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Cigar Review

Caldwell Collection, The King is Dead Premier Dominican Republic                       5.5” x 50                            Medium                       93-Rated The chocolatey look. The solid roll. The pre-light aroma. Each of these is perfect, setting high expectations before flame meets cigar. […]

Caldwell Collection, The King is
Dead
Premier
Dominican Republic                       5.5” x 50                            Medium                       93-Rated
The chocolatey look. The solid roll. The pre-light aroma. Each of these is perfect, setting high expectations before flame meets cigar. Upon lighting, two things are apparent. Each of the 5 Dominican tobaccos used to create this cigar are of superior quality, and the cigar has been extensively aged post-roll. Every draw from this slow-burning Robusto produces a warm bouquet, complete with toast, earth and milk chocolate. The finish is long yet subtle, completing a luxurious display of balanced, smooth flavors.
Drew Estate, Undercrown Sun Grown Flying Pig
Nicaragua                            6.0” x 54                          Medium-Full             93-Rated

Shaped like a Blackhawk Torpedo Bomb, this Drew Estate creation sports an oily sungrown wrapper from Ecuador and aged long-fillers from Nicaraguan bound by a Connecticut Habano leaf. The smoke is flavorful and complex, offering dense hints of leather, oak and earth complemented by bright hints of spice. A unique sweet and savory nuance lingers from time to time, which I can only describe as cinnamon. This Flying Pig is complex and burns incredibly slow despite its short stature.

Padilla, Finest Hour Connecticut Toro
Honduras        6.0” x 52                               Mellow-Medium                        91-Rated

This 52-ring Toro is perfectly rolled, solid from head to toe and boasts an Ecuador Connecticut wrapper that’s silky and smooth to the touch. Underneath, two Nicaraguan binders secure a vintage mixture of Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers. The bouquet is rich yet mellow, layered by sweet cedar and creamed coffee and finished by a long, toasty aftertaste. A fine fit for anytime enjoyment. No bells, whistles, twists or turns. Just smooth, buttery, soothing and tasty to the nub.

Puros, Indios Bronco
Honduras                    6.5” x 56                               Medium-Full                         92-Rated

I have always loved this classic cigar. Born by the hands of a legend, the late Rolanda Reyes, Sr., Puros Indios is as Cuban-esque and rustic as it gets. Cuban-seed Honduran long-leaf tobaccos reside within a leathery Ecuador Sumatra wrapper to create a rich and chewy smoke. Each draw exhibits rich earth and rich tobacco. A touch of coffee surfaces from time to time, while a subtle zest is constant throughout the burn. Better still, the raw, Cuban twang that’s present from start to finish…deliciously oldschool.

Rocky Patel, Vintage 1979 Churchill
Honduras                     7.0” x 48                               Medium                       95-Rated

Savor this cigar – enjoying a genuine African Cameroon wrapper leaf cultivated anywhere close to 1979 is a rare treat. Underneath this toothy, milk chocolate-hued wrapper, long-fillers from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican combine to deliver an exquisite series of earth, sweet cedar, rich tobacco and gentle spices. The wrappers’ natural sweetness completes each savory puff, offering a touch of toasted peanut on the finish.

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Fun Mini-Vacations Where No Passports Are Needed!

Whether you are planning bachelorette or bachelor vacation or simply looking for a fun mini-vacation with friends, there are several fabulous destinations right here in the US to consider. Here are the top 5 locations, touted as the USA’s best cities for a good time and no passport required! 1: Nashville: Even if you are […]

Whether you are planning bachelorette or bachelor vacation or simply looking for a fun mini-vacation with friends, there are several fabulous destinations right here in the US to consider. Here are the top 5 locations, touted as the USA’s best cities for a good time and no passport required!

1: Nashville: Even if you are not a fan of country music, this Tennessee city is the perfect location for southern charm, outstanding barbeque and pub crawls.  They call this city the “Broadway of the south” because there are shows, live music, and night clubs.  It’s also fun to put on a cowboy hat and ride a mechanical bull before you go line dancing.

Nashville

 

2:  South Beach, Miami: Want to stay in the US but love a gorgeous beach and want some nightlife too?  South Beach Miami is the ideal location for a tropical party spot.  With sleek and trendy hotels and an amazing night scene, you can spend your days sitting on the beach and your night’s club hopping on Collins Avenue.

miami-beach

 

3: New Orleans, Louisiana:  The Big Easy has always been known for a crazy party scene during Mardi Gras, but it is also a fabulous place to celebrate your last single days throughout the year.  The art and culture scene, as well as a live Jazz show,  and partake in the best Creole and Cajun cuisine.  For a fun mix, you can explore the Mississippi on riverboat cruise during the day and walk Bourbon Street at night.

new-orleans

 

4:  Napa Valley:  Interested in a more reserved destination?  Amazing wine and a stunning backdrop make Napa Valley a popular location for any bachelorette/bachelor party.  With numerous wineries and some of the best spas in the country, it is easy to stay at a B & B, sample wine, take in a spa treatment and eat top restaurants!  For more adventure, hot air balloon rides provide stunning views of the vineyards!

Napa Valley California Wine Country Vineyard Field Harvest for Winery

 

5:   Puerto Rico:    Looking for the Caribbean but don’t want the hassle of having to get a passport?  Puerto Rico is the ideal Caribbean location because as a US territory it doesn’t require a passport.  With daytime activities like surfing, kayaking, hiking the rain forests and walking the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, those who want more than sun/beach can be as active or adventurous as they wish.  Plus there are plenty of salsa clubs, hip bars, and casinos to party the night away.

puerto-rico

 

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Think you have all your “Risk” Covered? Time for a Review?

While driving home from the Network Magazine event at Boos Rock last week, I was sharing my thoughts with Kelly on what I wanted to write this article about.  As an insurance professional in my 4th decade of practice, I am increasingly alarmed at the “commoditization” of auto insurance.  Very few companies advertise protection; it […]

While driving home from the Network Magazine event at Boos Rock last week, I was sharing my thoughts with Kelly on what I wanted to write this article about.  As an insurance professional in my 4th decade of practice, I am increasingly alarmed at the “commoditization” of auto insurance.  Very few companies advertise protection; it is all about low price. Now don’t get me wrong, everyone wants the best quality at the lowest price, but I suspect the majority of drivers have no idea what stacked underinsured coverage really protects or the difference between limited tort and full tort and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of protection that are in play for pennies of premium per day.

As Kelly and I continued this conversation, we heard sirens coming from all directions.  Next, the Upper Macungie Police cruiser flew by.  Then the Fogelsville Fire police and first responders flew by.  I always get nervous when I hear sirens, hoping and praying it’s not someone I know or insure.  As it turns out, I did get THAT call the very next morning.  It was a near-fatal auto accident, involving one of my clients, actually the son who is in his 20’s. He was completely innocent in this accident, just a simple case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. We proceeded to set up the claim, and I invited the family to come to the office to review their auto policy in person. They were distraught with many questions.  Hopefully, I was able to offer some semblance of assurance that they will be well protected if litigation is brought.  As it turns out they have high levels of liability protection, plus a personal liability umbrella in place.  We discussed how the repairs would be handled once the car is released from impound and set them up in a rental car.  Finally, we explained how the medical transport and other medical bills would be handled.

The competition for Auto insurance has never been fiercer.  Advertising is directed at a low price, minimum coverage.  The minimum liability limits in PA are 15,000 per person/ $30,000 per occurrence for bodily injury and $5,000 of property damage liability. The state legislature set these limits in 1974.  In 1974 the average price of a new car was $3,500.  In 2019, the average price of a new car is tenfold; $34,000.  Back in 1974, when you bought your first car, your father took you by the hand to his Insurance Agent.  That Agent gave you the protection you needed, and you forged a life-long relationship.  Today, the first time car buyer, typically Googles “cheap car insurance,” absent an insurance professional, finds a low-cost coverage minus consideration of inflicting serious bodily injury upon others, or giving up rights if injured by someone else. I get the feeling that there is a lot of underinsured drivers with misguided priorities based on irresponsible advertising.

Another major shift in transportation is the advent of rideshare, i.e. UBER and LYFT.  There are an estimated 1.5-2 million UBER drivers in the US and 41.8 million UBER users.  Total UBER usage is about 15 billion trips since its inception a decade ago.  Complicating matters, personal auto policies specifically exclude coverage when the vehicle is being used for livery (hired for pay).  UBER has contracted with a third party to pick up when the personal auto policy excludes coverage.  However, those limits are obscure at best and vary by state.  Typically, there is a low level of liability protection when the UBER driver is “App On” minus riders. Limits of $50,000 / $100,000 per person/per occurrence for bodily injury liability and $25,000 for property damage liability is common.    When transporting riders, the liability limits increase to $1,000,000.  So, at any given moment, various companies are insuring a vehicle at various levels of protection all in a matter of seconds. A claims and litigation nightmare. This topic alone should make everyone increase their Underinsured Motorist coverage and stack it!  And don’t be so quick to delete the collision coverage on your 10-year-old sedan.

In the past five years, the auto insurance landscape has changed dramatically based on new technology and a shift in advertising.  Now more than ever it’s important to take inventory of your insurance portfolio to assure you are protecting your assets if you just happen to be the one who is at the wrong place at the wrong time.  For a professional giving advice to clients, please ask your clients to sit down with their Insurance Agent to make sure adequate protection is in place.  What was adequate last decade may not adequately protect you today.

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The (I) Dos and Do Not’s of Pennsylvania Wedding Law

There are few periods of a romantic relationship as hectic as wedding planning. From the time she (or he) says yes, until you finally say, “I do,” you and your significant other will contractually commit to anything from a venue to an ice sculpture, and everything in between. Wedding planning is meant to be a […]

There are few periods of a romantic relationship as hectic as wedding planning. From the time she (or he) says yes, until you finally say, “I do,” you and your significant other will contractually commit to anything from a venue to an ice sculpture, and everything in between. Wedding planning is meant to be a time when lifelong dreams are made into realities and knowing what to look for in your wedding agreements can help those best-laid plans from turning into nightmare fuel.

While your significant other may beg to differ, there is nothing particularly special about the contracts you sign leading up to your wedding: to be enforceable they must comply with Pennsylvania contract law.  What does make the wedding contract unique what surrounds it – the pressure to get the perfect venue, the must-have photographer, or that florist you’ve been following on Pinterest for five years – and wedding vendors/venues can use this emotion to their advantage to get you to agree to terms you wouldn’t under any other circumstances.

Following these simple principles of contract law can help you know when to say “I do” or “I don’t”:

  1. Don’t get stuck with an Adhesion Contract – An Adhesion Contract is one that you sign without the value of a bargain, and often under duress. What does that mean? If a vendor or a venue says, you have to sign the contract as its written, take-it-or-leave-it, without giving you the ability to negotiate terms that are clearly written to benefit them; it may be an adhesion contract. This, combined with the first-come-first-served pressure of wedding planning, those one-sided contract provisions may be unenforceable.
  1. Gone with the windfall – For more than a century in Pennsylvania, it has been the law that a contract cannot be worth more cancelled than if completed. What does this mean for your wedding contracts? By way of example, a venue cannot arbitrarily charge you a penalty for cancelling your wedding just to deter you from cancelling.  In Pennsylvania, if you cancel your wedding, the wedding venue would only be entitled to the profit they could have reasonably expected to make on your event.
  1. Not so Non-Refundable Deposits – A rose by any other name may still smell as sweet, but a penalty by any other name is just as unenforceable. “Non-refundable deposits” are a great example of terms found in adhesion contracts, and are often penalties masquerading as damages clauses. Few wedding vendors/venues will let you book the date without putting money down, but just because you put money down doesn’t mean you can’t get it back.  If that “non-refundable” deposit isn’t reasonably calculated to anticipate the vender’s damages, it could be an unenforceable provision, and you may be able to get it back.
  1. If they don’t mitigate, you can litigate. Regardless of whether it’s written into your wedding contracts or not, if you cancel on a vendor/venue, they have a duty to take reasonable steps to “mitigate” their damages. This often means that they have to make some attempt to rebook the date.  Unlike damage provisions, the pressure is on you to show that they haven’t attempted to mitigate their damages.  The concept of mitigation works to protect you in several ways: first, if they rebook the date and make the same amount of profit, you could be off the hook, and second, if they rebook the date but make less profit than they would have if you had not cancelled, it could reduce what you owe.
  1. Know what you’re worth. While the language of a contract can be confusing, it’s important to read it through and understand what you’re obligations are. In Pennsylvania, contracts are limited to the words on the page. Just because you talked about using the venue’s in-house catering service, does not necessarily mean your contract obligates you to do it, or that the venue can reasonably expect the same when determining its damages.

It’s easy to get lost the sea of legal jargon that makes up the typical wedding contract, and that’s why it’s important to consult an attorney to help you navigate the storm. Often an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a relatively small amount of money spent having an attorney review your wedding contracts prior to signing could save you thousands on the back end.

After all, who wants to bargain for the cancellation provision in your wedding contracts in front of your fiancé? Have a lawyer do it for you!

 

An attorney with Gross McGinley, Nicholas Sandercock provides counsel to individuals and businesses in litigation matters. Since planning his own wedding in Lehigh County, Nick has worked with individuals and wedding industry professionals to ensure they understand the contracts they are signing and any obligations and risks they may be assuming. Nick also counsels couples who feel a vendor or venue may not have fulfilled their obligations or is attempting to keep deposits/fees to which they are not entitled.

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Are you Trending? Marketing Made Easy in 2019

Congratulations, you’ve made it through the first few months of 2019!   How’s business?   If you feel like you’re not being heard, I’ve polled some of the brightest marketing minds in the Lehigh Valley to offer their best advice on trends you may want to consider to stand out.  Listen closely because the marketing tactics you […]

Congratulations, you’ve made it through the first few months of 2019!   How’s business?   If you feel like you’re not being heard, I’ve polled some of the brightest marketing minds in the Lehigh Valley to offer their best advice on trends you may want to consider to stand out.  Listen closely because the marketing tactics you succeeded with last year may not work this year.

 

Overall:

It’s not so much a trend as a need — a need to stop trying to utilize each and every digital marketing tactic known to the universe. Organizations feel pressured to participate in all the world’s latest! Hottest! Best ROI?! Digital marketing channels (“Let’s, uh, do a podcast about our Twitch stream”) when, in fact, many of those channels or tactics aren’t helping connect with potential or current customers whatsoever. You’re just, well, you’re kind of there. Instead of checking off the “post to Twitter” box if it doesn’t make sense for your business, spend time thinking — thoroughly — through what you as a business, an entrepreneur, a marketer, a volunteer, a whatever, want to achieve. Dig into how people behave. Be brave in how you present your product or service, but you better do it in an authentic manner. Some of the best marketing I’ve seen comes from local businesses who ensure their websites are solid, their Google My Business listings are clean and up-to-date, and their Instagram accounts are engagingly cool. It really can be that simple.

Mike Walbert
VP, Strategic Communications, SWBR

 

Web:

In 2019 we are going to see that websites are no longer about static content, but the personalized experience. Content personalization is not new, but it is gaining ground. Studies show that by utilizing content personalization on your website, you can significantly increase engagements and conversions. Security is going to be another major topic in marketing this year as marketers are being forced to understand security on the web across many channels. Forging a stronger tie between marketing and technology.

Hillary Long
General Manager, Partner, CITRO Digital

 

Social:

2019 will see social media consumption continue to shift from desktop to mobile. More importantly, stories – on the fly, disappearing vertical videos – are growing 15 times faster than feed-based sharing.  Instagram and Facebook prominently feature stories at the top of their mobile feeds. To remain relevant, it’s important for companies to perfect these in-the-moment, smartphone filmed experiences. Overwhelmingly visual and creative, they are most successful when personal and real. Now is the time to experiment with your content and engagement. While your best stories can be saved, as you discover what works best for your organization, most will have a 24-hour shelf-life…so be adventurous and have fun!

Tina Hasselbusch
President, Social T Marketing & PR

 

Video:

Within the shifting landscape of communication and marketing, video and digital media are experiencing a revolution. As social media races to the front of the line for peoples’ attention, companies are seeking new ways to reach their audience. Gone are the days of a single “who we are” video on a website. Creating content to use across various platforms is critical for success in our noisy, digital world. Companies that take the time to invest in a long-term plan will lead the pack. Among the largest national brands, dollars are shifting from traditional advertising to digital storytelling. Video is no longer a want, it is a need, and it’s important to partner with a production team that offers strategies to maximize budgets and keep the content coming. But don’t be fooled – while quantity is important, quality will always prevail.

Ashley S. Russo
President, Executive Producer, ASR Media Productions

 

Social Content:

We agree with Ashley.  We are also seeing more and more companies, large and small, embracing video.  It’s actually a trend towards multiplatform use of professional video.  We will work on a project for a website video that runs around a minute and a half long but then create shorter versions for social use. Businesses are recognizing the need for well told, branded stories that go beyond phone videos you can shoot yourself. We are also seeing a surge in the use of infographics.  Each is a customized and branded graphic that features an FAQ designed to sell your expertise or services on the social platforms of your choice.

Marta Countess
President, Countess Communications

 

Radio:

One word for the trend for 2019 and the immediate future for iHeartMedia is DIGITAL.  In fact, this year, the money spent on digital advertising in the United States will surpass that on traditional ads for the first time.

Media consumption has spread across so many platforms and content providers. It’s hard for any single brand message to build scaled awareness and impact.  iHeart Media has embraced this, evolving from radio to embrace a cross-platform approach, including offerings on social media, targeted audio, and most recently OTT (Over the Top) video ads targeting cord cutters.

Believe it or not, cord cutters and cord-nevers are projected to increase by 79% by 2019! That’s the way the new generation views TV.

Robin Joy McNeely
Sr. Account Executive/Digital Consultant, I Heart Media

 

 

Magazine:

At Lehigh Valley Style, we see double-digit growth in digital advertising as clients seek to complement their print campaigns with our online offerings. Targeted digital display – including site retargeting and geo-fencing – are just two of the tactics driving great results.   Sponsor content has also become a major trend – advertisers are eager to create digital content that our readers will use, share and save.  Our most successful clients are using video to share their stories – and are seeing huge pageview numbers, shares on social media and new customer acquisitions.

Pamela Deller
Publisher, Lehigh Valley Style

 

B2B Publishing:

I know it is an old idea, but new for 2019 is just keep it simple.  In an age of post this, blog this, tweet this, concentrate on your mission to elevate you above the rest.  Go back to your core beliefs.  Network Magazine concentrates on its readership consisting of the professional service market which appeals to advertisers trying to reach that target.  Stick to what you know and don’t overreach.  Once you start over complicating your message and the way you get your message out, then you just create confusion not only for your readership but also for your advertisers.

Ray Bridgeman
Editorial Director, Network Magazine

  

Design:

2019 will bring some exciting things to the world of marketing and how people brand themselves to convey their brand.

I believe you will start to see BOLD fonts and BRIGHT colors to make brands POP out in the mainstream of marketing. While the simplicity of ideas and information will make it look more organic and spacious.

With everyone trending into the social media and digital marketing spectrum in 2018, 2019 will also bring back printing in the way that it needs to be part of the complete marketing package. It has always been said that the more you market to your ideal audience, the more you will get noticed. Digital printing with data-driven marketing will be the trend in getting the complete package for brand marketing in 2019.

Melissa Berner
Owner & Designer, Berner Design

 

 

 

Marketing may seem like a moving target for business owners, but with savvy professionals tracking the trends, behaviors and new technologies (like artificial intelligence and visual search), there is help to find out what works for you and your business.  My thanks to all of those who were willing to provide some insight into the state of the marketing world today.

 

 

Marta Countess-Countess Communications
Facebook:            https://www.facebook.com/CountessCommunications/
Instagram:           https://www.instagram.com/countesscommvideo/

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Every Great Leader Has This Quality – Do You?

Courage is a trait possessed by all great leaders. So much so, that leadership absent courage is nothing short of a farce. Let me be very clear – I’m not advocating for bravado, arrogance, or an overabundance of hubris, but rather the courage necessary to stay the course and to do the right things. I believe […]

Courage is a trait possessed by all great leaders. So much so, that leadership absent courage is nothing short of a farce. Let me be very clear – I’m not advocating for bravado, arrogance, or an overabundance of hubris, but rather the courage necessary to stay the course and to do the right things. I believe it was Aristotle who referred to courage as the first virtue, because it makes all of the other virtues possible. Many leaders think they have courage – few actually do.

Standing behind decisions everyone supports doesn’t particularly require a lot of chutzpa. On the other hand, standing behind what one believes is the right decision in the face of tremendous controversy is the stuff great leaders are made of. Courage enables leaders to break from the norm, to work in collaboration not isolation, challenge the status quo, seek new opportunities, cut your losses, make the tough decision, listen rather than speak, admit your faults, forgive the faults of others, not allow failure to dampen your spirit, stand for those not capable of standing for themselves, and to remain true to your core values. You can do none of these things without courage. Courage is having the strength of conviction to do the right thing when it would just be easier to do things right.

The best thing about courage is that a lack thereof can be overcome. Courage is teachable and therefore it is learnable – proof of this can be found in every instance of overcoming a fear. Courage should not be defined as the absence of fear – that’s ignorance. Courage is finding the strength to move ahead in the presence of fear. In short, courage isn’t a skill, it is a decision. Here’s the thing – we’ll all be remembered for the decisions we make or don’t make, and the courage we display, or that we fail to exercise. Will you pursue courage or will you just continue with your routine of doing nothing more than what’s expected of you. Real leadership is about more than checking off boxes.

There are great rewards for those who choose the path of courage. Courage will give you the confidence and humility to accept courage in others rather than stifle it. Courageous leaders invite others to challenge their thinking and encourage (no pun intended) dissenting opinion. Leaders who consistently demonstrate courage will stand apart from the masses, and earn the trust and loyalty of those whom they lead. As a general rule, most people can be characterized by their courage or their lack thereof:

  • In the corporate world those who demonstrate courage stand apart as innovators and opinion leaders, those who display a lack of courage are viewed as ”yes men” who are the politically correct defenders of status quo.
  • In the military great courage is often referred to as heroism, while a lack of courage will brand you a coward.
  • On the stage of world affairs those who display courage are statesmen, and those who don’t are politicians.
  • In relationships courage will show you to be a trusted friend, whereas the absence of courage will reveal you as a gossip, adversary, or even enemy.

Each day brings with it a new set of challenges, and the best any of us can hope for is that we will have the courage and character to stand behind our personal beliefs and convictions regardless of public opinion or outcome. Courage will make you faithful, where a lack thereof will cause you to be fearful. Whether you look back on your personal experience or a greater historical reference, you’ll find it is always better to stand for courage than regret failing to do so. Leadership always begins with one courageous act – making a decision. Will you decide to be courageous?


mike_myatt head shot

Mike Myatt is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and their Board of Directors.  Widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach, he is recognized by Thinkers50 as a global authority on leadership.  He is the bestselling author of Hacking Leadership and Leadership Matters, and a Forbes leadership columnist.

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Middle Neighborhoods

The “middle neighborhood” is found in most legacy cities –defined by the Legacy Cities Partnership as those “located in the Great Lakes and Northeast region, with over 50,000 residents that have lost 20 percent or more of their population since the mid-century.”  There are 48 of these cities across the United States, including like Detroit, […]

The “middle neighborhood” is found in most legacy cities –defined by the Legacy Cities Partnership as those “located in the Great Lakes and Northeast region, with over 50,000 residents that have lost 20 percent or more of their population since the mid-century.”  There are 48 of these cities across the United States, including like Detroit, Baltimore and the even the cities of the Lehigh Valley.  Each of these cities has a “middle neighborhood,” characterized by decent, but older housing, low crime rates, and that historically housed the working and middle-class residents that contributed to the fabric of the larger city.  They are typically composed of single-family residences with an occasional small shop on a corner and are likely what comes to mind when we think of the small city, urban living in the middle of the last century.  There is nothing particularly distinctive about these areas. They are neither the most distressed in a city nor the most affluent, hence, their name.  Upon closer inspection, these neighborhoods have some great assets: many are walkable to shopping areas, have parks and green space and are near good community schools.  All of these elements harken back to a time where cars were less prevalent, walking distance to amenities was key, and people valued the neighborliness and familiarity of their community.

Despite their lack of distinct identity, these neighborhoods remain critical to a city’s success and overall stability. These properties have provided a relatively stable tax base for city operations, for despite overall population losses in legacy cities, middle neighborhood populations have remained fairly flat.  Because of their important economic contribution to their city, these neighborhoods are becoming a focus of urban planners as cities are observing their historically stable tax base becoming a bit less reliable.  Perhaps there has been an uptick in foreclosures and sheriff sales in the area. Maybe more children are qualifying for free or reduced lunch at the area school. A drive down the streets may reveal a number of homes that need repair.  There may even be an abandoned house on the once bustling block.

These areas are frequently surrounded by more distressed neighborhoods which puts residents on alert for any signs of bleed-over onto their streets. Many middle neighborhood homeowners are still financially able to make a choice as to where they live, unlike residents of truly distressed areas of cities, and many decide to leave as indicators of further neighborhood decline appear. Longtime residents may be observing a shift away from a middle-income neighborhood to a moderate income one, and any perceived negativity can result in a panic for homeowners who may decide it’s time to sell their home before conditions worsen. The more properties there are for sale, the lower the prices are pushed, artificially deflating the value of these homes.  Older homeowners are unlikely to have disposable incomes to invest in older homes, many of which need substantial upgrades and maintenance, making them unappealing to potential homebuyers.

People with less disposable income for upkeep and maintenance purchase these now-affordable homes, defer the much-needed maintenance and continue the cycle of decline. Homeownership rates in these areas are decreasing disproportionately to national and regional averages, while the rate of rental properties is increasing.  Moreover, property values in these neighborhoods are fairly low to average in comparison to other areas in the legacy cities where they are located, but costs to rent these very same properties are quite high, making the homes very attractive for investors.  Tenants are not likely to heavily invest in homes they do not own, and unfortunately, the vast amount of investors are not going to infuse the amount of capital improvements needed into this older housing stock to revitalize a neighborhood.  Municipal leaders are now targeting these more transient, destabilized areas for revitalization.

Middle-income neighborhoods need to market themselves to who they were originally built for in order to survive: working-class residents and middle class.  Unlike 50 years ago, they cannot be marketed only to families with children.  Empty nesters looking to downsize, first-time homebuyers who are looking to establish roots in a true community, potential residents attracted to the unique geography and offerings of the area are all potential targets for any middle neighborhood revitalization.   Providing a way of communicating the good things going on in these areas is critical to restoring confidence in the neighborhood and attracting long term homeowners and quality investors. Municipalities, neighborhood associations, and realtors need to tout the benefits of sustainable homeownership for families – less school transiency, better educational attainment and stronger social ties to their communities.  Even those communities who have realized that these neighborhoods are no longer attractive to homeowners must implement policies that promote stable, responsible landlords purchasing properties and put investors on notice as to acceptable property standards.  Providing quality municipal services to property owners, fostering a sense of community and allowing residents to participate in shaping the future of these neighborhoods will all allow the middle neighborhood to again be a sturdy, stable base of a postindustrial city.

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2019-massage

Massage Isn’t A Luxury Anymore; It’s a Necessity!

When you think of massage, do you think of special occasions like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day?  Do you think massage is just for people with injuries or people who have nothing better to spend their money on?  Well, think again!  In this day and age, massage is not a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity!  […]

When you think of massage, do you think of special occasions like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day?  Do you think massage is just for people with injuries or people who have nothing better to spend their money on?  Well, think again!  In this day and age, massage is not a luxury anymore; it’s a necessity!  Almost every person can benefit and needs a massage on a regular basis to prevent and help manage knots as well as overall tightness in muscle tissue throughout the body.  Whatever your walk of life, stay at home mom, a person who travels or who sits at a desk all day long; we are all prone to these issues.

So, what are knots? According to 1Healthline, “muscles knots are hard, sensitive areas of muscles that tighten and contract even when the muscle is at rest.” Knots can also radiate pain to another part of the body. These are called trigger points.  Skeletal muscle is made up of muscle tissue fiber, made of “small fiber like units called myofibrils, “as explained by 2Medeiros and Wildman, myofibrils break down into an even smaller unit which is called the sarcomere, the smallest unit of muscle tissue.  Messages are sent to the sarcomere through nerve impulses that allow muscles to contract.   Sarcomeres are stimulated by the regulation of calcium, both intracellularly and extracellularly.  3AMTA explains that when muscles are overworked, it can cause an “influx of calcium into the sarcomeres in the affected area which, in turn, causes the sarcomeres to contract.”  This ultimately causes undue tension in muscle tissue fiber forming knots, which can eventually become trigger points.

You may be wondering what you are doing that would cause your muscles to be overworked or overloaded?  It’s called life!  Overworking our bodies physically is a common reason for these knots to develop, but also emotional stress, poor diet, and reduced water intake can be a factor.  According to 4Medical News Today, common causes of muscle knots include “stress and tension, injuries related to lifting and repetitive motion, poor posture, prolonged bed rest or sitting without stretching.”  Who doesn’t have stress in their life, whether it be at home, work or otherwise?  Stress, among many other components, can deplete our body’s supply of minerals, which we desperately need for optimal organ and muscle function.  Another reason why drinking enough quality (filtered or purified) water throughout the day is so important.

Not only does stress affect our muscles adversely, but also repetitive motion.  Obvious examples of repetitive motion could include a worker on an assembly line or a builder using a hammer.  However, a hardworking mom uses repetitive motion when rocking her baby to sleep, over and over again.   A violinist uses her arms and shoulders in a repetitive motion performing in a concerto.   Athletes use the same muscles repetitively, as well as the average person that works out using various exercise programs such as weight lifting, cross fit, cycling, Zumba, Insanity or P90X!  The most overlooked way to develop knots is by just sitting at a desk without getting up to stretch and move around, which will reduce lymphatic flow and blood circulation, leading to muscle stiffness.

Now that we know what knots are and how we get them, let’s talk about how to manage them. Prevention is the best remedy!  Drink half your body weight in water in ounces, generally no more than 100 ounces a day.  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that will naturally hydrate you, not to mention provide essential antioxidants and phytonutrients.  Limit caffeine since this is a natural diuretic and causes frequent urination, which causes a loss of minerals.

Even with our best efforts to prevent knots, we will get them at some point.  Consistent massage with a licensed massage therapist is absolutely essential to help loosen the knots and allow the tissue to return to a normal state.  Massage therapists use various strokes and techniques, such as effleurage, petrissage, stripping, tapotement, as well as trigger point therapy and myofascial release.  Massage will increase lymphatic movement and blood circulation, allowing toxins to be filtered and released through the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and kidneys.  5Athletico Physical Therapy agrees that “massage is not just some occasional luxury saved for vacations and spa days. Massage therapy can help keep your muscles healthy, pliable, and oxygenated.”  Licensed massage therapists are plentiful, whether in private practice or working at a spa and have hours and prices to accommodate anyone’s schedule or budget.

Start feeling better; schedule your massage today!

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“Hey, Mom and Dad, can I borrow $100,000+ today?”

Role reversal in families often happens when we aren’t ready for it.  Mom & Dad can’t live on their own and take care of their home anymore, and it’s the responsibility of the children to figure out where the best place is and how they are going to pay for it. It’s not easy like […]

Role reversal in families often happens when we aren’t ready for it.  Mom & Dad can’t live on their own and take care of their home anymore, and it’s the responsibility of the children to figure out where the best place is and how they are going to pay for it. It’s not easy like when you were young and asked your parents to borrow money. In most cases, it is a substantial amount of money. Depending on the health or financial situation, will determine if the children are able to accommodate moving mom or dad in with them or if an assisted living/nursing facility is the best route.

No matter what the answer is, the biggest question is how to pay for either of these choices. 1. Do you make renovations to your existing home? 2. Do you sell your home and look for a new home with an in-law suite? 3. Do you find an appropriate facility?  No matter what you must sell your parents’ house.

Option #1 Making renovations to your existing home.  If you live in a community, with an HOA or not, you need to be sure the proper channels are taken to know if this is a viable option. What are those channels?  Contacting the HOA, Community, Township or City you live in is the first step.  Knowing if you have enough land to expand.  If you do, then finding the right contractor who will do the job up to the Code of the Township/City and applying for the proper permits is the next step. Then how do you pay for this?  Do you need to re-mortgage your home? Will your parents give you some of the money from the sale of their home to finance this? This is where your Realtor can be a big resource for you and help guide you with how not to over-improve your home for future sale, sharing a few names of contacts that they’ve done work with in the past. Making sure they are licensed and insured for your protection.

Option #2 Selling your home to find one that already has an existing in-law suite or extended family option.  You’ve done your homework to realize your current home cannot accommodate substantial renovations due to the Community or Township rules and regs so now what?  Let’s start looking for a home that already has what we need.  In today’s market, this is not an easy task as right now inventory is low and finding the right fit can be time-consuming. Time which is something you don’t have. Selling and buying can take several months to accomplish in any market.  Let’s not forget we still have to sell Mom & Dad’s house.

Option #3 Putting your parents into a Senior Living Facility. This process is usually very stressful, painful and emotional all at the same time.  Finding and knowing the right facility, being able to afford the care given at the facility, and your parents being accepting of this option. One of the biggest questions you should have when shopping these facilities is what if I run out of money? How much money do my parents have to live there before their home sells which is going to be the biggest asset people have to pay for this type of care.  Some facilities will take all the assets you have and once it’s gone so are you.  Now what?  Since option 1 & 2 didn’t work out now, another option is moving Mom or Dad to a state-funded facility. The process of enrolling is tedious, and the State wants nothing short of your first born to be sure there isn’t any hidden money they can tap into.  The state’s research process of your finances can go back as many as 5+ years.

In short, there is much to consider as we age, and the bigger question is how do I know what is best for my Mom & Dad?  Every family and circumstance are different for everyone, so there are no set rules.  That’s where hiring the right real estate agent is going to be one of the best resources to help you through this process.

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Legal Considerations for Blended Families

Once you have navigated the highs and lows of wedding planning, you can begin your life as a married couple. In the last decade or so, there has been an uptick in blended families.  Some of this is due to traditional second marriages, but some are because individuals are choosing to have children without feeling […]

Once you have navigated the highs and lows of wedding planning, you can begin your life as a married couple. In the last decade or so, there has been an uptick in blended families.  Some of this is due to traditional second marriages, but some are because individuals are choosing to have children without feeling the need to get married. Whatever the reason, with this increase in blended families, the legal implications should be addressed.

What is a blended family? There is no legal definition of blended family, but the term has come to describe when two parties with children of their own marry and create a new family unit. With the creation of this new family unit, come additional considerations for all involved, for example:

Is there is custody order for the children?

While you may have married and created your new family unit, you cannot forget that the children involved have other parents as well. If there is a custody order, the child may very well have to travel back and forth for periods of custody. As a new step-parent, you may be responsible for some of this transportation, and with it, interaction with your spouse’s ex. It is in the best interest of all involved that all the adults develop some relationship with one another, which can be easier said than done. Remember, you not only will be sharing custodial time with another household, if you are doing it right, but you will also be at extracurricular and sporting events for the children as well.  Life is complicated. If you find yourself entering into a blended family, it is highly advisable to establish a formal custody agreement, so all the parties know their roles going into it. However, it is important to keep in mind that if you are a step-parent, there will be times you need to take a back seat and let the parents make the major decisions.

Finally, if there is a custody order in place, and the child at issue lives in your household, you will be precluded from relocating. As a new step-parent of a three-year child, it is important to know that you and your new spouse cannot move out of the county with the child (without the other parent’s permission or the court’s permission) for the next 15 years. That is quite the commitment.

Is there a child support order?

With or without a formal custody order, there may be a child support order. This means additional income is either coming in or going out of your new household unit. Developing a family budget is always important, but it becomes especially important in blended families. Each family may choose to treat child support coming in differently, and it is important to have those discussions in advance. It is just as important to address child support obligations your new family unit must pay out.

 

What about estate planning?

Finally, how does this all impact estate planning? A step-parent is not a legal next of kin for a step-child. Accordingly, it is very important to meet with an estate planning attorney to review your options and prepare all the necessary estate planning documents for your new blended family.

Attorney Kellie Rahl-Heffner of Gross McGinley, LLP provides counseling to families facing domestic issues including separation, divorce, child custody, and child support. Krahl-heffner@grossmcginley.com

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