Tips for Flawless Outdoor Entertaining


 

Summer is here, which means longer nights and warmer weather. What better way to spend a summer day with family and friends than at an outdoor gathering? If you’re hoping to host a backyard soirée, here are some tips that will help things run smoothly.

 

PREPARE YOUR YARD

Tidy up your yard before hosting guests. Mow the grass and pick up any tools, hoses or toys.

 

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SEATING

Patio furniture with thick, comfy cushions are the best option for homeowners who frequent their outdoor space. When hosting a gathering, make sure you have enough seating. Benches and tree stumps are a casual, rustic way to add seating to your outdoor space. Make sure all the seating is clean of debris before your guests arrive.

 

KEEP GUESTS COMFORTABLE

Guests will be more inclined to stay for the duration of the party if they are comfortable. Have ample shade coverage and consider running a fan near the dining area to keep guests cool. You may also want to set out a basket with warm-weather essentials for guests to grab — think sunscreen, insect repellent, handheld fans and iced spray bottles.

 

PLAN A SIMPLE MENU

Opt for recipes that can be prepared in advance and will withstand crowds and heat. Fresh grilled vegetables, pasta salads and guacamole are all popular (and colorful!) choices.

 

ADD LIGHTING

Outdoor globe lights, lanterns and LED candles are all great options for setting a relaxed summer atmosphere. Setting out candles with an open flame is a bit riskier — instead, use hurricane lanterns or jars to shield the flames.

 

PLAY RELAXED TUNES

Set the right tone with a playlist that is easy and laid-back. You don’t want to overpower any conversations among guests. Create a long enough playlist to avoid repeating songs too many times while guests are there.

 

DISPLAY FRESH CUTS

Use flowers and foliage from your own yard as centerpieces. Arrange your fresh cuts in jars or buckets and set them out to brighten up your display.

 

OFFER ACTIVITIES

Providing lawn games like cornhole or croquet will keep your guests occupied and happy. Use butcher paper as a tablecloth and set out crayons for creative people of all ages.

 

KEEP PESTS AWAY

Be sure to protect food with mesh food coverings and light citronella candles to keep bugs away. Eliminate any standing water in gutters or the bottom of flowerpots to keep mosquitoes from breeding there. Offer guests bug wipes and insect repellent.

 

CREATE A BEVERAGE STATION

Make sure your guests are hydrated by preparing a beverage bar or cart stocked with the essentials. Include straws and plenty of ice.

 

OPT FOR MELAMINE

Melamine is an affordable and durable option for outdoor dinnerware. Using the break-resistant plastic will help you reduce waste and also keep the area clear of lingering paper cups and plates.

 

Visit williamstrew.com to view all of the extraordinary outdoor patios on the market that are begging to have you as a host.

 

How to Create a Greener Home


 

There are many different ways to go green at home. Even if you do just one or two of the below five things, you can make a big difference for our environment — and you’ll see the results on your bills.

 

MONITOR YOUR TEMPERATURE

Nearly half of a home’s energy usage goes toward heating and cooling. Keep filters clean, consider a new/more efficient furnace, and make good use of ceiling fans.

 

UPGRADE OUTDATED APPLIANCES

It’s estimated that almost 20 percent of the typical home’s energy bill can be attributed to appliance use. By upgrading to newer appliances, you’ll consume significantly less energy.

 

SAVE WATER

Putting an aerator on faucets can cut your annual consumption by half. Consider installing low-flow toilets, which use just over half the normal amount per flush.

 

LET THE SUN SHINE

The cheapest and most environmentally sound heat and light source is just outside your window. Open blinds, drapes, and shutters to let solar energy warm and brighten your home naturally.

 

USE GREENER CLEANERS

There’s an abundance of green cleaning products available these days. A simple online search will reveal which products are gentler to the environment than others.

Refreshing Summer Recipes


It can be tough to beat the Texas heat, but ice-cold beverages and tasty treats definitely help. Here are some easy and delicious recipes perfect for relaxing on the patio or hanging by the pool.

 

SIPS

CLASSIC LEMONADE

Ingredients:
*6 lemons, enough to make 1 cup of juice
*1 cup white sugar
*6 cups cold water

Directions:
1. Juice the lemons via your preferred method of juicing.
2. Stir together lemon juice, sugar and water.
3. Serve over ice.

 

WATERMELON GREEN TEA

Ingredients:
*3 cups green tea
*8 cups watermelon, cubed
*1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
*1/2 cup seltzer
*Springs of mint, for garnish

Directions:
1. Combine green tea, watermelon and lemon juice in a blender; blend until smooth.
2. Strain through a mesh sieve.
3. Refrigerate until cool.
4. Add seltzer.

 

BLACKBERRY SWEET TEA

Ingredients:
*1 pinch of baking soda
*4 cups boiling water
*4 tea bags
*2 1/2 cups cold water
*3 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen/thawed
*1 1/4 cups sugar
*1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

Directions:
1. Crush blackberries and sugar together in a large container.
2. Add mint and baking soda; set aside.
3. Drape tea bags over the side of a pitcher; pour boiling water into the pitcher.
4. Steep for 3 minutes; remove and discard tea bags.
5. Combine tea and blackberry mixture; rest for 1 hour.
6. Strain through a mesh sieve.
7. Add cold water and stir.
8. Refrigerate before serving.

 

SNACKS

SWEET RICOTTA AND STRAWBERRY PARFAITS

Ingredients:
* 1 pound fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved or quartered
*1 teaspoon sugar
*1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint
* 1 15-ounce carton part-skim ricotta cheese
*3 tablespoons light agave nectar
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
* Fresh mint

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl combine strawberries, sugar and the 1 tablespoon snipped mint; gently stir to combine. Let stand about 10 minutes or until berries soften and start to release their juices.
2. In another medium bowl combine ricotta, agave nectar, vanilla and lemon peel. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. To assemble, scoop 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into each of six parfait glasses. Top ricotta mixture in each glass with a large spoonful of the strawberry mixture. Repeat layers with the remaining ricotta mixture and strawberry mixture. Garnish with additional fresh mint.
4. Serve immediately or cover and chill for up to 4 hours.

 

CAPRESE SALAD PITA POCKETS

Ingredients:
*1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
*4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
*1 cup coarsely chopped cucumber
*3/4 cup mixed spring salad greens
*1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
*2 tablespoons chopped green onion
*1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
*4 large whole wheat pita bread rounds, halved crosswise
* Large soft lettuce leaves (such as butterhead, Boston or Bibb)

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl toss together tomatoes, cheese cubes, cucumber, salad greens, basil, green onion, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.
2. Line insides of pita halves with lettuce leaves.
3. Spoon tomato mixture into pitas.

 

NO-COOK ASIAN CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS

Ingredients:
*3 green onions
*1/2 6-ounce package refrigerated cooked chicken breast strips
*1/2 of a medium green sweet pepper, seeded and cut up
*3 tablespoons rice vinegar
*1 teaspoon sesame oil or olive oil
*1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, as desired
*1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
*1 cup shredded cabbage
*2 tablespoons water
*2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
*8 leaves butterhead lettuce (Boston or Bibb), about 1 small head

Directions:
1. Trim and discard root ends of green onions. Cut off and slice green tops and set aside.
2. In a food processor combine white parts of the green onions, chicken breast, sweet pepper, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, oil, black pepper and, if desired, crushed red pepper. Cover and pulse until chicken mixture is finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl.
3. Add cabbage and toss to combine. Divide chicken mixture into four individual microwave safe containers; chill.
4. Spoon mixture into individual lettuce leaves and wrap.

For dipping sauce, in a small bowl combine sliced green onion tops, 2 tablespoons vinegar, water and soy sauce. Divide among 4 small containers.

 

Count Sheep Not Threads


 

It’s estimated that a person will sleep for a third of his or her life. If you’re spending that much time in bed, you should make sure you like your sleeping conditions. Comfortable sheets are crucial for a good night of sleep, and many people don’t seek out the sheets that are best for them.

 

A common misconception is that higher thread counts mean better sheets. While thread count is important, there are other factors to consider when searching for the perfect sheets: the type of cotton, weave and finish, to name a few.

 

Cost: When it comes to sheets, quality is better over quantity. More expensive sets of 200-thread count sheets will generally be higher quality than a cheaper set of 400-thread count.

 

 

Fiber: Evaluate the length of the sheet’s fiber: longer fibers are better than short and lend themselves to longer lifespans. In addition, Egyptian cotton isn’t a myth, it’s indeed an indication of the quality of the cotton. Make sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton, because sheets can be labeled Egyptian even if they only contain a small percentage of actual Egyptian cotton. Alternative options are Pima and Supima, cotton-poplin, cotton-polyester and even bamboo.

 

Finish: Sheets may contain bleaches, dyes or finishes to keep them from wrinkling. If you have sensitivities or allergies, steer clear and opt for 100% organic sheets.

 

Thread Count: Thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. Additional threads can be woven in, thus, increasing the thread count. In general, a higher thread count will make the sheets denser. It’s recommended to get anything over 200, but anything higher than 400 isn’t necessarily worth it. The threads used to achieve these higher thread count sheets are often thinner so they can all fit.

 

Weave: Weave is the last thing you should pay attention to and is the determining factor in how the sheets feel and the lifespan. Common weaves are percale or sateen percale features a cool, crisp feel, while sateen is softer and warmer. When it comes to weave, pick what feels best to you.

 

6 Tips for Lasting Flowers


 

Like many businesses, flower shops have taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as the Texas economy continues opening up, flowers are again in demand.

 

From homemade bouquets to delivered arrangements, here are some tips for making your fresh flowers last longer.

 

Clean vases are a must.

If whatever container you’re putting your stems in isn’t clean, bacteria will continue to grow and kill your flowers. Experts suggest scrubbing the vase with a mixture of 1-part bleach to 10-parts water before rinsing.

 

If a whole leaf is submerged underwater, tear it off.

When leaves remain underwater, they decompose and bacteria can grow. Remove excess leaves and stems to keep bacteria at bay so your flowers will last.

 

The colder the water, the better.

When you want to cook vegetables, you steam them with warm water until they wilt and soften. Think about it like this, if you use room temperature or warm water, you’re causing the flowers to soften. The colder the water, the better your results.

 

Cut stems at a 45-degree angle.

When you cut flower stems with scissors, you are constricting the straw-like tube that allows nutrients to reach the top of the flower. Use a Swiss Army knife for soft stems and a pair of bypass cutters for woody stems. Always trim the stems at a 45-degree angle.

 

Measure flower food precisely.

Avoid dumping flower food into the vase with your flowers. Too much flower food will poison your flowers, and too little is somewhat pointless. Use the directions on the packet of flower food to follow the correct food-to-water ratio.

 

Fresh water is key.

Every two days, or when the water gets cloudy, replace the water in the vase. With each water change, it’s recommended to clean the vase. Use the same steps as above.

Transform Your Home Workspace


 

Having an office in your home is becoming a need as more companies have sent employees to work from their homestead. Setting up your workspace can be challenging if you don’t know where to begin.

 

Here are some tips for transforming your home space into a workspace.

 

Make A List

The first step is to identify what essential supplies and tech you’ll need. Depending on your work environment, this can range from needing a desk and laptop to a printer or more advanced equipment. Making a list will help to assure that you have everything you need to work from home.

 

Internet Connection

Your job will most likely require you to use the internet. Test out your internet connection, and if needed, give your service provider a call for more assistance.

 

Setup Your Workspace

Now that you have your essentials, it’s time to build your office! Setup your workspace where you have a good internet connection and proper lighting. It’s important to organize your tech and supplies where it works for you.

 

Organize Your Time

Managing your time properly is key to working effectively from your home. Remember, it’s alright to take breaks, grab a snack, and do some stretches if you can. Create a routine and use a planner to organize what you need to do.

 

Connect With Others

Being at home and away from your office doesn’t necessarily mean removing all human interaction. It’s especially important to still work with others â€“ even if it’s virtually. Find software and apps that can help boost your communication with coworkers.

 

Home Gardens: Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs to Grow in DFW


COVID-19, the great disrupter of everyday life. Thanks to this dangerous virus we’re all “camping out” at home with our families. And, as much as we love them and are thankful for this time we have together, let’s face it, we need something more to do than just look at each other all day. 

 

All of us, at one point or another during this time, have contemplated what exactly is left for us to do at home. We’ve cleaned everything, gone through storage to see just what exactly is in that unlabeled box in the garage or attic, and we’ve played every board game in the house and remade every TikTok video there is. So, what else is there to do? The answer is gardening.

 

Gardening is a great pastime that many people have taken up in recent years. There’s just something about successfully growing your own food, even in a small rooftop garden, that just makes you feel good inside. Anyone can garden and the rewards are oh so satisfying. Starting a fruit and vegetable garden gives you a look at the process of planting, maintaining, watering, and eating the final product. With a little TLC, you can enjoy the bounty of your harvest that is healthier and tastier than many of the commercially grown store-bought crops. If you are ready to dive into home gardening, here are some things to keep in mind.

 

Soil

Soil is probably one of the biggest factors to consider when gardening. If your solid is too dry, too wet, or doesn’t have enough nutrients for plants to thrive in can spell disaster. They say “A poor gardener grows weeds, a good gardener grows plants, but a great gardener grows soil.” Soil has organic materials and microorganisms and contains EVERYTHING that plants need. These days, you can buy soil that contains plant boosting additives or you can buy the additives separately. 

 

Sunlight

The other big factor is sunlight — vegetable plants require at least six to eight hours of sun for optimum growth. But in Texas, heat is something you need to factor in when deciding what to plant. The downside with any vegetable garden is the heat and intense sunlight of our summers. A shade structure can help alleviate this issue and protect your precious plants. 

 

What to plant

First, think about where you live. This will ultimately determine what will grow best and what will eventually founder. Because of this, you will need to make a plan. Decide how big a garden you want to maintain, then decide what you want to plant, and try not to overwhelm yourself either. Also be sure to research your plants because, as with anywhere, there is a planting schedule that you will need to follow.

 

Fruits and Vegetables 

A good rule to remember is that most vegetables are planted much sooner than fruits. Vegetables are planted in late winter, spring, and early summer. Fruits are planted in early to late summer, fall, and some in winter.

 

For vegetables being planted in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, onions, potatoes, and zucchini are some of the best to grow. Peppers will generally keep producing in the heat, so one or two of those would make good additions and focus on the smaller tomato varieties, at first, such as cherry tomatoes, which tend to grow better in the Texas heat.

 

For fruits being planted, apples, berries, cherries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, melons, peaches, plums, nectarines, pears, and pomegranates are great to plant. But remember that some fruit plants, like fruit trees, can take a while (sometimes a year or more) to really produce a quality harvest.

 

Herbs

One of the most popular plants people add to their gardens, especially in apartments, are herbs! Herbs are some of nature’s most versatile gifts. They can be used for culinary masterpieces, medicinal remedies, and even repelling or attracting certain types of insects like mosquitoes and butterflies. Popular varieties to grow in North Texas include basil, parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, chamomile, chives, cilantro, lemongrass, and rosemary.

 

Remember to start small

Something that makes sense to almost everybody is taking things slowly and starting small. If this is your first garden, start small and with a few easy plants to get your feet wet and build your confidence. Then next year, add a few more easy-intermediate level plants, and so on and so forth. Expect bumps in the road, too, as the seasons change. Plants are more resilient than we give them credit for, but more often than not we love them to death, literally. And usually, it’s with too much water. For plants, it can be the silent killer. Simply remember to check your garden daily for moisture needs and if any pesky little pests have appeared. Believe it or not, herbs would actually be much easier to start with for first-time gardeners. Mint is a fantastic example as to will run wild with very little care at all.

 

As you go just remember to enjoy yourself and your plants. It’s a given that success won’t happen in the blink of an eye but gardening can be a very meditative, therapeutic and stress-relieving process. If you let it.

 

Curious About Your Home’s Value?


Homeowners are often surprised when they receive their annual statements from the local tax appraiser’s office. Often the assessed value of their home is very different than what they believe the property is worth. Now’s a great time to take a look at the difference between two common real estate terms: “Assessed Value” and “Market Value.”

 

  • The Assessed Value is the dollar value assigned to a property by a public tax assessor for the purposes of measuring applicable taxes. The number is very often a point of contention with homeowners, who may believe it to be too high or too low. The Assessed Value does not offer a shortcut to a home’s Market Value.

 

  • The Market Value is the highest estimated price a property will bring in a reasonable amount of time if exposed for sale on the open market. Market Value is influenced by such factors as homes that recently sold in the area, the location of the property, the home’s amenities, and the condition of the property. Of course, Market Value is also influenced by the current economy.

 

Knowing the difference between Assessed Value and Market Value is great. But even better is knowing what your property is worth in today’s fast-paced North Texas housing market. To get started, contact a Williams Trew Associate today. To find the right agent for your real estate needs, visit us at williamstrew.com 

13 Ways to Add Value to Your Home


Whether you’re selling now, planning to sell in the future, or just want peace of mind, there are always steps you can take to increase the value of your home. Here is a list of items that will attract buyers and make the place you call home even more special.

Home Office – The growth of technology has made it possible for people to work from their homes more often. By updating your current home office or designating a space to create one, you show your home’s full potential.

 

A Master-Suite – A master bedroom with its own bathroom is an expected amenity. If you don’t have one, try to find the budget (and space) to create one, focusing on amplifying storage space.

 

Family/Entertainment Room – Everyone needs a comfortable, open space to fill with family and friends. Entertainments rooms can be anything from a home theatre, a game room, a rock climbing wall, anything that can entertain anyone, anytime. Just make sure your room looks and feels inviting, and filled with plenty of natural light. Also, a fireplace is always a plus.

 

The Kitchen – The kitchen can either make or break your home. Staying reasonable with materials and design, from subtle upgrades to drastic changes, you can almost always guarantee your money back on a remodel. 

 

Bathrooms – Have you ever heard of a home having too many bathrooms? How about too few? If your home has fewer bathrooms than bedrooms, it’s time to think about adding another full or half-bath. Additionally, if your current bathroom has seen better days, consider an update that’s simple and clean.

 

Windows – Did you know, on average, 30 percent of your home’s energy is lost through its windows? If your windows are in bad shape or you’re looking to impress buyers, upgrading to energy-efficient windows will not only save time and money for you, but also for your buyer.

 

Basement or Subterranean Levels – Though it’s not the most common feature in D-FW, a subterranean level can add major value to your home. If the ceilings aren’t too low, a subterranean level is an ideal space for an office, playroom, or media room.

 

Paint – A few coats of paint is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to update your home. If you’re selling, keep things light and neutral so that buyers can easily imagine their things in your space.

 

Flexibility – Your house is yours to make your own. If you think you may sell in the future, try not to over customize. Buyers need to be able to see themselves and their things working in your home, so try not to pigeonhole your spaces.

 

Deck/Patio – These days, outdoor space is at a premium. On average, the edition of a deck provides a whopping 76% return on investment. Typically, they’re not too expensive to build and create an entirely new living space.   

 

Exteriors – Though we’ve been told to do otherwise, people do judge homes based on curb appeal and first impressions. Put the best foot forward by sprucing up your home’s landscaping, exterior paint, siding, and garage doors.

 

Landscaping – An overgrown and poorly maintained yard isn’t appealing to anyone. Liven it up with some color, height and possibly a designated seating and/or entertaining area. 

 

Trees – Trees don’t ask for much — dirt, water, sunlight. Yet they provide many benefits for you and your home: They add beauty and value to your property, cut your energy bills with the shade they provide, provide a home to wildlife, and improve the air you breathe. To get the full benefits from your trees, choose the right one and plant it in the right location. Planting a tree that sheds its leaves annually on the west side of your house provides cooling shade in the summer. In winter, after it loses its leaves, the same tree will let in sunlight that cuts heating bills. 

Spring Home Maintenance Check List


There is Spring Cleaning but there is also Spring Maintenance and it’s never too early to get your home ready for the next season. We’re sharing with you a checklist of outdoor and indoor tasks to get your home ready for the spring, specifically for its characteristic windy and rainy days. By checking off this list, originally posted by Lowes, you’ll have your home freshened up and prepared for the months ahead!

Outdoor Tasks:

  • Clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Inspect roof and chimney for cracks and damage.
  • Touch up peeling or damaged paint. Watch our video for ideas on troubleshooting exterior paint problems.
  • Wash all windows, inside and out.
  • Install screens on windows and doors.
  • Clean outdoor furniture and air out cushions.
  • Service your lawnmower.
  • Fertilize your lawn.

 

Indoor Tasks:

  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when you set clocks forward.
  • If your basement has a sump pump, test it by dumping a large bucket of water into the basin of the sump pump. This should activate the sump pump. If it does not switch on or if it’s not pumping water, it may need to be serviced by a professional. Also, check for and remove any debris and make sure there are no leaks.
  • Wash and change seasonal bedding.
  • Dust blinds and vacuum curtains throughout your house.
  • Clean kitchen and bathroom cabinets and throw away outdated food, medicine, and cosmetics.

For spring cleaning tips, check out this Spring Cleaning article.