Just for Fun


Holiday Cookies - Homeowners - Badger Peabody & Smith RealtyNational Bake Cookies Day is a wonderful way to celebrate the impending holidays while you're looking at gorgeous Berlin homes for sale. This delightful day is right around the corner on December 18, so our real estate agents have put together a quick list of their favorite holiday cookies along with a few storage tips.

Let's start with the recipes:

  1. Basic Sugar Cookies - Sugar cookies are a simple holiday treat that come in a variety of shapes, especially if you have some cookie cutters available. With just a few simple ingredients, you can create a basic sugar cookie that's tasty on its own but can easily be spruced up with frosting, sprinkles, and other favorites. Check out this base recipe to get you started on this holiday delight.

  2. No Bake Grinch Cookies - Perhaps the Grinch started a little rough, but the huge change that he went through—especially his heart that grew three sizes that day—makes him the perfect source of a Christmas cookie. Starting with Oreos, all you need to do is add a few select ingredients, such as green frosting and a heart on top to get everyone in the holiday spirit. These quickly vanish at a party, so be sure to make a second batch for yourself.

  3. Easy Oreo Balls - There are a few different ways you can make Oreo balls, but our favorite is with this four-ingredient, no-bake recipe. All you'll need are Oreos, condensed milk, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. People adore this recipe because you're not dealing with butter or cream cheese, making the batter a cinch.

  4. Sugar Cookie Trees - Sugar cookies are all fine and dandy, but why not make them extra special? The easy-to-follow recipe uses multiple sizes of sugar cookies stuck together with icing. Add a small sugary star on top, and these trees will look so great that you won't know whether to eat them or stick tiny presents under them.

  5. Skillet Cookie Sundaes - No matter what holiday you're celebrating, skillet cookie sundaes will make it much better. As you might expect, these delicious treats are made in mini-skillets that are adorable to serve at a party or to keep for yourself. You can choose a variety of layers and toppings, including graham crackers, cookie dough, strawberries, caramel, and more.

How to Keep Christmas Cookies Fresh

We understand how hard it is not to chow down on an entire cookie platter, especially on National Bake Cookies Day, but we suggest you eat a few of these favorites and store the rest. Here are a few tips to keep cookies fresh for several days:

  • Storing Crunchy Cookies - Airtight containers will trap moisture inside, which is bad news for crunchy cookies. Leave the plastic container or bag partially unsealed.

  • Storing Soft Cookies - These can be stored in a Tupperware-like container or sealed plastic bag. Pro tip: stick a slice of sandwich bread inside to keep the cookies soft but not too soft.

  • Let Them Cool Off - We know you're excited about storing your fresh cookies right away, but let them cool off first. If you don't, the heat and condensation can make them flimsy mess.

  • Freezing Soft Cookies - You can store Christmas cookies in the freezer for up to six months in a sealed container. Icing and frosting may lose their flavor, so you may want to add these toppings when you thaw them out.

The best place to make holiday cookies and other treats is in the comfort of your dream home. Contact us today, and our amazing agents can help make that dream a reality.


At Badger Peabody & Smith Realty, we are proud to be active participants in our community. There are so many events in the areas we serve every weekend and we are pleased to be able to sponsor and participate in many of them! Here are a few events we are helping with this Saturday, September 17, 2022.

The American Red Cross is having a blood draw at Little Antlers Learning Center in Plymouth, NH and we are pleased to be a part of it as a sponsor along with Mid-State Health Center. As of this writing, only 10 appointments remained to give the gift of life - so sign up today! Sue Sampson in our Plymouth office is heading up the team effort for this and if you'd like to volunteer on Saturday, give Sue a call at 603-238-6990! To learn more and sign up for an appointment, click here.

In North Conway, we are pleased to be a part of Jen's Friends - Climb Against Cancer at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway. This event is now in its 25th year! We are proud to participate as a corporate sponsor, and also pleased we have two members of our team on their Board of Directors - Wendy Holmes and Malcolm Badger. Both Wendy and Malcolm will be in attendance. This is a great cause to help those in the Valley who may need supplemental financial assistance and other resources as cancer patients. To learn more about the Climb Against Cancer and Jen's Friends, visit here. And if you'd like to climb, they'd love to see you! Sign up today!

In Littleton, it is the Kamik 5K Run/Walk starting in the Littleton Industrial Park at 10:00 am. This is a great event and has a scenic trail near the Ammonoosuc River and then back up into the industrial park. In addition, lots of great food and more after the 5K! Learn more here and get registered the day of the event if you want to participate!

We are proud to be part of the communities we serve. To learn more about our charitable donations, visit us here.


You're Invited! Badger Peabody & Smith Realty is having an Annual Customer Appreciation BBQ!

We couldn't do what we do without you... our customers and community! Please join us at our Annual Customer Appreciation BBQ on Friday, July 8th from 4 to 7pm at our Franconia office on 383 Main Street.

Come to say hello, meet some new faces and enjoy something to eat from the grill.

We look forward to seeing you and offering our thanks.

EVERYONE is welcome.

*Rain or Shine - We'll be under a tent.


A change of scenery is always a good thing. I've noted in past articles that I do enjoy change. At a half-century old I really do enjoy my normal routine, but getting out for adventures is still very high on my list. This week we are in Paonia, Colorado. We have no friends or family here. It's just a place my honey used to live and has always wanted to revisit with me. Aside from the destruction of local businesses due to the pandemic, this is a great little town.

My favorite part so far, besides the chickens wandering around the property, is how dark it is at night. As I type this, we're kicking off International Dark Sky Week. Sitting in the lawn chairs at night is simply sublime. It feels like camping with the lack of light pollution around. The only time I enjoyed darker skies was in the desert in Morocco. It's no secret we live in rural areas because we love the outdoors and nature. Today, let's look at some of the ways you can accentuate your outdoor space to take advantage of the silence and darkness in your neck of the woods.

Literally the only items on the lawn here are the aforementioned chairs. As silent and dark as it is, you don't really need much else. At home we have a gas fire-table. It's great and provides a little ambiance and since we live close to town, there's no harm in the light it provides. Depending on what you plan to do in your backyard this summer, the accoutrements necessary can vary widely. We even considered (shortly) an outdoor pizza oven. Then realized the unnecessary hassle and maintenance would not be worth it. It really comes down to your lifestyle.

We entertain quite a bit in the spring, summer and fall. Having a comfortable place to sit is very important. We have included a sectional couch which takes up an entire corner of the deck. Sitting across from that is a small table with 2 chairs. In the garage we have a handful of other chairs for folks to use on the deck or down on the grass. The more comfortable and easy you make it to sit and relax in your yard, the better your entertaining will go. We don't always feed everyone, but always have music and drinks. Of course dogs are always welcome and we put out water bowls for them as well. The goal is to create an easy place to just "be".

If you're looking to take things up a notch, consider how you may feed the masses when they arrive. From a simple grill to a full outdoor kitchen, the options are endless. Your climate certainly plays a role in your decision. If you enjoy having people over and don't want to spend all your time in the house (with all your guests out back), consider getting a smoker or other culinary items that can withstand the elements. You will spend more time with your friends and can even make the neighbors jealous with all the amazing smells coming from your yard.

Some friends and I have been having a casual debate about storage. On the one hand we Americans tend to buy way too much crap and then have no place to keep it all. On the other hand, it is really nice to have bikes, skis, snowshoes, skateboards, lawnmowers, rakes and a chainsaw depending on one's weekend plans. If you don't have a roomy garage or basement, consider outdoor storage. We always had a shed growing up and there's nothing like it. All of our bikes and other toys were in there along with yard tools and countless other items that really had no place in our house.

If you have (or aspire to have) a green thumb, your back yard will most certainly look much different than mine. For the gardeners, the shed is still a great feature but you can add a rain barrel for watering and maybe even a greenhouse? Having worked at the Owl's Nest golf course in Campton, I'm a big fan of automatic watering and can't wait to install my own system this summer. "Raised garden beds are a great option if your soil is less than awesome and can make even the most challenged gardener successful," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Kevin Killourie.

I was reminded this week about how much I appreciate the peace and quiet of rural living and am remotivated to seek out a home that affords me this luxury. If you're like me, spending time outside is a critical component of your happiness. Take a little time this weekend and see if there are things you can do to your own backyard that will help you and your friends enjoy it more and spend more time out there. And get someplace dark this week so you too can enjoy the splendor of our night sky without (as much) light pollution. Happy stargazing!


If you've been reading along all these years, you've figured out that I'm on the precipice of my half-century mark. For the non math majors out there, that also means that my parents are approaching that age where they may need a bit of help from time to time. Whether it's to open that persnickety jar of pickles or simply being "there" when one of them recovers from surgery or an illness, pitching in as they enter their twilight is simply part of the deal. I'm often reminded (by my older brother, no less) that they DID house, feed, clothe and care for us for the better part of 18 years. The least we can do is offer our support for a few years now.

Today I'd like to take a peek at some considerations of the in-law apartment. I know there are typically dozens of factors that go into the decision about housing for mom and dad. First and foremost being the level of care they need on a daily basis. But beyond that are many other factors that are both universal and personal. We're fortunate to have parents that we genuinely enjoy spending time with. That's not always the case and that works in both directions (maybe YOU are the annoying one!). Let's dig in and see if we can ensure this will be as pleasant of an experience as possible.

I love my parents, but don't necessarily need to be aware of their comings and goings. If your dad is like mine, he's in and out of the house more often than most cats. Be it golfing, puttering around the garage, trying to fix something, trying to find something, working on the landscaping or simply wandering around outside, he's always in and out. Providing them their own entrance to the apartment is going to be pretty important. It will give them a greater sense of autonomy and privacy. It also provides the added benefit, in case dad leaves the door open by mistake, for you to yell "Are we heating the outdoors?" when you go visit!

Ensuring the apartment is wheelchair accessible is going to be pretty standard these days. This likely goes for the rest of the unit regarding accessibility. Make sure (if you're building it) the hallways and kitchen walkways are the right width, there are no "curbs" in the shower, and there are no steps (without ramps) both inside and out. This will be very helpful while your parents are there and also ensures you won't need to do any "updates" when you're ready to sell. Accessibility, considering the general age of our nation's population, is going to be a valued feature of any home.

"Unless you're working with an unlimited budget, consider the amount of natural light you can work into the design," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Ralph Cronin. "Chances are good the space is going to be limited and a higher number of windows will give lots of light and provide the feel of having more space," he continued. Both my parents love the outdoors and instilled that love in my brother and I. I know giving them lots of places to enjoy the outdoors (from indoors) will be much appreciated. This also has the added benefit of giving you the opportunity to yell "Do we own stock in the power company?" if you go visit and all the lights are on during the day!

The goal of having the 'rents close-by is to provide needed support and care. Outside of that, we want to provide them with as much independence as possible. Both my sister-in-law and I work from home, so having the parents around all day is distracting at best. I recommend providing an apartment-sized washer and dryer for the unit to add to this autonomy. My mom is famous for doing a "load" of laundry that includes a pair of socks and a t-shirt, nothing more. Giving them their own laundry affords them the opportunity to do as many tiny loads as they want and keeps them out of your laundry room while you're trying to work.

Lastly, and in my opinion most importantly, is the HVAC. I'm writing this from Florida today as mom and dad needed a little helping hand. If you've seen the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine visit Jerry's parents, you recall Elaine begging and pleading with Jerry's mom to turn on the air conditioning. It's not THAT bad here, but the unit IS set to 75 degrees. (I should note that at home, our A/C is set to 71!).

Giving mom and dad their own heating and cooling is going to be critically important. Heck, I think it would be important for most marriages, but that's likely unreasonable. Most of us won't get beyond those beds that provide different firmness levels and maybe a blanket with varying insulation thickness. As it is now, my honey and I watch TV with me in shorts and a t-shirt and her cozied up under a blanket. At least it works!

Bringing your parents into your home is a huge step. Providing enough separation and autonomy for both of you is going to be critical to the success of this venture. When considering the budget for each of the parts and pieces of this project, focus more funding on the separation (heating, cooling, sound, laundry, etc.). Great fences make great neighbors and a clear separation between you and the in-laws will likely help keep the peace.


I've enjoyed the roomy space of a 5,000 square foot home and honestly loved my 300 square foot cabin in Lincoln. It goes without saying, the larger homes I have occupied provided far more space (obviously) to "live". You have room and a spot for all of your stuff. The Christmas decorations have a home and don't have to live under the bed. Of course everything related to a larger home is more expensive. Heating, cooling and every repair or remodeling job is exponentially more costly.

In this time of sheltering in place, as a society we have become more keenly aware of our living conditions and our level of satisfaction therein. So will we see a shift? Are the days of the "tiny home" numbered? During this odd time in our lives the folks at® and Toluna Insights surveyed 1,300 homeowners to get their thoughts on their living conditions. Almost 20% reported they wanted more space in their home. And the three items (tied for first) that those surveyed loved most about their homes were a quiet neighborhood, outdoor space, and close proximity to grocery stores and pharmacies.

It's no real surprise that most folks want more space. In fact, 16% also noted that they would purchase (or desired) a home with more square footage for their next home. And for the nerds in the group (present company included) 13% noted they would spring for better technology and faster Wi-Fi. One of the more amusing ones (and one that I agree with wholeheartedly!) is 13% also would purchase a home with more separation from their neighbors.

Finally we're all just now able to see the opening of more restaurants. Still, 13% of those surveyed noted they would update their kitchen. While I do find these survey results a little amusing (Of course you want more space and a nicer kitchen!) the reality is we're likely going to see a palpable shift in desired home features in the coming months and years. If you put yourself in the shoes of a buyer right now, I think you can see what I mean. If you are ready to strangle your roommate (or spouse and kids) and you can't eat any more delivery pizza, chances are good that you're going to be itching for more space. And I don't blame you one bit.

One of the other consistent responses to both sides of this survey was natural light. Those who had it, loved it and those who didn't, want more of it. I'm very grateful that this "situation" happened in the spring. I sincerely believe if we were forced to shelter at home in January, it would have had a more devastating impact. Perhaps that's overstated a bit, but at least now we're able to get outside, open windows and doors (for a short time, anyway) and feel as though we are able to expand our living space beyond our 4 walls. Were it freezing cold and the sun waving goodbye at 4pm every day, I think I'd be more depressed than ever.

One of the other benefits to this time in our lives is many of us are taking this opportunity to tackle projects around the house. The number one project (which makes my heart sing) is 21% are cleaning out closets and/or the garage. Of course I really SHOULD be working all day, but I have to admit I have been taking chunks of my day to rearrange my bedroom, cull through my clothes for a donation box and organize the garage. It's the things that I normally have planned for weekends, but have been taking advantage of the decreased workload to tackle mid-week.

17% of those surveyed are doing some gardening and planting and 13% are taking on painting projects. Redecorating and rearranging rooms both come in around 10%. Again, we're fortunate that it is springtime and the gardening/landscaping projects are just itching to be scratched. The timing is perfect and who knows? Maybe you'll find a passion project in the dirt in your backyard! "Many of my friends and clients are really enjoying this 'extra' time for projects around the house and certainly for gardening," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Edward O'Halloran. "The weather is perfect and I think we're all taking any opportunity to get outside that we can," he continued.

This is most certainly a funky time and it feels like we are starting to shift back towards a more normal existence. Of course that will take a bit of time, but we'll get there. I simply encourage you to make the effort to look on the bright side of this time and make the most of it. Perhaps you can spend more time with your kids. Maybe it is carving out time with your significant other for a special date night. And maybe it is just the right time to tackle those projects around the house that have been hanging over your head for months (years?). Happy sheltering! And stay positive.


Here we sit at day "whatever" of this unprecedented turn of events. Granted, some of you may have lived through similar circumstances, but most of us have never been told to "shelter in place". This is uncharted territory and my suggestion today is to simply take a quick step back and think about what you could do to help out someone else. This situation (for lack of a better term) is causing unforeseen repercussions in our families and communities. I don't know about you, but I'm most certainly feeling the effects.

I read an article last week that really hit home. It talked about the fact that the emotion many of us are feeling is grief. At first it didn't make sense, but the author went on to talk about those things we have lost. We have lost the freedom to hug our loved ones and swing by for a visit. We have lost our relatively carefree way of life. Gone are the days of grabbing a shopping cart and not giving it a second thought. I've been riding my bike and going to the store wearing my "mask". If you find yourself feeling sad or morose, perhaps this is what you are feeling as well.

One of the best ways to treat sadness and (mild) depression (don't think for a second I'm giving actual medical advice here!) is to think outside of ourselves and do a selfless act. Do something for someone else. Let's look at a few options you have that can have a big impact on someone's life without increasing your risk of exposure (or theirs!). "We are all in this together and it's a great idea to shift our focus from what we can't do to what we can do for others," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Kevin Killourie.

Many of us live in fairly urban areas. This means you are likely friends or acquaintances with a handful of people in your neighborhood. One great idea is to offer (or just "do") doorside drop offs and check ins. Especially in the case of the elderly or those with small children, this can make a huge difference in their day and week! Just a friendly visit (maintaining your distance) is a great way to show they are still part of a community as well as a safe way to check in on them and make sure they are getting what they need.

This next one has happened in our neighborhood at least a half-dozen times in the last couple weeks. I'm not sure who it is, but someone has been playing their trumpet during the day and the response has been great. Every time they finish a song, you can hear cheers and whistles around the block. I'm sure it gives the musician a great sense of pride and it lifts the spirits of all of us in ear-shot as well. Maybe it is time for you to dust off that clarinet and belt out some tunes for your neighbors.

If music isn't your thing, how about sharing some art. I keep seeing uplifting and encouraging messages and pictures being drawn on our bike paths in chalk. Someone called this "chalk your walk" and it is awesome. If you have some artistic inclination (which I do not!) get out there and chalk YOUR walk. It'll brighten someone's day for sure. And if you're feeling like you want your contribution to last a bit longer, put some art in your front windows. There is no shortage of people out walking their dogs these days. By adding some happy messages in your windows, you can spread some joy in your own way.

And just because we can't be within a llama's length of each other (that was on a funny sign I saw yesterday) doesn't mean we can't hang out. If you are close with your neighbours, follow the folks of Greiner Street in Eugene, OR. They organized a dinner party where everyone just stayed in their yard. Someone played music. Some folks cooked. Some just ordered pizza. But they were all able to "visit" even from across the street.

We're going to get through this and we'll come out the other side stronger, smarter and more resilient. My hope for you is that you'll stay positive and focus on the bright side of things. I beg you to shut off that horrible, useless news station on your television and your browser and focus on your friends and family. They are all that matters right now. And last but not least: Stay Home!


Depending on when you are reading this, the new year has likely begun. If you are like me, you stayed out WAY too late on Tuesday night. And, since my birthday (still not quite yet 50 years old.), is on Sunday, I am still enjoying a couple of lazy days. Those include getting out in the snowy woods followed by some good quality time on the couch! I'm super excited about this new year and new decade! Today I'd like to take a little time to peek ahead and see what's in store.

A dear friend of mine introduced me to a fantastic, introspective exercise that I think we can all benefit from. It is a simple process of looking "back" and "forward" through the last/next decade. You basically choose the three things you are most proud of in the last decade and dig a little into the "why" behind those. Then you shift the focus on the future and target 3-5 things you want to accomplish in the next decade. It's important to note that these do not need to be tangible "things".

For example, I am very proud of building my house in the last decade. But I'm also very proud of the relationships I have fostered and the friendships I have built. I have started a habit of reading (for fun and for educational purposes) every morning and have continued to carve out 15 minutes for stretching and yoga as well. Heck, for that matter, in the last decade I quit my job and started my own business! I guess we can't forget those sort of life changes either.

In the next decade I would like to spend (much) more time overseas. I would like to focus more on learning to play guitar. And I want to become (at least) conversant in a foreign language (to tie back into the overseas thing!). This past couple of years has also taught me that I need to expand my network of friends. In this new decade, I'm committed to crawling out of my comfort zone and initiating those new connections. If you are no longer in college, you know exactly how challenging that can be. Wish me luck!

A friend of mine was explaining he and his wife's new decade "resolution" list the other night. They are picking 20 things (from a list of about 40) that they are going to work through in the 2020s. (Holy cow, it's 2020! When did THAT happen!?) They are putting all kinds of things on that list that have been bugging them for the last few years. Some are super simple things like hanging the darn pictures that have been itching to be hung for months. Others are a bit more complicated like remodeling the guest bathroom.

I honestly think half the battle here is getting those things in writing and keeping them in front of you. So often we haphazardly throw out a few "resolutions" and they are gone from our minds within a few bars of Auld Lang Syne. This year I encourage you to not only look back at what you have accomplished and are proud of, but look forward and set some decade-long goals for yourself and/or your family. Much like the tradition of going around the table at Thanksgiving and expressing our gratitude for all that we have, the "looking back" part of this is really quite eye-opening and rewarding.

Speaking of rewarding, the other half of that battle is rewarding yourself for checking these items off. Of course some are a little difficult to mark as "complete". How do you define "conversant" when it comes to learning Flemish? (Yes, Belgium is number one on my list of places to live overseas!) But if you DO get those pictures hung and you DO finish the bathroom remodel, I strongly encourage you to reward yourself. It could be as simple as a fancy chocolate bar or something more extravagant like a mini staycation at your favorite resort right here in town. The important thing is that we all love being rewarded for doing something good. Don't miss out on this opportunity to reward yourself.

The new year and new decade are very exciting, optimistic times in our lives. If this is the year/decade you decide to get more involved in the world of real estate, go for it! If you have wanted to sell and have been waiting for the "right" time, perhaps this is it. If you have been pondering that ski condo or other investment property, there's no time like the present! Is this the year you learn to play the trumpet? Are you going to start a savings account and take the family on a "real" vacation in a couple years? The opportunities are limitless and there is truly no better time than right now to get those goals set and start working towards them. This is one of those rare times we only get to see 7 - 10 times in our lives! Take full advantage of it!


Alfred and Eleanor Wilcox were two of my favorite people on earth. When I was first born, our family lived with them in New York for those first years of my life they introduced me to the concept of "home". As I grew up, and our family relocated all over New England, we always found a way to get back to Alfred and Eleanor's house for the holidays. "Nana" and "Bampa" were their "real" names for all four of us grandkids. The smell of Nana's cooking and Bampa's ever-present smile were always a highlight for our visits. Of course, actually FINDING Bampa sitting down in one place long enough to see the smile was always a challenge. As I look back now it is obvious that lots of care, love, time and hard work went into creating that atmosphere that we looked forward to and appreciated so much.

Shortly after their passing, a strange and unsettling change took place in my life. I no longer looked forward to the holidays and frankly, became a bit of a scrooge regarding the whole season. I'll admit that a part of my annoyance with the holidays was (and is) the unstoppable wave of commercialism that pervades the whole 4-6 weeks. The simple fact that nearly all of the focus last month was about "Black Friday" instead of "Thanksgiving" is a testament to the twisted values much of our society has accepted as the norm. And now it seems that if you're not buying your significant other a diamond, you are not a good person. But even apart from that, a special sentiment and "feeling" about the holidays was gone for me. The simple truth was that I had associated those members of the family so tightly with the season that when they were gone, so too was my holiday spirit.

Adding lights to your home, lighting a menora or a kinara or even going "all in" and including a Santa with reindeer up on your roof are all steps people take to share their spirit of the holidays. It is obvious these items are intended for "others" because most of these ornaments or decorations cannot be seen from inside the house. This, I have finally learned, is the true spirit of the holidays.

As a kid, most of us are conditioned to believe that the holidays, especially Christmas, are about us! It is no secret that the marketing machine has been programming us to "shop 'till we drop" and pulling no punches in their depiction of the true happiness derived from getting that year's "Tickle me Elmo". I'm confident that many people transitioning towards adulthood are forced to go through this same transition as I did and finally get their holiday focus flipped around towards others.

I know most of you reading this today can easily flash back to a handful of experiences in which the gift or gesture you GAVE to someone was the highlight of their season. And, as selfish as it sounds, there is no greater feeling for the "giver" than that excitement and appreciation you were able to create. I have an idea that is how parents must feel when their kids explode with excitement over a specific toy or gift they were able to give. (Even if they do end up playing with the box it came in!) I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit that for me, it was a Spock helmet that lit up and made some noises. According to mom, I wore it for about 10 minutes and then moved on. (Sorry about that one!)

Once we realize the holidays are not about us, we start to see how easy it is to get in the spirit. Once I accepted that Nana and Bampa were not the reason I loved the holidays, I could finally create and share my own holiday spirit. As is true with the overall theme of the holidays, once you start to share that spirit and excitement, it becomes contagious. Once we realize that the people around us are the reason for the season, we start to understand that we create our own holiday spirit.

This sentiment is true regardless of where you live. I adorned my drafty and tattered 300 square foot cabin with Christmas lights and candles every year I lived there. Driving in the driveway with the lights going always gave me a little lift regardless of the home. "We can all take small steps to make our homes shine with that holiday spirit and bring a small piece of joy not only to ourselves, but also to those passing by," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Denice Tepe.

I am blessed with a loving family, some fantastic friends and a warm house. I can look around on a daily basis and find SOMETHING to be thankful for and someone to appreciate. The hustle and bustle can try to get in the way. Bills, work, stress and "life" can also throw up walls and attempt to steal your holiday spirit. My plea and encouragement for you today and for the next few weeks is to focus on others. Focus on sharing your good fortune and holiday joy with someone else. And learn from my stubbornness that your holiday spirit won't come from other people; it is going to be a conscious effort on your part. I promise the payoff will be worth it!


I played hooky last Monday. I know! You are likely saying: "Who takes the Monday off after an extra-long holiday weekend?" This guy. That's who. We had 12 people at the house over the weekend and only the remaining 2 were left on Monday. We all decided to venture up into the mountains and go sledding. Yes, I'm talking about hiking up a mountain trail and then hopping on a sled (hanging your legs off the front to slow down) and screaming (literally and figuratively) down the trail. A more fun Monday has never been had.

This time of year there seems to be a plethora of extended weekends, holiday breaks and simple days taken off. And if you are not in the camp of those of us willing to step away from the computer, we collectively feel bad for you and are now encouraging you to take that break. We all know this is a super stressful time of year. Do yourself, your friends, your family and your co-workers a favor and take the day off. Let's look at a few reasons why, though it seems silly to have to encourage you!

First and foremost, taking a break from work will help you solve problems. I spend the majority of my days in front of my three monitors, working on developing websites and writing code (mostly PHP for my curious, fellow nerds out there!). One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in over a decade of doing this is stepping away from those glowing screens is almost always the best path to the solution I'm searching for.

I can stare at a problem, especially later at night, and the solution simply escapes me. But nine times out of ten, flipping on the screen in the morning with fresh eyes produces the answer in a matter of minutes. As I'm sure has happened to many of you, that elusive solution has also come to me while in the shower, driving down the road or munching on a cheeseburger. The trick is to simply step away.

Right along side the benefit of solving problems is generating more business and being more productive overall. "Taking a break allows your brain to stop focusing on the immediate task in front of you and "breathe" a little bit," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Tara Peirce. I have had some great ideas about generating new business or developing a new app while being 10 miles back in the woods surrounded by nothing but snow and trees. We all tend to get a little tunnel-vision while we're stuck at the office. Stepping away removes those blinders and allows your brain to explore other avenues, ideas and opportunities.

Another great reason for taking a break is to maintain your sanity. A couple weeks ago I took a short "staycation" and just hiked and biked for a week. The weeks leading up to that had become filled with more and more frustration and stress. Even the most simple challenge was super frustrating and every small request seemed like an insurmountable task to undertake. I was quick to get annoyed by, well, just about everything. It became painfully obvious to me that I just needed a break.

The weeks preceding my break were incredibly busy. They were filled with long days, work keeping me at my desk until well past "bedtime", and a seemingly unending string of tasks filling my inbox. You may be able to manage that stress load better than me, but I have learned (albeit slowly) that I do not perform well under that sort of load. I set the dates (both for me and my clients) and aimed for the break. It was fantastic just to have that goal in the distance. It made the workload more manageable to have an end in sight. And the result of the break was a return to my normal (more) balanced perspective and, honestly, an eagerness to get back to work.

One of the things I will always cherish about my dad, Steve Robie, is that he nearly always made it to our soccer games all throughout high school. He was a busy, on-the-road salesman and that job took him all over the Maine and New Hampshire countryside. But regardless of where his day took him, he made our games a priority. While that is not technically "taking a day off'' he was most certainly skipping out on visiting that next lumberyard in favor of watching his sons play a game. Taking time off for your family is truly one of the most important reasons I can think of. I don't have a family of my own, but taking time for friends and family will provide a return for you that cannot be measured in salaries or promotions. See you on the trails. (I'll be the one screaming past you on my sled on the way down!)