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rsz_winterThe Denver holiday season is upon us, a time when the darkest days lean toward the light, and heaven knows we need it. The past month tempts me to turn off the news, flop on the couch and Kurl up with the Kardashians but I’m craving a more fulfilling escape. Something sweet. Something magical. Something with the power to remind me of more innocent times and feel better about the state of mankind. I need a miracle.

Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge. DCPA. Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen

Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge. DCPA. Photo Credit: Jennifer M. Koskinen

I’ll start with a stroll through the lights, lots of ’em. Denver Zoo has doubled the size of the Zoo Lights and if the weather allows me to feel my fingers, perhaps my heart will melt a bit, warmed by the artistry and cocoa.

Charles Dickens favorite ghost story, A Christmas Carol, haunts the Denver Center once more. This year’s wassail will be just a bit sweeter as Philip Pleasants takes his bow as Ebenezer Scrooge. Delighting Denver audiences for the past eleven years, Pleasants feels it’s time to put the Ghost of Christmas Past behind him. Now, I’ve seen this show. I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the movies—from Albert Finney to Michael Cain—and I’ve never been more delighted than watching the talented Mr. Pleasants explore the complexities of the human soul. Truly despicable, authentically redeemed, I’m not sure there’s a more apt Christmas story for the 2015 holiday season.

One winter’s tale is sure to sweep me away as Garrett Ammon’s magpie lands on the windowsill once more. Wonderbound’s Winter is a stunning gothic fairytale of love’s loss, the fire of passion and the souls lonely search to find it once more. Performed in their home space, Junction Box, the experience becomes intimate, vibrational as the dancers engage and envelope the audience, just as the fairy cursed into the guise of the magpie wraps true love inside her wings. The original composition, written by Denver Singer/Songwriter Jesse Manley is elegant and haunting, winding you into this sensual allegory of the season. Ammon’s collaborative spirit brings Kristopher Collins to the house to surround the space with a collage of mysterious projections creating a world of layered reality. Scents, curated by Michelle Roark, and flavors provided by local eateries are part of the journey, rounding out the sensory experience. Winter is stunning and unlike anything I’ve seen. This gorgeous, masterful fairytale allowed me the privilege of going deep into the dark of winter, and the hope that spring would come again. Running on December 8-10 & 15-17 with two shows a night, audiences will have the opportunity to choose between an appetizer and dessert show. Tickets here.

If snark and Sedaris is your cup of nog, there’s the Santaland Diaries, a one-man show starring Michael Brouchard as the grumpy Macy’s elf voicing all we hate about the whole affair. An irreverent, hilarious, and somewhat bitter little candy cane, guaranteed to make you smirk.

Another Denver Christmas tradition, Balls! wraps up a six year run as some of Denver’s finest and funniest performers gather their sock puppets for an evening of story, song and Christmas spirit. This year’s beneficiary is The Gathering Place as Balls! rolls into Lannie’s Clocktower Caberet for two nights, Dec. 7th & 14th, doors open at 6:00 to enjoy the food and full bar, show starts at 7:00. Tickets here.

There’s so much more to do in our little postcard, the holidays look good on Denver. But this is my list of the naughty and nice, sure to pull me off the couch.
“God bless us everyone!”

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After you’ve finished your holiday shopping, why don’t we go look for a house?
Winter home buying has its challenges, but winter can be the perfect time to buy a home. As we head toward the snowy months, serious shoppers know their winter home buying power is increased by determination and AWD. Housing market prediction for 2014 is looking good and buying a home this winter might just be the ultimate stocking stuffer.I love me those cold weather clients!
Most people think of buying or selling their homes in the ‘high’ season, and while the balmy days of spring and summer are perfect for cruising open houses and power shopping, they also bring the crowds. In 2013 we saw a big bump in the Denver housing market:lots of buyer activity and low inventory meant happy sellers and buyers who were frustrated by the return of the multiple offer. Even when the market was down the notion that summer is the best time to buy/sell your house is one that is hard to break. After spring break, sellers prepare to list the moment the last school bell rings pushing inventory up and in the seller’s minds prices too. Many of these listings are sellers who want to test the waters, plant a For Sale sign in their yard along with the annuals and see if they get the price they want. But this supply side increase often works in the buyers’ favor or frustrates them when the fair-weather seller lacks the motivation to agree on a fair price. Sellers feel the same when sunny day buyers, indulging in some fantasy house hunting, create lots of traffic and little else.
Cold weather buyers and sellers are serious.
The real estate market is driven by many factors but the first and most enduring one is CHANGE. One of the most enduring reasons people buy or sell a home is because their lives are in transition. Though many plan their home sale or purchase, life happens without regard to season or convenience. Families change, jobs are gained, lost or relocated, promotions happen, marriage, divorce, birth and death– all create someone with a housing need.
Shopping or selling in a Denver winter are obvious– driving in show, slipping on ice, shoveling the walkway, taking your boots on and off so you don’t track sludge into the house, fewer showings– but the buyers are BUYERS and not just lookers. Winter sellers are ready and willing to make a move, and tend to price accordingly from the start. The slower season also means that lenders, title companies and appraisers are not so swamped, smoothing out the process and lowering emotion. And of course, there are fewer people submitting offers on your dream home.
As savvy shoppers know, the post-holiday season comes with plenty of opportunities for a bargain and that includes houses as well. Though we in Denver are beyond the clearance sale in our housing market, home prices are on the rise giving sellers more leverage as well.
Enjoy the holidays, spend time with your loved ones, take a spin around town and take in the lights. Then call me when you’ve got the ornaments put away and we’ll get the ball rolling.

greetingsLast Christmas I did the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, the tree cutting, light stringing, bulb hanging and pine needle sweeping all in that mythical land of “spare time”. I remember collapsing into the couch one evening with a glass of wine and a cup of resentment, ready to smash every Christmas CD and swearing I’d never do it again. Why in the name of the Sweet Baby Jesus should I go dashing through the snow to fight for a parking place and the last Xbox game to feel guilty for spending too much money? It’s been a long time since Santa graced our chimney and we don’t celebrate it as a religious holiday, so what is it then, peer pressure? My sons have more than they need yet somehow I’ve been duped into thinking I must add to their infinite taste for consuming so they won’t be disappointed on Christmas morning. Spend the money now or on therapy later.
This year wants a lot more laughter and a lot less stress.
I’ve always loved the hunt for something surprising and special, the delight on the face of its pajama-clad recipient and the Christmas memory that lingers. When the boys were little Santa brought the highly-coveted goodies from his workshop while mom replenished the sock drawer, but as they grew up, those Legos became laptops and the joy of giving became the dread of obligation.
Honestly I don’t have bad kids, but like most middle class kids they are part of the generation who feels entitled to an Xbox or an iPod or a smartphone; whatever the latest invention served up to our youth for consumption. When did that letter to Santa morph into the “list of things mom should get me or she’ll feel like crap on Christmas morning”? It makes me sad. Maybe even sadder than the boys would feel if I pulled the plug on this whole string of blinking lights. I’m not sure if I have the ornaments to go that far, but I can make this be a Christmas to remember.christmas tree
This year will be more about giving than getting.

So on December first, in the spirit of renewal and re-connection, I popped the Sarah McLaughlin CD into the player, gathered the boys around a pot of coffee to talk about changin it up this year. “Rather than me producing the Christmas extravaganza while you kill zombies and aliens, why don’t we do something different? Ya know, do something good in the world, create something memorable, maybe have a little fun while we’re at it?” Rather than ask what they want, I ask what we can we give. I hear the sigh as the cheek hits the table; this isn’t going over too well. I dig deeper. “What do you think gives Christmas its magic? (Beat.) What do you want it to be about this year? I could have served up a bowl of boiled brussels sprouts for the same reaction. Mother’s getting desperate. “How ’bout a Twelve Days of Christmas where we exchange small things, or funny gifts?” I ask, trying to mask my ridiculous cheerleader expectation. *ping of incoming text* “What about a movie night? Doing something for charity?… Scrabble?” *sigh* “Can we go snowboarding?” Witherspoon fils queries.

This year there will be no presents, there will be gifts.
Somewhere between the end of the world and the fiscal cliff I vow to bring a kinder, gentler and cheaper holiday experience to our hearts. Rather than sweat it out at the mall, we’ll work it up at the holiday skating rink. Rather than online shopping, I’ll Google “Things to do in Denver in December”. We’ll return to the things we did when they were young and full of wonder- Zoo Lights, the Nutcracker, Christmas Eve service–each event building anticipation of the big day. It’s harder now, exhausted by the eye rolls and resistance. Maybe the magic isn’t gone, just lost in Teenville.
This year there will be no electronics, there will be turn-ons.
As a nation of stressed-out spenders, constantly bombarded with the notion that we must impale ourselves on our credit limits, strive to meet over-inflated expectations, and lose our connection in the process. If Jesus ain’t the reason for your season, American Express and Martha Stewart will gladly step in to take his place? I don’t think so, not this year. What if I took back the wonder? What if we discovered time within our crazy schedules, replaced the standard with the unusual and mixed the kitch into the cookie dough. What if we watched “Elf”, made tacky Christmas sweaters and wore them around town? What if what we gave to one another came from the true exchange of our gifts?
This isn’t a new thought, I know. Every year Hollywood cranks out a heartwarming holiday tale extolling the miracle of the season, the simple things that give it meaning, and for forty bucks sans popcorn, you and your family can be reminded of this.
It is something to think about. As you’re driving around the parking lot looking for a space.

The holidays are coming and along with them… house guests.
If you’re like me, the shopping and cooking and cleaning miraculously manage to get done. Having a snappy home office leaves me without a proper guest room, but the sheets get changed, sleeping accommodations are made and everyone seems to be happy. I mean…they come back, right?
Through the years I’ve found a few personal touches to make my guests feel like I’m glad to have them. Here are my old favorites and one I’m adding.
1. Have you ever slept on someone’s sofa-bed? Their owners preface your evening turn-in with “Oh, it’s so comfortable” but obviously they haven’t slept on it since college. Rather than have your guests spend their nights on “the rack” and their days in traction, why not invest in a mattress topper? I purchased a gel foam topper for my son’s futon and it makes a world of difference. With company coming, I ran down to Costco and bought another for the guest (sofa) bed. If you have guests who fold that thing up every night you may want a different type of topper but my family tends to spread out and stay out and the gel pad with find a post-holiday home on the other son’s bed.
2. Add some flowers. Whether I’m creating guest space in the boys’ rooms, my office or in the basement, adding some seasonal sprigs brings a bright distraction. Those unexpected peach poinsettias make any room feel festive.
3. Sweet treats. Though I don’t go all Martha with chocolates on the pillow, I love to pre-set a few fun and useful things. Taking a tip from my travels, it’s easy to stay a step ahead by providing for their needs in advance. Arrange an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, a few bottles of water and that shampoo, conditioner and lotion from your last hotel stay in a holiday cookie tin. You may want to throw in some drugstore items (aspirin, antacids, etc), then place a few clementines, home baked cookies or some peppermint for some festive pop.
4. Basket of soft things. Rather than stack towels and toiletries on the bed, wrap them in ribbon and place them in a deep basket. Step it up with a robe, extra throw blanket and pillows and top it off with a small box of chocolates.
5. Double check the necessities. Though you may use the room for another reason, make sure your guests have everything they need. An adjustable desk lamp, reading light or bathroom nightlight, make your night owl guests feel at home, and have an alarm clock handy for the early birds. Have an old iPod and headphones? Load it up with soothing music or snappy jazz and make it handy, place a good book (one you’ve already read) and some recent magazines on the bedside table, or pick up some gallery guides and touristy pamphlets for that B&B touch.
6. Make all of the above easy to store and reuse.

Chances are your friends and family will be with you more than the three day limit, so make the most of their stay by starting with a warm and thoughtful welcome. Happy Holidays!

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