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Archive for December, 2011

What Christmas Is All About

The following article was written by the American artist, Ronald Chase, in San Francisco, California.
Manypeople are usually surprised to learn that Christ was certainly NOT born on December 25th, andin fact, scholars indicate Christ was probably born in April/May when shepherdsguard their flocks, since sheep were giving birth at that time and shepherds had toprotect them against those animals waiting to gobble them up.

No, thesignificance of late December celebrations go back much further than the birth of Christ.In fact, we don’t even know how far. But its roots are pagan, and it’s the pagan echoes ofChristmas that have been passed down to us through the centuries, and which arecelebrated yearly by a lot of people who aren’t even aware of what they are.

By the time of theearly Christians the Romans were busy celebrating December 25 as SATURNALIA, tohonor Saturn, the God of Agriculture. Festivals to the renewal of theearth had been popularfor centuries. In Greece the Greek God, ZUES, begins anew his battle against KRONOS(Time).

A religion instrong competition with Christianity during Roman times was one calledMITHRAS, a religion from India which had moved across the Middle East and hadbeen embraced by the Mediterranean world. Mithras was based on theinter-connectedness of the natural and spiritual worlds, and December 25 wascelebrated as the birthday of the unconquered Sun—the bringer of all life.The Mithras used candles, torches and bonfires as a symbol of the sun in theircelebrations, making it a festival of light. The early church passed edictsagainst them, but they continued to flourish. Finally around 350 AD Pope JuliusI declared December 25 the birth of Christ. Talk about spin. Hepulled off the greatest PR coup of all time.

In December pagansin the north also celebrated—their rituals centered around the WinterSolstice. Norsemen celebrated with bonfires and fir branches; Druids and Celtsused the symbolism of the holly and the ivy–the green (life) and the berry(blood) which survived the freezing winters. Giving gifts was an ancient customin the North. The gifts were thought to stop the evil power of witches whoroamed the countryside during that season.

The firstChristmas tree was reported in the square of Strasbourg, (Alsace, on theFrench/German border) in the early 1600s. It was decorated with fruit andflowers (pagan symbols of renewal) and reflected the use of fir in worshipceremonies dating centuries earlier.  The flowers were predominately roseswhich by that time had become a symbol of the Christ child.

The Christmas treemade its appearance in England in the 1840s  courtesy of Queen Victoria’sGerman born husband, Albert. The earliest trees were decorated with realcandles, which led to many a celebration going up in flames!

The earliestChristians were thought to be troublesome fanatics (and many probably were!).Public disapproval forced them to hold meetings in secret, and a simple Xmarked the place.  Eventually this X became synonymous with the name ofChrist, and thus, in English, took it’s place in XMAS. People now think Xmas tobe a disrespectful abbreviation, when it is, in reality, an earlier, symbolicspelling.

Almost all thecustoms we associate with our Christmas have pagan roots–Christmas carols, theearliest music that survives from popular culture, began in the Medieval Age(800-1200). Traveling minstrels began to compete with sacred music.(SACRED refers to formal church music; SECULAR refers to music in the street,or out of the church). During 1400-1500 bands of carolers roamed the streetsand sang for small payments. Caroling groups of students, for example, couldearn a year’s tuition to their Universities this way. Our carols retainmuch pagan imagery filtered through whatever pagan religion was predominate atthe time. Nordic, Celtic and Druid symbols abound–the holly, ivy, deerhunting, roses, the Christmas toast, Christmas lights, the Christmas tree allbring centuries of pagan celebrations to honor the spiritual life of mankindinto most people’s present day Christmas reality.

Those of you whowish to extract the religious connotations from Christmas, can still feel fineabout celebrating. It’s good to remember that the Northerners, with livessurrounded by starvation, extraordinary hardships, fierce cold, littlesun–found it miraculous to make it through the long winter. Their celebrationmeant something essential—they had survived.

That certainlyseems worth celebrating!

How To Furnish Your Rental

Your vacation rental is expected to be decorated for the sort of guest it is meant to attract and accommodate. If you’re advertising your rental as a luxury accommodation, guests will expect that it is furnished and decorated as just that. 

They’ll expect that all the mattresses be firm–of or near “orthopedic” quality. They’ll expect the sheets to be Egyptian cotton, or satin, or another luxury brand. Even if your property isn’t marketed as luxury, beds and sheets sell. The quality of the bed and bed-linen are selling points that could give your rental a competitive edge over a comparable one nearby.


On the other hand, if you’re advertising a log-cabin to hunters, hikers, or men on wilderness training expeditions, you probably don’t need to spend extra for the best of the best. Good is good enough. So long as the sheets are clean and comfortable, your guests aren’t likely to complain. 


Certain comforts and furnishings are expected in different markets and prices. The point is to make your home an inviting place. Have nice decor but don’t go overboard. You don’t want your home to look cluttered! You want your home to look inviting and comfortable. Moreover, if anything you want it to feel more comfortable than it looks. At the end of the day, your guests will appreciate it.


If your home is advertised as family friendly, or children friendly, guests expect that it is safe for children. Look around your property for sharp edges that could pose a danger to young ones running around. Cover sharp edges of your furniture and keep trinkets and small objects out of children’s reach.


It is important you choose your purchases wisely. It might be worth it for you to opt for durability, especially on items that are often used such as chairs. For other things, it’s usually worth it to spend less with an eye towards replacing the item.

There are two schools of thought on buying new furniture. On the one hand, at a vacation rental, various people are going to be using your furniture and things will need replacement more often than at your home where you live. So you might as well buy things cheap and replace them regularly. On the other hand, you might want to buy things that are used often with durability in mind and other things that aren’t likely to be used as much will be cheap. The better view is to furnish your home with quality and durability in mind. We believe it is better to spend a little more for higher quality than to spend less with the expectation something will break. Guests are more likely to disrespect your home once they realize it is cheaply furnished. Sometimes cheap things break unexpectedly. This could cause strain with your guests.

Finally, lock away personal items for your own use. Any items with sentimental value should be stored securely away, too. You wouldn’t want them to be damaged. To the guest, they won’t have the same significance and if the items happened to be damaged it would be difficult to find a compromise on the cost. To prevent this situation from arising, we recommend locking away these items in a secure place. 


Our last bit of advice is to decorate your home to match the location it is in. One of the reasons guests prefer vacation rentals over hotels is because the ambiance–the environment–adds local flavor and tastes. For this reason it is important to create a character around the interior of your home. If your rental is a beach house, the theme should reflect the kind of beach it is.  Adding family portraits among the art will give the home a nice personal touch.


Enjoy furnishing and decorating your rental! You’ll find that the process often requires you to create a balance between the practical and the aesthetic. The goal is to make your rental a warm, welcoming, and comfortable place to be.


Of course, it is important to create a balance between the practical and the aesthetic with your rental. Make your rental a warm, welcoming, and comfortable place to be.

Happy Holidays!

It’s that time of the year!
Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas…may your troubles be few and your treasures be many, whatever you’re celebrating!
It is a time for giving thanks and praise, of family and friends, of culture and history.

Known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday that dates back to the 2nd century BCE when the Holy Temple of Jerusalem was rededicated.

Hanukkiyah (or Hanukkah Menorah)

Child lighting the Hanukkah candles

Christmas is the annual commemeration of the birth of Jesus Christ, generally celebrated on the 25th of December.

A depiction of the Nativity scene. A Christmas tree is in the background.

Clifton Mill, Ohio, features a decoration of over 3.5 million Christmas lights.

Kwanzaa is an African-American festival that runs from December 26th until January 1st. It is a celebration of Black heritage, unity, and culture.

A woman in a traditional dress lights kinara candles over a table with Kwanzaa symbols.
A U.S. stamp commemorating Kwanzaa.


New Developments

The people at Rentini are on the march! We’re working hard to make light where before only darkness existed. Each of us is doing our part to cultivate our web pages, and advance our cause. We’re keeping you in mind by regularly communicating and consulting with one another on issues of user import.


Our efforts continue to bear fruit. A few examples of recent developments include the Dashboard Alerts, the Owner Calendar, and the My Hosting functionalities.


Our Dashboard Alerts tell you what’s on your agenda as a Rentinier. You have X number of “Reservations” at your rental(s) in the next month. You have Y number of “Due balances” from guests, and you have Z number of “Reviews” in the last week.  

The Dashboard page includes previews of your latest alerts, but it also serves as your gateway for accessing everything you need to manage your account. This includes “helpful links” such as your Profile and Owner Calendar.


Our developers have just amended the Owner Calendar so that you may make changes in a more intuitive and simple way. When someone books your home via Rentini, your Owner Calendar will be updated automatically. You can also update your calendar manually by clicking on any date. This action will bring you to the Update Calendar page where you can manipulate your calendar. You can create a reservation on behalf of a guest with the option to add a one-time custom rate for this reservation. Of course, if you’re looking to update the rate for a date range, you can do so by selecting the “Rates” tab. And if you’d like to block dates to make them unavailable, you can do so under “Blocking”. 


Remember, every action is accompanied by a corresponding reaction. So, if someone books your home, or if you make an update, it will be reflected on your Owner Calendar. Clicking a reservation on the calendar will bring you to the reservation details page with the Reservation, Billing, and Contact info.

My Hosting functionalities have been upgraded, too. Selecting a single property will reveal your Availability Calendar which is marked with a Legend explaining the symbols on the calendar. We’ve developed a simple color-coded system to indicate the payment statuses of reservations whether unpaid and inactive, or active with partial or full payments, or blocked. Selecting the Reservations, Blocking, or Rates tab at the bottom of the My Hosting page will show your upcoming schedule for each of your rentals.   


Your Well-Equipped Kitchen

©Susan Serra, CKD
Vacationers renting homes with ill-equipped kitchens are more likely to have mixed feelings about their overall experience. Here are a few basic considerations that will help you avoid having a guest recall their frustration with your kitchen as they write a review of your home. 

Have plenty of dining ware.  If your home sleeps six, have at least twelve sets of dishes and utensils. Realistically, you’ll want to have plenty extra dining-ware, two to three times more than the number of guests that the home sleeps. Vacationers would prefer not to wash utensils and cookware repeatedly in preparation for their next meal. They don’t want to hand-wash the same dishes they used for breakfast to eat lunch, or keep the dishwasher in perpetual motion while partially full.  Further, it’s common for groups to rent two homes and choose one to congregate to for communal meals. They wouldn’t risk carrying dishes from one home to the other, though. So, prepare your kitchen well.

We recommend you stock various kinds of kitchenware and dining sets, for regular meals, for fancy meals, and different foods.  Even include plastic-ware for the children or for a barbeque by the pool or yard. Some guests are likely to be foodies and cooks. They’d love a kitchen full of appliances, gadgets, knife sets, utensils, etc., to use towards preparing their favorite recipes. Lets put it this way: If your kitchen can accommodate a skilled chef, consider it well equipped.  

Your kitchenware should reflect the location of your rental. Cold climate cookware, warm climate cookware…? We believe there’s a difference. One example would be a slow cooker for making soups and stews. Provide sufficient refrigeration for rentals in warm weather climates, too, so that fruit, veggies and drinks stay cool. 

Here is an article that lists things you’ll likely need to make your kitchen a well-equipped one. In the end, it’s all about your guests–giving them the vacation they deserve.

Handy House Maintenance Supplies

A well-maintained rental is a good rental.


Below is a list of common maintenance supplies you’ll likely need to have for your rental business. As some properties require very different maintenance, this list is by no means exhaustive.

Cloths
Cloths and rags are great for cleaning. When you need a soft cloth, reach for a microfiber fabric.

Sponges
For cleaning impervious surfaces, pots, pans, countertops, etc., sponges are a must-have.

Brushes

You’ll want brushes: a scrub brush for cleaning surfaces, a toilet brush, and an old toothbrush for cleaning in small crevices.

Abrasive cleaner
Some creams or pastes contain abrasive ingredients for loosening grime and other hardened deposits on linoleum, tile, metal, or stone surfaces. Steel wool and soft woven scouring pads are handy for scrubbing surfaces clean.

Cleaning solutions

All-purpose cleaner, window cleaner, carpet and/or wood-floor cleaner, dishwashing liquid, and distilled vinegar are all good household cleaning agents.

Baking soda

Baking soda has various applications for cooking, cleaning, and has medicinal uses as well.

Rubber gloves

People have to protect themselves from chemicals. Enter rubber gloves for protecting hands.

Mop
For floor cleaning, soaking up liquid and wiping away dust, a mop is essential.

Broom
Sweeping is useful especially for cleaning at the corners and edges.

Vacuum
For dust and dirt that a broom will miss, you can thank your lucky stars that the vacuum cleaner was invented to suck it up.

Extendable duster

For dusting, you’ll want dusters that can reach ceiling cobwebs, behind bookcases, and other harder-to-reach places. You’ll want a regular duster for bookshelves and counter tops, too.

Dry cleaning sponge

For lifting away dust and dirt, lint and soot, from dry surfaces, a dry cleaning sponge is useful.

Plunger
Plungers are necessary to clear up a blockage or otherwise remove an obstruction. While there are plungers made for sinks, it’s more likely that you’ll want to have plungers for toilets. Trust us, one of the last phone calls you’d even want to receive is from a guest complaining that the toilet is stopped up.

Squeegee
While you usually see people using squeegees on their car windshield, they are handy for window and floor cleaning in houses, too.

Shovel, rock salt or sand
If your rental is in or near a ski resort, chances are you’re going to need to keep your driveway and patio from icing over and snow from piling up. The shovel is necessary for removing excess snow, while you’ll need to spread rock salt and sand over ice to prevent skidding.

Batteries
In case the smoke detector, remote controls, or wall clock need new batteries, it’s a good idea to have extras.

Light bulbs

For when light bulbs go out, you’ll want to have back-ups that match the bulbs in your home.

Supply caddy (bin)
Given that most of the above items are not in daily use, you’ll need to store them in something. Enter the caddy, a container where you’ll organize and transport many of your maintenance supplies.

Drain cleaner 

For unclogging drains, reach for a drain cleaner.

Hardware tools

A hammer, pliers, a screwdriver, nails and screws, and an adjustable wrench are handy tools to have.

Silicone rubber

It’s a good idea to store an adhesive for sealing up and protecting anything from liquid and extreme temperatures.

Wood glue

A common household item for keeping wood together, you’ll probably want wood glue at some point.

Duct tape

Strong, weatherproof duct tape is always a useful thing to have around.

Plumber’s tape

Also known as thread seal tape, plumber’s tape is used as a temporary solution to secure tapered thread and make other small plumbing repairs.

Furnace filters 

You’ll want to prevent airborne particles and dust-mites from emanating from the furnace and air conditioner. For that, use filters.

NOTE: These products are to be used only as directed. It is important for you to store them in safe places out of children’s reach.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

19th century stereopticon photograph of the Great Pyramid of Giza
The oldest of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built between 2540 and 2560 BCE.  It is also known as Khufu’s Horizon, after the 4th Pharaoh whose tomb Egyptologists believe the structure was intended to house.  Standing at 481 feet, the Great Pyramid was the word’s tallest manmade structure from its inception until it was surpassed by the Lincoln Cathedral, in England, in 1311 ACE.

©Peter Prevos
The Great Pyramid of Giza has impressive interior structures: the King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber, an unfinished subterranean chamber, and the Grand Gallery (pictured above). 
©Nina Aldin Thune
The Great Pyramid’s splendor continues to attract tourists year-round.


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