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Why You Need A Mortgage Pre-Approval, and How To Avoid Being Declined

Understanding Mortgage Pre-approvals and How to Avoid Being Declined for One

The mortgage process is a long and complicated one, with a number of similar-sounding terms that can easily confuse first-time homebuyers. A pre-approval is not the same thing as a pre-qualification, and it’s important to understand everything that goes into a pre-approval. Being declined during the pre-approval process means the lender can not give you a loan to buy a home at this time. It’s important that you know what the process is going to look like before going into it, and to have the pre-approval before finding the perfect property.

How does a pre-approval work, and how can you make sure you won’t be declined? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?

A mortgage pre-approval should be the first step of the home buying process. Being pre-approved means you have a preliminary loan commitment from a mortgage lender. A pre-approval isn’t necessarily a guarantee that you’ll get a mortgage, but rather, a statement that if all goes according to plan, your lender will most likely issue a mortgage to you.

Pre-approvals can make the mortgage process shorter and easier, but they’re not legally binding. You are not obligated to take out a loan with a particular lender, just because they pre-approved you. If you shop around and find a better mortgage through different lender, you are welcome to use that lender instead.

What Do You Need To Be Pre-Approved?

In order to be pre-approved, your lender will need to evaluate your finances and your ability to pay for your mortgage. You’ll want to meet with your lender and provide them with bank and creditor documents that clearly show your income, your assets, and your debts. You can expect your lender to run a credit check in order to determine your employment status and verify that you’ve accurately reported your finances.

If you meet your lender’s criteria, you’ll receive a commitment letter that states what size of a mortgage your lender is willing to give you. (This is useful for narrowing your home search.)

Red Flags: Sure Signs That You May Be Declined

You can be declined for a mortgage pre-approval for any number of reasons. If you have a poor credit score, a high debt-to-income ratio, or a low or unstable income, you likely won’t meet the lender’s minimum borrower requirements – and you’ll be declined. To avoid being declined for a pre-approval, you’ll want to ensure you always pay your bills on time, pay down your debts, or boost your income.

What Happens If You Can’t Get A Pre-Approval At This Time?

It happens sometimes. Rather than believing you’ll never be able to buy a home, you can work with a great lender who will let you know what steps you can take to improve your credit and debt-to-income ratio, to put you on the path to home ownership. Sometimes it takes a little time, but at the end, the hard work is worth it.

If you’d like more information about the home buying process, or a referral to a mortgage lender, contact us today!

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The Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates



@wahlberggroup, #wahlberggroup


Home Decor Trends

What Are the Hot Home Décor Trends?

home decor psJust like fashion designs and hair styles, home décor trends are constantly changing and evolving. Each new season brings a new must-have feature for your home. In order to keep your home looking fresh and chic, what are the hot trends that you can incorporate into your décor?

Bright Colors

Vibrant (and even neon) hues are very popular in fashion at the moment. If you are looking for a way to freshen up a dull room, a bright pop of color can really do the trick. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you keep the rest of the room neutral and use the bright color as an accent.

Vintage Inspired Designs

Long Beach is well known for historical homes. If you have a historical home, why not embrace the home’s style and incorporate some gorgeous Art Deco, Spanish, or Arts and Crafts decoration? You can add a touch of vintage decor to any style home – check out the Long Beach Antique and Flea Market on the third Sunday of every month at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach for some great ideas and inspiration.

Stripes and Graphic Prints

Crisp patterns, graphic prints and stripes are popular at the moment in everything from fabrics to wallpaper to furniture. If you really want to make your home décor look cutting edge, incorporate some of these eye-popping graphic designs into your décor.

These are just a few of the hottest home décor trends for the year. Which ones will you incorporate into the décor of your home?

For more information about home ownership, feel free to contact us at any time by calling 800-596-0178 or emailing

Remember…we’re never too busy for any of your referrals!

W. square logoThe Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates

(800) 596-0178



Why Is A Home Inspection So Important?

Should I Pay For A Home Inspection?

brick houseWhen you buy a home, it’s important to know exactly what you’re buying. Imagine how frustrated you’d be to find out that the hot water heater wasn’t working—in the middle of a shower! This is why you should have a home inspection before you buy your home. A home inspection is an important part of buying your home, and if you don’t know where to find one, we are always happy to refer you to inspectors we have used in the past. However, before you choose a home inspector, you may want to ask a few questions.

  1. 1. What does your inspection cover? Not all inspections are the same. Ask for copies of previous home inspections so you can see exactly what they will check inside the home. If you are concerned about something specific you noticed during your home tour, like a leaky faucet in the bathroom, mention that to the inspector so they can check it out.
  2. Are you licensed or certified? If you live in a state that licenses home inspectors, ask to see their license. At the very least, choose a home inspector who belongs to an association like American Society of Home Inspectors. This shows a level of professionalism and education that you can trust.
  3. What kind of report will you give me? You should expect a written report detailing what the inspector found. Most inspectors will give you a report within a few days of the inspection, often this will be delivered via email, and your agent will be copied. Make sure the inspector will be available to explain anything on the report that doesn’t make sense to you.
  4. Will I be able to attend the inspection? If the inspector refuses to let you be present during the home inspection, find someone else. Your inspection may be coordinated by your agent, and if you cannot be present, your agent should provide you with notes after the inspection. This is your chance to know exactly what you are buying and what potential repairs you or the seller will have to make.

As your real estate agents, we will guide you through the home buying process. Let us help you find your new Southern California home. Contact us at

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Keller Williams Pacific Estates



Should I Remodel my Bathroom Before Selling?

Should You Remodel Your Bathroom Before Your House Goes On The Market?

It Depends.

Before you make a decision about remodeling, go into your bathroom right now and take a hard look at it. How clean does it really look? Bathrooms take lots of abuse, most of them are used many times daily, and it’s easy for mildew, soap scum, and calcium deposits to ruin fixtures – even if you clean fairly often. We always advice our clients based on how their house will need to be marketed. If the house is pretty much a fixer-upper all throughout, we wouldn’t bother with updating a bathroom. If the rest of your house is in great shape, but the bathroom hasn’t been touched in 10 years or more  – it may be time for an update.

How much should I do?

If your house has a new kitchen (less than 5 years old), buyers will expect the bathrooms to be newer as well. If the rest of your house hasn’t been updated in the last few years, a more gentle facelift may be appropriate.

As always, budget is the real barometer of how much you can really do to improve a dated bathroom. If you have a decent amount of money to spend and can afford to completely remodel the bathroom – go ahead and do so, but do keep in mind:

Neutral is better for resale

Quality installation is more important than expensive fixtures. Make sure to budget for a good installer – poorly set tiles are probably going to be ripped out by the new buyer – regardless of how expensive they were.

A new bathroom may help you market your house, and may help you get a better price from a buyer, but you are not guaranteed to get back every penny you spend on a  remodel.

If you have very little to spend:

Let’s face it, most of us are on a pretty tight budget. Here’s a few things you can do to help your bathroom without spending a lot of money.

file861254098541Deep clean the bathroom – removing all traces of soap scum, lime scale, and mildew. Really get the place to sparkle

How does the floor look? If you have very dated vinyl flooring – you should probably do something about it. New vinyl sheet flooring is a low cost option that will give you a fresh look if new tile floors are out of the budget.

Paint the walls in a light neutral color in quality semi-gloss paint, and paint the trim white.

If the cabinets are old, but in otherwise good shape, paint them a fresh white, off-white, or another simple neutral color. If they are made of real wood (not laminate), you could also sand and stain them a darker color.

If there’s yellow brass hardware – get rid of it! If you can’t afford to replace it, hide it! Remove the hardware, clean thoroughly and spray paint with Rustoleum in an oil rubbed bronze color. (Silver spray paint never quite looks right) This also works on ugly brass lighting fixtures.  Make sure all the hardware match (knobs, pulls, towel racks, etc.)

If you have a little more to spend for staging:

If there’s a shower curtain – get a brand new one in white or a neutral color (beige, tan, etc.) and some fresh white towels for staging.

white_towelsInvest in a new matching faucet and shower fixtures

Make sure there is a nice, bright lighting fixture over the vanity that is complimentary to the rest of the bathroom.

If the mirror or medicine cabinet is old/rusty/ugly – replace it.

Add some decor in the way of a basket of linens, soap dispenser, and guest towels.

Here’s a great video tutorial on how to fold and display towels beautifully.

Check out PinkSoFoxy’s other videos for some great organization tips.

 Final tips for bathroom staging:

A place for everything, and everything in its place. A typical staging mistake we see is people inadvertently making the house look like there isn’t enough storage by leaving things sitting on the counters. If it doesn’t look like you have room for your toiletries in the cabinets, buyers will assume there isn’t enough storage for theirs either.

Always Always Always! Keep the toilet lid closed. Nobody wants to see the inside of the bowl, ever.

Don’t leave wet bath towels out during showings. Imagine drying your hands on a stranger’s moist bath towel – keep the “guest towels” fresh and dry and put your wet bath towels in the hamper.

Make sure the sink and mirror are clear of toothpaste and water spots.

Try using a little Pledge or furniture polish on shiny fixtures to make them gleam.

Stay on top of keeping the bathroom looking perfect for last minute showings. Spend two minutes every morning after you’re finished getting ready to put everything away and wipe down the sink, faucets, and toilet.


We are happy to advise our clients on what their house may need before going on the market. If you live in the Long Beach, Orange County, South Bay, or Pasadena areas,  Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

W. logoThe Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates




How To Improve Curb Appeal for Real Estate

How To Improve Curb Appeal for Real Estate

When looking at houses, buyers often make up their mind about a property before they even get out of the car. Improving the curb appeal of your home will really help with the crucial “first impression”.

file4001347376082You can see from this photo that the house looks inviting and friendly. The flowers are all blooming and alive, the grass is green, the walkway is clear, and there’s a welcoming feel to the porch. This house has an overall impression of being well-cared for.

Your house doesn’t have to look exactly like this, but this gives a great example of what you need to take care of before putting your house on the market.

Take Care of Deferred Maintenance

Deferred maintenance refers to all those things you meant to take care of but never “got around to”. Chipping or peeling paint, dead or overgrown landscaping, and broken things are all examples of deferred maintenance – file000448367017which seen from the street give a dilapidated feel to an otherwise perfectly good house.

I know most sellers balk at the idea of fixing the house up for someone else to buy, but letting buyers know you took great care of the house will can really pay off when you decide to sell.

If your house needs painted, Benjamin Moore has a great page about creating curb appeal with beautiful exterior paint schemes for different style houses. This really helps take the guess work out of choosing new paint colors.

Take Care of your Landscape

Brown grass and overgrown plants are a big no-no when it comes to curb appeal. We want to see manicured gardens and lots of color.

Trim back those hedges, weed the flower beds, and plant some colorful flowers. (Yellow flowers are rumored to have very good Feng file4761267492978Shui for selling houses.)

When those flower beds are all planted – put down some natural mulch or bark over the dirt for a finished look. DON’T use colored bark – it looks artificial and detracts from the beauty of the plants.

If you have a lawn, mow and edge it (or hire someone to do it), and get it green with watering and/or fertilizing.

Sweep or rake all leaves from the lawn and walkway.

The Front Porch

There is a delicate balance to creating a welcoming front porch. Keep in mind the color and style of your house and choose something complimentary. Traditional homes front porchlook beautiful with wicker, rocking chairs, and porch swings, whereas modern homes might need something more streamlined and simple.

When choosing furniture and accessories, make sure the color doesn’t clash with the house and stick with a harmonious color scheme such as in this photo. Make sure not to overdo the furniture or decorations, a simple chair, or even a potted plant and a new welcome mat will go a long way.

Make sure your house numbers are neat and easily visible from the street.

Make sure your porch light works nicely and the shade is free of spiderwebs and dead bugs… yuck.

Summer 2005 074Adding a pot of flowers by the door is a nice touch; has some great container garden ideas that show which plants look beautiful together.

Make sure the porch is always clean, the furniture and cushions are dusted regularly, and don’t allow any clutter to accumulate. If you leave your shoes at the front door, make sure they’re in a cabinet, basket, or are otherwise organized.


We are happy to advise our clients on what their house may need before going on the market. If you’re in the Long Beach, Pasadena, or Orange County areas, and are thinking about selling, contact us for a free market and home consultation.

Hopefully, by following these simple steps, we can help make a potential buyer fall in love with your house before they even step through the door.

If you have any other ideas about how to improve curb appeal for real estate, please comment below!

W. logoThe Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates





Should I Remodel My Kitchen Before Selling?

Do I Need To Remodel My Kitchen Before Selling?

Kitchens are often described as the heart of the home, and home buyers like to find a house with a beautiful kitchen. However, it’s a room that can see a lot of abuse over the years – leaving stains from cooking splatters, chipped cabinets, and grimy grout.

stockvault-kitchen131057If your kitchen is very out-dated, and you have room in the budget, updating your kitchen may be a great idea to help your house appeal to potential buyers. But, paying for a complete kitchen remodel right before selling may not be in your best interest. Not only is it a bear to live through a kitchen remodel, it can be quite expensive (on average about $50,000), the style you choose may not be something a new buyer will like, and there’s no guarantee you will regain the cost of a remodel from the sale. Thankfully, most houses don’t require a large remodel, and often a light kitchen facelift is all that is needed.


For a harmonious look, any home improvements should honor the style of the house. Double check that any improvements you do inside the house are in keeping with the style on the outside, whether it is ranch, spanish, modern, or traditional.  That being said, if you are remodeling a kitchen for resale, please don’t do anything too stylized. This is not the time to add an expensive mosaic mural or a bright red stove. Think friendly-for-all style with soft neutral colors and quality workmanship. You are not designing a new kitchen for yourself, but rather cleaning up an existing kitchen to appeal to buyers.

A Note On Workmanship:

Make sure whoever is installing tile is good at it; there is nothing so sad as beautiful travertine tiles installed badly – the new buyer will know they will have to tear it out, so they’re not likely to be impressed, no matter how expensive the tiles are. In fact, we have seen buyers pass on a house with a brand new kitchen just because they felt guilty about having to rip out the expensive but poorly installed materials.  Less expensive materials installed beautifully is preferable to expensive materials installed poorly. If you are getting quotes from installers, get more than one quote and ask to see their work IN PERSON. Just because they say they can do something doesn’t mean they can do it well.


stockvault-kitchen-counter-and-stove131053The stainless steel appliance trend is still going strong, and many home buyers hope or expect to find stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. If you have an avocado green stove, or the dishwasher doesn’t work, it may be time to replace. Stainless steel is not mandatory, but newer (less than 5 years old), sparkling clean appliances that work properly are a must for most buyers. Think of it this way: buyers are already spending quite a lot of money on purchasing the home; they will not want to spend more money on appliances right away. Their reserves are most likely being tapped out with the down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses.


If your cabinets are sound and the layout is alright, you can save on the cost of new cabinetry. If you have dated oak cabinets from the 70’s or 80’s

From Retro Renovation

From Retro Renovation

(or even the 90’s), painting them and adding new knobs can give your kitchen a fresh, clean    look. There is a great before and after at Retro Rennovation on painting 80’s laminate cabinets. White is classic and universally appealing, but there numerous soft colors that can look great too, such as pale buttery yellow or dove grey. Look at the beautiful kitchen palettes available at Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore for inspiration. Always remember to take doors and hardware off before starting. Scrub the doors and drawer fronts with some de-greaser to remove the layers of food and finger grime before lightly sanding. A good coat of primer is essential to make the paint stick properly. Paint the cabinets with two to three thin coats of paint, lightly sanding between each coat for a smooth look.


In most cases, there is no need to install expensive granite slab countertops prior to resale. There are many other interesting and less expensive options that can give your kitchen an updated look, such as quartz, tile, recycled glass, laminte, or butcher block. Caesarstone has many beautiful colors available. Granite Transformations can install granite or recycled glass veneer over your existing countertops without needing to demo. There’s no need to break the bank on countertops as long as they are clean, neutral colored, and scratch-free.


Spray bottleGetting the house ready to sell is a perfect time to really make sure everything is in good shape. It’s really easy to overlook the small imperfections when we live in a house day after day, but a potential buyer will see them.  This is when the details really count. Look at your sink, is it scratched and stained? Is the caulk discolored or dirty looking? Is there grout missing or discolored on your counters, backsplash, or floors? Are your baseboards scuffed or dusty? Is there a layer of finger grime on the light switch? Is there a dead moth in the light fixture? Are there cobwebs in the corners? Can you see through the windows? Are the air vents dirty? How about those mini-blinds?

If you don’t have time or are unable to deep-clean your house, hiring a professional to clean right before the house goes on the market will really help with the appeal to potential buyers. Many carpet cleaning companies, such as Coit, offer other cleaning services as well, such as furniture, upholstery, wood floor cleaning, and tile and grout cleaning. Getting your tiles and grout professionally cleaned will make a world of difference and may save you the cost of replacement. 


We are happy to advise our clients on what their house may need before going on the market. If you’re in the Long Beach or Orange County areas and are thinking about selling, contact us for a free market and home consultation.

W. logoThe Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates


How To Store Holiday Decorations

How To Store Holiday Decorations So They Look Good Next Year…

photogen_cef306Okay, the new year is about to start, so we should probably start thinking about taking down the Christmas decorations… unless you want to be that house with the Christmas lights and melted inflatable snowman on your lawn for St. Patrick’s Day… in which case, you can stop reading now. For the rest of us, it’s probably time to figure out how to store those decorations for next year. Un-decorating the house isn’t as much fun as decorating the house for the holidays, so I’m sharing some tricks and tips to help make the process go as quickly as possible.

Storing An Artificial Tree

Getting the artificial tree back into the box is quite difficult, and it usually comes out looking a little worse for wear each year you pull it out. Storing the tree properly can help you preserve it for years to come.

In order to get the tree into a box, bag, or container, you will need to “de-fluff’ the tree. After removing all the ornaments, it’s time to fold up the tree. I like to wear rubber dishwashing gloves to protect my hands and cuticles from the abrasive fibers of the tree. Starting from the top, remove the top section and gently press each branch section up towards the top of the tree, compressing the form into a smaller shape. Repeat this process for each section of the tree. until all the sections are gently compressed upward. I like to use a piece of twine, or even a bungee cord tied around the sections to hold the branches in position, which makes getting the tree into a storage container easier. 

I use large, clear storage containers, so it’s immediately evident what is in each box. However, there are these great Tree Keeper storage bags that you don’t even need to “de-fluff” the tree first, just slip it around your tree – lights and all and haul it to the garage or attic.

Storing Christmas Lights

Untangling the lights is the least favorite part of the holiday decorating process, so using a little forethought can prevent hours of untangling next year. I find it’s best to keep each strand of lights separate for storage. There are all kinds of specialty light storage reels available, but you can use something as simple as a piece of cardboard and a plastic grocery bag to keep lights organized.

Plug in the light strands and make sure they are working before storage, if they’re not working, and replacing the burned out bulb doesn’t work — it’s time to throw the strand away. Wrap one working light strand around a piece of cardboard and place inside a plastic grocery bag — tie it up and repeat. Putting the lights into individual bags will prevent the strands from tangling with each other. Each tied up bag of lights can go inside your light storage box, and you will have working, tangle-free lights next year.

Storing Ornaments

christmas decorationWe all want our ornaments, especially the fragile glass or keepsake ornaments to look perfect year after year. This is another great use for clear storage containers – so you know which ornaments are in which box. There are also specialty ornament storage boxes, such as these boxes from Container Store, that will hold the ornaments neatly. One simple way is to store in layers, place crumpled newspaper, or even used wrapping paper on the bottom of the box, and place ornaments of like-kind (all the red balls, gold bells, etc.) in a layer, cover with another layer of crumpled paper, and do the next layer. Tape a piece of paper to the box – indicating which ornaments are inside, and keep going until everything is stored.

Editing Your Decorations

Over the years, it’s easy to accumulate a large amount of holiday decorations – causing us to store more items than we will likely use. This is the time of year to evaluate all the holiday decorations in your garage and determine if they are still useful and wanted.

If there are broken items that you haven’t repaired and have been taking up room for a few years, you should consider letting them go.

If there are nice decorations that you haven’t been using, a great idea is to put them together in one place so they can be easily donated to a charity at the beginning of next holiday season. Your unused decorations could brighten the holidays for a family in need next year.

After you’ve edited the unnecessary items, it’s easier to store your decorations neatly. You could even get really organized and arrange the boxes by holiday, so all the Halloween items are separated from Christmas and 4th of July.

Do you have any great holiday decoration storage ideas? Feel free to share!

W. logoThe Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates


How To Light A Christmas Tree Like A Pro – and Holiday Lights Safety

How To Light Your Christmas Tree Like A Pro

file000951277203Christmas is in a few weeks, so many of us are running out to get our Christmas trees – whether from the tree lot, the hardware store, or the garage. If your tree isn’t pre-lit, you’re probably going to want to string lights on it. I learned several years ago from professional Christmas tree decorators the best way to light trees so the ornaments are highlighted beautifully.

How many lights do I need for my tree?

The rule of thumb for me is 100 lights per foot the tree is tall. If your tree is 7 feet tall, you will want 7 strands of 100 lights. This is where some safety issues come into play: Check the box for the manufacturer’s recommendation for how many strands of lights you can string together. If they say not to connect more than 3, you will need to get a power-bar to put at the base of the tree (which isn’t a bad idea anyway), and string 3 lights together, and start the next string of 3 from power bar. If you ignore this advice, you run the risk of burning out the fuses on the lights and ending up with half your tree going out.

Lighting the tree:

This is very important… always work with the lights plugged in. Plug in your lights as you add them to the tree. You will know right away if the strand isn’t working, and not have to undo all the work you’re about to do.

To begin – start at the base of the tree on the lowest row of branches. Start with one branch and weave the lights starting from the trunk out to the end of the branch and back again. Move to the next branch (I go clockwise on the bottom row)  and do it again. Keep doing this on each and every branch until you’ve finished the bottom row.

To start the next row – go up to the branch above the one you just finished, and do the same weaving thing, going in the opposite direction (or in this case – counter clockwise). The idea is to zig-zag the lights up the tree rather than having to walk around the tree in circles – which  makes taking the lights off after the holidays easier.

Lightinng the entire branch from the trunk to the tip will illuminate the tree on the inside as well as the outside. This gives you more places to hang ornaments and tuck picks, ribbons, and bows.

If you’re working with an artificial tree that disassembles into sections, you can save your lighting work for next year carefully placing the  plugs at the sections with zip ties – so you can easily disassemble and re-assemble the tree next year.

Decorating the tree:

If you look at a  professionally decorated christmas tree, there are ornaments both hanging on the tips of the branches and hanging on the inside of the tree between the branches. The spaces between branches are also great places to tuck bows, artificial flowers, or picks of glittery berries.

Don’t feel limited on tree toppers – it doesn’t necessarily need to be a star or an angel. There are many items or combinations of items  that make exciting tree toppers such as flowers, big  bows, teddy bears, dolls, musical instruments, cooking utensils… or really anything that you love relating to a hobbies or interests.

Holiday Lights Safety:

I’m sure we’re all aware that leaving Christmas lights on unattended is a horrible idea. This is especially true with real trees – that drying piece of kindling in your living room with the lights and ornaments. When you leave the house or go to bed, please unplug your tree.

light timer


Always read the labels on your boxes of Christmas lights  to make sure not to string too many lights together on one plug. They make fantastic holiday light plug “stations”, like this one from Lowes, that can hold several plugs and have timers – these are great for the outdoor lights.

Never use a staple gun to hang lights – it’s just not a great idea. There are many different clips on the market that are easier, safer, and reusable.

Happy Holidays!

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Keller Williams Pacific Estates


What Temperature Should A Cooked Turkey Be?

Turkey Dinner Food Safety

1133558737-11847 (1)Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, so I thought I’d take a minute to share about Food Safety in the home. Thanksgiving Turkey dinners (or any holiday meal) often has the home cook busy trying to make several different recipes at the same time, making it easy to overlook Time-Temperature Sensitive* food, which can result in much more than post-meal indigestion.

**Time-Temperature Sensitive foods are foods in which, given enough time at the wrong temperatures (between 41-135 degrees), bacteria will grow very rapidly.  This is including items such as meat, dairy, baked potatoes, cut melons, sprouts, and even cooked grains like rice. After cooking, these foods would normally need to be thrown away after sitting out at room temperature more than 4 hours. **



My best piece of advice when it comes to kitchen safety: Get A Kitchen Thermometer! It also may be called a food probe. If you don’t have one, pick up an instant read kitchen thermometer at the store. This simple one from Target is inexpensive and will help you determine if the temperature of your food is hot or cold enough for safety reasons.

If you have a kitchen thermometer, you can make sure it’s calibrated correctly by holding the stem in a pot of boiling water. If the thermometer reads 212 degrees, you’re good to go.

So, what temperature should the turkey be?

That’s a good question with only 2 correct answers: Turkeys should either be 41 degrees or lower, or 165 degrees or higher. 41 is refrigerated temperature, and 165 is cooked. Ideally, the turkey should spend as little time as possible between those two numbers.

Don’t rely on the little button thingy in many turkey breasts to tell if your turkey is cooked enough. Simply insert the thermometer into the inside of the turkey thigh (not touching the bone) at least up to the “dimple” on the thermometer stem. If it reads 165 degrees (quickly), your turkey should be done. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving so the heat can re-distribute and the meat is nice and juicy. Also your hands might not get as scalded during the carving process.

Speaking of carving, here is an excellent carving video from The New York Times dining and wine. You should also check out their feature about Essential Thanksgiving.

Thawing a Turkey Safely

Let’s talk about Thawing a Frozen Turkey – or any other large meat item, for that matter. The best and safest method for thawing a frozen turkey is in a tray or pan, in the refrigerator for a few days. If you forgot to put the turkey in the fridge a few days early, the next safest way to thaw the bird is to put it in a pan, in the sink, under cold running water until thawed, then cook right away. This may take a while, but I can admit to having to do this to an under-thawed turkey on Thanksgiving morning. DO NOT – under any circumstances – leave a turkey sitting on the counter to thaw. This is extremely dangerous and can get people very sick – which I’m sure they will not appreciate.

Basic rule of thumb: If any of the items in your dish need refrigerated under normal circumstances (eggs, butter, milk, sausage, etc.), keep it in the fridge unless you are about to cook it.

Serving, Holding, and Storing the meal

If your family likes to set out the Thanksgiving meal and graze for a few hours, you may want to invest in some “crockpots” or steam tables to keep the hot food at safe temperatures (over 135 degrees, remember).

Once the hungry masses have had their fill, promptly seal the food into appropriate, air tight containers, and get everything back into the fridge as soon as possible. If the food has sat around at room temperature for 4 hours, it will be safer to toss it rather than store it.

To sum up: Don’t let the raw food sit out too long; make sure you cook the food to the correct temperature; and don’t let the cooked food sit out too long.

We hope you have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.

W. logoThe Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates


How Do You Fit Everyone In Your House For A Holiday Dinner?

How To Make Room for Everyone at Holiday Dinners

DSCN0046When shopping for a home, most of us didn’t find a house with an enormous formal dining room for a table that can comfortably fit 20 people. It’s never fun to be exiled to a different room due to lack of space – or even worse – be given a seat at the dreaded “kids’ table”. So, where do you fit everyone? The key is flexibility. I’ve found some great ideas for making extra room for holiday dinners.

Seasoned entertainers often have some extra folding tables and chairs in storage for this occasion, but if you don’t, one simple idea is to rent some extra seating from a party supply. They usually drop them off the day before and pick them up the day after, so it’s really easy. The one I use is Coast Party Rentals in Los Alamitos, CA. They have several table and chair options and I sometimes rent table cloths and cloth napkins so all the tables match (at the end of the meal, simply toss the soiled linens in a bag and let the rental company worry about washing them). You can even rent plates, glasses, and flatware if you need to. 

You could always switch your living room and dining room around for one day to allow for more table space. Another idea is to stash your living room furniture in the garage, or use it to create extra seating on the patio or family room,  to create one large empty space. **note: re-arrange your house a day or two ahead of time – not Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. It allows you extra time to figure out where everything goes, and let’s the dust settle from any disagreements that may happen during the process. (At least in my house)**

In My Own Style has a great tutorial on building a plywood topper for your regular dining table to make a temporarily larger table.

From In My Own Style

From In My Own Style

plywood topper

From In My Own Style

This is a great idea if you need a few extra seats for holidays and birthday parties, but don’t have the space for a huge table year-round.

Our weather is not usually very cold in Southern California, in fact we often get to wear shorts and barbeque our turkey on Thanksgiving; so we sometimes set up an al fresco dining room on the patio for large get-togethers. You can rent a patio heater or two from a party supply and set out a basket of lap blankets for those that might get chilled in the evening. Adding plenty of twinkle lights overhead, candles, and some soft music can make this option very charming and doesn’t require you to re-arrange your house.

Here are a few last tidbits to help with having lots of people in your home:

Set up a drink station and a food station out of the way. Our kitchen is the heart of our home, but several people gathered in the walkway sipping cocktails and eating cheese can make it impossible to get through and/or finish cooking the meal. This is not only a nuisance, but it can be downright dangerous with hot pans and knife weilding going on. I learned to set up my food and beverage tables in the dining area or living room to encourage mingling and to keep the kitchen area clear.

Here are some great ideas on BuzzFeed for creative drink stations

crow bean bag


Have an outdoor activity for kids to do. Lawn bowling, croquet sets, bean bag tossing, or coloring books are good ideas. Giving kids something to do prevents them from running around in the busy kitchen area, and helps keep fewer bodies in the house until mealtime. has a tutorial on making a quick Crow and Corn bean bag toss game for the kids.

Do you have any great ideas for how to fit a large crowd in your house? Feel free to share.

W. logoCoralyn Wahlberg

The Wahlberg Group

Keller Williams Pacific Estates


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