Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Virgin and the Badass Bard

How did you go 30 years without ever doing Shakespeare? This one's personal. Read The Virgin and the Badass Bard for a story of romance, Romeo's mom, Brussels sprouts and how they can make your life better.

Buying a Home in the Winter? You bet your ice skates!

All that glitters on the housing front is not sunlit summer gold. There's plenty of shine on the snowy banks of the winter market. Read more...Buying a Home in the Winter? You bet your ice skates!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pulling the Plug on Christmas | Tracy Shaffer

Every year I swear it will be different. Every year I vow to make it magical again but as the years fly by and special moments get lost like socks in the dryer.. that's why I'm Pulling the Plug on Christmas | Tracy Shaffer. Sort of.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pulling the Plug on Christmas

Last Christmas as I was doing the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, tree cutting, light hanging, pine needle sweeping and otherwise workin my a** off, I remember swearing I'd never do it again. Why in god's name would I fight the crowds, spend too much money as I check off the items on the Christmas list so that my children, who have more than they need, won't be disappointed on Christmas morning? It's been a long time since Santa graced our chimney and we don't celebrate it as a religious holiday... so what is it, peer pressure? If Jesus ain't the reason for your season, do you think American Express and Martha Stewart will take his place? As a nation of stressed-out consumers, culturally bombarded with the capitalist notion that we must spend and strive to meet over-inflated expectations, we've lost our collective connection to why we really do this.

                                            This year wants a lot more laughter and a lot less stress. 
In the spirit of renewal and re-connection, I gathered the boys this morning to talk about changin it up this year. "Rather than me producing the Christmas extravaganza while you kill zombies and aliens, why don't we do something good for the world, create something memorable and have a little fun while we're at it?"
I hear the sigh as the cheek hits the table. Rather than ask what they want, I ask what we can we give. This isn't going over too well with the younger, while the elder lets the idea skim past mumbling his assent as he remains focused on some urgent text conversation. Not getting the input and enthusiasm I'm foolishly expecting, I dig deeper. "What do you want your Christmas to be about this year? What gives it magic and meaning?" I could have served up a bowl of boiled brussels sprouts and gotten the same reaction. "How 'bout a Twelve Days of Christmas where we exchange small things, or funny gifts?" *ping of incoming text* "What about a movie night or doing something for charity?" *sigh* "Can we go snowboarding?" young Witherspoon fils queries.

                                           This year will be more about giving than getting. 

I don't have bad kids. They're not, in this respect much different from most of the middle class kids I know. But they are part of the 47% who feels entitled to an Xbox or an iPod or a smartphone; whatever the latest invention served up to our youth for consumption. I remember last year feeling as if the joy of shopping (and I do like it) had been replaced by a sense of obligation. That letter to Santa had morphed into a list of "things mom should get me or she'll feel like crap" and it makes me sad. Maybe even sadder than the boys would feel if I pulled the plug on this whole string of blinking lights. I'm not sure if I have the ornaments to go that far, but I can guarantee it will be a Christmas to remember.   

                                         This year there will be no presents, there will be gifts. 

Somewhere between the end of the world and the fiscal cliff I intend to bring a kinder, gentler (and cheaper) holiday experience.Rather than sweat it out at the mall, we'll work it up at the holiday skating rink. Instead of online shopping, I'll Google "Things to do in Denver in December". We used to do all sorts of things when the kids were little; Blossoms of Light at the Botanic Gardens, the Zoo Lights, the Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. It was easy when they were young and full of wonder, each event building up anticipation of the big day. It feels harder on me now, exhausted by the eye rolls and resistance to being with the family. Perhaps the magic of Christmas is not gone, just lost in Teenville.

                                       This year will have no electronics, it will have turn-ons. 
So... what if I bring it back? What if we can discover time within our crazy schedules? What if we replaced the standard with the unusual? There are plenty of fun and kitchy holiday things to mix into the cookie dough. What if we actually baked, skated, brought gifts to a family in need, or...*gasp* went to Christmas Eve at the cathedral? What if we watched "Elf" and made tacky Christmas sweaters then wore them around town? What if what we gave each other came from a true exchange? Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Holiday House Guest Hell? Not so fast..

Somehow the shopping and cooking and cleaning manage to get done; that's one "Miracle of Christmas". When it's time for the house guests to arrive and kick the snow off their boots, I want to insure I don't want to kick them out three days later. In Tracyland, happy guests mean a happy hostess so spend a few minutes and go the extra mile before they arrive.
 Having a snappy home office leaves me without a proper guest room, but the sheets get changed, sleeping accommodations are made and everyone seems to be happy.  I mean…they come back, right?
Through the years I’ve found a few personal touches to make my guests feel like I’m glad to have them. Here are my old favorites and one I’m adding.
1. Have you ever slept on someone’s sofa-bed? Their owners preface your evening turn-in with “Oh, it’s so comfortable” but obviously they haven’t slept on it since college.  Rather than have your guests spend their nights on “the rack” and their days in traction, why not invest in a mattress topper? I purchased a gel foam topper for my son’s futon and it makes a world of difference. With company coming, I ran down to Costco and bought another for the guest (sofa) bed.  If you have guests who fold that thing up every night you may want a different type of topper but my family tends to spread out and stay out and the gel pad with find a post-holiday home on the other son’s bed.
2. Add some flowers. Whether I’m creating guest space in the boys’ rooms, my office or in the basement, adding some seasonal sprigs brings a bright distraction. Those unexpected peach poinsettias make any room feel festive.
3. Sweet treats.  Though I don’t go all Martha with chocolates on the pillow, I love to pre-set a few fun and useful things. Taking a tip from my travels, it’s easy to stay a step ahead by providing for their needs in advance. Arrange an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, a few bottles of water and that shampoo, conditioner and lotion from your last hotel stay in a holiday cookie tin. You may want to throw in some drugstore items (aspirin, antacids, etc), then place a few clementines, home baked cookies or some peppermint for some festive pop.
4. Basket of soft things. Rather than stack towels and toiletries on the bed, wrap them in ribbon and place them in a deep basket. Step it up with a robe, extra throw blanket and pillows and top it off with a small box of chocolates.
5. Double check the necessities. Though you may use the room for another reason, make sure your guests have everything they need. An adjustable desk lamp, reading light or bathroom nightlight, make your night owl guests feel at home, and have an alarm clock handy for the early birds. Have an old iPod and headphones? Load it up with soothing music or snappy jazz and make it handy, place a good book (one you’ve already read) and some recent magazines on the bedside table, or pick up some gallery guides and touristy pamphlets for that B&B touch.
6. Make all of the above easy to store and reuse.

Chances are your friends and family will be with you more than the three day limit, so make the most of their stay by starting with a warm and thoughtful welcome.  Happy Holidays!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Just listed this wonderful 3 bed/3 bath home in the Willow Trace subdivision of Aurora South. The neighborhood sits among rolling hills with mature trees and lots of open space. I really like the floor plan as it lives large. The flow between kitchen/great room/living/dining is pleasing and open. Great room has fireplace and 5.1 Audiophile surround sound so guess whose hosting movie night? The master bedroom is huge, closets are bigger than my house ; ) and the second/third bedrooms are nice and roomy. Great loft space upstairs to keep the little ones close or use for study/gaming area. Over-sized two car garage with secure storage. Partial basement is insulated, plumbed and egressed; ready for your finish if you need more space and Cherry Creek Schools! This house is totally move in ready and I can get you into it for $1000! Click here for more info and the Virtual Tour. Nice to hear from you! Tracy

Thursday, August 23, 2012


July housing stats are in and they're looking better than your new school clothes! Our hot, hot summer did more for the Denver housing market as real estate rose to match the temps.

How Affordable is Denver Home Ownership? Glad you asked. | Tracy Shaffer

How do you know how much home you can afford? For that you should call your lender. On a larger scale, the Home Affordability Index factors in home prices, income levels and mortgage interest rates to calculate 30 of America's top cities. Where does Denver rank?

When is a Step Back a Move Forward?

Sometime you have to go back to move forward. When I moved to a bigger home further south, I got more space, bigger closets, better schools. But I lost my sense of belonging; my tribe. How do you know if a move is right for you? It may take time...