Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's Eve

Today is New Year's Eve.  Typically this is a night of celebrating the passing of another year, and making resolutions for the new year.

And a lot of eating and drinking.

For several years we've had a late dinner with friends at a local restaurant that provided party hats, noise makers, mardi gras beads, and a free champagne toast at midnight.  Last year we went somewhere different that had a live band, buffet, and champagne toast at midnight.

This year, we just didn't feel like staying out that late.  So instead we're going to dinner around 6pm and will ring in the new year in the comfort of our flannel pajama pants, on the sofa, with the dogs, watching the New Year's Eve coverage on TV.  If we stay awake until midnight we'll go to bed shortly after.

Yeah, that's how we're gonna roll this year... like ballers.

However you choose to celebrate New Year's Eve, I hope you have a FUN and SAFE time!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas eve

Each year on Christmas eve I post this same video because I love Karen Carpenter and because the lyrics of this song seem especially appropriate for Christmas eve.  

So in keeping with my own little blog tradition, I wish you Merry Christmas, Darlings!

Greeting cards have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through
But I still have one wish to make, a special one for you.
Merry Christmas Darling.  We're apart that's true.
But I can dream and in my dreams, I'm Christmasing with you.
Holidays are joyful, there's always something new.
But ev'ryday's a holiday, when I'm near to you.
The lights on my tree, I wish you could see, I wish it ev'ry day.
Logs on the fire, fill me with desire to see you and to say.
That I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy New Year too.
I've just one wish on this Christmas eve, I wish I were with you.
The lights on my tree, I wish you could see, I wish it ev'ry day.
Logs on the fire, fill me with desire to see you and to say.
That I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy New Year too.
I've just one wish on this Christmas eve, I wish I were with you.

I wish I were with you

Friday, December 21, 2018

Its beginning to look a LOT like Christmas

I hope I don't jinx myself by saying this, but things related to Christmas seem to be going very smoothly.  Wed evening the last of the ordered gifts were delivered, just in time for my day off yesterday, so I spent the morning wrapping all of the family's gifts.
What a relief to no longer be anxiously awaiting their arrival.

Yesterday after I'd completed the wrapping another delivery came.  I was more than a little curious since I wasn't expecting any other items.  As it turns out, my thoughtful and generous friend Calvin sent me a beautiful glass ornament for our tree! 

Of course I immediately hung it on the tree.  You may remember that Calvin sent me 2 other ornaments before.  What a lovely surprise!  I'm truly honored to be a recipient of such thoughtfulness and generosity.  And I absolutely love that I'm reminded of dear ones like Calvin every year when I trim the tree.  Ornaments are truly the gifts that keep on giving!

I'm back at work today, but am off on Sat and will spend a good portion of the day baking my Reese's brownies, my Mounds brownies, a pear cake, and 2 pans of breakfast casserole to take with us.  Sat night I perform in my last Christmas Legends show, and then we'll leave bright and early Sun morning for several days in VA with the family.

We have our annual pizza and hippie roll lunch with Kerry & Hugh, Kelly, Lisa, Carl, and potentially a few others on Sun.  We're meeting Ron & James and Mike & Clark for dinner at the Taco House on Sun evening.  On Mon Spouse & I will go visit my cousin Nez and her husband Steve around lunch time, then the entire family is getting together at Spouse's sister's house on Christmas eve.  Christmas day dinner will be smaller with just some of the family, but with the addition of my aunt Mary.

I feel relaxed and happy this Christmas.  I hope you all do, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Holiday preparations

Well, its the week before Christmas and I'm happy to say that we're in pretty good shape.

All 125 holiday cards went out in last Friday's mail.  This year I used mostly coastal-themed cards with lovely beachy Christmas scenes.  Some had a lighthouse adorned with a wreath and garland, another had 3 decorated Christmas trees on the beach, another had a coastal home/barn/lighthouse decorated with lights, and other had a wreath adorned with ribbon, starfish, sand dollars, and sea shells.  Its a Coastal Christmas!

All gifts have been purchased.  We're still awaiting the arrival of some of the gifts, so the wrapping certainly isn't done yet, but at least we know everything is either here or is on its way.  Tomorrow I'm off so I'm going to wrap everything that's here.  The items currently en-route will be wrapped on Sat. I'll also do all the baking on Sat.

And I've already planned what I'm baking to take with us.  My initial plan was to bake cookies, but I've since decided against that.  First, cookies are labor-intensive.  Although we have 3 racks in our oven and can bake 3 trays simultaneously, you've still got to move the trays around so the bottom ones don't bake faster than the upper ones, then they've all got to be transferred to cooling racks, then once cooled, transferred to cookie tins.  Second, my sister-in-law always brings a huge platter of assorted homemade cookies, so mine would just be extra.

So instead of cookies, I've decided to bake brownies.  Specifically, I'm baking Mounds brownies and Reese's brownies.  For the Mounds brownies I'll take a box brownie mix and add chocolate chips and coconut.  For the Reese's brownies I'll add chocolate chips and peanut butter chips to a box brownie mix.  I can bake them in disposal foil pans which will transport easily and will save me lots of time over baking cookies.

I'm also going to bake a pair cake.  My recipe is also simple like the brownies and doesn't require lots of extra handling.  I'll start with a yellow box cake mix, pour 1/4 of the batter into the round pan, then place pair halves in the pan, then pour the balance of the batter in and bake.  Once out of the oven, I'll pour a combination of pair juice and St Germaine liqueur over the top to create a 'wet cake'.  Just before serving I'll dust the top with confectioner's sugar.

I'll also bake breakfast casseroles for Christmas morning.  They consist of hash brown potatoes, eggs, cheese, cooked maple sausage links, milk, and salt and pepper.  I bake these at home on Sat in ceramic baking pans, let them cool, then refrigerate.  On Christmas morning we'll warm them in the oven and enjoy.

I hear TV/radio commercials, see Facebook posts and hear actual people talking about how "stressful the holidays are" and I think to myself "they're really only as stressful as you allow them to be".  If you feel you must make 50 dozen homemade cookies, then I guess it could be stressful.  But YOU have the ability to make different decisions that can result in less or no stress during the holidays, like making brownies instead of cookies, or making bake-ahead food that just needs to be warmed up.  Mostly, being prepared and not waiting until the last minute are the best stress-reducers.

Its up to YOU.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Outside the box

Today is my last real estate settlement of 2018.  It will be a happy day as my young clients get the keys to their brand new home; a home they didn't have to rebuild from the inside out like their last home.  I anticipate lots of smiles and excitement at the settlement table.

These clients were "walk-ins".  That means they just showed up at the office without an appointment and asked to speak to an agent, who happened to be me that day.  That almost never happens.  With the plethora of real estate information (and misinformation) on the internet, most people begin their real estate search online and have a good idea what they can expect to get and pay.  But I sat down with these clients and talked about what they wanted, where they wanted to be, and discussed details of their situation.

But in my 8 years of being a full-time agent, this has only happened to me 3 times.  That's right; 3 times in 8 years.  Obviously you can't build a business on 3 walk-ins in 8 years.  Fortunately my real estate team has done a lot to get leads by having a robust online presence, using our own team website and having profiles on public real estate websites.  We also advertise in local publications too.

But this year I was also struck by how much more business happens outside the office, which is making me think outside the box on how I can capture more of it.

As an example, I sold a home to a couple in 2012.  The wife referred a colleague to me in 2014 and that couple also bought a home from.  That couple referred a colleague to me this year and that couple bought a home from me too.  This reminded me how important word-of-mouth referrals are.  I need to think of some new ways to encourage my past clients to refer their friends and neighbors to me.  After all, I've already proven my value and trustworthiness to them so they can vouch for me when they refer others.

Another example:  2 independent clients to whom I've sold homes struck up conversations with strangers at happy hours (that's common around here).  Both clients referred those strangers to me and both have since purchased homes.  This reminded me that 'not all business happens in the board room', sometimes it happens at happy hour.  I need to consider the potential of capturing new business at happy hours.  

When the market is good and business is easy to get we can get a bit lazy with prospecting.  But as the market slows down and interest rates go up I don't want my business/income to go down too.  I need to think outside the box for ways to capture business.

I tried going to a couple of local business networking mixers but didn't find them to be helpful.  It was mostly people like me who were trying to expand their reach to new customers.  And although those people had the potential to refer their clients to me, these events were heavy with realtors so I never saw any benefit from them.  I think they're more effective in larger metropolitan areas.

Do any of you guys have any ideas to share?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I received a lovely gift in the mail from Anne Marie!
How adorable is this Chihuahua bag?!?! And how sweet and thoughtful of Anne Marie to send it to me!!

I must admit, Marvin & Walter were a bit jealous.  I heard them talking in the other room (they didn't think I could hear them) saying "I thought WE were enough.  But now Daddy & Papa have OTHER Chihuahuas in the house."

So I made sure to tell them both how much we love them, that no Chihuahuas on a bag would change that, and gave them extra head scratches and belly rubs.  All seems to be right in the home again.

Monday, December 10, 2018


Last Wed Spouse & I spent the day in NYC.  My realtor association charters a bus every year on the 1st Wed in Dec so Realtors and others can spend the day in the city.  Many of us go to see a matinee, while others prefer shopping, looking at the department store windows dressed for Christmas, and site-seeing.  We try to do a bit of it all.  Our friend Joey and his husband Glenn went with us again this year too. The weather was in the upper 30s so it was cold but it wasn't windy so it was pleasant to be outside.

We started with a Christmasy photo in front of the giant balls.

Next we stopped in at Capital Grille and just beat the lunch rush.  Spouse had a rib-eye steak sandwich with caramelized onions and Havarti.  I had a lobster roll, and we both had yummy truffle fries.  Wow!

Next we headed toward the theatre, stopping in at a few stores along the way.  I admit it - I love to look inside those "I Love New York" stores at all the souvenirs and touristy crap!  I don't know why but I do.  Then we arrived at the Helen Hayes theatre.
And right next door was the famous Sardi's.

We all enjoyed Torch Song!  Its interesting because the play Torch Song was written in the early 80s, then made into a film in 1988 called Torch Song Trilogy.  Now the original play is back on Broadway.  I saw the film first so it was interesting to see how they condensed all of the locations in the film back into just a few locations in the play, like the original.
The Helen Hayes theatre is a smaller, intimate venue which we enjoyed a lot.  I'd purchased tickets online ahead of time so we were just a few rows from the stage.

After the show we walked over to Rockefeller Center to see the official tree.
While there Spouse & I posed for a photo with the tree in the background.  I posted it on Facebook and got many compliments on the photo, which I agree is one of the best of us.  I typically don't like photos of myself because my smiles don't look natural or my eyes are squinty.  But this photo turned out really well I think.

It was a very nice day in the Big Apple.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Happy birthday me!  Yes, today is my birthday.  Although I do have to work today, I had Wed off for our NYC day trip and I had yesterday off because Thurs is my regular day off, so I don't mind working today.

Tonight Spouse is taking me to dinner somewhere so you can believe I will enjoy a birthday cosmo or two.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

New York, New York!!

Today Spouse & I are in NYC for the day with our friend Joey.  

Our local realtor group charters a bus every year, giving us an easy opportunity to get in and out of the city.

Last year we saw the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.  This year I'm super-excited that we're going to see Torch Song!
This is based on one of my favorite films Torch Song Trilogy.  If you've never seen the film, find a way!  It was one of the earliest films portraying gay men with both tenderness and strength.  I'm hoping Spouse & Joey enjoy it too.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Whirlwind weekend

I had a whirlwind weekend for sure!

In anticipation of everything happening this past weekend, I took Sat off work.  Sat morning Spouse & I met Steven for breakfast, then went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for the food we'll serve at our tree trimming party.  Once we'd put away the food, I finished decorating the inside of the house.  I'd started the decorating last weekend but finished it on Sat. 

As Spouse began making the party food, I went on a Christmas home tour.  There were 9 local homes on the tour, including a couple homes I'd toured when they were for sale.  The tour was very well attended and several of the homes were quite lovely, all decked out in their Christmas regalia.

After the tour I helped Spouse clean up the kitchen a bit, and then we met Steven for dinner.  (Thad was out of town.)  After dinner I performed as Elton John in the Blue Moon's holiday Legends show.


Sun morning we met Steven & Thad for breakfast, then returned home where Spouse began warming the food he'd made the day before and I began setting the tables and getting the platters, bowls, and serving pieces out. Shortly before our friends began to arrive we plated the food and put the drinks out on the beverage table.  

Thanks to Spouse's cooking the day before and my planning an organization, we got everything set up with a little time to spare (let's take a selfie!) and with no yelling.  I consider this a definite "win".

Our friends arrived and we had drinks and conversation for a little while, then had dinner.  Spouse made meatballs in Italian gravy (tomato sauce), Italian sausage with peppers and onions, rolls, and a roasted vegetable pasta salad.

Then we migrated to the living room and began trimming the Christmas tree.  

Occasionally folks paused from the decorating to enjoy some sweets (brownies, chocolate chip cookies, anis pizzelles, and chocolate covered pretzels).

The tree went from this:

to this:
Yes, the tree isn't straight, and neither are we.  :-)

Everyone kept joking that we surely HAD to be nearing the end of the ornaments as the tree became colorful, but I assured them there were plenty MORE ornaments to fill in.  "I like just a little bit of green to show through" I told them.

I really love this tradition of having friends help decorate the tree.  Its a fun way to get together during the holiday season and it makes the tree look different every year.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Yesterday I joined several of my fellow realtors and some mortgage company employees to shop for needy children in our area. 

Our county is rather diverse in that there are large multi-million dollar beachfront homes only occupied a few weeks each summer, as well as tiny old trailer homes occupied year round by entire families.  There's both wealth and poverty here.

That's why our realtor association has a foundation that raises money in the fall so that these needy children can have clothing and toys for Christmas.  Yesterday's shopping trip was how those items are obtained.

We were given an information sheet with the childrens' names, ages, sizes, and preferred colors.  Additionally the sheet indicates whether or not the child needs a winter coat.  I shopped for 6 children yesterday and all of them needed coats and shoes.

Bargain shopping has been my hobby for years, having furnished apartments and homes on a budget many times, as well as finding mid-century modern furniture and decor as low as possible.  So stretching the budget for these children is right in my wheelhouse, and I really enjoy getting the closest match to what they want/need and spending the least possible.

While the childrens' stories are sad (some living with elderly grandparents because their parents are in prison) the shopping project is actually happy and fun because we're accomplishing our goal of helping these needy kids who aren't responsible for their situations.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving highlights

We had a great Thanksgiving meal and visit with the family.  Spouse made his famous dressing (with Granny Smith apples, Craisins, pecans, celery and onion) which was off the chain delicious.  We've somehow lost the origin of this much-loved recipe.  I believe I suggested the ingredients to Spouse for our 1st Thanksgiving together, but he says he'd been making this dressing before he met me.  I don't think either of us would bet our paychecks on it, but our ongoing claims make for a funny conversation every year.
Corn casserole in the oven

This year he also made a cannoli cheesecake which was also very good.  I made corn casserole which is also a family favorite.  I've taken it to work for our office Thanksgiving meal several times and everyone loves it so I'm not allowed to bring anything else.

When we arrived at Spouse's sister's house she explained that we'd be having an unexpected visitor for Thanksgiving this year; the cashier from CVS.  Spouse's sister frequents this store because its close to her home so she's familiar with many of the employees.  As she was checking out she'd engaged in a little casual small talk and asked the young woman if she was having Thanksgiving with family or friends.  She explained that her family is from Bangladesh and her parents have not adopted American holidays like Thanksgiving.  She further shared that her older sister (a physician) had a baby recently so their parents were fully consumed with their 1st grandchild.  She said she'd just go home when her shift ended at 6:00.  She's in college but her roommates were all away, spending Thanksgiving with their families.

Spouse's sister suggested that she stop over after her shift and pick up a plate to go, since we would have already finished our meal by 6pm.  The young woman was very appreciative and they exchanged phone numbers.  A few hours later the young woman called to say there'd been a schedule mix-up and her shift was ending at 2pm, not 6pm, and asked if she could come over then.  So, the invitation for a plate to go turned into another seat at the table!  
My plate

But it worked out fine.  The young woman was very nice.  She loved all of the food, but needed explanations as to the ingredients since she'd never eaten some of these dishes/combinations.  

I could see the wheels turning in her head as she struggled to figure out how these diverse people were related, so Spouse's sister introduced us all and explained the connections.  "This is my brother and this is his husband Mark, and this is Mark's aunt Mary, and this is my daughter Anna and this is her husband Randy and their daughter Gabby..."  Anna is white/Italian, Randy is African American, and their daughter is biracial.  Honestly I felt a little proud of our diverse family and everyone's willingness to have a stranger join us for Thanksgiving dinner.  

Later, after we'd all had desert and were relaxing and talking, our nephew Eric was talked into playing his guitar and singing.  Baby Gabby quickly joined in by blowing on a recorder, creating a clash of chords and chaos.  It was a very nice day!

We left on Fri around noon and got home about 2:30.  I put away the pots/pans we'd taken with us, ran the dishwasher, and then began decorating for Christmas.  First the wreaths were placed on the doors, then I removed all the photos from the mantel and put up the candles, garland, dried flowers and fruit.

Later that evening Spouse & I joined Steven & Thad for carol singing and the lighting of the Rehoboth Beach Christmas tree.  
Thad opted not to be in the selfie

It was really cold that night but the turn-out was big and we had fun.  Despite having lived here for nearly 12 years and having visited here prior, we'd never attended this tree lighting and carol singing event.  Then we had dinner at a nearby spot. 

Friday, November 23, 2018


In keeping with yesterday's day of thankfulness and gratitude, I thought I'd follow up with a post about positive attitude.

Dale Carnegie said "Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions; it is governed by our mental attitude".  I believe this to be true.  Your attitude is the biggest contributor to happiness AND your biggest tool against stress.

"Attitude is everything".

"Change your attitude and change your life".

"Its not about the hand you're dealt, but rather, they way you play it".

These may sound like cliches but they can really be helpful in making a better life.
What you're given versus what you make of it.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Today is Thanksgiving in America, a day where people try to be mindful and thankful for all they have, including a big turkey dinner.
For many people, Thanksgiving is a time for family members to come together.  More people travel for Thanksgiving than for Christmas.  But not everyone can spend Thanksgiving with their family.  Some are rejected by their family for being GLBTQ.  Some are not welcome in their family homes due to old family drama or arguments.  Some do not live close to their family and can't travel to be with them.  For all of these, Thanksgiving can be a lonely day.  

One year Spouse & I were aware that several of our friends had no plans for Thanksgiving so we asked them to join us and our family.  We ended up with 23 people for a sit-down meal.  We were a little concerned if we'd have enough food, but everyone brought something to add to what we'd prepared and we all had plenty to eat and a really great day together.

Others have adopted a Thanksgiving tradition called Friendsgiving where they intentionally seek out friends who have no plans and/or no family with which to spend Thanksgiving.  In this way they create a 'chosen family' with whom to spend the holiday.

Whatever your Thanksgiving plans, I wish you a day of thankfulness, gratitude, friendship, love, and delicious food.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Don't rush the holidays

I'm a firm believer in not rushing the holidays.  I do not want to see (and will not buy) Christmas decorations in stores in Sept.  Even more specifically, I don't put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  The day after Thanksgiving?  Fair game.

But yesterday I made a small exception... we put up our outdoor Christmas lights. 

It was sunny and in the low 50s so the weather was perfect for it.  Plus, the weekend after Thanksgiving I am scheduled to work both Sat & Sun.  Regardless of whether it rains or is cold in the coming days, we've already got our lights up and ready.  But we vowed NOT to turn them on until after Thanksgiving.

We will spend Thanksgiving and some of Fri in VA with our family, as usual.  When we get back home Fri afternoon or evening, I'll probably put the wreaths on the doors and start putting out our interior decorations.  Then (hopefully) on Sun after work I'll put up the Christmas tree and string the lights on it.  The following Sun we're having our annual Christmas tree trimming party where our friends help us hang all the ornaments, and in exchange we provide food and drinks.  Its always a good time and one of my favorite holidays traditions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Palm Springs wrap up

After the fabulous car show, we returned the rental car and went inside the airport to find our gate.  We got some snacks for the plane, then I went through many of my photos on my phone to kill time while we waited for boarding time.  Fortunately the flight wasn't full and the window seat next to me was empty, so I moved over to it, giving Spouse some much needed shoulder room.
I'm leaning over from the window seat and Spouse is in the isle seat
Our flights were fine and we were picked up by our nephew and taken back to Spouse's sister's house. We stayed overnight, then had a late breakfast with several family members before heading home to DE.  I was really eager to see Marvin & Walter!

It was a really fun trip!  Carl was a terrific traveling companion and was open to just about any suggestion or request we came up with.  We had lots of great food, saw lots of beautiful homes, cars, scenery, and reconnected with old friends.