Save Time and Money with These Laundry Tips

We combed the Internet for the best tips, tricks and “life hacks” for doing laundry. These helpful hints will save you money, time and make your laundry look better than ever!

 

Unbutton All the Buttons!- Make sure you unbutton all of the buttons on a button-down shirt, to keep the buttonholes from stretching and tearing due to the agitation in the washing machine. Even the tiny buttons that hold down a collar should be unfastened prior to being tossed into the washer. (Source: www.realsimple.com)

 

Two is Better Than One- Something as simple as putting two laundry baskets in your closet- one for whites and one for colors- can eliminate sorting from your laundry routine altogether! When you get undressed at night, just sort the clothes into each basket as you take them off. When laundry day rolls around, you’ll be glad you did. (Source: www.lifehacker.com)

 

Refresh Towels and Eliminate Odors- You know that “old towel smell” that towels and washcloths get over the course of time? Give your linens a second life and eliminate that mildew odor for good by washing a load of towels twice in hot water; first with vinegar, and the second with baking soda. (Source: www.buzzfeed.com)

 

DIY Fabric Softener- Why buy fabric softener when you can make your own?- Next time you’re at the grocery store, skip the fabric softener and stock up instead white vinegar, that household staple that doubles as a super-efficient cleaning product. For a DIY fabric softener, add between ¼ cup and 1 cup vinegar to the final rinse cycle, but take care never to mix the vinegar with bleach. (Source: www.marthastewart.com)

 

Choose a Shorter Wash Cycle- There is no need to over-wash clothes. Choosing the shortest wash cycle and cranking up the water temperature is as effective at cleaning as a longer cycle with cooler water, and it will cut the time spent doing laundry dramatically. Similarly, run another spin cycle in the washer, which squeezes out excess water, thus reducing drying time. (Source: www.goodhousekeeping.com)

 

Which Refrigerator is Right for You?

Is your refrigerator running? If not, it might be time to think about which new model best suits your needs. Refrigerators are one of those appliances we really don’t think too much about as long as they’re in working order, but they are among the most important appliances in our homes. In terms of storage capacity, style and functionality, no two refrigerators are created equal. Use the guide below to find out what kind of fridge model is right for you.

Top-freezer- This is the standard model one thinks of when asked to picture a refrigerator, with its large main refrigerator compartment on the bottom and the freezer stacked on top. With reversible doors that swing right or left depending on how you attach them, this model is ideal for small, tight spaces in apartments and condos.

Bottom-freezer- Similar in every way to a top-freezer model except, unsurprisingly, given its name, this model has the freezer portion on the bottom while the main refrigerator portion remains at eye level. In terms of space and capacity, it is on par with the top-freezer fridges, but may prove more convenient for shorter people, or for those who have difficulty reaching up.

Side-by-Side- In this model, the equally-sized freezer and refrigerator compartments run vertically alongside one another from the top to the bottom of the unit. In a galley-style kitchen or another type of kitchen with limited space, the side-by-side is a good choice, as it takes up the least amount of space when its doors are open. However, the storage capacity may sometimes not be as great as a top or bottom-freezer model.

French door with bottom freezer- French doors open up to reveal a large top compartment for the fridge, while the freezer is accessed with a drawer at the bottom. This style of fridge is nice for accessing all of the fresh-food compartments more easily than the traditional crisper drawers on the bottom of a more basic unit.

4-door French door- Similar in style to the basic French door model, a very nice feature in this style of refrigerator is the additional fridge space provided in a second pull-out drawer between the fridge doors and the freezer drawer at the bottom.  Good for large families who require extra fridge space.

Door-in-Door- Another French door-style refrigerator, this model has another set of doors beneath the outer doors, which saves energy by only requiring the user to open one panel to access the most frequently used items, keeping the rest of the fridge consistently cold and not letting in any outside air.

Counter-depth- This refrigerator model sits flush with the countertops and cabinets, creating a streamlined look and maximizing space. Counter-depth refrigerator models give the appearance of being built-in.

Compact- This is the little mini fridge you had in your dorm room. Perfect for basements, built-in wet bar areas and garages, a compact fridge is a nice way to keep a few drinks cold for guests in a room of the house that gets a lot of party traffic.

Get Your Home Ready for Fall

As summer winds down and the kids start back to school, it’s time to start thinking about the shorter, cooler autumn days ahead. Now’s the time to make a list of all of the things you need to do to prepare your house for fall. Use the following tips as a handy checklist to make sure your home is ready for the cooler temperatures and falling leaves coming soon:

Insulate water pipes- Pipes that are in areas exposed to cold temperatures, particularly in the basement, are extremely susceptible to bursting when the freezing temps move in. Fall is a perfect time to insulate these pipes well in advance of the winter months.

Check your caulking- Any caulking around doors and windows that shows signs of deterioration needs to be repaired in order to properly insulate the house. While you’re at it, go ahead and check the caulking around your bathroom fixtures as well.

Clean your gutters- As the fall foliage begins to accumulate it is important to make sure your gutters are cleaned regularly. Gutters that are clogged with leaves and debris can cause water damage to your siding, landscaping and foundation that are costly to repair.

Schedule a chimney cleaning- If you have a chimney, make sure it gets a tune up by a professional before you light that first roaring fire on a chilly autumn evening.

Clean or replace your furnace filter- a dirty filter will cause your furnace to have to run harder, not only driving up your gas bill but also causing unnecessary wear and tear to your unit.

Clean the dryer exhaust duct- Using a duct-cleaning brush, remove all pieces of dust and lint from the dryer exhaust duct and the space under the dryer. This can prevent a dryer fire from occurring.

Inspect your smoke detectors- While the batteries in your detectors should be tested monthly, it is a good idea to make an annual inventory and battery change to ensure they are in working order.

Safeguard against fire hazards- Since October is National Fire Prevention Month, fall is a good time to make sure there are no fire hazards such as loose-fitting plugs, frayed cords and wires, or overloaded outlets or surge protectors. You should also make sure there is a working multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible on each floor of the home for easy access in case of emergency. Schedule a family meeting and devise an evacuation plan so that everybody knows what to do in the event of a fire.

Color Me Happy- Mood-Boosting Hues for Every Room in your Home

It’s so much fun to add some color to your life, especially when decorating your home. Choosing the right color for each room in your house is a great way to play up key pieces of furniture and artwork, as well as an expression of your individual taste and personality. Moreover, according to proponents of color psychology, the colors you choose to decorate can also affect the moods of all who share your living space. Here are some ideas of colors for each room in your house that can bring out the best in everybody.

Living room- Warm, earthy tones such as beige and browns, along with reds, yellows and oranges, are thought to encourage conversation. The warmth of the colors inspires people to connect with those in the room with them, creating a “homey” vibe- a perfect feeling for entertaining guests or having family conversations.

Kitchen- Just like in the living room, reds and yellows are popular tones for the kitchen color scheme, as they stimulate conversation and convey a sense of warmth to all who enter. Watch out with the red, though, as it is also a color that has long been connected with appetite stimulation!

Bedroom- The place where you unwind, relax and prepare for sleep each night should have a calming, soothing effect. Cool colors, such as blues, greens and lavenders are all ideal choices for a bedroom color scheme as they are thought to be calming colors.

Bathroom- I once had a bathroom that I decided to paint bright sunflower yellow. I loved it because it was so bright when I went in there each morning that I had no choice but to wake up! When it comes to painting the bathroom, people tend to go for white or neutral colors, because of the connotation of cleanliness. Colors from the “calming” palette are good choices for the bathroom as well- the soft blues, greens and lavenders can add a spa-like vibe and make it a pleasant place to be.

Kids’ Bedrooms/Playrooms- Upbeat, vibrant colors work great for a space that invites high energy, like a child’s playroom. Primary colors on walls are fun for younger kids, while older children might enjoy coming up with their own color scheme that suits their personality. Try to compromise on more muted colors for their bedrooms, as they should be calming places for the kids to unwind and relax.

To get more home-decorating ideas that use the concept of color psychology, check out The Color Design Source Book by Caroline Clifton-Mogg. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Color-Design-Source-Book/dp/1845974603)

 

 

Featuring…Feature Walls!

For those of us wanting to make a big statement on a small budget, a feature wall is a fabulous way to make a room “pop.” In the same spirit as the highly popular accent wall design concept of the 90s and 00s, the feature wall adds an element of interest to one wall in a room, creating a focal point that is both exciting and unique. You can add a touch of elegance or whimsy to any wall in any room in the house, in ways both large and small.

A few tips to keep in mind for your feature wall, no matter how large or small scale of a project you have in mind:

Dark=Drama- If you wish to add some drama to the room, go for a dark color for your feature wall. A charcoal, navy or black wall plays off of the surrounding lighter walls nicely and draws the eye directly to the space you wish to serve as the focal point of the room.

 

Consider Color Blocking- Who says feature walls have to be all one color? A nice striped or patterned color-blocking effect on the feature wall can create visual interest that mingles nicely with the surrounding wall colors. For example, you can set off solid colored surrounding walls with a feature wall that includes complementary colors so that the whole thing goes together. It is also a fun and popular idea to use wallpaper on the feature wall and let the colors of the wallpaper coordinate with the solid walls for a sense of harmony.

 

 

Feature Walls Can Be Functional- Especially in smaller living spaces, one fun idea might be to incorporate functionality into your feature wall. For example, you could use a massive bookshelf, vintage record player, family pictures or floating shelves with children’s toys on them as the primary focus of your feature wall, which not only will give great visual interest to the area but also provide an excellent storage space for these items. Additionally, this will give your living space a sense of your personality and let the wall speak for you. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Everyday Items to Clean Your Appliances

Who says cleaning products must be costly to clean effectively? Banish those harsh chemicals and pricey concoctions for good and keep your appliances beautiful using things you already have laying around in your kitchen. You will be amazed how you can keep all of your kitchen appliances sparkling clean and running like new, just by using things like:

 

Baking Soda-

While the uses for baking soda are seemingly limitless, baking soda has long been associated with deodorizing refrigerators. In fact, Arm and Hammer actually manufactures a special container that is designed to be stuck on the inside fridge wall and changed monthly. When it comes to deodorizing with baking soda, why stop at the refrigerator? It can be dusted along the bottom of the dishwasher, rubbed into a microwave with a damp cloth and sprinkled liberally down the garbage disposal, all with the same wonderful effect of eliminating kitchen odors.

 

Vinegar-

Baking soda’s time-honored partner in home cleaning remedies, white vinegar is useful for a variety of household tasks. One particularly inventive use of vinegar, mixed with an equal amount of water, is as an anti-grease agent to prevent buildup inside your oven. If you are concerned about the toxicity of bleach and other cleaning agents on the market, vinegar is a great, safe and eco-friendly alternative. It can be used to wipe down countertops and cabinets.

 

Tang-

The powdery orange drink originally designed for astronauts has a secret identity as a powerful dishwasher cleaner! Using Tang instead of dish detergent in a hot-water cycle can give the inside of the dishwasher an all-over clean, thanks to the acidity of the powder.

 

Coffee-

Another way to effectively eliminate odors in the refrigerator is to place a small bowl of coffee grounds on one of the fridge shelves, replacing every two months for best results. The best part- the grounds can even be used! Talk about recycling!

Brand of the Week: Samsung

In this day and age, the brand name Samsung immediately evokes images of outsize high-definition Galaxy smartphones. While it’s true that Samsung is holding firm as the leading manufacturer of Android smartphones, the brand itself has a long and storied history of developing and manufacturing diverse electronic products. In addition to the innovations Samsung has made in smartphone technology, the brand is synonymous with quality in TVs, home entertainment systems and computers. The household appliance division of Samsung is no exception: marrying form and functionality with technology, Samsung manufactures a variety of “smart home” appliances that turn any house into the home of the future.

Founded in Seoul, South Korea by Lee Byung-chul way back in 1938, Samsung was originally a trading company. Over the next 30 years, Samsung diversified into areas such as textiles, food processing and insurance. By the late 1960s, Samsung had entered the electronics industry and manufactured its first product- a black-and-white TV. Samsung focused primarily on TVs and other household electronics throughout the 1970s and 80s, and in 1974 manufactured its first refrigerator, opening the door to the household appliance industry.

Over the decades, Samsung’s commitment to technology and smart design have produced some very exciting appliances for the modern home. One such product is the Flex Duo Range with Dual Door™, a range that enables the user to cook two dishes simultaneously at different temperatures- a dream come true for Thanksgiving prep and other occasions that require an entrée and side dish to be prepared on the same timeline.

Another innovation guaranteed to make the modern homeowner’s life easier is the Samsung WA8700 Washer with activewash™. This top-loading washer is unlike any other on the market, boasting a built-in sink for pre-soaking and pre-treating stains. Additionally, the AquaJet® Deep Clean technology employed in this model cleans clothes deeply but gently, while the Super Speed cycle can cut wash time down to an unbelievable 36 minutes for a large load, without sacrificing the quality of the wash.

A 4-door refrigerator sounds like something straight out of The Jetsons, but the Samsung 4-Door Flex™ Refrigerator is for real. The energy-efficient, 23 cu. ft. counter-depth refrigerator features a Triple Cooling System which helps keep perishable fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer. Meanwhile, the Cool Select Plus is a bonus door to the right of the bottom freezer that can be used either as a fridge or a freezer, depending on the temperature selected by the user. This versatile door is ideal for storing frozen meats or casseroles, and then can be converted back to a fridge when the extra freezer space is no longer needed. A true innovation!

If you are in the market for new household appliances and your motto is “work smarter, not harder,” Samsung may be the brand for you! Check out the Samsung website for pricing and availability. http://www.samsung.com/us/homeappliances/

 

A Pain-Free Guide to Cutting the Clutter

Be honest- is there a huge pile of stuff taking up valuable space right now in your garage, shed or basement? Is it full of items that have absolutely no functional value in your life, yet you are reluctant to throw or give them away in case you find yourself needing them in the future? Maybe you aren’t particularly attached to anything in the junk pile, but lack the necessary motivation to get in gear and cut out the clutter for good. Not only is it exhausting to sort through everything and haul away what you don’t wish to keep, but it is also quite taxing to decide whether to keep, sell, give away or throw away every object you encounter. While reducing clutter in your home can be both physically and emotionally difficult, it is an important step to helping your living space reach its full potential in terms of aesthetics and functionality. The following tips can get you on the right path to a clutter-free, organized home:

Sort Your Stash- Probably the hardest step of the de-cluttering process is the very first one you will have to do. You need to go through the items in your pile and decide what you keep and what gets sold, given away or tossed. The easiest way to go about this daunting task is to get four boxes, marked with “Keep,” “Donate,” “Sell” and “Trash.” Items you actually use at least once a month should go into the “Keep” box, and anything you think may actually be of some collectible value should be placed into the box marked “Sell.” If you see anything that may be of use to someone else, such as a household appliance or clothing with little wear, put it in the “Donate” box. Everything else…sorry, it’s “Trash.” The act of physically putting each thing into one of these boxes will help clarify what you truly need and what you can afford to part with. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the process goes after the hard start, and how much lighter you’ll feel almost instantly!

Don’t Lose Momentum- So now you’ve sorted everything into their respective boxes and you feel really accomplished. Don’t put your feet up just yet- you’re far from done! It’s so easy to feel accomplished when you’re done sorting your pile and then just leave the four boxes sitting there in the same spot for six months. Why not go one step farther and actually bring the “Donate” box to your local charity organization or thrift shop? How about listing some of those “Sell” items on eBay or Craigslist? You can at least walk the “Trash” box over to the Dumpster, can’t you? The follow-through is every bit as important as the initial effort to get rid of the clutter.

Time to Organize! – Now that you’ve whittled down the items you actually want to keep, it’s time to figure out where to put them. As much fun as those home organizing stores can be, there is really no need to spend a lot of money on fancy storage systems for your living space. Check out Pinterest and other home-improvement blogs for excellent and creative ways to use existing items in your house as organizational tools. The internet is teeming with all kinds of these little “life hacks” to get you organized on the cheap. Be honest with yourself about how you will really end up putting things away on days when you are too tired or busy. An organizational system that isn’t going to realistically fit into your life is not going to help much. Pick what you think will work best for your personality and energy level. Better to have a bin full of odds and ends or a “junk drawer” than to have the junk overtake the entire kitchen counter. Use your best judgment to figure out a system that is right for you.

Grilling Tips To Avoid BBQ Disaster

1. Make sure to pre-heat your grill! Allowing time for your fire to become a steady source of heat is crucial for a near-perfect meal. This step will help to cook your food thoroughly without burning the surface. Allow about 10 min for gas grills and 30-40 min for charcoal.

2. Prepare your ingredients ahead of time. To ensure a timely success without the mess, make sure to season, shape, and cut-up any food that will be included in the grilling process. This will help eliminate running into any snags and make the whole process more relaxing and enjoyable.

3. Perfect the art of shaping burgers. Don’t pack the burger meat too tight, this will result in a tough burger; instead, use a light touch to shape the patty to the shape and thickness you prefer. Just before putting it on the grill, press your thumb gently in the middle of the patty – this will eliminate the “bulge” that happens when you grill hamburgers and allow the patty to cook evenly.

4. Wait to sauce! Apply BBQ or any other sauce to your burger, steak, or chicken about 5 minutes before you want to take your food off the grill. Using the sauce during the entire grilling process increases the chance for your food to burn significantly. Instead, wait until the food is almost done, then apply the sauce of your choosing.

5. Make sure you have the right tools. This might not seem too important and the fork and knife from your kitchenware has done an ok job in the past but believe it, having the right tools makes all the difference.

6. Let your food sit after you take it off the grill. Allowing your grilled steak or burger to rest about 5-10 minutes before digging in lets the flavor really soak into the meat. Cutting into the meat right off the grill lets all the juices (basically flavor) seep out so you lose a lot of the flavor onto the plate rather than onto your taste buds.

7. Better clean up after yourself! Each and every time after you grill, you should always clean the grate of the grill off. This allows your food to step off the grill with the best flavors and a neat and clean grilling experience every time you fire that bad boy up.

Fruit & Whipped Cream, Oh What a Dream!

With spring upon us and summer just around the corner, we must be prepared for all of the festivities! And what is at the heart and soul of these summer gatherings? DELICIOUS FOOD! Check out the recipe below from Cups + Spoonfuls for a light and refreshing angel food cake recipe that is sure to please anyone and everyone that has a piece!afcd410

I turned to Betty Crocker for inspiration this week.  Every so often I find myself leafing through my Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, the cookbook my grandmother gave me after Bubba and I married.  “You’ll need this, it has everything.” she promised.  At first glance, I judged the cookbook for its lack of “healthy” recipes, horrible food photography and sexist illustrations of family life.  I tucked it away in our bookcase with the plan of donating it.  Years passed, but Betty remained on our book shelf.  I couldn’t part with her.  This dated, meant for “home-makers” cookbook gave me a glimpse of a time before social media, mommy wars, barre and kale smoothies, quinoa and hemp seeds.  As much as the Mad Men era illustrations of mom in heels baking a cake with 2 kids underfoot and Dad in a suit sampling her hard work with a smug look on his face enraged me, I couldn’t help but notice the common ground across generations.  Women ministering to their loved ones by making delicious food.  Homemaker or not, food is love, it was then and it still is today.

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Angel Food Cake Delight     

Light and airy angel food cake filled with honey whipped cream and fresh berries        

Serves 10-12

Recipe barely adapted from Baking Illustrated and inspired by Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

Ingredients for Angel Food Cake:

1 cup sifted cake flour

1 1/2 cups sifted sugar

12 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions for Cake:

Move an oven rack to the lower-middle position and pre-heat your oven to 325F.  Set aside an ungreased large tube pan with a removable bottom.  ( If you can’t remove the bottom, line it with parchment paper.)

Whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a small bowl.  Place the other 3/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-speed until they break up and begin to froth.  Add the cream of tartar and salt.  Turn the speed up to medium and beat until the whites form soft mounds.   Beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, just 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites form soft peaks and are shiny.  Next add vanilla and lemon juice and beat until just combined.

Turn off the mixer and sift third of the flour/sugar mixture over the whites.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold them in.  Sift the remaining flour/sugar mixture of the whites and gently fold.  Scrape the batter into your pan.  Smooth the top with a spatula.  Gently bang the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when you touch it with your finger, about 50-60 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and invert it onto the prongs of the pan or use the neck of a glass bottle.  Allow the cake to cool for 2 to 3 hours before removing it from the pan.

Once cool, run a knife around the edges of the pan.  Slice the cake out the pan and carefully slice off the removable bottom.   Set the cake golden brown side up on a cake platter or stand.

Using a serrated knife cut 1 inch the top of the cake off.  Set aside.  Carefully cut down into the cake, leaving a 1 inch border from the middle hole and cake “wall” and 1 inch base.  Scope out the inside of the cake and set aside. (Keep the scraps for nibbling!)

Fill the hollowed area of the cake with your honey whipped cream/berry mixture.   Place cake top on and press gently.  Cover the rest of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to over-night.  The cake, refrigerated, will last up to 2 days, but I doubt you will have leftovers.  Enjoy!

Honey Whipped Cream  + Fresh Berry Mixture

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 cups heavy cream

5-6 tablespoons of honey  (light flavored)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup raspberries

1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced in quarters

Directions:

Start with a chilled bowl and beater.  Add cold heavy cream to the bowl and beat until the cream thickens.  Add honey and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream creates stiff peaks.  Be careful not to overbeat!   Remove less than half of the whipped cream and place in a small bowl.  (Set aside remaining whipped cream.)  Using a rubber spatula fold in the berries.  Use the berry mixture to fill the cake and use the remaining whip cream to cover the entire cake.

**You can make the whipped cream (without the berries) ahead of time.  Be sure to store it in an air-tight container in the fridge.  It will stay fresh for up to 10 hours.  Whisk for about 10 minutes before using and then proceed with the recipe.**