2014 in review, thank you to all of our friends for sharing outdoor living ideas with us.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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5 Thanksgiving Traditions to Start This Year

5 thanksgiving traditions to start this year Archadeck of Chicagoland

What better way to kick off the holiday season than with new family traditions?  Here are five ways to make sure your Thanksgiving is festive and full of bonding, laughter, and delicious goodness!

1.  Grill Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Free up your oven, get rid of the mess, and add a delicious smoky flavor to your turkey this year.  Grilling your turkey is a sure fire way to prepare a tender and juicy Thanksgiving entrée!  See recipe…

Grilled Turkey - Thanksgiving Tradition

2.  Decorate the Christmas Tree

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season.  What better time to start decorating than when you’re surrounded by friends and family?  Break out the carols, the ornaments handed down through the family, the delicious food, and start a tradition this year that will create years of laughter and memories.

5 Thanksgiving Traditions to Start This Year - Family Decorating Christmas Tree

3.  Create a Memory Video

Looking for a creative new way to share favorite memories and thankful moments from the past year? Grab the camera and make a video, going around the table so every person is included.  Don’t forget to include your aspirations for the upcoming year!  Keep the video to play next year before making a new one.  This is a great way to keep and share loving memories with your family.

 Thanksgiving Memory Video

4.  Leave the Phones at the Door

In this fast paced world, we sometimes forget to slow down and enjoy the time spent with our families.  Try going on a Tech Fast this Thanksgiving, and take the time to bond and connect with your friends and family.   Have a basket handy for the phones and ask your guests to join in.  It’s surprising how much time you’ll have when you’re not interrupted with the digital world.  Read more…

 5 Thanksgiving Traditions to Start This Year - Cell Phone Basket

5.  Volunteer for a Local Charity

Give back to your community and help those in need this holiday season.

  • Food Drive – Bring your neighborhood or community together by organizing a food drive to help support your local food pantry or shelter.
  • Donate toys – Bring a smile and a little comfort to a sick child while they are recovering in the hospital.
  • Visit an assisted living home – Make someone’s day by visiting those who are missing their loved ones during the holiday season.

For more ideas on how or where to volunteer, visit HandsOn Suburban Chicago to locate an charity near you.

Food Drive - Thanksgiving Tradition

tychay via photopin cc
: Another Pint Please… via photopin cc

Planning Your Project: 5 Reasons Fall and Winter is the Best Time of the Year

Fall is here, with its brightly colored leaves, crisp air, and cooler temperatures.  Many are thinking about packing up and preparing their decks and patios for the cold winter months.  At Archadeck, we are not only still building, but we are already planning for next spring.  If you’re thinking it’s time add a new screen porch or patio, or update your weathered deck, now is the time to start planning.

Deck Patio Pergola

  1. Choosing to build during the fall and winter months means you’ll have less of a wait time than during the spring and summer months.
  2. Less imposition on your daily life. Families tend to spend more time indoors during the winter months.  This makes it the perfect time to let the carpenters into the backyard to do their digging and building without being in your way.Screen Porch with Fireplace
  3. Extend the time you can spend outside. Not ready to bundle up inside yet? According to the latest trends, many homeowners agree.  We are seeing an increasing number of requests for outdoor fireplaces and fire pits.  The warmth of a fire allows you to spend more time outside when the weather grows cooler.
  4. A winter build just isn’t for you? That’s ok!  Now is the perfect time to find a contractor and lock in this year’s pricing.  This will help you to avoid the price increases often seen in early spring.
  5. Planning your spring build now ensures your project is at the top of the list. As soon as the ground thaws, you’re project will be ready to go.  Instead of spending your spring and summer vetting contractors and waiting on the completion of your project, your deck or patio will already be in place and ready to use.

Best Fall Recipes

Celebrate the changing of the seasons with the scrumptious desserts and treats, savory dishes, and sweet refreshments!

Best Fall Recipes - Archadeck of Chiacgoland


SCRUMPTIOUS DESSERTS & TREATS

  Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

These soft and fluffy pumpkin cookies won’t last long, a double batch might be in order!

Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Apple Cider Bread

Treat your taste buds to the warm, sweet Autumn flavors.

Apple Cider Bread Recipe

Apple Pie Fudge

Decadent fudge + Sweet apple pie = Flavorful explosions!

Apple Pie Fudge Recipe

Healthy Orange Jack-O-Lantern Cups

Delicious and healthy Halloween treat the kids are sure to love!

orange-jack-o-lantern-fruit-bowls

Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream

Spiced buttercream tops off this sweet and savory blend of pumpkin and ginger.

Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream Recipe

Spooky Boo Brownies

These adorable little ghosts are too sweet to be scary!

Spooky Boo Brownies Recipe


SAVORY DISHES

 Butternut Squash Risotto

Switch up the flavor of your risotto by adding tasty seasonal flavors!

Butternut-Squash-Risotto

Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

Fire up the grill for these juicy and delicious pork chops!

Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar

A Fall favorite recipe – savory and sweet

roasted-acorn-squash-brown-sugar

Easy Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Healthy and delicious, this recipe will quickly become a family favorite!

Easy Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes


SWEET REFRESHMENTS

Apple Cider Sangria

Crisp and delicious, this drink is the perfect refreshment for a beautiful Fall evening.

Apple cider sangira

Pumpkin Spice Latte

These warm and tasty drinks usher in the new season.  Skip the line at the coffee shop and make your own!

Pumpkin-Spice-Latte-at-Home

Hocus Pocus Fizz

Bubbly fizz, colored sugar, floating cranberries….what more could you want in a tasty Halloween beverage?

Hocus Pocus Fizz Drink Recipe

Grilled Salmon

Looking for easy and delicious?  This flavorful marinade, with hints of lemon and garlic, preps and cooks in a pinch.  Serve up scrumptious, smoky salmon for dinner tonight!

Grilled Salmon Recipe

Grilled Salmon
Yield: 6 servings    Prep Time: 15 min    Cook Time: 16 min    Marinade Time:  2 hours 
Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets

lemon pepper to taste

garlic powder to taste

salt to taste

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

1.  Season salmon fillets with lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.

2.  In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and vegetable oil until sugar is dissolved. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

3.  Preheat grill for medium heat.

4.  Lightly oil grill grate. Place salmon on the preheated grill, and discard marinade. Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Recipe & Photo courtesy of Allrecipes.com

Maximize the value of your home with outdoor living spaces

Are you looking to maximize the value of your home?  Outdoor living spaces have become the latest trend to take home improvement by storm.  With more homeowners moving their fun to the backyard, a deck or patio creates the perfect space to blend indoor comfort with the open outdoors.

HGTV goes over the current trends for decks and patios, mistakes to avoid, and expert tips for every budget.

PATIO

Custom Designed Deck and Patio

DECK

Custom design low maintenance deck with vinyl pergola - Archadeck of Chicagoland

Memorial Day: 10 Ways To Show Your Gratitude

Our soldiers and veterans have sacrificed greatly for our country.  While we should always show our gratitude for their service, Memorial Day is a great time to do something a little extra special for our brave and faithful soldiers.

1.  Reach out to a military family in your community  

Invite them over for dinner or bring them a meal.  Something as simple as running an errand, taking a walk with them, or watching children for a few hours can mean so much to a family who has a deployed spouse.

2.  Visit an older or wounded veteran

A happy visit can brighten a day and help a veteran to know they are not forgotten.  Contact your local nursing home or VA hospital for guidance on who you may visit.  Need some inspiration?  The Walter Reed National Military Center provides plenty of creative ideas on their Facebook page.

Image

3.  Make patriotic cookies

A thoughtful treat and a heartfelt “Thank You” goes a long way.  You can pick a local veteran or speak to your local nursing home about passing them out to the veterans in their care.

Memorial Day Cookies

4.  Offer to do yard work or home repairs

Having a spouse or parent deployed overseas is stressful for families.  If the children are young, this time can be especially difficult for the parent at home.  Mowing their lawn, repainting a fence, helping out with home maintenance, or planting flowers will not only help the family tremendously, but can also give the deployed solider peace of mind that their family is being cared for.

5.  Volunteer to place flags on grave sites

Contact your local American Legion or VFW organization to volunteer your time.

Image

6.  Send a letter

AMillionThanks.org will help match you with a soldier.  Even a gesture as simple as a letter expressing your gratitude and support can brighten a soldier’s day.

7.  Grant a wish

WoundedSoldiersWish.org gives you the opportunity to help grant the wish of a wounded soldier.

8.  Fund a scholar

The Armed Forces Children’s Education Fund is a non-profit corporation that financially assists the educational needs of the surviving children of the U.S. Military men and women who lost their lives.

9.  Adopt a soldier

Why only show your gratitude on Memorial Day?  Adopt a soldier and show your support during his or her deployment.  SoldiersAngels.org will match you up with a soldier that would love your support.

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10.  Never Forget

We often view Memorial Day Weekend as a kick-off to our summer.  Beach trips, camping, and backyard barbeques will soon fill our warm summer days.  However, the real reason behind this holiday weekend is to honor, remember, and show gratitude to America’s fallen heroes.  We must never allow ourselves to forget!

Sizzling Grilled Chicken Fajita Recipe

Fire up the grill and give your taste buds a little “south-of-the-border” flavor!

Cihcken Fajitas

Sizzling Grilled Chicken Fajitas

6 servings (serving size: 1 cup chicken mixture, 2 tablespoons salsa, 2 tablespoons sour cream, and 1 tortilla)

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup green bell pepper strips (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup red bell pepper strips (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 6 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas
  • 3/4 cup bottled salsa
  • 3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
Preparation
  1. Combine first 5 ingredients; reserve 1/4 cup marinade. Combine remaining marinade and chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 3 hours, turning occasionally.
  2. Prepare grill.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and cover and grill 10 minutes on each side or until done.
  4. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and onion; sprinkle with seasoned salt. Sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add reserved 1/4 cup marinade, and cook 2 minutes. Cut chicken into thin slices; add to vegetable mixture.
  5. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, upside down, over high heat for 1 1/2 minutes. Turn pan over, and add chicken mixture. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Serve chicken mixture immediately with warm tortillas, salsa, and sour cream.

 

Courtesy of myrecipes.com

Chicagoland Event Calendar: March – April

Sunshine, warm weather, fresh-cut grass, and hamburgers on the grill are on their way.  Don’t miss all the fun!  Jump into spring with Archadeck’s Chicagoland Spring Event Calendar!

Chicagoland Spring Event Calendar

Fairs & Festivals

Chicago Flower & Garden Show Navy Pier Mar 18 – Mar 23
Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention Rosemont Mar 21 – Mar 23
Northwest Celtic Fest Hoffman Estates Mar 22
Chicago Beer Festival Chicago Mar 22
Spring Festival: An Arts & Crafts Affair Villa Park Apr 11 – Apr 13
Handmade Market Chicago Chicago Apr 12
7th Annual Pinot Days Navy Pier Apr 26
18th Annual Art in the Park Elmhurst May 3 – May 4

Fundraisers

Small Heroes of Hope Gala Kildeer Mar 29
Taste Takes Flight Hoffman Estates Apr 3
Foodie 5K Run/Walk Wheaton Apr 12
11th Annual Cuisine for a Cause Lisle Apr 26
3rd Annual Soaring to Success Benefit Gala Chicago May 1
Derby for a Cause Chicago May 3
Walk MS Lake in the Hills May 4
MS Walk 2014 St. Charles May 4
First Midwest Half Marathon & 10K Palos Heights May 4

Kids & Family

Breakfast with Bunny Niles Apr 5
Bunny Bash Schaumburg Apr 12
Easter Egg Hunt Geneva Apr 12
Spring Egg Scramble Niles Apr 12
Underwater EGGstravaganza Schaumburg Apr 17
Easter Egg Hunt Berwyn Apr 18
Breakfast with the Easter Bunny Wheaton Apr 19
Egg Hunt Wheaton Apr 19
Sunday Family Fundays: Spring into Action Lincoln Park Zoo Apr 27

Shopping

Indoor Farmer & Artisan Food Market Evanston Mar 22 – Apr 26
Naperville Home & Garden Expo Naperville Mar 22 – Mar 23
Spring Craft & Vendor Show Darien Apr 5
Wedding Walk Downers Grove Apr 6
Crystal Lake Home & Garden Expo Crystal Lake Apr 12 – Apr 13
Wheaton French Market Wheaton Apr 19 -Ongoing
Annual Plant Sale Morton Arboretum Apr 26 –Apr 27

Comedy & Theater

Bill Bellamy Schaumburg Mar 20 –Mar 23
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Evanston Mar 21 – May 3
Blue Man Group Chicago Mar 21 – Ongoing
Les Miserables Oak Brook Mar 29 – Jun 8
Bill Cosby Naperville Mar 29
Cinderella (Ballet) Naperville May 2

Dining

West of West Wine Festival Chicago Apr 9
Easter Brunch at the Abbington Glen Ellyn Apr 20
Easter at Bin 36 Chicago Apr 20

Celebrating 10 Years!

I am one lucky man.  Outdoor living is my passion, and outdoor living is what we do.  It is a wonderful feeling to wake up each day knowing we are doing something we’re passionate about.  Designing outdoor spaces has long been my idea of fun.  Playing in our garden, designing our patio, and taking design classes at the Morton Arboretum were once hobbies for me.  I had built a good career for myself, but I was missing that passion I wanted to feel on a daily basis. So, I went on a search for a way to combine my career with my passion. This is when I discovered the Archadeck franchise.

Ten years ago, Integrity Enterprises Inc. dba Archadeck of Chicagoland was born.  On February 19th, we will celebrate our 10th anniversary.  It has been fantastic to go to work every day knowing we are sharing our passion with Chicagoland families.  We are creating beautiful spaces for families and friends to gather and enjoy the great outdoors.

Over that past 10 years, we have seen a lot of changes and faced a number of challenges.  We not only survived the worst economy since the great depression; we actually flourished.  Projects we build have evolved from decks, screen porches, sunrooms, and pergolas to include paver patios, front porches, and open porches.  Our team has grown and enhanced our capabilities, and our company now covers all of the Chicagoland suburbs.

Screen rooms, pergolas, decks, patios, sunrooms

When we first started building our franchise, we began in the northern counties of Lake and McHenry.  As opportunities opened up, we expanded to the west and south.  Today we service all of the Chicago suburbs.  In 2012, we moved our office and growing team out of our basement and into our current showroom close to Woodfield Mall.

Of course, this move coincided with one of our original goals.  My wife, Kristen, joined me in the business and became a Design Consultant.  We met at work 20 years ago and have since dreamed of working together again.  I know many people may think it would be difficult to work with a spouse, but we love it!  She has excelled, helping to push our company forward.  Our children often come in to hang out in my office while we meet with clients and prepare designs, giving them the opportunity to see firsthand what it means to own your own business.  Archadeck of Chicagoland is truly a family operation.

As we’ve grown, we have carefully selected great team members to add to our family.  Our very foundation is built on dedicated, hardworking, and talented carpenters and crews.  Without our crew leads like John, Chris, Sonny, and Manuel, our designs would never come to life.  Of course, our office team is no less important.  Wendy, Sarah, and Margo work hard behind the scenes to keep the operation running smoothly.  Alex, our newest Design Consultant, is creative and talented. Tim, our Construction Manager, ensures the building process runs smoothly each and every time.  Our team members are key to our ability to continue to create the stunning outdoor living spaces Chicagoland has come to expect from us.

Archadeck Team - Fun

One constant over the years has been our great clients!  The number of clients we design for has increased significantly over the last 10 years, and we have been blessed with really great people to work with.  They have allowed us to learn about their family’s outdoor plans so that we may offer our recommendations and ultimately build their new outdoor spaces.  We work hard to make sure the end result of each project is a happy client.  Consistent customer service awards and ‘A’ ratings on Angie’s List, as well as the Better Business Bureau, reinforce that we are getting good results.  Of course, the best feedback comes when our clients introduce us to their friends so we may build their new outdoor space.  We would like to express our gratitude for sharing us so often with your friends and neighbors.

Thank you for allowing us to design and build your backyard getaway for the last 10 years.  We can’t wait to create your next outdoor living space!