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HOLIDAY RECIPE: SUPER SOFT SUGAR COOKIES WITH EASY ICING

HOLIDAY RECIPE: SUPER SOFT SUGAR COOKIES WITH EASY ICING

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (www.sallybakingaddiction.com)

INGREDIENTS

Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract(optional, but makes the flavor outstanding)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour(spoon and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Easy Icing

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup*
  • 2 – 2.5 Tablespoons (30-38ml) room temperature water
  • pinch salt*

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Make sure you have allotted enough time (and enough counter space!) to make these cookies. The cookie dough needs to chill, the cookies need to cool completely, and the icing needs 24 hours to completely harden. If enjoying right away and hardened icing isn’t a concern, you’ll only need about 4 hours to make these.
  2. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days. Chilling is mandatory.
  5. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. No need to cover the cookies as the cookies cool.
  7. For the icing, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. It should be quite thick. If it is much too thick, add 1/2 Tablespoon more water. If it is much too thin, add 2 more Tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar. If you drizzle a little of the icing with the whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it’s the right consistency and is ready to use. If desired, add liquid or gel food coloring. You can pour some icing into different bowls if using multiple colors. If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  8. Decorate the cooled cookies however you’d like. Squeeze bottlesmake decorating so easy. You may enjoy right away or you can wait 24 hours for the icing to set and harden– no need to cover the cookies as the icing sets. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature and up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
Packages, Gifts, Security, Oh My!

Packages, Gifts, Security, Oh My!

With the holidays comes packages!  We’ve all seen those doorbell videos of package thieves grabbing your gifts.  Just like kids, these thieves look forward to the holidays. Unattended packages on doorsteps are an irresistible temptation, and many communities struggle with crime during the holidays. The association itself is not responsible for delivered package, yet individual homeowners can play a part in protecting the community.
These tips may help reduce crime in your association:
  • Deliver to work/friend/neighbor. Utilize different delivery options during the holiday season. Have packages delivered where someone can accept them, or require a signature.
  • Delivery instructions. FedEx and UPS drivers will often honor requests to place packages behind a gate, shrub, or other location; contact your carrier to find out the options.
  • Track packages. Package tracking has come a long way, you can often receive a text message when their package is delivered.

Standard security options such as cameras and HOA funded patrols may help but, as we’ve seen on those videos, sometimes they do not.  In addition, frequent security patrols can be very expensive, may not be in the association’s budget and, ultimately, impact dues. One main deterrent is a strong community.

Strong communities can reduce crime. Owners who know their neighbors are more likely to report suspicious behavior. If you haven’t already, during this holiday season and beyond, get to know your neighbors.  It’s all about community!

Snow Contracts and Expectations

Snow Contracts and Expectations

Winter in Minnesota is quickly approaching! When the white stuff starts to fall, it’s important to understand how specifications in snow contracts will affect when snow is removed from your roadways, driveways and sidewalks.

Just like snowflakes, every snow contract is unique. To better understand the nuances of your contract, check with your Board or contact Sharper Management. We are happy to share this information with you.

While unique, there are some common specifications of a snow removal contract. Some of these specifications are:

Trigger Depth – Your contract likely states an accumulation total that must be met before snow service will commence. This can be anywhere from a trace up to multiple inches. For most, it is somewhere between 1 – 2 inches. This can be one of the biggest variables in the pricing of your snow contract and the definition of “trigger depth” is important. Does your contract state that service will happen when the trigger depth has been met for a single snow event/storm, or is it vague regarding at what point trigger depth is met? There is a significant difference between the definitions. For example, you could have a winter where less than 1 inch of snow accumulates per event, but there may be many events like this in a relatively short period of days thus creating heavily packed drives in your association. Most contracts are written “by event”.

Timing – The second most important component of your contract is the time in which snow service must be completed. For most contracts, “final cleanup” is somewhere between 6 – 12 hours after the snow has stopped falling. This timeline is also subject to snow accumulation totals. The more snow received, the more time allowed for cleanup.

Open-Ups – Most contracts provide for an open-up during snowfall events that exceed a particular total. For example, if 4 -6 inches of snow depth is met, but the event has not stopped, it is common for an open up to happen. Open-ups are simply done to allow vehicles to come in and out of the community. They are not the same as a final clean up and generally consist of a single pass through the roadways with the plow. One thing to define in your snow contract is whether open-ups include driveways, or just main roadways. Typical language states that an open-up will occur prior to __AM and/or after __PM. Then the final cleanup will occur per the contract as discussed in the “timing” section above.

We realize that snow is inevitable and, while often beautiful, can create some frustrations. Knowing a bit more about how your snow contract is written may alleviate some of these frustrations over the coming months. Stay safe this winter!

Sharper Management Supports Community Organization Open Arms

Sharper Management Supports Community Organization Open Arms

Giving back to our community is one of Sharper Management’s most important core values. Each year we choose local charitable organizations to support – it’s just the right thing to do.
This year as part of the Sharper Open, an annual golf tournament held in July, we incorporated a charitable component. Recently, our Accounting Manager Todd Essig, delivered the proceeds from that event to Open Arms. Open Arms is a nonprofit that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities. Donations such as our helps Open Arms and their more than 7,600 volunteers deliver 624,000 meal to neighbors in need each year.
“We’re so happy to be able to give back to our community in this way,” states Partner and Chief Operating Officer Matt Froelich. “The work of Open Arms is an important way we can help care for those in need in our own backyard.”
Founded in 2010, Sharper Management is a locally owned, mid-sized property management company offering a full suite of premiere services to homeowner’s associations of all sizes. Sharper Management currently provides services to the Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN seven-county metro area.
For more information on Sharper Management services and employment opportunities, call 952-224-4777 or send an email to info@sharpermanagement.com.
Announcing the New Resident Center App

Announcing the New Resident Center App

Sharper Management is excited to announce the new Resident Center mobile app powered by our software system, Buildium! A new mobile app made specifically for you and your members. Resident Center is designed with simplicity in mind. Homeowners can make payments, submit maintenance requests, contact your property manager and more–with just a few taps. The features available vary based on the permissions granted, but some of the key features are:
  • One-time and recurring online dues payments
  • Maintenance requests with photo attachments
  • Announcements, texting, and other communication features
  • Ability to provide proof of insurance coverage (when required)
  • Access to governing documents
As the Board, you are also able to access the financial reports and other documents. Be sure to check it out!
October Board Training Was a Success

October Board Training Was a Success

Thank you to all those who attended our Fall Board Training on October 15. It was a great success. The topic was Insurance and Financial Basics. Eric Skarnes from Insurance Warehouse presented some great information on various insurance policies, coverages and market trends.
Did you know that Minnesota is now considered a “catastrophic state” when it comes to wind and hail storms? The June 2017 and August 2019 storms played a big role in this categorization. What does this mean for you as a Board and for the Association? It means that premiums are on the rise, deductibles are increasing and fewer carriers are staying in or entering the association insurance market. Eric mentioned we can expect increases of 3-5% per quarter in the near term! Deductibles are typically per building (and the per building values are increasing) or based on a percentage of the property value. Typical per building deductibles are $25,000 or more, and the most predominate percentage used is 2%.
Since October is Fire Prevention Month, let’s touch a bit on insurance claims due to fire. Luckily, fires are less prevalent and, therefore, not as large of a concern as far as the insurance companies are concerned. While we can expect insurance rates to rise due to cost of living increases, fire coverage is not seeing the same increases as wind and hail. Master policy deductibles for fire claims are typically $5,000 to $10,000 per occurrence, although larger associations occasionally choose higher deductibles.

Our next board training, “Board Basics: An Orientation for Board Members”, is Tuesday, January 14th at 6:00 PM.Topics covered will include:
* Defining Types of “Associations”
* Roles & Responsibilities of the Board
* Financial Fundamentals
* An Overview to Governing Documents & State Statutes
* How to Run Effective Board Meetings
* Insurance Basics
* Property Management Practices

If you are interested in reserving your spot, please email info@sharpermanagement.com
October is Fire Prevention Month

October is Fire Prevention Month

October is Fire Prevention Month. The goal is to raise awareness about fire safety and to help ensure preparation should an emergency occur. In a community association, a fire in one unit impacts more than just that unit. Often times there is smoke and/or water damage to adjacent units – especially in an apartment style condominium building. It’s also that time of year where furnaces are started up for the season and carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a concern. According to First Alert’s website:
  • 3 of every 5 home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms
  • Less than 50% of homeowners have an escape plan
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is the #1 cause of accidental death
  • 60% of consumers do not test their smoke and CO alarms monthly
  • Only 47% of people report having CO alarms in their home.
This month, consider reaching out to your members to discuss fire safety – including testing alarms, changing batteries, upgrading old alarms, and escape planning.
Need Help Renting and Managing a Townhome or Condo?

Need Help Renting and Managing a Townhome or Condo?

Think Advantage Home

A sister company to Sharper Management, Advantage Home helps homeowners and investors manage their single-family residences.

Since your Association is already affiliated with Sharper Management, renting your home through Advantage would have extra benefits you wouldn’t find in another property management company. Those benefits include:

  • A thorough understanding of Associations
  • Information sharing regarding governing documents, rules, and regulations is efficient between Sharper and Advantage Home – Advantage is literally right down the hall
  • The Sharper Management maintenance staff is already familiar with your Association’s property
  • Our emergency response team is fast and effective

If you or someone you know is interested in renting their townhome or condominium, have them contact jeff@advantagehomemn.com.

Learn more at advantagehomemn.com
Selling Your Property in an HOA

Selling Your Property in an HOA

Does the recent cut in mortgage rates have you thinking about selling your home? The lower interest rates make it a great time to be seller with potentially more buyers on the market.
While spring and summer are known as the peak times in the market, the housing market doesn’t hibernate when autumn hits. In these less frenzied months, motivated buyers and sellers tend to work toward straightforward, mutually beneficial transactions.
If you’re considering selling your home, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding selling in an HOA.
A review of the Governing Documents for your Association is a good idea to know what kind of questions may arise during the sales process. If you need an updated copy of your Governing Documents, they are typically available on your Association’s website through Sharper Management.
As the seller, you will be required to provide resale disclosure documents about your HOA. These documents contain a wealth of information for a buyer that include things like:
*    Pending litigation about the association
*    Up-to-date information about assessments
*    The Association’s financial status
*    Covenants and restrictions within the HOA
*    Any violations about the unit you are selling
*    Governing documents for the HOA
You may request resale disclosures through the Sharper Management website or visit this link directly to learn more go to https://sharpermanagement.condocerts.com/resale/
October Board Training Was a Success

Location Change for October Board Training

October Session – New Location:
Tuesday, October 15th at 6 p.m. – “Financial Fundamentals and Simplifying Insurance”
Wells Fargo Plaza, 2nd Floor Training Room at 7900 Xerxes Avenue, Bloomington, MN 55431

The location for the October 15, 2019 Board training session will be held Wells Fargo Plaza, 2nd Floor Training Room at 7900 Xerxes Avenue, Bloomington, MN 55431. If you are a board member and planning to attend, please make note of this change!

All Board members from community associations managed by Sharper are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, October 15th at 6 p.m. – “Financial Fundamentals and Simplifying Insurance”
This focused session coincides with most association’s end-of-fiscal year and insurance renewal seasons. Insurance and financials are always large and complex topics.  Led by Sharper’s two directors of community management, Candy Lee, CMCA, AMS, PCAM and Michelle Stephans, in addition to trusted insurance vendor and expert, Eric Skarnes, of Insurance Warehouse, this session will cover topics such as:

* Defining Types of Insurance Policies & How they Interact
* Insurance Claims & How They are Handled
* Market Place Update
* Basic Financial Reporting
* Understanding Operating Cashflow & Reserve Savings
* Budgeting Process & Methods
* Replacement Reserve Studies & Requirements

January 2020 Session
If you are interested in attending a training session, but are not able to make the October session, we will be holding another Board Basics training in January.

Tuesday, January 14th at 6 p.m.  – “Board Basics: An Orientation for Board Members”
This general orientation session will be led by Sharper’s two directors of community management, Candy Lee, CMCA, AMS, PCAM and Michelle Stephans. Topics covered will include:

* Defining Types of “Associations”
* Roles & Responsibilities of the Board
* Financial Fundamentals
* An Overview to Governing Documents & State Statutes
* How to Run Effective Board Meetings
* Insurance Basics
* Property Management Practices

If you are interested in reserving your spot, please email info@sharpermanagement.com