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pecan street picture

 

 

Originally crafted by the Old Pecan Street Association to help revitalize the downtown city streets and businesses, the Pecan Street Festival has been a contributing factor in the transformation and positive progression of 6th Street and its surroundings for over 30 years. As the largest arts and crafts festival in central Texas, the Festival generates an estimated 43 million dollars in economic impact annually and attracts over 200,000 attendees per show. As a non-profit charity organization, O.P.S.A. donates a large portion of Festival proceeds to the city of Austin and local non-profit organizations alike and is constantly striving to improve upon Austin’s fantastic image and way of life. It has been a long and fun road and we cannot be happier to be a part of this amazing community and city. – See more here

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

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These homes still watch programs but mostly on laptops, tablets and phones.

There are 5 million “zero-TV” households in the U.S., more than double from 2 million in 2007. It’s a small but growing trend that has the media establishment plenty worried.

These people, who make up fewer than 5% of U.S. households, haven’t stopped watching television shows. They just do it on their own terms over laptops, tablets and cellphones.

As Nielsen notes, about 75% of these homes still have TVs, but people use them mostly to play video games and watch DVDs.

This creates a huge problem for the industry, one that will likely be a key topic at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters’ annual trade show. Content creators and broadcast networks make money from these viewers through arrangements with streaming sites such as Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu and through advertising on their websites and apps, according to The Associated Press. Television stations, however, get shut out.

“Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from zero-TV viewers will be zero,” the AP says.

The New York Times on Monday noted the trend of people sharing passwords for video-streaming sites such as HBO Go, which is owned by Time Warner (TWX +0.74%), making it even easier for cable users to cut the cord.

Though more than 130 TV stations in the U.S. broadcast live signals to mobile devices, most users don’t have the tools to receive them. The dongles that catch those signals are just starting to be sold, according to the AP.

A handful of video-streaming sites have become hot properties. Hulu, for example, has reportedly received a $500 million bid from former News Corp. (NWS +2.20%) president Peter Chernin. The site is jointly controlled by News Corp. and Walt Disney (DIS +1.86%).

Luckily for broadcasters, most people are still transfixed by the boob tube. According to Nielsen, Americans spend an average of nearly 41 hours a week, or about 5.5 hours a day, watching content across all screens. People spend more than 34 of those hours in front of a TV.

Even so, given the technological changes in the works, the television industry 10 years from now may not look much like it does today.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Jonathan Berr

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Well…it’s here!! The holiday season is upon us.  If you are looking for fun events and things to do around Austin, CLICK HERE for a December Calendar of events (courtesy of Gracy Title Company).

 

I have already marked the calendar for the Chuy’s Blue Santa Christmas Parade next Saturday!

 

xoxo

 

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Toys R Us says it’s starting its sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Meanwhile, other major chains’ BF ads hit deal sites.

 

Shoppers might have had a hard time keeping up with the flurry of Black Friday ads landing on deal sites over the weekend.

It seemed a new ad was leaked every couple of hours, including the popular parent destination, Toys R Us.

TRU’s 32-page ad boasted a whopping 200 doorbusters — most about half price. Many consumers who commented on deal sites such as BlackFriday.Gottadea​l.com thought it filled a toy gap this year as Wal-Mart and Target focused more heavily on video games and electronics.

Like several of its discount rivals, Toys R Us is starting its sale at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, with doorbuster sale prices on Thursday night and a separate sale on Saturday.

While not every hot toy was deeply discounted, there are many good bargains to be found, including:

  • Fisher-Price Rock Star Mickey — $19.98 (now selling for $40).
  • GeoTrax on the Go Zoo — $14.99 (regularly $30).
  • $15 bonus iTunes gift card with $50 iTunes gift card purchase.
  • 40% off all Lego sets.
  • Video games, buy one, get one for $1.
  • Skylanders Giants Starter Pack for $49.99 (regularly $75).
  • Garmin nuvi 50 5-inch portable GPS for 79.99 (regularly $120).
  • $5 board games, including Monopoly and Scrabble.

Some deals are to be found only in stores. And a footnote at the bottom of the ad said that online prices “may vary.” Online shoppers, however, can snag free shipping at Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com this season.

Be warned: While Toys R Us is offering a price-match guarantee through Dec. 24, last month it said it would not match competitors’ Black Friday prices.

Other Black Friday sale ads leaked this weekend, include those of home-improvement giants Lowe’s and Home Depot, and department stores Kohl’s and J.C. Penney. For once, troubled Penney’s did not even try to keep up with rivals’ Thursday openings, instead, pushing back its sale to 6 a.m. Friday, and eliminating last year’s free snow globes for shoppers.

Bah, humbug!
Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Money partner

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The cost of earning a college degree can be a really bad investment. Some of you may be wise to consider the alternatives.

Some things in life are painfully overrated.

 Take camping, for instance. Or iPhones. I’ve never understood the allure of luxury cars or the baby boomer generation’s collective fascination with Bob Dylan either.

And although it pains me to say this — because it will probably ruin any chance I’ll ever have of scoring a date with her — let’s not forget singer Katy Perry too.

 Here’s one more thing that’s overrated: college.

Some things in life are painfully overrated.

Take camping, for instance. Or iPhones. I’ve never understood the allure of luxury cars or the baby boomer generation’s collective fascination with Bob Dylan either.

And although it pains me to say this — because it will probably ruin any chance I’ll ever have of scoring a date with her — let’s not forget singer Katy Perry too.

Here’s one more thing that’s overrated: college.

 I know. They told you that if you want to be successful, you’ve got to earn a sheepskin from one of those hallowed venerable institutions of higher learning.

Guess what? They lied.

Don’t believe me? Well, here are a few reasons why you should:

For most people, college is a really bad investment. Over the past 30 years, the cost of college has risen more than 1,000%, far outpacing inflation in general. If the price of other products rose as quickly as college costs have, today we’d be paying $13 per gallon for gasoline and $22 for a gallon of milk. As the price of college continues to go through the roof it becomes more and more difficult — if not impossible — for folks to realize a decent return on their investment unless they pursue a technical degree, or study to become a doctor or lawyer.

That’s why there’s an army of shellshocked graduates out there right now with a worthless college degree and nothing to show for it other than a relatively low-paying job and a boatload of student debt.

Not everybody is college material.If they were, 54% of all Americans who enroll in college wouldn’t eventually become dropouts. Look, college is hard enough for those who are motivated; for people attending who don’t really want to be there, it’s almost impossible. So it makes little sense for anybody to attend a university unless they’re fully committed to getting a college education, especially when you consider that the average cost of tuition, room and board for a four-year college is about $20,000 annually.

The time spent in college earning a degree can often be put to better use gaining experience. True, certain professions, like medicine and engineering, require college degrees. But there are plenty of jobs out there where it makes more sense to skip college and immediately embark on a career, because on-the-job experience is more valuable than a post-high school education. And while those who decide to skip college won’t have a college degree after four years, they will have accrued four years of valuable experience.

Even better, they’ll be $180,000 ahead in the ledger book, assuming they earned a modest average salary of $25,000 annually over that same period.

There are plenty of relatively well-paying jobs available that don’t require a college degree. According to U.S. Labor Department projections, 63% of all new jobs that will be created between 2010 and 2020 won’t require a college degree. In fact, Forbes identified 20 surprisingly well-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Many of those listed require just a high school diploma or equivalent, including administrative services manager (median income of $79,540), construction supervisor ($59,150), wholesale and manufacturing sales rep ($53,540), electrician ($49,320), plumber ($47,750), and insurance sales agent ($47,450).

Of course, I’m not advocating that everybody skip college. I’m just saying it’s not for everyone.

Statistics show that people with a bachelor’s degree will earn 1.66 times more over their lifetime than someone with only a high school education.

Then again, there are plenty of millionaires out there — and approximately 30 billionaires — without college degrees.

Ultimately, what’s most important is that you find a career or vocation that you really enjoy because when you’re passionate about what you do, the money becomes almost irrelevant.

 

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by:MSN Money partner

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There were likely cries of joy from students (and maybe a few parents) at Gaithersburg Elementary School in Maryland when Principal Stephanie Brant announced a radical new experiment: no more traditional homework.

Instead, students are asked to read about 30 minutes a night from a book of their choosing.

Over the past few years, Brant and her staff evaluated what teachers were sending students home with and found they were asking students to complete a lot of worksheets.

“The worksheets didn’t match what we were doing instructionally in the classroom,” Brant said in a news story on MyFoxDC.com. “We were giving students something because we felt we have to give them something.”

Parents appear to support the change, and Brant hopes it will prove motivational for her students.

Unlike most elementary schools, students at Gaithersburg are allowed to go to the library every day instead of just once a week as a class. The school believes this will strengthen reading habits and result in the students consuming more books at their own pace.

According to MyFoxDC.com, the new policy seems to be paying off. Fifth graders at Gaithersburg Elementary School scored around 72 percent proficiency in math and about 81 percent proficiency in reading in the last round of standardized test scores.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Living Editor – Rebekah Schilperoort

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How parents can help teach their kids reform math, math reasoning and inquiry-based math.

 

Back in the day (you know, the ’80s), most of us were taught there was one way to add, one way to subtract, one way to multiply, and one way to divide. You sat at your desk, listened to the teacher, and did worksheet after worksheet till those formulas were drilled into your brain. There was no “creativity.” Usually, there was no context (how many times did you ask “Why do I need to know this?”). Your parents could be relied upon to help you at least until middle school. And there were definitely no calculators. Um, that was what we called cheating.

Oh, how the times have changed. Just check out this snapshot of math in Terri Gratz’s fourth-grade class at Meadowbrook Elementary School, in Golden Valley, MN: After the kids pull out blue calculators and their student reference books, Gratz says, “Raise your hand if you know which country has the biggest land mass.”

“Russia!” one boy announces.

“Which country has the most people?” asks Gratz.

A girl half raises her hand. “Either India or China?”

“China, right,” Gratz says. “So, how do we figure out what percent of the world’s population lives in China? Which two numbers do we need?”

It’s a tough question, but the class is up to the task: They soon figure out that they need to know how many people live in China compared with the rest of the world. Then they turn to their book to find a population chart. The world’s total population at that time, they learn, is 6,378,000,000. Gratz wants to know if the students think that’s the exact number. The kids smile and roll their eyes. As if! Then they look again to find China’s population: 1,298,840,000.

Throughout the lesson, Gratz and the students have been cheerfully lobbing questions and answers, and she’s clearly delighted that her class enjoys the give-and-take. Soon 28 sets of hands furiously punch numbers into the calculators, and then the first kid gets the answer: about 20 percent. Gratz asks her to come to the front of the class to show how she solved it.

Welcome to the world of “reform math” (the experts call it “inquiry-based math”), a catchall phrase for a group of new methodologies that aim to teach students how to reason their way through a problem instead of simply regurgitating a set of facts and formulas to get the answer (which is how most of us learned). If you have a child in elementary school, she’s probably learning under one of these programs. Think of it this way: If traditional math is a paint-by-numbers replica of the Mona Lisa, reform mathematics is more like performance art, where the audience is invited to paint the canvas. The goal is to engage, excite, experiment, and find creative solutions. Because when kids care about math and understand how it works in real life, experts say, they’ll be more likely to stick with it. More important, that ability to think outside the formula, so to speak, will be absolutely critical when they have to compete in the global economy. (And, given that ranking, the U.S. can use all the edge it can get.)

Now you’re probably thinking “Great! Fabulous! We’re raising the next generation of innovators!” That is, until you actually have to help your child with her homework and find yourself questioning whether you really know how to divide. Their new math looks and sounds very different from ours, and after you get over the shock that many actually get to use calculators, you’ll likely be faced with accusations like “You’re doing it wrong! That’s not how we do it in class!” Elaine Replogle, a mom of three in Eugene, OR, is all too familiar with this kind of frustration: “Because my husband and I don’t know the same methods or terms, the kids tell us we know nothing. And we both have Ph.D.’s!” To banish the frustration, we talked to teachers around the country to get a handle on the basic philosophies of the most widely used math programs so you can feel more prepared and, let’s face it, a little less clueless.

New Math Mission #1: Emphasize the process, not the solution.

This is a tenet that programs like Investigations in Number, Data, and Space as well as Everyday Mathematics share. (Don’t know the name of the method your school uses? None of the parents we spoke to for this article did, either! But a call to the teacher can fix that.)

This doesn’t mean the kids don’t have to get the correct answer. Instead, the goal is to teach them to understand how numbers interact, how to recognize patterns, and to experiment with different ways to get there. “Students are more comfortable switching strategies and exploring ways to find the answer,” says Jennifer Scoggin, who used Everyday Mathematics when she taught second grade at a New York City public school.

So take adding: When we learned how to add 349 + 175, we stacked up the numbers, added the ones, carried the tens, added those, and so on in order to get the answer (524). With Investigations, third-graders, for instance, explore different methods for arriving at the answer. They may add the hundreds, tens, and ones separately (300 + 100, 40 + 70, 9 + 5) or break the numbers into rounded chunks (350 + 175 = 525 – 1 = 524).

New Math Mission #2: Help kids “see” math.

This goes right along with the idea of providing different learners with different ways of understanding. In lower grades, students might use objects like cubes or tiles (known as manipulatives) during a subtraction lesson, or they might use the hundreds board, a grid with 100 numbered squares, to figure out the answer to a problem like 41 – 29: The kids put a finger on 41 and then count back to 29. “They can count by tens, by ones, or count forward from twenty-nine to forty-one,” says Scoggin, now a consultant. “It’s fun — like counting spaces on a board game.”

Keith Kinney, a fifth-grade teacher at the Parker Middle School, in Chelmsford, MA, uses the reform program Math Expressions and shares how it uses visuals to teach: When we learned to calculate the area of a rectangle, we memorized the formula: length x width = area. But Kinney’s fifth-graders draw a rectangle on graph paper; they can then simply count the squares to calculate. This process can help students internalize the formula (they’re seeing it and doing it on their own), teach them about geometry and algebra, and reinforce their multiplication skills. They then discuss the various solutions as a group.

New Math Mission #3: Introduce concepts — then introduce them again.

This technique is called spiraling, and it’s used in Everyday Mathematics, as well as in the Saxon method. Whereas we might have had our fractions lessons in one solid block, teachers now often circle back to concepts again and again to reinforce the skills.

Ruth Nettelhorst, a third-grade teacher at the Nancy Cory elementary school, in Lancaster, CA, describes it like this: “Saxon introduces concepts in a way that builds upon the previously learned skills. It moves them from the concrete to the abstract in a very logical, methodical way.” And that makes sense to us.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Linda Rodgers

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Find out if your child’s workload is normal or excessive.

 

Nancy Kalish’s daughter was an enthusiastic middle-schooler — until homework started to take over, consuming her evenings and weekends. When she started dreading school, the Brooklyn mom began to grow alarmed.

Kalish teamed up with Sara Bennett, a fellow frustrated mom, to write The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It (out this month from Crown) for parents of kids in grade school on up. Their investigation drew on academic research and inter-views with educators, parents, and kids around the country. Kalish spoke to Parenting about their findings:

How can too much homework negatively affect kids?
They don’t have time to just be kids anymore — they’re so bogged down. And since many of the assignments are simply busywork, learning often becomes a chore rather than a positive, constructive experience. Homework overload is also affecting family life — a lot of kids can’t even make it to dinner, and as a result, the only interaction they have with their parents involves arguments about homework.

What are signs that your child might be getting too much?
If he starts to hate school, like my daughter did, that might be one, as are nightly hysterics over homework.

The National Education Association recommends that kids have a total of ten minutes per grade level of homework per night. Anything above that is excessive.

The bottom line is that a child will understand a concept better if he has time to work on five problems, rather than struggling to race through 50.

What can parents do?
First, talk to your child’s teacher, with the assumption that he or she wants what’s best for your child. Often teachers are unaware of the havoc that homework is causing.

If that doesn’t work, talk to the principal about your concerns. She may agree and set policy changes in motion. Or, you may need to involve other parents and go to the school board. It may not be simple to stem the tide of homework, but parents around the country are showing it can be done.

More from Bing and MSN Living Site Search: Get additional content on back to school, tips for moms and stay-at-home mom

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Kamala Nair

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Pets are part of many children’s lives. Learn how to help them foster strong, healthy relationships.

 

Every parent knows the feeling: It all goes by so quickly. You’re newlyweds, then you’re the parents of small children. Turn around again and you’re empty-nesters. And then … grandparents.

My wife and I are grandparents now, and everyone who knows us knows we’re madly in love with our granddaughter. Give me five minutes and I’ll show her picture, followed by those of our beloved pets. There is nothing more important to me than being a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather — and, yes, a good veterinarian.

From the vantage point of seeing so many children grow up to have children of their own, I offer five things this veterinarian (father, grandfather and husband of more than 30 years) wants every parent to know about pets and children.

Your Pet Can Be Your Child’s Best Friend

Pets are nonjudgmental, loyal, loving and always excited to be with their people. Unlike classmates, friends or even, at times, family members, a pet will love your child unconditionally. Rich or poor, tall or short, under- or overweight, porcelain skin or pimples, smart or struggling in class, popular or pariah, athlete or academic: We all need unconditional love. Pets are also doggedly loyal; a pet will never leave your child because he’s tired or a better offer came along.

Pets Teach Responsibility

Animals need to be fed, watered, groomed, exercised and played with, and they need medical care and love. They’re not like the newest video game or toy that can be enjoyed for a while and then left to be forgotten on a shelf. Although you should never allow a pet to be cared for exclusively or primarily by a child, pets can help children understand how to nurture. Pets need care, constantly and consistently, and they teach children to give to others.

A Pet Can Teach Your Child About the Circle of Life

At each stage of life, a pet provides valuable lessons. For example, adopting a pet from a shelter is an opportunity to talk with your child about homelessness and a forever, loving home. A pet can also offer parents a way to talk with a child about death. For many of us, the loss of a pet is the first of many such losses we will all experience in our lives. A pet can teach your child that it’s important to love and just as important to grieve. A pet can also teach children that compassion needs to be extended beyond our own species.

Pets Provide Physical Contact

In our lives, we are not always sure when touch is acceptable and when it’s not. But not with our pets: They always love our touch, always welcome it. Anyone of any age can kiss a dog or cat and say “I love you!” and nobody thinks anything of it. We need touch, and “heavy petting” is always fine with our pets.

Pets Are Good for Our Health

Pets are life support systems. Pets don’t just make us feel good. They’re good for us. Being around pets in early childhood lessens the severity of allergies, asthma and eczema. Pets can blunt chronic pain; fight depression; lower cholesterol; decrease blood pressure; lower the risk of heart disease or stroke; improve survivability of a heart attack; help treat ADHD, anxiety and PTSD; detect seizures; help Parkinson’s patients; and even detect cancer. Adding a pet to your growing family is one way to protect your child’s health — and your own.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Dr. Marty Becker

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Juggling a new carpool schedule, unfamiliar teachers, and your child’s school jitters can make one over-whelming season. Avoid a mommy meltdown by staying organized and in control with these 10 must-have tools.

Check out the full article here.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Zoe Schaeffer

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