18 September 2015

3 Reasons Why You Should Install Solar Panels

Solar panels seem to be popping up everywhere! In the last few years, more and more people are using the sun to their advantage. Here are three reasons why you should install solar panels and see the difference yourself!

1. Save Money

What is one of the best perks of installing solar panels? Saving money! Purchasing a solar panel system is a long term investment, so while there is an initial investment needed, you should begin to see the results in your power bills immediately. Solar panels are low maintenance and while it is beneficial to give them a professional clean now and again for optimum efficiency, once they’re installed you can sit back, relax, and soak up those savings! If you’ve had some really sunny days, you might even be eligible for a credit on your next power bill. If your solar panels produce more electricity than you need, the excess will return to the grid and begin to credit your account. On top of this, there are other government incentives and tariffs that could potentially save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the years to come. Before you buy a solar panel system, speak to a professional such as AESOL to assess the best system for your budget and energy needs!

2. Self-Sufficient Energy

Everyone likes the feeling of independence. Why should your electricity be any different? Installing solar panels provides freedom over your power consumption without nasty hidden fees. As electricity prices continue to rise, producing your own energy will ease the burden of future bills and give you piece of mind knowing your power bill is under control. While your solar panels provide you with self-sufficient energy, this doesn’t mean you will be left stranded on those cloudy days. You can still remain connected to the grid so if you do have a string of days when you’re not producing as much energy, you’ll still be able to power your home (as per your utility provider’s costs). If you are after a completely free standing energy source, you panels can store extra electricity in batteries to use on those less energy productive days.

3.Go Green

There are not many things better than free energy… unless it was clean free energy! Installing solar panels is an eco-friendly way to provide your home with free power while helping the environment. A non-harmful source of power that produces no chemicals or nasty by-products, installing solar panels will reduce your carbon emissions and fuel your home for years to come. You don’t need a large system to start having a positive impact; even a small system will cut down carbon emissions and still save you money. That means free power for you and a healthier environment for all!
Everyone has different reasons for installing their own solar power systems but they all reap the same reward. If you’ve installed a solar panel system, feel free to share your thoughts below!

14 August 2015

Foods That Make Your Summer Wedding Sizzle

There are many details that go into the planning of a wedding, but one of the most exciting parts of the process is planning the menu. Choosing a theme, meeting with caterers, and sampling the array of offerings opens up a world of possibilities. With the variety of fresh, local ingredients at its peak in summer, there is an enormous diversity of possibilities to select from this time of year.

Outdoor Summer Weddings

To Serve, or Not To Serve?

One big decision a bride has to make is whether guests will have their food served to them, or select it themselves. Sit-down service makes crowd management easier, while a buffet or food stations can offer more variety and allows guests to create their own ideal meal. While a buffet presents a set selection of dishes that usually complement each other to some degree and are located in one central area, food stations are spread out in different areas throughout the banquet hall. Each includes an assortment of related foods, and guests can stick with one favorite theme or sample from among the variety of options.

Buffets and food stations can sometimes be perceived as less classy than sit-down service, but this isn’t necessarily so. Both food stations and buffets can create an elegant experience, usually at a savings over full dinner service particularly for outdoor summer weddings. Food stations have the benefit of offering unique, made-to-order fare that guests can watch chefs prepare to their specifications. The possibilities are almost endless: artisan pizzas, sushi rolls, crepes, stir fry, and shrimp and grits would probably seem unusual if served in combination as part of a sit-down dinner, but food stations allow brides almost complete freedom to customize their offerings to current food trends and seasonal availability as well as to their own culinary preferences and those of their guests.

New Twists on the Traditional

For those who choose the slightly more formal option of dinner service, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate the unique and unexpected into the meal. One way to do this is to serve a traditional favorite with a new twist. Instead of serving Brie with apple or pear, surprise guests by pairing it with persimmon or lychee. Try roasted branzino with caper butter in place of halibut or Chilean sea bass. In place of traditional red wine sauce or blue cheese, couple filet mignon with a black bean and roasted mango salsa. If you prefer a meatless menu, it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice class or flavor; polenta is a versatile classic that can be deliciously combined with ingredients such as goat cheese, caramelized onions, and honey or prepared vegan with sun dried tomatoes, zucchini, and almond pesto.

Wedding dinner traditions are now more fluid than ever, and every bride wants to present guests with a memorable experience. The bounty of fresh ingredients available this time of year opens up a world of culinary possibilities for your summer wedding.

04 August 2015

6 Ways to Make This Halloween More Festive

As Halloween is nearing, it's time to start thinking about making the holiday more festive. Although there are many decorations you might have in the attic, you can always take the occasion a step further and even involve the children in the fun. You could easily turn it into a month-long experience for yourself and the family while getting into the spirit of the holiday.

Orange Jack-o-Lanterns

When properly peeled, oranges can be fun to turn into miniature jack-o-lanterns with the children. Although oranges may not live as long as pumpkin shells, it can add something unique to the Halloween party. Fill them with candies or other small goodies and the kids may think it's the coolest jack-o-lantern, ever.

Festive Attire

Getting costumes and clothing before October can ensure that you get exactly what you want. The longer you wait, the more likely one of your favorite outlets will be out of stock. Visiting sites such as http://www.giftsforyounow.com/halloween-apparel-for-children 223.aspx can help you find everything from festive shirts to personalized Halloween-themed clothing for all ages.

Special Recipe Books

Never underestimate the fun of a Halloween cookbook. From cookies to dinners, you can add more to October by preparing these dishes. Dedicate your time in the evenings and have your children help. Cooking together can be an excellent bonding method.

Homemade Decor

The arts and crafts section of your local store can be a great asset to find homemade Halloween decorations. From foam balls for a pot of eyeballs to pipe cleaners to use as spider legs, the imagination can run wild in the craft isle.

Candle Jars

Empty jars can make great candle containers, especially if you use window paint to decorate them. Whether you're putting them in the window for all to see or simply dressing up the place setting on the table, its an affordable way to engage the holiday.

Pumpkin Cooler

During a party, an empty pumpkin can make an excellent cooler when loaded with ice. This gives you a great place to store beverages when at a barbecue or family picnic. Just cut the top one-quarter of the pumpkin all the way around and you'll have a lid to keep your drinks cold.

Halloween is more than just a night where the kids can roam the streets looking for candy from the neighbors. From recipes to wardrobes, the month of October can be filled with fun and interesting decor that you may not have considered before. What kind of things can you think of to enhance this list?

29 June 2015

Two Iowa Residents Place In National Braille Challenge

LOS ANGELES (June 22, 2015) – On Saturday, June 20th, Bettendorf, IA resident Emily Groves and Adel, IA resident Lauren Thomson both placed 3rd in their age range at the 15th Annual Braille Challenge®in Los Angeles, the only national reading and writing contest in braille for students who are blind and visually impaired. Sponsored by Braille Institute, The Braille Challenge is an academic competition designed to motivate students and emphasize their study of braille, while rewarding their success with fun-filled, challenging events. This year, regional Braille Challenge events were held at 46 different sites in the US and Canada from January through March. Collectively, more than 1,100 students participated in the regional events. Fifty-seven finalists (three finalists were unable to travel to the event) from the United States and Canada competed over the weekend.

"Braille is a crucial tool that opens the doors of literacy and drives educational advancement and future employment opportunities," said Peter Mindnich, President, Braille Institute. "We continue to be inspired each year by the passion and commitment of the students who compete in The Braille Challenge. Their achievements can empower others who are affected by sight loss to develop their braille skills as well."

Of all the literacy issues in America, braille literacy is one of the most underrated and overlooked, and advancements in technology have not replaced the need for children who are blind or visually impaired to learn to read using this vital medium. Understanding how essential braille literacy is for success in the sighted world, Braille Institute developed the two-phase, annual competition as a way to encourage children who are blind and visually impaired to fine tune their braille skills and celebrate their accomplishments.

“This challenge has influenced so many families who have a child or children who are blind or visually impaired. For many participants, this is their only opportunity to truly test their skills against others academically.” said Nancy Niebrugge, Associate Vice President of National Programs, at Braille Institute.

2015 Winners of The Braille Challenge (full list of all contestants is available):


Apprentice Brooke Petro, Leawood, KS

Freshman Richard Tienter, Ballwin, MO

Sophomore Christopher Abel, Acworth, GA

Junior Varsity Richelle Zampella, Muskogee, OK

Varsity Cricket Bidleman, San Diego, CA


Apprentice Maggie Wehrle, Victoria, BC, CAN

Freshman Audrey Bethay, Prairie Village, KS

Sophomore Kaleigh Brendle, Freehold, NJ

Junior Varsity Kate Antolak, Venice, FL

Varsity Harley Fetterman, Austin, TX


Apprentice Emily Groves, Bettendorf, IA

Freshman Jennifer Kasunick, Bay Village, OH

Sophomore Paige Drury, Glastonbury, CT

Junior Varsity Mitchell Bridwell, Pittsboro, IN

Varsity Lauren Thomson, Adel, IA

TEACHER OF THE YEAR Patricia L. Leader, San Jose, CA


Reading Comprehension Kate Antolak, Venice, FL

Spelling Brooke Petro, Leawood, KS

For additional information about the competition and this year’s winners, please visit www.braillechallenge.org.

About Braille Institute

Braille Institute is a nonprofit serving tens of thousands of people of all ages through an array of integrated educational, social and recreational programs and services designed to help people with vision loss lead enriched and fulfilling lives. Funded entirely by private donations, all services are free. For additional information, please visit www.braillechallenge.org or www.brailleinstitute.org. Follow Braille Institute on Facebook and Twitter (@BrailleInst).

25 June 2015

Chicago Neighborhood Guide

A trip to Chicago can be an exciting getaway; however, choosing a hotel carefully is key to ensuring a relaxing stay. The general vicinity of a hotel can greatly impact the quality of the guest's overall stay. The following guide provides information about various neighborhoods in which many Chicago hotels are located.

The Loop

Home to the famous Sears Tower, The Loop is located in between the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue. It is the second-largest business district in the United States. The area is comprised of modern towers and art deco buildings. Those who stay in the area will enjoy being in close proximity to shopping and theater performances. Nearby attractions include Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center.

Magnificent Mile

Located north of The Loop is the Magnificent Mile, named for its glamorous shops, malls, luxury hotels, and top-rated restaurants. Attractions that are closest to the Magnificent Mile include Navy Pier, the John Hancock Center, Chicago Children's Museum, and River North, which is a former industrial district that how houses nightlife venues and art galleries.

Old Town

An affluent, historic district, Old Town includes many of the city's Victorian-style buildings. The area is in close proximity to downtown and is rich with entertainment venues. From comedy clubs to specialty shopping and a diverse mix of restaurants, visitors have everything they need right at the doorstep of their accommodations. Old Town is known for its many boutiques. The neighborhood also hosts an annual art fair each June. Just east of Old Town lies the Gold Coast district, which is bounded by the famous Lakeshore Drive. Upscale shopping is available in the area's large retailers and smaller boutiques.

Lincoln Park

The city's largest park, Lincoln Park follows the shoreline of Lake Michigan several miles from its origin at North Avenue. Within the park's 1,200 acres, visitors may enjoy several beaches, a zoo, with which the park shares its name, two museums, and a botanical conservatory.

When deciding where to stay, travelers should consider the location that is in closest proximity to the sites they would like to see, but is still within their budget. Planning the trip far in advance of the travel date and frequently comparing deals on hotel discount sites can help travelers save money on hotels in Chicago.