Merlino & Gonzalez - December 2022

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REALESTATEPLANNINGLAW.COM 718-698-2200 December 2022




When we realized that our business was seasonal, we started looking for something else to do in the off months to make a few bucks. I had experience installing Christmas lights for a friend’s company as a teenager and working on large-scale production as an audio and lighting technician, so putting up Christmas lights seemed like the perfect fit! That’s how Christmas Kings came to be.

If you’ve visited our firm in December, you’ve probably noticed that we get very into the holiday spirit. We cover the office in red and white lights, hang wreaths on our double doors, and even festoon our sign with decorations. It’s one of our favorite parts of the year — and it’s made possible all thanks to Joe Castagna and Tyler Horai, the best friends behind Christmas Kings.

To celebrate the season, we sat down with Joe to find out how he and Tyler work their magic to light up homes and businesses in Staten Island every year.

Hey, guys! It’s Joe here. When people ask me how I got into this business, they usually assume I’ve been a Christmas fanatic since I was a little kid. That would have made a good story, but the truth is a lot more practical. It all started with bounce houses. A while back, my best friend Tyler and I opened a company called Carnival Kings. We made a good living renting out bounce houses for kids’ parties and other events — until the New York winter hit.

Tyler and I call ourselves “Christmas Kings,” but we actually install more

than just Christmas lights for homes and

businesses. We also create displays for Diwali, Halloween, and special events like the Egger’s Ice Cream Parlor Winter Wonderland. For the Winter Wonderland job, we set up igloos, place heaters inside, string up lights, and cover everything in Christmas decor. (Beyond lights, we can also hang custom garlands, ribbons, and other decorations.) We can even do indoor Christmas displays and hang Edison bulbs and bistro lights for outdoor events in the summer!





written. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is a hilariously clever song and a highlight of the program. The filmmakers also secured a big win in the voice talents of horror movie legend Boris Karloff, who provided an alternatingly sneering and tender tone to the production. Thanks to its full animation technique featuring 25,000 drawings, Variety says “The Grinch” may have been the most expensive television special made until that time. Later, Hollywood upped the ante with a live-action adaptation in 2000 and an animated full-length film in 2018. Both movies were box office successes, but neither has overtaken the 26-minute TV special as our favorite way to enjoy the Grinch. Why does the Grinch endure? Dr. Seuss based the character on himself, so it may be that there’s a little bit of the Grinch in all of us. Unlike that other well-known holiday-hater Ebenezer Scrooge, he gives those who aren’t full of Christmas cheer a favorable mascot. The Grinch’s wild schemes and comical complaints are more fun than menacing, and his story produces a reliably happy ending. As its greatest gift, an annual viewing can leave even the most hardened Grinch feeling as if their own heart has grown a size or two.

As regularly as Rudolph does, the Grinch appears on our television screens every December. Despite his negative attitude and nefarious intentions, the protagonist of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” remains a family favorite more than 60 years after the animated TV special first aired. The Grinch’s transformation into a cultural icon began with a 1957 children’s book. Author Dr. Seuss had recently experienced great success with “The Cat in the Hat” and was a hot commodity. He published “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” later that same year, and the black-and-white book was an instant smash. The story might have ended there if Dr. Seuss had his way. Dr. Seuss was protective of his creations and didn’t trust them in anyone else’s hands, but his filmmaker friend, Chuck Jones, eventually persuaded him to reconsider. Still, the story required some changes. Jones assigned the Grinch his signature green color, and the Grinch’s dog, Max, was given a more prominent role to increase the special’s runtime. But the songs were the most important of all.

The TV special contains nine total musical numbers, the most famous featuring lyrics only Dr. Seuss could have


anyone who has ever received such a present knows it’s no fun to open. Others spend money to buy small, beautiful gift boxes.

But a more straightforward and less expensive route involves a used toilet paper roll. Remove any residue, place the gift inside, then fold the ends of the roll in. Ta-da — you have an instant gift box. You can also wrap small presents like a piece of hard candy. Instead of struggling to fold and tape, fold the paper around the present horizontally, then twist the edges shut. Keep it simple. There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing you cut your wrapping paper too short. Do you throw it out and recut it? Place a strip of paper over the bare spot? Before you go to any desperate measures, turn the gift diagonally and see if the paper is now long enough to cover the entire present. Whether this hack works depends on your gift’s size and shape, but it’s worth a shot before wasting more time and materials.

items? The internet has you covered with plenty of detailed tutorials, but we offer a different solution: Go with your gut and do your best.

Most people don’t expect your gifts to look picture-perfect. And research by SciTechDaily found that intricately wrapped presents create unrealistic expectations. Those who receive an averagely wrapped gift are more likely to be impressed by the contents than those who get one that looks like Martha Stewart herself wrapped it. So, rest assured there’s nothing wrong with a utilitarian job. What’s underneath the wrapping paper matters most.

Oddly shaped gifts seem to cause the most strife of all, though. What do you do with wine bottles, stuffed animals, and other non-rectangular



Are Your Loved Ones Protected at School?

The Fix to Your Medical Nightmare Before your child leaves for college, make sure they have these three legal documents in their suitcase:

Most of us associate the month of May with high school graduations, but as we write this, thousands of students across the country are decorating their caps and trying on gowns for winter graduation ceremonies. If your child is one of them, you have an important mission this month: Make sure they are legally protected before they leave for school. The Scary Truth About Sending a Child to College College is an exciting milestone, but it can also be a dangerous place. That’s why you shouldn’t let your student head off to school without legal protection — especially if they are 18 years old or older or will turn 18 soon.

1. A HIPAA release form 2. A medical power of attorney (from the state

where their college is located) 3. A durable power of attorney

If you make sure that you are named on all three of these documents, you will be able to stay up to date on your child’s medical needs, make medical decisions for them if they’re incapacitated, and even help them handle their finances.

Why? Well, 18-year-olds are considered legal adults in most states, even if they’re still in school. That means you could lose many of your rights as a parent. If your child ends up in the hospital, for example, the doctors could refuse to let you manage their care or even learn about their medical status. Scary, right? Fortunately, there is a way to retain your ability to protect your kids.

If you’d like help finding or filling out these documents, call our office at 718-698-2200. We can point you in the right direction. The same is true if you have a grandchild, niece, nephew, or other loved one in college. It’s not too late to send their parents our way for help!



When someone reaches out to us about lighting their house or event, the first thing we do is ask for a photo to help us understand the space we’re working with. Then, we make a digital rendering of the house and highlight all of the trees, bushes, roof lines, and other areas where we’re able to add lights and decorations. We send that rendering to the client so they can check out their options ranging from the bare minimum to the full package. Finally, we work together to decide how big they want their installation to be and the colors they’re looking for. The scariest part of this job is dealing with heights. My stomach definitely churned during the first couple of years, but now, Tyler and I are pretty much immune to the fear. (The only thing that still gets me is standing on top of a 32-foot ladder. I don’t know if those nerves will ever go away!) Overall though, installing Christmas lights is relaxing. Going through the same motions over and over as I string and cut lights centers me. I also love seeing the grandeur of the finished product at the end of a long installation. There’s nothing more satisfying than flipping that switch — except maybe driving through Staten Island to tour all of our best light displays. If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas light job this year in New York or New Jersey, text your name and address to 917-905-9263, and I’ll give you a free, same-day quote.


• 4 garlic cloves, sliced • 1 sprig rosemary • 15-oz can diced tomatoes plus liquid • 1/2 cup water • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas • Milk, to desired consistency

• 6 1/2 cups potatoes, cut into large chunks

• 2 tbsp olive oil • 2 onions, sliced • 1 tbsp flour

• 2 large carrots, cut into rounds • 1/2 cauliflower, broken into florets


1. In a pot, boil potatoes until tender. 2. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots, cauliflower, garlic, and rosemary and stir until softened. 3. Pour tomatoes into mix and add water. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, then remove lid and cook for 15 minutes until thickened. Stir in peas and simmer. 4. Drain and mash potatoes. Stir in milk to desired consistency. 5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spoon hot vegetable mix into pie dish, then top with mashed potatoes. Bake until top is golden brown.

-Joe Castagna

Happy Holidays!



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314


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Meet the Christmas Light King Page 1

You’re a Mainstay, Mr. Grinch Page 2

3 Ways to Protect Your Favorite College Student Winter Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie Page 3

Gift-Wrapping Made Easier Page 4


Some lifestyle blogs and magazines act like it’s normal to make your own hand-stamped wrapping paper or attach pine cones to gifts with ribbon as a decorative flourish. But when it comes to wrapping presents, most of us just want to get it done. So, we’ve compiled some expert tips to make this year’s gift-wrapping a breeze — or at least less of a chore. Use what’s on hand. Before you start wrapping, you should confirm you have all the supplies you need. But unexpectedly running out of paper, tape, or gift boxes has happened to the best of us. You could run to the store to buy more — or get creative. Wrapping paper is the easiest item to substitute. Brown paper bags work very well, whether or not you make them fancier with ribbons or stamps. A unique alternative is the aluminum foil you already have stored in your kitchen. Meanwhile, cereal boxes can be great if you run out of gift boxes. And if you have too little tape, you can use stickers in a pinch. Best of all, you can tell everyone your material reuse was an eco-friendly choice. Wrap small gifts with ease. The most difficult items to wrap are the tiny ones. Many people cut little bits of wrapping paper and cover them in tape, but



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