Paying It Forward this Holiday Season

Tis the season. Every year around the holidays, like so many others, I look for ways to give back to the community that I live in with my family and love dearly. My intention was to do a good deed and pay it forward. Since becoming a first time mom this year, I visit Babies R Us on regular basis and shop there frequently for all the baby essentials. So giving back to the family in need in this particular store just made perfect sense. I remember when my family came to America, like many immigrant families, we didn’t have much and my mom often left things on layaway. So I can entirely relate to the situation that so many families are in. 

Today I walked into Babies R Us on Richmond Ave, Staten Island and asked to speak to a manager. I asked her who has an active layaway that specifically included toys meant for little kids. I offered to kindly pay off the balance. At fist the manager was confused as to what I wanted but once I explained my intent she was so touched and happy, she rolled up her sleeve and exclaimed “look I have goosebumps!” Then she quickly ran into the storage room to look at the notes and rushed back with a big smile on her face. She found a layaway for a little girl. She was so excited to call and let the family know they can pick up their items in time for the holidays.

I posted the video on Facebook, not to draw attention to myself, but to share how a simple act of kindness can have a direct impact on someone’s like, bring joy, make the holidays brighter and hopefully inspire some people along the way. The second the video was up it received overwhelming support. I didn’t expect the kind of attention the post would get, but it’s simply amazing how many people embraced the idea of giving back. I have been receiving private messages from people all over the country that have followed the idea and surprised a family in need with a paid of purchase. It’s because of people like you, so many struggling families have been getting calls with wonderful news of their purchases being paid off just in time for the holidays. If anyone ever had doubts about the decency of humans, the kindness shown by all that responded and paid forward should lay those doubts to rest. So thankful to be surrounded by such caring individuals.

Even if you don’t have much right now, you have enough to share with others. You don’t have to give millions to make an impact. Start with simple acts of kindness ❤️️

Happy Holidays! 

Fall Foliage on Staten Island

There’s nothing quite like fall foliage on Staten Island. Take some time and explore the local Staten Island parks and Staten Island Greenbelt – a network of lush parks, wetlands, open meadows and hiking trails to catch a glimpse of nature’s splendor.

The following locations are known for an extraordinary display of fall colors, incredibly diverse wildlife and for being the most visited in the five boroughs.

Don’t let the season pass you by: Here are the fall places to check out before winter sets in.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

Enjoy moments of peace along the manicured gardens of Snug Harbor. This season features the most beautiful autumn colors in the Tuscan Gardens, New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden and the Front Meadow. Striking setting and an ideal location for lazy strolls on one of those beautiful autumnal Staten Island days.

Fall Foliage on Staten Island - New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden
Fall Foliage on Staten Island - New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden
Fall Foliage on Staten Island - Tuscan Garden
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – Tuscan Garden
Fall Foliage on Staten Island - Tuscan Garden
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – Tuscan Garden

The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Located on a hillside, far off the beaten path, with mesmerizing views and serene grounds is the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tobetan Art. Once you visit, helpful staff and an interesting story await you at this hidden gem of Staten Island. Discover this amazing place on a quiet afternoon with an away-from-it-all feel and grounds suitable for rest or meditation. Unique museum that evokes the Himalayas with its location at the top of Lighthouse Hill.

 

 

 

Fall Foliage on Staten Island - Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Fall Foliage on Staten Island - Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art

Greenbelt Conservancy

This Staten Island oasis has 2,800 acres of natural areas and offers 35 miles of trails through parks and woodland. Four scenic trails in a rural setting take visitors on a tour of red maples with blazing colors and Highbush blueberries, along with hawks, deer, owls and dozens of migrating birds. Visitors can talk to naturalists, ride the carousel, lounge along the picnic areas and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding treetops. The overall effect is very calming and serene…

Fall Foliage on Staten Island - Greenbelt
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – Greenbelt

Bloomingdale Park

Located on the South Shore of Staten Island, this 139-acre park underwent a substantial renovation in 2004. It now features fields for softball, baseball, and soccer; a new playground with a spray shower and swings; two basketball courts; a bocce ball court; and a comfort station. Bloomingdale Park is also a great place to visit to get in tune with nature: It features lush woodlands filled with hiking and running trails.

Fall Foliage on Staten Island - Bloomingdale Park
Fall Foliage on Staten Island – Bloomingdale Park

Willowbrook Park 

Willowbrook park offers a wonderful chance to escape into a more peaceful setting. It is worth the trip to see vibrant leaves of the season and enjoy vivd colors of the scenic fall foliage.While you’re there, take a moment to glance away from the leaves and give your attention to the five-acre lake. Amusements for people include tennis courts, playgrounds, ballfields, hiking, and an archery range (every month they host s free class where the park rangers teach you how to shoot an arrow with a bow, register online at nycparks.gov in advance). One of its most unique draws is the Carousel for All Children with 51 hand-carved wooden animals circle panels depicting Staten Island scenes. Willowbrook park serves as a constant reminder of the beauty that lies within the changing seasons. 

Fall Foliage - Willowbrook Park
Fall Foliage – Willowbrook Park
Fall Foliage - Willowbrook Park
Fall Foliage – Willowbrook Park
Fall Foliage - Willowbrook Park
Fall Foliage – Willowbrook Park

All photos by Dmitriy Mirochnik Photography, for more visit Shutterwhisper.com

 

Pumpkin Picking at Decker Farm on Staten Island

Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm on Staten Island
Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm on Staten Island

What’s fall without a perfect pumpkin? Sure you can grab one from the local grocery store, OR you can have a fun filled family day on the historic Decker Farm.  Enjoy an impressive experience at this beautiful place with your children that offers entertaining activities such as a farm house tour, hayrides, art and crafts, face painting and a corn maze so you can extend your visit into a full day family trip.

Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm
Pumpkin Picking : Arts and Crafts at the Decker Farm 

The Decker Farm is part of the historic Richmond Town grounds and is the only family style farm in the New York City. Immerse yourself into the old world charm where you can smell, feel and discover the old world traditions right here on Staten Island, NY. Take the time to visit this special place full of history and cultural richness.

Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm
Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm: Hayrides

Use this opportunity as a great reason to get out in the autumn air and spend the day on a historic farm, weeding through the patches, searching for the perfect pumpkin while taking pictures of your adorable kids in the excitement of it all. After you pick your own pumpkin you can head straight to the arts and crafts station and decorate it according to your individual style. Then let the pumpkin dry while you enjoy a lovely tour of the farm house guided by the costumed museum volunteers that will also do demonstrations of historic trades. This picturesque farm will literally transport you into the olden days  from the second you step on the grounds.

Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm
Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm

“Decker Farm is vital to the way we celebrate centuries of American life. When people visit the farm they are supporting and sharing in American history,” said Ed Wiseman, the institution’s executive director. Wiseman notes that first-timers are often surprised at what they find.

Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm
Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm

“They turn the corner and gaze at the open fields. Then that look comes over their faces,” he said. “They’re thinking, ‘Am I still in New York?’ That moment is priceless. Yes, rural America is still alive, right in our own backyard.” Part of the Decker Farm charm is that it appears much the same as it did a hundred years ago.

Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm
Pumpkin Picking at the Decker Farm

“This land has been farmed non-stop since 1810. It’s surrounded by the original historic buildings. We have the classic farm animals that kids and adults love: chickens, ducks, goats, rabbits and a pony. It’s like stepping back into days gone by.”

Children enjoy getting up-close-and-personal with the farm critters. The animals have fun names like Cornelius (as in Vanderbilt), Buddy, Holly and Elvis.

“Where else in the city can children have the run of a real farm while their parents relax and shop?” says Kevin Fisher, a Historic Richmond Town board member and weekly farm volunteer.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and share some tips on your visit to the Decker Farm!

 

 

 

Top tips for increasing your home’s value from your local Real Estate experts

Thinking of doing a home renovation? Or perhaps putting your house on the market?

Then you should know what sells your house best!

The housing market is not slowing down and all signs point to a seller’s market. Your home won’t sell itself, so pay close attention to our expert tips on how to prepare your house for the market and how to increase the value of your home.

Learn to improve the value of your home based on your budget with our top cost-efficient tips. We put these tips together in order to help you improve the look and feel of your home.

Curb Appeal Increases your home's value
Curb Appeal Increases your home’s value

1. CURB APPEAL

First impressions are everything. The way your house looks from the street – attractively landscaped and well maintained – can add thousands to its value. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges.

well landscaped outdoor area increases your living square footage
Well landscaped outdoor area increases your living square footage

2. OUTDOOR SANCTUARY

Creating a comfortable and beautiful place to sit down and relax will increase a home’s livable square footage and look more appealing to prospective buyers when you decide to sell.

Outdoor living spaces allow you to get more use out of your property. Full outdoor living rooms, well-placed seating areas, outdoor dining areas and outdoor kitchens are all remodeling projects that can increase your home’s value.

Bathroom updates are always a good idea
Bathroom updates are always a good idea

3. BATHROOM

Beautify your bathroom; updates in this room are always a good idea. People like to feel relaxed, like they are in a spa. Focus on your faucets, countertops, vanity, lighting fixtures and the tile floor. Upgrade your bath area. And remember to keep it clean!

Visual space affects the value
Visual space affects the value

4. STAGING

Make the interior of your home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. Cleanliness counts.

One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint. Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated – that spells value.

Clear the clutter and remove everything that could turn the buyers away. If the potential buyer will see a mess in any of the areas in your home, they will conclude that you don’t take care of your property.

Visual space is important. If your house looks pristine and clutter free it will make a great first impression. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger.

For maximizing your home’s value, kitchen updates are key
For maximizing your home’s value, kitchen updates are key

5. KITCHEN

The room that has the biggest impact on a homebuyer is undoubtedly your kitchen. For maximizing your home’s value, kitchen updates are key. Consider painting or refinishing your kitchen cabinets, installing a new tile backsplash, switching out your old appliances to new ones, adding an island, replacing the flooring and changing your lighting. A new and updated kitchen will surely grab the buyer’s attention.

Repair it and forget it
Repair it and forget it

6. INSPECT IT

Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated plumbing or electrical systems – you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don’t normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home’s value. Buyers want assurance that basic systems in your home are in working order and won’t need to be replaced or repaired in the near future, issues that will most likely be addressed in the home inspection.

Repair it and forget it!

7. CONSULT YOUR REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL

Invite a realtor to tour your house. Spend an hour with a pro by requesting a consultation with your local real estate professional. After the tour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look of your home. A good professional should also have a great network of local experts they can recommend for certain home improvement projects.

 

THE BEST APPS FOR REMODELERS

Home Design 3D for Dummies

Houzz

Zillow Digs

Remodelista

Pinterest

Home Design 3D Outdoor & Garden

 

Staten Island’s Most Romantic Places for Valentine’s Day

What’s more romantic than spending Valentine’s Day in Venice, Milan, San Francisco, Paris or Prague?

But if you can’t make it there, surprise your Valentine with an intimate dinner for two at Staten Island’s most romantic restaurants.

The ambiance of these special gems will make you feel as though you’ve been transported through time and space to your dream destination. Get a sense of what it’s like visiting each beautiful city right in your hometown.

Gatsby On The Bay in Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay in Staten Island

Feel like going back in time and soaking in the elegance and atmosphere of the roaring 20’s? The Great Gatsby on the Bay is perfect for a passionate night out.

Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island

The restaurant’s ambiance is elegant and classy, featuring exposed brick, remnants of the golden years, a grand piano and a cozy fireplace. The jazz band is a perfect backdrop to the theme of this boutique style restaurant. But what truly shines here is the food and excellent service! Be spoiled by the attentive servers that greet you with smiles. Experience an array of mouthwatering dishes that will have you coming back for more.

Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island
Gatsby On The Bay Staten Island

Thinking of visiting the magical city of Venice? Then South Finn Grill is a perfect choice offering beautiful dining rooms and water views.

South Fin Grill
South Fin Grill

 

This restaurant is for seafood lovers and is perfect for a special occasion. As soon as you enter through the doors you’ll feel a certain level of sophistication that this establishment offers. The romantic setting is infused with fine decor and breathtaking views of the water. You’ll find a creative menu with lots of seafood options, from a satisfying raw bar selection to beautifully presented cooked fish entrees. There are steaks and chops for meat lovers as well. This is the kind of place you visit to celebrate, so order a glass of wine and indulge. In season, explore the outdoor seating area.

Bayou Restaurant in Staten Island
Bayou Restaurant in Staten Island

What about a quick visit to New Orleans for a fun date with your loved one? This restaurant has you covered!

This charming place is a neighborhood favorite that keeps locals buzzing. The combination of exposed brick walls, red velvet drapes, crystal chandeliers and candlelight add warmth to the overall ambiance of the restaurant. Enjoy the New Orleans inspired cuisine that has already built a reputation for providing an unforgettable dining experience. This off the beaten path Staten Island gem is a perfect intimate dinner spot. Want to be daring and impress your date? Order the alligator bites, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you haven’t been yet, this needs to be your next destination.

 

Zio Toto Ristorante on Staten Island
Zio Toto Ristorante on Staten Island

Our next stop will take you to one of Staten Island’s most beautiful eatery. As you open the door you’ll be greeted with a warm and elegant foyer and an attentive host. Walk inside and you will notice great attention to detail in decor and style that is carried throughout the restaurant and that underlines the formality of the space.

Zio Toto Ristorante on Staten Island
Zio Toto Ristorante on Staten Island

 

The interior consists of two spaces; a lofty lounge bar area with an expansive bar for eating and drinking, and a well-appointed formal dining room with a brick pizza oven. Each plate that comes out of the kitchen is beautifully presented. Try any dish and you will have a sense of how much attention is paid to the quality of the ingredients. The Filleto alla Griglia, Pasta con le Sarde, Portobello dello Chef and Pizza Margherita are all outstanding and flavorful.

Zio Toto Ristorante on Staten Island
Zio Toto Ristorante on Staten Island

Of course there’s a variety of fun specialty cocktails (try any) and an extensive wine list (they have a wine cellar too).  And you should definitely save room for dessert, their Nutella-stuffed pizza which comes fresh from the pizza oven topped with strawberries and ice cream is out of this world and a perfect excuse to cheat on your diet.

Fushimi on Staten Island
Fushimi on Staten Island

Last, but certainly not least, Fushimi is one of the finest traditional Japanese restaurants on Staten Island. Fushimi Japanese Cuisine & Lounge  is a perfect place to go when you’re in the mood for some delicious sushi. The restaurant offers sleek and upscale decor, a romantic outside terrace, Asian inspired entrées, and a sushi bar where you can watch the sushi chefs at work while sipping on one of the signature cocktails. This trendy lounge is great for a night out with your better half.

Fushimi on Staten Island
Fushimi on Staten Island
Fushimi on Staten Island
Fushimi on Staten Island

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!