The magical Rockefeller Center: symbol of hope

Christmas in the US officially begins Nov. 30 when the 45,000 energy-saving LED lights on the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree burst into a dazzling display.

The American event began in 1951 when only 9 percent of Americans owned a television. By the end of the decade 90 percent of Americans owned a television and the New York City Christmas celebration became a holiday tradition.

When NBC broadcasts the one-hour tree-lighting special every year, the cameras emphasize the tree, ice skating rink, and surrounding magical decorations. They don’t reveal the marvel of the Center itself.

Rockefeller Center itself is a complex of 19 commercial buildings, themselves icons soaring up on legendary streets with names such as Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue, and 30 Rockefeller Plaza, headquarters of NBC. The buildings take up 22 acres in Midtown Manhattan and they were part of the largest private building project of all times, a project of glamor wrought in gloomy times.

In 1928, John D. Rockefeller Jr., had already leased land from Columbia University to build a new facility for the Metropolitan Opera when the stock market crashed in 1929. With a global depression underway, the Opera board backed out of its commitment. Other financing fell through. Rockefeller knew if the Art Deco ‘city within a city’ would be built, he would have to finance it himself.

And he did. Although Rockefeller suffered losses himself on Black Tuesday, he pressed ahead with the project that became a symbol of success and hope for the future, a public space where New Yorkers could appreciate art, and a commercial boon for the city.

Gifts for the ungiftable

Weird ice
Molds for ice are big. Ice molds come in shapes like round, skull, geometric, slanted, giant, tiny, Star Wars, golf ball, hand grenade, heart, bullet. A variation on the theme is rocks that keep your glass cool. Pair the perfect ice mold with a suitable bottle of refreshment.

Free passes:
You can get passes for parks, museums, movies, car washes, even railroad trips.

Breakfast food:
Try Zabars.com for breakfast baskets (and much more, of course). You can get a crate full of bagels, cream cheese, coffee, orange juice, and pastry. Can be pricey, though.
For the bacon lover, try the Sir Francis Bacon sampler pack. For $30, you get a selection of bacon peanut brittle, back chocolate, and bacon toffee. Check it out on Amazon, where you will find other bacon gifts too.

Subscription boxes:
You can order subscriptions to snack boxes, cosmetics, projects for kids, coffees, dog treats, dinners to make, strange food, and anything else possible to ship.

Crazy candles:
Lots to choose from here: Some candles melt away to reveal a bronze sculpture. A pretty, swirled candle gives 60 hours of fragrance. See uncommongoods.com

Crafty stuff
A 3-D pen that oozes out a plastic that hardens within seconds. Your crafty friend will not just draw but sculpt, too. See it at hammacher.com.
You can also buy 3-D puzzles.

Funny stuff:
How about a custom bobble head? Upload your photo at 1minime.com and you can get your friend or loved one’s head on a variety of bodies.
Or, go all the way and put your loved one’s face on ancient art. Be Napoleon at society6.com.

Car crash deaths spike higher, report reveals

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in August that traffic deaths have spiked 7.2 percent, the largest single increase since 1966.

In fact, the NHTSA found traffic deaths rising in every segment of the population, including “passenger vehicle occupants, passengers of large trucks, pedestrians, pedal-cyclists, motorcyclists, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, male/female, daytime/nighttime.”

Nearly half of passengers who died in crashes were not wearing a seatbelt.

Oddly, the use of seat belts reached a rate of more than 88 percent in 2015, up from 86.7 percent.

The dismaying reality is that while more people are wearing seatbelts, but there are also more people dying from not wearing them.

One explanation: Gas is cheap and more people are driving. According to NHTSA, in 2015 people drove 3.5 percent more miles than in 2014, the largest increase in nearly 25 years.

The Centers for Disease Control notes that primary enforcement actions by police can make a difference; this type of action allows a police officer to issue a ticket because a driver or passenger does not have their seatbelt on, but there are only 18 states that have primary enforcement laws for every seating position.

One other factor: People in the back seat don’t buckle up. “Rear-seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if they’re unbelted,” according to Consumer Reports.

Some technologies in newer model cars may also encourage people to put their seatbelts on. For example, a driver who loves music may be more inclined to buckle up when they realize that their vehicle (particularly Chevrolet cars and GMC trucks, like the 2015 Cruz, Colorado, Silverado, and GMC Sierra) won’t allow them to turn up the radio or get on the road until their seatbelts are fastened. There’s an optional package for certain GM vehicles that won’t let the car out of park unless seatbelts are fastened

Six documents every homeowner should keep

As a homeowner, you may find yourself with a lot of paperwork. While you don’t have to keep all of it, it is a good idea to keep certain files for tax or mortgage purposes. There are several documents that you should keep as long as you own a property and some after you sell the property. Those include:

1. House deed: A house deed is a document that transfers ownership of a house from one party to another. Keep this for as long as you own a property, to have proof that you own it.

2. Closing documents: Keep documents related to closing the sale of your new home or property as long as you own the property, and three years after the sale.

3. Receipts for home improvements: Keep these for three years after you sell a property. It will help to show an increase in home value help to justify a sales price during the sales process, and can be useful when it comes to your property taxes.

4. Mortgage payoff statements: Keep mortgage payoff statements indefinitely. These are documents from your lender that both parties sign when you’ve successfully paid off your mortgage. Keeping them indefinitely offers you a defense if your lender tries to come back to you later and say that you still owe money on your mortgage.

5. Private or primary mortgage insurance statements and cancelled checks: Keep these for three years after the tax year in which you’ve claimed this deduction. This payment is part of your monthly mortgage payment.

6. Property tax payment: Keep your tax bill and statements showing payment for three years after you’ve made the payment.

The minimum time to keep important household documents is three years after payment is made, although it doesn’t hurt to keep many of these for longer. This is because the IRS can audit individuals for specific years for up to three years after the tax year (they can audit your 2015 tax return until the end of 2018.)

If you don’t keep these documents, you could find it difficult to state your case or provide proof during an audit or dispute related to your home.

3 Reasons You Need Home Insurance Today

Although it seems to be one of the least considered types of insurance, purchasing a home insurance policy is vital to ensuring that you and your family maintain suitable living conditions over time. Do you live in Cypress, TX and need more information in regards to acquiring a policy? The following is a closer look at three reasons you need home insurance today.

Accidents Happen

Firstly, one of the reasons you should always maintain home insurance coverage is because accidents happen. Although we like to believe we will know when bad things are going to happen and will always be prepared, unfortunately, the opposite is most often true. However, by acquiring and maintaining suitable home insurance coverage, you won’t be caught off guard and unprotected in the event of a major accident.

Mortgage Loan Mandates

In addition to that, most mortgage companies mandate that the homeowner must maintain home assurance for the entirety of the loan. Therefore, by acquiring a quality home insurance policy from the very beginning, you will avoid any hiccups brought on by the need to provide proof of insurance to your mortgage company. 

Theft Protection 

Lastly, the final reason to purchase a home insurance policy today is to protect your home against burglaries and theft. Although this will do nothing to stop the event from happening, this is one of the best ways to ensure you never lose substantial amounts of valuables that are stored within your home.

Overall, if you are looking for high-quality insurance in Cypress, TX, InsureUS is an excellent option. No matter if you are seeking home, auto, or any other type of insurance, InsureUS will provide you will competitive rates as well as excellent service. 

Thanksgiving tradition: Cover table

According to thekitchn.com, one family covers the Thanksgiving table with butcher paper and then gives everyone a marker.

They can doodle, and give thanks, and draw pictures throughout dinner.

The creation then becomes a banner to enjoy for the day.

If you don’t want to substitute butcher paper for your nice tablecloth, or if you would prefer conversation at dinner, consider hanging a large thankfulness paper on the wall or door. Attach markers so everyone can give their autograph or opinion. Or drawing. Or thanks.

If you want, you can clip autographs and notes off the banner and scrapbook them.

Another idea is to give the banner to the person who lives farthest away, a college student or family friend.

Millennials fall for online scams, study says

The most tech-savvy group in the world are the most likely to have lost money in scams, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Millennials fell for scams for online purchases, employment, and debt collection.

In fact, this 25 to 34-year old group was more likely to fall for online scams than 75-year-olds. About 30 percent of the younger group surveyed by the BBB admitted to losing money in scams. But only 5 percent of the older group lost money.

 

No flu for you!

Flu season is upon us and one shot could save you two weeks of suffering, says the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

This is recommended for everyone over the age of six months, except for those who may be adversely affected because of a weakened immune system.

There are a variety of vaccine options available to help individuals avoid the virus, or to lessen its impact, and they come in multiple forms – typically a shot, or a nasal spray.

This year, the CDC says that the nasal spray vaccine should not be used during the 2016-2017 flu season.

The CDC recommends the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). There are vaccines with three components (a trivalent shot) or four components (a quadrivalent shot). No matter which you choose, it usually takes about two weeks for the vaccination to fully take effect.

If you’re interested in getting a flu shot, there are a variety of places where you can go to get that vaccination, including your doctor’s office. A local health clinic, a pharmacy or even a drive-through flu shot clinic, if you can find one, are all places where you can get a flu shot.

If you’re going to get a flu shot, now is the time to do it – too early and you may suffer later on, from waning immunity around the time that flu peaks next January or February.

What’s the skinny on using a title company?

We take so much on face value.

That guy whose house you are buying, for example. We assume if he is selling the house, then he owns it. He does own it. Right?

What if he’s really a renter posing as the owner? What if his ex-wife is still a co-owner? Well, if so the seller doesn’t have a clear title, and that means you won’t either.

Happily, for a plethora of problems that can occur with a process as complicated as buying a home, the buyer has insurance. It’s called title insurance, and it is one of the most important safeguards of your money.

If you want to buy a home, you have to sign a contract with the seller, a mortgage contract with your lender, another contract with your insurer and a few other related documents. Not only is this process time-consuming, but it can also cause sleepless nights fraught with worries.

Signed contracts by two parties are legally binding agreements. They cannot be broken without costly consequences and in something as significant as a home, you want everything to go right.

Lots of problems can creep up in a property over a dozen or more years. There can be unpaid taxes. Or a problematic easement that prohibits your building a fence. There can be disputes over a property line. What if the city has underground utilities running the entire length of the property that the seller didn’t reveal in the contract, and you don’t discover them until you’re excavating for a swimming pool?

Professional real estate agents and contract law attorneys work with property buyers and sellers every day. They can interpret the documents, ask the right questions, add or delete anything, not in your best interest, and recommend a title company to launch a thorough search that secures you a clear title. In fact, your mortgage lender requires the purchase of title insurance, or it won’t issue the funds you need to close the deal.

The title company’s main mission is to declare a title defect-free; otherwise, it won’t sell you the required insurance. The search involves combing through public records for any matter concerning the house you want, including past deeds, wills, trusts, divorce decrees, bankruptcy filings, court judgments, outstanding liens and tax records.

Maybe the seller inherited the house under the terms of a will, but it was out-of-date, and a more recent will left the house to his cousin. Title insurance protects both your interests and your lender’s.

Title policy insurance is the best insurance policy you can ever buy. It is a permanent assurance that your ownership and use will be defended promptly against claims, at no cost to you, whether or not the claim is valid.

Every state and locality have a different regulatory rules that can affect charges. But you pay a one-time premium for coverage that lasts as long as you or your heirs own your property. Title insurance is one of the least expensive forms of insurance.