Get Out and Vote This Tuesday!

Get Out and Vote!

Election Day is almost here – have you registered to vote yet on (or before) November 6? There’s still time to get out there and be more involved in your local community this year!

Not sure where you can vote? You can find your nearest polling place on Madison County’s website. Here are all of the polling locations in Madison County at a quick glance:

Edwardsville – Madison County Administration Building at 157 N. Main St.
Alton
– Alton Law Enforcement Center at 1700 E. Broadway
Granite City
– Township Building at 2060B Delmar Ave.
SIUE
– Willow Room at Morris University Center
Bethalto
– Bethalto Village Hall at 213 N. Prairie St.
Collinsville
– Collinsville Senior Citizens Center at 420 E. Main St.
Godfrey – Lewis & Clark College: Ahlemeyer Atrium at the Trimpe Advanced Technology Center
Highland
– Latzer Memorial Public Library at 1001 9th St.
Madison
– Madison Fire Station at 1800 3rd St.
Troy
– Troy City Hall at 116 E. Market St.
Wood River
– Township Hall at 33 S. 9th St. in East Alton

Before you cast your vote, remember to read up on all of the candidates and what they stand for! You can find plenty of information online, including www.ballotready.org and also in the Belleville News-Democrat.

After you vote, don’t forget to sport your “I Voted!” sticker. Post a selfie on social media for everyone to see. You never know – you really could influence your friends and family to get out and vote as well!

So what are you waiting for? Make sure that you’re registered to vote and make your voice heard in the ballots this November!

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10 Non-Candy Halloween Items Trick-or-Treaters Will Love

non-candy Halloween items trick-or-treaters will love

It’s hard to believe, but Halloween is just about here! If you’re like the majority of us, you probably haven’t bought anything yet for the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood. If you want to stand out from the crowd this year, you can always opt to hand out treats that aren’t totally laden with sugar! Here are 10 non-candy options that will make you the most popular house on the block:

Glow Sticks – There’s no doubt that Halloween is a spooky good time, but it can also be dangerous. According to the National Safety Council, children are more than twice as likely to be struck by a vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year. Why not help protect the children in your neighborhood with glow sticks? Kids of all ages love them, and they’re great at increasing visibility!

Small Spooky Toys – Give something your trick-or-treaters will enjoy long after their candy is gone! Little cars, bendable Halloween characters, yo-yos, small stuffed animals, and Halloween-themed bouncy balls are all winners in kids’ books.

Stickers – Youngsters will love receiving stickers in their Halloween bags! These little festive adhesives are perfect when it comes to decorating coloring pages, notebooks, cards, and just about anything else kids might be working on.

Temporary Tattoos – What’s safe, easy to use, and fun for days? Temporary tattoos! Hand some out this Halloween, and the kids in your neighborhood are sure to be sporting them the next day.

Mini Pumpkins – These small gourds are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face! Feel free to hand out a real mini pumpkin, which you can find in supermarkets or at your local farmer’s market, and maybe even surprise parents or guardians with a mini pumpkin stress toy.

Snack Bags – If you still want to hand out food but don’t have much time on your hands, packages of individual snack bags will work wonders. Fruit snacks, pretzels, and crackers will all be hits with your trick-or-treaters!

Play Dough – Play dough is fun for kids of all ages. Hand out miniature tubs of play dough in shades of black, orange, or purple. Get in the spirit by dressing the tubs up with little fangs and googly eyes!

Halloween Rubber Duckies – Who can resist a cute rubber ducky? Pretty much no one! Surprise trick-or-treaters with these fun little toys this year. They’re sure to love them!

Pencils, Erasers, and Pencil Toppers – Halloween pencils, pumpkin and ghost erasers, and ghoulish pencil toppers will be a hit with anyone who comes to your door. These fun school supplies will be useful long after the holiday ends!

Drink Packets – Going from house to house all dressed up can be tiring work for little trick-or-treaters. Keep the children in your neighborhood hydrated with miniature bottles of water, or give them something to look forward to after their night out with packets of hot chocolate or other drink packets!

How do you like to celebrate Halloween? Do you enjoy going the traditional route by handing out candy and homemade treats, or do you like surprising your visitors with unique gifts like the ones we mentioned above? Tell us in the comments below!

6 Important Tasks to Help Prepare Your Garden Now for Spring

fall garden tipsWhen we think about fall, we tend to think of all things cozy and comforting. One of the last things on our minds is getting out and working in the garden. But if you want to enjoy a beautiful, healthy garden next spring and summer, you might want to spruce up your yard a bit before winter arrives.

Here are 6 important tasks you should accomplish in your garden this fall:

Clean Up Flowerbeds – The autumn leaves are certainly a sight to behold, but they can become a nuisance when they start piling up in your flowerbeds. Carve out some time to clean up leaves and other debris from your garden. You can then mulch the leaves and use them as compost to provide next year’s plants with nutrients!

Cut Back Perennials – To promote healthier plants for next spring, grab your clippers and trim back the old dead growth of your perennials like hydrangea and yarrow. Take the dead foliage and dispose of it rather than composting it. Don’t forget to take cuttings now before a frost hits!

Bury Some Bulbs – Fall is the perfect time to plant springtime bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Make sure to plant them 6 to 8 weeks before the first hard frost arrives for a welcomed display of color in the spring. Shrubs and evergreens are perfect for planting in the fall, too!

Bring ‘em Inside – Plants that are sensitive to the weather will want to come inside your home for the winter. Remove dead foliage, break up hardened soil, and inspect for pests before bringing any plants indoors!

Spend Time in the Soil – Go digging in the dirt to find any insects that might be looking for a nice place to take a nap for the winter. If you have issues with Japanese beetles, this is one of the best ways you can reduce their numbers!

Clean Your Garden Tools – Now that you’re done in the yard, it’s time to take care of your tools. Clean, sand, and oil them before you put them away for the year. This will help prevent spreading any diseases in your flowerbed and will keep them nice and sharp for next spring!

Did we miss any important tips? Tell us in the comments below!

6 Classy Ways to Welcome Fall into Your Home

fall homeIf you haven’t gotten the memo from all of the stores carrying pumpkin-spiced-everything, fall is here! The heat that once gripped the Greater St. Louis region has now broken, and residents everywhere are beginning to break out their seasonal décor. You might really like fall, but maybe you’re tired of seeing so many pumpkins, hay bales, and signs adorned with words like “thankful,” “blessed,” or “gather” every where you turn.

If you want to welcome fall into your home without being totally over-the-top, try these 6 ideas this season:

Bring in Hints of Color – Just because there’s an array of colors outside now doesn’t mean you have to bring them all into your home! Choose more muted colors like burnt orange or neutrals like brown, gray, and beige. These colors can work well with almost any color scheme you may already have in your home.

Switch Out Pillows and Throws – It’s time to start upping the cozy factor! Bring out some of your favorite blankets and throws and drape them over the backs of your couch, recliner, or bed for those cooler autumn nights. Exchange the brightly colored summertime pillowcases with seasonal shades like rustic red, slate gray, or even something more subdued like mauve.

Add a Few Wooden Accents – Create a cozy yet subtle fall feeling by adding a few wooden pieces into your home. Wooden bowls, boxes, trays, and platters work wonders when it comes to making any room a welcoming yet elegant space!

Try Caramel – We’re not talking about the food (although that isn’t a bad idea)! This buttery hue will add a touch of warmth wherever you place it. We suggest the kitchen – who knows, it might even inspire you to whip up some tasty seasonal desserts!

Play Up the Scents – This is probably the easiest way you can introduce fall into your home. Switch out your candles and hand soaps to scents that hint at the new season such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or even ginger!

Use a Bit of Plaid – Fall doesn’t demand that you must cover everything in your home with nothing but plaid! Throw in a little plaid here and there to allude to the cooler nights spent around the fireplace, cup of hot cocoa in hand. Try using a footstool clad in plaid or break out your favorite plaid throw to recreate that feeling!

How do you like to decorate for fall? Tell us in the comments below!

7 Tips to Help You Turn Your Attic Into a Gorgeous Living Space

attic inspirationAttics can be tricky spaces for homeowners to navigate. On one hand, it can be a handy spot for extra storage; on the other hand, that empty space is practically begging to be converted into a cozy living area.

If you have an attic and want to create a warm little reading nook, a welcoming guest room, or an additional play area, check out our 7 tips to help you make the most out of your extra square footage:

Start Measuring – First things first, take a look at the space and determine what you’re working with. You’ll want to measure out the attic and every nook and cranny it has before you begin moving any furniture upstairs. Don’t let low eaves or narrow passages change your mind – there are plenty of ways to work with these odd features (we’ll get to that later)!

Think White – Usually, attics are cramped, somewhat creepy spaces that nary a soul visits. Make your attic inviting and appear larger than it is by choosing white for the walls, ceiling, bedding, and décor! Of course, we’re not suggesting that your attic should resemble a stark and sterile environment; even just a bit of white somewhere will open up the space and make it more inviting.

Dress the Windows – Let’s face it – if you have windows in the attic, they’re going to be tricky to cover. You may choose to use no window treatments, which is totally fine. But if you want to use the newfound space as a bedroom, you should consider covering the window somehow. Customized window treatments or even motorized shades can work wonders in your attic!

Leave Your Bed on the Floor – Create an incredibly cozy space by keeping your mattress on the floor. Depending on the size, you can squeeze it into a hideaway nook. Give it a comfy vibe by adding lots of pillows in different sizes!

Make the Space Work for You – Don’t let your attic’s awkward spacing stop you from making a great living area. Use all of the nooks to your advantage! Turn the low structural points as decorative shelves or create a semi-built in desk under the eaves to maximize the space.

Stay Low to the Ground – Unless your attic is incredibly tall, this is not the place to try fitting in bunk beds or massive bookshelves. Instead, keep your furnishings lower to the ground for a cozier feel. A low coffee table, sofa, and bed will make the attic seem larger than it actually is!

Make ‘em Look Up – You don’t have to live with the dim lighting that typically accompanies attic spaces! Boost the fancy factor by adding pendant lighting or a beautiful statement chandelier to the room. Make it bright and cheerful by supplementing the look with fun but functional table lamps!

Of course, before you begin fleshing out your space and hauling up the furniture, you should call a building inspector to make sure your attic is strong enough to support the changes you want to make. The inspector should be able to give you the go-ahead to create your fun living area or if you need to make any renovations first.

Does your attic (or home) leave something to be desired? Let the experts at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties help! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started, or view all of our listings online at www.dianamasseyhomes.com.

13 Fun Last-Minute Trip Ideas Before School Starts

Starved Rock State ParkSchool might be in session soon, but that doesn’t mean that the summertime fun has to stop. Adventure is still out there waiting for us in our own backyard – and beyond! Whether you have time for a daytrip or a weekend getaway, there’s still plenty of time to have one last hurrah before school starts.

Here are 13 fun Illinois trip ideas for you to squeeze in before time runs out!

Local Adventures

Visit Cahokia Mounds – If you haven’t visited Cahokia Mounds yet, you’re really missing out. It’s one of only 22 World Heritage Sites in the nation and is home to the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico. Check out the mounds and the site’s interpretive center for a fun journey back in time. Don’t forget to visit Monks Mound, the largest pyramid north of Mesoamerica, for a beautiful view of Madison County and St. Louis!

Hit The (Great River) Road – Soak up the sun and enjoy the beautiful sites on the Great River Road. Take a pit stop to check out the painting of the legendary man-eating Piasa bird just north of Alton (you can’t miss it!). While you’re headed north, be sure to stop by Grafton for a bit of shopping and visit Pere Marquette State Park to hit some trails and take in spectacular views of the Mighty Mississippi.

Fun a Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away

Go Sailing at Carlyle Lake – Get away from it all and head to this beautiful, 26,000-acre manmade lake for some nautical adventures! Sail to your heart’s content, enjoy a picnic lakeside, or stay the night by booking one of the rustic cabins.

Skydive in Greenville – Want to really feel the wind blow through your hair while you get a bird’s eye view of Carlyle Lake? We recommend visiting Gateway Skydiving Center in Greenville! Experience a thrill of a lifetime as you leap out of a plane and free-fall for 45 seconds before opening your parachute and descending to the ground below.

Zip Through the Trees in Kinmundy – Get lost in the wild by visiting the American Obstacle Adventure Park in Kinmundy! Feel like Tarzan as you zip-line through tree canopies, or duke it out with your friends and family in the outdoor laser tag area.

Check Out Balloon Fest in Centralia – Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 18 to stop by Centralia Foundation Park for their annual Balloon Fest! Gaze in wonder as the dozens of hot air balloons light up during the Balloon Glow, check out the craft stands, and split a funnel cake with your friends (or have one all to yourself!). It’s a magical event you won’t want to miss!

Excitement a Few Short Hours Away

Explore Starved Rock State Park – Did you know that the Prairie State has waterfalls? You can see a majority of them at beautiful Starved Rock State Park, just south of the Illinois River. Hike your favorite paths to see towering canyons and gorgeous wildflowers tucked away within the flat fields of Illinois farm country. Make the trip complete by stopping by nearby Ottawa to check out historic Washington Square and find a one-of-a-kind gift at Starved Rock Hot Glass!

Get Lost at the Garden of the Gods – Although it’s located far away in southeastern Illinois, this state park is a must-see. Discover extraordinary rock formations and untouched swathes of wilderness as you blaze your own trail on foot or on horseback. The stunning views are unlike anything else you’ll see in the Midwest!

Let Superman Steal Your Heart in Metropolis – Are you a Superman fanatic? You’re gonna want to visit Metropolis! Their museum includes more than 20,000 items of memorabilia and the famous giant Superman statue that stands proudly outside. Photo ops and plenty of fun will be in store for you in this little Illinois metropolis!

Quirky, Off-the-Beaten-Path Ventures

Go Back in Time in Kaskaskia Island – Journey to Kaskaskia Island, the only location in Illinois that’s located on the west side of the Mississippi River, for a trip back in time. The state’s first capital, Kaskaskia is home to the Liberty Bell of the West, which is even older than Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell! A once thriving community, the little village suffered from several floods that wiped out countless houses throughout the years. Be sure to visit the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church to see artifacts from the 1800s before you leave!

Watch Out for That First Step in Woodstock – Who doesn’t love the movie Groundhog Day? If you’re a real fan, take the trip up north to Woodstock, Illinois where the movie was filmed! Check out Woodstock Square Park where Bill Murray broadcasted Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast in Gobbler’s Knob, step in the infamous puddle (which has its very own plaque that says “Bill Murray Stepped Here”), or visit the Royal Victorian Manor, which was used as the inn in the film.

Hunt Planets in Peoria – For an adventure that’s out of this world (sorry, we had to make the joke!), visit the world’s third-largest scale of our solar system’s planets in Peoria! Become a self-proclaimed interplanetary explorer and track down all the planets in and around the city. You can find out more here!

Visit the Infamous Cave-In-Rock – It may look like your average cave, but Cave-In-Rock holds several stories and legends dating back to when it was discovered in 1739! It’s said that it was once home to plundering river pirates, outlaws, and counterfeiters for many years. Local legend even contests that Jesse James himself and his gang once took refuge here. Although it sits empty, you can explore the cave and pretend like you’re a baddie hiding from the law!

Wherever your adventures take you, we hope that you have fun, safe travels before school starts! Did we miss any fun Illinois destinations? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Enjoy Your Patio to the Fullest This Summer with These 8 Tips!

summertime patio

The dog days of summer are here, and if you haven’t gotten outside to enjoy the great weather we’ve been having lately, then you’re missing out! It’s time to get out there and soak up what’s left of the season before the cold creeps in.

You don’t have to go very far either – your patio, deck, or porch will suffice! Just follow these 8 tips to get the most enjoyment from your outdoor living area this summer:

Choose Cozy Seating – No one wants to sit on stiff, uncomfortable chairs and sofas. Treat your outdoor room as you would your indoor ones by placing thick, comfy cushions on your chairs and selecting seating you would practically never want to leave.

Outsmart the Weather – You might not be able to control Mother Nature, but you can certainly stay a few steps ahead of her! Make wind less of an issue by keeping your table bare and weighing down any dishes you may have with small bowls filled with fresh fruit or other yummy snacks. Hide from the sun under a freestanding umbrella, shade trees, or handy lattices.

Set the Right Mood – You’d be surprised how even the simplest outdoor space comes alive with the right lighting! Best of all, you don’t need a lot to achieve the feel you want. Paper lanterns or repurposed white Christmas lights draped over tree limbs work wonders. Make decorating even easier by using battery-operated flameless candles. They’re just like the real thing but without the mess and fire hazard!

Keep Bugs at Bay – No one invites these pesky critters to our outdoor get-togethers, but they always manage to crash the party. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can keep them away. Light citronella candles or use insect repellant, for starters. Get rid of any standing water and turn on the ceiling fans to deter mosquitoes and other insects. And of course, you can also screen in your porch to enjoy the outdoors without the bugs – permanently!

Stoke the Fire – There’s nothing like gathering around the fire on chilly summer nights and making s’mores. Break out the fire pit and call some friends over to roast marshmallows and share spooky ghost stories!

Bring the Music Outside – Create a relaxing oasis in your own backyard by bringing the tunes to you. If you don’t have any outdoor outlets, grab some wireless speakers and connect them to a sound system in your home to play your favorite songs. If that doesn’t work, a decorative running water piece can create the same effect!

Make an Outdoor Dining Kit – Maybe you like the idea of dining al fresco, but the thought of getting everything together and taking it outdoors is exhausting. Make things easier on yourself by having a handy kit ready and waiting to be taken outside! Include some of the essentials like unbreakable plates and glasses, napkins, silverware, a carafe for your favorite beverage, and a bottle opener.

Keep Blankets Handy – For those chilly evenings, it’s always smart to have a few lightweight blankets or throws nearby. Stow them in an outdoor ottoman or drape them over chairs to use them as soon as you catch chill.

If you’re one of our readers who doesn’t have a porch, deck, or patio, then what are you waiting for? Find your dream home – complete with the outdoor space you want – with the help of The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties! Call us today at (618) 791-5024 or (618) 791-9298 to get started today!

5 Tips to Keep Your 4th of July Safe and Fun

fireworks

Break out the grill, ready the yard games, and don the red, white, and blue – Independence Day is just around the corner! As you prepare to celebrate our nation’s birthday with delicious food and great company, take the time to follow these 5 important tips to keep you safe and the festivities fun.

Leave the Fireworks to the Professionals – No July 4th is complete without oohing and aahing at a masterful display of fireworks. Come out to one of the many displays that towns in the Greater St. Louis region will be hosting. Stay at least 500 feet to enjoy the show safely (They’re better from a distance anyway!).

Grill Like a Pro – Cook up amazing food, not a recipe for disaster! Supervise your grill whenever it’s in use, and make sure that everyone else stays away until the food is ready and the grill is off. Remember to use long-handled tools to keep your hands safe and burn-free!

Say No to UV Rays – Speaking of getting burned, you’ll also want to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays this 4th of July. The sun is at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so remember to apply sunscreen half an hour before heading outside and wear a protective hat and sunglasses as well. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, too!

Be Smart Behind the Wheel – Did you know that Independence Day is the most dangerous day to drive in the United States? If you have to be out on the road this July 4th, be extra cautious. Don’t use your cell phone and always wear a seat belt. Make sure that children are properly buckled in the correct seat and that they are never left in an unattended vehicle. And of course, never drink and drive!

Take Care of Your Pets – Dogs and cats aren’t the biggest fans of the 4th. Many of them are terrified of the loud noises and bright bursts of light that fireworks bring. Keep your pets indoors and consider keeping a radio or television on to distract them from the commotion. If they do go outside, make sure that they’re wearing a collar with an up-to-date ID tag.

From all of us at The Massey Team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties, we wish you a happy, fun, and safe 4th of July this year!

10 Smart Ways to Stay Safe During Summer Storms

cellar door

A rumble of thunder, a bolt of lightning, a sudden change in the atmosphere – these are telltale signs that a storm is a-brewin’ and could be heading right your way in the near future.

While you might feel the desire to reenact Twister and go chase down the storm to make your Instagram a little snazzier, we’re here to tell you that it’s a really bad idea. In fact, we want you to stay safe during inclement weather, so we’ve taken the liberty of putting together a list of 10 handy tips to keep you and your loved ones protected from those wicked seasonal storms roll around:

Keep an Eye on Your Trees – Have you noticed that some of the trees in your yard have a few dead or rotting limbs? If so, take the time before any storms come to take them down. If one of your trees appears to be rotting or is dead, remove it before a storm does that for you (and causes some unnecessary damage to your property).

Prepare Before the Storm – Any thunderstorm can cause damage to your home or belongings. If a storm is on the way, take the time to shut any open windows and secure all outside doors. Don’t forget to tie down or relocate anything that could be blown away outside, and unplug your electronics to avoid a possible surge.

Beware of Flash Flooding – According to the National Weather Service, flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm hazard, and it’s also the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the nation. If you notice that the road ahead is covered with water, turn around and take an alternate route.

Invest in Surge Protectors – When lightning strikes your home, it can surge through your power outlets, which can damage any appliances attached to them. Take care of your electronics by investing in a surge protector, especially in rooms that use a lot of electricity. These handy devices help redirect excess electricity toward a grounding wire and neutralizing it, keeping your home and everything within safe!

Stay Away From Metal and Electrical Equipment – If you paid attention in your earth science class, you probably remember that metal conducts electricity. Should you be handling metal or electrical equipment during a storm, you run a real possibility of electrocution. Don’t use telephones, laptops, or computers unless it’s an emergency. Stay away from other dangerous objects like aluminum bats, golf clubs, bicycles, and any devices that are plugged in for recharging until the storm passes.

Delay That Shower – It’s also dangerous to come into contact with water whenever a storm is in the area. While using the restroom and washing your hands is minimally risky, taking a bath or shower and doing the laundry is unsafe. That’s right, we’re giving you a real reason for you to put off doing the laundry! Pay close attention to the weather to make sure that it’s safe to begin your chores or take a shower.

Stay Inside – We know. You just want to go outside on the porch and watch the storm roll on by, but the safest thing for you to do is to head back inside and to stay far away from the windows and doors. Your body carries a slight natural electrical charge, which can attract lightning if you’re the strongest charge in the area. We recommend staying inside near the center of a ground-floor room, especially during a particularly nasty storm system.

Avoid Storm-Damaged Areas – After the storm, it’s best to keep away from any areas that have fallen branches and downed powered lines in the streets. If you happen to see any live power lines on the ground, report them to the police immediately.

Steer Clear of Trees – Should you find yourself outside when a storm arrives, maintain a healthy distance from natural lightning rods like tall, isolated trees. You should also avoid being near small structures in open areas. These objects can increase the likelihood of lightning striking near you!

Take a Storm Spotter Class – They’re fun, educational, open to the public, and free! You’ll learn how to look at cloud formations and identify potentially dangerous weather situations. Besides learning how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe during inclement weather, you can also become a volunteer storm spotter for the National Weather Service! Learn more and find a class near you here!

We hope that these tips will help you stay safe during those summertime storms. If we left out any handy pieces of advice, be sure to let us know in the comment below!