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Archive for February, 2012

Leaping Lizards

Happy Leap Day!

Every four years, except years ending in ’00′ we have an extra day in February. The earth’s revolution around the Sun takes  365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds. Every four years, an extra 23 hours 17 minutes and 4 seconds and have accumulated, making February 29th.  Every 200 years, the leap day is not added. 2000 was such a year.

In the British Isles, Leap Day is a traditional day when women may propose marriage. In 1288, Queen Mary of Scotland required that a man accept such a proposal or be fined a silk gown in order to soften the blow.

With that extra day this year, consider doing something for someone else. Take A Leap offers such a challenge.

What are you going to do with your extra day?

Did he really have wooden teeth?

Who was George Washington?

File:George Washington dollar.jpg

Aside from the facts every school child learns – first President, married to Martha – what else do you know? Washington is reputed to have said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” To his credit, the Revolutionary War was won by his preparations.

Did you know that the Father of Our Country never attended any school or college but was educated as a child by his father and brother.  By age 30 Washington had survived smallpox, malaria, and dysentery, proving that he was strong and robust.

Vain about his appearance, Washington maintained an air of secrecy when communicating with his dentist.  By the time he became President, Washington had only one tooth left which he used to hold his dentures in place. His dentures were not made of wood as the legend has it. They were either walrus or elephant ivory which resembled wood as it got stained and older.

Washington told us that “It is better to be alone than in bad company.”He was six feet two inches tall and weighed 200 pounds, making him one of the biggest presidents our country has ever had. He lived to the age of 67.

He also is credited with “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”

George Washington’s Union County Headquarters

The Nathaniel Drake House is located in Plainfield, New Jersey. The house was built in 1746 by Isaac Drake.  Isaac Drake was  a son of the Rev. John Drake, first Baptist minister of Piscataway, NJ. Originally, the home was a 1 1/2 story building with four rooms and a lean-to kitchen.  George Washington stayed at the home during the Battle of Short Hills in 1777 and made it his Union County Headquarters for that time. The Drake family were all patriots.

The home is now operated at the Drake House Museum and is the headquarters of the Historical Society of Plainfield.  The building has been updated by grants from the NJ Historic Trust. It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is one of the oldest buildings in NJ. Among the museum’s collection are the original deed to the property,  the will of Nathaniel Drake, the family Bible, and a well-preserved portrait of Nathaniel.

 

Appealing Your Property Taxes

Here’s a dilemma many of us in Union County are facing – our homes aren’t worth what they were worth when we bought them, and yet we’re still paying taxes based upon what our home used to be worth. If you think you’re being taxed unfairly, here’s how to appeal your assessment.

Property taxes can’t be appealed but your property’s assessment may be if you can prove that your assessed value is unreasonable compared to the home’s market value.

Here are the steps to appeal your tax assessment:

1. Inquire into your district’s average ratio for this year. Different municipalities use different formulas to calculate property taxes but all formulas are based upon assessed value. Some jurisdictions use a home’s actual market value, while others use a percentage of a property’s worth.

2. File on or before April 1st (May 1st if a municipal-wide reassessment has just been implemented).

3.  Hire your expert witnesses – anyone licensed as  a real estate appraiser can be an expert witness and can prepare an appraisal report. This expert witness must appear at your hearing to testify and be cross examined.

4. Provide multiple copies of the appraisal report – one for the tax assessor and one for each County Tax Board member. This must be done at least seven days  before the scheduled hearing. You may also provide credible evidence such as recent comparable sales of other properties of a similar type in your neighborhood. Sales ratio forms, called SR-1A’s, (available at the County Tax Board) and deeds (available at the County Clerk’s office) are public records and can be used to identify comparable sales and their significant characteristics. Your local Realtor ® can help you with this. Commercial property owners must also supply an income statement.

4. Public Hearing is conducted before the County Tax Board within 3 months of the filing deadline. The County Tax Board is made up of members appointed by the Governor. Homeowners and sole proprietorships can represent themselves but larger businesses must be represented by an attorney.

5. The Tax Board must determine all appeals within 3 months of the last day for filing appeals, although the Director of the Taxation Division may grant an extension.

6. You can appeal the judgment within 45 days.

Home Ownership for Less than Renting

If your rent is more than $1200 per month, here’s a way you can OWN your own home for less money. Your investment may increase in value and you’ll get all those great home ownership tax benefits.

This 2 bedroom condo in Bloomfield is in move-in condition and can be yours for a small down payment and monthly payments less than your rent is now. Check out this mortage calculator to see what your actual payments will be on this $149,000 home.

Contact us at 732-499-0030 x244 to see 26 John St Apt 2c, Bloomfield, NJ.


A Dozen Roses

Buying roses this Valentine’s Day? Here are a dozen and a half rose facts to go with them….

  1. Perfumes are made from rose oil, which is a mixture of volatile essential oils from the crushed petals of roses. The technique originated in Persia.
  2.  Tyler, Texas has been nicknamed the “Rose Capital of America” because about 20% of commercial rose bushes produced in the U.S. are grown there.
  3. While the sharp objects along a rose stem are commonly called “thorns”, they are actually prickles — outgrowths of the epidermis. Rose prickles are typically sickle-shaped hooks, which aid the rose in hanging onto other vegetation when growing over it.
  4. In the early 19th century, dried rose petals were believed to have mysterious powers. Napoleon gave his officers bags of rose petals to boil in white wine to cure lead poisoning from bullet wounds.
  5. Almonds, apples, quinces, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are all relatives of the rose.
  6. Roses are valued for their romantic symbolism but their blooms are also edible and taste like green apples and strawberries.
  7. George Washington bred roses at his home.
  8. A fossilized rose – over 35 million years old – was found in Florissant, Colorado.
  9. Rose hips contain more Vitamin C than any other fruit or vegetable.
  10. On Valentine’s Day in 2008,  214 million roses were sold in the United States.  59% of them were red.
  11. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, rose prices typically jump 42% in February.
  12. The average price of a dozen long-stemmed red roses in 2008 was $80. In 1898, the price of a single rose from a NY florist was $3.75. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $93 per rose.

Bistro 1051 in Clark

We ventured out a week or two ago to Bistro 1051 on Raritan Road in Clark. This BYO restaurant features a unique mix of Italian cuisine and sushi. Service was fantastic and food was great and portions were very large (doggie bags all around). Their Brick oven flat bread with vodka sauce, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella was delicious.  The Dynamite Shrimp was exactly as described – dynamite, and the Kobe burger was juicy and served with fantastic sweet potato fries.

Next time, we’re trying the Pear Endive salad and the sushi rolls.

Have you tried it yet? Tell us what you thought!

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

Here are some of our favorite Lincoln-isms to help celebrate what would have been Honest Abe’s 203rd birthday:

, via Wikimedia Commons”]

Photo credit: Alexander Gardner [Public domain

At the Gettysburg cemetery: “…These dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”

“If you call a tail a leg, how many legs has a dog? Five? No, calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.”

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Wine and Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend

Celebrate Valentine’s Day by visiting these NJ Wineries offering a Wine and Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend February 11-12 from noon to 5 pm.

Auburn Road Vineyard and Winery is offering live music on Saturday night from 7-9. The Rubber Souls, a Beatles tribute band, will perform Beatles Loves Songs.
 
Bellview Winery offers chocolate dipped wine bottles.

Brook Hollow Winery offers custom labels for wine bottles.

Cream Ridge Winery recently released ChocolateBerry wine made with Raspberries.

Four Sisters Winery is featuring a performance of an interactive  murder mystery and a buffet dinner.


Laurita Winery 
 offers hand rolled chocolate truffles, chocolate lava cake, and a chocolate romance fountain.  Heritage Vineyards is offering a wine and chocolate display as well as live music.

Natali Vineyards offers chocolate and wine samples all weekend and a fresh cut rose for every woman that visits.

Old York Cellars has an indoor picnic area.

Plagido’s Winery has a wide variety of desserts including milk and white chocolate dipped strawberries, éclairs, cream puffs, cakes and cookies.

Unionville Vineyards offers tango lessons at 1:00 on Saturday.

A Dozen (Cheap) Valentine Date Ideas

Rosees? Chocolates? Or do you give your partner what s/he really wants – time. Here are a dozen inexpensive date ideas to make give you and your partner the chance to spend some time together.

  1. Check the Star Ledger for a local concert in a smaller, more intimate setting.
  2. Buy two cheap canvases and finger paint.
  3. Build a fire, snuggle up, and read a book of romantic poetry together.
  4. Take a picnic lunch and go to a lake to feed the ducks.
  5. Select a new recipe. Shop for the ingredients and prepare dinner together. Get a little fancier than usual.
  6. Make a recording of the loves songs you both like and play it while driving in the countryside.
  7. Go for a hike. Some great Union County parks can be found here.
  8. Rent a new movie and make popcorn.
  9. Take a trip to NYC and visit the museums.
  10. Go on a wine or brewery tour.
  11. See a matinee for less than a movie in the evening.
  12. Go to a coffeehouse, sit in giant comfy seats, and sip lattes.

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