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Rip Van Winkle: The Musical at HVRHS on March 14-16, 2019!

Rip Van Winkle: The Musical marks the 16th annual musical for the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.

With 90% of the funding for the musical provided through ticket sales, sponsorships, and fundraising events, this year’s show features 40 students onstage, including students from Region One elementary schools, accompanied by a live orchestra, all helping to bring this new musical to life for four performances only, March 14-16 2019.

Created by Michael Berkeley and Ray Roderick with music and lyrics by Michael Berkeley, family, home, and what’s best about life -- tailor-made for the whole family in the great tradition of The Music ManRip Van Winkle brings new life to the Washington Irving tale through heartfelt, tuneful music, comedy, rousing dance, and a little gnomish mischief.

Tickets ($15 for adults, $10 for seniors/students/children) may be purchased at the door, online at HMTS.org, and at the Salisbury, Sharon, and Kent pharmacies.

Best & Cavallaro has been a proud sponsor of the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society since its inception sixteen years ago.

 

 

 

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    The Biggest Bang For Your Home Improvement Buck

    There are plenty of national statistics showing which home improvements are likely to add the most to the value of your house.  A study in Remodeling Magazine indicates that the list would include, in this order: insulation, a new front door, new garage doors, new siding, and new windows.

    However, in my opinion, this list varies greatly from region to region. Here in Litchfield, Dutchess, and Berkshire Counties, we have a large percentage of part-time residents, many of whom don’t have the time or interest in doing renovations after purchasing a home in the Tri-State area. For our market, newly-renovated top-quality kitchens and baths would be at the top of the list to bring the maximum sales price.   All of the other items mentioned above are also huge benefits to producing a sale, but if the kitchen and baths are dated or unattractive, you will probably be leaving money on the table.

    If you are considering some major home improvements, whether to enjoy or with the thought of eventually selling, we at Best & Cavallaro would be happy to meet with you and offer some advice.

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      Salmon with Wild Blueberries

      This recipe may sound a bit strange at first, but trust us, it’s melt in your mouth delicious, and totally perfect for any season. We suggest serving it alongside some golden roasted potatoes. 


      Ingredients: 

      Serves 6

      6 (8-ounce) fillets wild king salmon
       Sea salt, as needed
       Vegetable oil for baking sheet
      2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
      1 and a half cups white wine
      2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
      4 sprigs fresh thyme
      2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
      1 and a third cups blueberries
      4 tablespoons unsalted butter
      2 tablespoons honey
       Black pepper

      Directions: 

      1. Run your fingers over the salmon flesh and pull out any pinbones. Season fish generously with salt and let rest at room temperature while you prepare the sauce.

      2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large baking sheet.

      3. In a medium saucepan over low heat, simmer together shallots, wine, vinegar, thyme, cinnamon and a pinch of salt until most of the liquid has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes.
       
      4. Toss in blueberries, butter and honey; cook until berries soften and turn the sauce pink, 2 to 4 minutes.

      5. Place salmon on baking sheet. Spoon berry mixture over salmon and season with pepper. Bake until salmon is cooked to desired doneness, 8 to 10 minutes for medium-rare. Enjoy!

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        It's Cold Outside!

        Winter can be tough on everyone, including pets. Spring may be around the corner, but here are some tips offered by the ASPCA:

        -- Wipe paws, legs, and stomach when your dog comes in to protect him from ingesting salt, antifreeze and other chemicals. Pads may bleed from snow or encrusted ice; vaseline works well to soothe and protect.

        --Animals are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Noses, ears, and pads can quickly freeze, causing damage.

        --Never leave a pet alone in a locked vehicle. A car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold, just as it acts as an oven in summer.

        --Be wary of frozen bodies of water especially in March when there may be a partial thaw.

        -- Cats sometimes look for warmth under hoods of parked cars. Bang loudly on the hood before starting your engine to alert an unsuspecting feline.

        Animals get cabin fever, too, and maybe a little more quality time with your pet inside will make you both happier!

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          Curb Appeal Matters

          In selling your home, an attractive exterior – the house entry exterior, yard, driveway and walkway – matter. As agents, we have all had potential buyers who wouldn’t venture from the car because they found a property so lacking in curb appeal. Make the most of your home and property:

          • Clean up the front and back yards. Remove toys, rake leaves and do away with any dead shrubs and trees. Change a rusty mailbox or broken garden ornament.

          • Touch up the exterior. A fresh coat of paint or a power wash make an enormous difference in how a potential buyer views your home.

          • Fix fencing. A shabby fence gives the impression that the house has been neglected.

          • Landscape the front yard. Make sure leaves are raked, the grass is mowed, and gardens weeded. When the weather improves, plant flowers; adding a container garden to the front stoop or steps is a great way to greet potential owners.  A well-kept and pretty garden can be a real selling feature.

          • Replace burnt-out bulbs. Check outside lights to make sure that they work. And, while you’re replacing the bulbs, clean the lighting fixtures as well.

          • Wash the windows. Clean windows make for an inviting home (don’t forget windows in the garage or shed).

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            Bear Respect

            This story was told to me. Whether or not it’s true, it is certainly plausible. It’s about a bear that was roaming Salisbury village last summer.

            Some people heard the bear had been seen around the rear of LaBonne’s Market. They slowly drove their vehicle around the building—a man, a woman in the front, with a child and a dog in the rear. All windows were open.

            Bears are wild—synonym: unpredictable. They’re also fast and agile. They can outrun and out-climb any human easily. Their sense of smell is 100 times better than most dogs. From 20 feet away, the bear can be reaching inside your vehicle before you get one window rolled up. If the bear took a growling dog as a threat or smelled food, the consequences could’ve been grave. Fortunately, in this case,  nothing happened.

            But this serves as a good reminder to please observe wild animals from a distance.  They deserve our respect. One split-second encounter may mean severe harm to you and death for the animal.  It’s about protection—yours and theirs.

             

              

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              Salisbury CT Ski Jumps This Weekend!

              Sartre Hill in Salisbury, CT is home to the oldest ski jumping program in the U.S.A.  This weekend, Feb. 8-10, 2019, literally in our own backyard, you can enjoy jumping under the lights, target jumps, human dogsled races, a chili cook-off, meter jumps, the Salisbury Invitational Championships, the annual Snow Ball, and the United States Eastern Ski Jumping Championships.

              There are bonfires burning all three days, and food and beverages are available.

              The 93rd Annual  Salisbury Ski Jumps are a beloved Salisbury tradition. Jumpfest is hosted by SWSA (Salisbury Winter Sports Association), an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that has fostered the sport of ski jumping among all ages and generations.

              For more information and schedule details, please visit jumpfest.org.

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                Buying With an Eye Towards Resale

                When you are purchasing a home for your personal use, you should obviously look for a home that you love and one that has a layout and location that works for you and your family.   

                However, always keep in mind that you might want to sell it at some point in the future. Maybe you love old homes with charm and quirky character, but does the market prefer a more modern open floor plan? Or maybe you love an edgy contemporary, but Colonials are what most people want in your town.  For example, we have noticed that barn style homes with high ceilings sell well in the Salisbury, CT area and surrounding towns

                Talk to your realtor about what is popular in your area.  Are you buying in a price range that is easy to re-sell? Building something that is too specific for your personal needs —say a huge house that only has two bedrooms—can make it difficult for future resale. Call us at Best & Cavallaro Real Estate if you would like to explore this topic more thoroughly.

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                  Is It Time for a Septic Inspection?

                  If you haven’t had your septic inspected in the past three years, give your local sanitation company a call and they’ll be happy to come out and check on it.

                  Regular maintenance can save you thousands of dollars in repairs if an issue arises. Typically, an inspector will check the sludge levels to determine if the tank needs to be pumped, as well as the components that prevent wastewater and scum to be released in the drainage fields. These components protect the absorptive quality of the soil and prolong the life of the septic system.

                  Sanitation professionals will also give you maintenance tips on how to care for your septic. One easy tip to follow is to avoid as much water waste as possible. Efficient water use improves the operation of a septic system and reduces the risk of failure.

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                    Little Tips for Saving in the New Year

                    As many articles explain at the start of the new year, this is a good time to look at your budget and consider some instant gratification with immediate savings. Here are a few easy money-saving tips:

                    First, make sure to shop your electric rate. The website

                    www.energizect.com allows you to choose your supplier based on rates and also provide helpful energy saving tips. As of the start of the year, Eversource was charging 10.14 cents compared to other suppliers with rates as low as 7.99.  Cut your cable bill by subscribing to streaming services such as Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, Netflix, and HBO. If you subscribed to all of those services, the bill would be around $88. Cable starts at around $100. Remember that cutting cable doesn’t mean you lose basic TV; you’ll still receive your local channels.

                    Finally, check with your insurance agent about installing security cameras and smoke detectors; they could save you more than the cost of the equipment and installation.

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                      Radon Testing - Why Wait?

                      Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas found in the earth that causes an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the United States according to the American Cancer Society—only smoking causes more. 

                      Much of the Northeast is in a radon “hot zone.” It is estimated that 28% of tested homes in Berkshire and Litchfield County, 37% in Columbia County, and 39% in Dutchess County, have over the recommended maximum level of 4.0pCi/L that is considered dangerous to health. 

                      Radon can affect one house and not the one next door, and there are no warning symptoms of radon poisoning. The American Cancer Society suggests that ALL homes be tested for radon levels. If the reading is over 4.0pCi/L, contact a contractor who can fix the problem; the EPA website lists some. 

                      When you decide to sell your house, you’ll find out from the buyer’s inspection the amount of radon in your house and whether or not your family has been exposed over the years, so why wait?

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                        Winter Roof Tips

                        The key to preventing ice dams is simply to keep your attic and roof cold.  While frozen, they’re no more trouble than the icicles that hang down. But during the warmer parts of a winter day, water melting off the roof pools behind the ice then seeps back up under the shingles.

                        To keep your roof cold, follow these steps:

                        1. Close up attic bypasses. In the average home, about 1/3 of heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic, mostly from air leaks caused by unblocked walls, gaps in drywall, and cracks around light fixtures, pipes, and chimneys. A professional will pull back insulation and plug the leaks using foam, caulk and other methods.

                        2. Measure your attic insulation level. Check the depth of your attic insulation. Building codes require about 12-14”. Add more if you have less than 8”. Blown-in cellulose and fiberglass are best because they fill more tightly leaving fewer gaps. It’s usually worth hiring a professional for this job.

                        By stopping air leakage to mitigate ice dams, you’ll save energy and reduce both your heating and your air conditioning bills.

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                          Winter Prep Tips for Your Roof

                          The key to preventing ice dams is simply to keep your attic and roof cold.  While frozen, they’re no more trouble than the icicles that hang down. But during the warmer parts of a winter day, water melting off the roof pools behind the ice then seeps back up under the shingles.

                          To keep your roof cold, follow these steps:

                          1. Close up attic bypasses. In the average home, about one-third of heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic, mostly from air leaks caused by unblocked walls, gaps in drywall, and cracks around light fixtures, pipes, and chimneys. A professional will pull back insulation and plug the leaks using foam, caulk, and other methods.

                          2. Measure your attic insulation level. Check the depth of your attic insulation. Building codes require about 12-14”. Add more if you have less than 8”. Blown-in cellulose and fiberglass are best because they fill more tightly leaving fewer gaps. It’s usually worth hiring a professional for this job.

                          By stopping air leakage to mitigate ice dams, you’ll save energy and reduce both your heating and your air conditioning bills.

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                            Frost Advisory!

                            Winter is almost officially here and that means our weather apps will be showing us more of those little snowflake icons and sub-freezing temperatures.

                            I say let’s embrace the seasonal change and make a list of simple tasks that will ensure our preparedness for the white stuff, and create a cozy and more efficient home. Check your shovels, snow blowers, and scrapers. Get those driveway stakes in the ground early and mark your propane tank so it can be found under the snow! Fill the oil tank and get your wood delivered. Check your windows and doors for any gaps that may allow warm air to escape.

                            If you’re not naturally handy (like me), watch a YouTube video  - "How To Use a Caulk Gun" - it’s easier than you think. A fresh bead of silicone around leaky windows and improved weather stripping around a door can really make a difference. Call the pros to assist with the important tasks like servicing the furnace, cleaning the chimney and your gutters. Disconnect and store garden hoses and drain the water lines.

                            Then buy your ski passes, dig out your Yaktrax, and check the laces on your ice skates!

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                              Holidays in the Northwest Corner

                              December flies by so quickly for most of us, especially if you have little ones or are entertaining family from out of town for the holiday season. The Northwest Corner oers an abundance of activities to keep spirits high during the holidays.

                              Throughout the month, one can find holiday markets which feature local artisans, wreath-making workshops, musical events at our local theatres, tree lightings, and parades, along with botanical gardens illuminated for festivities such as Santa visits and much more. You can also visit your local library for special events including author lectures, story time, and holiday movies for children.

                              For more specific information about your town’s tree lighting and festivities, check out Compass (Lakeville Journal/Millerton News) for the most up-to-date listings and enjoy the season!

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                                Electronic Pest Control

                                What could sound better? Instead of trying to catch something already inside your home, why not try to deter it from entering in the first place? The challenge is finding a reliable product.  There are so many electronic “ultrasound” devices flooding the market that it’s hard to know which one, if any, works.      

                                There was a very funny headline from a September court case where the judge ruled against the manufacturer. “Judge cites pictures of mice resting on pest control device in ruling.” Apparently, the frequency of the device determines its effectiveness.

                                An exterminator recently explained to me that if you set the device at an incorrect frequency, you could be luring mice inside! It seems that there is a frequency targeted to each particular pest. Do your homework and research which frequency is needed to deter which pest, then Google to see which ultrasonic device provides that frequency. 

                                Avoid any device that claims it serves to deter all pests. Also handle with care, as the devices are delicate, and any jostling could impact preset frequencies.

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                                  Getting Ready for Winter

                                  As the beautiful fall season has apparently come to an end in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut and surrounds, it is the perfect time to prepare your house for winter. 

                                  Here are a few things you should have on your checklist:

                                  1) Order good, seasoned firewood.

                                  2) Have your gutters cleaned after the leaves have fallen.

                                  3) Have your chimney swept and inspected. It should be cleaned every one to three years depending on how many fires you have.

                                  4) Have your furnace serviced and filters changed.

                                  5) Rather than rake your leaves, use a mulching mower which is better for your lawn.

                                  6) Trim the branches of any large trees that might pose a danger to your home in a winter storm.

                                  Then sit back and enjoy the winter and snow!

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                                    Get To Know Your Assessor

                                    Your local town assessor determines the tax assessment on your home. This assessed value is used as the basis for calculating local government property taxes and school taxes you must pay.

                                    Check the assessor’s office hours and visit or call to understand the public information they have available—both online and in their office files. Here are links to a few assessor offices in the Northwest Corner: Salisbury CT, Sharon CT, Falls Village (Canaan) CT, Canaan (N. Canaan) CT, Cornwall CT, and Millerton (Town of Northeast), NY).

                                    You should make sure that the assessor has accurate up to date facts on your own property’s features, structures, land, and zoning. You may be overpaying for land or a patio you don’t own.

                                    If you feel your assessed property value is excessive, discuss adjusting the assessment and avoid going through the annual public grievance process. Assessors can also give you an idea of what is happening in the real estate market and provide you with recent sales figures.

                                    Most importantly, assessors can advise you on the availability of agricultural, forestry, veterans, seniors, and other exemptions that you might qualify to receive. These exemptions could lower your assessment and your tax bill every year. It’s worth a visit to get to know these experienced professionals.

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                                      Stinky Bugs

                                      Apparently, stink bugs don’t like the cold and will be happy to find a place to roost inside your home this fall. Supposedly, they don’t pose a risk to your health or damage your property, but they provide a good shock when you come upon them unexpectedly.  They look like miniature Klingon aliens from Star Trek.

                                      This bug was accidentally introduced into the United States from China or Japan, by hitching a ride as a stowaway in packing crates or on machinery.  They actually did not make their way to CT, NY, and the Northwest Corner until relatively recently.

                                      The recommendations to keep the bugs out of your house are the same as for general winter maintenance:     

                                          1) Sealing off little cracks around your home - but most of our homes are so old we could spend a lifetime caulking for little improvement!

                                          2) Definitely repair storm windows.

                                          3) Like almost every other bug in my woods, they like light, so turn off outside lights at night.

                                          4) Finally, make sure there isn’t standing or leaking water outside or in your basement.

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