6 Ideas to Celebrate the 2014 Summer Solstice at Home

Our ancestors have been honoring summer solstice, through rituals and celebrations, in many different forms – why wouldn’t they right? Who doesn’t love summertime? So why not do something symbolic this year at your home to celebrate the first official day of summer that honors the sun, the earth and the fire within us. Here are 6 ideas for a 2014 summer solstice home celebration all incorporating symbolic items associated with this event:

  1. In the morning set out a pitcher of water filled with your favorite herbs and let the sun do its work. Here’s a herbal recipe for some solar tea.
  2. Host a pot luck dinner with a backyard bonfire. Invite your friends and family for a solstice celebration and be sure to sing and dance around the fire with those you love. Have some yellow or orange flowers on hand for everyone to toss into the fire reminding us that spring has past and summer is here.
  3. If the weather isn’t cooperating, light some candles (or even the fireplace) as a symbolic gesture of inviting the sun’s energy into your home. While you’re lighting things, might as well burn some incense (or essential oils) of frankincense, juniper or rosemary.
  4. Get the kids involved in making a flower mandala in the center of your home (which in Feng Shui is the health center). If you don’t have flowers in the yard, pick up a mixed bouquet at the grocery store. Try to narrow the colors to yellow, orange and red.
  5. When the sun is at its height on Saturday preform the Sun Salutation yoga sequence in your backyard.
  6. Whip up some delicious summer dishes like a watermelon ricotta salata salad or a simple caprese salad with basil and tomatoes from your garden or a strawberry rhubarb mint cobbler.

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The Farmer’s Almanac Predicts a Record Breaking Hot Summer

Summer is going to be a scorcher with higher-than-average temps and lower-than-average rainfall throughout most of the continent. Be prepared for record-breaking “sizzle” in parts of the country. (The Farmer’s Almanac)

If you live on the East Coast, like me, then you couldn’t be more excited for the arrival of Summer. This past Winter was a nightmare for a majority of the country. In NJ we had upwards of 30+ inches of snow and temperatures that made it seemingly impossible to move. The thought of Spring, let alone Summer, seemed imperceptible. But now we’re here, awaiting the start of arguably the best three month period of the year only to find out more disconcerting news!

According to the wholly trusted Farmer’s Almanac, this Summer is going to be hotter than usual, especially in July and August. They also foresee extensive periods of heavy rain which will make the climate seem almost tropical (staycation, anyone?) In September, we should be aware of a possible hurricane that may strike the Atlantic Coast.

So with all of this information, what does this mean to you and your home?

1. Elevated Electricity Bills

Many’s first response when the temperature rises is to crank up the air conditioning. Running it all summer will surely result in a high statement. Here are some tips on how to slash energy costs this summer.

2. A Withering Garden and Landscape

Even plants that are designed for direct sunlight will be tested this summer. Think twice before going out and spending loads of money on greenery. Here are some of our favorite eco-friendly gardening tips.

3. Increase in Produce Prices

Because of the anticipated periods drought in parts of the west and south, there will not be an abundance of our favorite summer foods.

4. Possible Chance of Flooding

Take any precautionary measures possible to prevent your home from being overcome with water. A great post from Allstate on how to prepare for and react to flooding.

cover photo

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Making a Video Listing Sing

What sells a house? Sure, meeting a buyer’s must-haves is important: the right number of bedrooms or a newly refinished kitchen. But, what really sells a home is not objective at all–it’s the feeling a buyer gets when he walks through the door, the story a buyer sees unfolding in the space.

Video has long been the modern mode of storytelling, which is why Coldwell Banker Real Estate agents use video as a way to show prospective buyers the story of a home.

But, long before video, music served as a way to tell a story. What happens when one seller takes an active role in creating the listing video of his home? He makes the listing sing! Literally. Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber, in Fort Wayne, IN asked one seller, who happens to be a talented musician, to perform Phil Phillips’ song “Home” as the soundtrack for the listing video of his home.

Not only does the song tug at the heart strings, but the fact that the seller is singing it from his own living room makes it all the more personal– as if the seller is opening the door to his home and inviting us in.

Watching this, can’t you just see your family sitting on the sunny patio with a pitcher of fresh lemonade? How about little faces peeking through the stair railing? That is the story we help buyers see. And that is why video tours are so important to the buyer experience.

That said, it’s not just about the buyer experience. No one knows the story of a home better than the seller. Involving the seller in the listing process can bring valuable emotional appeal that ultimately sells a home.

Music moves us. But, does it really move us?

Header Image Source: tunessence

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10 Cool Kitchen Appliances

In almost every household’s kitchen there are standard appliances and tools that everyone uses. These consist of toasters, blenders, pots and pans, forks, spoons, knives etc. Besides these run-of-the-mill appliances are others that are genius.

Recently, while roaming the internet I came across some interesting kitchen appliances that I had never seen before. Things like a tomato stem remover, vegetable cleaner, a pineapple slicer, and a salad chopper.

I rounded up some of what I thought were the coolest tools that I could find. Most of these are total luxuries and not entirely necessary but they will definitely make your life easier. Check them out!

1. Have you ever nearly sliced both hands off whilst trying to prepare a pineapple? I certainly have, once or twice. I think this tool is incredible because whether you’re preparing the fruit for your family or trying to look fancy for a party, a tool like this one will help you get it right every time.

2. The Original Whirley Pop™ Stovetop Popcorn Popper This may be the hottest summer attraction in your home this summer. Does it get much better than custom made popcorn on your stove top? It’s a healthier and more fun alternative to using the microwave.

3. OXO Good Grips

11 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Moving Company

Guest post by Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

I know, you were thinking you would just Google “moving company.” Sure, you will find a zillion moving companies, but are you ready to handover your baby grand piano or other prized possessions into any stranger’s hands? So, how do you choose the mover you can trust? Here are some handy tips on what to look for when hiring a mover.

First, when choosing a moving company, reputation is crucial. A great reputation saves you time and money. And, a great reputation equals great rates. No one ever says: “oh yes, I LOVE this company they just made me over pay for their crappy service.” So, if you take away only one tip: It’s choose your mover based on reputation.

How do you know who to trust with all your worldly possessions? Asking key questions not only uncovers a wealth of knowledge about the company and helps prepare you for moving day, but a little extra research can save you from a huge hassle in the long run. Here are some surefire questions to ask before hiring a mover:

  • How long has the moving company been in business? Experience counts and a track record shows their ability to deliver each and every time. They have moved countless kids clay hand-prints and know they are simply irreplaceable: no amount of insurance is going to ever give you those back.
  • Are they licensed? If you are looking for a moving company to move you from state to state the moving company should have a US DOT number, which is a unique license number issued by the United States Department of Transportation. Make sure your mover’s DOT number is valid by searching it in this database. If you’re looking for a moving company to move you with in your own state they need a state license. In California, it’s a Cal T license.
  • Is the company insured? Verify that the company is insured on the same website you use to check their license number. Never use a moving company without a license number or insurance. Think underage unlicensed teenage driver at the wheel of a semi-truck. Not a good idea, right? Neither is an unlicensed or uninsured bunch of folks who call themselves a moving company or group of dudes who really only do moving as a side job. Also, check to see if your personal items are covered during a move under your homeowners or renters policy. If not, you may want to consider supplemental moving insurance. Movinginsurance.com or moveinsure.com are good resources.
  • Have they won any awards or accolades for service? Can they show you any letters of recommendation? If they haven’t won any awards for service, chances are they aren’t going to win any awards from you. Remember a great reputation absolutely saves you money. NO ONE gives a glowing review to a company that over promised, under delivered and over charged.
  • Be sure to check out the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau …read more

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Golf Tournament Air Capital Classic Benefits the Wichita Community

Celebrating 25 years, the Air Capital Classic (part of the Web.com Tour) is a professional golf tournament that’s become a Wichita tradition. As the popularity of the event has grown, so has its impact on the Wichita community. This great event, which features a wide range of professional golfers, benefits local businesses through dollars spent in and around the event throughout the week. Restaurants, hotels, and other local retailers all receive a boost in business during the Open. The event site reports: “It is estimated that during last year’s event, 38,000 fans generated a financial windfall of $4.5 million dollars, all directly connected to the Wichita Open.” Additionally, the organization claims that local charities have received over $850,000 since 2006 through the Wichita Open.

About the Air Capital Classic Course

The four-day Air Capital Classic golf tournament (which tees off on June 19, 2014) will be hosted at Crestview Country Club for the 13th year in a row. Here’s what you should know about the course:

  • Originally founded in 1921, the Crestview Country Club moved to its present location in 1969.
  • Crestview is the only 36-hole country club in Wichita, with both courses designed by Robert Trent Jones.
  • The Air Capital Classic Open will be played on the North Course, which carries a slope of 131 and a 74.3 course rating from the black tees. According to aircapclassic.com: “This course, measuring 6,913 yards, is a very good test. If the wind blows, watch out! All of the three pars, which average over 200 yards, play directly into the predominant south wind. Water comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes.”

What’s New at the 2014 Event

Some major improvements and additions have been made to this year’s Air Capital Classic to help spectators enjoy the experience more, including larger air-conditioned areas. Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate is sponsoring the tee box signs this year with a sign at every hole. We are so pleased to be a part of such a great event.

In addition to checking out the Air Capital Classic website for a full schedule of events, you can also follow the event on Twitter @AirCapClassic or Like it on Facebook. Tickets are available for purchase online or day-of at the gate at Crestview Country Club. Children under the age of 16 are admitted free with an adult. View box tickets include snacks and beverages for the day. This is a fun, family-friendly event for anyone in our community, whether you’re an avid golfer or someone who just wants to enjoy and be part of a tradition in Wichita, Kansas.

From all of us at Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate, we wish each participant good luck and personally want to shout out a “Thank you” for supporting our local economy and being part of our community this week.

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Home of the Week: A Lakeside Oasis in Bellevue

In our newest ‘Home of the Week‘ we move from a lovely estate in the heart of Napa Valley to a Vassos Demetriou designed jewel in Bellevue, Washington.

The $11.9 million dollar home already has its perfect lakeside location going for it, but its splendid and rarely matched design equals the beauty that surrounds it. The home lets you experience that artistry wherever you are – with its seamless indoor/outdoor connectivity via floor to ceiling windows, sophisticated sliding doors and covered terraces.

The four bedroom and 5.5 bath home offers up a truly versatile and well rounded lifestyle. Take in a solitary early morning cup of coffee as you look at the snow capped mountains in the distance, or entertain with the best of them! The dual kitchens allow you to cook up tons of delicious dishes and there’s plenty of space on the outdoor terraces to enjoy them with good company as you take in mountain and lakefront views. The entertaining doesn’t have to end there, as the property has its own dock on the lake suitable for boats, jet skis and canoes.

Other notable features of the home include a resistance pool, garages for 6 cars, elevators, media room and so much more. Click here if you’d like to see more of this gem listed by Monique Verger-Perrault with Coldwell Banker BAIN.

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6 Unique Ways to Light Up Your Backyard

When the sun goes down, turn your lights up! Here are six fun and affordable ways to brighten up your backyard.

DIY Grapvine Lighting Balls

Learn How Here

Solar Lights Aren’t Just for the Ground

Instructions Here

$3 Glowing Orbs

Find Out More Here

Hanging Mason Jars

Buy It Here

Solar Chandelier

Learn How Here

Light the Way with Sun Bricks

Learn More Here

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Apartment Maintenance in NYC Rentals: Who Does What?

You still remember the first time you learned all about NYC apartment maintenance. You were getting ready for a British-themed Downton Abbey marathon viewing party you were throwing at your apartment. Shepherd’s pies were heating in the oven, Cornish pasties were cooling on the table, and the Chardonnay was chilling in the fridge. All that was left was for you to clean your wine glasses — but when you went to turn on the tap water in the kitchen sink, nothing came out except black sludge. In a panic, you called your landlord, who immediately swooped in for the rescue. Your sink was fixed, and the party was saved. But the situation made you wonder what you would have done had your landlord refused to take care of your maintenance issue.

By law, your landlord is supposed to provide you with a living environment that is structurally sound, safe, and up to code. Listed below are the types of apartment maintenance tasks that a landlord is responsible for, as well as the kinds of problems you’re going to have to fix on your own.

What Your Landlord is Responsible For

  • Your landlord is required by law to make sure that the building is in working order — e.g., hallways must be well-lit, electrical systems must be safely installed and up to code, and plumbing systems must be running smoothly.
  • Your landlord is required to make sure that the public areas of your building are kept completely clean, clutter-free, and in “good repair,” to help ensure that there are no public health hazards.
  • Your landlord must respond to and resolve insect or rodent infestations in a timely manner.
  • Under New York City Administrative Code, your landlord is required to give your apartment a fresh coat of paint every three years. This doesn’t prevent you from painting your apartment sooner (unless your lease forbids it, that is); it just means that the landlord can’t let the apartment languish with dingy walls.

What You Are Responsible For

  • You’re responsible for maintaining your apartment in a safe and clean manner. This means no overloading of the circuits with your electronics or being lax with things like keeping your home clean. If it turns out that the cockroach infestation that plagued the building last month was as a result of negligence on your part, you could find a little note containing a bill attached to your door.
  • You’re to make sure that neither you, the other people who live in your apartment, nor your guests create issues that can cause maintenance issues in the building.
  • You’re responsible for making sure that the trash is sorted properly. The landlord could end up getting a fine if you don’t.

Familiarize yourself with the law — and your lease — so when catastrophe strikes in your home, you’ll know whether you or your landlord is responsible for the apartment maintenance.

Image Source: Flickr

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The Best New Luxury Design Showroom in Manhattan

MD rug

The following is a guest blog post from interior designer, Brian del Toro.

When starting a project with a new client and budget is an issue, clients begin to show me things they like from catalogs and websites. But everyone is looking at the same sites and catalogs, so it makes it hard to find unique pieces that can really set your room apart. This is why I was so happy to find a new favorite resource for stylish, affordable items that don’t look like they came from page 5 of “you-know-that-catalog.”

Michael Dawkin’s new showroom on east 59th street is the new gem in New York’s Upper East Side design district. Mr. Dawkins, who for many years has been known for his jewelry designs, opened an interior shop in Miami seven years ago. His exciting new shop, here in New York had its grand opening in January.

A chic, limited palate in white, black and beige allows one to take in all the details of the furniture from Italian and American sources, as well as one of a kind pieces, accessories, and art work, without distraction.

There is an unmistakable nod to classic items, as well as much more gallery-like, unique pieces that allow for a an interior with a not-your-cookie-cutter look. Upholstery can be custom ordered and many items are in stock or have short lead times.

Some of my favorite items include the “Cain Chair” which is made of indoor/outdoor materials, so it works equally well on a covered porch, around a pool, or even as a stylish accent piece in an interior space and is priced at $2,125

The shop has some wonderful rugs, always a necessity for starting a stylish room, and difficult to find when one is trying not be break the bank and still keep your chic quota up. Their “Chris Cross Rug” at 16′x16′ which is $15,500 is a room size rug in a graphic lattice pattern. The soft, aged quality of its black and white stitched fabrics are a perfect quality to offset the more ridged quality of the pattern, making it the perfect starting point in a room. It would be beautiful to add color in ones furnishings sitting on this rug, to make, for example, and black white and baby blue living room.

The “Spin Table” with a black oak top and blackened steel base is useful, perfectly sized table. We all love a round dining table, but if they are too big, your guests will feel too estranged from the person seated across from them. I’d love to see this table used as in a semi-formal dining room with either antique or contemporary chairs around it. It is $7,500.

MD tray

Accessories are terribly hard to find, and trays, which I find incredibly useful are even more so. One of my favorite they offer is made of nickel and a very heavy acrylic. Aside from their many uses in entertaining and serving, I love to use trays on …read more

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