Meet our Newest – The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship

steward-1Last year, several new organizations were added to the list clients can choose to receive a Win Win for a Cause donation in lieu of a traditional closing gift. I am pleased to announce that The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship is one of these very worth local organizations, offering visitors a plethora of opportunities to explore the area, hike and camp, and study the land’s history and environment.

The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship is a place where farming, nature, and history converge to show the connections between people and the natural world. The center is home to deep woods and streams, a working farm, wildflower meadows, historic farmsteads, a farm market, wildlife and farm animals.

Nature

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The center hosts a tremendous variety of activities ranging from community farming to archaeology. The over 900-acre tract provides amazing opportunities for nature enthusiasts – walk the trails, pick your own flowers, help on an archaeological dig, buy farm fresh & eggs veggies, or attend a workshop.

A visit to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship begins with rolling farmland and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains rising unbroken to the west. The trails gradually move into older and denser deciduous forest and by walking up the power line, you can access the Appalachian Trail. Hike the trails or wander the open fields and discover an amazing variety of wildlife native to the Appalachians.

History

In the early 19th century, prior to the Civil War, the Blue Ridge Center lands were heavily settled. The most visible reminders of the once thriving settlement along Piney Run are the buildings.  In all, 33 sites have been identified.  There are many stories to tell and even more to discover.

The Blue Ridge Center uses all possible resources, from historic texts and documents, oral histories, to archaeological methods, to discover each story, how it relates to each of us and the land we tread each day.

Have you visited the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship?

Please share your experiences.

2017 Market Trends

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Whether you’re preparing to purchase a new home or sell an old house in the new year, it’s important to know how housing trends could affect you. Below are some likely developments that will influence the market this year.

Millennial and Boomer Buyers

As the oldest of the Millennials push into their mid-30s, many will start to settle down and buy houses. Millennials are also reaching an age at which they’re thinking about marriage and children.

Baby boomers, the oldest of whom are entering their late 60s, are also looking to move as they reach their retirement years.

In the last several years, Baby Boomers’ participation in the housing market has dwindled. Many already own homes and may have been reluctant to sell until their properties recovered the value they lost in the housing bust.

Look for Boomers to buy. While some may want to downsize to control expenses, others may look to move to a larger house because to accommodate children and grandchildren, as well as visitors.

Modest Home Value Growth

Home prices have been on a steady incline in recent years. But that momentum may begin to slow down in 2017. Since the Federal Reserve just raised interest rates for the first time in a year, that could have a stabilizing effect on home prices. The National Association of Realtors estimates that price growth will slow to 3.9%, down from 4.9% in 2016.

For sellers, that may lead to a shrinking profit margin in previously hot local markets. Buyers, on the other hand, may be better positioned to snag a deal on a home in areas where prices have recently skyrocketed. 

Rising Mortgage and Interest Rates

Following the housing market crash, mortgage rates remained at record lows for years. However, that’s finally starting to change, Smoke said.

The Federal Reserve announced in November of 2016 that it is raising interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point. Rates are climbing now and are expected to keep doing so next year, with the Federal Reserve indicating that three more increases to its benchmark rate are coming in 2017.

As a buyer or seller, this essentially points to acting sooner rather than later if you’re intending to do a transaction next year.

Rates will get higher as we go through the year, and inventory is not going to improve. So winter or early spring will be more advantageous than waiting for late spring or early summer, when most buyers look.

Exodus to the Suburbs

As home prices continue to rise, more buyers will move to the suburbs to find affordable housing. Many people have to look further out from cities to find homes in the right price range. Right here in the Valley, there is a trend toward more affordable homes in the areas, and even counties, surrounding Charlottesville.

 

Are you planning to buy or sell in the next year?

What are some of your thoughts for 2017?

Gifts that Give Back

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Why not give a gift that is a win-win for both the lucky recipient and another person, animal, or organization? Below are some ideas for holiday (or any time!) gifts that not only show you care, but will help make the world a little better. I wish you all a wonderful, safe holiday season!

Something for Absolutely Anyone on Your List

More than 16,000 eco- and socially conscious products are available (some from as low as $2) on WorldofGood.com. Each product is vetted and comes with a short description so you can see exactly where your money is going.

Fair-trade lip balms, organic soaps and craft supplies are all under $15 and make excellent stocking stuffers.

Buy a Gift, Fund a Business

At BuildaNest.com, you will find beautiful, hand-made Guatemalan totes that support local businesses. The site sells original apparel, jewelry, home and paper goods made by more than 100 exclusive artists and designers and gives microcredit loans to women in developing countries, enabling them to start and maintain a business selling their own products—which are then offered on the site itself.

Love the cause but don’t need a handbag? GlobalGoodsPartners.org, sells handwoven bracelets made by native tribes in Argentina and handcrafted beaded bangles made women in Tanzania. Global Goods Partners is dedicated to alleviating poverty and promoting social justice and funds women-led market initiatives in local communities in 24 countries.

For Animal Lovers

The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Gifts for Animals (AnimalGift.org) program helps protect elephants, as well as bear cubs and seals, and also provides funds for urgent pet care and animal rescue. Starting at $25, each gift comes with a full-color pamphlet telling the story of the animal being helped.

Indulge

Lush’s hand and body lotion is made with fair-trade cocoa-butter, and proceeds—100 percent after taxes—go to the organization featured on the lid of each pot. WaterCan, TreePeople, Amazon Conservation Team, and International Fund for Animal Welfare are only a few available at LushUSA.com .

One Size Fits All Gift Certificates

Good Cards (CharityNavigator.org) are the gift certificates of the philanthropy world. You set the price; recipients pick the charity. Perfect for those bosses, co-workers and clients you’re stumped on.

What are some of your favorite ‘win win’ gifts?

Deck the Halls (Safely)

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Holiday decorations are a hallmark of the winter season. Over 85% of Americans decorate their homes to celebrate each year and almost 50% include the use of outdoor lights and decorations.

While holiday lighting and decorations contribute to the splendor of the season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and electrical injuries if not used carefully. Use these best practices to decorate safely.

  • Double check lights for frayed wires or cracks, and be sure there is a bulb in each socket. Discard and replace damaged strands. Frayed or cracked electrical cords or broken sockets are leading fire hazards.
  • Lights should be approved by Underwriters Laboratory. “UL” will be clearly displayed on the tag, signifying the product has been inspected for potential safety hazards. Red UL marks indicate the lights are safe for indoor/outdoor use, and green UL marks indicate the lights are only safe for indoor use.
  • Don’t use outdoor lights indoor – they’re too hot for interior use. For the coolest bulbs and greatest energy efficiency, try LED lights, which come in a wide range of styles and colors. Indoor lights should not touch drapes, furniture or carpeting.
  • Do not hammer tacks or nails into the electrical cord when hanging lights. They can cut through the wire insulation and create a fire hazard. Only use UL-approved hangers.
  • Use heavy-duty extension cords, and only use cords outdoors if they are designated for outdoor use. Avoid overloading extension cords by using no more than three sets of standard lights per cord.
  • If possible, outdoor lights and inflatable decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). GFCIs help prevent electric shock by breaking the circuit when differences in the currents of hot and neutral wires occur.
  • Use a timer or turn off lights before going to bed, or if you will be away from home.
  • Prevent tripping by placing cords and decorations in low-traffic areas where they won’t be walked on. Avoid twisting, kinking or crushing cords.
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When they season is over, remember to take down your outdoor decorations in a timely manner. Ninety days is the recommended maximum duration. The longer they stay up, the more likely they are to suffer damage from weather and animals.

It is also important to safely store decorations for next year – tangled lights can lead to damaged cords and broken sockets. After the holidays, coil each string loosely around a stiff piece of cardboard, wrap it in paper or fabric to protect the bulbs, and store in a sturdy container until next year.

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving: Then, Now, & Always

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For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal has become something of a buffet of seasonal dishes to pick and choose from when filling up a plate (for the first or second time). The often copious leftovers eaten in the ensuing days are one of the few similarities between the modern Thanksgiving meal and the original Plymouth feast in 1621 that lasted three days.

The quintessential American Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. But how this compare to what was likely served almost 400 years ago?

TURKEY

While no records exist of the exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow noted in his journal that the colony’s governor, William Bradford, sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event. Wild turkey was a common protein for both English settlers and Native Americans. It is likely that the hunters also returned with ducks, geese, and swan.

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Turkey without stuffing? It happened. Instead of a bread-based stuffing, it is reasonable to assume that native herbs, onions, or nuts may have been cooked with the birds for extra flavor.

Winslow wrote that the Wampanoag guests arrived with an offering of five deer. Culinary historians speculate that the deer was roasted on an open spit and that some of the meat was used to create a hearty venison stew.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

The 1621 Thanksgiving celebration marked the Pilgrims’ first autumn harvest, so it is likely that the colonists feasted on the bounty they had reaped. Local vegetables that likely appeared on the table include onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas.

Corn was plentiful during the harvest season, but it was prepared very differently– no corn on the cob or corn pudding. In those days, the corn would have been removed from the cob and turned into cornmeal, which was then boiled and pounded into a thick corn mush or porridge that may have been sweetened with molasses.

Regional fruits included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and, of course cranberries, which Native Americans ate and used as a natural dye. And the cranberry sauce? The Pilgrims might have been familiar with cranberries by the first Thanksgiving, but they wouldn’t have made sauces and relishes. That’s because the sacks of sugar that traveled across the Atlantic on the Mayflower were nearly or fully depleted by November 1621. Cooks didn’t begin boiling cranberries with sugar and using the mixture as an accompaniment for meats until about 50 years later.

FISH AND SHELLFISH

Seafood was one of the staples of the first meal – the coast was teeming with bass, lobster, clams, and oysters. Mussels in particular were abundant in New England and could be easily harvested because they clung to rocks along the shoreline. The colonists occasionally served mussels with curds, a dairy product with a similar consistency to cottage cheese.

POTATOES

Whether mashed or roasted, white or sweet, potatoes had no place at the first Thanksgiving. It would be over fifty years before these staples of the modern meal were introduced -white potatoes, originating in South America, and sweet potatoes, from the Caribbean, had yet to infiltrate North America.

New England’s native inhabitants are known to have eaten other plant roots such as turnips, squash, and groundnuts, chestnuts in particular. Most of these sides would have been served roasted.

PUMPKIN PIE

While both Native Americans and the Pilgrims enjoyed pumpkin, the possibility of pumpkin pie was out. The colony lacked the butter and wheat flour necessary for making pie crust. Even if they did, the settlers hadn’t yet constructed an oven for baking.

No pumpkin pie?! So what did they do instead? According to some accounts, early English settlers in North America improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes.

Whatever your meal consists of this year, I am thankful to all of my clients, family, friends, and readers and wish you all a wonderful, peaceful, and safe thanksgiving.

 

 

 

To Care for Those Who Cared for Us is One of the Highest Honors

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I am pleased that one of the newest members of the Win Win for a Cause family is the Daily Living Center right here in the Valley. The Daily Living Center is a licensed adult day health care serving the Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County area for over 27 years. By providing an excellent standard of care, The Daily Living Center allows family and friends of those who are not able to care for themselves to attend to their daily lives knowing that their loved ones are being taken care of in a positive, safe, and caring environment.

The Daily Living Center is a non-profit, United Way agency and also a member of the National Adult Day Services Association and of the Virginia Adult Day Services Association. The Daily Living Center prevents the pre-mature placement in a long-term care facility or institution-enhancing the quality of life of our participants and their caregivers, keeping them at home with their families and in our community!

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In addition to providing a safe and secure environment, clients are part of socialization and recreational activities, receive health monitoring and medication management by licensed professionals, and nutritious meals and snacks. There is a monthly support group for the caregivers, as well.

To learn more about The Daily Living Center, I encourage you to visit their website. My clients have the option of selecting this wonderful agency as the recipient of their Win Win for a Cause donation from completed closings.

First Home Upgrades

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For most first-time homeowners, the draw of making a sound financial investment is a huge factor in the decision to buy. You not only want to stop paying someone else’s mortgage, but also to increase your return on investment. This is a big decision and you want it to pay off. Below are a few relatively inexpensive upgrades that will not only provide you with comfort and enjoyment, but will also help increase your home’s value.

 

Swap out your kitchen countertops

Granite, while considered the cream of the crop in countertops, makes an impression, has lost some of its ‘wow’ factor as it becomes increasingly common. If the countertops are the only upgrade you’re planning, splurge on recycled glass (around $85 per square foot) for a truly unique and polished look.  For a less expensive but equally stunning option, try quartz (around $60 to $75 per square foot).

Conventional colors are the best bet here, but that doesn’t mean boring. Stick with neutral colors like white, gray, or “greige,” which will appear clean and bright and won’t turn off potential buyers.

Increase your living space

Outdoor areas are an affordable extension of your home and a perfect place to entertain guests or relax with your family. The possibilities are many – in addition to the traditional raised deck, consider creating patios, outdoor living rooms, and even outdoor kitchens.

Add outdoor lighting

In addition to doorways and porch lights, consider lights along your driveway, walkways, and patio, and uplights on trees. All of these will create ambiance the evening and will increase the quality of any photos you post of your home when it comes time to sell.

Give your exterior a makeover

Have your house exterior and front porch professionally power-washed, upgrade light fixtures (this can be as simple as replacing the bulbs with Edison-style ones that add instant character and warmth), swap out the hardware on your front door, upgrade your mailbox, replace worn-out or broken shutters, and freshen up your landscaping.

What are some of your favorite home upgrades? Please share your experiences.