Updated: Monday, December 22, 2014

Real Estate Agents, Unwrap Your Gift In The Form of Massive Savings

This holiday season, make sure you add your own name to the gift-shopping list And if what you really want is to see your business grow more in the year to come, then the best gift you can give yourself and your business is the gift of more leads.

Point2, an industry-leading provider of complete marketing solutions for agents and brokers, has kicked off the holiday season with massive discounts of up to 400 on its Professional and Elite packages. This means that you can get all the smart marketing tools you need in one package, without having to spend a fortune.

Cater to your professional needs

Briefly put, the Point2 Agent Professional package is all about helping you get more exposure and more leads. And until January 9th, you can get that for only 399 -- thats 150 down from its original price.

But dont let the attractive price be the main factor in your decision, as the Point2 Agent Pro package enables you to:

Be where the on-the-go home-buyer is looking -- The agent website solution offers an impressive number of gorgeous templates which are both mobile-friendly and optimized for search engines SEO.

Showcase your listings and yourself -- The Pro package comes with free featured listings and agent ads on Point2s own real estate marketplace, Point2 Homes, which registered over 90 million page views within the past year.

Grow your client base with valuable lead management tools like custom forms, predictive marketing, and drip email campaigns.

Give your broker team a five-star gift this winter

The Point2 Agent Elite package was designed to suit the needs of brokers and broker teams.

Thats because it enables you to streamline your teams work with multiple user accounts, team websites, and automated lead routing, while also showcasing your listings to their full potential with unlimited single property websites and 20 featured listing and 5 featured agent ads.

Whats more, the discount has never been bigger - 400 off

Additionally, you can opt for installment payments or lock down your rate with multi-year payment options to better manage your online marketing budget throughout the following year.

Call 888-277-9779 by January 9th to take advantage of the discounted Point2 Agent solutions. Or click here to find out more.


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How to Select an Interior Door

Take a minute to count the number of doors in your house. Surprising, right? Consider then, the impact that a little attention to the doors can have on the overall >

Lets take a look at the options:

Materials

Prices for interior doors vary depending on what theyre made of. There are pros and cons associated with the materials themselves that are worth considering before you start thinking about the different >

Solid Wood: Believe it or not, most residential doors are not solid wood, but they offer such excellent soundproofing that they are a very popular upgrade. The weight of a solid wood door also lends a high-end feel when you swing it open or shut. Available in all kinds of wood, from exotic mahogany to the most common pine, solid wood gives you the option of staining to accentuate the beauty of the wood or painting to work with your decor.

Solid Core: These doors are actually constructed of medium-density fiberboard MDF, which is essentially an engineered hardwood that is available in wood-grain or smooth finishes. These, too, offer great sound proofing and that high-end heft, and are arguably the best value for your money.

Hollow Core: These are the most common and affordable doors available. Hollow-core doors are constructed with wood grain or smooth panels that cover a honeycomb-like center. Hollow-core doors are much lighter in weight and offer less soundproofing, but the upside is affordability.

Prehung or Slab: Finally, its important to consider whether you will hang the door in an existing door frame, or purchase a door that is prehung in its frame. Hanging a heavier door is a more delicate process, so we recommend homeowners interested in solid wood doors consider prehung options. A lighter, hollow-core door is simple to hang from existing hinges as it doesnt have much impact in terms of weight.

>

Once youve decided on the type of door that best fits your needs, its time to think about >

Panel: Panel doors offer a little detail and history. The panels are constructed of rails and stiles to create two-, four- or six-panel options. Rails and stiles can be straight or curved to match your design aesthetic. Straight lines tend to fade to the background, which is often the best option when youre upgrading several doors in one space. Panel doors work well in more traditional design >

Flush: Flush doors are just that: smooth, with no detailing. The lack of detail makes them a good choice in any decor, but especially if youre working with more contemporary >

French doors: French doors are a beautiful upgrade in the right spot. The detailing of the panesand the light they bringimprove the look of any space, and the value as well. Great for exterior doors, they can also help open up interior spaces while still offering boundaries, both visually and spatially.

Pocket doors: Pocket doors are problem solvers. They are the perfect solution in tight spaces, or as a way to add a little privacy within a larger space. They also add a custom flair. Installation requires wall space on one side of the door large enough to accommodate the door when its open. Dont forget that these are also available in flush and panel >

Specialty doors

Of course, there are a few door >

Barn doors are a beautiful way to add real visual interest and architectural flair, and are much simpler to install than you might guess. A simple track above the door holds the panels and allows them to slide open and closed. Choose rustic, natural wood tones and textures or more tailored and polished door panels.

Frosted glass inserts are a great way to let in the light and maintain privacy while adding a very custom, high-end look. Great for closet doors, they also work well in other interior and exterior situations.

Those are just a few of our favorites. Whats on your wish list for interior doors?

Kerrie Kelly is an award-winning interior designer and the founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in northern California. Kerrie writes on interior design topics for Home Depot. Many of the interior doors mentioned by Kerrie in the article can be viewed online at www.homedepot.com/b/Doors-Windows-Doors/N-5yc1vZas82.

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The Kitchen Youll Want For Holiday Hosting Duties Next Year

Youre the chosen one for holiday hosting duties this year and, as much as you love your family, you cant wait for it to be over. Why? Your kitchen... its horrible.

It is. Especially when 10 people are trying to cram into it to stir, pour, boil, fry, whip, cream, and saut.

Truth? You love having everyone in your home. Just not in your kitchen. Youve gotta do something, before they descend upon you again next year.

Here are the changes that will make the biggest impact so when the holidays roll round next year, youll be ready to rock.

1. New countertops

If youre currently sporting the builder basic laminate or ceramic tile that requires the fun combo of scrubbing, bleaching, and scraping to keep the grout from looking crusty, it might be time for an overhaul.

Granite remains a favorite for its functionality and >

HGTV also likes stainless steel countertops for modern kitchens "because they are nonporous, do not have to be sealed, and resist bacterial growth."

2. New or updated cabinets

A good sanding, a coat of paint, and some pretty hardware can transform a kitchen inexpensivelyespecially if you do it yourself. But if youre looking to rip em out and start from scratch, go with the emerging trend of furniture->

"This approach marks another step in the evolution of the kitchen as the hub of the home and a treasured space the whole family can enjoy, rather than just a functional area thats used for food prep and cooking alone," said Houzz. "The incredible designs available celebrate the different elements of the kitchen as pieces of beautiful furniture, not just workstations, which allows people to bring their own personal, warm, welcoming touch to this space."

3. Create a Timeless Look

If youre redoing your kitchen, you want to get it right, and you want the look to last. Today, you dont have to choose one >

"Designs that marry modern and traditional elements will be one of the most influential looks of 2015," said Houzz. "Homeowners are shunning ultrasleek, contemporary kitchens in favor of spaces that are "warm, homey and reflect themselves. This trend is affecting everything from cabinet design to colors, materials to textures. Flat-panel cabinet doors are being replaced with >

4. Make it universal

Not only can the look be timeless, but the functionality can last for years to come and adapt as life>

5. New Appliances

Stainless steel still rules the appliance world in terms of finishes, but the emphasis is now on function. If your fridge is too small to serve your family properly, you could always get a giant new one. Or, you could eliminate what is often the biggest offender in terms of space stealing and put your drinks elsewhere. Beverage drawers and beverage centers make great additions to a functional kitchen.

6. New sink and faucet

Sinks are showing up in a variety of materials like copper, and colors like black or white. Larger capacity sinks continue to trend, especially in a single-bowl >

Whether you choose to make small changes or renovate the whole thing, you can create a kitchen that is a joy to cook in, not just for the holiday, but for everyday.


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Top Remodeling Trends For 2015

Does the impending new year have you thinking about remodeling? There are some of us who never stop thinking about, but this time of the year tends to make people who already had the inkling start looking at trends and making soft plans for a small reno or a complete redo.

Thankfully, its also at this time of the year that trend reports start coming out for the new year. If youve got that itch, give it a little scratch by checking out the home remodeling trends for 2015.

1. Bathrooms are big

"This year, the kitchen as we know it completely changed," said Huffington Post. "Shelving opened up, cabinets went darker and metallic accents moved well beyond cabinet knobs. But come 2015, we can expect to see a major overhaul in a different room of the house -- the bathroom.

Everything from sinks and color schemes to tubs and tiles will see some sort of upgrade, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Associations >

2. Bath, Not Shower

Inside that bathroom, trends are moving away from showers and toward large soaker tubs. "Forget about glass-encased showersthese days its all about the soaking and free-standing tubs, so much so that we can actually expect a decline in standard tubs with shower-surrounds," said the San Antonio Express-News.

3. Not So Fast With That Shower

For those that do want to keep their shower, bigger is better, said Houzz. "Thats certainly the current school of thought when it comes to the showerwith more walk-in showers with oversize panes of glass or solid walls that completely enclose the space, rather than bathrooms with tiny cubicles.

4. Color

As gray continues to invade every aspect of our home, replacing beige as the go-to color, darker hues are starting to make an impact. "Shades of charcoal are finding their way back into our kitchens with a mix of whites and black giving them a sophisticated and refined feel and look," according to Imagineer Remodeling.

For bathrooms, gray is also a growing trend, according to Huffington Post. And all those white tiles on the wall? They may soon be replaced by sleek black.

5. The Sink

If youre remodeling and your kitchen is more than a few years old, youre probably due for a new sink. Those giant two-bowl sinks are on their way out, said Houzz. "Deep, single-bowl sinks are the current trend in kitchen sinks." This >

6. The Healthy Home

According to design-build remodeling firm Neil Kelly Company, remodeling for health reasons is the next frontier. "Remodelers have a critical role to play in helping people make changeslarge and smallto improve their home environments," they said. "Whether its non-offgassing finishes, no-formaldehyde cabinets, or better air filtration systems, homeowners realize a benefit to the family in creating a healthy living space. Take this notion one step or flush further and youll discover Kohlers SanSouci Touchless Toilet. Thats right, to flush this water closet you just wave your hand over the toilet no touching required."

7. Heavy Metal

The metal accessory trend is apparently going nowhere, and its largely focused on one particular shade. "Shades and tones of copper are in the mix," says Neil Kelly Design Companys Heidi Hawk. "For 2015, it has moved from accessories to lighting, sinks, and even countertops."

8. Accent Walls

Yes, theyre back But dont go searching for a sea sponge. Todays accent walls are taking on a natural element in a different way. "Inside and out, homeowners are choosing textures and natural wood accents for walls," said Willamette Living. "Reclaimed and vintage barnwood adds warmth. Chalkboard and faux finishes can be used in any room, from kitchen to office to bedroom."

9. Floor It

Hardwood continues to be the leading trend in floors. However, its engineered hardwood that is showing up as a strong trend for 2015, said HGTV.

For bathrooms, Houzz says to expect an uptick in feature floors. "Statement-making floor tiles proved popular in 2014, and this striking look doesnt appear to be leaving in a hurry," they said. "They are stunning and provide a great design opportunity when working with challenging bathrooms that have no clear walls for a feature wall."


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How America Got Its First Christmas Tree

Christmas trees now sparkle in millions of homes, but did you ever wonder how the tradition began? No doubt there are several stories regarding the start of this custom, and heres one Id like to pass along.

"Its now been more than 150 years since Professor Charles Minnigerode decorated Williamsburgs first Christmas tree," says Robert C. Wilburn, president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

"A German native, the College of William and Mary professor brought the festive tradition with him to the United States. When Nathaniel Beverley Tucker invited Professor Minnigerode to celebrate the holiday season at the St. George Tucker House, he trimmed a tree with candles and fancy paper decoration as a present for Tuckers children."

Beverley Randolph Tucker, a descendant, says that "regular sized candles were cut down and fastened on the tree, nuts were gilded, and other ornaments made. Presents were probably not distributed at this time, but there were songs, games, and refreshments." Tales of the Tuckers, 1942.

From that humble beginning and likely similar celebrations with other German immigrants, evolved what is now an American tradition observed in millions of homes.

As to the St. George Tucker house, it was donated to Williamsburg in 1993 after more than 200 years of family ownership. Used now as a donor hospitality center, the home is one of the most unusual examples of original colonial architecture to be found.

St. George Tucker was born in Bermuda and came to the colonies to study law at William and Mary under George Wythe, whom he later succeeded. He was a member of the collegiate Flat Hat Society -- a fraternity that evolved into what we today know as Phi Beta Kappa.

In 1788, Tucker bought three lots on the green in Williamsburg near the governors palace. This was once the site of the first theater in America Levingstones as well a small house. Tucker then built a home on the property which was expanded, wing after wing, until he decided to try something different: the house was pushed outward with the result that a visitor now finds parlors that have windows looking over the Williamsburg green as well as windows which look into the homes central hallway.

Such expansion was a necessity because Tucker had nine children and five stepchildren from two wives. While not all lived to adulthood, a family dinner could include Tucker as well as three children who served in the Congress at the same time: John Randolph a stepson, Beverley Tucker, and Henry St. George Tucker. His brother, Charles Tucker, a physician, was appointed Treasurer of the United States by Jefferson and served from 1801 to 1828.

"When he was in his early twenties," writes Beverly Randolph Tucker, "he happened to be in Richmond during the meeting of the Assembly at St. Johns Church and to have been sitting in the gallery when Patrick Henry made his famous Give me Liberty or Give me Death speech and immediately afterward St. George Tucker wrote what we know of the speech today."

When the Revolution began, the British seized the Williamsburg magazine to deprive the colonialists of ammunition and powder. Believing that fair is fair, Tucker sailed to Bermuda, "liberated" the British magazine, and brought tons of ammo back to the colonialists.

After the revolution, Tucker taught at William and Mary, became a judge, and 1803 published an Americanized edition of Blackstones Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws, of the Federal Government of the United States, and of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This five-volume set is one of the foundations of our legal system and today is still in print.

Tucker held a number of opinions which are at the core of American law and custom.

On >

Tucker was also a strong believer in the concept of a free press.

"Liberty of speech and of discussion in all speculative matters, consists in the absolute and uncontrollable right of speaking, writing, and publishing, our opinions concerning any subject, whether >

Perhaps most remarkably, in a state and a society where the ownership of slaves was equated with wealth and status, Tucker wrote "A Dissertation on Slavery: With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of It in the State of Virginia."

"Whilst America hath been the land of promise to Europeans," he wrote in 1796, more than 60 years before the Civil War, "it hath been the vale of death to millions of the wretched sons of Africa. The genial light of liberty, which hath shone with unrivalled lustre on the former, hath yielded no comfort to the latter...."

Tucker died in 1828, and it was his son, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, also a judge and professor of law at William and Mary, who hosted the famous tree in 1842.

No doubt if Mr. Tucker were with us today he would extend to one and all the very best wishes for this holiday season and the coming New Year.

Also See:

  • How To Recycle Your Christmas Tree
  • Christmas Tree Care: Keeping Your Home Safe, and Your Tree Healthy
  • Christmas Tree Safety Tips

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Save: 3 Hot High-Value Social Media Websites

I dont want to add to your December overload, but heres 3 amazing high-value social media websites to SAVE until you can shift into high gear for 2015.

In December, everything is wildly accelerated and work can lose its focus. Year ends, deals to finalize, holiday celebrations, family responsibilities, and maybe even a vacationall packed into an already high-pressure work-life schedule.

Then, on December 26, most professionals shift gears to think about 2015challenges, intentions, and goals, financial and otherwise.

There is little value in digging into the wealth of social media savvy, context, and techniques presented on the 3 high-value sites profiled in this article if youre distracted by the seasons deadlines and not sure what your 2015 point is. SAVE this article, bookmark it, print it, or however you keep track of useful content. When you are ready to strategize about what can be achieved next year, keep what you discover on these 3 select websites and what you realize about the following 3 perspectives in mind:

How can you be different from your competition if you use the same websites, resources, techniques, etc.? The 3 high-value sites introduced here are not real estate specific. Because I understand your problems, challenges, and strengths, I know that their content and resources are definitely >

How do you reach beyond your comfort zone and that of the real estate industry to attract business and provide extreme excellence in service to clients? As a futurist and strategist, my role for clients is helping them see "the box" that limits thinking and to encourage them to break outside through exposure to ideas, challenges, and forward thinking from a wider range of sources and resources than their industry exposes them to.

Social media represents a powerful set of communication tools, but if you dont know exactly what you want to communicate and to whom, social media will just keep you busy, not productive.

3 Hot High-Value Social Media Websites:

These high-value sites deliver >

1. WORDTRACKER.COM- Wordtracker, a company with digital marketing services to sell, offers an intriguing blog and useful academy of courses to prove how much you need to know about KEYWORDS. What are yours?

2. NIEMANLAB.ORG - The Nieman Foundation is a Harvard University "online reporting enterprise focused on the future of news and innovation" and intent on helping figure out where news and journalism are headed. The 3 main publishing initiatives will provide you with fresh perspectives on journalism and digital media which you can >

  • Nieman Lab: The staff of reporters write daily about the most significant developments in journalism and digital media on a global scale;
  • Nieman Reports: The website and its print version represent a forum for journalisms leaders on issues like ethics, values, and innovation also >
  • Nieman Storyboard: Marketing and selling are types of storytelling that can be improved in the same ways that narrative journalism, another form of storytelling, can be. Tracking conversations between accomplished journalists will teach you how to use your vision and words to help clients expand their horizons and achieve goals through real estate.

3. ESOMAR.ORG- ESOMAR describes itself as "the essential organisation for encouraging, advancing and elevating market research worldwide." ESOMAR is the European Society for Opinion and Market Research, the world association for market, social and opinion researchers. Currently, with more than 4900 members in over 130 countries, ESOMARs global membership brings together professionals in market and opinion research, marketing, advertising, business, public affairs, and media from around the world.

Even for non-members, the site offers articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, news, resources...a wealth of insight, fresh thinking, and hot news on market research with a global perspective that >

Heres a small sample:

  • TTIP: What is it and why should I care?- "...TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and is supposed to become the biggest free trade agreement ever made: the EU and US together form 50 of the worldwide GDP."
  • The Future Has Arrived5 New Realities for Researchers - "...With new tech companies launching online survey tools and brands conducting DIY research, theres a danger that traditional market research could be left behind. If the industry is to survive and thrive, then its time to face the facts. FACT NO. 1: Consumers call the shots"

Once you consciously move your thinking outside the box of past experience and learned responses, youll be amazed at how smart you are. Inspiration and innovation, the much touted 21st-Century drivers are the natural product of this journey beyond your comfort zonereal estate.

Do your clients and competitors use these social media sites and others like them for their research? Are they one step ahead of you as a result?

Lets make 2015 the year things really happen

Onward amp; UpwardThe directions that reallymatter


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There Are Some Things A Homeowners Association Wont - Cant - Tell Its Members

I dont know about the rest of the country, but in this state it seems quite common for a homeowner association HOA to be involved in litigation. Sometimes the beef is with the developer, sometimes with a contractor, and occasionally there may be a contentious dispute between the HOA and some of the individual members. One of the unfortunate consequences of such litigation is that it can hinder sales within the development.

Suppose you are the buyer, or the buyers lender, and you are put on notice -- as disclosure laws would require -- that the HOA is involved in a lawsuit. Now that in itself is not going to prevent the sale from going through. "Hey," you may think, "this is California. Everyones involved in a lawsuit." Still, prudence will dictate that you find out something about the details of the suit. Is it one of those frivolous things? Or does it indicate that something really serious is at stake? Does it appear that the association is going to have to levy some heavy assessments to cover the costs of the suit? Will there be insurance coverage? Etc.

Heres where things get sticky. If you go to the HOA or the management company for information, in most cases they wont give you any. After all, you are not yet a member, and they have no duty toward you. Suppose then you try this tack: you ask the seller for further information. After all, the seller is an association member, so they will have to tell him, and then he can tell you. Right? Wrong.

In most if not all cases, an association will not share information with individual members regarding the details, costs, strategies, or prognoses of any lawsuit with which the HOA is involved. This is because such information is covered by the confidentiality rules known as "attorney-client privilege", and it is the association, not the individual members, who is the client in these cases.

The issue is well illustrated in a case which arose in our own Orange County backyard, and which was decided by a California Court of Appeal Smith v. Laguna Sur Villas Community Association Fourth Appellate District, April 3, 2000.

In 1990 the Laguna Niguel HOA undertook litigation against the developer for alleged construction defects. As can happen in these situations, costs began to mount and it was necessary to levy special assessments to cover the expenses. Not surprisingly, some of the homeowners balked.

The dissenting homeowners were not allowed to review the legal bills or attorney work product associated with the suit. The refusal was based on the claim that this information was covered by attorney-client privilege, and that it was the association, not the individual members, which was the client. The officers of the association were entitled to the information, but they were bound by their duties again, to the association, not the individual members not to reveal what they knew.

To some this might have an Alice in Wonderland ring to it, but, as a matter of fact, the HOA position prevailed. The Orange County Superior Court denied the unit owners request to inspect the legal bills and the work that had been produced, and the Court of Appeal upheld that decision. Among other things, the Court of Appeal noted how difficult it would be for the Board of Directors and/or their attorneys to conduct their case if "privileged information is placed in the hands of hundreds of homeowners who may not all have the same goals in mind."

So what if a buyer who is trying to obtain information about an associations litigation? You certainly may be able to get whatever is a matter of public record; but dont expect much more.

Bob Hunt is a director of the California Association of Realtors. He is the author of Real Estate the Ethical Way.


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5 Home Projects Only a Professional Should Do

Its easy for homeowners to get caught up in the world of Pinterest and do-it-yourself blogs. While unique, custom projects can be a great way to personalize or spruce up your home, some projects are better left to professional contractors. Next time a friend or client has a brilliant idea to attempt one of these projects on their own, let them know why some things are best when left in the hands of pros.

1. Tree Removal

Whether its cutting down an overgrown tree or digging up a giant stump, this project can be an accident waiting to happen, especially if the tree is close to your house. Working from a height of 10 or 15 feet with large power tools can be dangerous enough, but add the factor of falling branches, and the risk of injury or damage to your car, house, or telephone lines increases even more. Removing a stump can be risky, too, as roots growing close to water or electrical pipes can cause serious damage as they are pulled up or moved.

2. Electrical and Plumbing Work

Not only can messing up electrical work in your home create much more serious issues, you also generally need a permit and inspection to do this kind of work. Bigger plumbing problems and projects like installing a shower or sink should only be attempted by professionals. Incorrect installation or repair can lead to damaged pipes or waterlogged walls, along with other expensive issues.

3. Pool Repair and Installation

Both above and in-ground pools are difficult to repair without special tools and products. While simple projects around the pool are fine to do yourself, repairing cracks in the foundation or remodeling your pool is something that a professional is better equipped for.

The same goes for pool installation. You may think you are saving a lot of money by installing a swimming pool by yourself, but as PoolProducts.com cautions, installing a vinyl or fiberglass pool is a very big job. A task of this magnitude requires some serious homework before you decide to it take on, plus you may have to rent or buy large construction equipment, or even hire help to do the job right. Measurements must be precise, permits and inspections must be passed, and you must consider how the ground and concrete will settle and shift over time.

4. Removing a Wall

It may seem like a good idea to knock down a small wall in your house to open up the kitchen or create a bigger living room, but it isnt as easy as it may appear. If the wall is load-bearing or supports any part of the house, or if it holds electrical or plumbing, you could cause serious damage to the structure of your home.

Popular Mechanics recommends consulting with a building engineer before attempting to knock down a wall. A building engineer can give you advice on the best way to remove the wall and let you know if any special permits are needed.

5. Flooring

Homeowners might want to call a professional if they plan to rip up carpet or lay new tile. You might not know whats underneath your carpet and if the subfloor is damaged or rotten, you could wind up spending thousands in extra costs just to repair it. Laying tile is another delicate and very precise projectif the tiles arent cut perfectly, laid completely straight, or if one of them cracks, you may have to start all over. If youre not experienced in flooring, it may be best to leave it to a flooring expert.


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Seven Ways To Rock Your Hanukkah Party

Its Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Dedication, the time when friends and family come together to rejoice, celebrate, and chow down on potato pancakes. If youre attending a Hanukkah party this year, you might be tempted to bring a few traditional dreidels yawn or a plate of >

1. Bring along a package of Hebrew alphabet cookie cutters and youll be a hit with the little ones. Make your own Kosher cookie mix ahead of time and cookie decorating stuff and youll make fans out of the parents too. Or, you could make it easier on yourself and bring a pre-packaged Hanukkah cookie kit.

2. Update and upgrade your potato latke. You can Take it up a notch with butternut squash latkes with sriracha aioli, ditch the frying pan and make these potato and zucchini latke waffles, or try a gluten-free version.

If you do make the traditional potato pancake, make extraslots of them, so you can eat a grilled cheese sandwich on latkes the next day.

3. Yes, its the Menorasaurus Rex from The Vanilla Studio. And if dinosaurs dont do it for you, maybe you prefer elephants. Or turtles.

See more awesome options here.

4. Inject some cool into your dreidel. The aforementioned dreidel is fun to play withfor a few minutes. Extend the wonder, and the play time, with the truly inspired Dr. Dreidel by artist Hannah Rothstein. "All four sides of the wooden dreidel include unique laser-etched illustrations of Dr. Dre that coincide with the Hebrew letters," said Mashable. "That includes a happy, thumbs-up Dre for gimmel, a shruggie Dre for hay, a dead-pan Dre for nun and a depressed Dre for shin."

5. One word: karaoke. It wouldnt be Hanukkah without the now->

If youre looking for more opportunities for a Hanukkah sing-along, check this out.

6. Dress up your body. Bring some festive fun to your get-together with Hanukkah temporary tattoos in gold and silver metallic. Our advice? Get a couple of packages so you dont have to fight over who gets to wear the "Light Joy Latkes" tattoo.

Its worth noting that "real" tattoos are a controversial topic; they are banned by the Torah, however many reformed Jews continue to challenge this view, especially as it >

7. Braid it, colorfully. Really want to make an impression? Bake and bring this rainbow challah. There are four hours of prep time involved here, so you have to want it BAD.


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The Three Most Important Responsibilities Buyers Have

The American dream of owning a home is something everyone should have if they want it. You should be able to live where you want and enjoy the features of your environment that help you >

You can own a pet, build a treehouse, paint the walls your favorite color, and play music and videos as loud as you like without disturbing your neighbors. Thats the essence of the dream -- independence.

For most first-time buyers, its better to accept that for dreams to come true, you have to do the groundwork. Yes, you will be far more independent than you would as a renter, but you will still have some very real responsibilities to make homeownership work. Here are the top three responsibilities youll have as a homeowner.

Financial responsibilities

You owe your lender timely payments. Paying on time helps you build your credit. With great credit, you can take on more projects such as remodeling, or youll be able to buy furniture, cars or other things you want with lower interest on your payments.

Your debts should never be more than 40 percent of your income. If you get overextended, youll have problems meeting the minimum payments. Instead, limit the amount of credit you actively use and pay off balances every month. Dont add new charges until youve paid off your balances.

You should also be in a position to save money, which you can do several ways. You can put money in your 401K, you can pay extra on your principal every month, or you can buy bonds or invest in the stock market, according to your tolerance for risk. You can put money in a safety deposit box or under the mattress as long as you are saving rather than overspending.

Common wisdom is to build six months of cash so you can continue to make your house payments if you lose your job or become ill. You need savings for emergencies, large expenses such as student debt, and retirement.

Neighborhood responsibilities

When you buy a home, your household becomes part of the neighborhood. You can influence whether or not the neighborhood prospers or declines simply by the way you treat your neighbors and your home. Its up to you to uphold or to set a higher standard for the neighborhood by keeping your lawn and trees trimmed, your home freshly painted, and toys and trash picked up from the entry.

This is the way you can protect your investment and those of your neighbors. Its one of the reasons many neighborhoods have homeowners associations -- to protect values by standardizing safety and maintenance for the community.

To get the benefits the HOA provides such as higher and consistent home values, you have to pay your dues and obey the covenants. You can volunteer to help or youll have to abide by the decisions others make. Before you buy a home in a HOA-managed community, read the covenants so youll know what youre getting into. If not being able to use certain exterior paint colors bothers you, then dont buy the home. Find something else.

Household responsibilities

You owe yourself and the other members of your household the best life you can possibly provide. Buying a new home is a great time to step up your life>

Your home should help you be who you want to be. Thats the purpose of shaping your environment. You have control over whether you entertain like Martha Stewart, paint in your studio like the next Picasso, or grow a lawn as sleek as the Augusta fairways.

Choose a home that meets as many needs as you can within your means. Separate bedrooms for the kids may be doable, but you may have to compromise on a Jack and Jill shared bath. This is an excellent opportunity to teach your older children about prioritizing, delayed gratification, give and take and winning and losing gracefully.

Make sure the area you select offers amenities that your building doesnt have. If you dont have a yard for the kids and the dog, make sure theres a park and playground nearby.

Think about how far and how long it will take you to get to shopping, work, and other friends and family. Think about how a long commute will affect your family. Would you rather be sitting in traffic or attending your sons ball game?

You and your spouse may want the prestige of living in a certain area, but if your house-payment is too high, youll introduce problems into the >

Buy the best home you can thats within your means and it will see you through years of comfort.


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Updated: Monday, December 22, 2014

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