From Elegant to Traditional: How to Enhance Your Home’s Exterior for the Holidays

porchheaderOne of the joys of the holidays is going out and about to see how others have decorated their homes. It not only adds an excitement to the air, but also may inspire you for how you’d like to decorate the exterior of your own home.

Perhaps the best place to start is the front porch, which is your home’s holiday greeting to all who visit or pass by. Whether your style is glam and glitz or traditional and country, these tips will make it easy to decorate your porch to celebrate fall, and then transition it seamlessly to winter holiday decor in no time!


A simple, clean, elegant decor never goes out of style. And nothing says glamour quite like the color combination of black, white, and gold, which works quite well as a tool to show your style throughout the seasons.

glamfallIn the fall, take advantage of front door planters by mixing autumn vegetables such as white gourds and cornstalks with pinecones.

Plus, you can add a striking focal point to your autumn decor by hanging a gold-painted harvest wreath on your door—this will maintain your glam theme while adding an extra touch of the season.

glamwinterIn the winter, switch out the autumn vegetables with more seasonal ornament-style decor, and forgo the usual pine wreath by opting for a clean gold straw wreath, to which you can add your own personalized touch of the season.

Cross-seasonal tip: Stringing pinecones around your door is an ideal transitioning tool—you won’t have to switch them out during the change of seasons!


The autumn and holiday seasons both evoke a sense of home and tradition, which is not only appealing to a lot of people, but also a hot design trend. You can reflect this style by implementing the tips below and bringing them all together in a bronze-colored tub.


In the fall, incorporate the colors of the season with fall vegetables, including mini gourds, autumn corn, and corn stalks; mix in some pinecones; and add a pop of white to contrast the oranges of autumn by including a white pumpkin in the mix.

traditionalwinterIn the winter, switch out your traditional autumn colors with all white items, and frost the pinecones from your fall decor to bring the holidays to your doorstep; add a touch of green with some pine branches, which will also welcome guests with the scent of the season.

Cross-seasonal tip: Fill your tub with plenty of newspaper to add lift to your items so they stand out more.

To get more holiday-themed decorating ideas that will help you add your personal style to the season, visit

What Buyers Should Know About Home Inspections

unnamed-1Many buyers hope to find a home in perfect condition so they can avoid dealing with maintenance issues. The problem is – no perfect home exists, so as a buyer, you should rely on home inspections to tell you what you need to know about the condition of the home you’re buying.

Be prepared to hire and schedule several types of inspectors to look at structural, pests, and environmental elements, depending on requirements in your state.

A structural home inspection should take several hours and cover all built-in appliances, all mechanical, electrical, gas and plumbing systems, the roof, foundation, gutters, exterior skins, windows and doors.

Home inspections may only cover the main house. This is significant for specialty inspections such as termites, because termites are more likely to be found in outbuildings. Make sure any inspection covers all buildings on the property including guest houses, detached garages, barns, stables and other buildings that will convey with the property, even if you have to pay more.

Attend every inspection and stay with the inspectors. Seeing problems for yourself will help you understand what’s serious, what needs replacement now or later, and what’s not significant. While home inspections point out problems, they also show you what’s working well so you can make your final decision about the home.

You can ask the seller to make repairs, or you can offer a little less. If you’re getting a VA or FHA-guaranteed loan, some items aren’t negotiable and the seller must address them, but otherwise ask your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices sales professional for advice.

How to Host (and Win) a Chili Cook-Off


A tasty way to warm up the winter is enjoying a bowl of chili. There are seemingly endless varieties out there, though, so there’s really only one way to decide which is best: host a chili cook-off with friends and family!

Below you’ll find a pair of flavor-filled recipes to help you get a leg up on the competition; choose your favorite, and add it to the mix at your cook-off. And use the downloadable accessories to get your crowd in the proper cook-off spirit.

White Bean Chicken Chiliwhitechicken
Everyday chili? Bean there, done that. While everyone else whips up traditional tomato-and-beef-based chili for your cook-off, show them that you’re the host with the most flavor-filled chili! This chili recipe is a winner, with not only white beans and chicken but also a delicious blend of vegetables and spices to impress any palate.

Sweet & Spicy Pork Chilispicypork
Love spicy and sweet? Don’t settle for one when you can make both in one delicious dish! This recipe has many chili spices you’d expect—garlic, pepper, cayenne—but blends them with seasonal flavors like pumpkin and cocoa. Add tender pork to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe that’s sure to earn high scores at your cook-off!

To complete your chili cook-off checklist, print out these party accessories to set the mood to fever pitch at your get-together, and to remind everyone that it’s all about the fun.

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Carve with Care: 5 Tips for Carving Pumpkins

There’s no bigger Halloween tradition than carving the pumpkin. (Granted, kids may disagree.) Actually, this annual event goes back centuries here in the US, as Americans are believed to have started carving pumpkins in the 1800s, following European tradition.

Traditions aside, though, these gourds sure tend to be messy, and they also can be a challenge to maintain. So give yourself a treat: follow the 5 tips below to make your pumpkin-carving experience easier—and enjoy the holiday to the fullest!

Cut the hole in the bottom of your pumpkin instead of the top.
Ready to turn your pumpkin-carving experience upside down? Then consider cutting your hole in the bottom instead of the top. When you are ready for your pumpkin to light up the night, simply lift it up, place a lit candle on the ground, and then carefully put the pumpkin back over it. This method not only makes the design of your pumpkin look cleaner, but also makes candle lighting so much easier!

Use a metal ice cream scoop to scrape out the seeds.
If you’ve experienced the frustration of trying to get all the seeds and stringy mess out of your pumpkin, you’ve surely thought that there has to be an easier way. There is: use your metal ice cream scooper. It’s stronger and bigger than those plastic scoopers in pumpkin-carving kits, so you’ll get more done with less effort.

Draw your design using a dry-erase marker.
You use dry-erase markers in everyday life because of they are easy to use, right? So use them for Halloween preparation as well! Unlike other writing utensils, these markers won’t harm your pumpkin; and unlike permanent markers or pen ink, the ink from these markers can be removed quickly and effortlessly with and a simple baby wipe.

Use toothpicks for structural support when necessary.
If attempting to remove the seeds isn’t the most trying part of pumpkin carving, then accidentally cutting off part of your pumpkin is. When this happens, just reconnect the pieces with a toothpick, which is easy to conceal and will provide support to the connected pieces. (Bonus tip: Once you’re finished carving your pumpkin, rub plenty of Vaseline around the edges to keep it from drying out.)

Rub some ground cinnamon inside your pumpkin.
There are a few good reasons to add some spice to your pumpkin carving. First, it will add a strong scent of the season to your pumpkin with its wonderful autumn-like smell. In addition, if you’ve ever had trouble with critters like squirrels feasting on your Halloween pride and joy, then cinnamon may be your best friend, since its strong scent has been known to repel such animals.

Now that you have some ideas for how to maximize your pumpkin’s shelf life, have some fun with your pumpkin! Download one out of this trio of terrifying (OK, maybe not-so-terrifying) templates to make your pumpkin stand out this Halloween:





Fun Face

Why carve out the same old triangle-eyed, smiling pumpkin, when you can give your pumpkin tons of personality? Your kids will crack up at this fun face template, which features a goofy take on the traditional pumpkin face.







No critter says Halloween as much as the cat, so if you want to ditch the smiling pumpkin this year, this would be a great alternative. If you’re a fan of felines, this cool template of a cat with a full moon sets the tone for Halloween.






If you really want to be unique and have people gasp at your gourd, then this spider template is for you. It takes the silhouette of the creepy eight-legged creature and enhances it, so when you light up your pumpkin, it stands out from the crowd.

Halloween is always exciting because it’s the unofficial start of the end-of-year holidays. To get more ideas to use throughout the holiday season, visit

20 Ways to Decorate Pumpkins


pumpkin-topiaryWe found some great ideas on decorating for Halloween on Pike Nurserie’s Blog. Check out more photos here.

1. Stack them high:  Make a pumpkin topiary.

2. Quick fix: Decorate a pumpkin in two minutes or less with a black stocking.

3. Drill down: Get out the handy power tools and drill patterns in the side of the pumpkin.

4. Try a little Bling: Create glitter covered pumpkins.

5. Painted Pumpkins: Paint a message like ‘boo’ on the side of a pumpkin.

6. Silly faces: Use a pumpkin kit to make silly faces.

7. Buttons: Glue buttons on a pumpkin.

8. Plant Pumpkins: Carve out your pumpkin and plant it!

9. Succulent succulents: Top your pumpkin with easy to care for succulents.

10. Flower power: Carve out your pumpkin. Line it with plastic and use it as a vase to hold fall cut flowers.

11. Entertaining: Hollow out a pumpkin and use it to hold ice and bottled water or dips for your fall parties.

12. Top Dressing: Add small pumpkins tucked into your container gardens.

13. Save the place: Use a small pumpkin at each place at the table with your guests name.

14. Pattern play: Paint stripes, dots, or chevron patterns.

15. Personalized Pumpkins: Add your monogram to pumpkins with buttons, push pins, or paint.

16. Go traditional: Carve out a spooky or silly face.

17. Mummified:  Wrap gauze around a pumpkin and add googly eyes to create a pumpkin mummy

18. Centerpiece / Tablescape: Mix pumpkins, gourds and fall leaves for a festive centerpiece.

19. House numbers: Paint your house numbers on a pumpkin.

20. Decoupage. Use decoupage glue to adhere fall foliage or mosses to a pumpkin.

Selling Your Home? Here’s 3 Reasons You Need to Hire an Agent

Here’s 3 reasons why you should hire an agent and not just list your home “for sale by owner”? Want to know more reasons? We have heard it stated there can be upwards of 100 people involved in coordinating efforts around one real estate transaction and an average of 17 hiccups in every real estate transaction. A typical sale involves well over 20 various steps and our Listing Process consists of a 180-point checklist. Petersen Partners’ goal is to coordinate all the moving parts and people in a transaction and eliminate the challenges as best we can on our clients’ behalf. We are there every step of the way to guide our clients through the matters that require special attention. Find out more by visiting


Quick Fixes for FICO® Scores

With mortgage interest rates near record lows, you may want to buy a home before rates go higher. Can you qualify for a purchase loan? Your FICO® scores may be the key.

unnamedOver 50 years ago, The Fair Isaac Company created credit scoring so that lenders can understand at a glance how much risk you pose as a borrower. “FICO” scores are determined by a software algorithm that analyzes your job, credit, income-to-debt ratios, spending habits and payment history. Base scores range between 300 and 850, and borrowers with the highest scores get the best credit terms.

Each credit reporting bureau, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, calculates its own score, so review all your credit reports for errors and get them resolved as quickly as possible. Visit www.annualcreditreport.comto get free one-time copies of your credit reports. Credit scores aren’t free, but you can get scores from all three bureaus at for under $60.

FICO scores change with new information. Prevent lower scores by doing the following:

  • Pay all bills on time.
  • Pay more than the minimum payment required.
  • Reduce credit card debt to improve income-to-debt ratios.
  • Don’t open new accounts to consolidate debt or close credit card accounts.
  • Use no more than 30% of your available credit on any card.
  • Don’t change jobs immediately before applying for a mortgage loan.

Mortgage lenders are most interested in your ability to repay the loan. Long-term employment in the same field and on-time credit payments are the best ways to build and protect your credit scores.

How to Prep Your Lawn for Winter



While the days are still hot and muggy, it’s hard to think about winter, but with a little prep work now, your lawn will be ready for winter. The end of summer is the perfect time to lay the groundwork for a lush green lawn in the spring. We found these 6 easy tips from This Old House.

  1. Mow Low
    Cut the grass down to 1 to 1½ inches, making it easier to aerate and to judge how much compost to add. If your grass is more than 3 inches tall, take it down incrementally over a few mowings—no more than a third of the grass blade at a time—to avoid stressing the plants.
  2. Aerate
    On a day when the soil is moist, not soggy—the core aerator’s hollow tines can’t easily penetrate hard, dry ground—take a couple of passes around the lawn’s perimeter. This will provide a buffer zone for turning this heavy machine around as you run it back and forth over the rest of the lawn.
  3. Top-Dress
    Where grass is sparse, prepare for seeding by spreading a half-inch layer of aged compost. I hold a snow-shovelful in the crook of my arm, fling it off with my free hand, as shown, then work it in with a leaf rake. Be sure your compost is cured: dry, crumbly, and cool to the touch. If it’s hot and smells, it’s more likely to harbor pathogens and burn your lawn.
  4. Fertilize
    Distribute fertilizer and pelletized lime (if needed) using a rotary spreader. I use a high-phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate root growth; but you should let the soil test determine the best mix for your conditions. To keep the spreader from dumping too much fertilizer in one spot, open or close the hopper only when the spreader is in motion.
  5. Overseed
    Fill the spreader with seed, set its control to about two-thirds of the bag’s recommendation, to account for overlapping passes, and distribute the seed over the compost. As when fertilizing, keep the spreader in motion when opening or closing the hopper. For large areas, you can save time by renting a power overseeder, which slices the turf and drops in the seeds. It eliminates the need to rake in Step 6.
  6. Rake and Water
    Mix the seeds into the compost with a leaf rake held tines up, as shown. Water lightly—5 minutes at a time, two to three times a day—until the seeds sprout. Then water once a day for 15 to 30 minutes. Mow the lawn again when the existing grass reaches 3 inches; bag the clippings. After leaves have fallen, cut the grass back to 1½ inches for its long winter’s nap.

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