Sparkle at Home

Chandelier rewired with antique crystals. Things that glow and flicker make me smile.

Lamp that looks like mercury glass and on off switch that looks like an old gas lamp. The idea that it gives is a glowing feeling. Lighting can create mood in a home.

Candles I made from Kerr jars, epsom salts and some recycled ribbons. The salts sparkle like snow when lit.

Abominable Snowman Cookies

 Christmas cookies that I gave as gifts this year. Abominable snowman just for fun. This year i think I added too much butter and they didn't keep their shape as well. They tasted great anyways...

1/2 cup butter creamed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cream
1 1/4 flour (maybe add a tablespoon more of flour to make them hold shape
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking power
chill in two balls an hour
roll out with flour and cut shapes
place on greased cookie sheet
375 about 8 minutes


HARP Refinance


Caution Hot
Thinking about refinancing?
Get clear honest advice and avoid getting burned spending money on appraisals and fees not knowing if you will be able to close a home loan. Let's talk first, let's analyze your needs.

I don't know if you tried to refinance under HARP 2.0 but I suggest you give me a call and we can review what you might save in monthly payments and mortgage interest payments.

First step is looking up if your loan is a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae
You can do this yourself by entering property address and or a part of your social security number here:

  • The mortgage  loan must be owned or guaranteed by Freddie or Fannie

  • The mortgage must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before May 31, 2009.

  • No previous HARP refinance, can't do this twice, sorry, even though rates are much lower today. The mortgage cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously unless it is a Fannie Mae loan that was refinanced under HARP from March-May, 2009.

  • The current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80%. - assuming you bought your home after 2007 until 2011 in California and put 20% down or less you will likely be greater than 80%

  • The borrower must be current on the mortgage at the time of the refinance, with a good payment history in the past 12 months

  • Call me is your want to review what you might save:

    C. G. Barbeau    (949) 637-8190 cell anytime

    W. J. Bradley Mortgage Capital LLC
    20341 SW Birch Street, Newport Beach, CA 92660

    NMLS# 324982

    This is not an offer to lend, nor a guarantee your will be approved. No mortgage interest rate is quoted in this blog. Interest Rates change daily and sometimes more frequently. Subject to many conditions and Underwriting. Call let's talk about saving you some monthly money. If not this we can chat about lowering your property tax bill if you are over assessed, or helping repair that FICO score


    Ten "Must Do's" Before Listing Your Home for Sale

    The ten most important things to do before listing your home for sale:

    1.      Repaint the front of the house. Repaint any rooms with scuffs or dirty walls in a palette that highlights the style of your home. Painting can be the least expensive pick me up to the appearance of a home. There are a number of online painting programs that are helpful in choosing colors that will work with your architectural style, the existing stone or brick and landscaping. Check with your homeowner association’s rules, in Orange County California where I live many associations are enforcing color palettes that are very restrictive. Paint websites:
    Pratt & Lambert my favorite paint for the colors:

    2.      Unclutter every room. Reduce the number of items on countertops to three or four. Have a garage sale and get rid of clothing crowded in closets and things you are saving in the garage. Think the opposite of the television show "Hoarders."  List the sale on Craig’s list and have a male attend the one day morning sale with you. Post cardboard signs around the neighborhood early in the morning before 6:30 AM. The rummage sale is only from 7:00 AM- 11:30 AM and have Salvation Army or your favorite donation truck prearranged for pick-up the items that did not sell, and save the receipt for income tax deduction. Take a photograph of the items donated so you will remember what you might itemize.

    3.      Take everything out from under the sinks, under the washing machine and behind everything and clean and scrub to the floor and walls of the house. Every surface is going to get scrubbed. Use up all the cleaners you have stored under every sink and hidden in the garage. Think cheap and make your own from supplies you already have at home. Simple cleaning solutions are probably already in your home:

    Spray Cleaner for windows and glass: cups water, 2 Tbsp. rubbing alcohol, ¼ cup distilled white vinegar, 5 drops lavender essential oil (optional, for scent) ½ Tbsp. liquid castile soap

    Cleaner for tubs and showers: 2 tsp. borax, ½ tsp. liquid castile soap, ½ cup distilled white vinegar, 3 cups hot water.
    No mildew stains on anything. Wash the shower curtains in your washing machine on gentle or purchase new ones. Organize kitchen cupboards and start using everything down to reduce the amounts of dry foods, canned foods and clean the refrigerator top and bottom. Empty fireplace ashes and clean out the whole fire surround. If you have firewood outside stack it neatly away from the home.  


    4.      Plant annual color around front entrance to add to curb appeal, choose smaller pony packs of six rather than the four inch pots and get these in the ground now for a head start. Take a look at my Pinterest Curbside Appeal listing of homes in different styles that seem to welcome a buyer to enter. Having landscaping that frames the home and leads the eye in can be a simple matter of trimming your existing scrubs and arranging some pots.
    This Laguna Beach home has sweet peas, iris and annuals to greet you at the curb. Doesn't this little cottage look welcoming?

    5.      Check your bedrooms for smoke detectors. In California, and other states, it is required to also have a carbon monoxide detector. Save yourself the trouble of paying for “reinspection” costs. An appraiser or home inspector might add a couple hundred dollars and a few days to your timeline. Avoid such delays of proving you have these necessary items at closing. Having a professional inspection before you list might also give you a target punch list of items you can cheaply repair and be aware of ones a buyer or bank lender might ask you to complete. Be aware that accepting an offer with an FHA loan is going to have more sticky repair requirements than an all cash deal.

    6.      Clean up pet areas and create a plan to kennel or have dogs “babysat” at a friend’s location when you have an open house. Although you adore your dogs and cats and critters they have odors that you might not be aware of and these might offend a potential buyer. Buy two spray bottles of Fabreeze for shoes, closets and fabrics in your home. The light spraying of these an hour or less before someone enters the home makes your residence neutral to a new buyer. You are not selling your personal lifestyle, you want to appeal to a variety of types of people. Realtors have long known that even baking toll house premade cookies can make a home smell appealing. A simple warm aroma can be accomplished by boiling an orange peel with cinnamon for five minutes. This is easier and safer than candles.

    7.      Shop for a Realtor. There is a difference between a listing or buyer’s agent. Many focus on one side of the business. Who is running advertisements for home like yours? Not necessarily the Real Estate agent who sold your neighbor or sister’s home. Research your neighborhood online and see who pops up in the first page, who can still afford to run newsprint and magazine advertisements and the visibility of the firm or agency they work with. Find someone who you believe you can trust and who communicates in a style that makes you feel well taken care of and will price the home correctly.

    8.      Box up personal photographs, any offensive images or strange artwork. Your objective is not to show off your private life, but have a buyer see themselves in your home. Remove any medications in the medicine cabinets and lock them up. Remove jewelry and put in a safe deposit box.

    9.      Oil and lubricate anything that squeaks and make sure doors close easily.

    10.  Advise your family that they must do the dishes right after eating, make their beds neatly every day and keep the front lawn looking perfect. Getting in the habit of being tidy in morning is a healthy and life changing simple pleasure. A new welcome matt with a coir or rough surface is a good suggestion to wipe the feet of all your new visitors.
    Next article is how to get your self ready to move- fine tuning your FICO score and taxes to be able to qualify for a home loan. Thanks for reading- C. G. Barbeau, the loan lady. Mortgage home loans to suit your needs


    Sunshine on Orange County's Shoulder?

    photograph image Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point, Orange County, California sunset with palm trees by Caroline Gerardo

    With inventory of new homes being listed at a record low for Orange County California and Data Quick reporting big percentage gains for Laguna Niguel (up 31%) Newport Beach (up 40%) and Newport Coast (up 41%) residential real estate in South County is looking rosy. Sellers appear reluctant to list their homes and Realtors are reporting sellers taking houses off the market to wait for more gains in the spring.

    Are we really out of the woods? I believe the trough, big dip decline is behind us but my crystal ball predicts a rocky Sisyphus climb ahead. Employment is our biggest problem in Southern California. The Bay area is seeing recovery in San Francisco proper as a boom because of tech jobs heating up. Multiple offers and offers bidding up prices are the talk of the town.

    Mortgage rates are at all-time lows, approaching what happened in Japan with near two percent interest rates. It seems that Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, will do anything to keep those rates down. In a recent news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, D.C. he encouraged Americans to buy a home and live the American dream.

    This leaves me with questions about our future. Is it really a great idea to buy a home when it no longer seems to be an investment and home buyer tax deductions look to be on the chopping block? Without job growth will we sustain these short term residential real estate value gains? Or does everyone hurry to buy before the spring deluge?
    I hope it will be "Sunshine On My Shoulder," don't you?



    Thanksgiving Family Fun

     Nieces, nephews and my children setting up for Risk marathon game after dinner. We enjoy the fun of our family being together. All the kids sleep over. We went to the trampoline jumping place, played baseball, and football...
    Thanksgiving fireplace and table during the day. Sweet gum leaves -wash in cold water soak in 1 part water 1 part glycerin on cookie sheets with weight on top. We tried melting crayons and they were ugly. We also tried hand lotion and the result is crumbly leaves. String leaves with jute

    Platter with fresh vegetables by my daughter Blair in shape of a turkey. We're big game players after Thanksgiving dinner- Monopoly - and Risk

    Table setting in process earlier in the day. I used old quilts as folk art tablecloth. Sprigs of rosemary and thyme were arranged, cut from my organic garden. These are placed low so guests may talk. Candles and flowers were added last minute

    View from upstairs
    Thanksgiving at my house for twenty two guests. I pace myself and start three days in advance. Menue includes: roast turkey with herbs brined in salt and herbs the day before. Elle's Mashed garlic potatoes, beets with grapefruit and feta chees, salad with five vegetables, corn muffins, rosemary gravey, quiche with artichoke, Jen brought sweet potato cassarole, stuffing, roasted chestnuts and green beans, pumpkin and squash Indian spiced soup in pumpkins, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie, fudge, pumpkin cheesecake, lemon and tangerine bread, and snacks before and after.

    Daughter Blair made individual place cards for all family members



    Potting recipe for colorful spring yard


    I'm planting winter seeds in South Orange County California. Time to get into the dirt:  lettuce, chard, wildflowers, sweet peas. Sharing a tip with you that is easy. I save seeds from last year but I also buy new not Monsanto seeds. First I solarize the area to plant (cover with black plastic tarps and let the sun cook the weeds and bugs for about 2 or three weeks, 2 if the weather is warm, 3 if cooler).  Next I pick out any survivors and toss not compost. Dig and loosen the soil and add some rotted compost. Mix the seeds with used left over coffee grounds to allow more even spreading. Put the seeds into the cool used grounds and stir well for 10 seconds. Spread to the depth required and sprinkle soil fairies on top. Water well for the next ten days keep wet. A recipe for sturdy beautiful spring flowers and food right here in Laguna Niguel

    Gorgeous potting bench arrangement by Tiffany Hunter check her amazing staging for homes to sell on 1588 Monrovia Avenue Newport Beach


    Crow Prevention with Kindness


    We have a problem with crows being overpopulated in South Orange County. They are rather intelligent birds and work in family groups. Crows can be noisy, aggressive and I believe they recognize human faces as individuals. I have an organic garden that I don't want them stealing produce and I don't want to use chemicals. Here are some strategies to deal with these guys.

    I have a neighbor in Wyoming who decided to try and shoot at them (not actually hunt them) to scare them off his property but this action brought the wrath of the crows. First they proceeded to poop on his truck at every opportunity, then they would scream before dawn on his roof. They even tore the rubber lining off his front pickup truck windshield (pecked at the whole lining until the glass would rattle). I believe it is illegal to hunt crows in residential neighborhoods of Orange County. They are protected as migratory corvids.

    The crows pull up lawns in Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel during the Fall months looking for these white moth larvae. The damage is pretty ugly and no amount of lawn poison seems to kill off the grubs that attract the birds to come rip panels of grass up. I read that the grubs do not like clover so my lawn in the front is now predominantly three kinds of clover (red white and pink). Planting the variety keeps the lawn green year round.

    When I saw the damage this year the crows were starting on my neighbors lawns I decided to take a new attitude and befriend the crows rather than shoo them away. For a week I took the heel of a loaf of bread, some peanuts, or sunflower seeds and randomly tossed them in a very showy gesture not at the crows but on my driveway. Then I waited and did my weeding. They were very suspicious of me at first. The first two days the birds did not come down until I went back into the house. On the third day the largest bird hopped down waiting for me to spin the food into the air and called his buddies to join in the meal. Now three weeks later I feed them randomly twice a week, and they have left us alone.

    Maybe making peace is easier than prevention. In the photograph is an apple and a persimmon tree that a neighbor is using brown grocery bags and paper clips to keep the crows away from stealing the fruit. Perhaps it’s also to keep the south side from sunburn, we’ll see if it works. Don’t start calling me Tippi Hedren...

    Update to story 4/9/2013 here: more to follow


    Candy Corn

    photograph by Caroline Gerardo of Harvest Corn - decorative not edible

    Photograph of three balls of the candy corn dough in process. This project was started and inspired Fall Fun by my daughter Blair

    • 4 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/4 cups
    • 1/2-ounce nonfat dry milk, approximately 6 1/2 teaspoons
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
    • 3 3/4 ounces light corn syrup, approximately 1/3 cup
    • 2 tablespoons water
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 to 3 drops yellow and orange gel paste food coloring
    Making ribbons of the corn in a row. Traditionally the order of colors is orange yellow white but on the last one I mixed it up

    This part takes time to cut and form each piece of candy. This is probably done by some giant machine in a candy factory, thank you Willy Wonka, we're doing it home made. This is a creative and fun project you can do with your children at home. If anything after making all these they will never forget how much time it takes to make one little piece of fun.


    If it is humid or raining, turn on air conditioner or warm up kitchen. Making candy in muggy weather ends up with a greasy residue. Temperature and humidity may require you to add a few more drops of water to the mixture. Think dry desert- add.

    Combine the powdered sugar, dry milk and salt in the bowl of mixer. 1 minute until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Set aside.

    Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a 2-quart pot. Put over medium heat, cover and cook for 4 minutes. Add the butter, clip on a candy thermometer, and bring the mixture to 230 degrees F, about 1 to 2 minutes. When the sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees F, take the pot off the heat and remove the thermometer. Add the vanilla and the dry mixture, stirring with a silicone spatula until combined. Pour onto a half sheet pan lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Cool until the mixture is cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

    Your children can help with the rolling and cutting and this is quite fun. Keep the sink filled with cool water to be able to dunk and dry hands as they work as the “dough” gets “sweaty”. Working with messy in the kitchen is fun and although this has food coloring the dough doesn’t stain.

    Dividing the dough into 3 equal pieces. Add 2 drops of yellow food coloring to 1 piece and knead the dough until the color is consistent throughout. Add 2 drops of orange to the second piece, and knead until the color is consistent throughout. Leave the third piece white. Roll each piece of dough into a strand, about 18-inches long. Cut each strand in half.

    Roll 1 of the white pieces into a strand that is about 1/2-inch thick and about 22-inches long. Repeat with a yellow piece and orange piece. Lay the strands side by side and press them together using your fingers. Cut the strand into 4-inch pieces. Lay the strands, 1 at a time, onto the silicone mat and press into a wedge shape, like a triangle. Use a small think knife to cut the candies into pieces. Or a wire butter slicer, metal bench scraper or pizza cutter to slice the dough into small pieces. Repeat the procedure with remaining dough. You may need to shape them with your fingers to make the corn look somewhat round. You can also make pumpkins by rolling a small ball of the orange, add a tiny drop of blue to the yellow and use for the stems. Lay the finished pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to dry for 1 hour in the refrigerator to harden. Store in a sealed container with parchment paper between each layer.
    The batch makes a good deal of candy and if your children don't eat half in the process, I saw a recipe for candy corn martinis. You might need one after this...

    Fall color from Laguna Nursery is a pretty old wooden cart with gourds, white pumkins, butternut squash...
    These are called Princess pumpkins. I am not certain if a princess was supposed to make her Cinderella chariot out of them or what, but we stacked them like a japanese rock offering.


    A little birdy told me

    My W J Bradley Mortgage Capital LLC website went live today.
    I hope to add blog posts about real estate financing and local Orange County
    market news directly into the new website. Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, South Orange County Real Estate News

    Please go take a look and tell me  what you think. Photograph of a silly little birdy telling you where to find Caroline Gerardo 's website


    Composting In Small Yards

    Most Orange County California lots are small. In Laguna Beach you might have lot square footage smaller than the average American home. We all want to be green and compost, recycle and conserve but these actions seem to require more space than the traditional buy and toss methods. This brief summary of  composting for a small yard can be adapted for other climates.

    Materials needed:
    I found:
    some wire cage material (used chicken wire and even the mesh plastic fencing could be used for this purpose).
    Vegetable ties - the type often used around lettuce
    all the green cuttings of food stuffs, grass clippings, coffee grounds, yard cuttings

    Place wire cage upright in a corner that is not terribly front and center.
    You will see in my backyard cage I have used a tree trunk as the upright support and in the front it stands freely on more level ground.
    The vegetable ties can be opened and closed and replaced as they fall apart.
    Layer your waste and leave it alone
    In summer warm months or if you water the cage the material shrinks very rapidly.
    The cage is light and can be lifted to scoop the nice compost from the bottom

    DO NOT use: rose clippings or plants that have major disease infestation, toss those to
    save on later problems.
    If you want to be really green, save rain water and pour through the cage, catching the runoff for
    compost tea (used to spray plants as fertilizer and bug repellent).

    Why would you do this in your garden?
    Simple, free, saving landfills, making your soil improve, make flowers and vegetables grow cheaper, less water use, less fertilizer, repeat free, save money


    Uphill Climb Ahead for Orange County

    Photograph of hillside climb South Orange County

    Southern California Real Estate Market seems ready for the come back this spring. The no inventory of homes for sale is at record lows. In the twenty three years as a lender in Orange County, I have never seen the numbers of new listings in Multiple Listing Service ( MLS ) this few. As the existing houses on the market in the middle range are now selling with multiple offers, the value of those sitting is gradually rising.

    It's been a rocky road since the crash of 2008. It seems the uphill battle may now be at the summit. A few challenges still loom out there. There are homes where residents have not made payments for more than a year, and the lenders have not foreclosed. There are homeowners who hung on by renting their home when they had to take a job transfer. There are move up buyers and move down owners who have struggled and stayed in one place.

    Will the November elections shake up the real estate market in Orange County in a good way?  I don't believe national elections will have any changes on local employment or business, and therefore will not likely have positive or negative results.

    Residents of Orange County can look forward to slow growth, and perhaps a little pop up in the spring of 2013. I for one am looking forward to climbing up. :)

    Photograph of Giant Salvia. This plant grows to nine feet tall with flower spikes one to two feet long. Does not have the stronger aroma of some sage plants, but very showy, low water and good for a sunny side yard, attracts butterflies and birds.

    Caroline Gerardo Barbeau

    Mortgage Loan Officer
    W. J. Bradley Capital LLC.
    Newport Beach, California 92660

    (949) 637-8190


    Color and Low Water in Orange County Gardens

    Easy gardening tips in Orange County, California coastal climate
    Plants that are colorful but require low water, no chemical spraying, and low care. I have a number of blue pots that I purchased at Plant Depo in San Juan Capistrano and Green Thumb nursery when they have blow out sales. The deep blue glaze is best made in Vietnam, so the shipping costs make them pricey, but I love that color.

    I have seen my Moulton Niguel Water bill increase by double in the past two years, and it is not because of some leak, it is that we had less rain to refill my swimming pool over the summer.
    Photograph of a  Gorgeous canna that smells like jasmine
    Photograph of Mexican sage in my yard, has bloomed for nine months. It will die back if we get a cold snap, but requires little water, no fertilizer, and is pest resistant. The bonus is Mexican sage attracts butterflies and song birds follow...


    San Juan Creek Flood Control ?


    These are photographs of San Juan Creek in between J Serra High School and Laguna Niguel hills. In the middle of Orange County Soccer Fields and neatly organized parks are some abandoned houses, wild orange groves and trails with rattle snakes. The widening of the bridges at Crown Valle Parkway and Del Obispo may have unforeseen results on the drainage into the creek. Larger storm drains are installed only underneath the two long going projects. Will this cause flooding in the coming years to houses in Old San Juan and below?