REAllStarMar19-optYou wouldn’t walk into a courtroom without a skilled attorney by your side.

Why enter into what could be the biggest financial transaction of your life without the right real estate representation?  An experienced, market-savvy agent can help you buy or sell a home quicker and at a preferred price.

In many areas, highly competitive seller’s markets – low housing inventory and appreciating home prices coupled with continued low interest rates – mean that house hunters and sellers alike need expert guidance, an all-star agent who can be counted on to knock one out of the park.

“Buyers are looking for an agent they can trust, someone who knows the neighborhoods intimately, but who also has the relationships and the proactive nature to find homes that aren’t yet listed on the market,” says Mark Kitching, associate partner with Partners Trust, Los Angeles.

For sellers in the most competitive markets, an agent with extensive knowledge of contracts who knows how to attract and handle multiple offers is especially valuable.

“They need a full-time agent with experience in a tough seller’s market,” says J.P. Piccinini, broker/owner of JP and Associates Realtors, Plano, Texas.

More than half (53%) of buyers polled about what they value most when choosing an agent said they wanted someone who could help them locate the right home, and 12% said they wanted an agent who could help them negotiate and close a sale, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

The qualities buyers value: agents who are responsive, knowledgeable, and have a flexible schedule.

“An agent should be able to answer their phone and get back to clients in less than an hour,” says Mark Ferguson, agent with Pro Realty, Greeley, Colorado.  “Knowledge of great lenders, inspectors, and title companies is important.”

Sellers want agents who do more than the traditional 3 Ps, says Riccardo Ravasini, Keller Williams, New York: put a listing into the MLS database, put up a sign, and pray.

“Sellers want someone who will creatively market their unit, including promoting the listing to nearby residents and to targeted media outlets, and who will leverage his or her own network of interested buyers and investors,” says Ravasini.

When offers shower down in a bidding war, a broker’s negotiation skills are key, says Patrick Beringer, RE/MAX Metro Realty, Seattle.  While many consumers think it’s a smart move to negotiate a lower commission rate for an agent, Beringer says, “If an agent is so eager to cut their commission just to get your business, how effectively will he or she negotiate on your behalf?”

Choose an agent carefully.  The right one can swing your sales price 5 to 10% higher; the wrong one can lead to no sale at all, says L.A. agent Mark Kitching.  A poor agent is a costly mistake for both buyer and seller, he points out.  “A seller can be sued by a buyer for poor guidance and failure to disclose things that the agent left out.  A buyer can be left with a home that’s a bad investment,” Kitching says.

Ask family and friends for referrals to agents with whom they were satisfied.  Attend local open houses and meet with agents.  Search online and read agent reviews.  And be prepared to ask plenty of questions.

“Ask how long they’ve been in the business, how many deals they do a year, what areas they specialize in, what kind of negotiator they are and if they have time in their schedule to devote to your needs,” suggests Kitching.  “If you’re a seller, ask what strategy they would implement to sell your house and why.”




Before you hit the road

on that holiday vacation or business trip with a mindset of maintaining a healthy diet regimen, beware!  What you “think” you know about healthy food choices can hurt you.  Eating healthfully can be extra challenging when you are out and

about, whether traveling remotely, in transit from point A to point B,

or dining out locally.


Cardiologist, chef, and martial artist, Dr. Mike Fenster, author of ‘The Fallacy of the Calorie,’ lists eight medically-based food facts to help you correct common dietary deceptions.  This is information that will compel you to rethink your approach to healthy eating not only when you travel, but also when you’re preparing everyday fare at home:

  1. Diet salad dressings are equally, or more, detrimental. Opting for a salad even with “light” dressing when dining out may not be the healthiest choice. Whether it is low calorie, low fat, or regular salad dressing, it’s often loaded with omega-six polyunsaturated plant oils—too much of which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. In fact, consuming too much of these salad dressings can be even more harmful to your waistline and overall health than what you presume to be “less healthy” menu items you were trying to avoid with the best of intentions.  When opting for salad, stick with just a little olive oil, vinegar, fresh lemon juice or nothing at all.
  2. Burgers beat deli meat. Despite conventional thinking, the consumption of fresh red meat that isn’t over processed has not been associated with any increased risk of heart disease, cancer, or mortality. Many restaurants today, outside of the fast food variety, offer freshly ground, quality burgers—some even use beef that’s organic, grass fed, and pasture raised. In contrast to fresh red meat, the consumption of highly processed meat and meat products like that typically used in deli sandwiches often presumed to be a healthier option over burgers- has proven to be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and mortality. Piling on a few zombified vegetables that have marginal nutritional value won’t give the meal much more health merit.
  3. Diet drinks are tied to disease. The common misconception that you can avoid or compensate for poor food choices with diet drinks is a double-edged exercise in futility. In fact, studies have shown women who drink more diet drinks are heavier and have an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
  4. Under-salted food may be a diet disservice. We season our food so it tastes good, and a properly seasoned meal leaves us more satisfied and less likely to binge and over-consume. What’s more, adding salt to fresh food only accounts for about 5% of the daily intake—well within bounds. But, “fresh” is the key word as over 75% of an average person’s daily sodium intake comes from eating highly processed and prepared foods. Seek out those restaurants that utilize fresh ingredients, from produce to proteins.  In a worst case scenario, stop into a market and grab some fresh fruit, optimally organically grown, to tide you over.
  5. Low cholesterol advertising is a fat trap. Most are surprised to learn the cholesterol consumed in one’s diet has little or nothing to do with your blood cholesterol levels. Foods and menu items promoted as “healthy” because they are “low in cholesterol” are often loaded with fat, sugar, or other additives that cause more harm than a three egg omelet ever could.
  6. Bars are bogus. Energy bars, protein bars, granola bars, and other so-called healthy eating snacks are often marketed as an all-natural or otherwise nutritious choice. The fact is that many of these bars are highly processed and contain high levels of low-nutrient fillers and sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Diets high in added sugars, fructose in particular, have been associated with an increased risk of developing hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other life-threatening medical conditions.  Bars are also often loaded with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame that’s linked to a myriad of health ailments.  The short term energy boost bars provide is often followed by a “crash” that can cause you to eat yet more unhealthy bars or other food to get revved back up.
  7. Bagels are the “other” white bread. Many people are aware of the empty calories and the lack of any nutritional redemption in a slice of white bread. Commercial breads are the number one source of sodium in the average American diet.  They also often contain significant amounts of refined sugar and fat in the form of detrimental omega-six polyunsaturated fatty acids.  While many health-seekers do already avoid that slice of white bread for these many unappealing reasons, they may not know a seemingly benign plain bagel is equivalent to several slices of white bread…even before the addition of toppings or fillings.
  8. Counting calories is a fallacy. A calorie is measured by turning food to ash and recording the amount of heat given off. The caloric content of a food or beverage item doesn’t have much to do with how we actually metabolize our food. Additionally, calories alone do not accurately reflect a food’s nutritional value.  For example, a 100 calorie soft drink is not the nutritional equivalent of a 100 calorie apple.  Healthful eating isn’t about focusing on the quantity of calories, but rather it is about the quality of the consumable.

Whether you are at home or on-the-go, taking even these few considerations into account relative to the quality of the “healthy” food at hand can have a significantly positive impact on your diet and overall well-being.  Indeed, the food and drink choices you make when traveling can put you on the road to good health or result in a figurative food fatality.

Dr. Mike Fenster, “America’s Culinary Interventionalist,” is a Board Certified Cardiologist, chef, and athlete whose cutting-edge medical expertise and insight, culinary talents, and dedication to fit living convene in his uniquely integrative Grassroots Gourmet™ approach to food-born health.  His upcoming book, “The Fallacy of The Calorie: Why the Modern Western Diet is Killing Us and How to Stop It,” is currently available for pre-order at


holiday18page 1BETHANY

The quaint village is three miles north of downtown Honesdale on Route 670.

  • Annual Christmas in the Village: This free event, held on December 1st, features holiday open houses from 2 to 4 p.m. at E.Kellogg Bed & Breakfast and James Manning House. The Honesdale High School Chamber Choir will sing seasonal carols at the James Manning House. Other surprises are in store as well as seasonal treats and goodies at both locations.

In addition, starting at 2 p.m. at the Bethany Public Library, Mrs. Claus will visit from the North Pole to help children write letters to Santa.  Cookies and hot chocolate will be served.  Tours of the library and historical society are from 2 to 4 p.m.

Plus, enjoy “A Keepsake Christmas for Families” at the Bethany United Methodist Church, a tree lighting at 3:30 p.m. at the Bethany Village Senior Living Center and a tricky tray with drawings at 4 p.m.

“A Journey through Bethlehem” Bethany Presbyterian Church’s Living Nativity is from 4:30 – 6:30 PM, Saturday and Sunday.

  • On Christmas Eve, luminaries will be lit along Bethany’s streets.

For more information about Christmas in the Village, call Janet at the James Manning House (570) 253-5573.

T here is plenty to do throughout December for people of all ages from holiday open houses to train rides.  Shop till you drop and then head to these businesses for festive fun.

  • The 27th Annual Holiday Open House at Highlights for Children: December 8th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., complete with treats, entertainment, storytelling, an art show, craft room, puppetry, and more.
  • 23rd Annual Ornament Hunt: December 8th at 10 a.m in Central Park. Children can “hunt” for ornaments for a chance to win prizes.



  • HonesdaleCSpic18Holiday Craft Fair: December 8th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ladore Lodge, Ladore Pavilion and Carousel & Staff Lounge Building in Waymart. Enjoy handmade items, baked goods, maple products, homemade soaps, jewelry, refreshments, and more.
  • Holiday Artisans Market: On December 9th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cooperage, showcasing the work of many talented artisans of the Upper Delaware Region. You’ll find a selection of unique handcrafted gifts for friends & family.
  • Annual Chorus and Band Holiday Concert: On December 18th at 7 p.m., the Honesdale High School Chorus and Band will perform holiday favorites in the high school auditorium on Terrace Street.
  • Luminaries on Main: On Christmas Eve, enjoy 300 luminaries lining historic Main Street.
  • Throughout the month, Santa Express train rides on the Stourbridge Line will be available. Kids will receive a present from Santa and candy cane. Call (570) 470-2697.

For more information about these and more December events,  visit


MilfordpicStroll along the streets and alleys and step into antique stores, unique restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, a historic theater, and specialty shops.  There are also historic architectural structures including Grey Towers, the former home of America’s first forester Gifford Pinchot; and The Columns Museum, where the Pike County Historical Society is with historical artifacts and memorabilia including the famous “Lincoln Flag.”  Both buildings are open to the public.

Other than its historical claims, Milford is considered a destination based on its shopping and dining alone with eateries satisfying every palette from authentic Vietnamese to gourmet French dishes.

  • Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony: Milford resembles something out of a picture book as the entire downtown twinkles with lights and the big star on the cliff glows from a distance. The free event is held December 1st at 6 p.m. on the lawn of the Community House at the corner of Broad and Harford Streets. In addition to the tree lighting, people can enjoy a visit from Santa, cookies, and cocoa.
  • Craft Store Holiday Open House: On December 7th, the Pike County Developmental Center hosts an open house from noon to 2 p.m. Find hand-crafted gifts for all occasions.  Enjoy complimentary refreshments.  The center is at 107 West Ann Street.  For more details, call (570) 296-6319.
  • Girls’ Night Out: December 6th from 5 to 8 p.m., Milford Presents hosts another event with downtown businesses open featuring sales, refreshments, and fun. For more information, visit
  • Holiday Tours at Grey Towers National Historic Site: Beginning December 3rd through the 16th. Guided tours of all three floors with each room beautifully decorated for the holidays are available at 1 and 3 p.m.
  • Holiday Art Exhibit and Sale at Grey Towers: In addition to the tours, enjoy plein air paintings and a juried show of photographs, all depicting Grey Towers and the surrounding landscape. For more information on Grey Towers, visit
  • Winter Lights Festival/Celebrating the Arts: This 11th annual event takes place Saturday, January 19th and Sunday, the 20th 2019. The festival celebrates the beauty of winter, as well as the opening of the ice rink in Ann Street Park for the season.  Plus, the much anticipated Mac-n-Cheese and Chili contest which will be bigger and better this year.  For additional information and updates, “like” the festival on Facebook.


WinterfestpicDec18I n just a few days, Hawley will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Hawley Winterfest. The celebration will take place starting Friday, December 7th and running through Sunday, December 9th. Winterfest kicks off on Friday night with a celebration of music featuring the internationally acclaimed organist and conductor Kyler Brown and the melodic talents of his Virgin Concort.

Saturday, visitors will be treated to a variety of activities including a horse and carriage ride, pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus at B. Madigan’s, special sales at our downtown shops, and local authors at the Hawley Library. Be sure to stop by the library for a fresh cup of homemade soup contributed by the Library board of directors. And while you’re strolling down Main Street, be sure to stop in at our Festival of Lights.

The historic town of Hawley is nestled in the beautiful Pocono Mountains lake region and is home to vibrant local shops, lodgings, restaurants, and entertainment.

Sunday will feature the delights of children’s theatre at the Ritz Playhouse and a special presentation by Bob Eckstein on his newly revised book, The History of the Snowman, at the Hawley Library.

No Winterfest would be complete without taking part in our House Tour. This year is extra special and will feature homes from a different era and all representing the rich history of our area. In addition, you can enjoy ice carvings, a beer tour, a cookie walk, exhibits, contests, demonstrations, giveaways, and much more for the entire family.

“I am so proud to be co-chairing this event with Jeanne Genzlinger. We have an amazing committee of talented and committed volunteers working hard to bring this event to life,” says Kate Hayes.

Hawley Winterfest is presented by the Downtown Hawley Partnership and is made possible by the efforts and generous contributions of our sponsors and donors. All levels of sponsorship are welcome and appreciated. Proceeds from this event are used to support ongoing community projects.

Please visit for more information on events and how you can support this event. You are welcome to join our Facebook page for updates:



Do a one hour check-up: It could save your life!

By Gary Ryman

Do you have the oil changed in your car, tires rotated, and brakes checked?  Sure, you say.  Cars are expensive and I want it reliable and safe.  Makes sense.  Cars are the second most expensive item most of us will ever buy.  Then what about ensuring the safety of our most expensive investment?

Houses need the same regular safety inspections—check-ups—especially for the most dangerous disease they’re exposed to, fire.  Investing an hour or so once a year can pay inestimable dividends, not only in keeping the property safe, but also the loved ones who live and sleep there.

Start with your heating system.  Pick up the phone and make an appointment for a professional to inspect and service your furnace.  Have a fireplace?  Get that chimney cleaned and make sure your wood supply is dry and well seasoned.  Have a safe place designated to dispose of ashes.

Check your smoke detectors.  Have the batteries been changed?  Are the detectors less than ten years old?  Smoke detectors were never intended to last forever, and now new models designed for a ten-year life with sealed batteries which never need to be (and can’t be) changed are readily available.  “Just like any electrical appliance, the components of smoke alarms wear out over time.  When a smoke alarm reaches ten years of use, the potential of failing to detect a fire increases substantially,” says the National Association of State Fire Marshals.

Do you have detectors everywhere needed?  The answer can differ depending upon the home and local or state codes.  National standards recommend that for new homes, a smoke alarm is provided in each bedroom, and at least one outside the bedroom area, but near enough to be heard in the bedrooms with the doors closed.  In addition, there should be at least one detector on each floor level of a home, including basements.  This is so regardless of where a fire starts; inside or outside a bedroom, the occupants receive prompt warning.  For existing homes, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends a detector outside the bedrooms and at least one on each level of the structure.  Both they and the National Association of Fire Marshals agree that more is better, and providing the numbers called for in new construction is best.

Check your dryer.  Why, you ask?  I clean the lint trap every time I use it.  I’m very careful.

I’m sure you are, but when is the last time you checked the dryer hose itself?  First, make sure it’s metallic.  The plastic ones are inexpensive but burn like solid gasoline.  Second, disconnect the hose and check the interior.  Have a vacuum ready.  You’ll probably be surprised at the amount of lint which gets by the screen and accumulates in the hose.  A good annual cleaning helps prevent dryer fires.

Do you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or garage?  As importantly, do you know how to use it if you need to?  When the stove is on fire is not the time to be reading the instructions.  Remembering one word will help you: PASS, pull, aim, squeeze, sweep.  Pull the pin, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle, and sweep back and forth, applying the agent to the fire.  An important tip: keep a pot lid, pizza tray, or similar item out when you fry.  Covering the pot can smother the fire.

Annual inspection time is also a good time to review your home evacuation plan.  Don’t have one?  They’re not complicated to develop.  Have a safe meeting place outside the home and teach children never to go back inside.  Keep bedroom doors closed.  If a hallway fire occurs, a closed door may hinder the smoke from overpowering family members, giving firefighters extra time for rescue.  Teach toddlers not to hide from firefighters.  Their protective gear can be scary in times of crisis.  Teach children that firefighters are there to help in an emergency.  Take children for a tour at your local fire station so that they can see a firefighter in full gear.  Teach your children how to crawl under the smoke to reduce smoke inhalation.  Also, teach your children how to touch closed doors to see if they are hot before opening.  If so, use an alternate escape route.

Check your carbon monoxide detector.  Over a ten-year period, the Center for Disease Control and prevention reported over five thousand deaths from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.  You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.  Without a detector, you can be one of the statistics.  Visit your local hardware store and make sure that won’t happen.

Is your house address visible from the roadway?  This is a big help for emergency responders who may be trying to find you in the dark.

You wouldn’t think twice about spending an hour cleaning the gutters or washing the windows on the house.  Take the same amount of time to check it for fire safety.  It can be as important as that annual physical from your doctor.

Gary Ryman is the author of the novels Mayday! Firefighter Down & Fire in His Bones as well as the memoir, Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family.

All three books are available in paperback and ebook versions from For more information, visit



A lot of what Americans eat comes from other countries, and as the number of food recalls rises, experts urge consumers to get smarter about where their food originates.

By Ben Larrison, CTW Features

If you are what you eat, you’re probably getting a little less American every day.

The United States’ food supply has become increasingly foreign over the past fifteen years.  A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are now available year-round, long after their seasons have passed locally.  Bananas from Ecuador, beans from Mexico, and apples from New Zealand are waiting for you comfortably in the aisles of your neighborhood grocery store.  Seafood is another popular import: Shrimp, for one, comes in from Thailand, China, and Indonesia, and Chinese catfish and eel are prone to show up on your dinner plate.

Chances are your morning beverage also comes from overseas; there are Colombian coffee and Indian tea, and the sugar you add may be from the Caribbean.  More of a juice person?  We’ve got apple juice from Argentina and orange juice from Brazil.

Even the oils you cook your food in come from outside the United States: Canola oil is Canadian, and olive oil is from countries like Spain, Greece, and, of course, Italy.

“We are importing an enormous number of food products,” says Patrick Woodall, a policy analyst for New York-based Food & Water Watch.

From 1983 to 1985, imports amounted for just nine percent of fresh vegetable consumption in the United States.  By 2003 to 2005, they were up to 16 percent, and that number is on the rise.  Many of the products we import are things that can be grown in the U.S.  More than one third of the tomatoes we consume are grown overseas, as are nearly half of the cucumbers, one-third of melons like honeydew and cantaloupe, and more than half of the garlic.

This boom in food imports has brought the luxury of a wider variety of healthy options no matter the month.  But with these benefits come hazards.

“The risks obviously are the possibility of picking up some exotic food-borne disease, getting sick, and in some cases dying,” says Larry Busch, director of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards at Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Part of the issue is the FDA and USDA’s inability to monitor the incredible amount of food brought into the country every day on ships and planes.  According to Woodall, less than two percent of the edible goods are actually inspected, focusing mostly on items that have a higher risk for contamination, such as seafood and produce.  Inspectors have found veggies that are rotten, filthy, and contaminated with pesticide or salmonella.  Fish, in particular, has presented problems, with the U.S. importing 80% of its seafood.  Mike Doyle, director of the Center of Food Safety at the University of Georgia, Athens, says that inspectors have found “an awful lot” of salmonella in shrimp – up to 8-10% by some estimates – due to the use of chicken manure as a fertilizer at some aquaculture plants.  Most tuna is imported and has at times been found to contain high mercury levels.  And just last year, the government placed a temporary ban on farm-raised shrimp, catfish, and eel from China because they had been treated with harmful veterinary medicine and antibiotics.

“We import about a billion pounds of fish per year, and we look at about two percent of that,” Woodall says.  “And what that means is that 980 million pounds of fish are being imported without even a cursory glance from the FDA.”

Seventy-six million Americans get some sort of food-borne illness every year, though it is unknown how many of those are the result of foreign-grown and raised food.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors food illness rates in the United States, “hasn’t really been trying to differentiate between whether it’s foreign foods and domestic foods that are causing problems,” Doyle says.  Experts say the government’s ability to properly inspect food coming into the country has declined because of budget cuts, while at the same time the number of imports has increased.  “I think it’s probably slightly true (that imported food has more safety issues than food from the U.S.)” Busch says.  “On the one hand, the sheer volume of imported food has been growing at an incredible rate, and the other thing to remember here is the safer the food supply gets, the more these incidents are going to show up in the media.”

A few years ago, Chinese imports came under greater scrutiny after four dogs and ten cats died due to tainted pet food, leading to massive recalls.  This skepticism soon spread to food, and a study in Consumer Reports magazine found that 92% of Americans want to know their food’s country of origin.  The 2002 Farm Bill included the stipulation that fish, beef, lamb, pork, fruits, and vegetables had to be identified by their country of origin.  But to date, only seafood has been subject to the program known as COOL (country of origin labeling.)  Busch says that while there may be public interest, “I’m not sure knowing where it’s from is a good proxy for knowing whether or not it’s safe.”

As far as safety is concerned, Busch says that most people automatically assume the food they buy from the supermarket is going to be safe.  And, he adds, “I would say that on the whole, people tend to be more concerned about the nutritional value of their food than where it comes from.” Some experts recommend buying locally at places like farmers’ markets, as that food is subject to strict domestic food regulation that does not necessarily apply to imports.

Here are some ways to eat well and stay safe:

Try to keep tabs on what foods are presenting problems and where the tainted goods have been coming from, be they domestic or foreign.  “We do know that based on the FDA’s surveillance data, food from certain countries in particular tends to have a much higher occurrence of defects,” says Mike Doyle, director of the Center of Food Safety at the University of Georgia.  India, Mexico, and China are currently among the leading countries for rejected food shipments.

To get the latest updates on import refusals, go to, click on “Import Program,” and then select “Import Refusal Report.”  From there, you can search by product or country for all rejected goods, including food.

Proper preparation and careful cooking of food can help to reduce the chance of contracting a food borne illness.  “Many of the microbiological issues can be solved by good handling aspects,” Doyle says.  “If you properly cook foods, you will kill shigella and you will kill salmonella.”

Don’t be afraid to buy foreign foods.  The inspections and regulatory practices in the product’s country of origin tend to get the job done.  “For the most part, (the system) works extremely well,” says Larry Busch, director of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards at Michigan State University.