Home Cooked: Garden Vegetable Soup in the Garden State

Welcome to dinner at the Coldwell Banker house! Come on in and make yourself comfortable.

We know that the kitchen is the heart of the home, so we’re taking inspiration from beautiful Coldwell Banker homes around the world to create home cooked meals just for you. This home recipe comes from a family kitchen in “The Garden State.”

Let us start with a toast to this gracious Mendham, NJ home listed by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Feel free to take a tour. This european colonial features both indoor and outdoor kitchens, as well as indoor and outdoor living rooms, heated salt water pool and media, gym, billiard & game rooms.

Patio

Feel free to choose a spot in the outdoor living room, complete with a fireplace and surrounded by colorful perennial gardens. Or, cozy up to the kitchen counter and watch as we prepare the feast. You may even be able to feel the heated floors beneath your toes!

Kitchen_1

 

Kitchen_2

Because we’re in the Garden State, and because we have so much else to do here–a game of pool anyone?–we’re making a big pot of cozy Garden Vegetable Soup and letting it simmer on the stove until we’re ready to eat.

Garden Vegetable Soup

Recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network 

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white part only (from approximately 3 medium leeks)
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
Kosher salt
2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds (approximately 2 medium)
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
2 cups fresh green beans, broken or cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
2 ears corn, kernels removed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup packed, chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions
Heat the olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat until they begin to soften, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, and green beans and continue to cook for 4 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the tomatoes, corn kernels, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are fork tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Season, to taste, with kosher salt. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2004

So take a seat and let us serve you up a proper Home Cooked meal. Dig into some more amazing kitchens and homes for sale at coldwellbanker.com.

The post Home Cooked: Garden Vegetable Soup in the Garden State appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

6 Tips for Hiring the Perfect Landscaper

As you prepare your lawn for the fall season, why not hire a landscaper to save yourself some time? Landscapers have the tools, experience and knowledge to create the landscape you need or prepare it for the cold days ahead. To help you find the right landscaper, here are some essential tips to follow and questions to ask regarding landscaping.

As you prepare your lawn for the fall season, why not hire a landscaper to save yourself some time? Landscapers have the tools, experience and knowledge to create the landscape you need or prepare it for the cold days ahead. To help you find the right landscaper, here are some essential tips to follow and questions to ask regarding landscaping.

1. Ask around to find a landscaper. If you see well-kept lawns in your neighborhood, why not ask your neighbors who they hired? You might also ask friends and family in the area if they’ve hired a good landscaper recently. You might also check online for screened and approved landscaping contractors who have been rated by homeowners in your area, which will save you time and effort on checking them.

2. Get multiple bids for a project.Once you have a few businesses in mind, you’ll need to get bids. You should never hire the first one to answer the phone. Once you explain the job, the landscaper will give you a project estimate, and numbers will vary from business to business. You can compare bids against project data costs for various landscaping projects to make sure you’re not paying more than you should be. Also be wary of any “low ball” bids, since this could be a sign of a poor job or additional or hidden fees.

3. List past project references. If you find the landscaper in the yellow pages or online, ask about past clients. As you speak to these clients, ask them about the landscaper’s process, communication, staff and how quickly they complete a project. These should help you learn more about the landscaper and how they would work with you.

4. Check for documentation and licenses. The landscaper should be able to prove they’re legitimate with a license. They should also have insurance for the length of the project, if not worker’s compensation to cover injuries on the job.

5. Discuss the specifics. This is where you need to hash out everything about the project before you get to the contract and putting down a deposit. Some of the landscaping questions to ask include:

  • What are your work practices?
  • What equipment and materials will you be using for my project?
  • What’s your past experience with this kind of landscaping project?
  • Does your landscaping business belong to any local, state or national landscaping associations?
  • Can you provide me with a design sketch for the project before we begin?
  • How much of a deposit will you want before beginning the project? (Pro tip: the average is 30% of the total project, so be cautionary of anyone who asks for 50% or more.)

6. Put together & sign a contract. Once you’ve found the right landscaper, it’s time to put down all the details of the job in writing. This contract should include:

  • Start and end date of the project
  • Materials involved
  • Costs and fees
  • A lien waiver
  • Guarantee, if applicable

A lien waiver will keep you from being responsible for paying for materials from a supplier, as the landscaper should be paying for them and then charging you later. A guarantee for items like a deck, patio or other major projects should be for at least two to five years, if not longer. Make sure the contract is completely filled out and that nothing is left blank.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

Cover Photo: Beckett Creek Ln, Humble, TX Currently listed with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors http://bit.ly/1m6rEK1

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Home Tip of the Day: How to Keep Animals from Eating Plants

One summer, my father declared war against the deer that visited our backyard.  The deer had impeccable taste, they loved anything that flowered.  The rose bushes and the day lilies were gone before you could say “bloom.”

Finally, my dad couldn’t take it any longer.  He constructed twelve-foot tall wire fences and threatened to take up the night watch, until finally someone suggested this surprisingly simple garden tip.  See how to keep animals from eating plants in the easy home tip below.  It only takes one ingredient!

May your gardens be critter free and flower-full!  If you’re looking for other clever home tips & tricks, subscribe to Coldwell Banker On Location for the complete Home Tip of the Day video series.

If you have a handy home hack, we’d love to hear!  Post your tip on the Coldwell Banker facebook page.

The post Home Tip of the Day: How to Keep Animals from Eating Plants appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

Drop the Watering Can and Enjoy These Low Maintenance Outdoor Plants

Gardening is just one of the many joys that come with homeownership. However, watering can often feel like a labor of love we could do without. This is the first year I have had a garden and I can already say I am kind of over lugging heavy watering cans and fighting with a hose that seems to kink with every step I take. Next year I plan on planting a few less plants that require so much water and thought I would share some of my favorite finds with you.

Do you have any low-maintenance beauties to share? Please let me know about them in the comments section below.

Butterfly Bush

These small, fragrant blossoms grow in spikelike clusters and attract butterflies to your garden. Learn more from sunset.com.

Purple Coneflower

A beautiful perennial that was described as “We’re talking the lowest maintenance possible,” by Chip Tynan at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

Blue Eyed Grass

 laspilitas.com

Blue Eyed Grass has small, iris-like leaves and is drought tolerant . Learn more here.

Bee Balm

 homedepot.com

Sounds kind of like a chapstick right? This brilliant addition to your garden only requires water if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week

 

Salvia

gardeningknowhow.com

According to gardeningknowhow.com, growing salvia is something every gardener should try. This plant is not only beautiful but it can also withstand extreme weather conditions.

 

The post Drop the Watering Can and Enjoy These Low Maintenance Outdoor Plants appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

DIY Garden Decor Ideas

If you love spending your weekend at home nestled within your garden, primping and perfecting each flower and shrub, you’ve come to the right place. In honor of the Summer season, here are some beautiful and outrageously cute garden and yard decor inspirations.

My favorite garden design has to be the potters made from colorful children’s rain boots. What’s yours?

 

How could you resist hopping scotch on this pathway!

 

Align these little feet along side your garden’s entrance. 

 

These old cans are perfect for kids to create their own designs on. 

 

How cool?!

 

Yes, I consider this corn wreath decor. And it serves a duel purpose!

 

Succulents are all the rage right now. Their beautiful and unique shapes and sizes are perfect for adding something special to your garden. 

 

The holes in colanders are perfect for draining your plants’ excess water. 

 

Characters made from planters, perfect for Halloween as well. 

 

Put old rain boots to good use by making them into pots. A great recycling idea.

To see more landscape and garden inspiration check our Pinterest page.

Follow Coldwell Banker’s board Landscape and Gardening Inspiration on Pinterest.

The post DIY Garden Decor Ideas appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

Your Home’s Honey-Do List for June

With summer around the corner, the days are getting longer…and so is the honey-do list. To help you out, we’ll be featuring a “Honey-Do List” at the beginning of each month to make sure you stay ahead of those around-the-house projects.

Here is your to-do list for the month of June:

1.  Prep your guest room for summer visitors.  

Summertime means vacation time, which sometimes means you run a bed & breakfast from your spare bedroom. When creating a serene retreat for out-of-town guests, it’s all about the little touches. Stock a bookshelf with great reads, leave a water pitcher and glasses on the nightstand, and add fresh flowers to brighten up the space. An extra blanket and a set of hotel-size toiletries make any visitor feel at home. Want to make sure your house guests don’t extend their stay? Start enlisting their help on the chores on your honey-do list.

Guest Bedroom

 2.  Upgrade your ceiling fan.

The key to staying cool in the warmer months is to do your maintenance before it heats up. Don’t have a ceiling fan? You should have already had your air conditioner serviced.

3.  Weed, edge and mulch your garden beds.

April showers bring May flowers and June yard work. Avoid common gardening mistakes with these handy tips.  Choose plants that grow best in your region’s climate by using the National Gardening Association Plant Finder to determine what grows best in different conditions. Also, if you plan on getting your windows washed, make sure to do that first to avoid ladders planted in your recently freshened up garden beds.

4.  Organize your garage. 

Avoid the “Honey, have you seen [fill in the blank]?” cries from the garage, by making sure everything has it’s place. Start by making three piles: keep, donate, and toss. From there, determine what needs to be readily accessible–kids’ bikes, heavily used tools, cleaning and gardening supplies–and what can be stored in slightly harder to reach spots for now, like snow shovels.

ideal-garage-storage-ideas

5.  Organize a garage sale.  

Now that you’ve cleaned up your garage, you need to find a way to get rid of those items you no longer use. Start by taking stock of what you can sell, donate or toss–unfortunately, some times one man’s trash is just trash. Once you have an idea of your inventory, select a date, enlist help and decide if any items need fixing or sprucing up before the sale. It’s important to price items or at least have a bottom price in mind for larger ticket items. A few days before the sale, place an ad in your local paper, craigslist forum and/or put up signs in your neighborhood to direct drivers by.

6.  Open your pool.  

You’ve probably been working on your beach body all winter, so it’s a good thing your backyard is fenced and you don’t have to fight off suitors with the pool vacuum. Before you don the itsy-bitsy bikini, use these tips for opening your pool.

Pool

7.  Buy a flag in time for Independence Day.
Show your patriotism by hanging our country’s flag outside your home. Be sure to follow flag etiquette.

8.  Plan your summer vacation.  

You’ve done a great job getting your home ready for summer.  Now it’s time to think about taking a break. Next month’s Honey-Do List will feature important tips to make sure your staycation or vacation are safe, fun-filled and relaxing.

The post Your Home’s Honey-Do List for June appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

How To: Implement Zen Components into Your Home and Life

Let’s be honest–we all can stand to benefit from a little Zen inspiration in our lives. Our everyday activities can overwhelm and slow us down causing many to burn out. But adding a little serenity to your life (and home) can make a huge difference in how you think and feel.

Today we’re featuring a home from coldwellbanker.com that truly doubles as a sanctuary of peace and relaxation. Not only is its inside fabulous but its outdoor living area is really a work of art. Check out the photos below.

Embrace Nature

Zen 1 e1394217051710 How To: Implement Zen Components into Your Home and Life

Plants are known to promote a calming affect. Be sure to include them in every space you can. I personally have them all throughout my home, in my room, and on my desk at work.

Keep Your Color Scheme Neutral 

Zen 2 e1394217278653 How To: Implement Zen Components into Your Home and Life

Light colors are thought to have healing and relaxing properties. So a neutral color pallet, like the one you see here, is the perfect for helping to bring out your inner zen god or goddess. Water also a representative of emotions of fluidity and adaptability.

Make use of Natural Resources 

Zen 3 e1394217361797 How To: Implement Zen Components into Your Home and Life

We’ve learned that optimizing Zen teaching means embracing nature. Implement any and all (if possible) of the five elements, also known as Wu Xing, into your personal space. Here, wood is being utilized beautifully. Wood is said to symbolize vitality.

Simplify Your Furniture and Decor 

Zen 5 e1394218061181 How To: Implement Zen Components into Your Home and Life

The simple and light colored furniture in the photo are great for taking time to sit and meditate (or just relax). Try going for simple and no-fuss decor. A Zen home or lifestyle is all about minimizing distractions.

For more information on this home click here. To see more incredible homes check us out on Instagram and Pinterest.

The post How To: Implement Zen Components into Your Home and Life appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

How to Prolong the Life of Your Plants During Summer

After a cold and rainy first half of the year, many people thought summer and sunshine would never come. Well, it is certainly here now! While it may be easy for us to beat the heat by staying indoors with air conditioning, visiting the beach, or even taking a dip in our backyard pools— for plants staying cool and alive is significantly harder.  A lot of us take pride in our perfectly manicured lawns and gardens and understandably become brokenhearted to see them wilt, discolor, and even die during the tough dog days of summer. However, there are some tips and tricks that can help to prolong the life of your plants this summer.

1. Set a feeding schedule
One of the most common mistakes people make, that actually helps to speed up the deterioration of their plants and lawn, is to water at the wrong time of day. The best time to water your greenery is either in the morning, before the sun comes up, or in the afternoon, when the sun is beginning to go down. The key is to never water when the sun is out and beaming. If you do, the water almost becomes like oil, and it will certainly fry your precious plants. The same goes with lawns. Moreover, aim to use water that is as close to air temperature as possible. Too hot or too cold may send your plants into shock. (Hey, we didn’t say this was an easy job!)

2. Choose wisely
While they may all seem beautiful, be very choosy when it comes to deciding which plants and flowers to grow for your space. Not all are created equal, meaning that not all greenery can survive in all climates. Speak to a professional, or even an attendant at your local plant store to decide together which plants are best suited for your region. If you live in a very hot area, sensitive plants aren’t the best option. Look into some beautiful annuals like Bells of Ireland, Pansies, and Black-Eyed Susans.

3. To Go Organic or Not
Many believe that going organic in the food we eat and the food we feed our plants is pointless. However, there is a point to changing up the diet and going healthier with organic alternatives. In regard to your greenery, using organic fertilizer is better for plants and lawns because it provides sustained nourishment. On the other-hand, chemical fertilizer is more like fast-food–it delivers a quick fix but its results and benefits are not sustainable.

We here at Coldwell Banker hope that these few tips will help you to improve your lawn and garden’s condition this summer. Best of luck! If you have any other tips or tricks, leave a comment below!

Information courtesy of The Daily Green.

Grow Your Groceries

As a girl from the Garden State it is my duty to show you one of my new favorite websites! Are you one of those people who has every intention of starting a garden but always seem to miss the right time to plant?  Then SproutRobot is for you. Basically, SproutRobot is gardening for Dummies. (Totally not calling you a dummy though!)

This is a super easy to use website and a fun way to grow your groceries. Tell them where your garden is by providing your zip code and what you want to grow and they make you a personalized planting calendar. When it’s time to plant, they mail you seeds and/or send you an email.

I typed in the zip code for my town, West Orange, and this is what I got back:

This Week 300x230 Grow Your Groceries

It also showed me what to expect for upcoming weeks:

nextweek 258x300 Grow Your Groceries

According to their site, all their seeds are high quality non-GMO seeds from Botanical Interests. All transactions are done through Amazon.com which I also thought was pretty cool.

SproutRobot is free to sign up for and they also have paid packages that offer a variety of cool tools and functions.

How to Grow Flowers for Your Home in the Winter

Here in the Northeast, the days are getting kind of dreary. It gets dark early. It’s getting a bit chilly and we’re constantly checking our Weather Channel app to see if snow is in the forecast. Sure our friends in Southern California, Texas and Florida are enjoying spring-like weather, but during the winter our homes could use a little something extra to brighten the place now that the holiday decor is gone.

This video from eHow is the perfect fix for some moody winter blues. Flowers brighten up any room in any home, but what’s your green thumb to do now that it’s winter? The video above with P. Allen Smith gives you some simple steps on how you can grow flowers for your home in the winter.

Take a look and let us know what you do to liven up your home in the winter in the comments.

 

Image courtesy of Flickr user AngryJulieMonday