Sunday, October 31, 2010

Preparing Your Home for the Cooler Months

For Your Clients: Preparing Your Home for the Cooler Months
By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, October 30, 2010—This year has certainly flown by, and now, with the fall in full swing, it’s a great time to start prepping your home before winter strikes. From water leaks to the chimney, it’s better to be ready for the cold season…before it hits.

Here, State Farm offers up some fall maintenance tips for your home:

Check all window and door locks for proper operation
* Windows that can be opened by breaking the glass and unlocking them, are less effective deterrents to criminals. Check with the hardware store for window lock alternatives.
* All exterior doors should have deadbolt locks.

Make sure there are working nightlights at the top and bottom of all stairs
Other safety ideas for stairs:
* Tile and painted wood or concrete stairs can be slippery when wet or when a person's shoes are wet. Resurface the treads with slip-resistant strips near the stair nosing.
* All stairs of at least three risers should have a handrail.
* Do not store items on the stairs.

Have a heating professional check your heating system every year
Woodburning stove connector pipes and chimneys should be inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least annually.

Replace your furnace filter
Furnace filters need to be replaced frequently to allow your heating and cooling systems to operate properly.

Run all gas-powered lawn equipment until the fuel tank is emptyBy doing this, you are removing flammable liquid storage from your garage. At the same time, make sure you aren't storing dirty, oily rags in a pile. They can ignite spontaneously.

Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the flues and check your fireplace damperSoot and creosote, which build up inside the chimney, can ignite when a fire is lit in the fireplace.

Remove bird nests from chimney flues and outdoor electrical fixturesBird nests on top of light fixtures are a fire hazard. Bird nests in chimney flues can prevent a proper venting of combustion gases and can catch fire from sparks. You should exercise great caution when working on your roof or consider hiring a qualified professional to take care of any work that needs to be done.

Make sure the caulking around doors and windows is adequate to reduce heat/cooling loss
Check glazing for loose or missing putty or glazing compound. This will also help reduce water damage to the windows and door frames.

Make sure that the caulking around your bathroom fixtures is adequate to prevent water from seeping into the sub-flooring

Check for cracked or missing caulk around the base of your toilet, bath tub, and bathroom cabinets. Properly sealing gaps between your bathroom fixtures and flooring material can prevent damage.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Wishing you and your family a safe & Happy Halloween!!!

Jodi, Maddie & Abby

**For My Female Friends**

***This post is for my FEMALE friends!!***

As many of you know, I have been doing a weight loss challenge for the past few weeks with Fit Bottomed Girl & The Energy Zone. The first few weeks they have us drastically cut back on sugars & most carbs. It was hard, but after a few weeks, I'm doing pretty good. (Sugar-free 60 cal chocolate Jello Pudding has been my saviour!)

I was a bit worried at the begining of the week since I was starting my period. In the past (well, pretty much since I was first graced with it's presence) I have had HORRIBLE cramps!! The first two days are miserable!! My mom even let me stay home from school once (which NEVER happened) b/c they were so bad once in High School.

I had my meeting yesterday with Jessica to discuss my week, etc and I realized.....I hardly had ANY cramps this month!!! She said it was because I had cut out the sugar & carbs and that she makes her daughters cut them out for the first few days of their period to avoid cramps, bloating, pimples, etc. WOW. I wish someone had told me this YEARS ago. Ok, so I may not have believed them...but I believe it now. And wanted to pass it along so maybe others can be pain free!! :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bankruptcy, Foreclosure & Short Sale Timelines

I've posted articles from The Mortgage Experts in Denver, Colorado before. I think they have a great way of answering common mortgage & lending questions in an easy to understand manor. Below is an article they posted on Bankruptcy, Foreclosure & Short Sales.

Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, and Short Sale Timelines
by Chris and Debbie Thomas
Here are the current waiting periods before someone who has had a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or a short sale can qualify for a mortgage:

Chapter 7 Bankruptcies:
Conventional (non-government) loans:
-- 4 years from the discharge date
FHA loans:
-- 2 years from the discharge date
VA loans:
-- 2 years from the discharge date

Chapter 13 Bankruptcies:

Conventional loans:
-- 2 years from the discharge date or 4 years from the dismissal date
FHA loans:
-- 1 year of the payout period must elapse
VA loans:
-- 1 year of the payout period must elapse


Conventional loans:
-- 5 years from the completion date with 10% down and a 680 credit score
-- 7 years from the completion date with 3% or 5% down
FHA loans:
-- 3 years from the completion date
VA loans:
-- 2 years from the completion date

Short Sales:

Conventional loans:
-- 2 years with 20% down
-- 4 years with 10% down
-- 7 years with 3% or 5% down
FHA loans:
-- No waiting period if all mortgage payments and all other installment debt payments were made on time for the 12 months prior to the short sale
-- The short sale payoff must serve as payment in full. No outstanding deficiency can exist after the short sale.
-- The new purchase cannot be for a property of equal or greater value than the property sold in the short sale if the new property is within a "reasonable commuting distance" of the short sale property.
-- If the borrower is in default on their mortgage at the time of the short sale, the waiting period is 3 years.
VA loans:
-- VA does not have a specific policy regarding short sales.

In addition, each lender is allowed to impose their own, more restrictive guidelines on top of these guidelines. Always check with the individual lenders to find out what their guidelines are. Some lenders follow the guidelines above, and some have much stricter guidelines.

What impact does this have on the real estate industry?

These guidelines (and all guidelines) are not put in place to prevent people from owning houses. Rather, they are intended to keep people in houses.

The short-term effect of strict underwriting guidelines is never good for the industry because fewer people will be able to qualify for a mortgage. However, the long-term effect of strict underwriting guidelines is very good for the industry. Fewer properties will go into foreclosure, helping to preserve values. If values are maintained or go up, more people will want to buy a house.

It is important to understand the guidelines so you can advise your clients correctly. For instance, no one should ever tell a client to stop paying their mortgage so they can qualify for a short sale.

The FHA and VA rules for bankruptcies, foreclosures, and short sales are actually quite lenient when compared to conventional underwriting guidelines.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

FGB Challenge - Eating Right, Body Jam

This weeks FBG (Fit Bottomed Girls) group outing was at Element Fitness! We took a body jam (hip hop) class and it was a BLAST!!! We toured the gym, chatted about different exercises and got our groove on during class!!

We are now in WEEK #3 of the challenge. I am starting to really get a hang of the low carb/sugar "diet". I eat out quite a bit (it's my social thing), but have found ways to adapt. Here are just a few suggestions of places I've gone and items I chose:

Gordon Biersch - Grilled Chicken Cashew Salad - this was awesome!! I didn't have to make any changes or pick out anything! I wanted to get their Hummus Salad (which I've had before and is great) but it comes with pita and I knew I wouldn't be able to resist!

Houlihan's - I've actually gone here twice since the challenge started!! The first time I got their french onion soup (I asked for them to leave out the bread) and their chop salad (I picked out the croutons). The second time I got the Almond Crusted Tilapia which is served with Asparagus. It was great!!

Typically when I'm watching what I eat, I avoid Mexican restaurants, but I've gone TWICE since starting this challenge and can happily report I ate ZERO chips!! (Confession: I was going to eat ONE Sunday night but Wes hit my hand and wouldn't let me cheat!) I did, however, still enjoy the espinaca/queso dips - I just asked for cut veggies. Green peppers go GREAT with the dip!! For my meal, I got fajitas and asked them not to bring out the tortilla shells. At Jose Pepper's, they serve their fajitas with rice (which I honestly could do without anyway) so I asked for steamed veggies - which are awesome!!

Honey Baked Ham - I didn't know until last week that the Honey Baked Ham stores also serve lunch!! I got the chef salad which was great!

There are plenty of low carb/sugar options at restaurants. You might have to make a few alterations, but it's worth it in the end!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

10 Ways to Make a Small Room Look Larger

For Your Clients: 10 Ways to Make a Small Room Look Larger

RISMEDIA, October 25, 2010--Most people have one: that room in the house that they wish was just a little larger. What many don't realize is that with a little work and some TLC, they could have exactly what they're looking for.

Here, Lowe's offers 10 designer tricks to help you make any room look larger:

1. For the illusion of a larger room, use a color scheme that is light rather than bright or dark. Pastels, neutrals and white are all color possibilities.

2. Use a monochromatic color scheme on the furniture, rugs and walls. Select different shades and textures of your single color.

3. Lighting is a key element in opening up a space. Recessed spot lighting is visually appealing and is perfect for a small space. A torchiere light is great for bouncing light off of the ceiling and back down on the room.Skylights and solar tubes are natural alternatives for adding light to a room.

4. Limit the number of accessories to avoid the cluttered feeling.

5. The floor and the ceiling are the fifth and sixth walls of every room. A light-colored flooring such as light oak or a light-colored carpet will make the room appear brighter and more open. The same applies to the ceiling—use a light color or white to "open up" the space above.

6. Increase the appearance of the size of the room by adding wall mirrors. They not only reflect images, they reflect light and color. Be a little daring! Use mirror tiles to mirror an entire wall. Your room will appear to double in size.

7. Don't place too many pieces of furniture in a small space. A love seat may work better than a full-size sofa depending on the size and shape of the room. Add two medium-sized chairs or two small wood chairs. Place the chairs closer to the wall and then pull them into the area when additional seating is needed.

8. Add paintings or prints to the walls. One large painting works better than a group of small paintings.

9. The visual balance of a room is also important. A large, brightly colored element can overwhelm a room and decrease the appearance of space.

10. A glass table, whether it is a dining, coffee or end table, will keep the appearance of an open and free space.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Photography

Quality Photos are Essential - Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Photography
By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, October 19, 2010--They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in today’s real estate market, a thousand words has never been more important. Taking good photos for your listings is crucial as they make or break the first impression prospective buyers create about a home. offers the following tips for real estate agents who are looking to take their photo skills to the next level.

Wait for a sunny day
When taking exterior photos of the home you are listing, wait for a sunny day when the sky is blue. Be sure to position yourself so that you avoid any shadows and make sure the sun is shining on the front of the house.

Shoot during daylight
Interior photos should be taken during daylight hours to provide the best lighting conditions. Turn the lights on in every room and use the camera’s automatic flash. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time, as you don’t want to be taking interior photos after the sun has set.

Avoid glare
In order to avoid capturing any glare in your photos, don’t shoot directly into a window or mirror.

Be still
To avoid blurry or poor quality photos, hold your camera still when taking any and all photos. If a photo comes out too dark or blurry, don’t post it online.

Photogenic rooms
When planning what photos you will take of the house, concentrate on photographing the most attractive rooms. In most cases, one bedroom photo is all you need.

Go with the flow
Be sure to photograph the home in the order you want the photos to be posted online. A good transitional sequence starts with the front exterior, moves to the living, dining room, kitchen, family room, master bedroom, master bathroom, exterior, pool, backyard and gardens. Don’t worry about taking too many photos as you can choose the best ones once you are done.

Clean up
In order to get the best photos possible, it may be necessary to get your clients to rearrange some of their furniture, in addition to clearing off countertops, folding towels, closing toilet lids and removing papers from the refrigerator.

Not too personal
Make sure your clients understand that the photos included with their listing are used to showcase the home, and not their valuables and lifestyle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What You Should Know Before Buying a Home

For Your Clients: What You Should Know Before Buying a Home

RISMEDIA, October 18, 2010--There are so many things to understand as you embark on purchasing a home, especially if it's your first purchase. Learn the basics as you get started and understand everything you need to know as it relates to financing.

Here are 10 tips about financing:

1. Before you start looking for a home, get pre-qualified for a loan. Banks, credit unions and mortgage bankers make home loans; mortgage brokers process them. The lenders will take an application, process the loan documents, and see the loan through to the funding stage.

2. If you have marginal or bad credit, consult your lender. You may be able to qualify for a loan depending on how long ago and what reason(s) caused the bad credit. A lender should be able to advise you on whether your credit history will prevent you from qualifying for a home loan.

3. You will need a down payment. Down payment requirements vary depending on the type of loan. Many down payment assistance programs exist. These programs may loan or grant you the funds necessary for the down payment. Consult with a lender about programs available in your area.

4. You will need funds for closing costs Closing costs are charges for services related to the closing of your real estate transaction. They include, but are not limited to:

* Escrow fees charged by the company handling the transaction
* Title policy issuance fees charged by the title insurance company
* Mortgage insurance fees
* Fire and homeowners insurance
* County Recorder fees for recording your deed
* Loan origination fees

Consult your lender for an actual estimate of these costs, as well as information about loan programs which can assist in financing your closing costs

5. Some loans have "points" and some do not. A point is a loan origination fee equivalent to 1% of the loan amount. Together with the interest rate they constitute the yield on your loan for the lender. Some lenders charge a higher interest rate to compensate for charging no points. It is important to comparison shop lenders to make sure your loan is at a competitive yield.

6. Should you select a mortgage with a fixed rate or an adjustable rate? The answer to this question depends on whether mortgage rates are at a high or a low point when you purchase, and on how long you plan to live in the home. If rates are high, an adjustable rate might be attractive since subsequent rate drops could reduce your monthly payments. Additionally, lenders may offer a low rate during the first few years of an adjustable mortgage to make it appealing to you. If interest rates are low you might want to take a fixed rate to protect yourself against the possibility of rising interest rates.

7. Be aware of the two main types of loan categories.

* Conventional Loans. Conventional mortgage loans are available with fixed or adjustable interest rates. Some loans may require mortgage insurance.
* Government Loans. These include Federal Housing Administration (FHA) fixed and adjustable rate mortgage loans, and Veterans Administration (VA) fixed rate mortgage loan

8. If you are a low or moderate income home buyer, there are special programs designed to help you. These loans are available through private lenders, as well as local and state housing agencies, like the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA). Most lenders specializing in real estate mortgage loans are aware of these types of loan programs.

9. Why might I have to pay mortgage insurance? Mortgage insurance protects the lender from potential loss if you should default on your mortgage loan payment. Generally, conventional loans that require larger down payments do not require mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance is always required on FHA mortgage loans.

10. Many organizations offer home loan counseling to prospective home buyers. These organizations provide classes for homebuyers to cover the steps to homeownership. They will cover home selection, realtor services, lenders, loan programs, homeownership responsibilities, saving for a down payment, and other important pieces of information. Many first-time home buyer programs require homebuyers to attend this type of class to be eligible for selected programs.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

FBG Challenge - Week 1

Well, I have successfully completed my FIRST week of my Fit Bottomed Girl/Energy Zone Weight Loss Challenge!!

Last week was just an informational meeting. We got to meet all the great girls who are participating in the challenge and get to know each other. I'm really excited to get to know all of the girls and work together to become true FIT BOTTOMED GIRLS!!!

Each week we have a one-on-one with Jessica to talk about what's going on. She tries to customize plans for each girl depending on their specific needs and "issues". Most of us are concentrating on upping are proteins and reducing our sugars & carbs. The goal is to increase our metabolism, then we can slowly add these items back into our diet.

So far, I've actually done pretty good. I did have a "bad day" on Tuesday but most of that was because of poor planning on my part! I was running late and ran out of the house without any snacks! Since Tuesday is Agent Tour day, I had to avoid the cookies at the first tour and ended up eating some pizza at the second. I tried to eat mostly topics, though there weren't many and the pizza was cold and not great. I was very upset because I didn't even enough the calories I put in my body! I went to the gas station afterwards and stocked up on pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds & jerky. Wednesday was much better. I had a seminar where BBQ was provided. I just avoided the bun and stocked up on meat, coleslaw and salad. I did the same at dinner and ordered a meal without and bread. If it's not there, I won't be tempted. I was also good on Thursday night when I got a burger and asked the server NOT to even bring the bun. If there was a bun, I probably would have at least had a few bites!

To subside my chocolate/sugar cravings, I've been eating a sugar-free pudding snack at night. I also try to have cheese, almonds, eggs & lunch meat around to snack on. My body hasn't been the happiest with this change, but it's all part of the detox process and I know I'll be happy with the end result! My measurements have already gone down a little!

Today we had our "cooking class" and learned out to make protein pancakes, quiche & pie. It was all AMAZING! I guess I might have to start cooking a little - but thankfully it can all be made in advanced and frozen!

Communications Styles

Overcoming Communications Styles Can Boost Business Efficiencies

RISMEDIA, October 13, 2010--Ever find that there is one co-worker that is harder to get along with than the others? It might be because you have different communication styles. However, in the work environment, especially in a small business, employees and managers have to get along to meet the bottom-line.

Small- to medium-sized business (SMB) expert Denise O'Berry offers advice on how to work with others more effectively by using the I Opt® assessment tool, a proven technique to help identify four key communication styles in the workplace. O'Berry provides insights on what each style looks like in the business environment and how to best work with each one for a positive and productive office environment. Small businesses can visit for O'Berry's advice and learn more about communicating with their employees.

What Communication Style are You?
Trying to work with introverts and extroverts, and ensure that everyone is playing nice in the cubicle sandbox can be challenging. However, examining employees' communication styles can help turn any team into a powerhouse by leveraging the strengths of each person. Most people can fit into one of four communication styles:

* Relational Innovator -- This is an idea person who will communicate in "big picture" terms. A phone call is a great way to help them throw out ideas that pop in their heads.
* Logical Processor -- This person communicates by finding the process of a situation and is very detail oriented. Social media is the worst way to communicate with them, as you can't give enough details in 140 characters!
* Hypothetical Analyzer -- The Hypothetical Analyzer loves to discover the "why" by digging deeply into a discussion to dissect all the elements. Managers should arrange a meeting or phone call to answer questions and help them explore the various options of a problem.
* Reactive Stimulator -- They are an action-oriented communicator with low attention to detail. A quick call or short email is an ideal way to connect with them.

"There will always be conflict in the work space, but by determining each employee's communication style, managers can help connect with staff and increase productivity and efficiency by eliminating confusion and misunderstandings," said O'Berry, SMB blogger and author of Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success. "If a manager is constantly sending one-off emails to a Relational Innovator, it will only lead to frustration for everyone. They need a conversation or short call to let them talk about their ideas and new, exciting approaches to getting things done."

Real Estate Bar Camp Kansas City - #REBCKC

I love experiencing new things! Wednesday I went to my very first Bar Camp. What is a Bar Camp you might ask? Well, it's really just a group of people getting together and sharing ideas. They happen all over and on various topics. I went to a Real Estate related Bar Camp. There were various topics including facebook, twitter, SEO (search engine optimization), video, YELP, etc. I learned a lot AND best of all got to meet some great people. The most exciting thing for me was to meet IN PERSON a few of the people I was already following on twitter.

Here are just a few things I learned. (If you'd like all my notes, just let me know and I can email them to you!!)
- Make yourself accessible online
- The one thing to remember is you can't do everything
- Twitter is the best way of "bookmarking" yourself. Make sure you include links to your website at least once a month
- Google yourself often to make sure you come up!
- When taking a video of an areas, make sure it's non-perishable. You don't want it to be obvious if you use it years later
- A video of your listing is support to entice the buyer to come and see your listing. Don't show them everything or tell them the obvious
- Do not make your videos too long
- YELP is a great site for writing and receiving reviews of people and businesses

I am so glad I was able to experience this great event. Later that night I went and met a few of the great people out for more bonding! I'm so glad I got to meet some great new people and learn some good information!!

I "Knocked" Something Off My Bucket List!

Everyone has a Bucket List, right? A list of things you want to do before you die? I do. It probably needs to be looked at and updated, but I have one. One item that has been on my bucket list for awhile is SWIMMING WITH THE DOLPHINS!! I was suppose to go about 5 years go when I went on a Caribbean cruise, however it was right after the hurricane so there were no dolphins. I almost cried!

Well, my dreams were finally answered just a few weeks ago!!! Thanks to my college friend Adam, I went to Puerto Vallarta and got to swim with the dolphins! (Let me add, the MAIN reason for the trip was to witness my friend Adam marry her awesome wife Perla!!)

My friend Laci went with me to Puerto Vallarta. She had the pleasure of swimming with the dolphins 6 months ago in The Bahamas, but was very willing do it again!!

Let me just say, swimming with the dolphins was AMAZING!! I would do it again in a heart beat!! It was just me, Laci & two other girls. We got to rub the dolphins, hug & kiss, and let the dolphins both pull & raise us up (also known as the SUPERMAN!!)

I would highly recommend swimming with the dolphins to anyone! They are so soft and so sweet! I really didn't want to get out of the water when our time was up!

I also need to mention how beautiful the wedding was! It was on the beach at sunset. Adam is Jewish and Perla is Mexican so they mixed both cultures into the ceremony and reception. Everything was said in both English & Spanish. It was just beautiful and I'm so happy for my two friends!

Congrats Adam & Perla! Thanks for inviting me to your beautiful wedding & allowing me a chance to go somewhere to swim with the dolphins!!!

You can check out my videos of us swimming with the dolphins on my YouTube Channel!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

6 Ways to Stay Motivated While Losing Weight

This is a great article I found on

6 Ways to Stay Motivated While Losing Weight

Darlene is the author of the weight loss blog Confessions of a Dieter at She shares her humorous and sometimes emotional confessions of her struggles and triumphs through her weight loss journey.
We have all been there. You finally made the decision (again) to lose the weight once and for all. You really mean it this time! It starts off great. You are tracking everything you eat, walking every day, and full of excitement. Over the next month or so, you lose weight and feel better. Then slowly, your motivation begins to disappear. You give in to the birthday cake, the vending machine starts taking your money, and you hit a drive-thru and supersize. The scale starts creeping back up. Here we go again…

Here are some ideas that can help you find that inner strength to stay on course:

1. First and foremost, take a deep breath and Do Not Give Up! Even if you just had a really bad day of eating, you can always start over with the next bite, with the next drink, with the next step. We all fall down once in a while. The important part is getting back up!

2. Set small goals. Large goals can seem overwhelming and unachievable. Small goals can give you quick wins.

3. Celebrate your successes. Treat yourself to something special that isn’t food related, like a new book or a massage!

4. Get a support group. It is important to have someone you can talk to when the going gets tough! Find people in the same boat as you or who have been where you are. They can be your life line to success!

5. Keep a positive attitude. Eliminate negative self talk. If you are having a tough time, just smile. You will be amazed at what this does to your emotions and thoughts. Go ahead and try it now!

6. Create a vision board. Get out your favorite magazines and cut out anything that might inspire you on this weight loss journey. Glue it all on a poster board and display it in a place where you will see it every day.

It was first and foremost, but it is also last and most important…take a deep breath and Do Not Give Up!
Guest Blog Series: Look for the following badge on your favorite health sites to see if they have been a featured guest blogger on See other posts in the Guest Blog series

Read more: 6 Ways to Stay Motivated While Losing Weight

Monday, October 11, 2010

I finally went to the Kansas City Zoo!!

Can you believe I'd never been to the Kansas City Zoo?? I've lived in KC since 2001 but never made it to the zoo. One reason is that I grew up in St Louis and we had a fabulous zoo! Even though it's been YEARS since I was at the St Louis zoo, I didn't want to be dissappointed when I finally went to the KC Zoo. When I was in college, I went to the Topeka Zoo and was very dissappointed.

Kansas City currently has a polar bear exhibit at the zoo so I went with Wes, Carrie, her girls Maddie & Cami and Nick to see the polar bear and the rest of the zoo animals. The first hour was a bit dissapointing, we didn't see many animals, but after over 4 hours at the zoo, I can safely say we saw almost everything - well, except an elephant! The KC Zoo is HUGE, so bring your walking shoes!! PLUS, all Kansas City residents get in FREE in October AND November with proof of residency!

I'm glad I finally got to the KC zoo!

How to Live Large in a Small Space

For Your Clients: Downsizing? How to Live Large in a Small Space
By Jaclyn Banash

RISMEDIA, October 6, 2010--(MCT)--It's a constant battle: Small versus big. Less or more? There are arguments to support both sides.

Having just downsized to the smallest apartment I have ever lived in, I was intrigued by the idea of small being the new big. The challenge of storage and saving space is usually the No. 1 problem for most small-home dwellers. Organization is key, as is making the space work for your lifestyle.

I have been racking my brain for months over how to make my new 656-square-foot apartment work best for me. I have found some great new ideas to integrate with some of my old tricks of the trade.

Creative use of furniture is essential in small spaces or even in larger spaces that might need to be multifunctional. Take, for instance, a guest bedroom that doubles as an office. Instead of crowding the room on a daily basis with a bed that only gets used a few times a year, why not use a sleeper sofa or a chair and a half with a twin sleeper sofa? This will free so much space for day-to-day activities in the office.

A daybed is another good-looking piece of furniture that multitasks. A daybed is a great way to divide a large space, but in a small space, if positioned against the wall, it doubles as a sofa with pillows across the back and an extra sleeping spot when the pillows are removed.

Lots of furniture pieces are known for their great multipurpose and space-saving qualities. The ever-popular pouf, for example, can double as an ottoman, become a small table for books, computers and drinks to rest upon or even turn into extra seating.

Nesting tables also provide options for tiny spaces because they are small and easily moved. Storage ottomans are an obvious choice for doubling as a bench or coffee table that can house toys, blankets and extra bedding.

In dining room/eating areas, a custom-built bench/banquette with storage underneath is a great option for tight spaces. If your budget does not allow for custom, then good-looking storage boxes fit nicely under most pre-made banquettes. If you are not looking for more storage but are just short on space, a breakfast nook can be created with a small table and stools that can tuck underneath when not in use.

Simply by pushing a dining table against a wall or window you can save at least three feet. All you have to do is pull the table out for dinner parties. And don't forget, an old or unattractive table can always be put to use and instantly jazzed up with a custom table skirt in a fabulous fabric. Voila, another spot for hidden storage!

One of my recent favorite small-space solutions is installing built-in top-to-bottom mirrors on the inset of closet doors. How brilliant! No longer are you taking up precious wall space in the room with a floor-length mirror.

As for the actual layout and decoration of a small space, conflicting theories abound. Some say not to fill a small room with over-scaled furniture, as it eats up the space and feels cramped. Others say big furniture makes a small room seem grander.

I gravitate toward the middle. In general, I stay away from large, overstuffed furniture and do find that too many small pieces can feel cluttered. But I need enough seating for entertaining and recently purchased a set of Lucite folding chairs (clear furniture is another small-space trick) that can be stowed when not in use.

I have never subscribed to pure minimalism, although I admire those who can. I find it almost impossible to not surround myself with lovely items that I find along my travels, antiquing or shopping. The key is rigorous editing. I have seen many small, successful spaces that have a plethora of mementos or objets d'art.

But once you get to a certain point, it becomes necessary to do the practice of one thing in, one thing out. After all, no matter what size your space is, you need the room to enjoy it.

(c) 2010, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony @ VooDoo Lounge KC

I have been to the VooDoo Lounge in Kansas City before (great 30th birthday party) but I had never been to a concert...until last night!! One of my twitter/facebook friends is the "official tweeter" for Harrah's North Kansas City & VooDooKC. She posted on her facebook wall on Wednesday that she'd be tweeting at the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony concert on Thursday night and needed to do some research on their songs. I listended to Bone Thugs back in high school and love some of their songs! I quickly let her know that I would LOVE to go with her. Knowing that I would tweet live from the event, she invited me along!!

The concert was suppose to start at 8pm but the opening acts did not go on until about 845pm. Since I got there before 8pm, I was standing in the front row!! I think I saw every "wanna be rapper" (as my mom calls them) in the Kansas City area. Some were pretty good..others, not so much. I DID score a free cd from one of the rappers!!!

Finally, around 11pm the Bone Thugs FINALLY took the stage. It was a good performance - over and hour!! I learned that you DO NOT wear heels (even your "comfy" ones) when you are going to be standing at a concert for over 4 hours!). I was exhausted when I left but was so happy for this opportunity to see the Bone Thugs and tweet live from a concert!!!

Tips for Using Social Media in Business

10 Tips for Using Social Media in Business
By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, October 7, 2010—With so much talk these days about social media, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and anxious about where to start. While using social media for business is a necessary solution in today’s competitive environment, it’s also important to make sure you use create and manage your social media platforms correctly.

Here are 10 tips from Kodak’s chief blogger:

1. Know what you are talking about. If you are going to work with social media, be involved in social media. Start your own Twitter account, Facebook page, read blogs and get engaged. That is the best way to understand the culture, tone, best practices, and protocol.

2. Always be transparent. When you are communicating in social media say who you are and who you work for. Don’t try to be sneaky and plant comments, don’t hire people to go out and say nice things about you and stay away from ghost writing. Be genuine and be real.

3. Be yourself. Readers can see through marketing talk. Be passionate about what you do and let that show through your personality. Let people see you as a person, not a mouthpiece.

4. Post frequently. It’s a lot of work but don’t post to your blog then leave it for two weeks. Readers won’t have a reason to follow you on Twitter or check your blog if they can’t expect new content regularly.

5. Add value. Share tips, tricks, and insights. People’s time is precious and they need to get something out of the time they spend with you. Make listening to you worth their time.

6. Respond. Answer questions, thank people even if it’s just a few words. Make it a two way conversation.

7. Listen to what others have to say. Appreciate suggestions and feedback, it will make what you do even better.

8. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to say you were wrong and be quick to make changes when you are.

9. Be external. You don’t have to be 100% internally focused. Link to other blogs, videos, and news articles. Re-tweet what others have to say.

10. Have fun. If you don’t like what you are doing, others will notice it and won’t enjoy interacting with you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Real Estate Auctions

Yesterday we had Nicole Kelley come talk to our office about Real Estate Auctions. It was very informative! Here are a few of the things we learned:

- Just because a house in up for auction, does not mean that the owner is behind on payments or the home is in foreclosure. Many times Auctioned off homes go for market value - it's just a faster way to get to the end result.
- When you list a home in MLS, you list at the highest price and work your way down. In an auction, it's just the opposite. You start low and end up high.
- An Auctioned home is sold "as is, where is, with NO contingencies". Any financing issues or inspections must be done prior to bidding. It is up to the buyer to do their due diligence on the property.
- A 10% buyers premium is typically added to the sales price to pay the auction company and any agents involved.
- An auction is really about turning an asset (home) into money (quickly).
- Auctions are typically marketed for a few weeks before the actual event.
- Most auctions close within 30 days.
- Properties are not giving away, they typically go for market value!
- There are three types of Auctions:
- Absolute Auction - The property is sold to the highest bidder, regardless of the price
- Minimum Bid Auction - The auctioneer will accept bids at or above a published minimum price.
- Reserve Auction - A minimum bid is not published, and the seller reserves the right to accept or reject the highest bid.

Auctions are not for everyone, but there are some sellers that can benefit from them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Have You Started on Your Fall Home and Garden Checklist?

Have You Started on Your Fall Home and Garden Checklist?
By Debbie Arrington

RISMEDIA, October 5, 2020--(MCT)--In the garden: Pull out the summer garden and get started on cool-weather vegetables and flowers.

Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturium, nigella, poppy, portulaca and sweet pea.

In the vegetable garden, seed bok choy, mustard, spinach, radishes and peas. Plant garlic and onion sets.

Set out cool-weather bedding plants including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

Around the house:

It's time to get alarmed.

This is National Fire Prevention Week. According to a new survey, most American homes don't have enough smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.

About two-thirds of homes don't meet the national recommendation for the number of smoke alarms set by the National Fire Protection Association, said the nationwide survey conducted by First Alert. Only one in 10 homes meets the recommendations for carbon monoxide monitors.

The association recommends at least one carbon monoxide alarm on each level of a house and one in or near every bedroom or sleeping area. For smoke alarms, one should be installed at the top of each staircase, and one in every bedroom or sleeping area, under the guidelines. For an average two-story, three-bedroom house, that adds up to four smoke alarms and five carbon monoxide alarms. (For details, see

Need more reasons to get fired up? According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 84 percent of all civilian fire deaths occur at private residences. Each year, nearly 3,000 Americans die in home fires and about 450 succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Experts recommend installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and checking the batteries once a month to make sure they work.

Protection One, another home-security company, recommends that families practice fire drills so they know what to do when the alarm goes off. Devise an escape plan, and post it where it's visible at all times.

For more tips and a home safety checklist, click on—checklist.php.

Breast Cancer Prevention

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is also Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month so please check your neck along with your boobs! :)

10 Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention
By Stephanie Andre

RISMEDIA, October 4, 2010--October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and for women, it's never too early to start taking care of themselves, both physically and mentally. To that end, here are 10 tips for breast cancer prevention.

1. Avoid becoming overweight. Obesity raises the risk of breast cancer after menopause, the time of life when breast cancer most often occurs. Avoid gaining weight over time, and try to maintain a body-mass index under 25 (calculators can be found online).

2. Eat healthy to avoid tipping the scale. Embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods. Eat lean protein such as fish or chicken breast and eat red meat in moderation, if at all. Eat whole grains. Choose vegetable oils over animal fats.

3. Keep physically active. Research suggests that increased physical activity, even when begun later in life, reduces overall breast-cancer risk by about 10 percent to 30 percent. All it takes is moderate exercise like a 30-minute walk five days a week to get this protective effect.

4. Drink little or no alcohol. Alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Women should limit intake to no more than one drink per day, regardless of the type of alcohol.

5. Avoid hormone replacement therapy. Menopausal hormone therapy increases risk for breast cancer. If you must take hormones to manage menopausal symptoms, avoid those that contain progesterone and limit their use to less than three years. "Bioidentical hormones" and hormonal creams and gels are no safer than prescription hormones and should also be avoided.

6. Consider taking an estrogen-blocking drug. Women with a family history of breast cancer or who are over age 60 should talk to their doctor about the pros and cons of estrogen-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene.

7. Don't smoke. Research suggests that long-term smoking is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in some women.

8. Breast-feed your babies for as long as possible. Women who breast-feed their babies for at least a year in total have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer later.

9. Participate in a research study. The Hutchinson Center is home to several studies that are looking at ways to reduce the risk for breast cancer. Check our website periodically for studies that might be appropriate for you.

10. Get fit and support breast cancer research at the same time. Regular physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.