Get Your Home Ready for Summer Entertaining



With summer officially here, many of us are starting to think about hosting a summer party, BBQ, or birthday get-together. Here are some beautiful and clever ideas for getting your home ready for that summer get-together.


First, you’ll want your home maintenance to be up-to-date – especially in those highly visible areas. Clean your patio or deck; make sure your landscaping is trimmed and in good shape; vacuum your sliding door tracks. Here are a couple of links to summer maintenance checklists you might find helpful.


The web is full of summer entertaining decor ideas. Some are elaborate, but there are lots of inexpensive, creative, DIY ones as well. Here are some of our favorites:

Are Solar Panels Worth It?

solarpanels800x450Chances are you’re seeing your neighbors install solar panels left and right and those little solar company signs in yards everywhere. We wondered – what exactly is the cost of installation? What is the real savings? Is it worth it? How do you choose a company? Should you lease or buy?

We did a little research and came up with some anecdotal numbers. In one neighborhood in Southern California, homeowners report that a purchased solar system costs in the range of $21,000 – $27,000. Tax credits can save you as much as 30%. Homeowner & engineer Joe Cahak did some calculations and estimates that his purchased system (paid for in cash) will pay for itself in 4-7 years. Once the system is paid for, he estimates the savings to be around $3,500 per year for his home.

Homeowners in this same neighborhood who have leased their systems report that their monthly lease payment is in the range of $200 per month (your lease costs will vary based on the number of panels, home size, etc.). All the homeowners we talked to report that their monthly electric bill was reduced to $5 – $30, and some even received money back from their electric company at the end of the year! All electric homes will see a larger overall savings than those that utilize natural gas or propane for some of their appliances. (Again, it will depend on what percentage of your power your solar panels cover.)  Some other points to consider:

  • A leased system will typically come with a “production guarantee” (they guarantee the system will produce a certain amount of electricity) and free maintenance of the panels and system.
  • Tax credits are also available on leased systems.
  • There should be no upfront costs with a lease.
  • Make sure the lease can be easily transferred to a buyer should you sell your home.

Make sure to do your research and ask your neighbors with solar for their experiences with local solar installers. Read online reviews. Get multiple quotes. A good starting point would be to calculate your annual electric costs (factoring in likely utility company cost increases). What would your annual lease costs be? If you purchase and require a loan, what would your monthly payment be, with interest? Bottom line: How much would you actually save per year by going solar?

Here are some helpful websites we came across in our research:

Free Quotes:

Choosing Solar Panels:

Best Solar Panel Types

Are Solar Panels Worth the Cost

Solar Basics

Financing (California Only):

HERO Program

Tax Credits:

Federal Tax Credits Available

How to Create “Home”

mason jar with wildflowers

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home”-Confucius

You bought a new house. You chose carefully and logically based on quality, location, value, budget, layout, and finishes. It provides shelter for your family. It was a good investment. But we all know that it’s so much more than that. What makes your house a home? What is “home” anyways? The idea of “home” varies by culture and can be ambiguous, as it’s a very personal thing. But for most of us, home represents security. Comfort. Family. Sanctuary. It’s our home base – the place where we can let down and be real. It’s where we nurture life so we can go out and make a positive impact in the world.

What does “home” mean to you? How have you made your house a home instead of simply a good investment? Is it through the furnishings and decor that you love? Mementos from your travels and history? Have you surrounded yourself with the simple things that make you feel good and remind you of what’s most important to you? When friends enter your home, are they able to get a sense of who you are and what matters?

Perhaps your house doesn’t quite feel like home yet. Take heart! Making your house a home doesn’t require an expensive shopping trip to buy throw pillows and high-priced art. Creating a home can be as simple as a mason jar of flowers on the kitchen table. A lighted candle in your favorite scent. Your favorite family photos over the fireplace. A souvenir from a favorite trip on a side table. Music that represents a special time in your life on the stereo. Creating “home” happens over time – as life is lived, as memories are created, as trinkets are collected. It’s personal, not staged. It’s messy, not perfect. It reflects heart, not a decorating magazine. So go, consider what matters most to you. Make your home reflect that.

Help! Summer’s Here and the Kids are Home!

Kids in SprinklersWhether you’re a working mom or dad or one who stays home, summer can pose a challenge for the most seasoned parent. The absence of structure and schedule, while liberating for kids, means you’ll inevitably hear “I’m bored” and need to step in with some activities. Having a plan can go a long way in getting through the summer successfully and frustration-free.

First, make a list of activities and outings (large or small) that would appeal to your family. Second, make or print out a calendar of the summer months and write in the bigger activities and outings, then begin to fill in some smaller ones. (You may even want to “schedule” in some downtime to make sure you don’t over plan the summer and end up completely exhausted at the end!)

Here are some activity ideas to help get you going!
Fun Things to Do in Summer
Fun Summer Activities
Five Free Things to Do as a Family
What Are We Going to Do this Summer

Keep your kids learning over the summer!
Studies show that students lose over 2 months of grade level equivalency over the summer and score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer than they do at the beginning. Here are some great ideas to keep your kids learning over the summer.
What Families Can Do to Keep Children Reading During the Summer
Easy Ways to Keep Kids Learning During Summer Break
How to Avoid Summer Learning Loss
Summer Learning