Blog :: 2015

Walk It Off!

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Like many of you, we occasionally have holiday houseguests. After the pleasure/pain of menus, marketing, cooking and cleaning up, there are still hours in the day that need to be filled by something other than food consumption, preparation and cleanup.

A wonderful choice is a walk, or if you are young and/or ambitious, a more challenging hike. I live on one of the most beautiful roads in the Town of Northeast (Millerton) and I often simply forget to walk there.

When I go out walking with guests, I appreciate anew the beauty of my natural environment. If you live on such a road, take advantage of it. Perhaps you live on some beautiful land and rarely make time to walk just for pleasure. Just do it!

If you and your guests are ready for something more challenging, don’t forget our local public hiking trails such as Lion’s Head or the trails of Taconic State Park (Millerton). There are also less rigorous walking trails at the Sharon Audubon Center, Millerton/Amenia Rail Trail, and Bartholomew’s Cobble. It is amazing what some cold air and exercise will do to restore true holiday cheer!

 

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    Hometown for the Holidays

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    Where we shop, where we eat and have fun -- all of it makes a community home. In the Northwest Corner our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of and create a distinctive character for each of our towns. And the holiday season offers residents an opportunity to buy gifts crafted by our neighbors.

    For every $100 you spend doing your holiday shopping locally, $68 recirculates into the community, supporting local jobs and reinvestment initiatives.

    We have a large body of artisans offering unique jewelry, fine art, ceramics, pottery, holiday wreaths, fresh and dried flower arrangements, woven goods and more. Our farms and local food purveyors offer fresh meats, poultry, vegetables, baked goods, jams, cheeses herbs, milk, nuts, apple cider, and locally produced wine, beer and liquor.

    To discover where you can purchase local offerings, please check out Best Bets on our website as well as local newspapers and flyers.

     

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      Let it Snow!

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      Okay, I hear the groans. Let’s set thoughts of shovel-ing aside for the moment and focus on enjoying our great out doors. Remember that many people travel from afar to vacation here!

      If you have the right outdoor prep routine, you’ll be able to thoroughly enjoy hiking on our beautiful land trails, skating over our pristine iced lakes, or soaring down our many ski slopes, cross or downhill.

      Here are my favorite tips:

      First, moisturizer holds body heat. Glob it on right after shower/bath.

      Next, make sure you have non-cotton socks and that you don’t walk around in them before booting up. Socks on immediately followed by boot. Keeps your tootsies warm.

      Make sure your scarf allows your breath to escape or you’ll get chapped cheeks and lips.

      Layer up and you’re good to go.

      We live in a gorgeous spot - get out and enjoy it!

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        Preparing for Winter

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        A beautiful colorful fall is almost at its end. The windy swirl of dry leaves and the annual fall cleanup has provided considerable focus in making our homes welcoming and safe for the wintery months ahead.

        Homeowners hardly need reminding of the ritual to mulch the roses and shrubs, trimming of broken branches, and removing the inevitable debris from the gutters. Don’t overlook the need to have chimneys cleaned as our fireplaces, wood stoves and furnaces do require attention too.

        These reminders may be more relevant for new homeowners but equally important for all. With chores accomplished, we trust you will be able to hunker down with a good book, take in some of the amazing arts and theater offerings, and plan for the holidays to come.

        If you are in the market to purchase a new residence or a weekend home, now is a very good time to be searching. If properties are appealing now, visualize how lovely the setting will be come spring. We welcome you to our office for a friendly chat and perhaps view current real estate opportunities.

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          Gratitude is the Attitude

          Thanksgiving is here again and with it the pressure to have or attend a picture perfect Norman Rockwell feast.

          Truth is, there are many ways to celebrate and express your gratitude that don’t match our childhood visions. Some of my friends work at a food pantry, others host a dinner for all of their single friends or those who can't be with family.

          Perhaps take the “holiday” to renew yourself at a spa. Whatever you do, remember that it’s about being grateful for the the things you have - not about regretting what you don’t, and not about who made the best stuffing.

          Happy Thanksgiving!

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            Grow Your Own Privacy Screen

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            Planting a privacy screen can serve several purposes and add value to your property. A living fence provides privacy from street traffic and neighbors; acts as a windbreak, and works to reduce snow drifts.

            If you are thinking of selling your home, buyers look to find properties with limited traffic noise and a degree of privacy from neighbors. Privacy screens help to achieve both effects. University of Tennessee Ag Extension Service says two or three rows of trees and shrubs can cut down noise by more than seven decibels. The ideal noise barrier hedge is dense and tall enough that you can't easily see through or over it. The design should incorporate an over story of tall trees, an understory of shrubs, and added ground cover. Here in the Northwest Corner, we have a wide variety of nurseries that also offer landscape consulting. A professional will help you choose the proper trees and shrubs, saving time and additional expense.

            Beyond the practical reasons for creating a privacy screen, they offer the added bonus of enhancing the beauty and privacy of your outdoor space.

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              The Leaves...

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              Yesterday while raking leaves for several hours, I had lots of time to ponder my dysfunction concerning fall cleanup. Every year the unmanageability of my leaves comes as a complete surprise to me. You would think that after 8 years of living in a place, I would have an annual chore like leaf management down to a fine art. But NOOOOOO, it comes as a new and mystifying experience every year. It's simply denial.

              Because we live just outside the village, there is no leaf pickup. Instead, I have to ask someone to come and get my leaves. That's the crux of the matter: I am embarrassed to ask someone to vacuum up my leaves in the country. It just feels unnatural to me: like getting a dog, and then asking someone else to walk it. Don't get me wrong, I know how to ask for help and happily do so to have mown grass and plowed snow, but vacuumed leaves ... really?

               

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                Looking for Kitchen Ideas?

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                Have you been thinking about renovating your kitchen? Or do you just need a few fresh ideas?

                Come to the 13th Annual Kitchen Tour on Saturday, November 7, 2015 from 10am–4pm (rain or shine) to benefit the musical theatre program at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.

                This year’s tour of eight homes in Sharon, Lakeville, Salisbury, Falls Village and Canaan, CT features kitchens with many different renovating and decorating ideas.

                Information about each kitchen is provided, including designers, builders, and materials — a handy reference for later use. Enjoy nibbles at each house, generously donated by local restaurants and caterers, meet a cookbook author, watch a cooking demonstration, and try your luck at door prizes!

                Tickets ($40 each) may be purchased online at HMTS.org or at the Salisbury, Sharon, and Kent pharmacies through the day of the tour.

                Best & Cavallaro Real Estate has been a proud sponsor of the HMTS Kitchen Tour since its inception.

                 

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                  Small Towns = Happy Brains?

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                  Dr. Edward Hallowell is an adult psychiatrist, best-selling author and the founder of a center for cognitive and emotional health. (Google him for a list of titles.) He summered in Norfolk for years with his family.

                  I remember a talk he delivered one summer evening on the health of the human brain. He emphasized the importance of people connecting to family, friends, work, school, nature and animals as being crucial to brain stimulation and thus to emotional health. Apparently, when we encounter a familiar face, even in passing, our brain fires off a ton of neurons, which is good for the brain and in turn releases internal reactions that make us feel happier. Or at least better. Or maybe not grumpy.

                  Anyway, he claimed that small towns are the healthiest places to reside because we encounter familiar faces on a regular basis. An involved conversation isn’t required, just a simple nod or quick “hi” will suffice. Something to think about on your next trip to the post office, grocery store or coffee shop.

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                    Floor Plans

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                    While photographs are essential in describing a property, there is nothing like a floor plan to enable potential buyers to analyze the flow and functionality of a house. Unless you build a house, chances are that you do not have floor plans. Especially for a higher priced property, consider hiring an architect or designer for an hourly fee, to measure the house and draw a floor plan to scale.

                    Having had a previous career as an interior designer, I know firsthand the advantages, even the necessity, of working with a floor plan. The floor plan can help a potential buyer visualize where furniture or even where a potential addition to the existing house might go.

                    The floor plan is a useful tool to share with contractors when having preliminary discussions about proposed changes. Con-tractors are accustomed to working from scaled drawings, which can expedite any required work estimates. If buyers are contemplating changes or an addition, they can share the plan with their own architect, who can use it to more quickly to come up with sketches.

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                      Around We Might Not Be Going

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                      Driving from Salisbury to Torrington, I wonder as I enter the Goshen roundabout at Routes 4 and 63 whether I'm going to exit intact. Entering traffic appears to be a combination of drivers executing a desperate act of darting into the unknown with fluffed courage or bullying through with a hope and a prayer.

                      Years ago I was stuck in my first roundabout for what seemed like twenty minutes with a chorus of horns applauding my lack of circle skills. So in the interest of keeping the traffic flowing in Goshen I thought I'd share (inexpert) tips!

                      When you approach the roundabout, please hesitate slightly as you check to see if there is traffic coming from your left. If the left is clear, enter and exit on your chosen route (using your indicator!) Stop if there is traffic to your immediate left but please do not stop while in the circle to allow the vehicle to your right to go first. They are waiting for you.

                      Happy (and safe) driving!

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                        Fall Festival in Salisbury, CT

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                        While the hills are turning to shades of crimson and golden hues, Salisbury village turns its attention to the annual Fall Festival Weekend on Oct. 9-11, 2015 (salisburyfallfestival.org).

                        Delightful scarecrows adorn many doorways; always a keen competition for the best, funniest, most original in various categories. Stroll along the street for a pleasant visit and enjoy the fun.

                        Memorable events like blueberry pancakes from breakfast time through lunch at St. John's, or hot dogs on the green. A quilt show, tag sales, home made goodies, SVNA providing healthy apples, and the venerable Salisbury Association Historical Society open all day with a historic photographic exhibit and the recently installed cannon from the Revolutionary War.

                        The Housatonic Valley Regional High School Robotics Team will feature a bake sale and demonstration of student-built robots. Check the Fall Festival website (salisburyfallfestival.org) for times and locations.

                        This is small town America at its best, enjoying friends and neighbors in an annual celebration unique to northwestern Connecticut. This is a great time to buy the home of your dreams; we will welcome you to our office, anytime!

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                          Going On a Trip? House Check!

                          You have your passport, your luggage organized, your plug adapters, your tickets. You have notified your credit card companies, your bank and your cell phone provider that you will be travelling. What about your house?

                          One very IMPORTANT and simple thing to do is to turn off your water, especially in winter. Turning off the water behind the washer/dryer is wise to do any time you leave the house for a few days or more. One of my clients had an old washer hose give out when they were gone and do serious water damage to their home. 

                          If you have an alarm, set it. If not, at least some lights on timers are a good idea. Stop mail delivery if you will be gone a long time. For watering houseplants, I saw a great idea recently. Fill an empty wine bottle with water (drink the wine first – it will make this more fun), put a cork in it and make a hole in the cork using a nail. Then turn it upside down in the plant and it will keep your plant moist for a week!

                          Now go have a great worry-free trip!

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                            Dirty Windows May Keep Buyers Away

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                            One small but crucial step in preparing a home for sale is checking your home’s windows. No matter how clean your house is, dirty windows can make any space feel dingy which detracts from your home’s best attributes and turns off buyers - even before they walk through the door. Clean windows are most important in the fall and summer when the light is brightest and the difference between clean and not clean is dramatic. 

                            If you tackle the project yourself, avoid cleaning windows on a hot, sunny day when everything dries faster and streaks. Mix up a solution of warm water with a squirt of dish soap - just a drop or two per gallon of water. 

                            For grimy windows, add vinegar or ammonia to the solution. If your windows are exceptionally grimy, vinegar will cut through the grease and grime. Another suggestion is to use an automotive glass cleaner – these products get high marks from window washers.

                            Too many windows to tackle yourself? Call a professional.

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                              Heritage Walks This Fall

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                              The Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area is again sponsoring Heritage Walks on three fall weekends: September 19-20, September 26-27, and October 3-4. It's a wonderful opportunity to explore some of the wonders of our extended area from Kent, CT to Lanesborough, MA. There are detailed brochures available in all Heritage area towns.

                              Historian, naturalists and other experts will be available at each site to provide information as one explores the many locations. There are Appalachian Trail walks in several areas, Music Mountain with piano demonstration, a bicycle tour beginning in Great Barrington, and in Lenox, you can tour the Church On The Hill Cemetery with its fascinating history of Revolutionary War heroes and other notable characters.

                              Look for a brochure in your town hall, historical society, library or other public location; better yet, stop in at our Best & Cavallaro Real Estate office (across from Salisbury Town Hall) for your brochure. The Heritage Area has planned an extraordinary variety of programs at some absolutely marvelous sites--a very worthwhile time of learning and exploring for all ages.

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                                Staying Fit...At Hotchkiss!

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                                Living in Salisbury and Sharon, CT, we are incredibly fortunate to have the use of The Hotchkiss School Athletic Facilities for a number of activities and at a nominal cost.

                                The Hotchkiss Golf Course - this 9-hole course, ranked 10th in Goldweek Magazine’s “Best Places You Can Play” in 2015, is open to the public for daily play and yearly memberships. 

                                The Hixon Pool - located in the Mars Athletic Center, the 10-lane pool is open for Salisbury and Sharon Town Recreation swim times. For information, go to the Town of Salisbury website. Sharon residents may call the Recreation Director at 860-364-1400. Programs include an AquaLogix class (water work-out for men and women of all fitness levels with equipment provided) and an adult lap swim program.

                                Indoor Track - open to the public several mornings per week for walking and jogging - check the schedule on the town website.

                                Ice skating - public skating is available on a regularly scheduled basis – the schedule can be found on the Town of Salisbury website.

                                So grab your bathing suit, walking shoes, golf clubs, and ice skates – no excuses!

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                                  Signs Sell!

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                                  It is common knowledge that the internet has become the prime medium for advertising and searching for real estate. There is no denying the effectiveness of this tool.

                                  However, the real estate search is ultimately personal and local. This leads us back to tried and true methods such as signage. There is an old adage in real estate that “signs sell houses.” I occasionally find that some sellers resist placing “For Sale” signs on their property. In spite of concerns about privacy, I think that signs are very effective. Very often, neighbors or family and friends of neighbors are potential buyers. They know the neighborhood and, in many cases, the property that is for sale. Also, people new to the area often call about a property prompted by a sign.

                                  According to the National Board of Realtors, 51% of buyers cite yard signs as a source for their property search. I have personally had such inquiries lead to sales. In this age of virtual experience, it is nice to know that people still drive around in real time, looking at property.

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                                    Smart Homes

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                                    Alarm systems, thermostats, and leak prevention systems are a few technologies that can enhance the safety and efficiency of your home.

                                    New satellite wireless alarm systems are easy to install yourself and provide a more secure system than older hardwire systems. Alarm systems that rely on hardwire or telephone lines may be cut purposely or rendered useless by downed lines. The wireless alarm will detect & notify your cell phone, iPad, or computer of broken glass, temperature issues and sensor-related activity.

                                    Remote program thermostats are a proactive way to maximize the efficiency of your heat or AC use.

                                    The newer Leak Defense System is a terrific tool for remotely detecting burst pipes. The system is installed on the water intake valve for your home and will report unusual water flow in the event of a broken pipe in the home.

                                    Check with your insurance agent to see if the installation of any of these improvements will reduce your premium. They may even provide a discount on the purchase of the hardware for the new system.

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                                      More Than Books!

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                                      When summer events start winding down, there is still plenty to do at your local library!

                                      For example, the Norfolk Library offers a range of events such as concerts, wild life demonstrations, film documentary series, iPad classes, monthly art exhibits, field trips and more. Concerts range from classical Norfolk Chamber Festival performances to folksy Celtic Music to cool groups such as the Lascivious Biddies!

                                      A recent field trip to Manitoga this summer was terrific. Moth Night, a lecture on The Recluse Collector, and an author visit from Marc Tyler Nobelman are examples of special events threaded into the regular calendar. Fireside book groups in the Great Hall are well attended. The kids program on the Science of Super Heros was a blast this summer.

                                      Check out what’s next at their website (norfolklibrary.org) or visit your own town library’s website to discover how today’s libraries are offering far more than books.

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                                        Yay! It's Twin Lakes Day Again!

                                        I am often amazed to find that some people who have lived in the Salisbury area for a long time, have never been to Twin Lakes or the beautiful peninsula known as Isola Bella on the larger of the lakes.

                                        Here's your chance to feel like a kid again (or watch your kids enjoy being kids) and have some old-fashioned fun. On Saturday, August 8, 2015, the Twin Lakes Association will host its annual "Twin Lakes Day," open to the public, starting at 12:15 pm.

                                        There will be swimming races for all age groups, a balloon toss, races geared towards kids of all ages including bottle filling and ball toss, canoe races, kayak races and the fight to the finish war canoes for those over 16. The cardboard boat race is great fun if you are feeling creative with cardboard and duct tape.

                                        All of this will culminate in an awards ceremony at 6:30 pm followed by a SQUARE DANCE...yes, you heard me. It's the most fun and best exercise you can ever have for a nominal $10 fee. (Kids are free and love to square dance.) Grills will be available for all to use and charcoal is provided.

                                        For more information or to volunteer to help, contact Justin Meyer at jmgiants227@aol.com.

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