Category Archives: Just for Fun

Three Ways to Help Your Child Stay Academically Checked In Even While They Check Out Over Summer

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Around the mid-point of summer some children benefit from a little adult input to keep activities exciting.  When offering fun activity ideas, try to provide some that allow your children to exercise their brains as well as their bodies!  Here are a couple activity suggestions you could make your own!


1.  Family Board Game

Although many electronic games offer math and reading practice, only person-to-person interactive games can truly exercise educational AND social skills.  For example, when playing a board game, children are asked to problem solve, follow directions, and act/react appropriately to the game and its players.  Sometimes sibling rivalry can get the best of the players, but the lessons learned are often far more valuable than sitting in front of a screen.


2.  Play Outside!

Who doesn’t want to be outside in sunny southern California?  Sometimes kiddos need a little encouragement, but once they get out there, they’re bound to have a good time!  Encourage your kids to make up a game.  Creating rules of a game provides problem solving among the kids, value to each child’s perspective, and creativity.  To make it fair, let each child make one rule before going around again to create more rules.  This way each child will have an equal amount of input.  Listening skills are also a big part of creating a game with other people.  Go a step further and encourage your kids to make math or reading a part of the game.


3.  Follow a Recipe in the Kitchen

A great way to practice reading and math is to cook!  Involve your family in choosing recipes, reviewing the ingredients, making a shopping list, purchasing food at the store, and executing the recipe in your kitchen.  Not only will this activity provide you quality time with your kids, but leave them with a meaningful and educational experience.  Not to mention, a yummy snack, dinner or dessert!


The summer months provide time to enjoy activities with your family.  Encourage your kids to make the most of their time to “check out” by choosing meaningful activities that will help them stay “checked in”.

Artificial Grass – Making OC Homes Permanently Green

CI pic March BlogTurf has become more and more popular over recent years in Southern California. There is a wide array of reasons for the newly found popularity. Clearly droughts have played havoc on homeowner’s lawns and the ever-rising water costs don’t help. As the droughts continue, yards get browner and wallets emptier.
Artificial grass has become an easy alternative for homeowners frustrated with their lawns. While artificial grass may not have the exact look and feel as natural grass, the product has come a long way in recent years. In many instances it is difficult to tell the difference. Due to this fact, many homeowners are researching the possibilities.


Let me help you out. Artificial grass has numerous advantages over natural grass. Water Districts are currently offering large rebates to balance installation costs. In some cases the rebate programs can almost pay for entire installation of artificial grass.


Here are the advantages:

-Less maintenance

-Lower your monthly water bill

-Water District Rebate Programs (Often up to $3.50 a sq. ft. and the cost of labor)

-Lower cost to maintain

-Pet and Kid Friendly


There are clearly monetary reasons to consider the switch, but the up keep and maintenance is virtually nonexistent. Installing turf could lower your monthly water bill by $30. That could mean a $360 savings year after year!


There are very little disadvantages to installing turf. Clearly the look and feel of natural grass can’t be beat, but do the pros outweigh the cons for your family? Find out for yourself and schedule a time to meet with an artificial grass professional to review your “turf” options. If you need help, we have recommendations.

6 Things You Can Do With Your Tax Refund

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Photo Credit:

How you handle “windfalls” of money can largely determine your financial success. Here are a few ways you can apply your tax refund:


1.   Build an Emergency Fund – One of the best ways to reduce stress in your life is to increase your margin. That includes giving you some cushion for the occurrence of “life events” like job loss, family health issues, etc. It’s nice to have savings for these things when they come up rather than having to rely on credit cards!


2.   Payoff Debt – Paying credit card interest will cripple your chances of financial success. Delay immediate gratification with your refund and apply it towards paying off credit card debt. Then once you have an emergency fund in place and have paid off credit card debt, fire away at those student loans & car loans! Imagine the feeling of not having a student loan payment or a car payment. What could you do with that money each month?


3.   Save For a Major Purchase – Use your tax refund toward a major purchase goal such as your next car, home upgrades, new appliances, or new furniture. Set a goal for how much you’ll need and save that amount so you can pay cash, avoiding the purchase/debt cycle that plagues so many Americans today.


4.   Save to Purchase a Home – Depending on the size of your refund, you may be able to make a dent in saving for your new home down payment. If done right, buying a home is one of the best ways to secure your future retirement, and gain a tax deduction in the meantime. Depending on your situation, you may qualify to purchase a home with only 3% down. Contact us if you have questions regarding this.


5.   Contribute to Retirement Accounts – You can apply refund money toward retirement accounts such as Traditional IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, 401k’s, etc.


6.   Give to Those Less Fortunate – Bless somebody else with your money. There are many ways you can be generous and change somebody else’s life. Be creative! Here’s one fun idea: click here.


The key is to think about how you can best apply your refund according to your goals before you impulsively spend it aimlessly.


What are you going to do with your refund? Please reply and let us know!

Kid-Friendly Backyard Remodel

Artificial Grass by DelMar Turf
Artificial Grass by DelMar Turf

One of the greatest challenges for growing families is to use the space inside and outside their home in the best way possible.  Basically, how do you “grow out of your home” without looking like you are bursting at the seams?


When we moved into our quaint Aliso Viejo neighborhood, we instantly fell in love with the shuttered windows and cozy yards.  But cozy can easily become crowded if you aren’t conscientious about using the space well.  We recently remodeled our backyard in order to create more usable, kid-friendly space.  Although I was completely against anything artificial, my husband proved to be the brains of the operation and hired Curtis Cooper from DelMar Turf who had some great ideas for making our yard what it needed to be.  Curtis and his team were exceptional throughout the entire process.  The product they recommended looks great and is pet/kid friendly!  It rained just this morning, but our turf is already dry.


Before adding turf to the backyard, our space was barely usable.  Our grass struggled to grow and the battle with constant mud puddles often outweighed the desire to play in the yard.  Now that our family is growing, it is important for us to have a usable outdoor space.


Child-size potting table by Custom Raised Gardens
Child-size potting table by Custom Raised Gardens

In what feels like another life, I was an elementary school teacher.  I am often searching for and/or designing games to engage our daughter in meaningful activities.  As part of our remodel, we ordered a child-size potting table from Custom Raised Gardens.  The table is the perfect size for our daughter to grow in to and it offers storage options for her toys as well as our gardening supplies.  Now all we need is to add some decor on the table itself and a couple of shrub and flowering bushes around the base.


By imagining how your family will be in a space, you can design furniture/décor that can support its use.  This area in our yard will now serve as a play space for our daughter, workbench for mom and dad, and a beautiful backdrop on our fence – all resting on our mud-free grass!  We expanded the size of our yard by taking a couple simple steps and making sure it was user friendly for all members of our household!

Email Etiquette 101

CN Feb Blog Pic2Email is a primary method of communication in today’s business. Sometimes we send an email and forget to proofread, spell check, or even look at who we are sending it to. Often times replying so quickly to emails, we lose focus and don’t realize until it’s too late that perhaps we shouldn’t have sent it at all.


Have you ever sent an email to someone you didn’t mean to send it to? Did it get you in trouble or were you embarrassed by it?  I’m sure it has happened at least once to everyone and if not, you are lucky! Let’s go over some suggestions to make sure that when emails are sent, proper etiquette is in mind. We just want to make sure that the recipient of the email interprets your email properly. It’s all about perception.


These are a few simple suggestions/basic rules to be mindful of:

  • Address people properly.  If you don’t know who they are, use their full name rather than a shortened variation (i.e. Robert vs Rob).
  • Be Professional – We all love emoticons. Let’s save those for our social media and text messages.  We want to stay away from abbreviations and colorful backgrounds as well.
  • Re-read your email before sending (think before you send)
  • Wait to fill in the “To” so you can avoid accidently sending an email prematurely
  • Watch your tone – avoid using ALL CAPS. The recipient will interpret that as being yelled at
  • Include a Subject Line that is clear (i.e. For Agents, always include the property address in the subject line) – Choose something that will let the recipient know what you are addressing


Remember every email you send is a reflection of you. Consider this a little cheat sheet for your email best practice needs.


Written by one of Iseley & Walsh’s guest Transaction Coordinators.

Don’t Let SENIORITIS Sneak up in Your Home!

Don’t let SENIORITIS sneak up on you!


Photo Credit: Sabl3t3k
Photo Credit: Sabl3t3k

With spring popping up just around the corner, it is likely that more than high school seniors will get senioritis.  That’s right, I believe senioritis affects students of all ages.  All kids know summer is right around the corner, and with Open House and warmer weather on the horizon; the clues are hard to miss!


How can your family stay motivated to finish out the school year strong?


Make a list of the remaining projects and/or reports.  Students excel in predictable circumstances.  By making a list of upcoming major assignments, your child will be able to anticipate where hard work is needed. The greatest struggle with senioritis is once a student is “Checked Out” they will have a really hard time checking back in!


Write upcoming assignments on a desk or wall calendar so it is simple to see the amount of time a teacher is allowing the class to complete the project.  Procrastination is the enemy!  Springtime is often one of the busiest times of the year.  It is crucial that your child be realistic about the amount of time needed to complete schoolwork.


Set up a reward’s system!  What motivates your child?  Consider setting up a reward’s system where your child can work toward a major goal for summer.  For example, let’s say Palace Park is a family favorite.  You could provide your child with a certain number of coins each week he/she turns in assignments on time.  Then those coins can be used when your family goes to the park.  Make sure you set a date for the reward.  If the reward isn’t something approachable or tangible students may lose focus.


Don’t count on extra credit!  Teachers structure their assignments so a fair amount of points are provided through homework/classwork, projects, reports, and assessments.  Remind your child that each aspect of the class is important to prove his/her understanding of the material.  By neglecting one part, enough points could be lost to dramatically lower a grade.  Remember, unless a teacher has already provided the option for extra credit, it isn’t likely they will at the very end of the year.


Motivated Kids – Motivate Kids!  I used to snicker when my mother would say, “Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future”, but now I know it is true! We are influenced by the people around us.  Encourage your children to spend time with kids who have the same values as your family, who respect education and treat others nicely.  That way, when behaviors rub off, which they always do, your child will be positively influenced to finish the year strong!



What are some ways you prevent SENIORITIS from sneaking up on your family?

Starting The Year Off With A Bang

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Picture credit:

What’s your New Year’s Resolution? Are you off on the right foot for 2015? Have you written down your goals? What will you do differently this year compared to last?  What motivates you every day? These are just a few questions you may ask someone else and questions you should be asking yourself to set the tone for the fresh start of a new year.


Here are some suggestions and ideas to help you get started going into the New Year:


  1. Create a list of goals for the year.  Write your goal down and place it somewhere visible to remind yourself each day of what you are working towards.  It should be something you want to see yourself achieve along with a plan to help you reach the goal.
  2. Tidy Up.  Give the house a deep clean. Who said you had to wait for spring cleaning to arrive? Clean out the closet and bag up the unwanted items to sell or donate. Clear out the fridge and medicine cabinet for all expired items. I don’t know about you, but having a clean house makes everything feel so much better. Plus, it will make you feel organized!
  3. Establish a Health Plan. Everyone knows how packed the gym gets at the beginning of the year because it’s a majority of the population’s New Year’s resolution: get in shape, lose weight, and be healthy. It’s never too late. Establish your own goal weight, create a workout regimen, and change up your diet. It takes a lot of dedication of discipline, but if you set your mind to it, you can do it! Believe in yourself and stick to your goal.
  4. De-Clutter. Clean your desk /office.Discard any unnecessary items to clear up some space. What better way to be productive in the first month of the year by allowing your workspace to be fresh and clean.
  5. Perform Random Acts of Kindness. Have you ever paid it forward? An act of gratitude can go a long way. It can be as simple as paying for someone’s coffee in the Starbucks drive-thru. Try it! You could really brighten up someone’s day.


Hopefully some of these tips can give you the momentum to a successful and productive year. Do you have any productive tips to start the year so it runs smoothly? Feel free to comment and share those with us!

5 Tips to a Happy Home during “Homework Hour”

MI (Pic for Oct Post)As the second month of school comes to a close, you may find that your family is still figuring out the perfect balance between after school activities.  When I taught elementary school, I often heard that my students were too exhausted and rundown to concentrate on homework activities.  Unfortunately, finding a balance between after school sports and clubs and homework is sometimes easier said than done.  Here are some things to try if you haven’t yet found that perfect balance.


1.  Make it Predictable

Students thrive in predictable situations.  If they know what to expect and what is expected of them, they are much more likely to hit the goal!  Sit down with your child and create an afterschool routine that suits both of you.


2.  Start Early

Timing is everything!  Work backwards… what time should your kiddo be in bed?  Make sure he/she has time to wind down before bed.  Students often sleep better if they have a chance to relax their mind before going to sleep instead of completing homework just before lights out!


3.  Set a Timer

In early elementary, the idea of completing schoolwork after school could seem unthinkable for a student.  Help your child stay on track (or at least in his/her seat) for a set amount of time by using a timer.  Begin by setting the timer for small increments of time (such as 5 minute intervals) and then build up to 20 mins. or so.  An entire math page may seem daunting at the beginning of the school year, but if you break it down into sections and reward your child with a break when the timer goes off, you will help your child build confidence and concentration!


4.  Fuel Up 

Provide your child with a healthy, protein-rich snack before beginning homework activities.  If your child’s physical needs are met, he/she will be able to concentrate more easily on the task at hand.


5.  Find a Good Place

All children are able to concentrate better in a quiet, calm environment.  Help your child determine the best place in your house where they can work on school activities.  Be mindful that the kitchen table is usually the hub of all excitement in the evening and needs to be cleared off for dinnertime.  It might not be the best place for your child to unload his/her backpack!


Inviting your child to discuss these tips will help them own their decisions regarding homework time.  Setting oneself up for success is half  the challenge of getting there!

“A Penny for your Thoughts” 1 cent and 1 dollar deals for Back to School Shopping

Photo Credit: Matt Douchette
Photo Credit: Matt Douchette

Back to school shopping can be expensive!  Each school year my fellow teachers and I would try to minimize the items on our students’ supply lists as much as possible.  The reality is that there are a lot of materials that are needed at the beginning of the school year.  In an effort to minimize costs, check out these deals… some as low as one-cent!


Staples often has one-cent deals at the beginning of the school year.  The one-cent deals are usually items placed in large bins at the front of the store.  Call ahead and see what items are on sale!


Everyone knows the dollar bins offer great buys at Target.  Sometimes you can even find items bundled; therefore the cost per item is less than one dollar!  Recently, there were some school materials in the dollar bins.  Again, give a store near you a call to make sure the materials you are looking for are on sale.


Office Max is another great store to visit when stocking up on school supplies.  Currently crayons, markers, and colored pencils are all on sale for a dollar!


Make sure to search for coupons before heading out on your shopping trip.  Spending a few minutes searching and printing a coupon could help save you money and make sure you get those supplies for as low as one-cent!

School’s Out Now What?

Source: Jason Tucker (
Source: Jason Tucker (

It seems that every family waits in anticipation for summer.  Exciting outdoor activities, pool parties, and beach days make for wonderful family memories in beautiful Orange County.  I can’t help, but notice the number of families that find the need to get creative around this time of the summer to keep their busy kiddos occupied with meaningful, safe, and inexpensive activities.  Below are some of my favorite summer pastimes:


Concerts in the Park – I have always been impressed with Orange County cities and their emphasis on community building activities.  One of my favorites is “Concert in the Park”.  On Sunday afternoons, we can be found packing up the stroller with a picnic blanket, beach chairs, and enough snacks to feed a small army.  Next, we head to Aliso Viejo’s Grand Park for a relaxing concert and picnic dinner.  Activities for the kids include face painting and various games in the large grass area at the top of the amphitheater.  Nothing says summer time like good music, fun, and laughter!


Camping – Another favorite summer activity is camping.  Whether you are looking for the real camping experience or are better suited as a GLAMper, Orange County offers it all.  From beach to wilderness, all you need for camping is a warm sleeping bag, tent, and an organized family member who can plan out the meals.


Outdoor Mall Entertainment – With our beautiful Orange County weather, it is sometimes hard to stay inside.  Why not hit up the outdoor malls in the area.  The Spectrum, Fashion Island, and Kaleidoscope, all offer restaurants, air conditioned shopping, and of course, water features!  Specifically, “Kaleido Kids” offers free activities for children at the Kaleidoscope in Mission Viejo from July 24th– August 26th.  Don’t forget about the OC Fair!  There is something for every member of the family.


There are countless opportunities for families to get involved in fun summer events.  It is no wonder Orange County is valued as one of the best places to raise a family.  What are your favorite summer pastimes?