Before the Snow Falls: Holiday Decorating Prep

Blue Gloved hand holding Christmas lights in front of wreath

Check your Christmas lights before the cold winter sets in.

It’s never too soon to get a jump start on the holidays, particularly when you consider how fast time flies by between September 1 and December 31. Those industrious North Pole elves are already hard at work preparing for the Christmas crunch. Here are some tips to join them and get ahead on the holiday season.

Clean House

While you may be clinging to thoughts of warm summer nights, Jack Frost is on his way – whether you like it or not. Trick-or-Treaters, holiday carolers, family members, friends and even the UPS man will soon start stopping by, so take steps now to ensure that your home’s exterior makes a good impression.

If you haven’t yet cleaned and stored away outdoor patio furniture and other seasonal items, now is the time. This is also a good opportunity to touch up the paint on your deck, shutters, railings, trim and front door. And don’t forget to wipe your windows so they’re clean and sparkling for Santa Watch.

Lastly, spare yourself a smoke-free future if you’re planning on roasting chestnuts by the fire: schedule an inspection and cleaning of your chimneys and flues.

Get the Hang of It

From creepy cobwebs to those oft-mentioned boughs of holly, you’ll be hanging plenty of decorations throughout the fall and winter. And if you’ve ever tried to hang twinkle lights in a foot of snow, it’s unlikely a tradition you plan to continue.

While it’s customary to wait until after Thanksgiving to turn on your holiday lighting extravaganza, there’s no rule governing when to actually hang the lights.

“Save time by putting up your Christmas lights while taking down your Halloween decorations.”

This also gives you a joyful jump on replacing any dead bulbs or replenishing hooks and other hanging equipment–without any ice and snow on the roof and the need for gloves, or that cold Oklahoma wind.

Make a List, Check It Twice

You may not be ready to deck the halls and mantle just yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an action plan ready. Whether you plan to follow last year’s theme or try something new, document your decorating plans. This is also a convenient opportunity to take inventory of your supplies. Do you have everything you need to execute with ease? If not, stock up now: you’ll not only beat the crowds, but also avoid holiday markups.

One last tip? Take plenty of pictures after your house is thoroughly bedecked — and not just for posterity’s sake. In future years, you’ll be able to admire your own handiwork while recreating what worked and rethinking what didn’t.

By attending to the bulk of your prep and planning now, you can enjoy a well-appointed home and a more peaceful December. And that’s reason enough to feel jolly this holiday season!

Host a Tailgating Party Right At Home

Can’t justify shelling out big bucks for tickets for the big college or NFL football game? Even though you may not be able to sit in the stands, you can still have a fantastic game day at home with family and friends, including hosting your own tailgate party.

A tailgate party traditionally revolves around tailgates of vehicles in the parking lot of a sports facility, but you can preserve the nature of the tailgate party by simply keeping pre-game festivities outdoors. That means food, games, decorations and a tailgate atmosphere.

Atmosphere

Set the stage for your tailgate party with your team’s colors: streamers, banners, posters and other party-store and homemade decorations will transform your yard into tailgate party central. Encourage guests to come dressed up like they were tailgating at their team’s stadium. Some may show up in costume with painted faces. Use tablecloths, plates, cups and napkins in team colors. Give a prize for the best team apparel.

What’s a tailgate party without music? Make a playlist that’s spirited and full of classic game-day jams.

food for a partyFood

One of the hallmarks of the tailgate party is the grill, whether charcoal or gas, and you may want more than one to facilitate different foods and grilling styles. Remember the Grill Master is in charge.

Snacks

Guests can nibble on snacks all day long, both indoors and outdoors. Serve tortilla chips with salsa, sour cream and a few homemade dips, such as pico de gallo and artichoke dip. Keep plain and flavored potato chips on hand. Put out trays of cut vegetables and a bowl of fruit.

Main Dishes

For great main dishes, offer enough of a variety to make everyone happy. Grill a combination of steaks, burgers, hot dogs and brats, but also offer creative fare. Make homemade gyros or souvlaki; grill eggplant, bell peppers, onions and other vegetables, along with Portobello mushrooms. Have crock pots of chili and pulled pork on hand as well. Ask your guests to bring their favorite game-day snacks, and your table will have plenty of options.

Sides and Salads

Toss baked potatoes on the grill or use a shallow pan on the grill to fry some diced potatoes with chopped onions, bell peppers, olive oil and seasonings. Grill fresh corn on the cob and brush with melted butter. Seasoned green beans or carrots, warm biscuits, a chopped salad, a bowl of potato salad, a bowl of mixed fruit and thick watermelon slices will round out the meal nicely.

Beverages

Ice your drinks down in coolers or ten gallon tubs. Have bottled water, juice, lemonade and soft drinks. Coffee, hot cocoa and cider will be welcome on a chilly afternoon. Let folks bring their own favorite beverages.

Dessert

With all that food, dessert may not be a priority, but who can resist a football-shaped cookie with the stitching painted on with icing, or jersey-shaped cookies with names or numbers? And you can’t go wrong with brownies and cake pops.

how to build a cornhole set

Learn how to build a cornhole set at the DIY Network.

Games

If people arrive a few hours before the game, they’ll be ready for some fun. Set up a volleyball or badminton game, or play croquet, lawn darts, volleyball, or horse shoes. Leave plenty of room for socializing. A game of corn hole is great for all ages.

Play sports trivia and sports-themed charades and Pictionary to keep the indoor types happy.

Indoors

Don’t spend so much time on the tailgating that you neglect the game part of game day. Keep the decorations going in the room where you’ll be watching the game on your large-screen TV, and have beverages and snacks available, just like at the stadium. Be sure to have enough comfortable seats on hand (padded folding chairs provide good extra seating). Have some small team flags and a few foam fingers on hand to wave during great plays.

When the game is over, wind down with coffee or cocoa and dessert– and chat about the game.

What tips do you have for having a game day tailgating party at home? 

Tulsa Outdoor Fitness Options for the Adventurous Family

We give Oklahoma City a lot of love, sure – but as any self-respecting Okie (and any research-loving visitor, for that matter) knows, Tulsa is another part of our state that’s grown its own unique culture and community.

Tulsa is extremely family-friendly, with plenty of new and historic neighborhoods, community-centric clubs, great school districts, and more museums than you could see in a whole weekend.

So what’s a family to do when a surprisingly temperate day graces us with its presence? They get outside. Here’s our guide to outdoor activities in Tulsa – for families of all kinds.

Mountain biking down hill

Mountain biking on Turkey Mountain. Credit: TravelOk.com

Hiking and mountain biking in Tulsa

The Arkansas River is always a great hiking option – but if you’re looking for a trail that’s more secluded, you have plenty of options.

Running clubs in Tulsa

Take a jog along the river in the Tulsa River Parks paved trails, and you’ll see that there are plenty of people doing the exact same thing. But a running club makes the practice much more enjoyable – and puts you with a group of likeminded people.

  • Want your club fees to go to a good cause? The Tulsa Running Club is a non-profit that puts all of its proceeds toward local organizations. Bonus: buy a family plan and get the kids involved.
  • Tulsa Runner’s group runs take place on Tuesday evening (shorter run) and Saturday mornings (longer runs). Ideal for folks who want to run with other people without feeling conspicuous or formal.
  • Fleet Feet Sports hosts its own trainings following up to different events, like the upcoming Pub Run.
  • If the name alone doesn’t win you over, we don’t know what will: Tatur is the Tulsa Area Trail and Ultra Running club. For adventurous/multisport athletes, this club will challenge you anew with each race.
  • Tulsa, OK Moms RUN This Town caters to mothers who are runners (or want to be runners!) and are looking for some women with similar interests and advice.

Watersports on the Arkansas River

The Arkansas River is one of this city’s main attractions – and has spawned a pretty robust watersports culture.

Try kayaking, rowing, or boating while taking in city views.

Ropes courses, zip lines, slacklining

Aside from encouraging teamwork, independence, and trust, adventure courses are just plain fun. As you might expect, Tulsa has plenty to choose from.

  • For a new kind of adventure, give POSTOAK Canopy Tours a whirl. With 6 ziplines and almost 4,000 feet of cable line in their network, you and your kids will be completely exhilarated – and completely worn out when it’s time to go home.
  • The HelmZar Challenge Course has both indoor and outdoor facilities – so your family or team will never really be caught in the rain.
  • The Camp Loughridge Challenge Course is perfect for taking in the view in a quieter area.
  • Try the YMCA ropes course for accessible classes and family-friendly rates.

Outdoor fitness classes

Guthrie Green is a great gathering place for family and friends – and it plays host to different events almost daily. Try Fitness on the Green for a casual but challenging way to shake-up your routine.

Golf courses in Tulsa

Prefer to stick to outdoor activities that come with carts and manicured greens? Sounds like you’re a golfer.

Check GolfLinks for an up-to-date, comprehensive listing of golf courses in your city. Tulsa has plenty to choose from!

Outdoor fitness: accessible, DIY-friendly, and always fun

The truth is, you can make any location a place to get your fit on in the great outdoors (or, you know, perfectly maintained golf course). Ask your local gym or yoga studio about any outdoor classes they offer – bootcamp is a popular option, for starters.

The grass is always greener on the other side – and all you have to do is jog there!

OKC Outdoor Fitness Options and Activities

While there are plenty of great gyms in OKC to choose from for our sweat sessions, there’s nothing quite like an outdoor workout. Here are some of our favorite venues and activities around the OKC Metro.

Man on Mountain Bike

Lake Thunderbird Mountain Biking Trail

Hiking and mountain biking trails

Whether you’re embarking on a day-long expedition or just want to work up an appetite for lunch, there’s plenty of ground for you to cover in the metro.

OKC Running Clubs

Prefer sticking with the pack over being a lone wolf? Oklahoma City has a growing number of running clubs that will let you get outside – without the solitude.

  • The Landrunners club meets Saturday mornings to train for local races throughout the year.
  • If you like local brews as much as you like to run, try out the Red Coyote Running and Fitness club’s Pack Pint Runs. Every Thursday at 6 pm, a group takes off from the store and ends the run with free pints from local brewery COOP Ale Works
  • The OKC Wild Wild West Hash House Harriers takes socializing seriously. Wednesday/Thursday social hours and Saturday runs around the metro keep you fit – and making plenty of friends along the way.
  • Prefer to run in longer events? The Triathlon Club of Oklahoma City will keep you involved in the latest multi-sport events.
  • The Dirt Dog Trail Runners currently meet Mondays at 6:30 pm and include runners with all levels of experience.

Watersports

Because for some of us, being in the water feels as natural as breathing. Fortunately, OKC has a rapidly developing offering of watersports in both rivers and lakes.

  • Oklahoma City’s Boathouse District hosts all kinds of watersports – including rowing (individual and corporate leagues), canoeing, kayaking, dragon boating, and stand up paddle boarding (SUP).
  • Flat Tide also offers stand up paddle boarding in Lake Overholser.
  • Going to the lake? Try sailing or swimming for decidedly tough – but fun – workout options.
  • Ever heard of kiteboarding? We hadn’t either – but you can try it on Lake Hefner through OK Kite’s Kiteboarding School!
Climbing Wall

Climbing Wall at Shiloh Adventure Course

Ropes courses, zip lines, slacklining

These courses will quite literally keep your on your toes.

Looking for a DIY ropes course? Set up a slack line in your back yard or local park for a fun and challenging outdoor exercise.

Yoga

Get in touch with nature while you’re on your mat.

The Myriad Botanical Gardens are currently hosting two different yoga classes: a free vinyasa flow sponsored by our local lululemon $5 all-levels vinyasa class  with a local instructor.

Oklahoma City Adult Rec Leagues

Creatures of habits will love the wide variety of options available via local recreational sports leagues.

Ultimate Frisbee and Disc Golf

Find other rec leagues:

Golf Courses

Before there was disc golf, there was…golf. Here are the greenest greens in OKC.

Public basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts

No schedule, no problem – try a pickup game with friends old and new at a local court.

Want more outdoor fitness options? Don’t forget to ask your local gym about outdoor bootcamp classes – many gyms hold these in the early morning.

Enjoy the weather while it’s nice – we’ll see you outside!

Home Buyer Seminar Now in Spanish

HomBuyerFlerSpanishV2Home Creations, Oklahoma’s largest new home builder, has always encouraged future home buyers to make educated decisions when investing in a new home. In an effort to promote home ownership, we regularly offers free Home Buyer Seminars.

For this reason, our first Home Buyer Seminar in Spanish will take place on Thursday, October 16th from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Plaza Mayor, located at 7000 Crossroads Boulevard. Oklahoma City, OK 73149. Get directions.

“We want homeownership to be accessible to every ethnic group,” said Anita Brown, director of Sales and Marketing at Home Creations.

The seminar, as always, will focus on the benefits of owning a home, requirements necessary to purchase one, and types of loans available. Our goal is to give the Hispanic community the tools they need to become knowledgeable about home ownership and financing.

For more information download the FlyerPara obtener mas informacion sobre el seminaro, envia un texto con la palabra “CASA” al 24587.

7 Ways to Shop Local in OKC

Farmers Market Table

Norman Farmers Market. Credit Cleveland County Fairgrounds

As you already know, Oklahoma City is growing rapidly. And while our city is gaining new restaurants, amazing shopping venues, and talented sports teams, it hasn’t forgotten the value of supporting the local economy first and foremost.

From loyalty cards to unofficial perks, here are some of our favorite ways to buy local in the Oklahoma City metro.

  1. Make regular appearances at your local farmers’ market(s). Sure, making the trek to the farmers market and buying fresh veggies might seem a tad pricier than your once-weekly haul of shipped-in produce from your chain grocery store of choice. But unlike at the grocery store, you can form lasting relationships with your local growers pretty quickly – and the more of a regular you are, the more privy you’ll be to freebies like discounted produce, misshapen baked goods, and new product samples. Plus, you’ll always enjoy good conversation – and that’s valuable.
  1. Look for reward cards. Keep an eye out for rewards cards at the local venues you frequent. OKC coffee drive-thru Leaf+Bean offers a punch card, as do Teapioca Lounge and Roxy’s Ice Cream Social. Tucker’s Onion Burger’s loyalty card works more like frequent flier miles: You rack up points and earn dollar amount rewards. Want to save on groceries from a local chain? A Homeland One Card gives you access to exclusive weekly coupons and sweepstakes entries.

    Tuckers Onion Burgers Loyalty card

    Loyalty Cards are easy ways to save at local hot spots.

  1. Make a donation that comes with perks. Oklahoma City’s Allied Arts helps sponsor local arts organizations – and brings the arts to kids of all ages. And when you buy their OKCityCard ($50, good for a full year), you get access to a ton of discounts from local businesses. We’re willing to bet that you’d get that initial investment back if you used this card only once a month!
  1. Find souvenirs at a store that gives back. Local boutique ShopGood specializes in locally made clothing, home goods, art, and souvenirs. A portion of proceeds from every item sold goes to a local cause – so whether you’re eying an Oklahoma Strong tee or enjoying the Warby Parker showroom, you’ll be contributing to the local economy and investing into your community.
  1. Seek out events hosted by local businesses. For you, events mean freebies. For businesses, events mean exposure and new customers. From #freecoffeemonday at District House Coffee to Red Coyote’s weekly Pack Pint Run that culminates with free drinks from COOP Ale Works, you’ll meet new people and be eligible for all kinds of perks at locally-hosted events.
  1. Keep it Local discount card

    Keep it Local card (2014)

    Pick up a local shopping rewards card. Like the OKCityCard, a KeepItLocal card gets you significant discounts at businesses all around the metro – and at just $10, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

  1. Join a local co-op. Want to eat local (or even just organic) produce without visiting five different stores and markets a week? Try a local food co-op. You’ll save money because the co-op buys in bulk, and all you have to do is pick up your share. Some popular options in the metro include the Oklahoma Food Co-op and Urban Organics.

In addition to getting good deals and saving a few bucks, there are other reasons to shop locally. Your money goes directly back into your local economy. You know where your products are coming from. And buying local makes you part of a community – not part of a customer demographic. We’ll take that over superstores any day!

Back to School: Finding the right school for your child in Oklahoma

83115169Many Oklahomans searching for a new home or people relocating to the OKC metro area are considering the quality of the school district just as much as the floor plan of the home.

Parents of school-age children often pay attention to school performance ratings and are likely to pay more to be near public schools with higher scores. Oklahoma home buyers who have children or are planning for children in their future use this information as a top criteria in their home search. According to the 2012 National Association of REALTORS Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 25 percent of home buyers listed school quality and 19 percent listed proximity to schools as deciding factors in their home purchase.

81178007While there are some Oklahoma school districts that are facing challenges, the metro area is home to some of the best schools in the state.

According to the U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings for high schools , Norman, Edmond and Oklahoma City are dominating the Top 10 high schools in Oklahoma, and the top ranking elementary schools are also found in these communities along with Moore which is home to the #2 ranked elementary school in the state.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education compiles information about schools’ performances based on student achievement and graduation rates among other factors and grades its schools every year. You can look up your child’s school here.

Resources such as schooldigger.com or neighborhoodscout.com can also help you review the school district that you are considering buying a home in. They provide user-friendly, quick data. However, these sites use the same data as the OSDE but can use other factors in their evaluations as they are run by private businesses or organizations.

New homes available in Home Creations communities in Oklahoma this fall are located in the following districts:

Bixby, OK Bixby school system ranked #3 in OK, according to neighborhoodscout.com
Claremore, OK Verdigris Public Schools system is ranked #10 in OK, according to neighborhoodscout.com
Collinsville, OK Collinsville Public Schools district is ranked 53rd in OK 53rd in OK, according to schooldigger.com
Edmond, OK Edmond school system is ranked #2 in OK, according to NeighborhoodScout.com, according to neighborhoodscout.com
Deer Creek, OK Deer Creek is one of the most sought after school districts in the metro area with excellent ratings. The Deer Creek Elementary has received an “A” on its state report card. Click here for an in-depth look at the school district.
Glenpool, OK Glenpool High and Glennpool Elementary are rated high in their GreatSchools rating (What is this referring to?).
Jenks, OK Jenks school system ranked #4 in OK, according to neighborhoodscout.com
Midwest City, OK Mid Del is among the top districts in the state for Oklahoma Academic Scholars with awards like National Merit, State Regents and Academic All State and is home to two Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon Schools.
Moore, OK Moore has two powerhouse high schools and is home to Wayland Bonds Elementary School which is ranked #2 in OK, according to schooldigger.com
Newcastle, OK Newcastle Public Schools district is ranked 43rd in OK, according to schooldigger.com, and therefore in the top 10 percent of state school districts.
Oklahoma City, OK Our Clearwater neighborhood is served by Western Heights schools, Heritage Heights is served by John Marshall High School and Stonegate Elementary
Piedmont, OK Piedmont school system ranked #9 in OK, according to neighborhoodscout.com
Yukon, OK Yukon Public Schools district is ranked 99th in OK, according to schooldigger.com

Here are a few things you need to know about selecting a home based on a school district:

  • Home prices tend to be higher in top rated school districts
  • Good school district keeps home prices stable and easier to resell
  • School ratings change, and by the time your child is ready for school, the district may have dropped or risen in the rankings.

When evaluating a school district, there are a number of things to take into consideration. Take a look at the quality and age of the facilities. Check out how students perform on standardized tests. Look at the student-to-teacher ratio to see how much personalized attention the students receive. The amount of spending per student at the school will tell you how much of the budget is allocated for each student.

However, don’t limit your search to the school ratings and statistics alone. Even a district that is rated lower may have benefits. Class sizes may be smaller, or the school may be home to the best jazz band in the state or have an excellent sports team. Talk to people who have lived in the OKC community for a while and have children enrolled in the schools. You may even want to schedule an interview with a teacher or administrator at the school. Attending certain Oklahoma City schools can help your children attend community colleges free if they meet the qualifications. There are also many private schools available in the Oklahoma City Metro area.

So, pick a home that’s right for you and your family, and don’t forget about the school!