Blog :: 2016

Celebrate New Year's at Northampton's First Night

There is only one outdoor festival in Western Massachusetts celebrating First Night and that of course is in Northampton. This 12 hour family friendly festival kicks off at noon at the Academy of Music with a presentation of SHOW Circus Studio's eye-popping Holiday Party. 

There are literally hundreds of performers at 20 various venues in an astounding array of entertainment throughout the night. For a list of performances, click here.

One of the things I love about this festival is that the fireworks take place at 6:15pm. Plenty of time for the little ones to enjoy various performances, check out the fireworks, and then either stay for more fun, or head home just in time for bed.

Later, event goers will gather at the Hotel Northampton for the raising of the ball. D.J. Johnny Memphis pays homage to the New Year by spinning tunes that will have you dancing in the streets by midnight.

Of course you can enjoy some of the activities, such as the fireworks free of charge, but to get the most of the evening, purchase A single bargain-priced button which opens the doors to every event at every venue.

For more information, check out First Night Northampton.

 

Pamela Sclafani is the Marketing Manager for Coldwell Banker Upton Massamont. She lives in the Pioneer Valley and enjoys everything it has to offer, gorgeous scenery, hills and mountains for hiking, lakes for paddle boarding, the change of seasons, and the close proximity to Boston and New York.

 

5 Things to Do in the Winter in Western Massachusetts

"The weather outside is frightful!" but there's still so much to do in Western Massachusetts in the winter!

1. Yankee Candle, of course! Located in South Deerfield, MA, you will find more than 400,000 candles in over 200 scents! This is a special place where magic comes to life. From watching animated, singing characters to celebrating Christmas year 'round, this is a place where your whole family can experience an enchanting mix of shopping and entertainment. 

2. Elmer's in Ashfield for a wonderful breakfast, lunch or dinner. They tout themselves as "Big time breakfast and Friday night dinner joint, Old Timey Natural Foods Grocery and Art Gallery". There's also The Old Creamery in Cummington, a retail store and cafe, but also a hub of activity and a social gathering place. If you're in the mood for a cup of fair trade coffee, craft beer, or some live music, head over to Shelburne Falls and Mocha Maya's!

3.The Botanic Garden at Smith College. This garden was founded over 100 years ago and is home to thousands of plants. They are open year round from 8:30am-4pm and a donation of only $2 is suggested for admission.

4. Ice Skating at UMASS Mullins Center. It's only $6 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Check their calendar for dates and times.

5. The Great Falls Discovery Center in Turner's Falls shows the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the Connecticut River watershed. The Center’s building and exhibits are fully accessible and are free and open to the public. Inside the main building, walk-through dioramas show the plants, animals, and landscapes of this 410-mile-long river from its arboreal source near the Canadian border, through forests and farms, past villages, towns, and cities, all the way down to the estuary at the Long Island Sound.

 

Pamela Sclafani is the Marketing Manager for Coldwell Banker Upton Massamont. She lives in the Pioneer Valley and enjoys everything it has to offer, gorgeous scenery, hills and mountains for hiking, lakes for paddle boarding, the change of seasons, and the close proximity to Boston and New York.

Building An Eco Friendly Home

Are you looking for eco-friendly, money saving methods and materials for building your new home? Do you want a comfortable and stylish home with all the latest smart home gadgets, yet wish to construct it in a way that has as little negative impact on the environment as possible? Not to worry, with planning and a close working relationship with your architects, builder, and interior designer, you can reach your goals of good stewardship of the earth’s assets while knowing you are building an energy-saving home with materials and products that do not negatively impact the environment.

Prevent Frost Heaving With Frost-Protected Foundations Climatic conditions in North America result in high levels of spring frost that settle down on and around the house. Many energy-efficient focused builders follow a practice of installing frost-protected shallow foundations (FPSF) that raise the frost depth by directing heat loss towards the foundation. Talk to your builder and consider the benefit of this practice for your building situation.

Advantages Of Pre-Cast Wall Panels Using pre-cast wall panels is also a financial sound, eco-friendly option. These panels make homes look beautiful and are thermally efficient: made of insulating foam and concrete. Thermal panels deliver superior quality insulation, enhancing thermal efficiency. Additionally, they are resistant to moisture, highly durable, non-combustible, and even provide soundproofing through walls – which means no more worrying about the neighbor’s barking dog! Another option, CarbonCast insulated wall panels and claddings provide stellar insulation, enhance ambiance, and provide decades of energy-efficient sound proofing from outdoor traffic noise. SIPs or Structural Insulated Panels also serve as a highly effective option, replacing conventional framing material and differ forms of insulated wall panels. Sips are pre-assembled and do not contain concrete. They are, in fact, made of polystyrene foam fit between oriented strand board to serve trifold functions of sheathing, insulating and framing – all in one! Mostly used as support for roofs, walls and flooring, SIPs are very energy efficient and offer an R-value improvement of 15-40 percent.

Energy - Efficient Windows For The Home How to plan your house is directly related to how energy efficient and eco-friendly. Placing operational skylights and savvy window panels help improve the natural ventilation, reduce heating and air conditioning use and also trap the sunlight during winters, keeping the house warm. Low-e window coating or low-emissivity window coating employs a thin metal or glass coating that lets the majority of the sun’s light radiation enter the room while blocking the harmful radiation. They boost the R-value and reduce the U-factor. Technological advancements enhance operational skylights, wind turbines, and windows with rooftop monitors – all accessible via an app and functional on the go.

Keep The Pipes From Freezing Heat tape with automated temperature controls installed under sidewalks and driveways eliminate the need for snow removal – saving a lot of time and sparing a lot of labor. If geothermal energy is an option, the pipelines beneath the concrete could heat up the garage floor, basement, and other areas, causing the snow to melt. Again, at the touch of an app: a relatively inexpensive “fix” for a chronic problem.

 

Ring in the New Year!

As 2017 approaches, you might be contemplating how to ring in the New Year. How about hosting a neighborhood party? A New Year’s Eve party isn’t just a way to have some fun; it’s a chance to get to know your neighbors. Read on for some ideas on how to host an extra-special soiree in your home.

Make Your Own Bubbly Bar

If you really want to dazzle your friends and neighbors, transform your bar cart into a mobile bubbly bar. Fill it with all kinds of beverages: wine, champagne, and ready-to-mix juices and soda. Use drinkware in different sizes to add a touch of whimsy. Here’s a fun extra: Include a fortune cookie inside each glass. Before guests sip their beverage of choice, they’re treated to a prediction about the year ahead.

Go Glam

If there was ever a time to get glitzy and glamorous, it’s New Year’s Eve. But don’t just think about your wardrobe and jewelry; look to your party decor. What’s an easy way to jazz up your party and make it festive for a midnight toast? Add some sparkle to your wine, martini and champagne glasses (and even your bottles of bubbly). Check out this tutorial on how to make your own sparkling drinkware. It’s an interesting idea that adds a sophisticated touch to your New Year’s celebration.

Get Inventive with Photos

If you want to go all out, spring for a photo booth at your party for a fun way to document the festivities. Don’t want to go that route? Designate an area in your home as a photo zone. Bring in some creative props (colorful boas, cowboy hats, and 2016 glasses are all musts). Ask your guests to put their goals in writing on a chalkboard square, and then snap a photo of their resolutions. It’s a great memento and a fun reminder of what they hope to accomplish.

Happy New Year

This New Year’s Eve, make a connection with your neighbors by hosting an unforgettable bash. By implementing a few of the ideas above, it’s easy to ring in the New Year in style.

 

 

Western Massachusetts and Backyard Birding

Eastern Bluebird

A lot of folks believe that all birds fly south for the winter. Wrong! You might be quite surprised to discover how many birds live in Western Massachusetts all year round. Many areas of the country are visited by birds in the winter that have flown in from yet another destination, even further north. Like every other living creature, birds require water, food, and shelter to survive. No matter if you live in a rural setting or a city subdivision, there is a great deal you can do to help birds survive the ice and snow while encouraging them to linger around your yard.

Clean Your Bird Houses In the fall, give your birdhouses a through cleaning and then leave them up through the winter so that birds can find shelter from winter winds. When cleaning, remove all debris and old nesting materials. To prevent disease and to make them clean and inviting, after emptying the nest, rinse, wipe down or spray with a solution of a half cup of bleach to a quart of water.

Cedar Waxwings

Leave Leaves And Grasses On The Floor Of The Garden Beds Leaves and grass will decompose providing organic matter for the garden while providing a home for worms and insects that provide food for migrating birds. The tiny insects, larva, and eggs the birds find in the leaves and grass will help to sustain them during the winter.

Add Native Plants With Edible Fruit To The Landscape Attract birds to your backyard by providing native plants with edible nuts, fruits, berries, or seeds as well as perennial plants and herbs that produce seed heads, providing food which birds can consume throughout the winter. Mulberries, Serviceberry, Crabapples, Chokecherries, and Virginia Creeper are but a few of the many different plants that provide winter food for the birds. If in doubt when selecting native plants for your yard, contact your local county extension agent for a list of plants that will flourish in your yard.

Provide Dense Growth Foliage Birds seek a sheltered spot out of the wind in the protective boughs of evergreen shrubs and trees that provide dense foliage. Tree sparrows, chickadees, and Juncos often seek shelter on the ground under the sheltering boughs. Migrating flocks of birds especially appreciate a dense cluster of evergreens.

Northern Mockingbird

Place Bird Feeders In Your Yard Refill bird feeders daily, making sure seed is fresh and dry. Talk to the folks at your local home and garden supply to select the types of feeders best suited to your area. Be sure to locate feeders where they are protected from feral cats and other predators.

Provide Water Birds need lots of water, and it is often difficult for them to find a place to drink when puddles and ponds are frozen solid. A heater bird bath will provide a source of drinking water and attract birds to your home environment.

For more information on birds in Massachusetts: http://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/birds/fall-winter-birds

 

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    Bright Nights is Bigger and Better Than Ever!

    Bright Nights at Forest Park in Springfield! If you haven't been in a while, or at all, it's time to make the short trek to Springfield!

    First of all, did you know that Bright Nights was named as one of the Top 100 Attractions in North America? Seven Times! And it's right in our backyard here in Western Massachusetts!

    Did you also know that Bright Nights features more than 650,000 lights along a three mile tour? It's amazing!

    Since 1995, when Bright Nights first opened, there have been more than 3.8 million visitors!

    In addition to the lighting display there are other things to enjoy!

    • If you'd like to see Bright Nights a little differently, enjoy the display via a horse drawn wagon or carriage. They depart every half hour from 5:30PM-8:30PM, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, weather dependent.
    • On December 25 and January 1, there will be Free craft making for kids at Santa's Magical Forest (while supplies last).
    • Don't forget to visit the gift shop to bring home a memory of Bright Nights! Just take a left after Seuss Land and experience Bright Nights out of your vehicle.

    The Hours of Bright Nights are:

    Sunday through Thursday – 5PM to 9PM

    Friday, Saturday and Holidays* – 5PM to 11PM

    For more information, visit their website at: http://www.brightnights.org

     

     

     

     

    Holiday House Plants

    The winter winds are blowing here in Western Massachusetts and our gardens are resting beneath a fresh blanket of snow. Bring your gardening indoors with bright and colorful house plants, which are a fine way to show off your gardening expertise. Many of the plants that bring joy during the holiday season are outdoor plants that are brought indoors before the first frost.

    Christmas Cactus Symbolic of the holiday season, the Christmas cactus is a colorful and festive addition to any décor. Hardy and easy to care for, Christmas cactus requires good filtered sunlight, nutrient rich soil, and neglect. Over-watering is the major cause of problems when raising indoor cacti so only water when soil is thoroughly dry. Many houseplants, including Christmas cactus are sensitive to “city water” treated with fluoride. If your tap water is fluorinated, water your plants with purchased water with a pH of 7.5 or collect rainwater or melt snow to provide the healthy, uncontaminated moisture houseplants crave.

    Cyclamen Popular as a seasonal, easy-care houseplant, Cyclamen varieties typically show their best blooms between Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holiday. With a bit of tender, loving care, Cyclamen plants will add a colorful accent to the home for years to come. Cyclamen colors range from pink, purple, to red with sturdy, eye-catching leaves in shades of deep green swirled with grey-green markings. Cyclamen plants prefer indirect light and a cool location away from drafts. This hardy interior plant does best in temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If temps drop below 50 degrees F. the plant will suffer and leaves turn yellow and drop.

    Amaryllis Presently multiple spectacular flowers grown from a single large bulb, the Amaryllis brightens any décor. Widely available during the holidays season at garden shops and home and garden centers, the Amaryllis make a lovely gift of striking beauty that will re-bloom for years to come. Bulbs are planted in a pot in the garden if the weather is warm and move indoors when the mercury drops. In addition to spectacular blooms the Amaryllis presents thick, long strapping leaves to add visual interest and a touch of greenery. The hardy Amaryllis prefers indirect sunlight or dappled shade. When grown indoors, rotate the pot periodically as the plant will lean to the light.

    Poinsettias Forget the drab, dull red Poinsettias that graced your grandmother’s home at Christmas. Today, gardeners have developed poinsettias that are hardy and available in a broad choice of colors, many with variegated flowers or variegated leaves. Poinsettias are sensitive to changes in temperatures and do not do well in drafty location. Make sure to locate your plant in a spot where the temperature consistently remains above 50 degrees F. Place your plant in sunny location and water sparingly. Too much water will cause leaves to drop and inadequate light will make the plant grow tall and spindly.

    How to Get Your Western Mass Home Ready for the Winter

    Counting today, we've already had TWO snowfalls and it's still Autumn! With that said, there are many things that you need to do to get your Western Massachusetts home ready for winter. You want all parts of your home to be secured in order to survive the season with minimal need for repairs. Heed the tips below for a painless winter. 

     

    Change The Filters In Your Furnace

    This can be one of the most overlooked areas in the house. It’s so important to replace or clean the furnace filters once a month while the heating is turned on. A dirty filter can restrict airflow and in turn increase your energy demand. Just set a monthly reminder during winter months to change the filter.

    As an alternative, you can switch to a permanent filter. This can reduce the need to continually change filters and is better for the environment as it reduces waste.

     

    Put Fans On Reverse

    Fans may seem like a summer-only appliance, but many times, putting your ceiling fan on reverse direction can make the room warmer. Warm air that is near the ceiling will circulate back to the living space, bringing the temperature up and reducing your heating costs. All you need to do is flip a switch. 

     

    Mind Your Water Lines And A/C Units

    If you want to save money in the summer, do this in the winter: drain exterior hoses and pipes that lead to air conditioning units. Also be sure to turn off any exterior water units for the season. Seal any water leaks that may be around your home as well. To keep out cold drafts, remove window A/C units for the winter. 

     

    Don’t Waste Energy On A Drafty House

    A draft or two in your home can cause you to waste between 5 and 30 percent of your total energy usage. You can place draft snakes on doors to block cold air which you can easily make yourself. Also, a draft in your home can give your thermostat a false reading. 

     

    Maintain Your Heating System

    Just as cars need periodic tune-ups, so too do heating systems. Be sure you have all of the yearly recommended maintenance tasks performed on your heating system to keep it in good working order. Without the right care you could be driving up your energy costs and risking damage to your furnace. 

    There’s many different things that you can do to save money, save energy and stay safe this winter. Most of these actions are fairly simple and straightforward. A little precaution can go a long way when it comes to preventative maintenance in your home.     

     

     

     

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      'Tis the Season for Holiday Happenings in Franklin County

      The magic of the holidays begins in Franklin County. With miles of farmland and quaint New England towns, there are many holiday events taking place this Saturday and Sunday (December 3 & 4).

      Shelburne Falls, famous for the Bridge of Flowers, hosts a Christmas Fair on Saturday from 9-1PM at Trinity Church. A tea cup auction to benefit the church, along with delicious snacks, pastries and beverages.  Trinity Women will be hosting a Christmas Cookie Crawl where you can choose from delicious homemade cookies and make your own assortment. http://franklincc.chambermaster.com/events/details/christmas-fair-6852

       

      After the Christmas Fair, head over to Ashfield from 10-4PM (both Saturday and Sunday) for Winterfest, featuring fine art, fine crafts, delicious food, and cider tastings and sales. And pick your Christmas tree at one of the local farms. http://www.mayamachinpottery.com/ashfieldwinterfest.html

       

      Historic Deerfield  has many events celebrating the season both Saturday and Sunday this weekend!

      Holiday Baking - The day will be filled with the delightful aroma of baked goods from demonstrations and entries into the cookie baking contest. http://www.historic-deerfield.org/event/miscellaneous-events/holiday-baking-day/?eID=20390

      Tavern Games - Sit down and enjoy a game of checkers, fox and geese or merelles. Try your hand at table top nine pins, Jacob’s ladder, and ball and cup. http://www.historic-deerfield.org/event/miscellaneous-events/tavern-games-2/?eID=20361

      Hot Chocolate - Make your own hot chocolate mix to take home that is inspired by a colonial chocolate recipe. 

      http://www.historic-deerfield.org/event/miscellaneous-events/make-your-own-hot-chocolate-mix-2/?eID=20366 

      Special Gifts - Make a special gift by hand. Visitors may choose one of two simple hand-crafted gifts. 

      http://www.historic-deerfield.org/event/miscellaneous-events/gift-making-2-2-2/ 

       

      At the Visitor Center in Historic Deerfield, both Saturday and Sunday from 11-3PM, the beautiful horses of Karas Farm will greet you, and provide a lovely tour of Historic Deerfield.

      http://www.historic-deerfield.org/event/miscellaneous-events/horse-drawn-wagon-rides-2-2-2/?eID=20322

      Enjoy!

       

      Pamela Sclafani is the Marketing Manager for Coldwell Banker Upton Massamont. She lives in the Pioneer Valley and enjoys everything it has to offer, gorgeous scenery, hills and mountains for hiking, lakes for paddle boarding, the change of seasons, and the close proximity to Boston and New York.

       

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        Northampton Holiday Stroll 2016

        The 2016 Northampton Holiday Stroll takes place Friday, December 9, 2016 from 5-8pm. Main Street, Northampton will be closed down to vehicles from the Academy of Music to Strong Avenue. Attendees can enjoy music, hay rides, food and drink from local cafes, face painting, street entertainers and so much more!

        Get there early for even more fun! In addition to the following schedule of events, there are also many ongoing activities which can be found here: http://www.northamptonholidaystroll.com

        3pm – Get an early start to the Stroll with the Smiffenpoofs!

        4pm -  Pioneer Valley Ballet presents the Nutcracker at the Academy of Music

        4-8pm - Smith College Museum of Art -- Free Second Friday

        • 4:15-4:45pm Smith College Campus School Chorus performs at the SCMA
        • 4-6pm  Art making for all ages - Journey Journals: make your own travel sketchbook
        • 6-6:30 Guided conversation exploring a work of art in the SCMA
        • Plus Holiday Shopping at SCMA all day long (10am-8pm)!

        5pm - Sticks & Bricks Holiday Trunk Show!  Stroll on down for one-of-a-kind, handmade gifts by local artists (head to Market Street, just under the railroad bridge on your left!)

        5-6:30pm - Sam the Minuteman!  Look for him walking up and down Main Street.

        5:30pm (or so) - Local's burger eating contest!  In Main Street, near Local

        6pm   - Local Chorus inside UU Church
                   – Smithereens, 6-7pm; Location tbd
                   - ringing of the Smith College carillion

        6pm - Valley Rock Choir!  Location tbd


        6-7:30 - Live greek music in the street in front of Filos Greek Taverna

        6-8pm - Book launch and First Annual Bad Rap Contest at the Parlor Room: Celebrate the publishing of 'The Pencil Bandits' by local youth author Henry Reade and enter the first annual Bad Rap Contest.  Anything goes; just for fun!  15 and under category; prizes awarded.  Bring your friends! 


        6:15pm – Mayor Narkewicz - book reading (a selection from Wind in the Willows) at 
        Broadside Bookshop

        6:30pm – Nota Bene – inside Silverscape

        6:30pm - Pioneer Valley Capella; location tbd

        6:30pm – Celtic Heels performance – in the street in front of City Hall

        7pm – Spirit of the Heart martial arts demonstration; in front of City Hall

        7-10pm - Rise Up and Sing -- Hope & Courage Sing-along; Northampton Friends Meetinghouse, 43 Center St.

        7:30pm – Community carol sing-along with Jonathan Harvey (Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus) in the Unitarian Universalist Church

        7:30pm – Pioneer Valley Ballet presents the Nutcracker at the Academy of Music

         

         

        Pamela Sclafani is the Marketing Manager for Coldwell Banker Upton Massamont. She lives in the Pioneer Valley and enjoys everything it has to offer, gorgeous scenery, hills and mountains for hiking, lakes for paddle boarding, the change of seasons, and the close proximity to Boston and New York.