Celebrating Hanukkah in your New Home

Hanukkah menorah with eight lit candles

This eight-piece candelabra, known as a menorah, is used to commemorate Hanukkah, an eight-day Jewish holiday.

By Ashley Steel

Hanukkah is fast approaching. An eight-day celebration, you might think this Jewish holiday requires an intensive amount of preparation, but that’s not the case.

Hanukkah is unique when compared to other Jewish holidays. “We are allowed to work, there are no real restrictions and no big meals. The only obligation on Chanukah is to light the Menorah (an eight-part candelabra),” says Seth Weinberg, vice president of Kent Marketing, representative for Royal Wine Corp /Kedem, the world’s largest kosher wine importer and distributor.

That being said, “there is not really that much to prepare besides making sure you have candles,” says Rachel Teichman, creator of the online resource oogiah.com, where you can find Jewish family resources. “You need candles, which are usually small and come in different colors. The candles are put in right to left and lit left to right with the shamash (the helper candle in the tallest candleholder).”

Other components of this holiday are optional, including food, games and gift giving:

Food

“Traditional foods include potato pancakes (latkes) or jelly doughnuts,” says Weinberg. These foods are typically fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days after a small army of Jewish soldiers defeated the Greeks, who were trying to destroy their temple. Other popular foods and sides include applesauce, brisket and kugel, says Teichman.

Easy to make, these foods are the perfect way to break in your new gourmet kitchen. They also make for easy cleanup and are crowd-pleasing for the family that loves to entertain.

Games

“The most traditional game is the dreidel (Yiddish for top),” says Weinberg. The game includes spinning the dreidel to win coins or candy. There are 4 Hebrew letters on a dreidel. Together they stand for “a great miracle happened there” and each letter tells you what to do with the coins or candy.

Perfect for the modern home’s open floor plan, children and parents can unite in playing games, eating and catching up all at once and in the same space.

Gifts

“Some parents give coins. Some give one big gift one night. Some give gifts every night. Although kids may feel differently, gifts are not really the point of the holiday,” says Teichman.

Instead, she suggests celebrating by contributing to a charity or spending a night volunteering. Additionally, a family can celebrate with something intangible like a movie night, she says. (How about giving that new media room a try?)

Entertainment

“Decorating is not a major part of Chanukah, but people have started doing that,” says Teichman.

Some people get electrical menorahs to display in their windows. Other increasingly popular elements of Hanukkah are decorative plates and latke servers. Throwing parties to commemorate this holiday and sending out Hanukkah cards are also a fun way to mark this important celebration. The use of blue, white and silver is also a fun element of Hanukkah celebrations.

This year, enjoy Hanukkah at home with your loved ones. May your menorah burn bright for eight days.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Did You Know? | Leave a comment

NHS Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for the DIY Enthusiast

(Not So) Modern Millie Emboidery Phone Case

Combine your love for technology and crafts with this cross-stitch iPhone case from (Not So) Modern Millie.

By Ashley Steel

We all have that one friend who’s a real go-getter. They love to roll up their sleeves and work with their hands; they’re builders, crafters, artists, chefs and techies. But whoever they are, they love to do it themselves. For the gift-giver, this poses a significant problem: What do you give to the person who would rather make it themselves?

This holiday season, be a hero with these great gifts ideas for the DIY enthusiast:

1. DIY Kit iPhone 5 cross stitch case — $12

Calling all crafty iPhone owners! The silicone mesh case (shown above) allows you to embroider your way to serious smartphone protection. Available in a variety of silicone colors and your choice of four thread colors, this will make a DIYer’s day brighter.

2. Mustache Moustache Mold — $7

This food-safe silicone mold is perfect for creating tasty toppers. Make trendy chocolate, fondant, sugar, candy and butter mustaches from this charming mold. With two-inch and one-inch sizes available, we moustache how you could say no to such a gift?

Mustache Mold

Photo Courtesy of Mold Muse.

 

3. Bosch DLR130K Digital Distance Measurer — $85

For the solo handyman or woman, this digital distance measurer will be their best friend. When they can’t run a tape measure along a space by themselves, they can simply point and shoot this handheld device for an accurate digital reading that will always get them within 1/16th of an inch.

Digital Distance Measure

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.

 

4. DIY Mozzarella/Ricotta Cheesemaking Kit — $26

Go all-natural with this homemade cheesemaking kit. No preservatives, no chemicals — just basic household ingredients and tools. Discover the delight of freshly made cheese and you’ll never go store-bought again. With recipes included, you can even add herbs and spices for a tasty spread.

DIY Riccota Mozarella Cheese Kit

Photo Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.

 

5. Dremel 6300-01 120-Volt Multi-Max Oscillating Kit — $126

The perfect multi-purpose tool, the Multi-Max does it all. From sanding and scraping to cutting and installing, it can be used to sand and smooth wood, eliminate grout residue, remove drywall, vinyl flooring and carpeting and even install hardwood floors. For the handyman or woman of the house, this tool can solve many problems at once.

Dremel Multi-Max oscillating tool

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.

 

6. Carve-A-Stamp Kit — $ 30

Stampers love to collect stamps, but what about making their very own? With this DIY kit, stampers can create custom rubber stamps with the aid of templates or they can go free-form. Complete with stamping block and tools, your DIYer will be able to leave their mark on things.

Carve a Stamp Kit

Photo courtesy of Yellow Owl Workshop.

 

7. Make Your Own Music Box Kit — $23

Hand-crank music boxes are charming. Their quaint, metallic tinkling resonates with a lot of people. While most music boxes come pre-scripted with a limited soundtrack, this DIY kit allows you to compose and create limitless song sheets for your music box. Enjoy your favorite tunes on this old-fashioned machine.

Make Your Own Music Box

Photo Courtesy of Kikkerland.

 

8. AirGrip Laser Level — $20

Can’t hold a level and install a shelf at the same time? That’s okay! This level is able to attach to any surface and emit a laser beam so that you can free up your hands to get to work.

AirGrip Laser Level

Photo Courtesy of Home Depot.

 

9. Ty D.I.Y Edition Shower Curtain — $35

The DIYer is always looking to put their own touch on everyday items. This shower curtain does exactly that. A blank slate, this eco-friendly shower curtain comes with a permanent marker so you can create your own design to look at while lathering up.

Ty DIY Shower Curtain

Photo courtesy of Ty.

 

10. Creative Doodling and Beyond —$15

Even doodlers need a little inspiration. This book is filled with prompts and ideas for your own doodling creations. Presenting progressively harder exercises, this book enables you to become an expert doodler.

Doodling Book

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.

 

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Decor/Furniture, Home Entertainment & Automation, Opinion | Leave a comment

NHS Gift Guide: Holiday Gift Ideas for First-Time Homeowners

Bamboo Mincing Knife & Board Set

The perfect gift for a first-time homeowner should be practical and make tasks easier, like this bamboo mincing knife and board set from Picnic at Ascot. Photo Courtesy of One Kings Lane.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Tis the season for gift giving — but what to get when the recipients just bought a new home? Gifts for first-time homeowners get the distinction of needing to be both practical and fun.

Sure, you want to get something that’s useful, but you also want to gift something that the recipient (or recipients) is not likely to purchase themselves for a variety of reasons (limited budgets, practicality, etc.). Our list of gift ideas for first-time homeowners toes the line of both sensibility and amusement. Happy gifting:

1. Gold Crosshatch Cylinder Decanter, $148. Pulp Home.

A proper home bar wouldn’t be complete without a decanter. This decanter from Pulp Home is so pretty, you could put anything in it and it would look great! Your recipients can drink in style with this vintage-style 14-karat-gold-on-glass decanter; however, this piece is so decorative, it could be used in any room of the home for a glam touch.

Pulp Home Gold-Crosshatch-Cylinder-Decanter

2. The Honest Co. Nesting Gift Set, $39.95.

I know, who wants cleaning products as gifts? But hear me out here — a gift set of green cleaning products, like this nesting set from actress Jessica Alba’s green company, is nice because many folks tend to go for less expensive cleaning products (that tend to be loads more toxic). Chances are, they won’t buy such niceties for themselves. And, let’s face it — every home, new or old, needs to be cleaned. Why not give your recipients the gift of cleanliness and health?

If you still feel strange about this idea, you can always purchase a cleaning service from a local cleaning company for your first-timers.

The Honest Co. Nesting Set

3. Monogrammed Grey Velvet Throw Pillow, $95. Luxury Monograms.

Nothing says “welcome to our new home” better than a monogrammed throw pillow. This 16-inch-by-16-inch cotton velvet custom throw pillow is a classy touch to any new home. Choose from 20 monogram styles and 24 thread colors to create a unique, bold statement that can be easily incorporated into your recipient’s home.

Luxury Monograms Monogrammed Pillow Grey Velvet

4. Picnic at Ascot Bamboo Mincing Knife & Board Set, $44. One Kings Lane.

Aside from the fact that this mincing knife and board set is totally adorable, it’s beyond practical. While I do enjoy cooking, mincing veggies and herbs is not one of my favorite tasks — it’s time consuming and I can never mince things well enough. This set makes the task simple and quick, and who doesn’t like a meal that doesn’t take long to prepare?

Mincing and Chopping Set

5. Foodie Garden Basil-o-holic plant, $19.99. Mental Floss store.

You could go the plant route, but why not mix it up a bit? Getting them a plant kit that will allow them to grow their own basil to use in dishes takes this gift to another — flavorful — level. This kit comes with everything they’ll need to get their small herb garden started and has different varieties of basil: Sweet, Lemon and Siam basils.

Foodie Garden Basil-o-holic plant

6. Designer Fire Extinguisher, $115-$270. Fire Design.

Yes, these fire extinguishers from French company Fire Design are worthy of their price tag — first, anything that can save your life is definitely worth some money; second, they’re designer because of the fun artwork; and third, you can display the bottle even after you’ve used it. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about why someone would appreciate this gift: because it’s practical and that artwork! Don’t worry, this will come in handy at least once — and they will thank you.

Fire Design glam fire extinguishers

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home | Leave a comment

8 Easy Ways to Bring the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015 Into Your Home

Pantone promo image of 2015 Color of the Year

Marsala — a rich, earthy wine red, is Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year. How do you plan to use this color in 2015?

By Patricia L. Garcia

2015 will be all about focusing on the mind, body and spirit — at least that’s what you’d think based on the color that will rule next year. Marsala, revealed as the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015, is an earthy wine red that evokes a mindfulness that’s complex, rich and elegant.

“While PANTONE 18-3224 Radiant Orchid, the captivating 2014 color of the year, encouraged creativity and innovation, Marsala enriches our mind, body and soul, exuding confidence and stability,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, in a news release.

As the global color authority, Pantone is the trusted authority on color forecasting and trend reports, so expect to see Marsala everywhere in 2015, from the runways to home décor.

Bringing Marsala Home

Luckily, Marsala is versatile, making it especially easy to incorporate into your home in 2015 and beyond, says interior designer Michele Taylor, owner of Michele Taylor Interiors, a boutique interior design firm based in Bergen County, N.J.

“Marsala is rich and sophisticated, while at the same time grounding and earthy,” Taylor says. “Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year is a chameleon. I can see that this earthy red-brown will enhance any home, whether it’s a traditional colonial, a modern organic ranch or a globally inspired apartment.”

As Pantone explains it, the color is a good choice in the kitchen and dining room: “Nurturing and filling, Marsala is a natural fit for the kitchen and dining room — making it ideal for tabletop, small appliances and linens throughout the home,” Eiseman explained in the news release.

Taylor agrees. “This hue makes you think of delicious wine and sauces, so it is natural for the kitchen and dining room,” she says. “Homeowners can easily add Marsala into these rooms with anything from dishes, appliances and linens to paint, area rugs and window treatments.”

Subtle Is Your Middle Name

“This is a color that everyone can incorporate into their living spaces without fear, as it will play off of the base palette most of us already utilize (grey, black, brown, beige, etc.),” says Faith Phillips, in-house design and trend expert with La-Z-Boy.

If you want to use Marsala in your home, but you don’t want to go big or spend too much money, Phillips suggests using just a touch of the color through accent pieces. A Marsala-colored pillow or throw blanket can add a pop of color to any sofa, she says. In addition to placing “artwork that has hints of this fantastic earth tone” in your home, Phillips also suggests incorporating “strategically placed accessories throughout the space, like vases, bowls, florals, etc.”

Go Big or Go Home

Some might feel you can’t get too crazy with this color, but Marsala’s deep reddish-brown tones create a soothing effect. That means you can go bolder than you think.

“For a bold, dramatic look, I would lacquer all four walls of an intimate space, like a dining room. A room lacquered in Marsala will envelope you in its warmth,” says Taylor. “It will be both stylish and inviting, perfect for intimate dinner parties.”

Marsala’s versatility makes it an ideal choice for home décor, whether you want to take a subtle or dramatic approach. For more ideas on how to bring Marsala into your home, check out the slideshow below.

Aspire Floor Vase

Aspire Floor Vase, $150; Wayfair.

Jewel Tide Mosaic Tile in Sunset Path

Jewel Tide Mosaic Tile in Sunset Path, contact for prices. Daltile.

Marin Red Dinnerware

Marin Red Dinnerware, $135.20; Crate&Barrel.

Metallic Beaded Pillow – Burgundy

Metallic Beaded Pillow – Burgundy, $29.95; Pier 1 Imports.

Castilian Rugs

Castilian Rugs, $2,970; Safavieh Home Furnishings.

Sundown Pillar Candle

Sundown Pillar Candle, $10. Ten Thousand Villages.

Threshold Windham Console Table

Threshold Windham Console Table, $149.99; Target.

Organic Arm Chair by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen

Organic Arm Chair by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, $2,320; AllModern.

 

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Interior Design, New Home Design | Leave a comment

NHS Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Techies

FujiFilm Instax Smartphone Printer with sample prints of photos

The FujiFilm Instax Smartphone Printer makes it easy to print photos from your smartphone.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Have you noticed that things are getting smarter these days? From smart thermostats for your home to smart thermostats for your food to everything in between, gadgets that communicate with you via apps on your smartphone or tablet (more formally known as the Internet of Things, or IoT) are popping up everywhere this holiday season.

So, we’ve smartened up our holiday gift guide for the technophile on your list. But, don’t worry, we’ve also got other tech stuff that any techie will enjoy. Here’s our list of gift ideas for techies in your life:

1. Nest Thermostat, $249

We know, the Nest thermostat is not anything new. But, there are some changes to the smart thermostat that make it easier to manage your home’s heating and cooling system, as well as other appliances in the home to save energy. (If you’re late to the party, this thermostat will learn your habits and can be controlled via smartphone or tablet when you are away from home. Forgot to turn off the AC before you left for work? Use your smartphone to turn it off.)

Nest will also work with Whirlpool’s Smart Front Load Washer & Dryer to delay the start of cycle. Why would you want to do that? The Nest thermostat knows peak energy demand times — like after 4 p.m., when folks get home — and will help you conserve energy during those times.

Nest Thermostat

2. iGrill, $99.99

If you’re like me, you can never really be sure that what you’re cooking is properly cooked (unless it’s burned, of course). Enter the iGrill2, a Bluetooth grilling thermometer that “plugs in” to your food and communicates with you via your smartphone or tablet. You’ll receive alerts when your chicken, beef, fish, pork or whatever item you are cooking has reached a desired temperature. No more guessing if the chicken is fully cooked and no more having to slice into it to make sure that the middle is not pink!

iDevices-iGrill2-Lifestyle-Smoker_Mounted

3. 3-D Printing Pen, $100

You’ve heard about 3-D printers, right? They do just what they sound like they’d do: print things that you can touch. Ambitious folks use 3-D printers to print parts and then build things. At the moment, most 3-D printers are quite pricey, so when I heard there was a 3-D printing pen, my interest piqued. The pen allows users to create three-dimensional plastic drawings by using warm thermoplastic rather than ink. The pen comes with templates to help users get started with creations. Now, if they could only figure out how to create a 3-D pen that prints edible pizzas.

3-D Printer Pen

4. Black & Decker MAX Gyro Screwdriver, $40

There is no greater frustration when trying to screw something into a wall than having the screw fall on the floor because it’s actually being unscrewed. Sometimes you just forget to switch the little button to rotate a screwdriver in the opposite direction! Suffer from this inconvenience no more with the Black & Decker MAX Gyro Screwdriver! This magical screwdriver senses which way to spin based on your movements. Tilt it a little to the left and the screwdriver will spin that way. Tilt to the right and it goes right. Easy peazy!

black-decker-bdcs40g-4-volt-max-gyro-screwdriver-720x0

5. Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480, $50

Logitech is probably the easiest multi-device keyboard to use with any Bluetooth wireless device. First, it’s compatible with any Bluetooth wireless device (this little dude takes no sides in the Apple-versus-Android debate!). Second, to use a certain device, it’s as easy as using the Easy Switch dial. It doesn’t get any easier than that, folks.

Logitech-Bluetooth-Multi-Device-Keyboard-7-640x423

6. Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-1, $199.99

Chances are, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of photos on your smartphone or tablet. Chances are, those photos are not being saved anywhere (except for Facebook or Instagram), much less printed. Don’t let those memories pass away! Print those photos with ease with the Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer. My favorite feature of the Instax printer is that photo prints remind me of Polaroids, except no shaking is required.

FujiFilm Instax Smartphone Printer with sample prints of photos

The FujiFilm Instax Smartphone Printer makes it easy to print photos from your smartphone.

7. Smart Phone Projector, $25

Let’s face it: watching videos on a smartphone is not the most excellent experience. If there are more than just a few people trying to watch, it’s hard to let everyone get a glimpse. That’s where this smart phone projector comes in. The projector is the most lo-fi item we found for technophiles — I mean, it’s made of cardboard! However, the projector allows you to view videos and photos with up to 8 times magnification, which means no more huddling around a small screen to see funny party videos.

smartphone-projector

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Opinion | 2 Comments

NHS Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets for Foodies

sur la table vegetable and fruit slicer

Gadgets like Sur La Table’s fruit and vegetable slicer will make every foodie’s dream come true. Photo Courtesy of Amazon.

By Ashley Steel

It’s the end-of-year craze; that special time of year when you’re crunching numbers and deadlines at work and racing through dreams of sugar plum fairies at home. But amidst the rush-rush of the holiday season, it’s important to remember everyone on your shopping list.

In the New Home Source Holiday Gift Guide, you’ll find the latest and greatest gift ideas from foodies to techies to everything in between. Come back often to see the full guide.

Today, we’re focused on your food lovers. When it comes to the cook or baker in your family, these gadgets for foodies will make recipients’ mouths’ water and earn you plenty of brownie points. Ladies and gentleman, start your ovens! These food-related tools and gizmos will blow you away:

1. Sur La Table Vegetable and Fruit Spiral Slicer — $35

Delight your waistline and your eyes with this entertaining take on healthy cooking. With the ability to shred and spiral vegetables quickly and easily, there’s no reason you can’t create healthy, vegetable-laden dishes with an incredibly pleasing aesthetic. Photo Courtesy of Amazon (shown above).

2. Pulke Herb Infuser — $14

Infuse soups, stews and other dishes with natural flavor, but lose the loose, limp herbs that tamper with texture and visual appeal, not to mention, stick to your teeth.

Herb Infuser

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

3. Chef’n Garlic Zoom — $15

Gone are the days of struggling to chop tiny cloves of fresh garlic for dinner. This gadget will do the dicing for you. Simply roll the Garlic Zoom over cloves to produce nice, uniform chunks. It’s so easy, even the little ones can join in!

Garlic Chopper

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

4. Joseph Joseph Spaghetti Measure — $7

Ever wondered how much spaghetti it takes to feed a family of four? With the help of this nifty gadget, you can portion out spaghetti for any number of people so that you don’t overeat or produce pasta waste.

Spaghetti Measure

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

5. RSVP Endurance Authentic Mexican Molcajete — $50

Whip up your own authentic salsas, moles and guacamole with this gorgeous mortar and pestle. Made of traditional volcanic stone, it’s as much a conversation starter as it is a delight to work with.

Mortar and Pestle

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

6. Sur La Table Truffle Slicer/Chocolate Shaver — $20

Garnish baked goods with delicate chocolate shavings or top off a meal with shaved parmesan and sliced truffles. This adjustable stainless steel product can be as refined or as bold as you need it to be and provides the perfect finish to any course.

Chocolate Shaver/Truffle Slicer

Photo courtesy of Sur La Table.

7. SUCK UK 3D Dinosaur Cookie Cutters — $10

Bring your baked goods to life when you assemble these made-to-fit cookie cutter pieces into 3-D creatures from the prehistoric era. Surprise your kids with a delicious T-Rex, Brachiosaurus or Stegosaurus with this collection from SUCK UK.

3D Dino Cookie Cutters

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

8. Bisbell Knife Rack Gift Set — $102

For the chef suffering under the plight of a small kitchen, this Bisbell knife rack set is not only charming, but an incredible space saver. A mounted magnetic strip holds an included set of five colorful knives, two hooks for hanging utensils and a basket for other miscellaneous kitchen items.

Magnetic Knife Set

Photo Courtesy of Bisbell.

9. Belkin Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker With Wemo — $130

Not your average slow cooker, this crock-pot’s smart technology allows you to control it from your smartphone or other device, so that you can adjust cooking times and temperatures from afar.

Smart Crock-Pot

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

10. IMUSA Espresso Maker — $37

A simplistic take on this refined and traditional caffeinated beverage, this espresso maker goes back to basics. Just add ground beans and water for a steaming shot of deliciousness.

Espresso Maker

Photo courtesy of Lowe’s.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Home Entertainment & Automation, Opinion | Leave a comment

Tis the Season for Mail Theft

Nextdoor app screenshot of post warning of mail thieves

Homeowners are using apps like Nextdoor to prevent mail theft and to catch burglars. Photo Courtesy of Nextdoor.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Tis the season for gift giving! Soon your mailbox will be full of season’s greetings from family and friends alike. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) estimates that it will deliver anywhere from 450 to 470 million packages this holiday season — and that has the grinches of the world out and about and ready for thieving. That’s right – the holidays make it a season ripe for mail theft.

“During the holidays, thieves will follow delivery trucks and snatch the packages that drivers leave at people’s front doors,” says Robert Siciliano, a personal and home security specialist for BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com. “Thieves will cruise around neighborhoods in search of boxes left at front doors and steal them.”

While stealing mail is a federal crime enforced by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, that doesn’t seem to be stopping thieves. But, here are a few tips you can use to keep your holidays merry and prevent mail theft from happening to you:

The Bigger, The Better

If you can, install a locked mailbox, like a Florence mailbox. Doing so will ensure that your letters and packages — both small and large — will be safe until you open the box with a key. For more on mailbox requirements, visit the USPS mailbox regulations page.

Neighborhood Watch

We don’t really mean that your neighborhood should be on lock down, but we do mean that neighbors should help each other out. “Neighborhoods can be the first line of defense when it comes to preventing and combating package and mail thieves this holiday season,” says Anne Dreshfield, a Communications associate with Nextdoor, an app that allows residents in a particular neighborhood to create their own private social network to connect with one another and stay in touch about neighborhood issues.

Through the Nextdoor app, neighbors are able to “meet” each other online. These relationships can come in handy when you’re headed out of town or are expecting a package. Simply walk next door and let a neighbor know, so they can keep an eye out or ask them to pick up your mail and hold it for you.

Some Nextdoor users who have had their packages stolen have used the app to alert the community of thefts by posting surveillance footage of the incidents.

Put a Hold on It

If you’ll be out of town for the holidays, request a mail hold from the USPS, says Siciliano. You can request the mail hold up to 30 days in advance or as late as 2 a.m. on the start date. You can request a mail hold at your post office, by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS or online for added convenience.

Don’t Put Your Name on It

You may be tempted to put your family’s name on your mailbox, but according to some alarm companies, this is a bad idea. 1st Security Home Security says that your home address is enough to suffice – if family and friends are looking for your home, the postage number on your box is enough for them to get there. By including your last name on the box, burglars can check online to see if you are out of the home (yes, even private social media accounts can be accessed by thieves).

Shout to the Rooftops

Or maybe just tell your family and friends that if they are mailing a package, the postal carrier or delivery person should need to get a signature before leaving a package (you can even request that an adult signature is required), Siciliano says. This means that if you’re not home, you’ll get a note that says you have a delivery and will need to pick up the package at the post office or shipping center. Such a service will cost only a few dollars more. And, if you are the sender, be sure to insure the package in case it gets lost or stolen.

During the holiday season, thieves are on the prowl. Don’t make it easy for them to access your mail and packages by taking these easy steps.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in App of the Month, Did You Know?, Opinion | Comments Off