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IT'S HAPPENING!

The "S" word is in the forecast for next week!

That means it's time to get some "S" done to prepare!

Here are a few things that it would behoove us to do before it flies.

  1. Start the snow blower and make sure there are no issues with it. Get the shovels ready. Does it feel too early for that? It may be early, but when that first real snow falls and sticks, you will be so glad that you took care of this before it was horribly cold and awful outside.
  2. Clean your gutters. We need rain and melting snow to be free to flow down and away from our garages and homes.
  3. Most of the leaves are nearly down now. It's possible you need one more round of raking and bagging, but if it's a light covering of leaves, go ahead and mulch it up and leave it. Mulched grass clippings and leaves add important organic matter to your lawn.
  4. Now is the perfect time to have your chimney swept and furnace checked out. Both of these things matter and are very important. ESPECIALLY if you didn't do it last year.  There are few things worse than having either thing go haywire in the dead of winter, and CO2 is a real threat.
  5. Get your caulk out! Seal up around windows and doors. Check your door seals to make sure they are nice and tight. Put storm windows on. Check the attic- does it need more insulating? Heat loss is a huge expense. These things are worth taking care of- your pocketbook will thank you!
  6. Create an emergency winter car kit. We don't plan on accidents or incidents happening but it is far better to be prepared and never need to use it. Include a shovel, extra blankets, some canned food with easy open lids, waters, extra hats and gloves, matches, a flash light with extra batteries, and a cell phone charger. May you never need any of it.

 

I have a list of professionals who come highly recommended if you would like help with any winterizing projects. Contact me if you'd like me to connect  you.

 

It may not be the sexiest thing to do, but it absolutely matters! If you want to stay in love with your home, I highly suggest getting your mind in the gutter.From http://www.hoamanagement.com/5-tips-for-proper-gutter-care/:

5 Tips for Proper Gutter Care

Fall means more than changing leaves and colder weather; it’s also a signal to do routine gutter maintenance to ward off the potentially damaging effects of winter. It is important to keep up with gutter maintenance because a leak, crack or blocked downspout can lead to big problems and costly repairs down the line. We’ve put together a list of tips to help you avoid headaches this season courtesy of your gutters.

  1. Safety first — If you are handling the maintenance yourself, it is essential that you take time to ensure safety. This means choosing a sturdy, standalone ladder that won’t require you to lean it against the house. Thick gloves and protective eyewear are also a must.
  2. Clean out debris – The most basic gutter care tip can also be the hardest to follow! Remove leaves, sticks and anything else that may have found its way into your gutters using a garden trowel or gloved hand. In addition, check for blockages in the downspout openings. Blocked gutters or downspouts can lead to water and eventually ice buildup during the winter, which can contribute to shingle damage and interior leaks.
  3. Rinse to check for leaks – After you’ve removed all visible debris, rinse the gutter and downspout with a garden hose to remove all residual material and check for leaks. . Make sure to rinse in the direction of the downspout in order to keep excess water away from your home.
  4. Fix any leaks – If you do find a leak, it’s important to fix it as soon as possible. There are a variety of options to choose from depending on the severity. Note: silicone sealer and patch kits are available at your local hardware store.
  5. Consider a pro — If you’re time crunched or do not feel comfortable doing the job yourself, , consider calling a professional to take care of the job. There are reviews available online of specialty gutter and roofing companies in your area. It’s a smart option to avoid any injury and to ensure the job is done right.

Have you ever walked into your home to be hit in the face with an awful smell? At first you may think. "Wow, someone could have opened a window in the bathroom!", but you soon notice that the smell is everywhere you go?

I hope your answer is no.

I'm having this experience currently.

After trying all the normal tricks like pouring bleach, Draino, essential oils down the drain, followed by the popular trying to rip my nose off of my face trick, I turned to the Internet. Help us, Internet, we beg you!!!

I am nearly a plumber with all the information I now have! Here is the copy/paste article that I am using as my Bible...... should you run into this crappy situation yourself feel free to take it on as your own.

Why Do I Have Sewer Smells In My Home or Business?
Before we discuss why you may be getting smells through your drain pipes, lets first take a
look at how your plumbing is supposed to work. Properly constructed and maintained
plumbing will prevent sewer smells from entering your pipes.
How Your Plumbing is Supposed to Work
What comes in must go out, and half of plumbing is about getting rid of waste. The
plumbing system inside your home or any building consists of a network of pipes, vents
and traps. These are the least visible and least glamorous elements of your home's
plumbing. But this system of branching pipes that carry off liquid and solid wastes is just
as important as the incoming system. Each plumbing fixture (toilet, sink, shower, floor
drain, etc.) is connected to this system of pipes that carry the wastewater to the public
sewer. This system safely removes waste for treatment and provides a critical barrier that
keeps sewer gases and bacteria from entering your home.
How Vents and Traps Work
At first glance, drains seem to work even without traps and vents. Plenty of do-ityourselfers
leave out these key components, without understanding their importance.
• Traps hold enough water to form an airlock against sewer gases.
• The trap in each fixture, when properly vented, provides a liquid seal that prevents
sewer gases from entering the building.
• Vents allow sewer gases to flow up the soil stack and exit the DWV system without
coming into your home through plumbing fixtures.
• Vents equalize pressure to aid drainage and allow sewer gases to escape to the outer
air.
• Without a properly functioning trap and vent, high or low pressure in the drains
may create unsafe conditions.
• The vent system allows outside air into the drain system to keep vacuums from
forming in the drains. Think of vents as upside-down drains with gasses rising in
the pipes in the same way that water flows down them.
• Each plumbing fixture should also have a vent that allows odors and sewer gases to
escape and atmospheric pressure to enter, thus preventing backpressure when water
fills the pipes.
High pressure
• Without venting, high pressure in the drains may force sewer gas out through traps
and toilets.
• You'll probably hear gurgling and bubbling in the fixtures.
• You may also smell the vile bacteria odor mixed with sewer gas.
Low pressure
• Without proper venting, lower pressure in the drains may cause siphoning in the
traps whenever you drain fixtures.
• If the traps are dry, sewer gas vents directly into the house.
I Do Get Sewer Smells, What Do I Do Now?
There are a variety of reasons that sewer smells may be entering a home or business.
These include:
• A common reason is the lack of required traps or vents. Every fixture should have
a trap and a vent pipe to keep smells from entering the home. If traps and vent
pipes are missing, you may need the help of a plumber to install them immediately.
• A common reason is broken seals around the toilet that allows water to siphon or
dry out the traps and thus allowing smells to enter the home. There could be an air
leak at the wax ring of the toilet or in the vent pipe. Rotted or damp wood can also
cause the smell. Check to see if the toilet is tightly sealed to the floor. Grab the
bowl of the toilet and try to slide it from side to side. It should resist a few pounds
of pressure. If the toilet rocks from side to side, the wax ring has failed. You may
need the help of a plumber to fix these problems.
• A frequent cause for inside odors is a dry trap. Pouring a quart of water into all
sinks, showers/tubs and floor drains may correct this problem. All drains to a
sewer system have a "P" shaped trap that is usually filled with water. The trap
provides a seal to keep out sewer gas. If your basement floor drain is rarely used,
water evaporates from the trap over time. Eventually the seal is eliminated,
allowing sewer gas (and smell) into your house. The solution is easy: pour water
into the drain.
• Specifically, the trap under the basin may not be holding enough water and is
allowing sewer fumes into the room. You may want to inspect your trap and be
sure it holds enough water.
• If you have an old "house trap" in your basement the trap may be cracked or broken
allowing smells to seep through the cracks and into your home.
• If the smell is noticeable mainly around a sink, try flushing a strong cleaner and
bleach down the sink's overflow-the small hole(s) inside the bowl near the rim.
When the sink fills to near overflowing, water is routed through an inner chamber
to the drain. Debris can collect inside the inner chamber, causing odor. T
• There may be a small leak in one of the vent lines of the plumbing system, or a
small leak around the base of a toilet or other fixture. You may need the help of a
plumber. Check for loose fittings, corrosion, or holes in vent piping. Also, check
the top side of horizontal drain pipes. If the top is rusted, it may never leak liquid,
but it will leak sewer gas. Drain lines made of copper, steel or cast iron may all
exhibit this problem.
• If you have older cast iron piping you may be getting smells through cracks in your
pipes. This type of piping has a habit of forming a crack along the topside of the
pipe over time, and this could be where your smell is coming from. You may need
to inspect every inch of piping for cracks or openings where the smell is coming
from, and then make the repair from there. If an entire length of pipe is cracked
(quite common), you should replace it using PVC drain pipe of the same size, with
no-hub couplers to fit the pipe into place.
• A frequent cause for inside odors is a clogged vent. You may need the help of a
plumber or a handyman to disconnect the vent pipes inside your home and clean
your vents all the way through the roof.
You may have wondered why houses have pipes sticking up out of the roof. They are vent
pipes to relieve the pressure so that P-traps can do their jobs. It turns out that vents also
break vacuums so water flows down the pipes faster.
How Do I Find Places Where Sewer Gas Is Coming Is Entering My Home?
1. CHECK ALL OF THE TRAPS IN YOUR HOUSE TO MAKE SURE YOUR
WATER SEAL OF THE SEWER IS CORRECT.
2. GO ON THE ROOF OR HAVE A PLUMBER OR HANDYMAN GO ON THE
ROOF AND CHECK ALL OF YOUR VENT STACKS TO SEE IF IT IS CLOGGED
OR IF A DEAD RODENT HAS LODGED IN ONE OF THE VENT PIPES.
3. RE-INSTALL THE BOWL-WAX RINGS ON THE TOILETS IN YOUR HOUSE,
SOMETIMES THEY GET OLD AND LET SEWER SMELLS SEEP IN.
4. IF YOU ARE ON SLAB FOUNDATION, CHECK TO SEE IF YOU HAVE ANY
SEWER-LEAKS IN YOUR PIPES GOING INTO YOUR FOUNDATION OR
UNDER YOUR SLAB FOUNDATION. (YOU MAY NEED A SMOKE TEST FOR
THIS).
5. GET A SMOKE TEST DONE ON YOUR DRAINS. A PLUMBER/DRAIN
CLEANER WILL CAP OFF ALL DRAIN VENTS ON YOUR HOUSE, AND BLOW
SMOKE IN YOUR DRAIN, WASTE, VENT SYSTEM; WHEREVER YOU SEE
SMOKE IN YOUR HOUSE, THAT IS WHERE THE SEWER SMELL IS COMING
FROM

You're welcome. I will update after I find the source of this nightmare and eradicate it.

 

It's an often heard concern from first time buyers: "We don't have enough money for a down payment!"

While there are down payment assistance programs available, saving money is not as hard as we think it is. Often, there are dollars that we are already spending on something else and all that is needed is to re-direct the flow of it to a savings account. Here are some easy ways to put away some cash.

  1. Direct deposit a certain amount into a savings account. It is so much easier to not spend it if we don't see it in the first place. It won't take too long to adjust to that missing amount. We may find that we can't go out to lunch every day or something like that, but before we know it, a new routine will be in place and we will never miss that money.  While we are not missing that money, it will be growing month by month.
  2. You know how much we look forward to our yearly or twice a year vacations? Maybe you have a cabin you rent at a lake, or maybe you head somewhere warm during the cold winter months....this year, just for this year, skip it. But take the $500, $1000 or however much you  normally spend and put it away into the savings account. When you see that number grow, it will remind you what you are saving for. It is one year without vacations, and for a good reason. You can do it!
  3. If you have credit cards, make a few phone calls to see if you can consolidate and get a lower interest rate. You can nearly always get a lower interest rate. You know what to do with that money you save! Put it away! Every month thank your lucky stars that you got your interest rate lowered, and put the extra money into savings. It may seem small, but it adds up quickly. You may find yourself addicted to saving.
  4. Do you really need cable right now? Do you really need to order your groceries online? Can you skip having your mani pedi? What things can you do without for one year? This one takes our laser focus more than the others in some ways. We love our luxuries and comforts, they get us through after a hard week at work, or give us a break from the kids. It's our "me" time whether it be our favorite show, or getting our hair done. But it's one year, and consider your dream home. Not only will your down payment help you buy your home, it will help lower your monthly mortgage payment leaving you money to engage these  little luxuries again. Unless you become addicted to saving for things you really want to have, of course. 🙂  Take the extra cash that you aren't spending on cable (you have our permission to put $15 a month back into Netflix), and throw it in the savings account.
  5. You could, for one year, take a second part time job. That entire check could be direct deposited into your savings account. Fed Ex, UPS, coffee shops, grocery stores, dog walking, house cleaning, or doing handyman work for others are all ways to bring in some extra cash. It will require some of your energy, but remember your dream home!
  6. Stop going out to eat!!! Cook at home! Drink at home! This is a major luxury most of us love- it would be the hardest for my family to give up. But we save a LOT of money, even if we stop drinking while we are out. An $8 glass of wine or two adds up fast!
  7. If you own your own business, consider creating more work for yourself for a year. This may mean getting up in the wee hours of the morning for awhile, or working for an extra hour after the house in all put to bed, but the extra money is going towards your dream.

Let's do a little math to see how these things could add up for you over a year's time if all 5 money saving ideas were engaged.

  1. Let's say you put away $200/month (either yourself or you and your partner, child, friend or spouse who will be buying with you). This number could be higher, but I'm going low to show you how much opportunity there is to save quickly. $200 x 12=$2400.
  2. I will use our low numbers again here. Twice a year we go to the Shore and it's $1000 a time. That's renting a cabin, eating out, vacation shopping and not worrying about money. Your vacations may be a lot more elaborate. I hope they are for saving's sake! $2000
  3. The last time we consolidated our credit cards and saved money, it was $70 lower a month. $70 x 12=$840
  4. We ditched cable, which saved us $80/month, but we did get Netflix which is $12. $68 x 12= $816  Skipping the mani/pedi/hair we'll say is an average of $50 8 times a year (every 6 weeks) = $400. Again, this number is pretty low, yours may be higher!
  5. If you bravely take on a part time job, you will likely be working 15 hours a week (assuming a 40 hour a week or more regular job). Take home cash may be $150 (staying on the low end!) a week. $150 x 52= $7800
  6. When we don't eat out, we save $200 a month, easily. And that, too, is a low estimate. Adjust yours accordingly. $200 x 12=$2400
  7. This one really falls under the 2nd job idea, so I am not adding anything extra to it.

Let's add those numbers up! Our grand total without borrowing from our retirement or a relative is $16,656.  Add a little more for the interest. That's a decent little down payment. On a $250,000 home,  rounding up to $17,000 with a 4.6% interest rate, the monthly payment would be around $1195.00. That's with only a 6.8% down payment. Borrowing from our retirement or a relative is a common way to accumulate a good down payment. If our down payment was 10% or higher, the payment would be even lower. and this is all not taking into account any programs that we may qualify for.

You can do it! Starting today, you are one year away from having nearly $17,000 (and probably more!) stashed away. We believe in you!

If your home is not new construction, you probably get a dampish basement in the spring/summer. We have had a lot of rain, and a lot of humidity so far this spring. Here are some ways to help, compliments of The Family Handyman:

 

9 Affordable Ways to Dry Up Your Wet Basement For Good!

Strategies that will permanently fix your musty, wet basement

1 / 9

Diagnose the Water Problem

Diagnose the Water Problem

Water or moisture in basements comes from two sources. One source is indoor humidity that condenses on cold surfaces, much like water droplets form on a cold drink on a humid day. The other is water—or water vapor—that comes from outside. Rainwater, melting snow or groundwater can saturate the soil around your foundation and leak in. Water can leak through cracks, or it can penetrate porous concrete or masonry walls in the form of water vapor. To figure out what’s causing the problem, tape aluminum foil to your basement wall and inspect it a few days later. Moisture on the outside surface of the foil indicates high indoor humidity. Moisture behind the foil means moisture is leaking through the walls.

2 / 9

Get Rid of Excess Humidity

Get Rid of Excess Humidity

Eliminating the sources of humid air will help dry out your basement. Seal leaky dryer vents with foil tape to prevent unwanted humid air from entering your basement. Don’t just use duct tape; it’ll eventually fall off. Add a vent fan to your basement bathroom and make sure your family turns it on during showers. Keep your basement windows closed during humid weather. And if you’re still getting condensation on cool surfaces, run a dehumidifier to lower the indoor humidity.

3 / 9

Insulate Pipes

Insulate Pipes

Condensation dripping from cold pipes can contribute to basement water problems. Cover cold water pipes with foam pipe insulation to stop condensation. The foam insulation is inexpensive and easy to cut with scissors.

4 / 9

Insulate Walls

Insulate Walls

Insulate exterior walls to prevent condensation. In cold climates, insulating basement walls also saves energy and reduces your heating bill. But don’t cover the walls with insulation if water is leaking in from outside; you’ll just create a potential mold problem.

5 / 9

Keep Water Away From the Foundation

Keep Water Away From the Foundation

If your basement leaks after heavy rains or after snow melts, making sure water is diverted away from your foundation may solve the problem. It’s common for the soil alongside your house to settle over time, creating a moat that collects runoff and directs it down your foundation wall and into the basement. Lawn edging and gravel along the foundation can make things worse. Solve the problem by creating a 6-ft.-wide slope that drops about 4 in. away from the foundation. For extra insurance, cover the sloping soil with a layer of 6-mil poly. Then hide the poly with mulch, gravel or a layer of soil covered with grass. This will keep water from soaking in near the foundation.

6 / 9

Add Gutters and Extend Downspouts

Add Gutters and Extend Downspouts

If your basement leaks after it rains and you don’t have gutters, consider adding them. Gutters catch the rain and channel it to the downspouts, which direct it away from the house. Whether you’re installing new gutters or already have them, be sure the downspouts have 4- to 6-ft. horizontal extensions to move the water away from the house.

7 / 9

Plug Holes and Cracks in the Foundation

Plug Holes and Cracks in the Foundation

Holes and cracks in your foundation can let moisture and water seep into your basement. Plugging them probably won’t solve basement leaks, but it’ll help. Hydraulic cement works great for patching holes in a foundation because it can set up even under water, and it expands as it sets to seal the hole and lock the plug in place. Use a cold chisel or an angle grinder fitted with a masonry-cutting disc or diamond blade to enlarge the hole or crack into an inverted “V,” with the narrow part of the “V” on the surface of the wall. Then follow the package instructions for mixing and using the hydraulic cement.

8 / 9

Waterproof the Walls

Waterproof the Walls

Waterproofing materials that go on like paint fill the pores in the concrete or masonry walls and prevent water from leaking in. To be effective, these coatings must be applied to bare concrete or masonry walls. Start by removing loose material with a wire brush. Then clean off any white powdery “efflorescence” with masonry cleaner. Follow the safety and application instructions carefully. A common mistake when using masonry waterproofing products is to spread them too thin. The goal is to fill every pinhole to create a continuous waterproofing membrane. Brush the coating in all directions to completely fill every pinhole. Add a second coat after the first dries.

9 / 9

Install a Drainage System

Install a Drainage System

The best permanent fix for chronic basement leaks is to install drainage tubing below the basement floor that’s connected to a sump basket and pump. You can install a system like this yourself, but breaking out the concrete floor, burying the tubing, and patching the floor is a lot of backbreaking work. Materials to do an average basement will cost $600 to $1,000. Expect to spend $3,000 to $8,000 for a professionally installed system in a standard-size basement.

It has been proven over and over that having your home staged when selling it helps it sell faster and for more money. But we can use home staging even if we aren't moving! Afterall, don't we find it painful to get our homes in tip-top shape for someone else? Whether selling or staying, hiring a stager is the easiest way to get it done- the pros know and understand how color works, how furniture deters or draws in, and what we can really live without. I know a couple of superb stagers, contact me for their info, I'm happy to share. However, if you want to give it a go yourself, here are 21 brilliant home staging ideas from Laura Gaskill on Houzz.com:

Photo by Case Design/Remodeling, Inc. - Discover exterior home design ideas

1. Boost curb appeal. This is something you always hear, and with very good reason. Many people thinking of touring your home will do a quick drive-by first, often deciding on the spot if it is even worth a look inside. Make sure your home is ready to lure in onlookers with these tips:
Power wash siding and walkways
Hang easy-to-read house numbers
Plant blooming flowers and fresh greenery
Mow lawn, and reseed or add fresh sod as needed
Wash front windows
Repaint or stain the porch floor as needed
2. Welcome visitors with an inviting porch. Even if you have only a tiny stoop, make it say “welcome home” with a clean doormat, potted plants in bloom and — if you have room — one or two pieces of neat porch furniture. Keep your porch lights on in the evenings, in case potential buyers drive by. Illuminating the front walk with solar lights is a nice extra touch, especially if you will be showing the house during the evening.
3. Get your house sparkling clean. From shining floors and gleaming windows to clean counters and scrubbed grout, every surface should sparkle. This is the easiest (well, maybe not easiest, but certainly the cheapest) way to help your home put its best foot forward. You may want to hire pros to do some of the really tough stuff, especially if you have a large house. Don’t skimp — this step is key!
4. Clear away all clutter. If you are serious about staging your home, all clutter must go, end of story. It’s not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage (or a nice relative’s garage) temporarily, but it is well worth the trouble. Clean and clear surfaces, floors, cupboards and closets equal more space in the eyes of potential buyers, so purge anything unnecessary or unsightly. "But it’s my style! "Guess what? It may not be the style of those seeking to buy a house in your neighborhood. So even if you have an awesome vintage-chic look going on, rein it in for the sake of appealing to the most number of people. You can bring your personal style back into play in your new home.
5. Strike a balance between clean and lived-in. Yes, I know I just said to get rid of all your clutter (and you deserve a big pat on the back if you did it), but now it's time to judiciously bring back a few elements that will really make your home appealing. Think vases of cut flowers, a basket of fresh farmer's market produce on the kitchen counter or a bowl of lemons beside the sink.
6. Style your dining room table. The dining room is often a blind spot in decorating the home. Between dinners, a large dining table can look bare and uninviting, so styling it up with visitors in mind can increase the appeal. An oversize arrangement can look too stiff and formal, so try lining up a series of smaller vessels down the center of the table instead.
7. Take a good look at your floors. At the bare minimum, give all floors a thorough cleaning (and steam clean carpets), but consider having wood floors refinished if they are in poor shape. If you don’t want to invest in refinishing floors, the strategic placement of area rugs can go a long way.
8. Rearrange your furniture. In the living room, symmetrical arrangements usually work well. Pull your furniture off the walls and use pairs (of sofas, chairs, lamps) to create an inviting conversation area.
9. Choose sophisticated neutral colors. Now is not the time to experiment with that "fun"-looking lime green. But that doesn't mean you need to go all white, either. Rich midtone neutrals like mocha and "greige" create a sophisticated backdrop that makes everything look more pulled together.
10. Create a gender-neutral master bedroom. Appeal to everyone with a clean, tailored master bedroom, free of personal items and clutter. You can't go wrong with clean, crisp linens, tasteful artwork and a blanket folded at the foot of the bed.
11. Open those closets! Open-house visitors will peek inside your closets. Closet space can be a make-it-or-break-it selling point for buyers, so show yours off to their full advantage by giving excess stuff the heave-ho. Again, this is really important, so even if you need to store a few boxes elsewhere, it's worth it. Aim to have 20 to 30 percent open space in each closet to give the impression of spaciousness.
12. Clean up toys. Of course there will be families with children looking at your home, but just because they have kids too doesn't mean seeing toys strewn everywhere will sell them on the place. When people are house hunting, they are imagining a fresh start. Show them that in this house, it is possible to have a beautifully organized kids' room, and they might be swayed.
13. Use "extra" rooms wisely. If you have been using a spare bedroom as a dumping ground for odd pieces of furniture and boxes of junk, it's time to clean up your act. Each room should have a clearly defined purpose, so think about what potential buyers might like to see here. An office? A guest room? Another kids' room? Whether you buy inexpensive furnishings, rent them, or borrow some from friends, making a real room out of a junk room will have a big payoff.
14. Try a pedestal sink to maximize space. If you have a small bathroom but a huge cabinet-style sink, consider swapping it out for a simple pedestal version. Your bathroom will appear instantly bigger.
15. Use only perfect personal accents. Especially in the bathroom, it is important that anything left out for visitors to see is pristine. If you have a gorgeous fluffy white bathrobe, hanging it on a decorative hook on the door can be an attractive accent —but if your robe is more of the nubby blue floral variety, you might want to hide it away. Look at every detail with a visitor's eye — bars of soap should be fresh and clean, towels spotless, the garbage always emptied (you get the idea).
16. Entice people to explore the whole house. By placing something that draws the eye at the top of the stairs, in hallways or in corners, you can pique curiosity and keep potential buyers interested throughout a whole home tour. A piece of artwork, a painted accent wall, a window seat, a vase of flowers, a hanging light or even a small, colorful rug can all work to draw the eye.
17. Show how you can use awkward areas. If you have any room beneath the stairs, or a nook or alcove anywhere in your home, try to find a unique way to show it off. By setting up a small work station, a home command center with a bulletin board, or built-in shelving, your awkward spot becomes another selling point.
18. Beware pet odors. Really, this can be a big one! If you have pets, get all rugs steam cleaned and be extra vigilant about vacuuming and washing surfaces. Also be sure to keep any extra-loved pet toys and doggie bones hidden when tours are scheduled.
19. Create a lifestyle people are looking for. Generally speaking, you want to play up what your neighborhood or area is known for. Have a house in a quiet, grassy suburb? Hanging a hammock in your backyard and a bench swing on your porch could be the perfect touch.
20.20. Stage the outdoors too. Even if your condo has only a teensy postage stamp–size balcony, play it up with a cute café table and chairs, a cheerful tablecloth and even a little tray of dishes or a vase of flowers. When people look at this scene, they won’t be thinking “small,” they will be thinking, “What a charming spot to have breakfast!”
21. Think seasonally. Make sure your garden is in beautiful shape in the summer, and that any extra features you have, like a pool or a fire pit, are cleaned and ready to go. Take advantage of the cozy vibe of the season in autumn and winter, by building a fire in the fireplace and simmering hot apple cider on the stove.

Happy staging! Call me if you'd prefer to use a professional stager.

It's here, ya'll! It's happening right now- the gloriously warm days of MN.  We cannot let them pass without enjoying the heck out of them, for road construction season will end soon and winter will be upon us again! It's only 196 days till Christmas, you know! In case you need a little inspiration to get out there, change things up, go somewhere new....here it is, a little list of 12 ways to get out there and love our weather.

Ways To Love Our Warm Weather:

  1. Play hooky from work. Just do it. The world will not stop spinning if you do not go to work for one day. Sometimes it's productive to play hooky and catch up on laundry and mowing and other home things, yes? But it's even more fun if you hit the pool or lake, Valleyfair,  go get an ice cream cone or do something else unexpected but totally awesome.
  2. Pack up some food to grill,  charcoal, paper plates and utensils, some cool sodas or bottles of water, some friends and/or family and go to one of the many lakes we have near by. Pick one and go! After eating, take a walk around the lake. Breathe in the warm air, say hi to the people you walk by. Nature is a SCIENTIFICALLY proven way to up our seratonin and dopamine as is feeling a part of a community. What a great way to spend a day or evening. It's light out until 9:00pm! The lake has stunning sunsets.
  3. Take a convertible for a test ride with the top down.
  4. Do you have a patio? It's easy to set up a space outside to sit and relax. In fact, a house I drive by on my way home doesn't even have a formal patio- they have two chairs set up in the front yard, and the neighbors all come over for informal afternoon gatherings. There are usually 4-6 people hanging out there, playing with their dogs etc. Easy! Ask me for easy tips on pulling a patio together if you need some ideas.
  5. Grill instead of cooking in. It smells like heaven, tastes like heaven.
  6. Visit your local farmer's market for the freshest vegetables of the year! The prices can't be beat and supporting our local farmers and neighbors counts in a major way.
  7. Wake up an extra 20 minutes early and take a walk. The morning air is cooler, the world is quieter and a walk is good for us.
  8. Got kids? Well, even if you don't, try something out of the norm like pitching a tent in the back yard and camping out. Something as small as this can help our brains switch into "vacation" mode.  Kids love this little adventure for a good reason!
  9. Pretend you are a tourist and visit nearby places you have never visited because you live near them. We are such creatures of habit that we stop seeing the things that are right in front of us.
  10. Plan a really good day trip. Summer weekends book up fast with graduation parties, weddings, sports for the kids. But it's fun to also take one day, and plan. It might mean leaving at 6am to drive a couple hours away, spend the day and come home.  We may have road construction but the driving conditions are far better for travel when it's not icy and slippery.
  11. Nature Centers are almost as plenitful as our lakes. Okay, maybe not quite *that* plenitful, but we are rich with our protected areas as well as lakes. The trails are stunning at this time of year with all the green of the trees and grass. Flowers are blooming, nature is doing it's magnificent thing- go smell the life and greenness at a nearby nature center.
  12. Speaking of lakes, another fun thing to do is rent a sailboat or paddleboat. Most lakes offer some really fun recreational things to do, let's take advantage of them!
  13. Get a hammock. Nap. It's an order.

Pick 1, 2 or all of them!

Do you have some ideas to share? Let's make the most of our beautiful weather!

This spring brought out the ants out in spades at my house! Have you noticed them in yours? We had- before taking care of them- the big black ants as well as the smaller sugar ants. Because we also have a dog and kids, we don't love using Terro or other typical poisons. Instead, I have found some recipes using all natural ingredients, and I am happy to say that we haven't seen any ants in the kitchen in a week now! I will share what I used, as well as a couple other variations of it. Give a try and let me know how it goes!

Recipe 1: (I used this one!)
1. Pour equal parts white vinegar and water into a spray bottle.
2. Add a few drops of essential oils*.
3. Spray baseboards and other entry points.
4. Wipe 'em up and discard!

* The essential oils I used were lemon, cinnamon and clove. It smells lovely, and ants no likey.

Recipe 2:
FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous Earth

This stuff is amazing! It is deadly to insects as it is so fine and sharp. It penetrates the insect's exoskeleton and they dry out and die, yet it is completely safe for animals! You can buy it at Walmart or Home Depot or whatever garden center is near you. Sprinkle a fine line of it along entry points, baseboards, under the fridge, and watch the ants (and other insects!) disappear! If you get it wet, however, it will not work so keeping it dry is important. Please note that using FOOD GRADE is the best, as the earth used in non food grade could hurt your animal if they were to ingest it. Also, because it is so fine, take care that you (and any animals or humans nearby) do not inhale it if some should puff out into the air. Once it settles, it is harmless to us.
As a side note, there are other beneficial uses of DE in regards to our cat and dog friends. Check out this great article: https://diatomaceous.org/diatomaceous-earth-for-pets-and-animals/

Recipe 3:

1. 1/4 cup water

2. 1/4 vodka

3.15 drops peoppmint oil

4. 15 drops tea tree oil

5. 7 drops citrus oil OR clove oil

Spray baseboards, entry points, under the fridge, counter tops, around garbage cans.  I've included this one because I have all the ingredients for it at home, and if *I* have that stuff sitting around, it's likely that you do also. 🙂

Remember to let me know how it works for you! 

Birchwood Cafe is found at 3311 25th Street in Minneapolis, in the Seward neighborhood. There is plenty of free parking along 25th Street and neighboring blocks. It's also close to the Mississippi, so if you are out for a walk, run or bike, come land at Birchwood! It's open seven days a week.
Birchwood Cafe is owned by Tracy Singleton, who has a passion for serving delicious farm-to-table meals. Ingredients come from MN, WI and Iowa. A list of specific farms is located here. Call them at 612-722-4474.

While we are here together talking about safe products, I'd be remiss if I didn't make a quick plea to consider, if you haven't already, the products we use on our bodies.

My intention is not to be on a soap box. But it is a true story that our largest organ is our skin, and it absorbs everything we put on it. Our clean-up-crew organs (liver and kidneys) do a lot of work and I know they appreciate it when we choose to use products that don't contain chemicals that do damage to us.

Here are a couple of moisturizers that are safe products for our bodies:

Coconut Oil: This is an effective moisturizer for your whole body. Lips, too! If you have sensitive skin (I do!), I don't recommend using this on your face. If you practice the no-poo shampoo method, one drop of coconut oil diluted in a cup of water makes a good once in awhile conditioner for the ends of your hair.

Aloe Vera: Another great moisturizer! I use this all over, plus lips and face. My face does not break out from this! I use parts of my aloe plant, but have also used Lily Of The Desert Aloe Very Gelly with great success!

We Can't Forget Deodorant!
I noticed on the label of my regular, run-of-the-mill anti-perspirant a warning label, stating that one should consult with their physican if they have kidney issues before use. WHAT?! Further research taught me that anti-perspirants contain aluminum, which is hard for kidneys to process, and it can build up in the system. High aluminum levels are linked to dementia. It is nearly impossible to use so much anti-perspirant that this would ever be an issue. The warning label is really intended for people who fit the criteria of having stage 4 or 5 kidney disease.
Check out this article about it from the National Kidney Foundation.
That being said, I myself have one kidney and guess what? I am taking such good care of my kidney, and not using regular anti-perspirants unless wherever I am going is such a big deal that it warrants it. There are numerous products available for deodorizing without all the chemicals in normal deodorants and anti-perspirants. Here are a few:

The Crystal
Tom's of Maine
Native

Here is a little known fact, and you'll see why it's little known....On a day to day basis, I don't wear either deodorant or anti-perspirant. I say it a little sheepishly on the off chance that I smell like my son's gym bag but no one is willing to say it to me. My experience has been that when I first stopped, I sweat a lot, almost like my skin was clearing out the pores clogged up by chemicals. After a little time, that stopped. I still sweat, but not enough to show up on clothes, and it doesn't smell. Partially because I am clean, but also because there's nothing clogging those pores, no bacteria etc. Most people probably aren't as hard core as I am regarding this area.

Shampoo and Conditioner

There are several shampoos and conditioners on the market right now that are sulfate free and working towards eliminating more and more chemicals from them. Our scalp is skin too, and absorbs whatever is put on it. Our hair becomes coated as well. I have not tried the brands that I am about to list, but I would use them and feel good about it.

Free & Clear

And here is an all natural do-it-yourself shampoo worth trying!

I myself used the no-shampoo method for a year, maybe a little more. Here is a great website with lots of info if you are interested. My hair was absolutely fantastic, and I only needed to wash it once every 10 days or so (sounds crazy, doesn't it?), but I had to change it up some because the baking soda was starting to have a different effect and I didn't like it. I happen to have very, very thick hair. I won't bore you with details of what I do now, but do ask if you are interested.

© Copyright 2019 - Steven Hong - All Rights Reserved
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