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Carve, Drill or Sculpt a Pumpkin!

by Scott Darling

Gone are the days of using Mom’s best kitchen knife to carve a simple jack o’ lantern with triangle-shaped eyes and a toothy grin.  Pumpkin carving is an art for many, but even those who aren’t so talented in that department can create original and fun lanterns to light our front steps for Halloween! 

 

  • - Cleaning out the pumpkin is messy, and best done on a paper-covered table or done outside.  Once the inside is clean of seeds and pulp, use a spray bleach cleaner such as Clorox Clean Up to spray the inside of the pumpkin to help stop it from molding quickly.
     

  • - Pumpkin carving kits can be bought for just a few dollars, and they usually contain a utility saw, hand “drill,” and scraper.  Some kits offer templates to choose from. 

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  • - The amount of free printable templates are almost overwhelming, and you’ll probably end up with more than one jack o’ lantern if you go through this list of available templates from The Spruce Crafts! 

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  • - Find a template that compliments your skills, or find an easy one that children can help with, and print.  Tape it to your cleaned-out pumpkin, and use a pointy object to trace around the line drawing, poking through the paper and into the pumpkin. Cut the pattern using a small saw, and spray the newly cut areas with the bleach cleaner, and your piece of art should last for several days! 

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  • - Metal cookie cutters can also be used for a different look for your pumpkins:  using a mallet, gently tap the cookie cutter through the carved pumpkin shell.  Go around the pumpkin using this method, or place the cutter in random places for a less-structured look. 

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  • - A power drill can make creating a pumpkin lantern a breeze!  Use different bit sizes to make your pumpkin sparkle, like these from onelittleproject.com. 

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  • - For the more advanced pumpkin artist, grab a linoleum cutter at your local home center, and follow these directions from FromChinaVillage.com for a different approach to “carving.” 

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  • - Battery-operated tea lights are perfect for lighting your jack o’ lantern, and last for several hours, as well as being safer than a traditional candle.  Once you purchase an inexpensive pack, replace the batteries when the old ones die, as the LED bulbs inside last much longer than any wax tealight candle. 

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  • - For more festive and different approaches to decorating your porch with other members of the squash and vegetable family, check out these ideas from The Garden Glove. 

 

Keep the pumpkin-carving safe:  supervise younger children, and even help them when they want to use tools to cut the pumpkin’s new face.  Most children love cleaning out the “guts” of the pumpkin, so have them pick out some seeds for cleaning and roasting later for a healthy treat.  Most of all, have fun, and make memories!

 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: dailynewsdig.com

Confused about the differences between these types of plans? Let’s take a look.

First, understand that Medicare generally pays about 80%, and the rest is up to you. That’s where Medicare advantage plans or medigap plans make up the difference.  For Medicare quotes for your area, click HERE

Medicare Advantage Plans:

  • Are also referred to as part C. These plans REPLACE Original Medicare. In other words, instead of using original Medicare to see doctors or go to facilities, you have a private insurance plan that replaces parts A & B.
  • Advantage plans combine parts A & B, and sometimes part D (part D is Prescription drug coverage), and must provide as much services or more than original Medicare
  • May include extras such as dental, vision, hearing, fitness & wellness programs. Some Advantage plans have prescription coverage built in as well
  • Are usually in the form of HMO, PPO, Medical Savings accounts and Private fee for service type plans. Except for emergencies, HMO plans typically require the beneficiary to obtain referrals to see specialists and require them to use a network of providers. PPO plans allow for coverage outside of a network, usually at higher cost sharing to the beneficiary
  • Are guaranteed issue for most Medicare beneficiaries, but can only be signed up for at certain times of year

Medigap Plans:

  • Also referred to as Medicare supplement plans. You remain on ‘Original Medicare’ and the plans supplement to pay all or some of the “gaps” (or costs) that Parts A & B do not pay, such as deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance
  • Medigap plans do not have networks or require referrals. Any Doctor, hospital or facility that accepts Medicare in the United States is covered.
  • Are standardized. In other words, all Plan G Medigap plans offer the same standardized benefits, no matter what company issues them. Usually, the only difference is price, however, some plans may have some value-added services such as fitness benefits.
  • Do not include Prescription drug coverage (except for some old plans that are no longer offered to new enrollees) If a Medicare beneficiary would like prescription coverage he or she would need to buy a separate Part D policy.
  • Unlike Medicare Advantage policies which can only have rate increases once a year, can have rate increases at any time.
  • Have no annual enrollment period, and can be applied for any time of year (however you may not be able to disenroll in an advantage plan if you are currently in one or add a prescription plan depending on the time of year)
  • Are only guaranteed issue at certain times, such as when you initially reach age 65. Most other times, they are medically underwritten and a beneficiary could see a higher rate or even be declined.

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

By: David Kring, regardingwealth.com

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for September 2018

by Scott Darling

Chester County PA Real Estate Market Trends for September 2018

Chester County PA single-family homes saw pending sales decrease by 12.5% in September 2018 when compared to September 2017. 509 homes sold in September with a median sales price of $330,000.  The average sales price increased by 3.1%, and homes were on the market 20 days more.

If you are thinking about selling your home get a free instant home evaluation Learn More

It’s That Medicare Time of Year Again

by Scott Darling

** October 15th starts the Annual enrollment period for Medicare, the following is an updated reprint of this article originally from 2015.

For help with Medicare advantage, Medigap and Prescription drug plans click HERE

You’ve reached that magical age of 65, Congratulations, you are now Medicare eligible.

But, where to start?? It can be one of the most confusing and consequential choices folks make in their retirements.  It may be the only time that you have certain guarantees of coverage choices, so your choice needs to be informed.

Do you still have coverage at work?  You need to contact the Center for Medicare.  And don’t forget to ask HR if your prescription drug coverage is creditable; you don’t want penalties in the future.  What about the alphabet soup of Medicare letters… Parts A, B, C & D? and what about those letters in the Medigap supplement universe that go further up into the alphabet?

Read more at Conestoga Wealth Management

 

Neighborly Advice in Chester County PA

by Scott Darling

In days gone by, when someone moved into the neighborhood, casseroles, cookies, local information and cookout invites were offered by residents up and down the street.  With so many differences in today’s society, some people never even see their neighbors, let alone know their names.  Even if we don’t have “good” neighbors, let’s see how we can be one: 
 

Generally Speaking 

  • - First and foremost, keep your lawn and home maintained.  Don’t spend your first Saturday morning in the neighborhood mowing grass or hammering away at a project at dawn, but keeping your yard neat and your home looking good will let the other residents know you care about your home and community. 

  • - Noise plays a factor, especially if homes in the neighborhood are close together.  Keep music, children and animals quiet after 10 PM, and if you’re having a backyard gathering, take it inside if guests are still with you late into the evening. 

  • - Pets are a part of our families, but not everyone loves your frisky pup like you do. Keep dogs and cats off your neighbors’ property, and install fencing in the backyard if it’s not already there.  Clean up after your pet on walks. 

  • - Find out when trash pick-up is and take your cans to the curb on time.  No one wants to see (or smell!) overflowing cans or bags of garbage piled along the curbside. 

 

Getting to Know You 

  • - Once you’ve gotten partially settled, if you see someone outside, introduce yourself.  Even if the neighbor doesn’t seem to want to be best friends, you can at least share what you do for a living, your name and phone number, so they’ll know your general schedule and how to get in touch with you if necessary. 

  • - Weather permitting, host a front porch gathering, and invite your neighborhood.  Offer light refreshments for the meet-and-greet, and have it in the afternoon before dinner time so no one feels pressured to stay.   

  • - Create a social media neighborhood group or join an existing one.  It’s a good way to see what’s going on, as well as getting to know those who don’t live in your immediate vicinity.   

  • - Communication is key when it comes to your neighborhood.  Let your closest neighbors know when you’ll be away, having a tree removed, planning on new construction, when you’re having a party, (invite them, whether they show up or not!), garage sale, or any other activity that can affect them and their surroundings. 

 

When you’re on a friendly basis with everyone on your street, it sure makes living there a lot easier.  Keep in mind the golden rule to treat others the way you’d like to be treated, and others will see that you’re respectful and friendly.  You’ll be helping not only keeping your community a great place to live, but living peacefully amongst your neighbors.

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: cbjenihomes.com

Your Home's Character

by Scott Darling

New builds usually contain virtually identical finishes, and older homes reflect the former owners.  How do you make your new place your own?  By adding character.  Most people know their general style, but don’t know what they can do to a house to make it “theirs.”  Check out these ideas to get you started: 
 

Outside 

  • - Is your brick home looking dated?  Paint it!  It would probably be best to hire a pro for this job, but whether you decide to pay someone or DIY, houzz.com offers some excellent information and tips on painting your exterior brick. 

  • - Adding a porch to your front entryway can really add character.  If a full porch isn’t in your budget, consider the addition of a portico that matches the style of the home.  It wouldn’t only add style, it would be great for keeping you out of the weather when you’re fumbling with the keys and a handful of grocery bags. 

  • - Landscaping is important for style and character, so if your home’s front is bare of plants, or there’s some shrubbery that’s out of control, head to your local nursery.  Purchase plants that are native to your area for easy care and good growth.   

  • - Getting rid of the cookie-cutter concrete walkway and adding stone or brick can be a back-breaking job, but so worth it when it’s done.  If that’s out of the budget, investigate painting or staining the concrete. 

  • - Shutters seems so ordinary but changing out old for new or simply painting them a different color can make a big difference in the look of your home. 

 

Inside 

  • - Crown molding can make such a huge difference in the interior of any room.  It comes in all styles, is easy to install and paint, and comes in plaster-coated polystyrene foam that is light and less expensive than wood. 

  • - Light fixtures are a cheap and easy way to add style.  Use a different one in each room--there’s no rule that says every fixture must match!  Check out tag sales or your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for deals on used or vintage styles. 

  • - Getting rid of hollow core doors and installing new doors can be expensive. With some paint, trim or simple boards, you can revamp them to look like custom doors. Shlage has several styles that are inexpensive, easy DIY’s. 

  • - Add trim to doorways and windows, or baseboards and wainscoting to the walls. Not only does it add to the custom-look of your home, these can help hide minor flaws. 

  • - Builders-grade countertops are fine and serve the purpose, but if you want to put some character in the kitchen without replacing countertops, try resurfacing them.  Kits are available at most home centers, and The Spruce has a helpful list of different kits, prices, and where to purchase them. 

 

There are many ways to add character, charm and style to your home without a complete overhaul.  Start in the room that will be most affordable and start saving for the one that will cost you the most.  It won’t take long for your home to look like you’ve been there for years, because it will reflect you and all that you love.

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Photo credit: ijiwiziniaie.info

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Photo of Scott Darling Real Estate
Scott Darling
RE/MAX Action Associates
403 W. Lincoln Highway #101
Exton PA 19341
(610) 594-SCOT
610-363-2001
Fax: (610) 363-5275