Bringing Autumn Home

48429825 - autumn decoration accessories stored in a wooden compartment.

It’s challenging facing Autumn in Arizona if you’re originally from another part of the country. For many of us who originated in states with four seasons, this time of year always promised chillier weather, crisp evenings and the start of fall leaves turning.

But if you’re new to Arizona and used to digging out your sweaters and crockpots to make chili and your mom’s chicken soup, it may seem strange to face the fact that here in the middle of September we’re all still wearing shorts every day. But for those of us who have been here a while, we have developed some habits to make it feel at least a little bit like fall. Here are a few suggestions:

Showcase fall colors: Use table runners, placemats, or add some pillows and throws on your sofa to pull some of the colors of autumn into your home. Yes, you’ll still see bright greens outside, but you can add gold, rust and brown to your interiors.

Bring your autumn accessories out: Pick up a few small pumpkins, gourds, pine cones or whatever takes your fancy. If you want you can even go to a hobby shop for some branches with silk autumn leaves. Then have at it on coffee and side tables. Make your home look like you’ve been wandering outside and brought some gleanings in from the woods.

Fix some cocoa: OK, it may still be too warm for that chili recipe, but a mug of hot cocoa with a few marshmallows might be a nice preview of the treats you’ll enjoy in the cooler days to come. After all, our evenings really are starting to cool down. And eventually we will get to see some leaves turn and drop… in December!

Throw a Mind-Blowing Boy’s Birthday Party

photo-12

It’s pretty easy to put together a party for toddlers. Get some cake and ice cream, play a few games and have them run around the yard. Then have the parents come and get them while their sugar high is still going strong enough that they haven’t all crashed into each other yet and turned into a soggy mess of birthday goo.

But as children get older, particularly boys, it gets harder to keep them entertained. Taking them to a water-park or movie can get expensive, plus it’s easy to lose control if you have too many boys along. Here are a few ideas for a fun party that’s also easy on your budget.

Take a hike: Plan to explore one of the many safe hiking options available near Phoenix. Choose one with limited height exposure or distance. Plan a picnic lunch. If you’re in a National Park you may be able to take advantage of a park program with a ranger to explain some of the wildlife or other insights of interest to the age group. If it’s not snake or scorpion season, a night hike followed by ghost stories around a campfire might be a fun variation.

Have a Lego party: Create a series of Lego contests using Legos you provide. Include Lego giveaways as prizes. This only works if you son and his friends are Lego fans.

Create an all-night movie marathon: Choose a great series that they will all like like Star Wars or X-Men. Pick up a variety of popcorn and movie snacks. Plan on pizza at about 11 p.m. and sleeping bags out at midnight. Chances are they won’t make it all the way through but that’s OK. It’s the possibility and the permission that makes it exciting.

For some other great ideas and venues for birthday parties around Phoenix, Raising Arizona’s Kids has a list of opportunities. We’d love to hear about your ideas.

Make your Garage Something Special

design center 7It’s easy to end up with a garage that’s a catch-all. When you first move in you may find that extra boxes and other items you don’t know what to do with end up in the garage. Then add in the kids sports equipment, yard supplies and tools, and then other odds and ends. Before you know it, the whole space is a mess.

If you find yourself cringing every time you open your garage door, think about choosing some of these garage options when you design your new Fulton Home. Just a few organizing elements could make a big difference in the look and functionality of your new garage. Let’s take a look at some of these choices.

Cabinetry: Garage cabinetry has a heavy-duty structure designed to hold up to power tools, yard equipment and other larger items. This is perfect storage for the home handyman, and it keeps everything under control. The countertop area is great for small assembly projects or organizing outdoor plantings.

Storage racks: Everything is so much more under control if it stays off the floor. With coordinated storage racks designed to hold yard tools and sports supplies you can easily put your hands on whatever you need whenever you need it. And when you are finished you have just the place for it to go back. And when not in use everything stays in place, out of the way and clean until the next time.

A garage can be a messy catch-all or it can be a great resource for storing things that fit well in that space, well beyond a place to keep your cars. Take advantage of options such as these to make it into a functional addition to your new Fulton Home.

What Makes a Neighborhood Special?

icscoccer12When you move into a new home, you choose it first because of budget, then location and layout. You may consider the reputation of the home builder. If you’re smart, you wander through other neighborhoods the builder created in the past to see how well the houses have held up over time.

You might want to see how close you are to grocery stores and restaurants and look up the quality of the school district if you have school-age children. It also pays to check out property taxes because those can vary from city to city.

But take the time also to walk through the neighborhood you’re considering. Check to see if there are any common areas. Will you have access to any parks or playgrounds in easy walking distance? How about places for kids’ sports like this soccer field? Does the community share a pool?

Remember that part of what makes a neighborhood a real community is the opportunity to meet other neighbors in common areas like these. And builders like Fulton Homes that include amenities like this are thinking about their home buyers’ lives long after the homes are sold and their profits are spent building other homes and other communities.

So when you buy a home, you’re not just buying what happens when you drive into your garage or walk in your front door. You’re also buying a community, the neighborhood your children will grow up playing in, the streets where they will ride their bikes, the sidewalks where you will push their strollers in the evenings. And the neighbors who will become your friends over the years as your new house becomes your home over the years.

New Neighbors, New Friends

gossip-475029_1280 - CopyWhen you move into a new Fulton Homes community, chances are you won’t know any of your neighbors. But here’s the good news. You’re all new neighbors! You will have plenty of chances for casual encounters as other neighbors move in, you and your children meet at the playground and pool or walking through the community. But if you want to make sure you get to know your neighbors, here are a few suggestions to help.

Throw a welcome brunch: Saturday morning is a great time to invite people over for coffee and pastries. You don’t have to be fancy. Just pick up a variety of donuts and other breakfast treats at your favorite shop and cut up some fruit. You can hand-deliver invitations or just post an announcement on the side of the neighborhood mail box. Set it up as an open house so that people can come and go over the course of two or three hours.

Exchange contact information: When you meet your neighbors, take the time to exchange phone numbers and emails. You may even want to put together a roster of numbers and emails for everyone on your street. That way you can contact each other in case of an emergency.

Look for play date opportunities: If you see children the same age as your children in the neighborhood, look for chances to get them together. At first set up something casual such as going to the pool at the same time. Later you can plan home visits if the kids get to be friends.

A new community can feel strange at first, but with just a little bit of effort it will quickly start to feel like home.

Use Height to Add Splash to a Buffet

food-680180_1280 - CopyYou may have noticed that when fancy restaurants host buffet brunches or dinners the food always looks splashy. One reason for that is that they display food at different heights. Take a look at this photo for one example.

The dish holders here allow food to be displayed at three different heights. This makes it easier to see the variety of food available, and makes the different types of food stand out. It also draws the eye in a number of directions.

Another thing height provides is more real estate in less space. You can display more food in a limited square footage, enabling a restaurant to add an extra table or two.

As a home entertainer you may not need to buy table holders that provide different heights for serving plates and bowls for a buffet, but you can create the same effect and add to your buffet real estate. Just gather up a selection of bowls and boxes. Turn the bowls upside down and use them as bases to raise serving dishes above the table’s surface. Just make sure they are stable so the food won’t tumble when people help themselves.

You can also use boxes to get that raised effect. Just cover them with extra table linens. With just a few items from your cabinets you can create a variety of heights on your own buffet display. Add some flowers and you will have a look to rival even the nicest restaurants in town!

Water Feature Makes a Yard Special

wBackyard-Sycamore-Warner-Groves-at-Morrison-Ranch-057 - CopyIf you want your backyard to feel unique, consider a water feature. Take a look at this one from the Sycamore model at Warner Groves at Morrison Ranch. This water feature, and this yard, have much more going for them than the standard approach. Let’s take a look at the elements that make this space special.

Dramatic waterfall trio: By positioning the three waterfall fountains along the back of the yard, this space has a unique focal point. Living in the desert, we are naturally drawn to water, and this arrangement provides a cooling look and sound as well as a refreshing place to sit and cool off.

Pavers used in hardscaping: Pavers are versatile and attractive and hold up extremely well in Arizona’s tough weather conditions. They are also a cost-effective alternative to tile and stone.

Raised planter beds: Raised beds allow plants to stand out in a landscape and make it easy to plan a drip irrigation system. They also allow you to make the most of your water use, by planting in the richer soil that is used in raised bed gardening. They also create a sense of intimacy in a backyard.

Comfortable outdoor furniture: Thanks to the new outdoor fabrics and fillers, you can have cushioned furniture outside year-round. This arrangement invites guests to relax for an evening of conversation and fun.

Start with a significant water feature and continue adding elements until you have a backyard like this one – a place to relax, entertain and enjoy.

 

Color Summer With Sidewalk Chalk

child-885831_1280 - CopyWith the monsoon we may get a cloudy day that is cool enough to play outside. If so, grab a box or two of colored sidewalk chalk at your nearest dollar store for a day of fun with your kids. Here are some ideas for making the day special.

Make your own sidewalk carnival. From a target drawn on the sidewalk that you hit with beanbags to sidewalk bowling and games your kids make up, plan a row of activities for kids in the neighborhood. Add in some lemonade and cookies and you have an afternoon of fun for everyone.

Have an art contest. Choose a topic such as portraits of parents or pictures of houses in the neighborhood with simple prizes for the best execution, most colorful, most original, etc. Come up with a prize for every child.

Create a treasure hunt. Use the chalk to leave clues leading your children through the neighborhood or just your property – taking them from one place to another until they reach a treat at the end. If you have trouble thinking of clues, look online or on Pinterest for ideas.

Create a giant board game. Recreate a favorite board game on your driveway using chalk. Use toys or stuffed animals as markers and pick up some giant dice to roll for the turns.

Tell a story and use the chalk to create the setting. Little red riding hood can walk through the woods they draw or pirates can sail through the ocean blue with waves they illustrate along your sidewalk. Let your children tell the story and choose how to illustrate it.

At the end of the day you will have a colorful remembrance of a fun time. And with a shower for the kids and a hose for the concrete and you can start all over tomorrow.

Pool Party Safety

children-1246383_1280 - CopyThis time of year outside pool parties are a blast for kids and grownups alike. And while adults enjoy their pool time kids can live in the pool all day long. Here are some simple tips to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable day.

Set groundrules. When kids get together it’s easy for them to forget the rules in the excitement of new faces and silliness. It’s up to you to remind them of the groundrules at the start of the day and reinforce them as needed. You want to have consequences too such as time out or time out of the pool. Some good groundrules include no running, no splashing or dunking each other and no pushing each other into the pool.

Have at least one adult on lifeguard duty at all times. This means someone at the side of the pool, undistracted, sober, with one job – to watch the children and ensure their safety. Parents can trade off on this job, or many teenagers work in the summer as trained lifeguards. You may want to see if you can hire one for your party so all of the parents can relax and have fun.

Watch the sun. Have plenty of water-resistant sunscreen. Read the directions carefully. Some sunscreen takes a certain amount of time before it is effective and all sunscreen only lasts a certain amount of time. Remember that some kids burn faster than others.

Watch their hydration. Are they drinking enough? You might want to schedule shade breaks with watermelon or popsicles or juice boxes to make sure they’re drinking plenty. And take a break to get them to eat too. Food can take second place to play with kids.

Watch for cranky. As the smaller kids start to get tired you will see more fights and fussing. It may be time to call an end to the play time for the tinier ones. Set up a quiet space with some DVDs and you may find yourself monitoring naptime.

Dog Walking Etiquette & Safety

dog-454145_1280 - CopyMost dogs love to go for walks and to meet new people and other dogs. But if you plan to have your children take your dog for walks, you may want to teach them some basic dog manners. Children who love dogs tend to assume that everyone loves dogs, but there are other children and even adults who either don’t like or are afraid of dogs. The following tips are helpful to keep everyone comfortable around your dog.

Train your dog not to jump on people: Many people are uncomfortable with dogs that jump on them, and older people have trouble keeping their balance if even a smaller dog jumps up against them. Jumping is a natural tendency for dogs because they like to see a person’s face, but they can be trained not to do it with a bit of effort.

Have your children ask if people would like to pet your dog before bringing it over: Many people will want to but some will have no interest. If you have a friendly dog who wants to say hi to everyone, it’s only polite to ask first. Most dog lovers will ask you if your dog is friendly and likes to be petted before approaching.

If your dog doesn’t like other people, keep him or her on a tight leash around others. Don’t bring your pet into a crowded area.

If your dog doesn’t get along with other dogs, keep him or her on a tight leash and far from other animals. If the dog is too much for your child to control – too big or too untrained – don’t let them take the leash in a potentially compromising situation such as around other people or dogs.

Well mannered dogs are a joy to be around and create a safe and enjoyable neighborhood.