How To Sell Your Used V-twin Motorcycle


Whether it’s a blazing-fast Ducati, a mighty Harley Davidson, or some other head-turning cruiser, v-twin motorcycles are evergreen popular and too easy to fall in love with. However, there comes a time when you decide to sell your two-wheel pet. It may be because you’ve set your eyes on some other model, or because you want to put your helmet down and say goodbye to the riding life. Whatever the case may be, you have found yourself in a role of a salesman. Getting a decent price can be a turbulent path, but here’s how to get started.

Make Your Bike Shine

 

Although this tip is pretty obvious, you’d be surprised to know how many bike owners who are looking to sell – forget to make their bikes look attractive. Thorough cleaning is essential, so don’t overlook areas that are not that noticeable (such as the space under your seat), but will surely catch the eye of a potential buyer. Invest in touch up paints and soft wax – it will add a protective layer and give your motorcycle a fresh look. Use specific cleaning agents that have pH value somewhere within the range of 6 and 8, so you don’t damage the surface. Equip yourself with the right type of sponges and cleaning brushes. If you’re not sure how to clean your motorcycle, it’s best to hire a professional.

Set the Appropriate Price

 

It can be fairly hard to set the right price for your v-twin motorcycle, especially if it has sentimental value for you. There are many factors included: mileage, possible upgrades or customizations, overall mechanical state, the rarity of the model, etc. Now, prepare for a disappointment: if you’ve done some amazing custom paint job or even engine modifications, it’s unlikely these will influence the price. Buyers are typically not willing to pay up more just because the motorcycle looks unique. If it’s a restored vintage model – that’s a whole different story. You can always turn to researching the local motorcycle market to get a grip on the price range. There are also websites such as ChopperExchange where you can easily check what would be a reasonable price for your bike for free, or even put your bike for sale.

Hire a Mechanic to Run a Thorough Check-Up

 

Get a mechanic to thoroughly inspect your motorcycle to ensure everything is in order. Depending on your location and the legal regulations of the area, you may be even required to own a safety certificate that proves your motorcycle is not dangerous to ride, i.e. the new owner is not at risk and all technical issues are taken cared of. The mechanic should check the tires (possible cracks, flat spots, or damages), a spark plug, battery, cables, lights, and of course – brakes. Ensuring that your bike is in optimal condition reflects responsible ownership, as well as the safest possible test ride for buyers that are interested in sealing the deal with you.

Have Your Paperwork Ready

 

In addition to being honest about the actual state of your motorcycle and its history, you have to prepare all the paperwork needed for transferring ownership title. You need to have a proof of ownership, all warranty and maintenance records, financial details, registration book, etc. Selling your motorcycle with proper documentation adds more weight and feels assuring to buyers. Don’t hesitate: if you get a price offer you’re pleased with, have all the documents ready so you can sell right away. It’s not very wise to simply let your buyer walk away just because you didn’t prepare yourself.

As the last takeaway: if you’re determined to sell your motorcycle on your own, putting an ad in newspapers won’t be of much help. A traditional “for sale” sign is a better choice, but going online is definitely the best way to sell your bike. Follow these simple steps and you’ll sell in no time!

 

Home-Buying Checklist: Things To Look For When Buying A House


Buying a house involves a big investment, and it’s going to be your responsibility to check if everything is in order before you buy a home. You can’t expect a real estate broker or the previous homeowner to practice due diligence and be completely honest about the house you’re about to buy from them. You have to do your homework to make sure you are buying something worthwhile. Here are a few tips that might be able to help you make a wise decision about a home purchase:

Be Objective and Neutral

 

When you’re looking for a new home, it’s normal to be tempted to grab it and think it is better than your old house. That’s because it’s fresh and unexplored and your imagination might be working overtime thinking of what you can do with a new house and how to renovate it. It would be good advice to dampen your excitement a little bit. Try to look at it in a more business-minded way. Take a step back and stay neutral so you can also see the defects aside from the positive potentials.

Visit the Property Often

 

It isn’t enough to visit a new home once or twice. Try to go to the property a few times on different days and times. This will give you a real view of what the neighborhood is like, if it’s noisy at certain times or if the neighbors won’t let you sleep at night with loud music. It will give you a better feel for the neighborhood.

Meet the Owners

 

Introduce yourself to the owners of the house. Ask them questions and don’t be afraid to sound like you are prying. You have the right to know about details that could affect you later on. Ask about the crime rate, any problems with the neighbors, why they are selling the property and about tax and utility rates in that neighborhood. Ask permission if you can have the home tested for molds, toxic chemicals, rust, termites, and rot.

Talk to the City or Town Hall Employees

 

Ask the community leaders and city hall employees about any problems related to the property. Find out if the home will be affected by any government projects in the area and if these will have any effects on the value of the property. Check if the home is prone to floods or has any building code problems. Health authorities may also have information about diseases in the area near the house.

Drop By Your Future Neighbours House

 

Getting to know your future neighbors is also important. It will tell you if it will be a pleasant move or if you might have long-term problems with people who live near you. It’s a good way to gauge if the community will be a healthy place to raise your kids.

Tour the Neighbourhood

 

If you have children, check out the schools, parks, and libraries in the area. Find out how far the nearest hospital is and if it is a reputable one. As you tour the town, you will be able to know if there are any depressed areas or troublemakers in your future neighborhood.

Debt settlement

 

Look for sellers who are looking for a quick sale due to an urgent situation such as a debt settlement. Mostly these sellers sell their houses at a lower price. These are just a few tips to consider before buying a house. Hopefully, these tips can help you make a better decision.

Home: Tips for buying furniture online


Would you buy a major piece of furniture, like a sofa, online? Apparently, a lot of people would.

The research firm IBISWorld reports that online furniture sales have grown at an annual rate of 9.6 percent over the last five years. And according to Furniture Today, the online furniture store Wayfair has even seen year-to-year gains of 50 percent. Clearly, furniture shoppers have caught the online shopping bug.

But unlike buying a book from an e-commerce site, online furniture shopping comes with unique challenges for consumers. The price points are higher. Shipping charges can add hundreds of dollars to the bill. And you can’t touch, feel or interact with a piece of furniture through your computer monitor.

Much of my online furniture shopping is for research. It saves me from driving all over town looking to see what different stores carry. For “brick and click” (or “click and mortar”) stores such as  Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, which have both online and physical presences, I can investigate their offerings on their websites before going into the stores to actually see the pieces. 

There have been plenty of times, though, that I bought furniture items online without seeing them in person. Most e-tailers — Houzz, Hayneedle, Wayfair, Amazon, Ballard Designs, etc. — don’t have brick-and-mortar stores. And even when they do, I’m often just too lazy to get in my car, go there and deal with a salesperson. Just this week I bought a lamp at lampsplus.com so I wouldn’t have to go into the store.

With all the online shopping I’ve done, I’ve learned a lot and made quite a few mistakes. So to help you on your own online shopping expeditions, here’s a handy guide to furnishing your home via the web.

Research the website

If you come across a site that you aren’t familiar with, do some homework on it. Start by reading the “About Us” page. A legitimate company will provide information about when it was founded, where it is located, and contact information such as a phone number or address. I get wary of sites that are nonspecific in the About Us page. And if the page has spelling or grammatical errors, a red flag immediately goes up. There’s a good chance it’s an overseas company, which means little to no customer service, longer delivery times and fewer guarantees of quality. Besides reading the About Us page, I also do an online search of the company name, often with the keywords “scam,” “legitimate” and “review,” to see if there are any complaints about the company.

Read the reviews

Everybody’s a critic, and that’s a good thing when buying furniture online. When you find a piece you like, check out what other buyers think of it. You’ll get an honest assessment of how comfortable the furniture is, how durable the materials are, and if the colors are true to how they look on the computer screen. And if assembly is involved, reviewers will often give advice about putting together the piece. 

Make sure it fits the room

It’s difficult to determine the true scale of furniture from a photograph alone. Find out the dimensions of the piece and use masking tape to map it out in the room where you intend to put it. (This is a good thing to do before you buy any piece, even when you aren’t buying online.) Even smaller items need to be checked for size. For example, a coffee table might look perfect next to your sofa. But take out a ruler to measure if it would be too high or too low. Double-checking measurements now will save you a lot of inconvenience in returns later.

Make sure it fits through the door

Don’t assume everything is going to fit through your front door — or narrow hallways and staircases. If items are disassembled and in separate boxes, that’s usually not a problem. But if a large furniture piece comes fully assembled, take note of the dimensions and then measure your front door and the pathway to its eventual room. I once bought a desk for a client from roomandboard.com (this was before there was a local store), and, to my horror, it would not fit through the door. Ultimately, I had to rent a crane to lift the desk to the second floor and through the French doors. Wow, that was expensive.

Compare prices

You can usually find the same furniture piece on several websites, so it’s a good idea to do some comparison shopping for the best combination of item price and shipping cost. An online search of the name of the piece will bring you to all the websites where it is sold. Sometimes I’ll jump straight to Amazon to check if it’s stocked there, and if free two-day shipping is available. And if the piece does not have a specific brand name to type into a search engine, copy a photo of it onto your desktop and conduct a Google image search of it. You may be able to find the exact piece on other websites, or at least items that look similar.

Order swatches

It’s very difficult to see true colors and finishes on your computer screen. Many furniture e-tailers will happily send you fabric or wood finish swatches so you know exactly what you’re getting. That way, you can look at the samples in the context of actual wall colors and other pieces in the room before making a decision.

Check the return policy

Know what the e-tailer’s return policy is before purchasing. (There is usually a link at the bottom of the home page.) Although they might allow returns, you may have to pay for return shipping. On smaller items, the cost may be negligible, but the return shipping on larger pieces can be prohibitive. For websites that have local brick-and-mortar retail stores, you may be able to return the item to the store. And check to see if you’ll need a Return Merchandise Authorization (RMA), whether you’re making a return via a shipping company or directly to the store. 

Consider the type of delivery

Online furniture stores offer various levels of delivery, ranging from curbside drop-off to white-glove in-home service. If you’re purchasing a heavy item, curbside drop-off can be a real inconvenience, as you have to recruit someone to help you lug it inside your home. However, in-home delivery can come with hefty surcharges; still I find it’s worth the money, because they typically provide simple assembly and remove all the packing material for you. Just be prepared for whichever type of delivery service to expect when ordering.

Beware of back orders

When you find a piece marked as “on back order,” it does not necessarily mean that the item is so popular that there is a waiting list to purchase it. That may be the case, but in my experience, it has frequently meant that there are hiccups in manufacturing, and the company is not ready to ship the item. I once ordered some wrought-iron candleholders from ” target=”_blank”> jonathanfongstyle.com.

HOME: Tips for designing a home office


A show of hands: Who works at home? Probably everyone reading this. The reality is, almost everyone does some kind of work from home, whether catching up on work emails, telecommuting or actually running a home-based business. 

Because we work so much at home, it’s more important than ever to have a proper space to work. So whether your home office is a spare room or just a corner of a guest bedroom, these tips will help you be more focused and productive — in style.

Define the space

If you don’t have a dedicated room for your office, it’s a good idea to delineate your work area to separate it from the rest of your home. Self-standing room dividers such as folding shoji screens can create an official “office zone,” so that when you cross that threshold, you’re in work mode. (Well, that’s the intent, anyway, at least until those YouTube videos of puppies meeting kittens start beckoning.) Open-back bookcases also make great room dividers — and as an added bonus, they’re functional. Painting your office area a distinct color can also help define the space, especially if it’s a corner of a bedroom or a nook in the kitchen. 

Put your walls to work

Make your walls functional. Apply chalkboard or dry-erase paint to a wall so you can write on it, or apply magnetic paint to turn your wall into a message center that will hold magnets. Magnetic paint is actually not magnetic (rest assured that your small pets will not fly across the room and stick to the wall if they’re wearing tags), it is a primer that contains metallic particles that will attract magnets. You can leave it as is, or paint over it. Chalkboard, dry-erase and magnetic paint all are available in the paint department of your local home-improvement store. Be sure to follow the directions on the label so they work properly.

Invest in a good chair

” target=”_blank”>Herman Miller Aeron chair

An extra dining room chair is fine for a home office that you use only sporadically, but if you’re going to spend any significant time in your workspace, get yourself a good, comfortable office chair. It should have plenty of cushioning as well as lumbar support, vertical adjustment and, preferably, wheels. Resist the urge to buy a chair solely on the basis of looks. You already break your back working, you don’t need to break your back sitting.

Ensure proper lighting

” target=”_blank”>Lux Brooklyn LED lamp

Lighting is an afterthought for a lot of people, but it shouldn’t be. Proper lighting enables you to work effectively without eye strain, and it also makes your home office a more inviting place to be. I recommend at least two sources of light: one overhead or floor lamp to provide ambient light, and a desk lamp that serves as a task light. If you do have an overhead light, make sure it’s on a dimmer so you can adjust the brightness. If you’re fortunate enough to have a lot of natural sunlight in your home office, position your computer screen so that you don’t get any glare.

Discover the wheel

” target=”_blank”>Go-cart desk from CB2

When you’re working, make those wheels turn — figuratively and literally. By choosing office furnishings with wheels or casters, you can easily move your workstation around to fit your needs. Being mobile allows more flexibility to change up your home office depending on the day’s tasks, and you’re less likely to damage your floors as you maneuver furniture. You’ll find wheels available on everything from desks and chairs to file cabinets and bookcases.

Choose the right desk 

As long as your desktop is big enough for your needs, don’t limit yourself to “office desks.” For those who need a lot of space, a former dining table could do the trick, or even an old door balanced atop two filing cabinets. I had a client who needed only a small space to catch up on paperwork and pay bills, so I made him a drop-leaf desk that extended from his bookcase. When he wasn’t using it, the desk portion served as a door on the bookcase; when he needed it, he just dropped down the door to the horizontal position, and it became a work surface. In my home, I like the flexibility of either working in my office or moving to the living room sofa for a change of venue, so I have a portable cushioned lap-desk for my Macbook. Whatever desk you choose, make sure it’s right for your individual work style.

Get organized

” target=”_blank”>Desk collection from The Container Store

Consider what tasks you will be doing in your home office and organize accordingly. Place the items you use most frequently within reach, either on the desk or on nearby shelves, and store less-used items out of the way. Go vertical with bookshelves all the way to the ceiling. And here’s one of my biggest secrets for organizing: Hide things. Put doors on bookcases and cabinets so things can be stashed away. Let a room divider hide boxes. Get storage ottomans that do double duty as seating and storage. I once was on a TV design show for which I had to make over a messy, cluttered home office in someone’s garage. After my amazing transformation, the episode aired, and my family members (who are my biggest critics — but that’s another story for my therapist) felt that I had cheated because I just moved all the clutter off-camera. The truth was, I’d hidden all of the clutter in closed cabinets and under tables. It was all there, you just couldn’t see it.

Make it personal

” target=”_blank”>Money tree plant from IKEA

Remember, when you are furnishing your home office, the operative word is still “home.” Therefore, you should feel at home as you work. Fill your workspace with items that make you feel good — personal tchotchkes, family pictures, framed press clippings and even plants. According to a 2014 study published by the American Psychological Association, offices devoid of pictures, souvenirs or greenery are actually unhealthy work environments. You’ll be happier — and more productive — when your space is, well, happier.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

The big switch: Eight practical steps to making a career change


Back in the olden days, Pops worked at the same manufacturing plant his entire adult life, waking up every morning at the same time, returning home with the same empty lunch pail, wearing the same faded work uniform. A carpenter was a carpenter for life; a lawyer stayed a lawyer and the town butcher never quit his job to pursue a career in fashion design.

But, alas, those days are long gone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people hold an average of 11 jobs by the time they turn 40. So if you’re in between jobs and contemplating a whole new line of work, you’ve got company. Especially during this recession hangover we’re still nursing.

At Jewish Vocational Service of Los Angeles, with locations in West Hollywood, Antelope Valley, Glendale, Sherman Oaks and West Hills, the “career changer” is the most common client walking through their doors. “Building better lives one job at a time” is no easy task, but the career counselors at JVS have plenty of tips to help you build yourself a new career. Jay Soloway, director of Career Services, shared some practical steps you can take right now to land that 10th job.

1. Review your history.
You know the saying: You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. So think back, way back, to that third, fifth and ninth job and write them all down. For one, it’ll show you how far you’ve come, and, if you’re like most Americans, it’ll illustrate just how many different tasks you’re capable of carrying out. Don’t forget to include volunteer positions.

2. Make a list. Or three. Write down all the skills you mastered at each of those jobs, even the seemingly trivial. That major makeover you pulled on the office lunch room may seem inconsequential, but it may be a clue that you have a future in interior design. On another page, list your interests. The things you like to do when you’re not earning a paycheck. List #3: your values. Write down what matters to you in the grander scheme of life. Being home by 6 p.m. to help the kids with their homework? Having flexible hours so you can choose to sleep at 2 p.m. and work at 2 a.m. if you wish?

3. Find a direction.
The lists you made are clues to a new direction, but you have to have the right tools to decode the signs. Soloway suggests using professional career and personality tests (check out careermaze.com as an example) to figure out what your skills and interests are telling you. Career counselors at JVS use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, among other tools, to narrow down the types of careers that fit your personality and talents. Objectivity is an important tool in assessing career choices, and professional counselors, unlike your wife, don’t have any incentive to tell you that you’re the next Joan Nathan.

4. Try on some shoes. You’ve narrowed down your options. Now how do you choose between pastry chef and greeting card designer? Dig in and find out everything you can about your prospective career: which skills are needed, which degrees are required, what is the pay, what the work conditions are like. Simple online research can fill in many of those blanks, but for the real dish, you have to network face to face. Contact professional societies and industry groups such as Public Relations Society of America (prsala.org) to schedule meet-and-greets. Find people on LinkedIn and request a phone conversation. Secure informational interviews with someone doing your dream job, or even better, that person’s manager. Ask questions. Lots of them. And if you’re really bold, ask permission to shadow someone for a day. Most people would be flattered that you’re showing an interest in what they do.

5. Stay busy.
Spending days at a time in your pajamas, rotating laptop, Blackberry and TV screens in front of your face will not only drag down your mood, it’ll sully your resumé. Use your free time wisely to show prospective employers that you are active, resourceful and willing to work, even without a paycheck as motivation. Volunteer at your synagogue, a local shelter, school or food bank. Bonus points if you do something that’s relevant to your field of interest. Look for internships, freelance opportunities and other ways to get your foot in the door.

6. Hit the books. To snag certain jobs, like an X-ray technician or an electrician, you’ll have to sign up for a vocational school. For others, you may be able to fill in the educational gap with classes at a community college, an online course, or some how-to books: i.e. Bartending for Dummies, Day Trading for Dummies, Event Planning for Dummies. Educating yourself shows initiative and drive, and even if the most important thing you learn in your creative writing class is that you can’t string a sentence together, at least you can cross Romance Novelist off your list of potential careers.

7. Take baby steps. Going from school psychologist to web designer is quite a leap, so consider making the transition in several steps. Soloway encourages clients to take “stepping stone jobs” that move them one step closer to their desired career. For instance, our psychologist can apply for a job writing content for the LAUSD website to gain some basic knowledge of what makes a site appealing.

8. Recruit cheerleaders.
Job hunting, especially for career shifters, is incremental in nature and may take years to achieve the final goal. You’re going to need a cheering section, with verve, and stamina for the long haul. The career counselors at JVS are there to hand you cups of water and granola bars throughout the marathon, Soloway says. But you can recruit your best friend, your daughter, your neighbor – whoever will be genuinely interested – to keep track of your progress and help you focus on the positive.

Changing hair styles is difficult. Changing careers is monumentally daunting. But with the right tools and the right attitude, it’s totally doable. Just look around. Nearly everyone you know has done it at least once or twice in their lives. Or maybe 11 times.

How to save on wedding costs without sacrificing


Several years ago, a character on my favorite television show expounded on the cost of modern weddings, finishing up his tirade with, “And the next morning, you wake up and realize that for the same price as the down payment on a house you’re married to that.”

The average wedding costs about $30,000, and in this declining economy it might not be too long before that will once again be a down payment in Los Angeles.

Most brides want beauty and romance during their wedding — an expression of their love in the form of a grandiose ceremony. But for many couples, a lavish wedding would require a major financial sacrifice at time when few can afford to do so.

For brides and grooms who are focused more on the marriage than the wedding, the following are some cost-cutting ideas to preserve the grand expression, while leaving enough aside for a nest egg.

Planners

Unless the guest list tops 300, don’t hire a wedding planner. Their service won’t save you any time or trouble, because they will regularly want to meet to offer you more choices. What you might save in prices with vendors will in turn be spent on their fees. Planners are mostly in the business of selling services, and as a result, they look to increase the extravagance.

Wedding at Home

While people generally think that having a wedding at home is the least expensive, it can cost as much as a banquet hall to rent the tables and chairs, hire a valet service and pay for the catering service to provide and serve the food. Having the wedding in a professional venue only gets expensive when all the extras are added in, from valet parking to serving your guests champagne upon entering.

Food

At a recent wedding, guests were served apples and champagne before they could get their coats off, and then there were exotic hors d’oeuvres, tables filled with fruit, cheese, crudités and dip. Then as they left the ceremony, they were offered goblets of a variety of soups. Entering the hall for cocktails, guests encountered deli, Japanese, Italian, French, Latin and Chinese buffet tables. By the time people were ushered into dinner, the three entrées they had to choose from were hardly enticing.

Instead of stuffing the guests before the dinner, serve hors d’oeuvres and drinks, allowing the guests to mingle without having to get in long lines.

Another approach is to have a morning or early brunch wedding and forgo elaborate dinners.

Invitations

Next comes invitations; these seem to get more elaborate each year. A recent one came in a box that when opened, a light inside went on. Even the postage was exorbitant. Short of doing the invitations yourself, go for more imagination in the printing and the design than the size and grandeur of the presentation. Leave out response cards. Most people will call anyway and tell you if they’re coming.

Tchotchkes

Decorations have become more elaborate each year — streamers, horns, hats and even Hula-hoops being handed out just to keep everyone occupied and having a good time. Cutting out all the handouts can save a ton of money, perhaps enough to get a higher quality band that will play music that won’t blast out the eardrums. Plus, all the tchotchkes tend to get thrown out rather quickly, literally money down the drain.

The Dress

Of course, every bride wants to look like a vision coming down the aisle. But designer gowns can cost more than $6,000, and they’re only worn once.

However, there are alternatives, such as off-the-rack gowns that can be purchased for as little as $500. Another practice, which is becoming more popular, is to get a secondhand wedding gown at a thrift shop, a secondhand clothing store or for the more adventurous, by bidding for a gown on an online auction site like eBay. It’s also possible to borrow a gown through L.A. Hachnosas Kallah at (323) 936-3254.

The best way to save money on your wedding is to focus on quality. Think seriously about what is important and the best reflection of the values of the soon-to-be happy couple. Throwing out money to keep up with the Steins reflects the values of others and is a poor start to any marriage.

Anne Phyllis Pinzow is a scriptwriter who makes her main living as a newspaper reporter and editor.

To sleep-away camp … perchance to dream


Going to overnight camp for the first time. It is — in many circles — a Jewish rite of passage. Unlike becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, however, the perfect timing for transitioning from day camper to overnight camper is not preordained; on the contrary, it can vary significantly from child to child.

With no magic age to rely on, how do we determine whether or not our little camper is ready to take the sleep-away plunge? By taking a deep breath, separating our own conflicted emotions from the question at hand and looking for the following overnight camp readiness markers in our child (adapted from guidelines by Chris Scheuer, director of camping for YMCA camping services of Greater New York):

  • A desire to go to overnight camp. True, some kids require gentle nudges to get them into the sleep-away state of mind. But if you notice your child turning a ghastly gray every time you broach the topic of bug juice or s’mores, chances are you should wait another round of the calendar before bringing them up again.
  • Successful experiences away from home. Generally speaking, kids who spend the night with friends without 3 a.m. pleas for pick-up — or survive a week at Grandma’s with minimal trauma — are probably ready for an extended stay at overnight camp.
  • Adaptability to new routines. Every child takes a little while to settle into new schedules and routines, but some kids become prohibitively anxious in the absence of familiar protocol. Simply put, if you believe your child may wig out if he doesn’t have his favorite Scooby-Doo mug of water and crushed ice delivered to his bedside every night, sleep-away camp may be a Scooby-Don’t for now.
  • Ability to interact with other children. Your child needn’t be a social debutante, but a basic knack for integrating into a group, relating to other kids and forging friendships is vital for group/bunk life.
  • A handle on hygiene basics. While overnight camp provides an excellent forum for promoting hygienic independence in kids, a child who has yet to nail down the basics (e.g. face and body washing, hair and tooth brushing, nose and tuchis-wiping) can quickly become disheveled, malodorous and embarrassed.
  • Ability to express needs. Plenty of shy kids thrive in a sleep-away setting, but profound hesitance to communicate personal needs — especially when a child is not feeling well, needs help learning a skill, or isn’t sure where an activity is taking place — can compromise a camper’s physical and emotional well-being.
  • Ability to make basic decisions. Overnight camp provides a steady stream of choices: Tennis or archery? Macramé or batik? Top bunk or bottom bunk? Consequently, campers who excessively grapple with run-of-the-mill decisions are liable to feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
  • Willingness to experience the outdoors. No matter how expensive an overnight camp might be, it is not going to be the Ritz. On the contrary, bugs, spiders, snakes, rain and mud are part of the overnight camp fabric. Most kids take well to the opportunity to connect with nature on such an intimate level. Some kids, however, do not.
  • Respect for adults. Enjoying a bit of parent-free abandon is part of the fun of overnight camp. Still, basic kavod, or respect, toward counselors, specialists and other authority figures, and a willingness to adhere to adult-initiated boundaries, are sleep-away camper prerequisites.

Finally, if after careful consideration, you determine that your child is not quite ready for prime-time overnight camp, don’t despair. Embrace the coming months as an opportunity to help your child reach these readiness milestones, and reassess the situation next year.

Sharon Duke Estroff is an internationally-syndicated Jewish parenting columnist whose work appears in more than 50 publications; an award-winning educator; and a mother of four. Her Jewish parenting book, “Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah?” will be released by Broadway Books in 2007. Peers give Orthodox teens lesson in drug use and abuse

The art of keeping a travel journal


I was going through some old boxes the other day when I found a beat up old notebook that contained a journal of my trip to the Philippines almost nine years ago. The journey had been my first to a tropical country, and thumbing through those wrinkled pages was like stepping into a blast of Southeast Asian humidity: The more I read, the more I began to feel the emotions I felt when I first wandered through Manila and Cebu and Boracay.

Admittedly, the prose in my old journal was far too purple and unfocused to submit for publication in the greater world, but it was a wonderfully vivid evocation of the trip, by myself and for myself — an author and audience of one.

My travel journals haven’t been quite so detailed in the years since I returned from the Philippines — mainly due to the professional demands of travel writing, which takes up most of my note-taking time on the road. Moreover, since a lot of my leftover travel perspectives have gone electronically into my blog in recent years, my pen and paper travel journals have been a bit skimpy in recent years.

Nevertheless, I believe that keeping a travel journal can be one of the most rewarding habits a person can keep on the road. Since I’m a bit out of practice, however, I got in touch with my old friend Lavinia Spalding — a Utah-based writer and travel-journal guru currently at work on a book titled, “Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Journaling on Vacation” — to winnow out some expert advice on keeping a journal on the road:

Rolf Potts: What are the benefits of keeping a travel journal? Why not just enjoy your experience organically without recording it?

Lavinia Spalding: Every traveler who keeps a journal does so for different and valuable reasons. On the most basic level, a travelogue is a place to record information — the name of that historic hotel in Livingston, Mont., or directions to the best Khmer restaurant in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It’s a log of what not to forget. It can inspire writing to publish or share with friends and family; serve as a confidant on solo journeys; store memorabilia such as stamps, ticket stubs and wine labels; or provide a clean canvas for impromptu sketches. It can be a mirror of self-discovery along the way.

For me, the ultimate reward is being forced, regularly, to slow down and be present. If I sit with my notebook for even a few minutes each day to write about where I am in that moment, and what I’m currently experiencing with all of my senses, it becomes a practice. It takes me out of thinking only of past and future — the site I’ve just visited, or my next destination. It demands an immediate stillness and awareness, and in doing so enriches the whole experience.

RP: What advice would you give to a first-timer, who has never kept a travel journal and doesn’t know where to start?

LS: Begin by treating yourself to a new unlined blank book. Choose it carefully, paying close attention to the weight of the pages and the feel of it in your hands. Will it lay relatively flat when open? Will it hold up to weather and wear? My favorite journals are actually sketchbooks — they’re affordable, sturdy and versatile, and can be found in any art supply store.

Once you’ve set yourself up with the perfect blank book, take it home and display it on your bedside table along with a favorite pen. Soon it’ll call to you like keys to a new car. If you’ve bought your journal for an upcoming trip but want to start writing in it at once, begin by listing expectations and goals for the journey, as well as any preconceived notions of your intended destinations. Include your to-do list, packing list, estimated budget and any useful travel tips you’ve received. Not only will this spark excitement and get you into the habit of journal writing, you’ll also have fun reading it upon your return, at which point you can recount the ways in which your expectations met or differed from reality.

RP: How do you keep a consistent journal on the road without letting it interfere with your experience?

LS: I think of my journal as a travel companion. Not a whiny or strict companion demanding my constant attention, but an affable, playful, ever-available friend that doesn’t mind spending a lot of time locked in my hotel room. Then, as I go about my day, taking in sights and having adventures, I keep it in the back of my mind, thinking to myself, “I can’t wait to tell my journal this story.” I pick up small gifts for it while I’m out — a colorful candy wrapper to glue inside, a flower to press between the pages, a museum pass or a hologram sticker of Kuan Yin.

A mistake many people make is feeling obliged to carry their journal everywhere they go. Instead, tuck a small spiral notebook into your pocket or daypack. That way you can jot things down on the spot and later transfer over the information, or better yet, tear out the page and paste it into your journal. Another mistake is trying to describe in exhaustive detail the events of every single day. If you make yourself write daily long entries, eventually it’ll start to smell like homework.

Some consistency is necessary, though. It’s a good idea to commit to eking out a few words every day — short notes on where you went and what you saw, or a funny overheard quote. Entries in my journal from Tibet are as brief as, “steaming plates of yak momos,” and in my Mexico journal, “The lady renting us the casita has a shiny gold star on her front tooth.” A few words are enough to solidify memories.

Maybe later you’ll expand on what you’ve written. Maybe not. Either way, you’ve managed to include the journal in your experience without allowing it to take over. I like to save longer entries for idle moments, when no one else is around and I’m feeling reflective, or when I’ve been drinking.

Think Green Tips


Ten ways to begin greening your synagogue from Barbara Lerman-Golomb, associate executive director of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life:

  • Switch to cost-effective and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
  • Buy recycled paper products. Use both sides of the paper, then recycle it again.
  • Precycle. Buy products that are in recycled packaging or that can be recycled, such as cans, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard.
  • Minimize use of disposable plates, cups, paper towels, napkins, plastic and silverware for synagogue functions. Avoid using Styrofoam products.
  • Turn thermostat down a few degrees in the winter and up a few degrees in the summer.
  • Encourage congregants to carpool to religious school and to turn off engines while waiting to pick up children.
  • Buy Energy Star (energy-efficient) appliances. Turn off lights and office equipment, such as copy machines, when not in use.
  • Buy flow restrictors for sinks and water-saving toilet tank dams.
  • Use nontoxic cleansers.
  • Don’t use pesticide on the lawn and use a nontoxic integrated pest management system.

 

Celebrate Israel Closer to Home


This year, Israel Independence Day falls on May 12. If this is a holiday you’ve never celebrated, consider adding it to your family traditions.

With Israel in the news every day, the Jewish state is unusually prominent in our minds, but not always for positive reasons. Celebrating Israel Independence Day gives us a chance to remember why Israel is such an important part of our Jewish heritage.

Here are my top 10 tips for celebrating Israel Independence Day:

1. If there is an Israel festival of any kind, don’t miss it. This year, the annual Israel Independence Day festival takes place May 15 at Woodley Park (www.israelfestival.com). At an Israel festival, you can dance to Hebrew music, eat great food and maybe even see an Israeli film. Kids today need some help connecting pride in being Jewish with pride in Israel.

2. Rent an Israeli film from your local library or video store. Have your own Israeli film festival at home or with some friends. The Israeli film industry is thriving. Depending on the ages and interests of the viewers, you may want to check out a 1991 film called, “Cup Final,” that tells the story of an Israeli soldier captured by the PLO while the World Cup soccer finals are going on. The soldier and his captors reach an understanding through their mutual love of soccer. Then there’s always the classics. For example, “Exodus” wasn’t an Israeli film, but it does tell the story of its beginnings in an exciting way.

3. Eat Israeli food. Falafel and hummus are so easy to make. You can even buy mixes in your grocery store’s natural foods aisle. Just add water to the mixes and chop up some cucumbers and tomatoes and you’ll have an Israeli feast. Pita bread is also pretty easy (and fun) to make or you can buy a package at the grocery store.

4. Play some Israeli music. Even your teens will like some of the exciting and fun pop music coming out of Israel today. Check out Ofra Haza, one of my favorites who unfortunately died a few years ago. There’s probably a section on Middle Eastern music at your teenager’s favorite music store. Don’t expect “Hava Nagila” unless, of course, it’s done with a world beat sound or as a rap song.

5. Send a letter or e-mail to a friend or family member in Israel. Children in Israel are interested in polishing their English, so don’t let your lack of modern Hebrew scare you away. It’s a great way for your children to learn more about what it’s like to live in Israel today. If you are unable to make this happen on your own, ask your rabbi or your child’s religious school teacher for suggestions. Some Jewish federations, like The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, have programs to facilitate these relationships through their sister cities.

For more information on the The Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership, visit www.jewishla.org/html/io_partnership.htm.

6. Study the history of Israel as a family. There are a lot of good books on this topic. Be wary of Web site information unless you are confident of the site’s quality. Look at the Web site of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (www.caje.org) for the newest thoughts on how to teach about Israel.

7. Review the history of the Middle East peace process — the high points and the low points. The American

Israel Public Affairs Committee (www.aipac.com) is an excellent source for timelines on all issues regarding Israel. They may not have materials intended specifically for children, but they explain the situation to busy adults all the time, so they make their materials easy to understand.

8. Have an open and honest debate about the issues. Help each other, especially the young people in your family, understand what is happening in Israel today. Talk about media bias and anti-Semitism. This is a very complex situation involving many important issues from water rights to refugees.

9. Don’t forget Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) on May 11. This is the traditional day to remember Israeli soldiers killed in action, but it would also be a good time to talk about the civilians who have been killed in terrorist attacks.

To learn more, about it, visit myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Modern_Holidays/Yom_Hazikaron.htm.

10. Plant a tree in Israel. Jewish National Fund (JNF) is still planting trees in Israel but you don’t have to be in Israel to plant one. They even have a special deal: You can pay to plant two trees and JNF will plant the third for free.

$18 for one, $36 for three or $72 for five and can be ordered online at www.jnf.org.

Donna Gordon Blankinship is a freelance writer living in Seattle.

Flowers Make the Wedding Bloom


Flowers are often a big part of anyone’s wedding day, from the bouquets the bride and her attendants carry to the chuppah decorations and the table centerpieces at the reception hall. Many times the flowers are what the guests remember about the wedding (unless a minor disaster strikes). Deciding which flowers to use for what arrangements, though, can be a dizzying experience, thanks to the availability of different types and colors of flowers at all times of the year.

Choosing Flowers

“Using flowers that are in season will help keep the costs down,” says Chris Kuhlman of Tioga Gardens in Owego, N.Y. “Many flowers are in season all the time, as flowers come from all over world.” Some, he said, are very expensive regardless of the time of year, such as lily of the valley and calla lilies, because flowers like that are not used as much, so the supply and demand cost is higher.

Florist Pat Van Tuyl said, “What seems to be popular these days are the Asiatic lilies, the Oriental lilies, the Stargazer lilies, which are pink, and the Alstroeneria lilies, which come in yellows, lavenders, whites, pinks and reds,” he said. “Roses are still real popular too.”

Good choices for spring weddings, Kuhlman said, include tulips, irises, daffodils and other bulb flowers. In the summer and early fall, though, those aren’t such good choices, even thought they may still be available, because the quality won’t be as good, and those flowers can’t handle the heat as well.

For mothers’, grandmothers’ and aunts’ corsages, sweetheart roses, cymbidium orchids and gardenias are still popular, although Van Tuyl notes that the last are often delicate, turning brown if brushed against.

Decorations

Using similar-looking flowers throughout the wedding ties everything together, Scott MacLennan, of MacLennan’s Flowers, noted. “We coordinate the flowers with the bridesmaids’ dresses and the bride’s bouquet, and carry that through to the reception,” he said.

Kuhlman thinks there should be some coordination between the flowers used in the ceremony and the reception. For example, the bridal bouquet and synagogue flowers may use softer or fewer colors, while at the reception the colors go brighter, he says. “Going from an afternoon ceremony to an evening reception might also include a different look for the flowers.”

Some brides do ask for pew decorations, MacLennan notes, “depending on how elaborate the wedding is and the finances, who’s paying for it.” Flower arrangements for the wedding can cost $100 to $3,000, again “depending on whether 50 people are coming and the reception’s at the Legion Hall, or if 300 guests will be attending the reception at the country club,” he said.

Another thing Van Tuyl sees is a move away from table centerpieces at the receptions. “They were hard to hold conversations around,” he said. Instead, there is now a new container which has a large base and a center-holder that puts the flowers up 32-36 inches, enabling conversation to flow more freely at the tables.

Floral Wedding Themes

A lot of times, Kuhlman said, “We do a theme all in one color. White can be a very striking color visually, and we do the bouquets and decorations with some greenery” for a splash of color. For instance, “a New Year’s theme could be done all in silver with accents,” he says.

Basically, the theme depends on what mood the bride wants to create — classic and subtle or a little wild, Kuhlman says. “If they want a taste of glitz we can do that, and it can be fun. Often, though, we do something elegant, not so bright or glitzy. All weddings have some look, for instance, Victorian or more modern, or even tropical, which can be dramatic and bold.

“Sometimes,” Kuhlman continued, “we’ve done harvest themes in the fall. That look can be very gorgeous, with fruits put in with the flowers in the centerpieces.”

Bridesmaids’ Bouquets and More

If a bride wants her bridesmaids’ dresses to match their bouquets, Kuhlman stated that he needs to see the color of the dress. “Often there needs to be some contrast,” he said. “If it’s subtle, we can do shades of flowers similar to the dress. But if you have a little contrast the flowers show up better in the pictures.”

The attendants’ bouquets really should complement, rather than match, their dresses, Van Tuyl states. “Brides come in and try to match the flowers to the dresses, but then they won’t show up well in photos,” he said. “For instance, if the dress is blue, then maybe a few blue flowers could be used mixed in with pinks and whites, which will look much better.”

The Bride’s Bouquet

Many brides these days are having two bridal bouquets made, one to walk with and keep for themselves and the other to throw.

“We’ve been doing toss bouquets for a long time,” Kuhlman said. “Usually the toss bouquet is a miniature version of the main one. The bouquets do keep for a while, and now flowers can be preserved through freeze-drying. People can go to Precious Petals for that. Some flowers freeze-dry better than others, though,” he warned.

Van Tuyl said he will often include a free, smaller throw bouquet for the wedding, as many brides today want to keep their bouquets and have them freeze-dried.

The Consultation

MacLennan said the first consultation could take up to an hour and should be three to six months ahead of the wedding date, “after the dresses are chosen and a color picked.” There might be a few other times where the flower order is fine-tuned, based on the number of attendants, the number of tables at the reception and how many people have RSVPed. “Sometimes the bride will call with a question or we’ll call her with a question, and then the answer needs to be researched,” he said.

For consulting on the flower arrangements to be used in any wedding, Van Tuyl said he needed at least three weeks’ notice, although more time is welcome.

“For instance, if the wedding is in October, they should come in during July or August, which provides plenty of time. If they want gardenias, calla lilies and others, I need three weeks to special order the flowers. It usually only takes [about] an hour to discuss the wedding orders,” he noted, adding that he does have a book with photographs of different arrangements for couples to look through for inspiration.

Overall, the choice of flowers comes down to what the bride wants, what her tastes are, what colors she likes and what look she wants to create, Kuhlman said. “I need to meet with the bride, the parents and the groom to find out what they like.”

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