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Earth-friendly crafts and activities

Earth-friendly crafts and activities

(ARA) – Nature offers many beautiful gifts and wonders to explore, and parents can help get kids outside to discover them when they step away from the television or computer screen. Here are a few fun ways to encourage your children to explore nature.

A growing trend
As more Americans are discovering every year, gardening is a great way to enjoy nature. Kids will enjoy starting plants from seed or picking out starter plants at the nursery and watching them grow and develop. Even a small container garden on a balcony or patio can yield tomatoes for salsa, flowers for an entire season or strawberries galore. Cook up your favorite recipes with home grown ingredients and donate any excess produce to local food banks.

For the more adventurous gardener, help your kids plant a “vertical garden.” In the style of famed French artist and botanist Patrick Blanc, grow your flowers and vegetables in a fun new way. Try filling a canvas hanging shoe organizer with a light-weight potting mix and filling each pocket with one of your favorite plants. Have fun using tomatoes, bell peppers, marigolds, strawberries, vinca vines or impatiens. Poke a drainage hole in each pocket and hang the entire organizer on your back fence or balcony. Water daily, and in just a few weeks you will be enjoying your own living art piece.

Find a local community garden or gardening co-op and volunteer with your family to help with weeding, watering, planting or harvesting.

Nature’s bounty
Yard waste? Not when you can re-use and repurpose. Find the beauty in what nature provides by creating new uses for things that would otherwise be considered waste. Large sticks make great garden stakes for plants that need a little extra support, like tomatoes. Smaller sticks can be written on or carved into (by an adult) for an inexpensive way to label plants in the garden or pots.

How about using leaves for gift tags or place cards? Kids will love writing names on the leaves with a little paint and a fine-tipped brush or metallic pen. Then, simply punch a hole in one end and tie with a decorative piece of raffia or ribbon for a personalized touch to any gift or place setting. Flowers from your pots or garden don’t have to fade away – they can be easily dried for use in homemade potpourri, candles or soap.

Give a worm a job
Many of us know that composting is a great way to reuse what Mother Nature has given us. Even a small compost bin will fill up quickly with kitchen scraps and yard waste. This waste can be used produce a nice compost mix for next year’s garden – especially if you add some red worms to the compost bin. Worms are nature’s little composters. They make composting more fun, interesting and efficient by breaking down organic matter into nutrient-rich vermicast allowing your family to compost kitchen scraps easily, and reduce the amount of garbage produced each year. Red worms can be purchased inexpensively from many garden centers or online outlets. A small bin will require about 2 pounds of red worms to get the job done.

The art of recycling
Recycling is a great way to reduce waste. It’s likely you already have a recycling bin next to the garbage can. Chances are, however, that your kids do not see those recyclables as art – it is time to change their minds. Reusing and recycling everyday objects not only reduces waste but, with a little imagination, can also provide hours of creative fun. Make something together that will bring years of enjoyment to your home or landscape.

Make a bottle tree to enhance the garden or balcony. Since the invention of bottles, people have found ways to use them as decorations. Used as a way to explore the beauty of glass or ward off (or attract) spirits, bottle trees have been “planted” across the planet in various forms for thousands of years. To build your own bottle tree, collect colorful glass bottles from your recycling bin or from friends, family or even local restaurants. For a “tree” form, use steel re-bar, sturdy wire, wood, fallen limbs or dying trees. Simply remove labels from bottles and wash out. Then, hang the bottles from your form – use your bottle tree purely as a decoration or as a nice support for vine-like plants such as morning glory or tomatoes.

Preserving nature in photos
A digital camera may not seem like a device to get your kids outside, but they can be acquired quite inexpensively and are a great tool with which to view nature and animals. Go on walks in the yard, neighborhood, a local park or zoo and click away. Zoom in or change the angle of the camera for new perspectives. By simply changing the way that we look at things like flowers, animals, trees and even bugs, cameras provide an up-close and personal view of the world that you would not otherwise get to see.

Use your photos for great screen savers on the computer, make photo collages or print them out for uniquely fantastic artworks to frame. Any way you use them, you will have preserved a little piece of nature and will have great memories for years to come.

Once you and your kids start exploring nature together, you will discover hours of fun for the entire family. Mother Nature may more to offer than you realized.


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Preview of January 2011 Housing Numbers

The Arkansas REALTORS Association will release complete stats for 43 counties in Arkansas on Monday.  However, here is a sneak peak in to some of the Central Arkansas numbers for January 2011.  You will note that the ARA is now providing numbers for the years 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 where available.

New and Existing Residential Units Sold, January 2011          
County Units Jan ’11 Units Jan ’10 % Change Units Jan ’09 Units  Jan ’08
Clay  1 2 400.00% 0 7
Cleburne  21 13 61.54% 22 19
Conway  9 3 200.00% 11 11
Faulkner  47 49 -4.08% 65 76
Grant  2 6 -66.67% 6 9
Greene  18 9 100.00% 6 22
Hot Spring  5 4 25.00% 7 11
Izard  0 0 n/a 0 4
Jefferson  15 27 -44.44% 22 16
Lonoke  45 37 21.62% 50 65
Perry  2 0 n/a 3 1
Polk  16 15 6.67% 18 6
Pulaski  187 182 2.75% 208 261
Saline  73 65 12.31% 64 85
Sharp  2 4 -50.00% 1 3
Van Buren  6 7 -14.29% 3 8
White  32 35 -8.57% 32 36
Totals 481 458 5.02% 518 640
Average Prices of Units Sold, January 2011          
County Jan ’11 Jan ’10 % Change Jan ’09 Jan ’08
Clay  $37,500 $46,000 $0 $32,114
Cleburne  $100,950 $167,250 -39.64% $151,204 $164,565
Conway  $98,327 $83,667 17.52% $123,731 $61,642
Faulkner  $147,880 $163,081 -9.32% $128,107 $143,895
Grant  $80,000 $109,166 -26.72% $80,366 $119,739
Greene  $96,042 $97,844 -1.84% $55,666 $69,927
Hot Spring  $87,200 $139,375 -37.43% $68,142 $119,772
Izard  $0 $0 n/a $0 $57,187
Jefferson  $95,715 $92,987 2.93% $85,745 $130,543
Perry  $29,350 $0 n/a $125,000 $36,000
Polk  $94,853 $94,860 -0.01% $103,705 $210,370
Pulaski  $187,110 $178,877 4.60% $155,623 $168,183
Saline  $152,546 $170,481 -10.52% $157,940 $165,490
Sharp  $178,000 $46,125 285.91% $25,250 $45,333
Van Buren  $88,000 $104,657 -15.92% $56,000 $71,177
White  $147,998 $126,209 17.26% $121,545 $105,207
Average $151,896 $154,153 -1.46% $137,309 $144,814


Copyright 2011 Arkansas Realtors® Association.                

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Misleading ads tout ‘free’ phone service to low-income Arkansans

 LITTLE ROCK — Recent reports from Arkansas residents regarding direct mail solicitations offering “free” local phone service and “free” long distance have prompted Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to issue a consumer alert today warning of these deceptive advertisements and explaining that discounted, but not free, phone service is available to low-income Arkansas consumers. “The advertisements we have seen purport to offer free local phone service and even free long distance service, but the reality is that the consumer will be billed for both of these services if the consumer responds to this ad,” McDaniel said. “There are legitimate discounted phone services available to low-income consumers, and these are available from all local service providers. An interested consumer should contact his local phone company rather than respond to a deceptive ad.” The federal Universal Services Fund supports the Lifeline Assistance and Link-up America programs. These programs provide discounts on basic monthly service and initial installation and activation fees for the primary residence of eligible consumers. Both land lines and cell phones are covered. The Lifeline Assistance program provides a discount of $10 on basic monthly service and the Link-Up program helps with initial installation fees for land line service and activation fees for cell service. An eligible consumer may also qualify for an interest-free loan to acquire necessary phone equipment. To qualify for the Lifeline and/or Link-Up programs, consumers must not have a household income above 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or they must participate in one of the following programs: Medicaid; Food Stamps; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8); Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); or The National School Lunch Programs Free Lunch Program. To determine your eligibility for the Lifeline Program, contact your phone company or the Arkansas Public Service Commission. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (, verifies eligibility and you should contact DHS at (800) 482-8988 if you have eligibility questions. “ It is vital that all Arkansas residents have the opportunity to access telephone service ,” McDaniel said. “Parents need to be able to communicate with a child’s school, and everyone needs a phone in order to fully access law enforcement, public safety, and other public services. I urge low-income Arkansas consumers to take advantage of these discounted services.” For information on applying for Lifeline and/or Link-Up, visit or call the Universal Service Administrative Company toll-free at (888) 641-8722. More information on the programs can be obtained by visiting or by calling the Public Protection Department of the Attorney General’s Office at (501) 682-2341 or toll-free at (800) 482-8982.

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Communicating with legislators more important than ever

I always think it curious when people say they are a “child of the digital age” because it leaves me to ponder exactly what I am. I think I’m the parent of the children of the digital age. While I’ve learned to use Macs and PC’s since graduating college and I now Facebook, LinkIn and Tweet with great frequency, it is my children who have to learn that there was life before emails, texts, tweets or Xbox parties. I am also trying to instill in them that, in my humble opinion, there is a special power to a handwritten thank you note, a well-crafted letter or a face-to-face conversation. There are some things social networks just don’t cover.

As I type, I can just imagine my readers wondering how this fits in to real estate and homeownership.
Here’s how: The 2011 legislative year is setting up to be an incredibly busy and potentially transformative one both statewide and nationwide. Arkansas homeowners and those pondering the first time purchase of a home would do well to keep your “ears open and eyes peeled” to what will be taking place in Little Rock and Washington as it could have a tremendous impact on your future as a homeowner.
While I encourage you to keep up and communicate with public officials by way of social networking sites and email newsletters – you could even follow the Arkansas Realtors Association – the power of a well-crafted letter can make a tremendous difference on important issues here in Arkansas and nationwide.
According to the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest (CLPI), more than 200 million pieces of mail are sent to Congress each year with even more emails being sent. Whether you are emailing or not, you will want your letter to break through the clutter, be carefully constructed and personalized.
With the help of and the CLPI I’ve put the following steps together that will help lead the way to great letters:
1. Make it personal. Explain why you personally care about the issue. Better yet, if you know the legislator make that clear in the first paragraph. According to the CLPI, this will alert the person opening the letter to give it special attention.
2. Keep it simple. Write in a conversational style.
3. Focus on one topic. If you’re writing about the need for a new library branch, don’t also write about cars speeding on your block.
4. Be respectful. Keep it positive and non-threatening. I like how the CLPI points out the old adage that you “catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
5. Keep it short. Make your case in three to five paragraphs totaling no more than one page.
6. Include a call to action. According to the CLPI, ask the legislator to reply and ask directly whether he or she will support your position. Be as direct as possible while still being respectful and courteous.
7. If you can, include facts and data. This will support your cause.
8. Be accurate. Make sure that the legislator’s name is spelled correctly and that the address is correct. You will also want to make sure your return address is on the letter in case the envelope and letter get separated from one another.
Need more help? Visit the Council for Lobbying in the Public Interest or the National Realtors Association at
House to House is distributed weekly by the Arkansas Realtors Association.

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Go Hogs! Beat Buckeyes!

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November 2010 Housing Report

The Arkansas Realtors® Association reports that Arkansas home sales are down 6.24 percent for the year through November as compared to sales for the same period in 2009.  For the month of November home sales are down 31 percent as compared with November 2009 sales.  The average price for a single-family home in Arkansas rose almost 3 percent in November to $147,793 from $143,808 in November 2009.   These number are consistent with reports from the National Association of Realtors® that home sales nationally are 27.9 percent below November 2009 numbers and home sales in the South are 26.1  percent below the year-ago surge. NAR also reports that the median price in the South was $148,000, down 2.6 percent from November 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, is hopeful for 2011. “Continuing gains in home sales are encouraging, and the positive impact of steady job creation will more than trump some negative impact from a modest rise in mortgage interest rates, which remain historically favorable,” he said.

Yun added that home buyers are responding to improved affordability conditions. “The relationship recently between mortgage interest rates, home prices and family income has been the most favorable on record for buying a home since we started measuring in 1970,” he said. “Therefore, the market is recovering and we should trend up to a healthy, sustainable level in 2011.”

NAR President Ron Phipps said good buying opportunities will continue. “Traditionally there are far fewer buyers competing for properties at this time of the year, so serious buyers have a lot of opportunities during the winter months,” he said. “Buyers will enjoy favorable affordability conditions into the new year, although mortgage rates are expected to gradually rise as 2011 progresses.”

As always, please keep in mind that this is an approximation of the Arkansas housing market based on the information provided to the Association at the time of the report’s distribution.  Data is provided by Realtors® reporting through participating multiple listing services in Arkansas and while deemed reliable is not guaranteed.

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New Year’s Resolution to Safety

New Years Resolution of Safety

Happy New Year from your Arkansas Realtors Association

What will your New Year’s resolution be for 2011? Aside from champagne and watching the ball drop, January 1 also comes with pledges to quit smoking, give up sweets, hit the gym, or dedicating more time to something that can make a positive change going forward. For 2011, maybe you should make a resolution to safety.

Around the holidays, it is important to remember simple tips to keep you and your children safe around the house.

Here are a few tips to remember while finishing up the holiday season while you might have family and friends visiting:

  • Place space heaters, candles and other heat sources at least three feet away from all potentially flammable material such as bedding, furniture and drapes.
  • Keep hot liquids and foods out of the reach of children.
  • Have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary.
  • Do not burn gift wrap, paper decorations or dry greenery in the fireplace. They could ignite suddenly, resulting in a flash fire.
  • The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) is urging parents to only use cordless window products in homes with young children. According to information provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, since 1990, more than 200 infants and young children have died from accidentally strangling in window cords. Replace older window coverings with today’s safer, cordless products.

Even after New Year’s, make the right choice and use cordless products to keep your children safe year-round. The Window Covering Safety Council is a coalition of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers of window coverings. Consumers wishing to obtain additional information can contact WCSC at or its toll-free phone line at 1-800-506-4636.

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