect other types of gas fireplaces and to replace bulbs on electric units.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Energy Efficient Mortgages Program helps homebuyers and homeowners save money on utility bills by enabling them to finance the cost of adding energy-efficient features to new or existing homes as part of their FHA-insured home purchase or refinancing mortgage.

Build Your Own Gym

Trying to chose those New Year's resolutions but don't have time to get to the gym? Consider a home gym. The equipment that you'll need will depend on the interests, fitness levels and goals of the people who will be using it. For good all-around fitness, a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical trainer are top choices and can accommodate a range of fitness levels.

For strength training, a good set of free weights (i.e., dumbbells and resistance bands) can be stored easily and provide a vast selection of exercises. If you have more space (and more money), consider a weight machine. The number one rule here is that you get what you pay for. High-quality equipment that works reliably after several years of heavy use can't be manufactured cheaply.
Used equipment can be a smart option, as long as you know what to look for. The less risky option is to purchase from a dealer who can give you some kind of guarantee.
Now, the question is where to put your home gym. You'll need to consider space using the following criteria:

· no low ceilings, or obstacles that can be hit if lifting weights
· a secure, non-slip floor (also, avoid having weights in an upstairs room)
· good lighting and a fresh airflow
· organized and tidy electrical cables and pipes; a power supply for music or air conditioning · at least as much open space as equipment space.

A gym that's just steps away really cuts down on excuses and adds up to a fitter, healthier you! Your other alternative is to join me at the Bay Club Marin. I am usually there every morning and welcome the opportunity to show you around. There are some excellent instructors who will put you through the paces if you let them. The financial commitment keeps me honest.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Away for the Holidays? Protect your Home

If you are planing to go out of town for the holidays, here are some good tips to protect your home...

A burglary occurs every 15 seconds in America, according to the FBI’s Crime in the United States Report. A majority of these crimes take place in the summer months when many homeowners are on vacation. Follow these steps to protect your home while you’re away, so you can rest easy and enjoy your vacation.

Find a friend or relative to house-sit. This is the best option. Having someone in your home is the best way to deter potential thieves. Just be sure that it is someone you trust, and who is familiar and comfortable with your home.

Lock all doors and windows. If a house sitter is not a possibility, the first and most important step to securing your home is to lock every door and window in the house. Don’t forget about small attic or basement windows. Also secure the garage door and any garage windows.

Use timers on your lights. Automatic timers simulate occupancy by turning lights and other appliances (i.e. televisions or radios) on and off at random intervals during the day and evening. These are available at most hardware stores and cost approximately $20.

Don’t close all your drapes. It sounds like bad advice, but drapes that are closed shut during daylight hours are a sure sign to potential burglars that you’re not home. It also allows them to move around your home unseen after they enter.

Rely on your neighbors. Make sure that you find someone to pick up your mail while you’re away. If you’re going to be gone more than a week, find someone to mow your lawn. Also, be sure to give a trusted neighbor a key to your home and your itinerary in case of emergency

Get Wired at Home


Check out these top technology trends for homes, according to the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association:

· A home theater or media room. A home theater is a room dedicated solely to the viewing of movies and programs, designed with top sound quality in mind. A media room is incorporated in a home's living space and is a multipurpose room where a homeowner can watch television, read a book or play a game. Home theaters can run anywhere from $15,000 to $150,000 or more, depending on the components.
· Home health-care products and installation. As the population ages, there's more demand for health-care products that take advantage of the latest technology. Patient-monitoring systems can allow a caregiver to check up on an elderly loved one from afar. Biometric monitoring devices can keep constant watch on a patient's vital signs.
· Media Center Edition (MCE) computers. This audio/visual computer can help manage a home's various media sources, providing such features as surround-sound processing, as well as access to Internet radio and the one-touch recording of TV shows.
· Microdisplay-based televisions. High-definition televisions are hot, including LCD (liquid crystal displays), DLP (digital light processing), LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) or LCD-based rear-projection­ TVs. Depending on size and type, prices for these products run the gamut.
· Lighting and automation. Homes can be set up with the ability to control lighting and other features throughout the house from any room - and any part of the world. Systems can also create lighting schemes and automation that can turn down the lights and close the curtains when a DVD is started.

Prevent Holiday Theft

Happy Holidays!

'Tis the season for holiday shopping, but it's also the season for holiday thievery. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in San Diego, Calif., estimates that 15 million people are victims of identity theft every year. The not-for-profit group reports that it gets more calls about lost and stolen wallets and purses during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. To make sure identity theft does not spoil your holidays, the ITRC has several tips for safeguarding your personal data.

  • Never share your social security or credit card numbers in a public environment. Instead of verbally sharing requested sensitive information, write it down for the clerk, then take the slip of paper home with you. Also when talking on your cell phone in public, don't give any personal information over the phone.
  • Keep store receipts in your wallet, not inside the bag with your purchase.
  • Carry only what you need when shopping, and make sure to keep purses, backpacks and bags zipped or fastened shut to deter pickpockets.
  • Use debit cards judiciously or leave them at home - they are a direct link to your bank account. By using credit cards instead, you can review the billing statement afterward and dispute any suspected fraudulent activity.
  • When shopping online, print out the Web page describing the item(s) you ordered, as well as any e-mail messages and contact information for the online seller. Do a Google search on the seller regarding complaints. Call the seller direct and make sure there is actually someone who will answer the phone.
  • Do not provide your social security number, birth date or mother's maiden name in an e-mail or within a Web site.
  • Make sure the latest anti-virus software is installed on your computer before shopping online.

I hope this helps keep your Holidays safe. I look forward to networking with each and every one of you in the coming year. Peace be with you.

Fill'er Up

Coming from a Gas Company family, here are some helpful tips for filling up:

Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the gasoline, when it gets warmer gasoline expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening....your gallon is not exactly a gallon.
In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role. A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.
When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger usually has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.
One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL or HALF EMPTY. The reason for this is, the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation.

Another reminder. If there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up--most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.
Hope this will help you get the most value for your money. Being a REALTOR, I have to watch carefully my expenses and my fuel costs for my Rover are becoming astronomical. See you at the pumps... or not?