It’s Christmas and I’m the Sous Chef

(Making Reubens with my son Doug and son-in-law Mike.)

Today is December 25th and Christmas is upon us. The distances that separate our family are gone. Sounds of laughter fill our home (actually my son’s home on the Wasatch front in Utah) where mothers and grandmothers caution good behavior – with limited success. For us, this time of year centers on important family traditions. Let me share two.

Food – the McGinns are all about the food. Whenever we get together the menu is a hot topic of discussion and food traditions are honored. This year I have been assigned the job of being the Sous Chef to my two sons. I think I actually assigned myself in a fit of giving. By definition a Sous Chef is (from my Google search): “Middle Management. You are between a rock and a hard place. You have a little power, but not all of it. You have a dash of authority, and maybe a pinch. Sometimes your chef will back you, and sometimes not. But your job is to back your chef, no matter what.” My children love to cook and even more they love to boss me around. This is the yin and yang of life – the balancing of a great many years of me running them around. You must understand however that my definition of Sous Chef involves me helping them in my way – not necessarily their way. So I guess I am not really a Sous Chef after all – I’m a Daddy Chef and they do their best to put up with me.

So here are a few of our favorite festive meals:

Reuben Sandwiches – a Christmas Eve meal tradition now four years old and introduced by Eldon and Abbey – dear friends who are family

Spare Ribs – Grandma McGinn’s special recipe – ribs slow cooked in tomato based sauce with a dash of vinegar - which Ninon has perfected

Trifle – a traditional Old English dessert – made with white cake, whipped cream, berries, and custard – all mixed together in a glorious melange

Turkey and all the trimmings is our Christmas Day dinner which is not complete without my mother’s dressing (stuffing) – simple and good

Open Food Session – any meal planned by one of the kids using a menu of their own choosing. This results in a cornucopia of interesting and highly delicious meals such as Black Pepper Mango Salsa Pork Chops, French Onion soup and Kristin’s “stewp” just to name a few.

At all times I run around, oversee the events, give advice, keep the schedule on track and generally make a nuisance of myself – that is helping in my way and I love it.

Number two is Gifts of Love. My sweet wife determined years ago that because this time of year is about the giving we ought to be giving on a higher plane. So she introduced gifts of love. Putting thought into giving is important - it’s really another way to say I love you. Christmas Eve we gather to record little gifts of love that we promise to give each other during the coming year. Ideally they have no monetary value. When the kids were little we had lots of “doing dishes” or “snow shoveling.” A common adult theme has been “advice about …” or “help blossoming.” Some become very creative like “Photoshop help,” or “wholesome activities” (given by my son Doug to Alec’s wife Kristin - it means no playing with knives and lighters with our grandkids), and “homemade haircut” (Kristin will cut Doug’s unruly hair and we will watch with glee).

I love these traditions. They become even more important as I get older. We live in a culturally diverse area with traditions from different lands and I have many friends with their own traditions that center around Christmas, Hanukah and even Kwanzaa. Love of family and friends and the spirit of giving seem to be common threads. I wish you all the best in this truly wonderful season - the best time of the year.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate community.

Home Inspection 101

A common question I receive relates to Home Inspections: What are they and when are they done?

A home inspection is a thorough and detailed examination of the property, typically carried out on behalf of and paid for by the buyer. It will involve a licensed home inspector taking about 3-4 hours to thoroughly inspect the property from top to bottom. An inspection on the house will alert buyers to defects that might not immediately be apparent. Purchasing a home is an emotional process, and buyers usually choose a house based on how it affects their emotions. In other words how it feels and how they picture themselves living in the home.

A home inspection is a great way to ensure that the new home is in good physical condition with all systems working as they should. That way falling in love with your home will continue to be a positive experience. The inspectors will start with the roof, work around the exterior and then focus on the electrical and mechanical systems of the home. They will check all major appliances that convey with the property. They also inspect the plumbing and finish off in the attic. It is important to remember that "There Is No Perfect House." The home inspector's job is to draw attention to any deficiencies. Those deficiencies could range from a leaky roof to heat or AC systems not working properly. Inspectors are also up to date on any industry developments that could affect your safety.

Once the inspection is complete, there are three typical responses to deficiencies identified:
  1. The defect is minor in nature and the buyer decides to move ahead without asking the seller for any remediation.
  2. The defect is serious enough that it needs to be addressed. For example, a water heater does not function properly. As long as the seller agrees to repair the appliance, the buyer agrees to continue with the home purchase.
  3. The deficiency is so serious that a decision is made not to continue with the home purchase.

Over the years I have managed to develop a list of qualified professional home inspectors – people I trust to provide my clients with excellent information on the home they are purchasing. I always recommend to my clients that they do a home inspection before purchasing a property. I often recommend that my sellers do the same before they put their home on the market. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about this process.

Thanks for helping me better serve our Real Estate Community.

First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit

Here is some information on the First Time Home Buyers Credit Program contained in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. It’s a loan from the government which you would pay back interest free over 15 years. At $500 per year worked into your income tax filings it is a relatively painless loan and one that could help you purchase a nice home at a time when home values are very low. Used very carefully this could work to your advantage.

$7500 First Time Home Buyer
Tax Credit

(Click on Image to Expand It)

'Tis the Season

We have now started the official countdown to Christmas! When our children were young Ninon made an advent calendar featuring a special daily activity while counting down the days 'til Christmas. This kept the kids busy and having great fun getting ready for the big event. Whether it was making snowflakes or watching "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" together – every day was a special surprise and each child would vie to be the one to discover that day’s activity. This created many wonderful memories and became one of our family’s Christmas traditions.

My daughter Alma has created this wonderful advent calendar that you can use for your family. It is absolutely free and here is what you do to get it.

This is my daughter Alma – isn’t she beautiful?


1. A frame. The current measurements of the calendar fit perfectly into Ikea RIBBA frame that is 15 3/4 x 19 3/4 (matted to 11 1/2 x 15 1/2). (The image can be sized down and cropped to 8.5 x 11 dimensions without losing any of the design.)

2. A professional printer, if you're going to print out the large version (it will need to be printed on 12x18 paper). Or your home color printer if you're going to crop and resize.

3. An xacto knife to cut around the ornaments.

4. 25 event ideas leading up to Christmas!


Download the two images. (Click on the images to go to the full size versions. Then right-click and choose "Save Image As..." and save to your computer. Make sure you have both the colored bobbles and the black and white background.)

Crop and resize images to fit the frame that you are interested in. (Most basic photo editing programs that come with your computer will allow you to do this.)

Print the two images. I strongly recommend cardstock. Remember if you're printing the full-size version to request that it be printed on 12x18 paper. (The background image doesn't have to be printed in color---you won't see any of it. It's just there to be a guide of where to write in your events.)

Write the Christmas events on the background image in the numbered bobble silhouettes. Have fun with this!

With the xacto blade, cut around each bobble on the color copy. Leave the top of the bobble attached.

Match up the front and back precisely. Tape them to the picture matte, if using.

Remove the glass from your frame. Insert the artwork and enjoy! Each day, lift up the appropriate bobble to discover the day's activity underneath.

(Keep up with what Mike and Alma Loveland are up to at Loveland Miscellany!)