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Alan Bernau Jr

Recent Posts

Companies That Started in a Garage: Amazon

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Sep 3, 2019


Did you know that Jeff Bezos started his company in a garage? You've surely heard of a little company called Amazon that sells everything from clothing to kitchen appliances to lava lamps. Oh, and you can buy books there, too. I recently discovered that Amazon is just one of the many companies that got its start in a garage. So I decided that once a month, I'm going to shine the spotlight on a well-known company started in a garage! I hope you enjoy learning the stories behind these companies.

Amazon: The Beginning

With money from his parents, Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, started Amazon in the garage of their rented home in Bellevue, Washington, in the mid-1990s. He had an ambitious plan to create an online bookstore and expand from there to sell everything. He set up desks made of old wooden doors and started working on software that would one day make him the richest man in the world.

Success Delivered Quickly

Within its first month, Amazon sold books to people in each of the 50 states as well as in 45 countries. In a matter of two months, sales at Amazon zoomed to $20,000 a week. There was a bell in the first office of Amazon that rang each time a book was sold. Soon, the bell was ringing so often that they had to take it down to remove the distraction.

Today's Amazon

Amazon's success eventually took it from Bezos's garage to a headquarters in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle campus has 40,000-plus employees who work in a collection of energy-efficient buildings in the city.

What Makes a Garage an Excellent Place to Start a Business?

Chances are good that Bezos appreciated the secure shelter his garage provided for the costly electronic equipment he used in his daily work. If you're thinking about starting a business in your garage, security is just one of the benefits of making your garage the headquarters of your new business.

Whether you're drawing up plans for an online business, working on a great new invention, or writing a book, a metal garage gives you the quiet and privacy you need to focus on the work at hand. I like the idea of closing the door of the garage for the day and returning to your house until you feel inspired once again.

Set up your business in your garage and you also can enjoy soft breezes while you type, write, make designs, or tinker with a new invention. Just open the main garage door, the side door, or even the window. You're sure to be more creative in a comfortable environment.

Fun Facts About Amazon

  • Bezos's original name for his company was Cadabra, but he was persuaded that it sounded too much like the word "cadaver."
  • The servers Bezos used to operate Amazon out of his garage required a lot of power. If a vacuum or hair dryer was turned on in the house, it would blow a fuse!
  • The first book sold on Amazon, back in April of 1995, was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter.
  • Amazon's logo has an arrow pointing from the letter A to the letter Z. This indicates that Amazon sells a wide range of products, everything from A to Z.
  • In the company's early days, Bezos put orders together for customers himself and drove boxes to the post office to mail them.

I hope you decide to make your garage the site of your new business venture. In the meantime, enjoy my new series, and thanks for reading. - Alan

Inexpensive Ways To Add Privacy To A Backyard

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Sat, Aug 31, 2019


Do you like to spend time in your backyard? Maybe you like reading, listening to music, or chatting with family members outside on the patio where you can enjoy the breeze. But though you love your backyard, do you ever wish you had a bit more privacy there? If so, I have a few suggestions for how you can enjoy more privacy in your backyard without breaking the bank.

Grow a Living Fence

When you grow a living fence for privacy, you have a lot of attractive design options and plant types available to you. You can go with forsythia, juniper, or lilac, just to name a few. Time, patience, and maintenance are definitely requirements for growing a living fence, so keep that in mind as you decide if this is the option for you.

A Wall of Shrubs and Trees

One of the biggest advantages of creating a privacy wall with trees is that your wall is ever-changing. Your yard becomes more interesting and beautiful as the years go on! In addition, planting a wall of trees or shrubs is environmentally friendly. I like the idea of birds, squirrels, and other animals making their homes in a living wall.

A disadvantage of having a privacy wall made of trees is that it will take some time to grow. Also, depending on the types of trees or shrubs you choose, you have to trim and maintain them so they continue to look attractive.

Large Potted Plants

Put a few containers of bamboo plants on your patio and you can enjoy a living privacy fence that's 15 to 25 feet tall! These potted plants are drought-tolerant and low-maintenance and are available for a reasonable price.

Other ideas for large potted plants to help with patio privacy include:

  • Butterfly bushes
  • Lilac bushes (a compact variety)
  • Horsetail plants

Potted plants do need a certain amount of care, which can be a disadvantage to this option.

A Trellis

A trellis is an attractive way to get more privacy on your patio. There are many climbing plants that can grow on your trellis, including mandevilla, morning glories, clematis, and wisteria. Depending on its size and design, you may be able to move your trellis to different locations on your patio to meet your needs. A trellis is an inexpensive purchase to make, and you can find them in all designs and sizes.

A Pergola

Get a pergola to put in your backyard and you have an instant, private getaway that's close to home! Add some honeysuckle, wisteria, or jasmine to your pergola and you'll have a lovely, fragrant area all your own.

Add a DIY Privacy Screen

You can make your own privacy screen by setting up a couple of pallets on one side of your patio to use as a vertical garden. Or you could set up some large lattice panels to obscure the view of your patio. If you have somewhere to attach a curtain rod, you can hang curtains on one or all sides of your patio. A DIY privacy screen is a great option for someone living in an apartment or renting a home because you can easily take it down when you decide to move on to your next home.

Build a Traditional Wall

Of course, you could take the plunge and build a wall around your patio, carport, or entire property for privacy. There are pros and cons to the different types of material used for walls.



If you want a traditional look for your property, then wood is a good bet. It's inexpensive and can be painted to suit your color preferences.


Wood is vulnerable to insect and weather damage over time. Also, you'll need to stain it again or repaint it in a few years.



Vinyl fencing is durable, and it's available in many colors and styles. This material needs very little maintenance over the years and is relatively inexpensive.


If a vinyl fence is installed wrong, it can sag or appear crooked.

Corrugated Metal


A corrugated metal fence is less expensive than a wood fence. It's durable and needs little maintenance.


This type of material can be unattractive unless you add wood framing or choose a unique style.



A brick fence is low-maintenance and durable. Plus, this type of fence is attractive in a traditional way.


Brick is expensive, and if you end up with poor-quality bricks, they can deteriorate over time.

Are you ready to make your backyard your own private hideaway? Hopefully, these tips have helped a bit. Thanks for reading. - Alan

Which Siding Option Is The Best Choice For Your Home?

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Aug 27, 2019


Are you thinking about new siding for your home? If so, you've probably noticed there's no shortage of options. I thought I'd take a look at siding today to let you know a few facts about the different choices available. Enjoy!


When it comes to siding, vinyl is a very popular choice. It's made from PVC resin and is available in many appealing colors. The durability of this material makes it a smart choice for homes in almost any area of the country. If you have the right tools and a tall ladder, you can install your own vinyl siding fairly easily.


  • You can paint it.
  • It's low-maintenance.
  • It's resistant to insects and moisture.
  • It's affordable (usually less than $10 per 10 square feet, though the cost varies depending on the variety you choose).


  • Not many places recycle it.
  • Its color can fade over time.


Wood is one of the most attractive options for siding. Pine, spruce, and fir are all popular choices for homeowners.


  • It's environmentally friendly.
  • It's easily painted or stained.
  • It's available in different styles, such as lap, shingle, and shake.


  • It's vulnerable to insect damage, so it's not a good choice for some areas of the country.
  • It can be expensive; 1,500 square feet costs an average of $12,500.
  • It requires regular maintenance.

Engineered Wood

This siding is made of synthetic material in the form of wood fibers and resin. It's an attractive alternative to genuine wood siding because it costs less ($1.20 to $2.20 per square foot).


  • It's made of recycled material.
  • It's durable.
  • It's insect-resistant.
  • It's easy to paint.


  • It doesn't have the natural appeal of wood.
  • Not all engineered wood is equal in quality.


If you love the look of a brick home, you're not alone! It's available in many inviting designs. Brick is weather-resistant and appropriate for almost any area of the country. I guess the three little pigs knew what they were talking about!


  • It's sound-resistant.
  • It's low-maintenance.
  • It's energy-efficient.


  • Repointing mortar can be expensive.
  • A shifting foundation can cause issues with a brick house.
  • It's expensive ($6 to $15 per square foot).


Stucco is a textured siding made of sand, water, and cement. It's seen on many Mediterranean and Spanish-style houses. It costs about $6 to $9 per square foot.


  • It's fire-resistant.
  • It comes in appealing textures and colors.


  • It can be damaged if a house settles.
  • It offers poor insulation, so it's not a good choice for very cold areas, such as New England.
  • This is not a DIY installation project.


Real stone siding is one of the most attractive types you can find. It withstands all types of weather conditions, so it's an appropriate choice for any area of the country. Most importantly, you can pretend you live in a castle!


  • It's durable.
  • It's environmentally friendly.
  • It's low-maintenance.


  • Installation needs to be done by professionals.
  • It's expensive ($35 to $50 per square foot).

Stone Veneer

This siding is an alternative to real stone and is less expensive. It can cost as little as $6 to $9 per square foot. It's lightweight and available in many colors and designs.


  • Installation can be a DIY project.
  • It provides the look of real stone for less money


  • Low-quality stone veneer siding can allow moisture to leak through, causing damage.
  • It's not environmentally friendly.
  • It's not the best choice for areas of the country with harsh weather conditions.

Fiber Cement

This siding is made of cement, natural cellulose fiber, and silica. It's growing in popularity and being put on a lot of newer homes.


  • You'll have a choice of several colors.
  • It's durable and resistant to cracks.
  • It's insect-resistant.


  • It's expensive ($6 to $11 per square foot).
  • It's not a DIY project due to the weight of the cement.


Aluminum siding is a safe choice due to its durability. In addition, quality aluminum siding can provide your home with excellent insulation.


  • It's rust-resistant, making it a good choice for people living on the coasts or near other bodies of water.
  • It's available in different designs to please your visual tastes.
  • It's a good choice for people living in extremely cold areas.
  • It's affordable, $3 to $6 per square foot.


  • Its color can fade over time.
  • It can dent fairly easily.

I wish you good luck in making a final decision on what's best for your home. Thanks for reading. - Alan

7 Reasons To Add A Gazebo To Your Backyard

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Aug 13, 2019


Are you looking for a peaceful, unique place to relax in your own backyard? If so, give some thought to a gazebo. You can order a gazebo from us in a size, design, and color that perfectly suits your tastes. Plus, you can order one with screens so you can relax outside in the evenings without dealing with the flying insects hanging around your yard. Check out seven reasons why you should make a gazebo a part of your backyard design.

  1. It's the Perfect Setting for a Party. You're in the middle of setting up a table on the lawn for a barbecue that starts in an hour, and suddenly, you feel a couple of raindrops plop onto your shoulder. Uh-oh. Do you call your neighbors and friends to cancel the barbecue? No way. Move the table into your gazebo and enjoy your burgers, hot dogs, and potato salad out of reach of the rain!
  2. It Can Be a Safe Play Area for the Kids. A gazebo is a great place for young kids to play where they can stay out of the sun and continue an entertaining game even when it's sprinkling outside. Also, it's easy to keep an eye on your kids when they are all in one place!
  3. It's a Relaxing Getaway Just a Few Steps From Home. Perhaps you love reading, listening to music, or even napping outdoors. You can do all of these things in your own private getaway located seconds from your back door. Choose some colorful plants to hang around your gazebo to give yourself an extra level of privacy. I like the idea of putting up hanging plants because you can easily change them around to refresh the look of your gazebo.
  4. It's a Beautiful Setting for Memorable Occasions. A gazebo is a special place to hold an outdoor wedding reception, anniversary celebration, or graduation party. Also, if you want to take photos, your gazebo serves as a wonderful backdrop.
  5. It's a Pleasant Place to Exercise. Put a mat or two on the floor of your gazebo and you have a great place to work out. Enjoy the breeze and exercise in peace. And if you want to make an exercise video, you have a nice setting for your project.
  6. It Can Increase Your Property Value. If you ever decide to sell your home, your gazebo can be an appealing feature to buyers. Its design and color will contribute to the beauty of your backyard, and potential buyers are sure to envision the parties and other relaxing activities they can enjoy in your attractive gazebo.
  7. It's a Shady Place to Admire Your Garden. A gazebo is a wonderful place to sit and admire your roses, hyacinths, daffodils, and everything else growing in your backyard garden. You may even want to make your gazebo a part of your garden by planting some shrubs or bushes around the structure.

The best part of having a gazebo is that you get to enjoy it in any way you want! Thanks for reading. - Alan

10 Small Trees That Make A Big Impact In The Backyard

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Wed, Aug 7, 2019


Do you want to add privacy to the area where you relax in your garden? Maybe you have a small backyard that could use a few well-chosen trees to make it more inviting. Small trees can be colorful and the perfect size for a patio, garden, or small backyard. Take a look at ten dwarf trees that can instantly beautify your property, then consider adding one of these small wonders to your yard!

  1. Hibiscus Syriacus: The Hibiscus syriacus, aka the rose of Sharon, is drought-tolerant and features pink flowers with a red center. This small tree can grow to be 12 feet high and 10 feet wide, so it's smart to plant it in an area where it has plenty of space to spread. It blooms from June to October and fares best in growing zones 5 to 8.
  2. Viridis Japanese Maple: In the springtime, this tree features light green leaves that turn red and gold in the autumn. It can grow to be 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The Viridis Japanese maple does well in partial shade, making it perfect for planting beneath a larger tree in your landscape. It grows best in zones 5 to 8 and is sensitive to extreme heat.
  3. Pygmy Date Palm: If you live somewhere within zones 9 to 11, this attractive palm tree would be a great addition to your landscape. If you want to plant it near your house to admire its feathery green fronds, be sure to leave about four or five feet of space so it can spread out. This low-maintenance, disease-resistant tree can grow to be 12 feet tall.
  4. Prairifire Flowering Crabapple: This beautiful tree grows up to 20 feet tall and has small purple fruit that can feed your neighborhood birds in the wintertime. It's disease-resistant and grows best in zones 3 through 8. Plant your Prairifire flowering crabapple away from your home so it has plenty of sunlight and open space. Its dark pink flowers bloom in April or May.
  5. Royal Star Magnolia: A royal star magnolia tree has fragrant white flowers that bloom from late February into April. This tree grows best in zones 4 to 9 and can reach a height of 15 feet. Imagine this elegant tree as the centerpiece of your garden: I can't think of a more beautiful sight to admire from your gazebo.
  6. Venus Dogwood Tree: Consider the beauty of a Venus dogwood tree for your yard. Its bright white bracts grow in the springtime, and its foliage turns to red in the autumn. This tree does best in zones 5 to 9 and can grow 20 feet high.
  7. Black Diamond Crepe Myrtle: Are you looking for some small trees to line your fence? If so, the black diamond crepe myrtle is a good bet! These trees grow to be around 10 feet tall with a spread of 4 to 5 feet. This tree, with its collection of deep red flowers, does well in the full sunlight. It blooms through the summer into fall and flourishes in zones 7 to 9.
  8. Camellia Japonica: An evergreen tree perfect for smaller yards, it grows to be just 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. If you live somewhere in growing zones 7 to 9, then this tree would do well for you. You can admire its reddish pink blooms from late winter into spring.
  9. Ribbon Leaf Japanese Maple: The foliage of this unique tree goes from a bright red in the spring to bronze in the summer to a blazing orange in the autumn. This maple grows to 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Plant this tree in growing zones 5 to 9 and it will flourish. Also, make sure you put it in an area with little or no shade. Its size makes it a lovely addition to a smaller yard.
  10. Dwarf Alberta Spruce: Why not have a beautiful spruce in your yard to admire in the winter? This tree grows to a height of 12 feet, so it stays fairly compact. It grows best in zones 3 to 6 and needs full sunlight. This low-maintenance tree with deep green needles is deer-tolerant and is fairly disease-resistant.

I hope you consider one of these beautiful trees for your yard or garden. Thanks for reading. - Alan

15 Healthy Sides That Will Be A Hit At Your Next Cookout

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Aug 6, 2019


There's plenty of summertime left, which means lots of opportunities to get creative with your cookout menu! Today, I have some recipes for side dishes that are healthy and delicious. Enjoy!

  1. Sugar Snap Pea Slaw. No cookout is complete without a spoonful of slaw on your plate. Sugar snap pea slaw is a tasty side dish that takes just 30 minutes to prepare. How can you beat that? This recipe has the traditional ingredient of cabbage as well as apples, carrots, and snap peas, giving you plenty of crunch. Drizzle on some vinaigrette made with honey and Dijon mustard and tell your guests to dig in!
  2. Fennel and Zucchini Salad With Watercress, Mint, and Feta Cheese. Here is a recipe you can make with ingredients gathered from your own garden. Combine peas, zucchini, a fennel bulb, watercress, and mint to create a refreshing side. Don't forget to sprinkle in some feta cheese for extra zip!
  3. Spicy Grilled Broccoli. Grab some broccoli from your garden and marinate it with a mixture of red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, onion powder, and other spices. Grill the broccoli until it's tender and you have a healthy, spicy side!
  4. Cucumber Honeydew Salad With Feta. Visit your garden to get the cucumbers, honeydew melon, onions, and dill you need to prepare a colorful bowl of cucumber honeydew salad with feta. Take ten minutes to prepare this recipe and spend the rest of the time with your guests.
  5. Fresh Mango Salsa. If you have some vegans coming to your cookout, they're sure to flock to this salsa dish. Mangoes, red pepper, onion, cilantro, and lemon juice combined make a delicious side in just 15 minutes. Set out some pita or tortilla chips for your guests to dip with.
  6. Charred Bean Salad. Long beans are the star of this bean salad recipe. Along with the beans, there's a sweet onion, garlic cloves, mint leaves, and some spices that are sure to make this side dish a fast favorite at a cookout!
  7. Corn and Scallion Salad. This salad recipe can be made in ten minutes with just four ingredients: white wine vinegar, scallions, tarragon, and, of course, corn. No cookout is complete without corn as a side dish. Everyone knows that, right?
  8. Grilled Watermelon Salad. Can you really grill watermelon? Oh yes, you can! Along with watermelon, this recipe includes baby arugula, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar, and a few other ingredients. It's prepared in just 30 minutes. Make sure your guests take the time to admire the grill marks on their watermelon slices while they're enjoying the feast in your gazebo!
  9. Pinto, Black, and Red Bean Salad With Grilled Corn and Avocado. If you like a side dish with lots of beans, this is sure to become a favorite. Combine this variety of beans along with onion, corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and olive oil and you have an extremely nutritious salad that's sure to disappear from its bowl in no time.
  10. Grilled Apricot, Eggplant, and Tomato Salad. Start with a Japanese eggplant, mix in some heirloom tomatoes, apricots, scallions, mint, parsley, and chives, and you have an out-of-the-ordinary side dish for all the veggie-lovers at your cookout.
  11. Grilled Sweet Potatoes. This is a gluten-free dish filled with vitamin C and potassium. But most importantly, it tastes darn good. Sweet potatoes, salt, and olive oil combined with some time on the grill gives you a sweet side dish.
  12. Grape Salad. If you're a fan of grapes, then you'll love this simple grape salad. The ingredient list includes red and green grapes, cream cheese, sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), salt, brown sugar, and the secret ingredient, toasted pecans!
  13. Peach Caprese Salad. Grab some of those delicious peaches from the grocery store and make good use of them in this side dish. This dish takes 15 minutes to make and includes ingredients such as corn, tomatoes, onion, mozzarella, salt, arugula, and basil. This dish looks so beautiful your guests will be hesitant to mess up the perfect picture!
  14. Cranberry Zucchini Slaw. Here's another alternative to traditional coleslaw. Simply combine spiralized or chopped zucchini with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. If you have ten minutes, you can make this refreshing dish.
  15. Strawberry Asparagus Salad. This easy salad recipe includes tons of healthy ingredients, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, toasted almonds, and strawberries. It takes ten minutes to prepare, and you'll have a summery side dish for your cookout.

Enjoy your cookouts, and thanks for reading. - Alan

How Often You Should Mow Your Lawn In The Summer

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Mon, Aug 5, 2019


Do you have a riding lawn mower in your shed that you look forward to using each summer? Maybe you love gassing up your push mower so you can create a lawn that's the envy of the neighborhood. Cutting the grass and otherwise caring for your lawn is rewarding and a great way to get some exercise in the summer months. But do you know how often to cut your grass? Do you know how to care for grass that's turning brown and dry from lack of rain? If not, I have some tips for lawn care that you'll find very helpful this summer.

How Often Should I Cut My Grass?

How often you cut your grass depends on the type of grass growing in your yard. Each type of grass has an ideal height. The ideal height for Kentucky Bluegrass is 1 ¾ to 2 ½ inches tall. Meanwhile, the ideal height for centipede grass is 1 to 2 inches tall. Once you know the type of grass you have, you can monitor its height to keep it trimmed and healthy.

Pay Attention to the Rainfall

Have you ever noticed that after a lot of rainfall, your grass seems to leap up to new heights? I can almost hear my grass growing! The amount of water your lawn receives will affect how often you mow. For instance, if you have an especially rainy spring, your grass may grow past its ideal height on a regular basis. This could mean you need to mow a few times a week.

Is There a Problem With Letting Grass Grow Tall Before Cutting It?

Yes. When you let your lawn grow wild, the lower part of the grass blades lives in the shade. When you cut the lawn, it exposes this sensitive lower area of the grass, and your grass can go into shock from the sudden exposure to heat and sun.

Caring for Dry, Brown Grass

It can be necessary to cut your lawn even if you're having a drought. The grass will go dormant if the drought lasts long enough, though. As long as municipal rules allow it, make sure to water your lawn one or two times a week, allowing it to absorb about an inch of water. The water will help to deepen the roots of the grass so they will be protected from the harsh conditions of the drought. If you take steps to care for your lawn during a drought, it can come back stronger than ever!

More Valuable Tips for Cutting Your Grass

  • Mow early in the morning or in the evening. Your grass can become stressed if you cut it in the hot afternoon hours.
  • Set your lawn mower to trim the top third of the grass plant. This leads to stronger roots.
  • Make sure that the blades of your lawn mower are nice and sharp. Dull mower blades can tear at the tissue of the grass, making it more vulnerable to disease.
  • Change the direction of your mowing each time you do the job. This prevents the compaction of your grass.

Bear these tips in mind when you mow your lawn this summer to keep your grass happy! Thanks for reading. - Alan

20 Ways To Keep Your Kids From Being Bored Over The Summer

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Jul 23, 2019


By this part of the summer, many kids are running out of things to do. Or so they think! With a little creative thinking, there are plenty of things to keep a kid's mind and body active during summer break. I have a few suggestions today that can help your kids can stay active throughout the summer.

  1. Start a Reading Challenge. Kids can do a reading challenge by setting a goal for the number of books they will read in a week. If they set a goal of three books and achieve that goal, they can raise their goal for the next week! They could even make it a contest with their friends, if they want.
  2. Learn to Cook or Bake. Stop by the library or go online to find some easy recipes. Then, help your kids gather the ingredients and supplies as they try their hand at making a pie, spaghetti, or a casserole!
  3. Compete in a Swim Challenge With a Friend. While visiting the local pool with a friend, your child can challenge them to swim a certain amount of laps. This is great exercise!
  4. Start a New Hobby. Sewing, bird-watching, playing piano, or collecting coins are just a few of the hobbies a kid could try in the summertime.
  5. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter. Talk with the manager of your local animal shelter to see if they accept children as volunteers. This is a great way for kids to serve their community and get to know how an animal shelter operates.
  6. Visit Local Walking Trails With a Friend. Kids can get some exercise and enjoy nature as they walk some trails at a local park.
  7. Clean and Organize Their Room. Get your child moving by vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning as well as organizing their room. Encourage them to put aside clothing and other items to donate.
  8. Help Clean Out the Garage. Kids can lend a hand this summer by sweeping and organizing your garage. Show them how to sort through items to find what will be given away or thrown out.
  9. Walk Dogs in Your Neighborhood. Kids who are old enough and responsible can volunteer to walk dogs in their neighborhood.
  10. Babysit Neighborhood Children. If you have a teen or preteen, they can babysit children around the neighborhood to make a little pocket money.
  11. Set a Goal to Be on a Sports Team at School. If your child wants to try out for the tennis team or basketball team next school year, get them to start sharpening their skills over summer break.
  12. Try a New Board Game Each Week. If you have a kid who is into board games, play a new one with them each week.
  13. Put Together a Large Puzzle. Get a colorful 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and work on putting it together with your child for a little while each day.
  14. Start the Habit of Exercising Twice a Day. Get your child into the habit of doing 50 jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups twice a day. This will get your child's mind working as well as their blood pumping!
  15. Write Letters to Your Relatives. Kids can exercise their writing skills by sitting down with paper and a pen to write some letters. I think this is a great way for kids to learn more about their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
  16. Create a Board Game of Your Own. When your kid creates a board game, they get to determine the goal of the game and design a board as well as the game pieces. This is both creative and challenging.
  17. Explore the Neighborhood on a Bike. With a parent's permission, kids who are old enough can take off on their bike and check out areas of their neighborhood they haven't seen before.
  18. Paint a Mural on Their Bedroom Wall. With a parent's permission, a child can plan and create a fun mural for their bedroom.
  19. Teach a Younger Sibling to Read. An older child with a younger sibling can teach them to read over the summer or read with them to strengthen skills that are already there.
  20. Wash Your Family's Car. Washing the car is a physical activity that's fun and gives kids a feeling of accomplishment.

Thanks for reading! - Alan

8 Tips For Staying Safe In The Summer Sun

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Thu, Jul 18, 2019


Do you love to work in your garden at this time of year? Or maybe your children love being outside more than you do, making their way to the swimming pool in the morning and not coming home until late afternoon. Whether you're walking the dog, mowing the lawn, or reading outdoors, I hope you're enjoying the sunshine each day. But before heading outdoors, it's important to take steps to protect your skin against sunburn and more permanent damage caused by the sun's UV rays. Take a look at a few tips to keep in mind before making the most of these summer days.

  1. Limit Your Time Outside During the Peak Period of Sunlight: Sunlight is at its highest intensity between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can avoid sunburn by limiting your time outdoors during this period.
  2. Wear Sunscreen With the Proper SPF: Look for sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Also, make sure it's a water-resistant sunscreen that protects against UVB and UVA rays. This is known as a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Finally, read the label of the sunscreen and choose one that doesn't contain a potentially harmful chemical called oxybenzone.
  3. Wear Sunglasses and a Hat: A wide-brimmed hat can protect the tops of your ears and your nose, neck, and face from the harsh sunlight. Sunglasses not only provide protection when you garden or cut the lawn, but they shield your eyes from UV rays. I think it's a great opportunity to get the kids in the habit of wearing hats and sunglasses as well.
  4. Keep the Baby Inside: If you have a baby who is six months old or younger, it's best to keep them out of the sunlight. If you must go out for an extended period of time, put your baby in a stroller with a shade. Also, there are hats for babies that protect them from the sun as well as make them look even more adorable on outings!
  5. Invest in UPF Clothing: Did you know that some clothes are made to provide protection from the sun? Yes indeed! Some brands of shorts, bathing suits, pants, shirts, and more have a UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor. You can look fashionable and protect your skin at the same time!
  6. Consider Your Medications: If you're taking antibiotics, blood pressure medication, anti-inflammatories, or medicines related to chemotherapy, be aware that these can make your skin more vulnerable to the sun's rays. Be sure to read the materials that come with the medication.
  7. Bring a Parasol or Umbrella: If you plan to sit outside to watch a horse show or your child's soccer game, take a parasol or an umbrella to hold over you. A simple umbrella can provide shade and help you keep a little cooler while you watch an outdoor event. Plus, if the rain clouds move in, you're all set!
  8. Choose Your Cosmetics With Care: Consider buying makeup such as foundation with an SPF factor. Also, if you wear lip balm, choose a brand with SPF protection to protect the sensitive skin on your lips.

Taking some steps to protect your skin from the sunlight can help you and your family members enjoy more peace of mind as you head out to relish these lovely summer days. Thanks for reading. - Alan

What To Do With Your Pets When You Go On Vacation

Posted by Alan Bernau Jr on Tue, Jul 16, 2019


Are you planning to take a vacation this summer? If so, that's great! If you own a dog or a cat, you may be wondering how to handle their care while you're away. This week, I have some pet care suggestions that will give you peace of mind about your furry loved ones while you're away on vacation.

Call on a Family Member or a Neighbor

Ask a family member who lives close by if they will take your dog or cat into their home while you're away. Or ask a next-door neighbor if they'll check on your pet while you're gone. The neighbor can stop by your home a couple times a day to check on your cat and let your dog outside and make sure they have food and water. I think many pets feel more at ease in their own home even if their owner is away for a bit. Be sure to leave your neighbor instructions that include:

  • Where the pet food is kept and how much to give your dog or cat
  • Any special vitamins or pills that should be mixed into your pet's food
  • The length of time your dog should be outside to relieve itself
  • A phone number where you can be reached if there's a problem

Contact a Professional Pet-Sitter

Check out a website such as Rover.com to find people in your area who specialize in taking care of pets while their owners are on vacation. You simply enter your ZIP code, then select whether you want to board your pet or you'd like someone to drop by your home to care for your pet. You determine the details, and the website gives you a list of pet caregivers near you. You can read about each person and contact them for more details.

Arrange for Your Pet to Stay at a Kennel

Perhaps you'd prefer to leave your pet in a kennel where it will have care and supervision 24/7. If so, try doing an online search in your area and reading reviews on the kennels near you. Calling those you're interested in and asking questions about their prices and services is always a good idea. Be sure to pay the kennel a visit before leaving your pet there just to get a feel for the level of care. The manager should be happy to give you a tour of the kennel. Some of the things to look for during your visit include:

  • Clean sleep areas, exercise areas, and hallways
  • A spacious exercise area where your pet can run
  • A trained, friendly staff ready to answer your questions

Take Them With You

If you prefer to take your dog or cat along on your vacation, look for pet-friendly hotels to stay in. These places are happy to accommodate dogs and cats. Be sure to call beforehand and ask about any fees or other guidelines before making a reservation.

Whether you take your pet with you or leave it in good hands at home, enjoy your vacation this summer. Thanks for reading. - Alan

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