How To Save Money With Landscaping

Landscaping White Lake and Clarkston Michigan

Money-Saving Landscaping Tips

To get a bargain on landscaping items such as soil, plants, wood, and landscaping rocks you need to a plan. When spring comes, you want to improve your outdoor living.  It’s challenging, prices for materials, for example, lumber, fluctuate seasonally.Below are some tips to keep in mind when you shop for your yard.

Design Ahead Of Time. If you create something which doesn’t look very good when you are done, it’s a waste of money. Take the time to plan and visualize the end result. It’s usually not a good idea to make it up along the way.

Research before you buy. Know exactly what you need, how much it costs and where you’re going to put everything helps to avoid wasting your hard-earned money.

Buy In Phases. If you don’t have financial resources to landscape all at once, there is nothing wrong with doing it in phases. Divide your project, and pay as you earn the funds.

Pro Insight. If you are not sure about your plan, hire a landscape architect or designer to develop your plan or project. The cost for a couple hour consultation is well worth the money. Especially if it saves you from painful mistakes later.

Cheaper Is Not Always Better. Take advantage of the economics of scale.  Large home improvement warehouses usually offer the lowest prices for common plants. However, they may not be the best solution for the high-quality plants and materials.  Local specialty shops may provide more personal service, experienced expert advice, and unique guarantees. For example, when installing a pond in your yard, it may be worth it to pay more through a source which specializes in water gardens.  Although plant prices may be higher at specialty nurseries, the personal touches will often help make for a positive result.

Time Your Purchases. Plan for the next year. Lumber for projects is often cheaper during winter months. Save money on trees, shrubs, perennials, and soil, by buying late in the season. Don’t rush to buy newly released plant varieties, which may be expensive initially because supply is low and demand is high. Be patient, it’s common for prices to drop over time.

Sometimes It’s Good Enough. With some basic items, there is a little difference in quality between top-of-the-line and low-end. So, why pay more? Take advantage of stores which deal with large volumes. Keep an eye out for sales, limited opportunities and close-outs.

Shop online. Catalogs and websites can expand your opportunities, especially for rare plants and specialty products. When you shopping online prices may be lower than in stores, but don’t forget to include the shipping costs when you compare prices to local sources.

Alternative Resources. Look beyond the traditional stores and catalogs for bargains. Arboretums and botanical centers often hold plant sales. Ask neighbors if they have extra perennials to share. Some cities offer free mulch and compost. All you need to do it get it to your yard. Being neighborly and cuts costs. Share the rental fee for tillers, chippers, and heavy equipment with neighbors on the block.

We Are All Water

Clean, drinkable water is the essential natural resource humans need for survival. But as the 21st Century rolls on an astounding number of Americans seem oblivious to the danger climate change, pollution and wasteful personal, commercial and industrial uses pose on the world’s supply.

Ongoing conservation efforts range from placing greater restrictions on withdrawals from watersheds, such as the Great Lakes, and curbing consumer use by harvesting rain water. In arid climates installation of low volume flush, no water urinals and toilets are increasingly common, and modern shower heads are estimated to consume half as much water per minute than standard fixtures.

Oil, phosphorous (a major ingredient in many soap products), fertilizers and other toxic pollutants routinely enter our streams, rivers and lakes, rendering them unsafe for consumption. Green renewable energy sources coupled with alternative products with less or even none of these ingredients can make a huge impact.

Just how serious is the situation? Consider this: every person on the planet needs fresh water to survive. There are currently 7.6 billion people. By the end of this century the United Nations predicts it will rise to 11.8 billion, an increase of 4.2 billion (or more than 50 percent). Where will we find 50 percent more fresh water to meet the increased demand?

Perhaps the greatest stress on worldwide fresh water supplies comes from agriculture. On a global scale, farming accounts for 70 percent of fresh water consumption which usually comes from blue water sources such as rivers, lakes and groundwater. Lesser arid regions, those with plentiful rainfall, have an added source known as green water which often comes from evaporation.

In response, many farmers have adopted more efficient irrigation systems that improve the ability to keep water in the soil. The result is abundant yields with lower water consumption and less pollution.

Rainwater harvesting schemes include digging ponds, lakes and canals that allow for expanded water reservoirs as well as installing catching ducts and filtration systems on homes. Untreated, harvested and filtered rainwater can also be utilized for brown water needs such as toilets, home gardening and small scale agricultural irrigation.

The real obstacle, however, is how will all this affect the consumer in the real world? Many worldwide efforts are underway to ensure the earth maintains an ample fresh water supply well into the future and common strategies include pubic outreach campaigns, progressive water rates (charging more for greater consumption) or restricted outdoor use (such as lawn watering and car washing) during periods of low precipitation.

Universal water metering, which varies significantly worldwide, has quickly become a fundamental goal as it would make it difficult to waste water without paying extra fees. In this scenario the water department would monitor water usage by public, domestic and manufacturing services. Citing the fact that crop irrigation accounts for 70 percent of the world’s fresh water usage, many conservationists have suggested these efforts should be directed primarily toward agriculture. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that metering alone can reduce consumption by 20 to 40 percent.

The Clean Water Rule is a 2015 regulation (published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) that was designed to clarify water resource management in the United States under a provision of the Clean Water Act of 1972. It defined the scope of federal water protection in a more consistent manner, particularly over streams that have a significant hydrological and ecological connection to traditional navigable waters, interstate waters and territorial seas. Often referred to as the Waters of the United States rule, which defines all bodies of water that fall under U.S. federal jurisdiction, it was published in response to concerns about the lack of clarity over its scope.

In an odd twist, multi-state litigation, spearheaded by then Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt (who now heads the EPA under President Trump), stayed implementation of the Clean Water Rule by court rulings beginning in 2015. In 2017 the Trump Administration announced its intent to review, revise and even rescind the rule.

In addition, implementation of waste water reuse systems, garden hose nozzles that shut off when not in use, swimming pool covers designed to reduce evaporation and automatic faucets that facilitate hands-free use are all ways for individuals to make a significant difference.

Last but not least, water conservation ideas can also save you money. Using less water will yield a lower water bill, so you and the planet (as well as future generations) all benefit from less water consumption.

Preparation is Key to Fall Rainy Season

Fall has arrived in southeast Michigan and we all know what that means: the potential for heavy rain and flooding. I know first hand the trauma and pain of a flooded basement and what it means to lose possessions and family history. But fear not, there are ways to reduce or eliminate the damage before it strikes.

The process begins with the exterior of your home, particularly the ground around the base:

First, be sure there are no low lying spots of earth. In other words, no space for water drainage to settle next to your structure. If you find there is, the best solution is to incorporate sand, dirt or pea gravel piled in such a way as to direct drainage water away from the structure. An inclination of eight to ten inches should be sufficient, but be sure the water has a place to go. Simply allowing it to sit there will not solve the problem.

An effective gutter system is essential. Roof rainwater is probably the greatest source of drainage towards the basement and leaky gutters will no doubt provide for even more. Be sure the gutter size is sufficient to handle the expected volume of runoff, which is in direct proportion to the area of the roof itself. Another important concern is gutter guards, essentially a screening system installed over the top of the gutters that prevents leaves and whatnot from clogging or slowing runoff.

Next, be sure any downspouts are not leaking before they enter the ground. Beware, in many communities direct downspout drainage has been outlawed, either for new construction or in some cases retroactively (necessitating the disconnection of such systems altogether). In this case be sure your drainage pipes effectively direct the flow away from your home’s foundation.

These key suggestions merely scratch the surface so if they fall short of solving your leakage problems it may be time to call in the professionals, but fear not: here in southeast Michigan there’s no shortage of companies waiting to help. Best practices dictates always getting at least two estimates before you engage. Best of luck!

How To Prepare For Your Big Move

Moving tipsBefore The Move

Keep these ideas in mind to make your move a little easier. Sometimes we feel doing it ourselves will save money. Moving is hard work and always takes longer than expected, especially if you move yourself. So, we recommend hiring a moving company. We use White Star Movers in Michigan, however, you can find a good local moving company near you on sites like Angies list.

  • Organize: Organize everything to the best of your ability — ahead of time. Box things up well and don’t think you can throw it all together at the last minute.
  • Label: Label everything. No, you will not remember. Make sure the movers know which room each item and your boxes go to.
  • Timing: Do you know moving company rates are higher at the beginning and end of the month? This is when most people move at the end of a lease or mortgage agreement. Try and schedule at time mid-month. And, if you can, avoid weekends.
  • Pair Down: Moving is a good time to weed through your stuff. If you’ve not used it in six months, get rid of it. You most likely don’t need it.
  • Photos: Some people have trouble letting things go. This is especially true if there is an emotional attachment. Take photos of the stuff you wish to hold on to the memories, but don’t need. If you have expensive or fragile items keep photographic records for insurance.
  • Copies: Make copies of important documents.
  • Categorize: Organize everything in categories.
  • Donate: Donate the stuff you don’t want. You will feel much better about letting the stuff go.
  • Disconnect: Schedule your disconnect times before the move. Do you need to connect at the new location?
  • Change your Address: Don’t forget to plan ahead and change your address. You can do it online through the postal service.

Here are a few questions to ask the moving company (source):

  1.  What are the insurance terms for the move?  Does the insurance cover the full value of the item?
  2.  Is the quote price an estimate or a “not-to-exceed” ceiling?
  3.  Are there any hidden fees?
  4. How long has the company been in business?
  5.  Is the moving crew employed by the company, temporary hires or casual laborers?

It doesn’t matter if you are moving your home or office. Big sofas or small coffee tables. Moving can become expensive, especially moving over state lines. Organization is very important. Plan things out and start on the process early. List all the items you want a company to move and organize the items you want to move on your own.


Caricature Artists

Merriam-Webster: Caricature

A drawing that makes someone look funny or foolish because some part of the person’s appearance is exaggerated

Caricature artists are an interesting crowd. Many artists work in the world of the caricature to earn extra money to support other forms of art they consider their passion or specialty. Some do focus on developing their skills to become full-time caricature artists.

Like other careers in the arts, it takes time to develop a reputation and clientele. Not all artists have a formal education, many are self-taught. They work at amusement parks, special events, weddings and on the street. According to . The average cartoonist or animator makes $41,388$60,010. However, most caricature artists don’t place themselves in this category. Caricature artists generally charge an hourly rate between $100 – $175 per hour. Some command much higher rates depending on experience and reputation. 

Is there a professional organization for Caricature Artists? Absolutely. International Society of Caricaturist Artists. Is for professionals and enthusiast alike.

The International Society of Caricaturist Artists is an international non-profit trade association. Its purpose is to promote the art of caricature, educate the public and the media about the art of caricature and to provide its members with helpful information about caricature as an as art-form as well as a profession. ISCA currently has over 450 members from around the world, and is growing every month. Members receive our quarterly magazine, exaggerated features, which has articles about caricaturing, featured artists tips and stories as well as other useful information about caricature illustration. ISCA annual convention is held each year in a different location. The convention features a guest speaker, lectures, seminars, competitions, awards and the camaraderie of your peers in the art of caricature drawing.

From The Artists

What’s it like to work as a caricature artist? Here are some statements from current and former artist.

I used to work as a caricature artist. Some people love it when you made fun of them, others get mad. Many people don’t get the concept and expect a true to life portrait. You will get someone angry or sad at some point – that’s life. There was never a time someone was waiting for me in the parking lot. The worst thing about when you’re an artists is knowing you did not do a good job. It can be awkward. Yet, most of the time, you are usually the only one who knows.  – J

I’m a caricature artist. I worked at a local amusement park in while in high school and college, now I’m hired to draw at wedding receptions during the summer. It’s a fun job.

I try to be somewhat kind to obese people, especially kids and women. I still attempt to capture a likeness, but I try to give them proper necks and a singular chin.

Lesson Learned:  Over time I began to draw the women more flatteringly than men. One out of five women who sit in my chair will ask to be drawn skinnier. Guys typically react well to a caricature that pokes fun of their features, women not as much. I’ve had women yell at me in the past. If my subjects are drunk, I go all out with the exaggeration — Drunk people don’t care. – K

I work for a local Zoo as a caricature artist. Here is my experience.

Guests have a vision of what they think they’ll look like before they sit down to be drawn.
Ten reject your drawing or do not like it and ask for a redraw at another booth. This includes whack jobs and people who easily get offended. The other 90% are generally nice about the experience and understand different artist styles etc.

Customer service is important, especially when people pay you to draw. The artist knows to not make completely obvious of their physical flaws and most of the time draws a cartoon version of the person even though that’s not technically a true caricature..

BOTTOM LINE: the draw the guests politely. — MM

Your Business

A creative business is like any other business. It takes work. When you declare yourself a professional, you are in business and must have a plan.

If you want to be the best caricature artist, you must draw every day.

Location, Location, Location plays a big role in the success of an artist. People need to see your work and refer you. Don’t undervalue what you do. Make sure you are charging a professional rate now, so you can charge a professional rate later.

Learn how to market. Take advantage of social media to share your work. Develop relationships with people you can partner. Maybe you can trade referrals.





Your 2019 Website

What Is A Website?

First, lets start with the basics. A website is a collection of related web pages. This includes multimedia content. A series of webpages that constitute a website are usually listed under one domain name and published on the same web server, such as

Web pages are the building blocks of websites. Simply, they are documents, generally written in plan text using a hypertext mark up language such as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). The style of a web page such as the fonts, colors and overall look of the website is generally created using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). The working and interactive elements of a webpage are created using multiple languages, however, JavaScript one of the more common options.

A Modern Website

Your website is the center of your digital marketing plan. In 2016, your not in business if you don’t have a website. You need a great website design and marketing team or a solid marketing company behind you to move your business forward.

In 2016 your website must be responsive. In other words, it needs to conform to the screen size of the viewer. A website must be easy to use and offer a sense of trust. You have about three seconds to impress visitor. Your website design must have a modern look, excellent graphics and solid information to earn the trust of your viewers.

How do you know if people trust you? Easy, your visitors convert. A conversion is when some does what you want them to do on your website. For example, signing up for your newsletter is conversion. Calling you for a quote is another example of a conversion. Your website must offer enough information and guidance to lead people to the conclusion that connecting with you is the right choice. Your website must guide people through the conversion process.

Don’t Make Website Visitors Think

If you believe people will figure it out, you’re wrong. They will leave your website if they have to think. When exploring the web, people don’t want to think or figure it out. What they are looking for must be obvious and at their figure tips. Just like the process of conversions, you need to guide people to information in an obvious way.

Try not to bury links to important information deep in your website. If it’s important, consider placing the link in your navigation. Buttons are another good option for making it easy for people to find what they are looking for on your site.

If you are having trouble with conversions consider using a heat map and video serve to track how people navigate your website. You may be surprise at how the obvious to you, is not obvious to your visitors. Website video tracking services we recommend are Luck Orange and Crazy Egg. Both offer options to give you insight beyond basic analytics. If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website, you are missing out on a great opportunity to understand basic information about your visitors and what they find interesting on your website.

There are many ways to approach creating a website. Make sure you have your goals in mind before you start designing your site. Do you want you website to be a sales machine, educational tool or industry resource. Each option (among others) requires a different approach to website building.

Good luck!


A little something for my wife

I work hard. Late nights are common. It’s important to do something for my family, especially my wife. Below is a list of things I’m considering buying her as a gift. What do you think?

Vacuum: I know what you are thinking. Trust me, I’m only considering this because she asked. A vacuum is one step below a gym membership as a wife gift. You only give it if she asks for you it has she is staring at you in your eyes with a smile. A mention in passing does not qualify. I’m thinking about the iRobot anyway.

Cashmere: My wife loves cashmere. I think about a sweater, top or poncho.  I’m not sure which one yet.  There are a few good stores online with lots of color options. I get too confused when I go into a women’s clothing store.

Jewelry: What woman doesn’t like jewelry? I’ve not given her a diamond in a long time.  Maybe a necklace? A heart necklace is most likely the direction I will consider.

Silk: How about a silk scarf? Not a bad idea, because you can get them at a reasonable price. I think I might combine the scarf with something from the online cashmere store. 

Gifts are not easy to buy for other people. I know what I want! A nice Bentley will do. Yeah, a little out of my price range.  Of course, if I get her a vacuum and me a Bentley I’m well aware where both will end up.


The best Royal Oak Shipping Service

Quick in and out shipping

If you found this post you are most likely looking for shipping services in Royal Oak Michigan. You have a few options. The various shipping outlets such as FedEx and UPS do have stores in Royal Oak. Unfortunately,  I find them hard to get to when I’m in a rush. Of course, I’m always in a rush.  Goin’ Postal Royal Oak  is easy to access from Woodward. This makes it convenient for both Royal Oak and Berkley residents.  I live in Berkley and work in Royal Oak.

I know you may not be familiar. The name may put you off a little too. I get it, get over it, your time, money and convenience is worth it. It’s a good franchise and the local owner has nothing to do with the name. The staff is very nice and makes sure I’m taken care of every time I visit the store.

They have a lot of services. Check out their website for a complete list. I like the fact that I can select from multiple shippers.  The Goin’ Postal team can usually find me a good price among the major shippers. The only down side is when I need to ship UPS. The UPS store usually has a better price for UPS shipping.  I usually go to Goin’ Postal anyway. It generally depends on the size of the package.

Mailbox Option

Although I don’t have one, I’ve noticed they have private mailboxes you can rent at the store. It’s worth considering if you own a small business. The link above goes to a list of reasons, I found on their webiste, for having a private mailbox.

If you have had an experience with this or any other shipper in the area, leave a note in the comments.

Name Plates and Opening Day


Recently the Detroit Tigers, along with many other professional baseball teams, celebrated Opening Day. Just think: cracker jacks, hot dogs and home runs.

But, there’s a lot that people don’t think about as they’re enjoying opening day festivities. For example, ever noticed that little metal tag on the front of each chair? Sure you have. That’s where you look to make sure you have the right seat. Each little “32A” or “1C,” etc. If each chair or row lacked a tag, how would people find their seats? lt would require people to memorize the stadium’s seats before they got there and remember their seat without any help. Point being, name plates are necessary. Extremely necessary.


The Center for Improvement of Construction Management & Processes is one location on the web you can tap into to help support the management of your construction company.

The center has a series of educational programs and classes available through their partners.

Carolinas AGC

  • Craftworker Training Programs
  • Project SuperVISION
  • Management and Safety Seminars

National Center for Construction Education and Research

  • Construction and Maintenance Trade Training Programs in 40 Crafts
  • Management – Crew leader, Project Supervision, Project Manager
  • Pipeline Operator Training program
  • Safety Management
  • One week Construction Management Academies

National Association for Women in Construction Education Foundation (NEF)

The Foundation offers the following self-study programs:

  • Certified Construction Associate Program
  • Construction Industry Technician
  • Intermediate Construction Program – Construction Document Specialist
  • Construction Bookkeeping Technician.

The idea behind improving your management is that one dollar invested in training returns two in productivity.  Improved productivity leads to a stronger bottom line. also hosts research and helpful information available to you at no charge.  The best practice guide is certainly a good example.

Some of the information you will discover in the guide overview is listed below.

1. Attracting and Retaining Qualified Craft Workers
2. Company Strategic Plan
3. Construction Site Theft & Vandalism
4. Employee Career Paths
5. Employee Compensation and Recognition
6. Employee Performance Evaluations
7. Employee Training
8. Exit Interviews


Take a look and discover the valuable information they share.

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