All contents © 2010-present day Estrella Publishing LLC. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in any form, in whole or part, without written permission from Estrella Publishing LLC is prohibited. Estrella Publishing accepts freelance contributions, there is no guarantee that materials will be used or returned. Some content is provided by Brandpointe. Estrella Publishing is not responsible for the views of contributing writers and assumes no responsibility for errors appearing within. Opinions expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the Publisher or Advertisers. Estrella Publishing reserves the right to restrict all advertisement to their proper classification and to edit or reject any copy at its sole discretion. Neither this publication nor Estrella Publishing is an agent of or in any way affiliated with the associated Developer nor Homeowners Association, or any of their respective affiliates. This publication has not been approved by, sponsored by, or endorsed by the associated Developer nor Homeowners Association in any way.
Welcome to your December edition!
Traditions have always been my favorite part of the holidays. I love that our kids have grown up in a community with so many fun traditions, as well as our family traditions that we’ve upheld for years. Sometimes, though, it’s time for a change. With covid canceling many annual traditions in 2020 and thing still lagging in 2021, I decided that this was a good year to try implementing some new traditions. Instead of going to a pumpkin patch before Halloween this year, we decided to set one up in our own front yard! Instead of the annual Thanksgiving potluck, we decided to host a pie party in our home and giveaway pumpkin pies to our friends, who also enjoyed refreshments with us, just before Thanksgiving. If you’re on my monthly mailing list, you were invited to these events and, if you
couldn’t attend this year, keep an eye out for next year’s invitation as they both proved good times that are worth repeating! Of course, some traditions never get old. The annual Photos and Cookies with Santa event at the Marley Park Pool House is still going strong with more than 70 families attending for the 9th year this past Thanksgiving weekend. If you’re new to the neighborhood and would like to attend next year, more information can be found in the cover story article for this month’s issue.
Whatever your own family traditions are, I hope you enjoy them thoroughly this year with the people you love most. After all, in the words of Bill McKibben, “There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”
See you on The Front Porch!Christie Giannetto | Assistant Editor | The Front Porch Magazine
NON-STRESS IRA DESIGNATION
For 401ks, IRAs and other qualified retirement accounts, the designated beneficiary form directs how the funds will be paid on your death. Common problems that arise with beneficiary designations are:
• The “Estate” or no beneficiary is listed, so a probate is needed and the IRA will lose the ability to be stretched beyond 5 years, increasing the income tax.
• A beneficiary dies before you, and if the trust was not the IRA’s designee, then the financial company rules apply to who gets the deceased beneficiary’s share.
• The designated beneficiary is a minor, not a trust for the minor, and so a costly court conservatorship is need and much of the
deferred tax benefit is lost.
• Your spouse, who is not your children’s parent, did not sign a spousal waiver, so your spouse is entitled to at least if not all of funds, not your
spouse. Leaving a portion or all of your qualified
The charity does not pay income taxes and will receive more funds than a family member. Other assets which are not taxable then can be left to
On Our Cover
When our kids were toddlers, I paid I paid $100 for a holiday photo shoot with Santa…and Santa turned out to be a skinny woman with a fake beard. Luckily, our kids were too little to notice or remember, but I decided then and there to take matters into my own hands.
The following year, I contacted THE ONE AND ONLY REAL SANTA and the best photographer in Arizona and set up the very first Photos and Cookies with Santa event at the Marley Park Pool House.
It has become an annual tradition ever since and I’ve loved seeing the many Marley Park families enjoy their time with Santa each year. My goal is to provide an easy, fun, stress-free event at a minimal cost. The fee charged covers Santa’s hourly wage, the photographer’s hourly wages for the event and post-shoot editing, a healthy tip so they’ll keep coming back every year, the Eventbrite and PayPal fees deducted, and the cost of décor, refreshments, and cookies for everyone to enjoy afterward.
This year was the 8th annual Photos and Cookies with Santa event, and it has been so much fun to watch so many Marley Park families make the event an annual tradition. On this month’s cover, Eliza McCall has been coming to see Santa every year since she was four years old and her younger brother, Auden, has been sitting in Santa’s lap since he was a newborn. The McCall family loves the tradition and looks forward to it every year.
The Santa photo event takes place on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend every year. If you missed it this year, be on the lookout for the registration link which will go LIVE next year on November 1st at 10:00 a.m. in The Front Porch group on Facebook. The event typically sells out the first day, but if you miss it, you can join the waiting list and I always try to get everyone in on a “stand by” basis so no one misses out!
Happy Holidays!Submitted by Christie Giannetto | Marley Park Homeowner
As I was gathering material for this month’s issue, I was reminded of last year’s traditional comedy of errors in getting our Christmas tree set up. David and I had picked it up while the kids were at Grammy and Grampy’s.
The lady at Whitfill Nursery gave us a good deal on a HUGE tree that had just been delivered from Oregon. We decided to bring it in and set it up so the kids could decorate it when they got home. We have an amazing tree stand with a lever that ratchets these big “teeth” around the trunk to hold the tree in place. After we got it up initially, David told me to step back and look at it from a distance to see if it was straight.
It wasn’t. But once it’s locked into the stand, it can’t be adjusted without loosening it... which David did...while lying on the floor on his stomach with his head under the tree and his feet sticking out behind him.
This is the point where I would give anything to have a video...particularly a slow-motion video... but you’ll have to use your imagination.
Yes...the tree fell over...not into the wall and, thank goodness, not toward the coffee table with the poinsettia, but in the exact direction of David’s body lying face down in a prone position on the floor. I was still across the room at a good straightness-judging distance when I realized that my husband was completely buried underneath a nine-foot Balsam Fir. I’d like to say I sprang into action, leapt over furniture like an Olympic hurdler, and rescued my trapped husband from beneath the entanglement of branches, but I was doubled over with laughter. I was laughing so hard I was gasping for breath when I heard David say, in a very serious and authoritative tone, “Babe, I know this is funny, but I need you to get this tree the #&@% off me.” That’s when it occurred to me that he could possibly be hurt under there and I was finally able to summon the strength to lift the tree just high enough for him to crawl out. (It was a heavy tree!) He wasn’t hurt though, and I was still laughing. I laughed for at least an hour afterward. He left the house to run an errand and I sat in the recliner all by myself laughing so hard I had tears running down my face...it was really THAT funny, but...I guess you had to be there.Submitted by Christie Giannetto | Marley Park Homeowner
Get Out Of Your Own Way
Have you ever wondered why you react so strongly to certain things? Why someone says a specific thing or acts a certain way toward you and you have a big reaction that later seems disproportionate to the event? I can promise you it’s because at least one of your self-limiting beliefs is being triggered. Let’s look at a couple of examples here:
For instance, your partner goes out with friends, comes home later than expected and doesn’t call or return your texts when it gets really late and you’re trying to check in with them. When they get home, you go off on them and rant and rave about them not caring about you, or maybe you even accuse them of cheating. Chances are, those situations are triggering your fears of abandonment. When that fear is triggered, like it or not, you are instantly transported
back to when those fears first arose. It’s not a conscious process, but it’s one that will continue if you don’t do something to overcome it by exploring and changing the self-limiting beliefs that lie beneath it.
Or let’s say your friend becomes really successful with an opportunity that was presented to both of you but you didn’t take because of a fear of failure. When you see her, she talks about how her career is rocketing to the next level and how she’s so happy that her hard work has paid off. You say that you’re happy for her but then you cry on your way home and snark at your spouse or kids when you get home. But aren’t you happy for your friend? Yes, of course you are, but you’re also jealous, which is triggered by your selflimiting belief of not being worthy or capable of good things. You have to annihilate your selflimiting beliefs in order to respond differently to both the opportunities and the successes of others.
DISCLAIMER: Material is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for evaluation or treatment by a licensed professional. Material is copyrighted and may only be reproduced with written permission of Dr. Bellingrodt.
Submitted by Jennifer Bellingrodt, Psy.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
Texas Sheet Cake Cookies (for Santa!)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for COOKIE EXCHANGES!
Many of us have been to one or hosted ~ depending on the number of guests, instructions are given for how many cookies to bring so that everyone goes home with a bountiful variety. The recipe I’m sharing this month comes from a neighbor, Kelly, who brought these to last year’s event ~ and they were one of the hits of the party! And what are the origins of Texas Sheet Cake, you ask? A reference for a large chocolate sheet cake published in the Galveston Daily News back in 1936 as well as a 1967 recipe for another chocolate sheet cake with pecans in the frosting that was published in the Huntsville Heritage Cookbook. Yes, Huntsville as in Alabama, not Texas!
Using a medium cookie scoop, place dough on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 7-8 minutes; remove from oven then let cool on the cookie sheets for 4-5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.
Combine first (3) frosting ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until melted. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar ~ whisk until smooth. Using a small spatula, spread frosting over cookies.
Let frosting set; cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature up to (3) days. Optional: Place a Pecan Half on each cookie after frosting is spread.
Submitted by Maureen Woods
Home Sweet Home
Since the 2008 housing bubble burst, the word recession strikes a stronger emotional chord than it ever did before. And while there’s some debate around whether we’re officially in a recession right now, the good news is experts say a recession today would likely be mild and the economy would rebound quickly. As the 2022 CEO Outlook from KPMG says, “Global CEOs see a ‘mild and short’ recession, yet optimistic about global economy over 3-year horizon. More than 8 out of 10 anticipate a recession over the next 12 months, with more than half expecting it to be mild and short.” To add to that sentiment, housing is typically one of the first sectors to rebound during a slowdown. As Ali Wolf, Chief Economist at Zonda, explains, “Housing is traditionally one of the first sectors to slow as the economy shifts but is also one of the first to rebound.”
Part of that rebound is tied to what has historically happened to mortgage rates during recessions. Historical data helps paint the picture of how a recession could impact the cost of financing a home. Looking at recessions in this country going all the way back to 1980,
each time the economy slowed down, mortgage rates decreased. Fortune explains mortgage rates typically fall during an economic slowdown, “Over the past five recessions, mortgage rates have fallen an average of 1.8 percentage points from the peak seen during the recession to the trough. And in many cases, they continued to fall after the fact as it takes some time to turn things around even when the recession is technically over.”
While history doesn’t always repeat itself, we can learn from and find comfort in the trends of what’s happened in the past. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, you can make the best decision by working with a trusted real estate professional. That way you have expert advice on what a recession could mean for the housing market. History shows you don’t need to fear the word recession when it comes to the housing market. If you have questions about what’s happening today, let’s connect so you have expert advice and insights you can trust.Submitted by Christie Giannetto | REALTOR® | REAL Broker
The annual Marley Park Christmas ornament will be delivered to your front porch in the coming days! As always, the ornaments will be given to every home in Marley Park and Homestead at Marley Park.
This will be the 9th year that our family has commissioned the ornament based on a different Marley Park architectural style. This year, there will be a different ornament for the original Marley Park community and Homestead at Marley Park, based on the unique architectural styles of each neighborhood. This tradition always evokes memories of my own childhood family tradition of collecting ornaments stamped with the year. We still get out our collections every season with the holiday décor.
Having been Marley Park homeowners since 2013, the Marley Park community holds a special place in our hearts. The annual Marley Park ornaments are a gift of love from our family.
Whether you are new to Marley Park or have been collecting the ornaments for years, we truly hope they bring you joy this holiday season. Warmest Season’s Greetings, from our family to yours!by Christie Giannetto | Marley Park Homeowner
The holidays are coming up, which means your life will be full of family, friends and many delicious meals. To keep everything running along merrily this year, why not take steps to make hosting less stressful, and a lot more joyful? Here are 4 key tips and a few must-have kitchen essentials that can make your holiday hosting easier than ever.
Stock your pantry before the holidays
Even before finalizing your holiday menus, ensuring that your pantry staples are well stocked will prevent last-minute panic runs to the store for things like flour, salt, cooking oil and chocolate, lots of chocolate. Take inventory of your cupboards to see if any of those kitchen necessities are running low - then you’ll be ready for all kinds of tasty recipes.
2. Don’t underestimate your prep time
If your recipe says a dish takes 45 minutes to prepare and cook, build in an extra 30 minutes when scheduling your meal prep time before guests arrive. Even better, prep or cook some items (or components) ahead, so they’re pre-
chopped or ready to take from the fridge and reheat. Everything always takes longer than expected, so you’ll relieve a lot of stress if you know you’ll have time to do it well. Then you can relax, put on your favorite music, gather your ingredients and get ready to make holiday magic.
3. Let many hands make light work Holiday cooking and baking memories with friends and relatives may be some of the best memories from your own childhood, so go ahead and let your family and friends help out with some of your meal preparation, cooking and table setting. Even little hands can do a few simple tasks to help, and the more the merrier!
4. Clean as you go
If you can do some of the cleanup during the preparation and cooking process, you’ll not only maximize your prep surface, but you’ll also make it a lot easier to finish the cleaning after the festivities have wound down for the day.
There’s nothing more satisfying than collaborating with loved ones to prepare a celebration, so take time to have fun and savor the moment. Taste your own food, spend time with the people you care about and enjoy the wonderful holiday feeling you’ve helped create.
Seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child is a remarkable experience. Children take extra delight in twinkling lights, festive songs and stories, and the excitement in the air. Involving our little ones in ongoing celebrations not only offers great bonding opportunities, but it can also benefit their long-term growth. Here are four activities that will subtly activate physical, emotional and cognitive development:
• Baking cookies “Think about all the steps that go into baking, from scooping and measuring to mixing and pressing cookie cutters into the dough. All these hands-on skills are beneficial to promoting fine motor and early math skills in children,” said Joy Turner, vice president of education for the Kiddie Academy brand. Baking and decorating cookies is a great way to increase children’s upper body strength, pincer grasp, hand/eye coordination and more. Invite your children to stir, roll, touch, smell, feel, count and taste your cookie creations for a full sensory experience.
• Making homemade cards and decorations Let your children color, cut out shapes, glue and write on the cards to practice dexterity, handwriting and visual processing skills. Take stamps and decorate plain brown paper and ask
your children to help you wrap gifts in it. Build a popsicle-stick Christmas tree or menorah to focus on engineering basics. Use a hole punch to allow tree lights to shine through cardstock ornaments while building hand strength. Find activities that are fun and that also focus on necessary abilities.
• Building a countdown chain Use strips of construction paper and tape or glue to build a chain with a pattern of alternating colors and one link for each day until the big event. Your children’s brains will have to access memory to remember to remove a link each day and you can prompt them to practice counting the remaining chain links as well.
• Giving gifts and volunteering Character values are a very important and easy skill to practice during the holiday season. Let your children see how it feels to select and give a special item to a family member or neighbor to build kindness and generosity. Gratitude and good citizenship can be developed by even our youngest children through helping others within the community by volunteering or donating to a toy or food drive. Because the whole purpose of the holidays is to show kindness and helpfulness, numerous benefits come from engaging children in these activities at a developmentally appropriate level.
Holiday activities that serve a twofold purpose of celebrating the season while also focusing on child development abound. In addition to the benefits of physical, creative and personal growth, a completed craft or activity also offers a self-esteem boost that will keep the holiday spirit alive.