Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Prevent A Winter Insect & Pest Invasion

Most of us think that the summer months are the time we need to worry about insects invading our homes. It is true that many animals and insects go into hibernation or a dormant phase when it is cold. But there are others that seek shelter in warm, protected environments. Pest control during the winter is required to keep ants, roaches and other types of insects from disrupting the peace and tranquility of your home. Chances are that without preventative measures, you will see more of them during the winter months.

  • Fill cracks and holes that allow entry for small pests
  • Do not leave food out on counters any longer than necessary, especially at night
  • Trim shrubs, hedges and trees so that they do not touch the house
  • Always store wood away from the foundation of your house as roaches often nest in wood piles
  • Treat as recommended by professionals

Rodents such as mice, rats and squirrels do not hibernate but will happily take of residence in your basement, attic or walls. To prevent rodents from obtaining access to your house follow these steps.

  • Make sure there are no holes in the exterior of your home where they could gain access. Repair and replace any damaged or rotted wood. 
  • Repair any cracks in pipes that may allow entry for a small creature
  • Clean gutters and remove debris that would provide nesting material or habitat
  • Store bird seed in metal containers
  • Treat as recommended by a professional exterminator when necessary

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

'Tis the Season! for Gift Giving

Throughout the holiday season we all invariably run into a brick wall when it comes to gift giving. The good news is there is always one item that we can fall back on because it’s a gift that everyone loves, regardless of age or gender and that’s a plant. House plants exude warmth, love and caring. They warm up a home, beautify an office, and just invariably brings a smile to the face of the receiver. It’s a gift you can feel good about giving.

SerenataPlants is a website business out of the UK that was recently brought to my attention, so I thought I’d check it out. Not only do they have a wonderful selection of house plants, perfect for gift giving, they have a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. As they say the offer “a no-quibble replacement or full-refund” if you are unhappy with a purchase. How can you quibble with a company who uses the word quibble? Not me!

Order online or by phone. SerenataPlants accepts all major credit cards and Pay Pal. Best of all, standard delivery is prompt and free.

When choosing a plant, consider the environment in which the plant will be placed and the amount and type of care required. Matching the plant with the individual and his/her circumstances will ensure a happy plant and a happy recipient. For more information on house plant varieties and care check out the NationalGardening Association.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Steps to Winterize your Pool

In many parts of the country winter has already delivered its first snow storm. But in warmer climates there are still some of us who are wrapping things up around the yard on the last warm days of an extended fall.  Winter pool maintenance is essential to keeping it in good condition and will make all the difference come spring time when you’re eager to get it back up and ready for a dip.

According to pool experts, here is a quick rundown of the steps necessary to winterize an in-ground pool. Pool supplies can be purchased locally or online often at discounted prices.
  1. Before the first freeze, make sure all the pipelines and pool filters are empty of water.
  2. Blow antifreeze through the pipes.  
  3.  Drain plugs should be removed.
  4.  Use a skimmer net to remove debris from the surface of the pool.
  5.  Twenty four hours before closing your pool for the season shock and treat pool, add algaecide and check pH balance.
  6. Cover the pool.

Above ground pool:
  1.  Drain the pool to jet level. 
  2. Add antifreeze and algaecide. 
  3. Cover

Pre-winter maintenance may take a little extra time, effort and money, but when the weather warms up and ready for your first swim of the summer, you will be glad you did.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tips for Winter Bird Feeding

Backyard birds need us more than ever in the winter months. Create a happy healthy environment for them by following these tips and they will provide you with hours of bird watching enjoyment.
  •  Provide a variety of feeding stations for your feathered visitors and you will attract a wide selection of birds.
  •  A winter bird feeder should offer winter protection to the birds in snowy climates with a wide cover over the feeding ports or trays. This will not only protect the birds but will keep the seed from being buried in snow. A large capacity bird feeder will keep the birds happy and reduce the number of fill ups required.
  • A bird house provides a warm, safe nesting place for birds even in the winter. So if you have one, leave it in place. The cooler weather is also a good time to add a new bird house for early scouts.
  •  bird bath is also a necessity in winter months and in some climates a tremendous help to the bird population when lakes and streams are frozen. This is the time to add a heated birdbath or purchase a safe heating element for your regular birdbath.
  •  If you have a humming bird feeder, the colder weather provides the perfect opportunity to take it down, clean it thoroughly and store it until spring. If it needs replacing now is a great time to find them on sale.
  •  Insects and fruit are in short supply in most areas during the winter months so the birds will rely more heavily on seeds. A high fat diet gives them the extra energy they need as well. Include: black oil sunflower seeds, suet mixes with seeds or fruit, white millet seed, peanut butter, peanuts and Nyjer/thistle seeds, safflower seeds, meal worms, cracked corn. If you use a mixed seed be sure it is a good quality.
  • Fall is the perfect time to stock up on bird seed as it is usually on sale. Keep it in a cool dry place and it will keep for months. Use a large, metal or plastic container such as an empty cat or dog food container for easy storage and access.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time to Start Thinking About the Holidays!

Fall is the perfect time to give your interior décor a face lift. Outdoor living is coming to an end and the holidays are fast approaching. We all want our homes to be in tip top shape when our friends and families arrive for holiday visits.

Here are a few suggestions for some quick, inexpensive changes that may provide just the spark you are looking for without breaking the bank.

Glass Fitter Shades: One of the easiest ways I’ve found to give a bathroom a new look is to change the globes on the light fixtures. Chances are if your light fixtures have been in place as long as mine, they could use a little updating. If money is no option you might want to go out and buy a whole new fixture, but it really isn’t necessary. Take a look at the variety of glass fitter shades available and see if buying a few of those won’t just do the trick!

Drop Bedskirt: Recently I realized that my guest bedroom needed some sprucing up. It just looked ordinary and I wanted it to be more inviting. My sister will be coming for the holidays and I wanted to create a bed & breakfast atmosphere for her so she would feel like she was on a mini-vacation. Adding a drop bedskirt was exactly what was needed to warm up the room and hide the junk under the bed!

European Style Couch:  If a new couch is in your budget you will want to check out these charming and affordable options. Create your dream living room at a price you can afford. There is no doubt your holiday visitors will be totally swept away by your sense of style! (They don’t have to know how much you saved creating it!)  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time to Update the Kitchen

We bought our house about fifteen years ago and at the time it was definitely what most people would call a "fixer upper". In fact, our real estate agent kept trying to talk us out of buying the house and just succumbed to stunned silence as we continued to move forward with the purchase. She didn't see what we saw...potential! To my wife and I it was a project that just fired us up. Back to the kitchen.

At the time we purchased the house, we updated and remodeled from top to bottom, including all new appliances in the kitchen. Now, fifteen years later one by one it's once again time to update. At the top of my list is a new stove because I'm the cook in the family and I've been itching for new top-of-line model with all the bells and whistles.

I began shopping online last week to see what is out there. (If the truth be told ever time I go into Sears or Lowes I look and see what's new.) Now, however, it's time to get serious. I thought I'd share with you what I find as I go along and maybe give you some ideas if you're looking. favorites as I go along in case you're looking too.

Yesterday I stumbled across this little gem: Whirlpool Stainless Steel 30" Smooth-top Self Cleaning F/S Electric Range, model # YWFE381LVS.  I'm not sure what I like best about it, the rapid boil element, the convection cooking system or the fact that it's stainless steel and black and fits perfectly into my dream kitchen. So for today, this particular range is on the top of my shopping list. I'll keep you posted.



Thursday, July 7, 2011

Decorating with a Low Coffee Table

I love the wonderful clean lines of modern furniture and the simple elegance of a low coffee table can instantly create a calm environment for any living room. Placed centrally, it invites us to toss aside the demands of the day and it is a perfect purchase to begin to reshape an outdated living room into a modern showcase.

We are all longing to do away with clutter in our homes and modern decor urges us to follow this dictate. A beautiful modern coffee table needs very little added to it. A collection of mini glass vases, placed artfully atop the table, is all that is needed to gently soften the lines of a modern coffee table. In fact glass vases of any kind are a perfect companion to the angular lines of this type of decor.

Continue the minimalist approach and rid your living room of extraneous furniture. Choose a couch or collection of chairs that follow the same design lines as the coffee table. Add contrasting softness in the finishing touches, a bouquet of flowers, a garden painting. If you are trying to simplify your life and bring your home into current times, modern decor can quickly help you accomplish your goal.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Create an Outdoor Living Space with Contemporary Furniture

Summer is the time to get outside with friends and family and enjoy! Creating an outdoor living space is easy to do and an endeavor that is well worth the effort. Contemporary furniture companies are manufacturing outdoor furniture that looks and feel exactly like what you have in your living room but is constructed to hold up under outdoor weather conditions.

The clean lines of contemporary furniture lend themselves well to so many different settings. For a look of understated elegance you may enjoy Amalfi Garden Armchair that when grouped together with a couch and table creates an instant outdoor living room for your patio or deck. Or for an entirely different look you may enjoy a rattan chair and foot stool such as the one in the picture above. It's perfect for a quiet little corner for relaxing or reading. Add a few flowering plants and you've just created an inviting outdoor living space!

To create an outdoor living room take a look around your yard, deck or patio and select an area about the size of a small room. It should have easy access but not be directly in the middle of a heavily traveled area. Then go to town creating edges with plants, screens, fences and attractive structures, leaving sufficient room for the furniture. You may want to select your furniture first to make sure it will fit when you buy it. Shopping online for contemporary furniture will help get the ideas flowing!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Alex's New Digs

Guest post by Alonso Kramer

When my son Alex told us he was buying a house, we were overjoyed. We thought it was a great sign that he was maturing and that his job was going well – not to mention the tax creditshe was going to be getting! When he showed us the actual house he was buying, we were…worried. It was a bit of a fixer upper and though it was huge, it was in a transitional area. The first thing we did was go to for a security system – I don’t want him being unsafe in his own home. Then I came down for a week and helped Alex get the thing in shape. We worked with a contractor who fixed all the obvious stuff and made it livable and now it’s nearly ready for decorating. I plan on coming back down to help with that aspect since Alex isn’t exactly known for his great taste, and once it’s all done it will truly be his dream house!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Custom Signs Improve Work-at-Home Life

More and more people are working at home. The growing trend began with influx of the personal computer into the home and continued with the rapid expansion of the internet. Email, Skype, cyber meeting places and all the other additions have made it so easy. I always wanted to work at home and now I am!

In order to make it comfortable experience it is necessary to implement some modifications to our home. One of the dangers of working at home is never being able to leave the office. Another is making space for visitors related to work by adding additional parking spaces and a comfortable sitting room. Visitors don't know the rules of your household and at times it may be easier to post a sign than to tell each person that stops by.

I teach classes at home in my workshop and while I have plenty of parking space for multiple cars, it has made my life much simpler by posting a sign in the spot where my wife likes to park her car. I've also put up a "no smoking" sign in my workshop. You can have a custom sign made to fit exactly what you need. A small sign tastefully placed can make working at home more comfortable for you and your family.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring is in the Air - It's Time to Think about Painting

I don't know about you, but every spring I find renewed energy and interest in working outside. This gives me the opportunity to check on the condition of my siding and trim and if necessary think about painting. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, taking care of problem paint and siding areas as they occur can help you prolong the life of your paint job another.

If you are wondering if it's time to paint, you will find an overview of things to look in this article: How to Know When It's Time to Paint your House.  If you think you can put off painting another year, spruce up your house by pressure washing and touching up any trim paint that looks worn or dull. Put a fresh coat of paint on your front door, paint your wrought iron railings and pressure wash and treat your decks. If most of the paint is in good condition, you'll be amazed at what a little touch up here and there will do to freshen things up. You'll be enjoying the beautiful spring weather in the process!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Add Style and Organization to Your Home Office

Home Office Inspiration traditional home office
If the organizing bug didn’t bite you hard enough at the first of the year to get you moving, it’s sure to do so as longer days turn into the warmth of spring and abundant sunshine makes the dust more visible on your furniture. Spring is always my final reminder that hibernation time is over and it’s time to get things under control!

One of the biggest challenges I face when it comes to getting organized is my home office and the myriad of papers, notes, photos, coupons, business cards that just seem to pile up everywhere.  I am a very visual person and I have discovered how incredibly helpful bulletin boards can be in keeping me focused and on task.

I, like most people, have used a variety of cork bulletin boards over the years.  For a long time I just tacked things up on it when I didn’t know where else to put them but wasn’t ready to throw them away. But once a friend and business coach suggested that I place the bulletin board in front of me, instead of to my side, I discovered a whole new world of organization.  I began putting reminder notes and important bits of information there because I could see them.

The wonderful thing about bulletin boards these days is that we’re not just stuck with the cork board variety anymore, although I still like using one in my work shop. You have other, more visually attractive options that actually add to the overall look of a room. Prior to beginning my office organization project I put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and replaced my old bulletin board with one from a selection of fabric bulletin boards I found on line. It instantly warmed up the look of the room but still does the job of keeping me organized. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

From New York to Hawaii ~ Finding a Home You Love is a Personal Thing

View of Mauna Kea

I don’t know about you, but I have always thought that living in Hawaii would be my nirvana. How can you beat the weather, the scenery, the beauty of the place? I have spent a good part of my life in New York and I dare say that life in Hawaii would not only be thousands of miles away from a practical standpoint but from a personal one as well. The problem is, how do you choose?

The longer I live, the more I have come to believe that finding a home and a place to live is a very personal thing. To some extent we must rely on what “feels” right when we choose where we live. This, of course, should only be relied on as a compass because being humans, emotions are a bit fickle. It should not, however, be ignored, particularly when something comes up again and again. For example, if you wanted to live in Hawaii then years ago, and you still want to live in Hawaii, take the next step. Do some research and put some facts behind the growing fantasy of your imagination.

Whether you are choosing a location to call home, a house to buy or a couch for your living room, the decision you make should always be based on a little bit of imagination and a lot of hard facts. In the end it will feel like a bit of a risk if you’re following your heart. Playing it safe probably will not get you your dream home, or décor that you will love forever. That requires a little bit of inspiration.

Perhaps you are not quite ready to pick up and move to Hawaii, you can still consider what it is about Hawaii that sparks your imagination. What is your heart telling you that may be missing in your current location? Do you long for more sun? or a body of water outside your front door? Does your absolute comfort requirement need a room in your home where you can find deeper relaxation? See if you can figure out what your yearnings are telling you about your living environment and make some changes where you are.

If you still long for Hawaii, by all means, take the leap!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bringing Wildlife to Your Home & Garden

Feeding wild birds is one of my favorite hobbies. It is also a hobby that, when indulged, can add warmth and interest to a home, both inside and out. By carefully placing a bird feeder, birdhouse, and/or birdbath on your property, you will not only draw the wildlife within viewing distance of a window, but you will add interest to your landscape design and exterior décor.
If you are new to bird feeding, I would suggest you start by purchasing a “tube” birdfeeder. You can use this type of feeder all year long and it feeds a variety of birds. You may want to consider a squirrel proof feeder if you have the happy little creatures in your yard or you can try what I’ve done for years and fill it strictly with Safflower seeds. This doesn’t work for everyone, in every part of the country, but it works like a charm for me. The squirrels won’t go near the stuff.

During the winter months, the birds enjoy a suet feeder. Suet offers an excellent source of the high protein the birds need to keep their energy up during the cold weather season. In the summer be sure and add a hummingbird feeder. You will be delighted the first time one of these tiny, little creatures comes to visit. Place all of these bird feeders on a mounting pole on your deck or near a window and they will not only bring the birds where they will be easy to see, it will make the feeders easier to fill.

As you become more involved in this wonderful hobby you will want to add a platform feeder, a thistle seed feeder and a bird bath. Birds need water even in the winter so if you may want to purchase a heating element to keep the bird bath water from freezing. Lastly, add a birdhouse and you will be off and running.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attracting wild birds to your home and gardens. Next time I will give you a few suggestions for incorporating bird feeders, etc. into your landscape design. In the meantime, you might want to begin shopping for the basics. You will be delighted to discover that there is a plethora of products available both online and off. In these days of budget constraints, I prefer to buy my feeders and birdhouses online. I have discovered that the small, local bird supply stores, should you be lucky enough to have one near you, carry top quality merchandise, but at premium prices. The other alternative is likely a home improvement big box store that offers a lower priced selection, but also lower quality. For me, shopping online is the perfect alternative.


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