Spring Fever-Is it Real?


Spring has sprung; the robins, sandhill cranes, and redwing blackbirds are just a few of the birds that have returned. The worms emerged during the recent rains, the “occasional”sunshine exudes warmth and baseball season starts on Saturday.

But, does “spring fever” really exist? While not actually a fever, warmer longer days following the spring equinox creates a biological change in people. Humans experience a higher energy level, need less sleep, reduce their food consumption, and encounter a lifting of their spirits when winter ends and spring begins.

My  personal bout of spring fever started a few weeks ago. I laced up my walking shoes and leashed Riley, my walking companion, for our morning and evening walks. Even our very short legs, his four and my two, yearn to be stretched out and moved. I’ve started my yard tours to check on our bulbs and plantings to discover what survived and is emerging from the previously frozen tundra.We even went to the garden store on Saturday to dream and purchase seeds to start indoors for our flower garden. We met quite a few like- minded people itching to start their gardens. I can’t wait to plant the seeds and watch my yard flourish into a canvas of color. I also suffer from clean window-itis every spring. I want to rid the windows of all their winter dirt and soil so I can clearly see my garden and it doesn’t interfere with the streaming sunlight.

All the people walking dogs, riding bikes,pushing strollers, and in-line skating along Apple Creek trail yesterday was another sure sign of Wisconsinites afflicted with spring fever. We are also experiencing the effects of spring fever at work as people are showing a strong interest in building new houses.

What symptoms of spring fever do you experience? Do you feel the biological pull to exercise, redecorate your home, or plan a garden? Or maybe, it is the lifting of your spirits as well as a makeover with a new hairdo or wardrobe. Whatever your symptoms of spring fever, be sure to embrace the season.

A Year in Retrospect in the Fox Valley

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A year in retrospect in the Fox Valley. We returned to live in the Fox Valley last December 21st after a 23 year hiatus. We lived all over Wisconsin during our time away and found many things to love and of course a few to dislike about each area.

So what is it about Appleton and the Fox Cities that we find attractive? The winters are NOT on the list of what we ( especially I) love! Actually, I abhor them and am already freezing and tired of wearing so many clothes. But we had a beautiful summer and a long fall, allowing us to spend weekends on the boat, take long walks in the evenings, and partake in all of the outdoor music the area has to offer.I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

The Fox Cities really grew up in our time away. As a matter of fact when we first moved here in the early 1980’s, one had to go to Green Bay to do big shopping other than Sears and J.C. Penney’s. Then the downtown developed with the Avenue Mall and later the Fox River Mall came on the scene.It is exciting to see a bustling downtown with locally owned shops, restaurants, and coffee shops.  Today, the arts and music scene, while continuing to evolve offers something for everyone. We loved the Heid Summer Music Series and attended each one . The Mile of Music, extremely well done with a wide variety of acts, attracted a crowd of all ages, including the little ones at the Lawrence University Academy of Music. We’ve enjoyed the arts too, with visits to the Trout Museum, Take Me to the River month long exhibit at the old Thilmany Mill in Kaukauna, the Art Fair in City Park, and the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh. The beautiful PAC brings in some great shows.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fox Valleyaires Barbershop Concerts and area competition in which my husband participates.

We have also taken time to enjoy hiking in both the winter and fall at Thousand Islands Nature Preserve while watching the wild river run over rocks and logs into the more serene lake. We’ve driven along the lakeshore in both Oshkosh and Manitowoc, thrilled with the park areas that have been established so people can enjoy some of the areas natural beauty.

The sporting events have also grown in the area. We love hockey so ventured up to Green Bay to watch the Gamblers and the UW- Madison Hockey team. We’ve been to the Timber Rattlers for baseball and will most likely return.

The year hasn’t been all about what the Fox Valley offers. It also involves work. In the spring, I started a job as a new home designer with Midwest Design Homes and Jon Huss Custom Homes. This fun position allows me to use my creativity in helping people design their dream homes. It also means that I need to go out and network. I have met some wonderful people in the area through the chambers, BNI, and Fox Valley Women in Business.

We also spent that past year working on settling in our new home and making it ours. That meant hours of sweat equity in landscaping and maintaining a brand new yard. To think that 2 years ago I was reveling in the ease of condo living. Now we are once again shoveling snow, mowing, and weeding. Plus, our beautiful 3 season room should be completed today!

We need to continue to discover and enjoy the area. First on my list is to seek out the best holiday displays and visit the Kohler Museum over the holidays. We will also return to the Trout Museum and walk downtown Appleton to admire the ice sculptures.

What are your favorite activities in the Fox Valley area that you would recommend?

Does Your Home Speak to You?

Does your house speak to you? No, I’m not crazy, but I believe if your house does not speak to you something is wrong. I’ve always told my clients; whether I was working as a designer at Steinhafels, a Realtor or a new home designer for Midwest Design Homes/Jon Huss Custom Homes, your house must say, “Welcome Home, this is your sanctuary, this is where you are meant to be.”

My past Realtors used to get frustrated with me when we drove up to a house and my immediate reaction was to drive on. If the front of the house didn’t attract me, it definitely wasn’t worth my time or theirs. The funny thing is, I never loved the front of our Madison home because it was too dark and in a very dark wooded neighborhood. But it warranted a second look and ultimately a purchase because the owners landscaped the yard with bright impatiens and a charming sundial (which much to my dismay they kept.) The little things can really make your house say , “Welcome Home.” Originally our Madison home had a charming tree growing out of the lower deck and a spiral staircase from the lower deck to the upper deck. I found both charming at the time. We won’t discuss here how they both became an issue. I often bought homes because the quirky things grabbed me; such as a little built in arched telephone nook, corner cupboards, or a grand entrance.

Do you notice how holiday decorations warm up the front of a house and make you want to visit? A well placed lit lamp in a front window creates a feeling of coziness and warmth. For some reason when I see a light in the front window I think the home and it’s owners must be warm, friendly, and about to serve a comforting meal. Again, I am not crazy, it is just an illusion that I hope is true. A home with gables, front porches, the right mix of exterior colors, or well planned landscaping may also say, “Welcome Home, this is where you are meant to be.”

Every home my husband and I have bought possess large windows and the ability to see the backyard when walking through the front door. We love to bring the outside in; especially as we live in the north. Over-sized and well placed windows, a signature of MDH and Jon Huss Custom Homes, help the homes feel bright and spacious, inviting people to sit down in a sunbeam.

If you are thinking about building a new home, drive around and look at houses paying special attention to the ones that make you want to stop and step inside. What is it about them that attracts you? Do they have the same ,”Welcome Home” feeling on the inside. Make sure to incorporate the elements when building, buying, or decorating your home. These elements need to also be integrated in the interior design of your home. It doesn’t matter what kind of architecture or design you prefer, it must speak to you personally.

Please share the features in a house that say welcome home to you.


Building Pains Abated

Our building pains have abated. The much anticipated 3 season room is beginning to take shape. We couldn’t be more excited. Of course it’s not without some woes.

First of all, I am professed neat freak. And even though this building mostly take place on the outside of our home, I have some messiness issues with which to contend. First of all, I have spent the better part of the summer trying to perfect our lawn. I finally got my husband (the agronomist) to agree to spray the annual rye grass. It disappeared and the lawn took off. Unfortunately, due to traffic from the builders and the heavy equipment used right after a big rainfall, we now lost lots of the yard. The yard has developed a traffic pattern from the front to the back and given all the rain that keeps falling, some good muddy patches. Of course, it can be fixed and it is all part of the building process. The builders are also using the inside of my house to plug in some of their tools so I  must contend with dusty footprints on a daily basis. But in reality, it isn’t too bad.

The next issue is the RAIN. It doesn’t stop. The poor guys have had rain delays, gotten all wet, and had to deal with some slippery surfaces while roofing.We are now under roof and hope to have windows today.

So far, everything has gone well with the inspectors and the builders. If you need a recommendation, give me a call. While I work for a builder, we don’t do remodeling and additions unless it is our own construction. Hence, an outside contractor.

We love the height of the windows and you can see in the last picture how we will have windows at the top. The room fits in nicely with the roof line of our house. It promises to be light-filled and should not restrict the light in our kitchen too much. Riley, the dog, and I have already enjoyed some of the late summer warmth sitting in the 3 season (albeit all open) room. Stay tuned for the next steps, flooring, dry wall, windows, and carsiding on the ceiling.



3 Tips for Getting to Know your New Neighbors


Moving into a new neighborhood can be a bit daunting, especially if you don’t know anyone. We recently moved into a new neighborhood and took it upon ourselves to make connections. Knowing your neighbors is very important for your own security and safety.

  1. Exchange contact information- My husband and I went door to door in our new neighborhood to introduce ourselves. We then put everyone’s names, address, emails, phone numbers, and kids names and ages into a shared google doc and sent it to everyone.
  2. Get up close and personal- When each new neighbor moved in after us, we took over a plate of homemade cookies to reinforce the “moving troops.”
  3. Arrange for a neighborhood get- together. This works especially well if it can be held outside so that the kids can all run around and play. A barbecue, potluck, or just an evening with BYB drinks provides a great opportunity for everyone to get together without having to go to a lot of work.

Knowing your neighbors makes living in a new city or neighborhood much more enjoyable. Our neighborhood has been able to share information about contractors for landscaping, patios, HVAC contractors, and watch each others’ homes while they are away. We often meet on the street to visit and have arranged for game nights with our neighbors.Don’t be afraid to get out and meet your new neighbors.

The Hidden Costs of a NEW Home


This post is not trying to dissuade you from building a home with me, rather, I always want my clients to be educated and well prepared for their building endeavors. And in all transparency, the more you spend building your home, the better it is for my company and me.That being said, the bottom line is that I do not want my clients to be unhappy or unpleasantly surprised.

You want to have money in your budget after move-in day for all of the other incidentals such as ; appliances, landscaping, furniture,rugs, and window treatments to decorate your new home. Having recently purchased a newly constructed home, I can attest to how quickly the money flies out the door. New homeowners need to assess what items are a must have and which ones are just on the wish list. It is advisable to make a Need vs. A Want list. Most importantly,DO NOT open any other loans or lines of credit for your new purchases before closing on your new home! Making purchases on credit could very well keep you from closing on your new home.

When applying for your new home/construction loan, assess what other purchases are necessary. Big ones to consider and pre- price are window treatments, appliances, landscaping, and rugs. IS this your first home or a move up? Do you need or just dream of new furniture, towels, and accessories? Do you already own lawn, landscaping, and snow removal equipment or does that need to be put into your budget? We recently moved to a condo before purchasing our new home and unfortunately sold most of our equipment. We considered having a service take care of all of our lawn and snow needs since it would be paid out on an as needed basis but figured it wouldn’t be cost effective in the long run. As the end of July nears, we have used the lawn mower enough times to make it a worthwhile purchase.

Of course, we’d all love to have new furniture in our new homes but unless you have lots of extra cash on hand, move into your new home and pace yourself on the purchases until you know what is really needed. Every time you hang a tool in the garage, need a paper towel holder, or another shelf, the costs add up.

I want to encourage you to build a new home  but it is best to be aware of all of the costs that might be incurred in the process. I never regretted building a new home as I made sure to budget for the necessities and advise my clients to do the same.

The Landscaping Dilemma

A new home, especially a newly constructed home, often comes with a blank canvas for a yard. Our new home has the front simply landscaped but the backyard barely even has grass in it. Well, to be fair, the builders planted a fast growing rye grass to cover up the soil;kind of. We are plagued with low spots that tend to flood with the melting snow and the rain. Of course, the clay soil here in the Fox Valley isn’t the best for drainage.

So what is the landscaping dilemma? My husband and I have always had beautiful yards. We are the type A personality of a weed- free yard, lush, green yard planted with beautiful flowers that have always attracted visitors and people walking by to make comments. Now, with the blank canvas of a yard, we have been visiting greenhouses and landscape companies looking at plants and trees, changing our minds, and redrawing plans over and over again.We actually planted a few trees, knowing that we really wanted a maple, apple trees, and a small crab tree for both the beauty and as a pollinator. If anyone watched us measure, remeasure, and measure again before we planted, it would have made for a great YouTube video! But the trees are in and will soon be leafing out.  One of our big problems is that our backyard backs up to an open field and the winds blow strongly across the yard. Therefore, we need a bit of a windblock. So after many trips to the landscape yards; including Vandeheys, Shade Today, Home Depot, Steins, Lowes, Shopko, and Wolfraths, I finally did for my husband exactly what I would do for clients. I moved the plants around and laid them out so that we could visualize a basic plan. I know that I want all year color so we will combine evergreens with a small red twigged dogwood. We want a variety of evergreens to bring in different colors and textures. We finally settled on three varieties and sizes of evergreens. But now, we face more problems.

We love so many different plants. We really want a yard that requires little work as we loved the condo living lifestyle that we just left. We now have to work on controlling our impulse buying. We don’t usually have a problem with impulse buying, only when it relates to landscaping. We have promised ourselves that once we get our berms built and plant the evergreens, we will progress slowly. Of course trees and evergreens are nice but we both are individually studying different plans for a perennial garden. We look lovingly at rhododendrons every day and covet hydrangea trees, rosebushes, and the newer hibiscus trees. When things progress, we will post pictures. Of course, we are buying smaller plants in order to buy more plants and to keep it affordable.

Our big landscaping dilemma really boils down to keeping it affordable, narrowing down our selections, and determining the best spot for each plant. Of course, we also need to decide whether to kill the rye grass, regrade the yard, and replant new grass. Controlling my impatience for spring, green, and a beautiful yard also adds to the landscaping dilemma.

What is your biggest landscaping dilemma?