In a bowl, mix the butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes.
Add egg, peppermint extract and beat well, until light and fluffy.
Sift flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder gradually over the wet ingredients, mixing as you go, until well combined.
Add chocolate chips and lightly stir in with a mixing spoon.
Chill the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes while the oven finishes heating.
Form the dough into small balls (heaping 1 Tbsp) and place 1.5 inches apart on an un-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the tops down and then top with a few more chocolate chips for more flavor.
Bake for about 10 minutes. The edges should start to dry but the tops should still be slightly soft looking.
Set on the cookie sheet for a few minutes more but sprinkle crushed candy cane on right away.
Transfer to a cooling rack to rest until completely cooled.
Store in an airtight container to keep fresh for up to a few days or freeze for several weeks.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp natural peppermint extract
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 candy cane, finely crushed
1/3 cup dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
First warm days of season are upon us, and with this, it feels good just going outside after long months of cabin fever.
Take a walk around your house, backyard, and garden, and check on everything after the winter season. This is the perfect time to make take care of small maintenance tasks and catch problems before they affect value of your home and turn into expensive fixes.
I mentioned before we moved several times in a short period of time. Our two cats moved with us. It was never easy on us, but it was even harder on them – cats are creatures of habits. Dogs also do not take well to long trip and commotion of the move. Here are four tips we tested over the years, hopefully they will help you – and your pet.
Pack and clean one room in old home first, for example spare bedroom. Keep you pets, in their crates, with favorite toy, in this room. This way they will be in relative quiet. Other options, for more anxious pets, is to have them stay with a friend or even board your pet for a packing day.
Pack a set of basic pet supplies: pet food, favorite bowl, water bowl or fountain, litter box and litter for cats, leash for dogs, couple of favorite toys. Keep it handy with you in your car, make it easy to reach the stash when you arrive on site so you can unpack and set up spot for your pet in your new home.
It goes without saying, but have your pets travel with you in the car. I strongly recommend having any pet in crate, to avoid distractions while driving. Additionally, have the crate facing you and so your pet is able to listen conversation or just be aware of your presence during the trip. Some pets might prefer to have crate covered with blanket. Remember about securing the crate with seat belts.
When in new location, set your pet up in one quiet room while you unpack. Keep it there for a day or two, and get accustomed to a new place. I suggest setting up your bedroom, if your pet is allowed to sleep with you, then your presence at night will also help ease them.
Do you have any of you tested any tips or tricks to make it easier for your pets to get through move? Share them in comments below.
CMA or Comparative Market Analysis shows you what is the current value of your home, or how much money would a potential buyer pay to buy it in the current real estate market.
The value of your home changes with time, and is dependent on many factors. It is influenced by all the maintenance you do to inside or outside – or you do not do. Any upgrades, like kitchen remodel or new floors/carpets will influence house value. The value also depends on popularity of your neighborhood and how good are the schools in this area.
This is why it is so important to check your Comparative Market Analysis or your home value at least once a year, just like you would your Credit Score.
You might not be thinking about selling your house just now. There are several other reasons to stay current on ever changing value of your home. Here are just a few:
To refinance to take advantage of low rates or just decrease your monthly payment
To take advantage of your Home Equity Loan and do this maintenance project you have been postponing
Update your home insurance policy to make sure it covers whole value of your house
Dispute your property taxes in rare instances your home value decreased below the assessment
Would you like to receive your own, complimentary CMA? Contact us today.
How much of a house do you need? When you start looking for your place, the first question you need to answer is how many bedrooms and bathrooms do you want or need. The question sounds simply only on the surface. There are few philosophies you can use to help you to the final number.
Now and in the future
One approach is very logical, but requires planning ahead. Consider how many years you plan to stay in the house? Will your kids still live at home at that time? Will you have more children? Can siblings share a room? Will you parents would want to move in, to help take care of the kids – or be taken care of? This should give you a good idea how many bedrooms do you need. Add a guest bedroom or an office if you plan to work from home or host relatives dropping by with a visit.
Each one their own
Another approach asks you to do simple math. Count a room per person you expect to live in the house, and add one bedroom for guests. This risks too many spaces (it counts for example two bedrooms for a couple) and paying to heat and light unused space – it will also add to your property tax. However, it will come handy if the house you select will not have a dedicated space for a home office, typically located off the main entrance – or a non-conforming bedroom to be turned into an office. A non-conforming bedroom is a room without a closet and window or with window that is higher than 4 feet high above the floor.
The third one considers resale value, and essentially suggests to get a so called “cookie-cutter” house of 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Those houses are also easier to rent if you decide to turn it into source of income in the future. Above 4 bedrooms, it’s considered luxury home, which might be harder to sell in the future.
A bit about bathrooms
That is a whole topic by itself. It all boils down to personal preference, where you want to have bathrooms, and how many you think your family lifestyle will require. If you entertain often, half bathroom by the living room is extremely useful. It provides privacy for the rest of the house and is convenient for the whole family.
At least one bathroom per livable level is a must. At the same time, if a level contains only family or living room-kitchen area, half bath will do. Beyond that, the decision is really down to your personal preference. It becomes popular for each bedroom to have its own bathroom. Sometimes you have cute Jack-and-Jill bathrooms for adjoining bedroom, very practical solution. Again, typical house will have 2.5 bath, and for most families, it should be perfect.
Next, the number of rooms itself does not determine the size of the house. The rooms can be bigger, a good idea if you want siblings of similar age share the room. If the bedrooms are smaller, each kid can have its own space without adding too much to the whole house.
Make a decision based on what you think appropriate number of rooms will serve you best – and than consider the square footage you can actually afford. For affordability, use the rule of thumb for value of the house to be at 3 time your annual household income. Depending on the average prices of square footage in the area you are moving to (check our Community pages for prices around Madison, WI), you should be able to quickly calculate what you can afford. With that, give us a call or send us an email (click here for contact information), we can take it from here!
This morning Iza asked me a question – “Which one of your teachers do you remember the most?” To my blank stare she added “It’s Teachers Appreciation Week, you should write something about one of yours”.
Over my career I was subject to countless (one could argue futile) attempts to educate me by tens if not hundreds of different teachers. Most of them I could not remember for the life of me. But I do remember a handful. Those few that somehow stayed with me through the rest of my life. Coincidentally those are the same teachers that at the time I severely disliked and were at the very bottom of my ‘favorite teachers’ list.
Like my Polish language teacher, who in her, what seemed to us 90s, but in reality probably 50s, was so strict on any grammar and spelling mistakes that we were scared to even get in that room. But who also surprised me by praising my unusual approach to an essay she assigned us to write. She taught me that I shouldn’t worry about independent thinking.
Or my math teacher who insisted to treat us as adults throughout our high school, allowing us to choose whether we wanted out parents to even talk to him (and you’ve probably guessed it, my parents were never bothered having to come to school for any reason) with all the good and bad that can only come from that.
And last but not least, my English teacher, who was so adamant that we have to learn foreign language that most of the class became finalist in regional foreign language competition and two spending year in US in exchange program. Comes in handy every day.
Those were the most dreaded teachers back then. I didn’t like to go to their classes, I disliked the amount of material they had us to learn and despised the discipline…
Today…. Today I wish all of them were like that.
This week is Teachers Appreciation Week. Slow down, reflect for a second and say thank you to your favorite ones. And double thank to the rest of them.
Finding the perfect school for your child only adds stress to already complicated process of moving. We split the process into eight easy steps. Tackle one at the time to be sure you make the perfect choice.
Did you know?
There are five types of schools in USA:
Try to select desired school and neighborhood combo together. You are not guaranteed a spot in your selected school, and you might not be able to afford a house in your desired neighborhood. Pick at least one backup school and neighborhood location.
When choosing school take into consideration your child’s learning style (lecture vs hands on?), special needs (languages? advanced placement? support of learning disabilities?) and interests, like languages, theater or sports. Make “must have” and “nice have” lists to help make comparisons and narrow down choices.
Consult your child’s current teachers. Ask them for suggestions and recommendations. Talk about your their learning style and recommended school environment (for example large or small school).
Consider your needs as parents. Would other parents share your values? Do you want to have volunteering opportunities or would you rather have full support for working parents? How will your commute look like, is there a space to drop off and pick up up your child comfortably? Does school offer school bus, and is there a distance limit on where you can live to use the bus?
Consult sites like Great Schools or Niche.com for current rankings of schools. Read the final note, but consider how the note was obtained, what where the criteria.
Check school district’s website. While the quality of those sites vary greatly from district to district, you still be able to read the updates and study the events. Check our Community pages, we provided links to that place school districts.
Look up prospective teachers’ web sites. It will allow you to learn about their personalities, teaching styles and types of project they assign.
Visit the school if at all possible. Get the feel for friendliness of staff and other parents, how teachers and children’s interact, how does facilities look and feel for you.
Connect with other parents. Gauge their opinion about school, facilities, teachers and other students.
This spring, Madison area Keller Williams agents partnered with Two Men and a Truck in supporting Movers for Moms national charity drive. This is 14th year of the program, and 9th of drive across the country.
Make your mother proud
During the program, donations are collected to support local women’s and family shelters. The purpose is to provide small gifts for women who are victims of domestic abuse or homelessness. All items will be delivered on Mother’s Day, May 9.
Two Men and a Truck was started by a mom, has women in key leadership roles across the company, and some of the most successful franchise owners are women. It was natural idea.
In 2021, The Korwels team will collect donations from two neighborhoods in Sauk City, Wi. We will distribute program fliers on Saturday, April 23 in the afternoon. Items will be collected the following Saturday, May 1 after 3 pm, for delivery to Two Men and a Truck location in Madison.
Items to donate
Hair styling products
Nail polish and other fun toiletries
Other items to pamper these women
You can also donate online though one of Amazon wishlists:
You do not have to be selling your home and moving across the country to want to declutter- and earn few dollars in the process. Now, when the temperature is climbing and days are getting longer, it’s perfect time for Garage Sale season!
When you start your spring cleaning, look around the house and in all of your storage areas. Do inventory of each of the storage spaces: garage, attic, spare bedroom closet, and yes, yours (and your kids) summer and winter wardrobe. Anything you have not used in last 12 month is a good candidate to go. It is a good rule of thumb for clothes, decor, and even books in your must read pile.
Don’t censor and dismiss any item. One person’s trash is another person treasure. Besides, if any item doesn’t sell in your garage sale (best strategies below), simply donate leftovers next day to your favorite charity (Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army etc.). You already made the decision to part with those items, didn’t you? Drop the. Off same day. And save the receipt for your charitable tax deduction.
Ahead of time
Do your homework. Check your Communities: HOA association and city regulations regarding garage sales. Is it allowed on your property? Do you need any permits? This is also a good time to check if no city or block wide events are not being planned in the area that will advertise and bring crowds of people.
Plan date and time. If you are not joining a larger event, the best time is to schedule on a first Saturday of the month (people have paycheck to spend), before noon. If weather is nice people are most likely to be out and about. Check and re-check the forecast.
Talk to your neighbors. You can either talk them into joining you, or offer to sell some of their overflow items. They can also assist in putting the word out to their friends.
Advertise. Put the info out on your social media accounts. Place a note on local groups boards, like Facebook groups or on NextDoor. Use garage sale website to spread the word out: some examples are Garage Sale Finder or Yard Sale Search. Be specific what types of items you will have for sale and provide some photos to build interest.
Sort and prepare. Wash and iron clothes, dust off books and furniture, clean sporting equipment.
Price your items. Place small labels with prices on every item you plan to sell. Good rule of thumb is to price items at 20% of their original value. However, items in the range $1 to $5 dollars will sell the quickest. Perhaps you can organize items in the same categories and sell for same price? For example- all books $3, all dresses $10. After all, main idea is to declutter, not to make money.
Evening before the sale
Put signs out. Unless your garage sale is part of city or block wide event, put plenty of signs, balloons and arrows around area. Make it easy to notice and find you.
Visit your Bank. Garage sale is a cash business and you’ll need to have a way to give change back. Ask tellers for $1 bills. If you plan on asking less than full dollar amounts – get some coins too.
Organize your items. Sort everything in clear categories, similar to the ones you see in department stores: clothes, toys, decor, books etc.
Get ready. Prepare and organize all items and accessories evening before the event, for example in the garage, for speedy set up in the morning.
On the day
Keep your house safe. Keep the doors to your house locked, and set out note “no public restrooms”. You can add directions to closest public facilities, for example corner gas station.
Provide packing materials. If you have many small things, having a supply of cardboard boxes and or plastic shopping bags can come in handy. It also helps to declutter your place of those items.
Separate free items. Put aside a clearly marked box with items you are willing to give away for free. Side note: Mark “not for sale” any items in visitors view that are not for sale to avoid confusion!
Provide barrier. Do not put any items directly on the ground. Place them on the table, tarp, etc. It just makes them more desirable – and easier to reach.
Hang clothing. Present clothes, particularly adult clothes that are typically hard to sale, on hangers and on a rack. It will make them more appealing. Pro tip: set up a mirror by the rack to try items on!
Allow testing electric items. Set an extension cord to allow to plug in and test working condition of any appliances etc.
Create experience. Play some music, sell bottled water to drink, if weather is hot.
Sit down and enjoy. Set up a chair in shady spot with good view of your display and observe.
Oceans of paper have been filled with dissertations whether it is more beneficial to rent vs. own your home. You can read our own take on it here… One thing that very few sources mention are potential tax benefits* of owning your home. In some cases they can tip the scale substantially towards the ownership side.
How can owning a house save you money?
1. Mortgage interest
Chances are that you have a mortgage on your house. And at the end of each year you’re receiving a form from your financial institution detailing how much interest you’ve paid over the course of the year. Save that form. Interest paid on mortgage used to finance your primary residence is tax deductible. But you probably knew that. Mortgage interest deduction is one of the most common ones claimed by tax payers.
2. Property tax deduction
You may deduct up to $10,000 ($5,000 if married filing separately) for a combination of property taxes and either state and local income taxes or sales taxes.
You might be able to deduct property and real estate taxes you pay on your:
3. Home office deduction
Do you run small business out of your home? Is that space used exclusively for business? If yes the IRS allows you to deduct utilities, real estate taxes, repairs, maintenance and other related expenses. The details of this deduction are too complex to list it in this post, but the simplest way is to claim standard deduction of $5 per square foot (up to $1,500) of the space dedicated as office use.
4. Energy efficiency updates and credits
As a homeowners can claim a federal tax credit for making certain improvements to their homes or installing appliances that are designed to boost energy efficiency. Solar, wind, geothermal, and fuel cell technology are all eligible for the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit.
Disclaimer: we are Realtors, not tax attorneys or CPA, so the above should be treated as anecdotal. Please consult with your tax preparer before you claim any of the credits.