Monday, March 17, 2008

National 50+ Housing Awards

This week I will be judging the National 50+ Housing awards at the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) headquarters in DC.

Last year we won three of these awards and traveled to Denver to accept them. From left to right is me, my dad, Frank McKee, and Perry DeSiato, V.P. of Sales and Marketing accepting the awards for Foxfield of Best Overall Community (Mid-size), Best Model (the Booth ) and Best Logo.

It is exciting to be on the other side of the judging. A lot less stressful!

The awards will be given out at the 50+ Housing Symposium in New Orleans.

Happy St. Patrick's Day from our family to yours

Happy St. Patrick's Day from The McKee Group!

Bless This House

Bless this house, o Lord, we pray.
Make it safe by night and day.
Bless these walls so firm and stout,
Keeping want and trouble out.
Bless the roof and chimney tall,
Let thy peace lie over all.
Bless the doors that they may prove
Ever open to joy and love.
Bless the windows shining bright,
Letting in God's heavenly light.
Bless the hearth a-blazing there,
With smoke ascending like a prayer.
Bless the people here within...
Keep them pure and free from sin.
Bless us all, that one day, we
May be fit, O lord, to dwell with Thee.

Windows - from Mick Kenney

Whenever time permits, we at The McKee Group like to visit the production facilities for the products we purchase. We recently toured the Simonton Window Plant in Parkersburg West Virginia.
The Simonton Brick Mould 300 single hung is the McKee standard window. This window contains Low – E glass( low emissivity). Low E glass admits the full spectrum of sunlight but blocks radiant heat from escaping. This results in energy savings for the homeowner and a more comfortable living atmosphere. The glass is also filled with Argon gas. The Argon helps to further insulate the window glass.
One thing we learned that sets Simonton Windows apart from the competitors is they are voluntarily enrolled in the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) Certification Program. AAMA has developed a strict set of guidelines that must be met to obtain the AAMA Gold certification that our windows have. These tests include water and air infiltration, structural stability and operation.
The 300 series window is also available with the double hung option. For more information on Simonton Windows go to

Friday, March 14, 2008

Collectibles and downsizing

We get SO many questions at The McKee Group about downsizing. People have many different reasons to downsize: one-floor living, smaller carbon footprint, travel, maintenance, health...I, myself, live in a 1,300 square foot home with my fiance.

You have amassed treasures that you are loathe to get rid of and we understand. So, what do you do about your collectibles?

How about swapping them in and out just like you might do with holiday decorations? I have one beautiful shelf in my downstairs powder room that is about 12 inches wide and 5 inches deep. It holds three collections! Sort of. I display one Hummel figurine, 2 Beatrix Potter figurines and 3 pieces from a nativity sceme made out of bread that friends brough back from a trip the the Dominican Republic. I rotate the pieces so that when visitors go into the powder room, it's always new.

The other thing I do is add interest to bookshelves with collectibles and photographs. I will take some pictures over the weekend and post them on Monday.


Here's a neat party idea: Custom M & M's!

You can put whatever (short) phrases you want, pick colors and packaging! A great gift for the person who has everything, favor for a party or an anytime for fun kind of thing.

I tried the following combinations: TGIF (because it is Friday); McKee Group & Spring Arbor; Happy 80th and Grandmom (for my Grandmother); Thanks Boss & For the Raise (because it seemed useful); and, Club house & CC 2008.


Scrabulous is Fabulous

I urge everyone to sign up for a Facebook account - if only to play Scrabulous!

Facebook is a social networking site a la MySpace and Friendster. Log on and either get a friend to log on too, or find a friend already on it. Add the Scrabulous application and play away. If you like Scrabble, it's a fun way to stay in touch with friends and beat them at board games!

Google Search - What to look for in a new home...

The National Association of Homebuilders is a tremendous resource for builders large and small. What many don't know is that they are also a resource for homebuyers.

Check out their website at

For a sneak peek, read their guide to buying a home.

Guide to Buying a Home

If you are thinking of buying a new home, you must pay close attention to many details to ensure that you find one that will suit your needs and preferences. Before you start shopping, you should sit down with the members of your household to discuss your preferences and the many options available to you. Here are some things you should consider:

How much can you afford? Visit ourFinancing Your Home section for resources and tools to help you learn about mortgages, obtaining financing, insurance and other useful information.

An easy way to organize your thoughts is to write each separate feature that you want on a 3X5 card, and arrange the cards in order of their importance to you. For instance, if you like to cook, you may want a home with a large, well-equipped kitchen. Or you may settle for a small kitchen, so that you can have extra space for a library, office, or computer room. Some home buyers seek large, open interior spaces, while others prefer traditional rooms that afford more privacy. Some choose homes with large yards. Others opt for condominiums where they can avoid yard maintenance entirely.
While looking for a home, consider whether your needs are likely to change over time. If you plan to add rooms, find out if there is enough space on your site for such expansion and whether such additions are permitted by your local jurisdiction.

Options include single-family homes, condominiums or cooperatives. With a single-family home in a development, you'll be responsible for your own yard and home, but may be restricted to certain design elements or other regulations if there is a home owners association.
A condominium is a home in a multi-unit complex, such as an apartment building or a townhouse cluster. You own the home, and you and your neighbors jointly own the common elements, such as the land around the complex, the parking areas, building exteriors, hallways, utility pipes and recreational facilities. A condominium owners association is responsible for maintaining the jointly owned elements. The day-to-day business of the complex is generally handled by a managing agency.
The owner of each condominium unit has a vote in the affairs of the community. Each owner pays a fee to cover the operating expenses of the property and usually contributes to a reserve fund for replacements (such as a new roof) or improvements (such as decorative landscaping to improve the value of the property). Changes and improvements to the complex may be made only as you and your co-owners desire. You are responsible for maintaining the interior of your condominium unit. Typically, you will not have to perform outdoor chores.
Cooperatives offer lifestyles similar to condominiums, but rather than owning your unit, you own shares of the stock of the complex. Stock owners are jointly liable for the cooperative's debts.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Pickleball has become very popular in some of our communities. Check it out here: and here:

The original purpose of the game was to provide a sport for the entire family, according to co-inventors U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum.

How did Pickleball get it's name?
Pickles was the family dog that would chase after the errant balls and then hide in the bushes, thus Pickle's ball which was later shortened to the namesake of Pickleball.


Check out this great website:

It is a networking website focused on baby Boomers from across the country. It is pretty neat.

Concrete in the Winter, from Mick Kenney

"A question or concern we often hear from our Buyers: How will building in the winter affect our home’s quality? Most of the concern relates to concrete. There are a few steps we take to ensure that concrete is placed correctly.

The most important thing to remember is that concrete must maintain a temperature of 55 degrees for the first 24 hours after it is placed. This temperature is necessary to allow the chemical reaction between the cement and the water to take place. In order to make sure we can achieve 55 degrees, we do not place concrete unless the outside temperature is 36 degrees and rising. We also watch for severe nighttime lows. If it is too cold, we don’t pour.

Another step we take is admixtures. Add mixtures are chemicals added to the concrete at the plant that either speed up or slow down the hydration process. In the winter we want to speed it up. This is done by using hot water in the mix and often changing the cement to Type III Hi- Early cement.

Another important step is protecting the concrete after it has been poured. This is done with specifically designed concrete blankets. These blankets will be placed over foundation walls and flatwork after pour is complete and left in place over night and sometimes longer.

Something else to consider in the winter is allowing the concrete more time than normal to cure prior to backfilling a foundation or adding weight bearing to a slab."

Thanks, Mick!

An interesting Philly magazine article

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Volunteer from home or with friends

I wanted to make sure you were all aware of a non-profit that I have worked with named Project Linus. Project Linus is a national non-profit whose mission is to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.” Check out the Project Linus website here.

All styles of blankets are welcome, including quilts, tied comforters, fleece blankets, crocheted or knitted afghans, and receiving blankets in child-friendly colors as long as they are new and handmade. "Blanketeers" can be from all skill levels. This could be a great project for winter Sundays at home or even small groups in a circle. This can even be a neat group activity for children or other artistic types. Simply provide the same size muslin squares and fabric markers. Ask folks to draw on tehir squares and then all of the squares can be put together to make a security "quilt."

Health At Any Age

A few years ago I committed to a healthier lifestyle and for the most part have been able to incorporate healthy activities into my everyday life.

Friends, a couple of trusted resources and an exercise regime that worked for me helped me do it. Sharing my goals with friends who had already gotten healthy was helpful and inspiring. They turned me on to healthy, low-cal foods, offered to take walks and were there at parties to make sure I didn't let the celebration get to me and eat too much! I even started a healthy eating lunch group that met once a week with our bagged lunches. Ultimately, I also joined a workplace Weight Watchers group, but I was happier in the more spontaneous lunch group where we discussed health minimally, and gossip majorly!

Two resources that helped greatly were Eat, Drink and Be Healthy by Walter Willett and a fun, informative website called Hungry Girl (I do not see why it couldn't be for men, too!).

Walter Willett is a Harvard professor who redid the Food Pyramid. His focus is on eating for health. He also came out with a more traditional weight-loss book a couple of years ago that I also like. Buy them on Amazon here and here.

Hungry Girl is a fun website with tips and tricks, polls and reviews. I highly recommend!

Healthy eating and exercise turned things around for me. I hated exercising before and I hate exercising now! BUT, I found a gym with individual TV's on each cardio machine and that reduces the pain.

Clubhouses found in many active adult communities are a perfect spot for a healthy lifestyle. They usually offer a fitness center AND places to gather for a healthy bagged lunch and support.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I would love to introduce you to the Americana Series. Created to recall a time of sitting on porches and Fridays at the neighbors, the Americana Series are true ranch homes. These homes are our newest designs and have been a cause of great excitement here at the McKee Group. It's been "all hands on deck" to get these homes exactly right and the result is unmistakable. These homes live large in a beautifully designed floor plan in a small space.

At 1,324 square feet, the Charleston model offers:

Covered front porch; large great room; designer kitchen with a peninsula breakfast bar; private master suite with tray ceiling, two walk in closets and private bath; large second bedroom; two storage areas (including one heated); and, an oversized garage with additional storage space. Click here to see floor plans.

At 1,477 square feet, the Savannah model features:

Covered front porch; large great room; designer kitchen with an island breakfast bar and optional desk; private master suite with tray ceiling, two walk in closets and private bath; large second bedroom with option to convert to study; two storage areas (including one heated); oversized garage with additional storage space. Click here to see floor plans.

The Americana Series is available at Champions' Club.