Back-to-School Tips for Parents!


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Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Starting the new school year can be a time of great excitement… and anxiety. Help calm your child’s fears (and your own) with these teacher-approved tips.

Meet the new teacher.
For kids, one of the biggest back-to-school fears is “Will I like my new teacher?” Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears. Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night. Some teachers welcome phone calls or e-mails — another great opportunity to get to know each other before the year begins.

If personal contact with the teacher isn’t possible, try locating the teacher’s picture on a school website or in a yearbook, so your child can put a name with a face. If your child’s teacher sends a welcome letter, be sure to read the letter together.

Tour the school.
If your school hosts an open house, be sure to go. Familiarizing your child with her environment will help her avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet her teacher, find her desk, or explore the playground.

With an older child, you might ask him to give you a tour of the school. This will help refresh his memory and yours.

Connect with friends.
A familiar friend can make all the difference when heading back to school. You might try calling parents from last year’s class and finding out which children are in your child’s class this year. Refresh these relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or a school carpool.

Tool up.
Obtain the class supply list and take a special shopping trip with your child. Having the right tools will help him feel prepared. While keeping basic needs in mind, allow for a couple of splurges like a cool notebook or a favorite-colored pen. These simple pleasures make going back to school a lot more fun.

School supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead. Get your child excited about upcoming projects by explaining how new supplies might be used. Let him practice using supplies that he’s not used before — such as colored pencils or a protractor — so he will be comfortable using them in class.

Avoid last-minute drilling.
When it’s almost time to stop playing, give a five-minute warning. Giving clear messages to your child is very important.

Chat about today’s events and tomorrow’s plans.
While it is important to support learning throughout the summer, don’t spend the last weeks of summer vacation reviewing last year’s curriculum. All kids need some down time before the rigors of school begin. For some kids, last-minute drills can heighten anxiety, reminding them of what they’ve forgotten instead of what they remember.

Ease into the routine.
Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go much smoother.

How to: Choose a front door paint color


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By Laura L. Benn

Give your home’s exterior an instant and easy makeover with these expert tips for painting the front door.


We all want our home to be a place that welcomes friends and family into the nest. But maintaining a home’s exterior can be quite time-consuming, not to mention costly. For an easy DIY project that will transform the outside of your home, add to its curb appeal and only requires a quart of paint, we suggest painting your front door a fabulous new colour!

Here are three things to keep in mind when painting a front door:

1 Choose a colour that suits your house
Apple green might be your favourite colour, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right shade for your front door. Garry Belfall, Senior Brand Manager for Para Paints, advises choosing colours that complement the other tones and architecture present on your home’s exterior. “Try to pick a colour that works within the wood or brick of your home,” he suggests. “Or if there are other items on the home, such as shutters and accents, it’s a good idea to coordinate with those.”

Garry also acknowledges the importance of experimenting with colour on your front door and taking chances with different shades. “The front door is a vehicle for inspiration,” he continues. “For those who want to be more adventurous with their outdoor decor, colour is an open door (pardon the pun) for expression.”

2 Choose a colour that suits your personal style
Choosing paint for outdoor use is a little trickier than painting interior blank walls. Sharon Grech, colour and style spokesperson for Benjamin Moore Paints, says that natural sunlight can drastically change how a paint colour looks.

“When picking colours for an interior, they tend to feel bolder than they actually are,” she says. “Outside, a colour tends to fade more [compared to its sample swatch]. Bright yellow can look beige outside, so the bolder the better for exterior use.”

Her advice is to test paint samples outside in various strengths of light to see how the colour looks throughout the day. “Consider your style and how you wish to express yourself personally,” she says. “For me, a painted front door can be equated to a gentleman who wears a colourful tie. It’s about personality, character and a flattering look that grabs attention.”

3 Choose the right kind of paint
According to Sharon, the kind of paint you use ultimately depends on the quality of your door. For example, she advises not putting a high gloss paint on an older, damaged door, because the imperfections will show through. Really study your options in terms of matte, low-lustre and semi-gloss finishes, as well as the door’s materials before opening the paint cans.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Top Fall Blooming Flowers for the Perennial Garden


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23 Tips for Keeping the House Cool


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By Annie B. Bond

23 Tips for Keeping the House Cool

Puzzling out how to keep your house as cool as possible during these hot summer months? Trying to remember the conventional wisdom but not quite sure how it goes? Those window fans, for example, should they be placed to draw air in or out? Upwind or downwind of the dwelling? And what about windows, shades, and awnings? Are windows on the North side of the house better left closed or open during the day? Are awnings better than shades?

Find out the answers to these questions and more, right here:

The recent heat spell on the East Coast dredged these questions up for me, and I am sure these questions are seasonal for many of us. Efficient cooling saves money, energy, and the quality of our lives.

Turning to Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings by Alex Wilson, Jennifer Thorne, and John Morrill of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has provided a wealth of answers to just these questions and more. I’ve compiled 23 tricks about how to keep a house cool to reduce the need for air conditioning from this book, as well as a few from The Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook. These tips are really useful.

1. Reduce the cooling load by employing cost-effective conservation measures. Provide effective shade for east and west windows. When possible, delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening on hot days.

2. Over most of the cooling season, keep the house closed tight during the day. Don’t let in unwanted heat and humidity. Ventilate at night either naturally or with fans.

3. You can help get rid of unwanted heat through ventilation if the temperature of the incoming air is 77 F or lower. (This strategy works most effectively at night and on cooler days.) Window fans for ventilation are a good option if used properly. They should be located on the downwind side of the house facing out. A window should be open in each room. Interior doors must remain open to allow air flow.

4. Use ceiling fans to increase comfort levels at higher thermostat settings. The standard human comfort range for light clothing in the summer is between 72 F and 78 F. To extend the comfort range to 82 F, you need a breeze of about 2.5 ft/sec or 1.7 mph. A sow-turning ceiling-mounted paddle fan can easily provide this air flow.

5. In hot climates, plant shade trees around the house. Don’t plant trees on the South if you want to benefit from passive solar heating in the winter.

6. If you have an older central air conditioner, consider replacing the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. Make sure that it is properly matched to the indoor unit.

7. If buying a new air conditioner, be sure that it is properly sized. Get assistance from an energy auditor or air conditioning contractor.

8. Buy a high-efficiency air conditioner: for room air conditioners, the energy efficiency ratio (EER) rating should be above 10; for central air conditioners, look for a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating above 12.

9. In hot, humid climates, make sure that the air conditioner you buy will adequately get rid of high humidity. Models with variable or multi-speed blowers are generally best. Try to keep moisture sources out of the house.

10. Try not to use a dehumidifier at the same time your air conditioner is operating. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.

11. Seal all air conditioner ducts, and insulate ducts that run through unheated basements, crawl spaces, and attics.

12. Keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees F or higher if using ceiling fans. Don’t air-condition unused rooms.

13. Maintain your air conditioners properly to maximize efficiency.

Warm Weather Window Solutions

14. Install white window shades or mini-blinds. Mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50 percent.

15. Close south and west-facing curtains during the day for any window that gets direct sunlight. Keep these windows closed, too.

16. Install awnings on south-facing windows, where there’s insufficient roof overhang to provide shade.

17. Hang tightly woven screens or bamboo shades outside the window during the summer to stop 60 to 80 percent of the sun’s heat from getting to the windows.

18. Apply low-e films.

19. Consider exotic infills in your windows, a new technology that fills the space between panes with krypton or argon, gasses that have lower conductivity than air, and which boost R-values.

Tips for your A/C

19. Provide shade for your room A/C, or the outside half of your central A/C if at all possible. This will increase the unit’s efficiency by 5 percent to 10 percent.

20. Clean your A/C’s air filter every month during cooling season. Normal dust build-up can reduce air flow by 1 percent per week.

22. Turn off your A/C when you leave for more than an hour.

23. Several studies have found that most central air conditioning systems are oversized by 50 percent or more.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Tips: Help Your Child Have a Good School Year


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By Colorín Colorado

As a parent, there are many things you can do at home to help your child have a good school year. These include making sure your child gets enough sleep, getting him to school on time, and reading at home every day.

Here are ten important ways to get started!

1. Medical care

Children need regular medical checkups, immunizations, and dental care. Check with your school to see if a physical and immunizations are required before the new school year. Some medical and dental services may be available at the local clinic or your child’s school.

2. A healthy diet and exercise

Children who eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise can concentrate better during the school day. It is important that your child eats a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and has opportunities to exercise every day through a sports team, fun activity, or playtime outside.

3. Sleep

Getting enough sleep will help your child get up on time, feel good, and be ready for a full day of learning. Children need different amounts of sleep at different ages. Ask your doctor how many hours of sleep your child needs each night.

4. Getting to school, every day and on time

It will be easier for your child to complete daily lessons, homework, and tests if he gets to school on time every day. Limit the time your child misses for family trips and activities. Contact the school immediately if your child will be absent.

5. Homework

Help your child set a regular time and place for homework. Choose a time that works well for your family’s schedule. Find a place that is quiet and has good lighting. Make sure your child has supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, and a dictionary. Ask your child to show you her finished homework each night so that you can see what she is learning and confirm that she is doing all of her assignments.

6. Television, video game, and computer time

Limit the time your child spends watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer. When possible, do these activities together, and look for educational programs and games. Help your child understand that he should never give out personal information on the computer or talks to strangers online.

7. Talking about school together

Ask your child to tell you about the school day. Ask her what she learned, and how she felt during the day. Listen carefully to her answers, and help her think of ways to solve any problems she might be having in her schoolwork or in the classroom.

8. Reading

Set aside time to read with your child each day. You can make reading a part of daily routines by reading stories at bedtime and keeping lots of books and magazines in the house.

9. The library

Help your child get to know the library and what you can find there, including books, audio books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Libraries also offer homework resources and a quiet place for students to work.

10. Learning at home

Help your child learn at home by sharing activities together, singing, talking, and telling stories. Visit educational places such as museums, the zoo, the park, or a historical monument. Find out what your child’s interests are, and look for activities and books that are connected to that interest.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

No kids allowed! Best bets for grown-up dates in St. Louis


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By Jeffrey Konkel

Date-night doldrums got you down? Stuck in a romance rut? No worries; we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our picks for a romantic date with the one that you love.

St. Louis Symphony
Looking to add a touch of class to your romantic evening? The St. Louis Symphony at Powell Hall may be just the ticket. The theater’s dazzling architecture oozes European elegance, promising to elevate your night from ordinary to extraordinary. And then there’s the symphony itself, one of the most celebrated in the Midwest.

St. Louis Symphony at Powell Hall, 718 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63103, 314-534-1700

Grafton Zipline Adventures
Sometimes balancing a career, parenthood and marriage can seem like a high-wire act. Why not try the real thing? Grafton Zipline Adventures in nearby Grafton, IL, is a great choice for couples looking to add a little adventure to their relationship. The venue’s nine zip lines cover nearly two miles, and set participants soaring from treetop to treetop at heart-pounding speeds while safely secured to a harness. The entire loop takes about two hours and can be worked into a daytrip to Grafton. Those with serious height phobias may want to try one of our other recommendations, but most participants walk away from the experience exhilarated rather than traumatized. Reservations are recommended. The course is currently closed for seasonal maintenance but is scheduled to reopen in spring 2015.

Grafton Zipline Adventures, 800 Timber Ridge Drive, Grafton, Ill., 62037, 618-786-8439

Great Rivers Greenway
Let’s face it: The hardest part about a date night is finding time in our schedules to go out. Sometimes the best solution is to turn “date night” into “date afternoon.” Next time grandma and grandpa offer to watch the kids on a Saturday afternoon, grab your spouse and your bikes and head out for a long, leisurely ride on the Great Rivers Greenway. It’s a great way to spend a little quality time together while improving your health. The greenway currently offers more than 100 miles of trails spread throughout the St. Louis region. Some are tucked away in quiet, wooded environs, while others embrace the hustle and bustle of urban life. Find the one that suits your style, and ride off into the sunset with your mate. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch or choose a trail near a charming cafe.

Great River Greenways, trails throughout the St. Louis area

Date Night Cooking Classes at Kitchen Conservatory
OK, maybe going back to school doesn’t sound particularly romantic, but bear with us for a minute. We all know that the key to any great date is quality one-on-one time, and there’s no denying the sensual aspect of food. Combine the two and you have instant date night success. The Kitchen Conservatory in Clayton offers more than 800 cooking classes each year, and many of them are aimed at couples looking for a special date night. Upcoming date night classes include cooking lessons on cuisines ranging from Chinese to Cajun. A number of Valentine’s Day classes also are offered, but act fast as they book up quickly.

Kitchen Conservatory, 8021 Clayton Road, St. Louis, MO, 63117, 314-862-2665

Wine Merchant
Yes, we know. We already sent you back to school for the aforementioned cooking classes, but the same arguments apply here. Plus you get to add alcohol to the mix. The Wine Merchant has been one of the leading – if not the leading – source for wine and fine spirits in St. Louis for more than two decades. Their Clayton store stocks thousands of different wines, from low-cost values to wallet-busting rarities. But “The Merch” (as they like to be called) also hosts dozens of informative and fun classes every year. Whether you’re looking for a basic primer on vino or an in-depth analysis of wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy or Barolo, the Wine Merchant has you covered. They also offer classes on wine and food pairings, and spirits, as well.

The Wine Merchant, 20 S. Hanley Road, Clayton, MO, 63105, 314-863-6282

Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park
When the wintertime blues get you down, there’s only one thing to do: Embrace the chill. Grab your partner, head down to Forest Park and lace up your skates for an evening on ice at the Steinberg Skating Rink. The rink is open daily through the end of February, with evening hours until 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. When your toes get numb, warm up in the Snowflake Cafe with a warm snack or a cup of hot cocoa. Beer and wine are also available.

Steinberg Skating Rink, 400 Jefferson Drive in Forest Park, St. Louis, MO, 63110, 314-367-RINK

Three Sixty
There are plenty of outstanding local restaurants to savor with the one you love, but few can boast the views available at Three Sixty. Located atop the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, Three Sixty offers stunning views in all directions – hence the name. Take in all of the downtown sites while enjoying a glass of wine and a cheese plate. If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, try the rib-eye steak or Maine lobster. Thanks to its proximity to Busch Stadium, Three Sixty tends to get packed when the Cardinals have a home game, so plan your romantic night out accordingly.

Three Sixty, 1 S. Broadway, St. Louis, MO, 63102, 314-241-8439  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

8 Steps to Buying a Home


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What Not to Do as a New Homeowner


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By John Riha

If you’re new to homeownership, you’ll definitely want to avoid these easy-to-prevent mistakes that could cost you big time.

Man planting a tree in his yard

We know so well the thrill of owning your own house — but don’t let the excitement cause you to overlook the basics. We’ve gathered up a half dozen classic boo-boos new homeowners often commit — and give you some insight on why each is critically important to avoid.

1. Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

2. Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.

3. Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

4. Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

5. Carelessly Drilling into Walls

Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

6. Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

7 Steps to Selling Your Home


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Investing in Real Estate


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Today’s low interest rates and stabilized home prices have created some great investment opportunities!  Investing in real estate has unique advantages over other types of investments:

  • Interest in mortgage loans are tax-deductible.  Investors can lower their tax liability while increasing their equity.
  • Renters pay down your mortgage loan.  Investors reap the benefits of rental income, which offsets your mortgage cost and build equity.
  • Real Estate values increase over the long term.  Real Estate is limited and will always be in demand.
  • 1031 exchanges are available to defer taxable income when you are ready to sell.

Many investors are taking advantage of these great market conditions. Have questions? Give us a call. We are happy to help!  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*


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