Trunk or Treat?

DSC04993.JPG For the second year in a row, mother nature tried to ruin Halloween! October 29th, 2011 there was a rare snow storm in the tri-state area. Since the trees still had so many leaves on them, the heavy snow pulled down branches and trees and power lines. Many people were left without power for days and many towns cancelled Halloween. With two little kids, we braved the snow and cold and live wires, but it was not pleasant – for anyone. On October 29th, 2012 hurricane Sandy paid the east coast a nasty visit. This storm was unlike anything we had ever seen. People lost their homes, their valuables and even their loved ones. Trees crashed through houses, blocked streets and people are waiting on line for over 3 hours to get gas for their cars or generators. All over the tri-state area, it looks like a war zone and who knows how long it will take to get back on track.
DSC04994.JPG But to my eight year old and five year old, it was Halloween and they wanted to dress up and get candy. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. They were already disappointed that they didn’t have their school party and parade… but it just wasn’t safe to walk around the streets with trees dangling and live wires all around. Then a friend of mine had a brilliant idea. She sent out the following email to all the moms and posted on Facebook: “So there’s no school, no power and it’s halloween. Not safe to trick or treat in pitch black, but let’s not cancel halloween entirely! I propose we meet in the parking lot behind the school and let the kids trick or treat car to car. Costumes! Candy! Friends! What could be better? Tell a friend! Let’s make this fun!”
Word spread through social media, and at 4 PM cars lined up and the trunk or treating began! It was great, the kids had a blast. People even brought decorations and hung them in their cars. It was the perfect (safe) way to celebrate Halloween. The kids were able to wear the costumes they had picked out months ago (why does the costume catalog have to come in the mail in August??) get lots of candy and hang out with their friends! It was nice for the parents too- we could socialize and not stress out about trees and wires and cars. And when the kids got chilly and wanted a break, they could hang out in the trunks!
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People are trying to put the pieces of their lives back together, literally. So many people still have no power and it’s getting so cold. So many people have lost their home and have nowhere to go. Communities are coming together to donate and do whatever they can to help those effected by Sandy. It was great that my children and the other neighborhood kids could celebrate in a safe and fun way, however; let’s hope this doesn’t become a new Halloween tradition.

Hurricane Aftermath: Five Tips for New Homeowners

iStock_000013843783XSmall.jpgI am still counting my blessings that our home miraculously did not suffer damage due to Hurricane Sandy. But I have to say it’s not just luck that saved our home. It’s the fact that we’ve had so many old trees fall on our home in past years that we weren’t going to take any more chances. As a result, we no longer have massive trees towering over our home. Unfortunately, our neighbors who live directly across the street from us still have monster trees on their property so I’m hoping this storm gives them the impetus to trim them or cut them down. I pretty much spent most of the storm staring at a 75 feet high evergreen — praying it wouldn’t topple the electrical wires and land on our front lawn.
So what can you do to protect your home from a terrible storm? For those who live near an ocean, lake or river, I don’t have many tips on that front since no matter what you do to protect your home could still lead to tragic results. But if you live in a hilly area or far away from water, here are my homeowner tips for those of you thinking of buying a new home.
1. CUT DOWN YOUR TREES!!! — Don’t mean to offend tree lovers, but if you have a tree on your property that’s more than 50 years old, you owe it to yourself and your neighbors to either trim your trees or cut them down completely. It is expensive — we had to remove three massive pine trees when one fell on our home a few years ago but I was so glad that those trees were nowhere in sight when Hurricane Sandy hit. Incidentally, it typically costs about $1000 or more to remove a massive tree. And that doesn’t factor in how much it costs to grind the stumps which you should do because that could cause a termite infestation.
2. IF YOUR HOME FLOODS, PURCHASE A SUMP PUMP — The last thing you want to be doing is bailing out a home with a bucket after your home floods due to a storm or a hot water heater that bursts (happened to us). The only thing that will pump water out in an efficient manner is if you bring in a sump pump.
3. OWN A BACK UP GENERATOR — Of course, you can’t use your sump pump if you don’t have electricity — which is why it’s best to invest in a back up generator that can power your home even if the electricity goes out.
4. BUY A WOOD BURNING STOVE — If your home doesn’t have a fireplace, then purchase a less expensive option — a wood burning stove that can heat your home if the power goes out.
5. DON’T BUY A HOUSE THAT’S ON A DOWNGRADE — When house hunting, find a home that is on top of a hill but not on a downgrade. Any time you see a home that’s located at the bottom of a hill, you are destined for flooding. And that’s not fun.
TWO BONUS TIPS:
OWN A LANDLINE THAT’S PLUGGED INTO THE WALL: If you have your phone service through your cable provider, if the cable goes out, you’re out of luck. Still keep a phone line that’s tied to a service like Verizon or Sprint and make sure one of your phones is old school and plugs into a wall. If you don’t have to plug in a phone, it will work even if the power goes out!
BUY A HYBRID CAR — This isn’t necessarily a homeowner tip, but in light of the recent news that people are waiting on lines for hours to get gas, I’m definitely thinking that our next car is going to be a hybrid. Of course, the car would have to be powered by your back up generator but at least it solves the problem of driving around for hours trying to find gas!