Category Archives: Consumer Information

Happy Holidays, Cranford!

Art Imitates Life in Cranford!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and that festive feeling has been captured so perfectly by Lloyd Garrison in his painting of Downtown Cranford during the holidays!

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I mailed a frame-able print of Lloyd’s painting to all homeowners in Cranford this week as a little holiday surprise. Already I’ve heard from several people who have framed it for their own homes or are giving it to someone special as a gift. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!

screen-shot-2015-12-02-at-12-05-24-pmThis is the second year in a row I’ve chosen to send out a work by Lloyd–and it might not be my last! There’s something about his paintings that gives me the feels BIG time and reminds of the many things I love about living in Cranford. His depiction of Downtown Cranford is no exception. Lloyd said, “There are not many town centers that can be painted easily. Cranford’s downtown has such a quaint look to it and lends itself to storytelling through painting.”

I couldn’t agree more! Downtown Cranford looks especially quaint when it’s all dolled up for the holiday season. The lights, wreaths, garlands, and glittering window displays all beckon you in, not to mention the friendly people who live and work there. I do so much of my holiday shopping in Downtown Cranford, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Lloyd Garrison has been an acclaimed artist for 50 years and is available for commissions. You can reach him at (609) 918-1776. View more of his beautiful artwork—and order holiday cards featuring his art—at www.lloydgarrison.com

 

"I love getting those pics! They're beautiful!" Kristin Schultes, Cranford Resident

“I love getting those pics! They’re beautiful!” Kristin Schultes, Cranford Resident

"Thank you so much! Love!!! ❤️❤️❤️" Mindy Weiss Affronti, Cranford Resident

“Thank you so much! Love!!! ❤️❤️❤️” Mindy Weiss Affronti, Cranford Resident

It has given me such great pleasure to share these works of art with my friends and neighbors! Wishing you all the Happiest of Holidays!  

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Utopia Salon and Day Spa in Westfield Exceeds Expectations!

Utopia Salon and Spa

I can hardly type this blog right now. Why? Because my limbs are like Jell-O, thanks to the blissfully relaxing MASSAGE I just got at Utopia Salon and Day Spa in Westfield! My Executive Assistant, Marketing Director, and I had decided upon a girls’ spa day to get rejuvenated before the end of the busy year, and it turned out to be the best … idea … ever!

Located at 349 South Ave, Utopia wears two hats: upscale salon on one side, and full-service spa on the other. I’d known about the hair services in the bustling salon, but I had no idea that the spa area of Utopia is truly a retreat all its own. Nubia Suarez has owned the salon and spa for 10 years now, and she says: “The name ‘Utopia’ means the ‘most perfect place on Earth,’ and that’s exactly what we strive for here at our own Utopia.”

When you enter the spa, you forget all about being in a hair salon in Westfield! You’re greeted by soft music, calm lighting, and offered ice water or a mimosa. The pedicure area is luxurious, with silk pillows at your back and tropical-esque baths at your feet. I was delighted to see fresh rose petals sprinkled on the beds in the massage rooms–not something you see at every massage!

We all got massages from Tina Silva, whose deft hands worked out all the knots–heck, I almost fell asleep! Tina utilized hot stones as well, something new to me, and it was incredibly relaxing. I also had a facial with Sueli Cifarelli (a licensed skin-care specialist who knows her stuff!), and my skin was positively glowing afterward! My assistant Angela had a soothing spa pedicure, followed by a beautiful yet subtle makeup application in the salon area. I have to confess that once I took a look at Angela’s gorgeous makeup, I immediately scheduled an appointment to have my own makeup done for a holiday party! That Olivia is an absolute GENIUS!!!

After our treatments we all wondered: 1) Why hadn’t we tried this place before, and 2) When could we come back?!! 

Utopia is currently offering some fabulous spa packages as winter specials–check them out on facebook or visit http://www.utopiasalonnj.com/. You can reach the salon and spa at: 908-928-0008. Tell them we sent ya!

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Favorite Ice Cream Shops in the Cranford Westfield Area of NJ

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Here are some favorite local haunts for the cold, sweet treats that everyone craves on hot days. Whether you prefer old-fashioned churned ice cream, a blended creation, or frozen yogurt with extreme toppings, there’s surely a place in our area that will satisfy your cravings. What’s YOUR favorite spot to grab a frosty treat?

Frosty Freeze

1 North Ave, Garwood

Old-fashioned ice cream stand reminiscent of the kind you see at the Shore. Hard and soft ice cream, novelty ice cream bars, cakes, shakes, and more.

Couple of outdoor benches for seating; free parking.

Vanilla Bean Creamery

22 North Ave West, Cranford

908-272-3000

Homemade artisan hard and soft ice creams (they vary by season–I adore the pumpkin-inspired flavors in the fall), frozen yogurt, blended creations, frozen drinks, custom cakes, and more. Newest flavors: coffee chip fro yo, red raspberry sorbet, and strawberry soft serve.

Plenty of indoor seating and some outdoor tables; metered parking.

Dairy Queen

337 North Ave East, Cranford

908-272-7114

Home of the original Blizzard (“brownie batter” flavor is back!), soft serve, sundaes, shakes and a full menu of lunch and dinner fast food. No indoor seating, couple of benches outside and free parking.

Sweetie Frozen Yogurt

109 N. Union Ave, Cranford

908-272-1088

Self-serve frozen yogurt in 12 flavors with 35 toppings to choose from, smoothies, shakes, and more.

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Friendly’s

1463 Raritan Road, Clark

908-276-2752

Home of the beloved Reese’s Pieces Sundae and other irresistible trademarked sundaes, plus Fribble shakes, hard and soft ice creams, and a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Fusion Yogurt Lounge

1085 Raritan Rd, Clark

848-467-4788

Self-serve frozen yogurt with tons of toppings, smoothies, gourmet coffee.

Indoor seating and free parking (in the Clarkton Shopping Center).

Creme Berree

506 North Ave, Garwood

908-301-0506

Frozen yogurt (with unique seasonal flavors such as honeydew, green tea, watermelon, and red velvet); yogurt pops dipped in toppings, and their trademarked “shooties”: 4 mini cups of different-flavored yogurt topped with 4 different toppings and drizzle. Indoor and outdoor seating with free parking in the back.

Uncle Louie G

57 Elm St, Westfield

917-613-8367

Signature Italian ices in dozens of flavors (unique ones too: cappuccino breeze, cantaloupe balls, rainbow cookie, root beer mug, etc.), plus soft-serve ice cream, frozen yogurt, shakes, and cakes.

A few indoor seats, metered street parking.

Let’s Yo

121 East Broad St, Westfield

Self-serve frozen yogurt with oodles of toppings, unique sundaes, and smoothies.

Wednesdays are “No-Weigh Wednesdays” where you fill a cup for just 5 bucks!

Lots of indoor seating with iPads for the kids. Metered street parking (and metered lot in back with another entrance into the shop).

Bohemian Raspberry

219 South Ave East, Westfield

Self-serve frozen yogurt with every topping imaginable, plus shakes, juices, and a full gourmet coffee bar with cappuccino and other hot drinks. They even have almond and soy milks for dairy-free folks.

Indoor and outdoor seating, free parking.

Yapple

116 Elm St., Westfield

908-228-5373

Self-serve frozen yogurt and toppings in a bright and cheery atmosphere.

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Chocolate Bar

112 Quimby St, Westfield

908-389-9000

Authentic Italian gelato in a wide array of flavors (the stracciatella is amazing), plus gourmet chocolate, full coffee bar, shakes, and more. Good luck not gaining 10 pounds while you’re there!

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Cold Stone Creamery

163 East Broad St, Westfield

908-389-4550

Handmade ice cream and frozen yogurt that is mixed with toppings on a chilled marble countertop while you wait. Try their trademarked “Red Velvet Dream”!

Indoor seating, metered parking.

Scoops: The Ice Creamery

2014 Route 22 East, Scotch Plains

908-322-4550

Old-fashioned handmade hard ice cream in great flavors that change daily, soft-serve, frozen yogurt, shakes, cakes, and more.

Plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (there’s a porch and a great hidden patio on the side of the shop), free parking.

Double Dipper Cafe

38A South Martine Ave, Fanwood

908-490-0102

Hard and soft ice creams in lots of flavors (vanilla cashew caramel chip, anyone?), shakes, custom cakes, and a full menu of lunch and dinner foods and coffees. They even deliver now!

Indoor seating and free street parking.

Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices & Ice Cream

700 Boulevard, Kenilworth

908-445-8192

New-York style Italian ice in two different styles: water ice, and creme ice (aka sherbet). Countless flavors, including ones you won’t find elsewhere (black cherry cheesecake, strawberry margarita, etc.); plus incredible signature blended drinks like the Ralphaccino and the Cake Shake; soft and hard ice cream; sundaes; and more.

Free parking.

Boathouse Snack Bar

Echo Lake Park, Mountainside

There’s just a small variety of novelty ice creams (and some snack foods) at this humble snack bar at the paddle boats, but you sure can’t beat the view of gorgeous Echo Lake! Plenty of benches and grass for picnicking.

Free parking.

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One Family’s Home Buying and Home Remodeling Experience in Westfield, NJ

PLEASE ENJOY THIS VERY SPECIAL POST FROM MY CLIENT, CHRISTINE RADLMANN, ABOUT HER FAMILY’S HOME SEARCH AND REMODELING EXPERIENCE!!

Homeowner Christine Radlmann“Do NOT go in there.”

Those were the emphatic words uttered by my husband when he emerged from an open house in the summer of 2013. He had no idea that I would persuade him to buy that very house several weeks later.

We’d been living in a small Dutch colonial in Cranford for the past five years. With dark chestnut trim throughout and original hardwood floors, that house had character galore. But it also had minuscule closet space, radiator heat that hissed louder than 1,000 cobras, windows that hung from defunct rusty chains, and myriad other quirks typical of a 90-year-old house. By the end of our tenure in that sweet little home, we were over “character” and ready for spaciousness and a more contemporary feel.

We found what we thought was the perfect house–a “forever” house–in Cranford, a town we had grown to love, but the deal fell through. Finally I relented and agreed to look for a home in Westfield. But with our budget, the pickings were slim, especially since we had a long wish list: 4 bedrooms (all on the same level), 2 1/2 baths, large family room, attached 2-car garage, central air and heat, and a sidewalk neighborhood with little traffic. Anything that came close to meeting those requirements was out of our budget. We were starting to wonder if we needed to broaden our search to other towns.

Our REALTOR® –the exceptional (and exceptionally PATIENT) Sharon Steele, had introduced us to the Lenape Park neighborhood across Springfield Ave in Westfield, near Nomahegan Swim Club. Originally I scoffed at the idea of moving to this neighborhood, because it seemed so far removed from downtown. But we quickly came to love the quietness of the neighborhood, and the fact that it is filled with young children and growing families. We found an almost-right house in the neighborhood, but lost the bid on it.

All the while I kept wondering about a different property in the same neighborhood, one that seemed to need quite a bit work. On a whim, we drove to its open house, and I let my husband go in while I stayed in the car with our napping children. I kid you not, he came out two minutes later and forbade me from entering–he said it was the ugliest house he’d ever seen, and we’ve seen hundreds.

I didn’t enter the house that day, but after another month of house-searching and not finding anything, I went back to it on my own. Yep, it was ugly as heck inside! The foyer welcomed you with brown asbestos tile and mirrored walls–complete with additional decorative mirrors hanging on those mirrored walls! The bathroom toilet looked like something out of a horror movie, and besides dated fixtures, the walls were painted with a gigantic Italian villa scene. The rest of the house wasn’t much better. Brown faux paint and dated wallpaper decorated the walls throughout. The kitchen featured leopard-print wallpaper border and stick-on floor tile, not to mention the world’s smallest sink, a tiny fridge, and a Hobbit-sized island. Outside, the backyard was entirely overgrown with scraggly trees and shrubs on a steep hill, utterly unusable for children.

But here’s what else I saw: beautifully high ceilings upwards of 11 feet in the living and dining rooms; lots of natural light throughout, owing to several skylights and countless large windows; ample space in the kitchen and adjoining family room; a large two-car garage (attached!); a gigantic driveway that could fit at least 6 cars (perfect for our big family parties); an actual master bedroom with a walk-in closet and master bath, plus 3 other bedrooms and another bathroom on the same level. The house was ugly, sure, but it had everything on our checklist!  And since no one had ever bid on the house (and it had been on the market for a looooong time), we knew we could get it for a great price.

Fast forward to a little over a year, and we are truly happy in this home. From the day we moved in–the very first day!–we started doing a multitude of improvements on the property. In the backyard, we we completely leveled the yard and created a large green space for our children to play. We completely gutted the powder room and kitchen on the first floor and have built our dream kitchen. We knocked down a wall between the kitchen and family room to create one expansive space, and added all new hardwood floors to that level of the house. We also built a laundry room off the kitchen, finished the basement into a small rec room, painted the entire interior, and updated the remaining bathrooms with some new fixtures.

It hasn’t been easy, but we managed to turn what was once the ugliest house in the neighborhood to exactly the house we’d been searching for. And even after all the renovations, we still have spent far less money than what we would have spent on a property that was already “done.” Of course, the real testament to having chosen the right house is the attitude of our children, who recently said, “Can we live here FOREVER?”

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“Spirit Shops” in the Cranford/Westfield Area

In case you hadn’t noticed, I love where I live! If you have similar pride in the Cranford/Westfield area or have a child attending one of our great schools, then you need to check out these two local town-themed shops.

Varsity Central on Mountain Ave. in downtown Mountainside is your go-to spot for apparel and accessories emblazoned with the following town/team names: Westfield, Mountainside, Scotch Plains, and Governor Livingston. The store carries varsity jackets and uniforms; long- and short-sleeve shirts; outerwear; pants; hats; and much more for men, women, and children. They also carry loads of accessories from basketballs to blankets to mugs to magnets to pennants and beyond. There is an on-site graphic artist who can help you create a custom-designed piece of apparel or accessory–how cool is that? Varsity Central provides screen-printing and embroidery services, and custom-printed promotional products for businesses as well.

Owned by the same parent company as Varsity Central–Panda Apparel Group–Cougar Headquarters is the Cranford location for all your spiritwear and accessories. Besides purchasing Cougar-themed apparel for my school-aged kids, I’ve bought many a stocking stuffer and gift from Cougar Headquarters, because I love giving people trinkets that celebrate this fabulous town.

What’s especially handy about having these shops in our area is that they stock a large inventory of ready-made varsity jackets for our local athletes. That means your basketball-playing son or daughter can walk in, pick out a varsity jacket that fits, and walk right out with it, as opposed to having to wait 4-6 weeks for a catalog-ordered jacket.

Do you need a varsity jacket but you’re not from this area, or your child attends school out of town? Don’t worry–both Varsity Central and Cougar Headquarters can custom order varsity jackets for ANY town.

Fun little tidbit about both stores–they are very kid-friendly. Varsity Central gives out free balloons and Cougar Headquarters gives tattoos to little ones in the shop.

Store hours for both locations are listed below, but after-hours appointments for custom tees are available, just call 908-497-9900 (x103 for Cranford location, x109 for Mountainside location).

Varsity Central:

865 Mountainside Ave., Mountainside

Tues. – Fri. 10 am to 5:30 pm: Sat. 10 am to 3 pm; Sun/Mon. closed.

https://www.varsitycentralnj.com/index.html

Cougar Headquarters:

415 Centennial Ave., Cranford

Mon. – Fri. 10 am to 6 pm; Sat. 10 am to 3 pm; Sun. closed.

http://www.cougarhq.com/

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GSMLS Open House List For Cranford, Westfield, and Surrounding Area

Click here for the list of GSMLS Open Houses

Click here for the list of GSMLS Open Houses

Here is the scheduled   GSMLS Open House List    for Cranford, Westfield, Clark, Garwood, Kenilworth, Scotch Plains and Fanwood NJ for Sunday, February 9. Open Houses are from 1-4pm unless otherwise noted. Please let me know if you would like information about these, or any other properties, and please let the hosting agents know that I sent you!  

Complete the form below if you would like a  No Obligation Market Analysis on your home..

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NJ Homebuyers! Don’t Wait! Now is a GREAT time to purchase the home of your dreams!

 

It’s an interesting time for real estate in the Cranford/Westfield area of NJ. We are finding ourselves with low inventory and an increasing number of buyers . While prices are still below those of a few years ago, we are seeing an upswing in prices, and an increase in multiple offer situations.

Luckily, interest rates are still below 5%. However, we have  indications that interest rates will increase in 2014, and homebuyers should realize that waiting to make the move while mortgage rates are increasing probably doesn’t make sense. As rates increase, the price of the house you can afford will decrease; in fact, as you can see in this chart, a 1% increase in rates will reduce your purchasing power by 10%.

 

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Discarding Your Christmas Tree

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It WAS so pretty!  That beautiful pine scent wafting throughout your home, dazzling lights, sparkling, meaningful ornament adorning it . . . . . now that same tree is crisp to the touch and shedding like a Labrador Retriever in July.  So what do you do with our Christmas tree once the holidasy are over?

First and foremost . . . DON’T keep it up too long!  Even the most religiously-watered trees will dry up and become a fire hazard by January.  As pretty as it may be, it is just not safe to keep that much kindling in your home.

Cranford and Westfield residents, do NOT put your tree on the curb. The Department of Public Works will not pick it up.  And after the next freezing rain storm, that tree will become affixed to the street and take up a parking space for the next six weeks.

The good news is, you can drop your tree off at the Cranford  Conservation Center,  (located off Orange Avenue on Birchwood Avenue), and the Westfield Conservation Center (1300 Lamberts Mill Road, South of entrance to Tamaques Park ) . Didn’t purchase a permit this year?  No worries!  Residents do not need a permit to use the conservation center to get rid of their trees. Just be sure that all ornaments and tinsel are removed, and that your tree is NOT placed in a bag of any kind.

It that solution doesn’t work for you, try calling your waste management company.  Many of them offer tree pick up for a nominal fee.

And once that’s taken care of, you can turn your attention to vacuuming up those pine needles.  For the next 11 months.

 

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A Crafty Christmas in Westfield and Cranford NJ

Laura Ingalls and all of the folks from Little House on the Prairie really knew how to do Christmas right.  They didn’t fight for a parking space for their horse and buggy, and elbow their way around the crowds in the general store.  (Harriet Olson would never have allowed that kind of behavior, anyway.)  Their gift exchanges were meaningful, well thought out, and hand-made.  And your family’s can be, too.  This year’s Annual Winter Wonderland Craft Fair by the Westfield High School Key Club will take place from 10:00 – 1:00 on Saturday, December 14th at Cafeteria B in Westfield High School at 550 Dorian Road.  Admission for children is $10, and includes an exciting morning of holiday crafts, food, and carnival games.  Kids can make the perfect crafts for a homemade gift this holiday season! Imagine how good that would feel to the kids, as well as to those they are creating the gifts for.

Don’t want to make them yourself, but still looking for that unique feel to your gifts?  The Cranford United Methodist Church will sponsor its 3rd annual Christmas Holiday Shoppe on that very same day, from 10:00 AM- 3:00 PM, at the CUMC at 201 Lincoln Ave., on the corner of Walnut and Lincoln Aves. Vendors are offering a large variety of beautiful, creative merchandise for all ages, so that you can find something for everyone on your shopping list.   Lunch will also be available for purchase . . . . without the frustrating mall food court fiasco.

And also unlike the mall, there is plenty of parking at both venues, no annoying crowds, and a wide variety of unique, hand-made items to give to those you care about.  The venues are local, the gifts will be meaningful, and you will be mall-free!  Now THAT makes for happy holiday gift-giving!

 

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Timely Snow Shoveling Tips

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If you are one of those homeowners who smile upon waking up and seeing snow outside your window, and leap outdoors with a spring in your step to shovel your steps, walkway, and driveway with a song on your lips . . . . well, GOOD FOR YOU.  (grumble implied)  Most of us don’t really approach the whole snow thing from that angle.  For us, the white stuff is a necessary evil we choose to occasionally deal with in trade for living in the area that we do.   While some hum a happy tune, others of us grumble and use our “language enhancers” as we scrape the car, shovel the sidewalk, and gesture impolitely at the snowplows that deposit mountains of snow into the mouth of the driveway we just finished clearing out.  Well, suck it up, people.  It’s your home.  It’s your driveway.  It’s your front steps.  Are you gonna let a little frozen water get the better of you?  No, you’re not!  Why not?  Because you are a HOMEOWNER, dang it, and you are more powerful that the flakes!

Now that we have that straightened away, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you are tackling the task safely, according to the National Safety Council . . .

Snow shoveling is outstanding exercise, which is good.  But maybe NOT so good for those who do not normally DO any exercise.  Those who are typically more inactive should be especially careful when approaching the snow shoveling job.  And those who are older, or have a history of heart trouble, or are in any way frail . . . . don’t do it.  Pay a neighbor’s kid to do it for you . . . make them just as happy as you are making yourself.

Do NOT shovel right after eating , and no smoking right before, during, or after shoveling.

Dress warmly, and remember that extremities, such as the nose, ears, hands and feet, need extra attention during winter’s cold.  And put those cute little Old Navy dollar-a-pair gloves away for this job.  Use waterproof gloves and boots.

No matter how worried you may be about being late for work, take it slowly!  Shoveling,  much like lifting weights, can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically, so pace yourself.

Be absolutely sure to stretch out and warm up before and after the job, and do NOT skip this very important step!  It can absolutely make all the difference in how your body and muscles feel a few hours later.

Shoveling fresh snow is always easier than shoveling wet, packed down snow, so consider shoveling at intervals rather than waiting for all of the snow to finish falling.    Push the snow as you shovel. It’s easier on your back than lifting the snow out of the way. And don’t pick up too much at once. Use a small shovel, or fill only half of a large one at a time.    Lift with your legs bent, and keep your back straight. By bending and “sitting” into the movement, you’ll keep your spine upright and less stressed, and give yourself a great squat workout. Let your shoulders, torso and thighs can do the work for you.

Do not work to the point of exhaustion. Take breaks in between.  And don’t be a foolish hero.  If your breathing gets difficult, or you experience chest pains, for the love of God, STOP IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!  Lest the children use your prone body as a fort for their snowball fight.

Got kids?  Then you’ve got your own snow-removal minions.  Even if they are very young, and if their help isn’t necessarily . . . . helpful . . . . they can still work in your favor.  Make it a FUN activity.  What could siblings possibly love more than using snow shovels to throw snow at each other?  Just set some boundaries for the game.  Your opponent must be standing ON the lawn in order for you to throw snow at them, to avoid more snow being placed on walkways being shoveled.  He or she who makes their sibling cry in discomfort from snow being thrust into an ear or down into the inside of a jacket is required to finish the rest of the shoveling on their own.  While loudly singing “Let It Snow.”  Use parental creativity.  Amuse yourself.

Approach the task with your glass half full.  Shoveling is excellent exercise, which works the legs, arms, shoulders, and core.  Free workout.  And despite your nose dripping icicles and your toes burning with the beginnings of frostbite, DO take a minute . . . just a minute . . . to stop, look around, and get a little perspective.  Snow IS pretty.  There are people around the world who have the snow experience on their bucket list, and may never actually get an opportunity to see it.  As annoying as it can logistically be, it is a beautiful, peaceful, miracle of nature.  Enjoy it for just that one minute.  Then pick up your shovel, head to the mouth of your driveway, and get ready.  The snowplow is heading down your street again.

 

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