Category Archives: Home

Beautiful and Easy DIY Thanksgiving Decorations

This Thanksgiving, make sure your home is as warm and welcoming as the delicious feast you have prepared for your loved ones! We have scoured the Internet for the simplest yet most delightful ideas for making your home ready for the festive family gathering.

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Thanksgiving Message Board

Cut out leaves from construction paper in fall colors, and have dinner guests write one thing they are thankful for on each leaf, then tack it to a cork or linen bulletin board. (Bonus points for framing the message board to make it more decorative.) Not only is this meaningful craft a nice breaker for extended family and other dinner guests, but it can also serve as a keepsake each year.

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Festive Fall Tablescape
Source: HGTV

Use an assortment of pillar candles, foam pumpkins, beans, peas and lentils to make a gorgeous table display that honors the humble beginnings of the very first Thanksgiving. Follow this tutorial to wrap adhesive around your candles and pumpkins and then roll the objects in the assorted legumes for a centerpiece that is as pleasing to the touch as it is to the eye.

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Fall Hurricane Vases
Source: Amanda Jane Brown

Love the look of the seeds and beans but don’t have the time or artistic ability to pull it off? Fear not- a beautiful glass hurricane vase filled with layers of dried peas, beans and corn in contrasting colors is a lovely and understated way to pay tribute to the bounty of the season. Tie with a piece of jute for a rustic touch.

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Precious Place Cards
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Time to bust out those mini pumpkins and put them to good use at the dinner table! Attach a dinner guest’s name to each mini pumpkin with a pin, then place at the table. You can either hand-letter the little name cards, let one of your kids use their adorable handwriting to write the names, or print out the labels using your computer’s word-processing software. Not only will Aunt Shirley know where to sit, but the table will look adorable!

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Apple Candles
Source: BuzzFeed

Hollow out the core of a medium to large apple and replace with a tealight candle for a quick, aromatic and unique fall decoration that will delight and impress everyone at your gathering.

Do you have any fun and festive ideas for Thanksgiving décor? Please share in the comments below.

Cheap and Easy Decorating Ideas

Creating a unique space doesn’t have to break the bank, nor do you have to have a degree in interior design to make your home beautiful. Check out this helpful article from Style at Home, with 25 easy decorating ideas to do on a budget. Here are a few of my favorites from the list that I have actually tried with success in my own home:

 

Family Photo Wall- “Create a gallery wall of family photos and other small pictures in matching (or contrasting) frames, arranged in a collage on a large wall such as a stairwell or hallway.” I have a photo wall like this in my dining room, with a tastefully laid out mishmash of black collage photo frames, and it creates visual interest while proudly displaying happy family memories. The best part? Two of the photo collage frames were wedding gifts and therefore cost us nothing, while the third one was $10 at Ross and happened to match the others perfectly.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure- “Peruse Craigslist, eBay or freecycle.org regularly for finds. It’s amazing what shows up as a bargain or even free.” Though my husband and I agree to disagree on this decorating tip, I have found many fantastic items for the house on eBay and Craigslist, as well as thrift stores and even the Dumpster outside our old apartment! One of my prized possessions, a working high-quality record player dating from the late 1960s, set me back only $25 on Craigslist. Such a deal!

 

Chandelier Magic- “Replace overhead lighting with thrift-store (or box store) chandeliers.” Our first house came with the world’s ugliest brass chandelier, which not only was an eyesore but also had a way of smacking houseguests in the head when they stood up from the table too quickly. $100, plus $25 for installation help from an experienced electrician, got us the most beautiful, sleek art-deco style chandelier from Home Depot, which gave our whole dining area an instant facelift.

 

Cabinetry Cosmetics- “Replace the drawer and cabinet pulls in your kitchen, bath, bedroom, or on a furniture piece.” For approximately $20, we were able to add stylish, modern pulls to all the cabinets and drawers in our old kitchen. The results were instant and dramatic.

 

Let Nature In- “A tray filled with pinecones, a tall vase of dried pampas grass stalks, or a bowl of colorful pebbles, beach glass or shells all make eye-catching home décor accessories.” This is one I use constantly at home- we’ve got some seashells and-picked by my husband at the beach scattered along the mirror of our master bathroom counter, a candle-holding tray adorned with various smooth rocks and flat glass marbles and a tall bamboo vase filled with stalks of natural grasses and reeds. The cost is cheap (or free!) but the effect is breathtaking.

Have you tried any of the tips from this article? Let us know in the comments below

Give Your Home an Energy-Efficiency Makeover

In terms of energy, how efficient is your home? You may be surprised at how much money you can possibly save each year by making a few changes to your household appliances and usage. These ten handy home energy tips can put you on the fast track to cost savings and a smaller carbon footprint!

 

  1. Wash clothes in cold water- Many high-efficiency washers are just as effective at washing clothes on their cold water setting as on a warm or hot water setting. Simply switching to cold water can save you up to $63 a year, according to the US Alliance to Save Energy.
  1. Save up to 10% on cooling and heating costs with a programmable thermostat- Having a thermostat that you can program to different temperatures throughout the day can save on your energy bill by cutting down the run time of your furnace or air conditioning unit. For an ultra-modern experience, check out Nest, a “smart thermostat” that can be controlled from your mobile device and adapts to your daily schedule by “learning” when to turn heating and cooling systems on or off.
  1. Use your window treatments- For a more low-tech approach, close your blinds on sunny summer days to keep out the heat, and open them in the winter to let good old fashioned solar power warm your house.
  1. Turn off all lights and electronics when not in use- Even the most innocuous household items, such as a toaster or a coffee maker, can use up surprising amounts of energy when left plugged in all day. These small appliances, nicknamed “vampire appliances” for their tendency to suck energy out, are even bigger offenders if they have a clock on them. Leave them unplugged until it’s time to use them.
  1. Invest in newfangled light bulbs- CFLs and LED lightbulbs may seem like the less cost-effective option at the hardware store, but they can save you a bundle on the back end. Energy-efficient lightbulbs reduce energy use up to 80% from traditional light bulbs.
  1. Always buy Energy Star- Look for the Energy Star label on your appliances. This is the government’s seal of approval for energy efficiency, guaranteed to save the consumer up to 30% on energy bills.
  1. Change your shower heads- Using a low-flow shower head or faucet can save on water bills, which in turn can put extra cash in your pocket and make your home more eco-friendly. Best of all, low-flow shower heads have come a long way since their inception, and are now very high-quality and hardly make a difference in your morning shower.
  1. Change those dirty filters- In order to keep the A/C and furnace from having to work extra hard to push out air, change the filters once every three months. This will also benefit you by reducing the number of allergens in the air.
  1. Turn down your water heater- Reducing the temperature to 130 degrees F will make little to no impact on the hot water in your household, but will save you a considerable amount of money and energy. Another good tip is to invest in a special blanket for water heaters, which helps retain the heat in the unit.
  1. Insulate your home properly- Sealing cracks around windows and doors and insulating your home can save up to 20% on energy bills by keeping heated or cooled air inside the house where it belongs. As everyone’s dad says, we’re not paying to heat/cool the outside, after all!

 

 

Source: US Alliance to Save Energy

Featured Article: Consumer Reports- 5 Must-Have Cooking Appliance Features

Consumer Reports published an informative article yesterday highlighting the 5 most desirable features for cooking appliances in a modern kitchen. You can read the whole article here, complete with product reviews of the appliances mentioned in the article, but the highlights include:

Front Controls- No more burning your forearm on a bubbling pot of pasta when trying to reach the controls on the back panel of your range! Now the controls are front and center in these sleek, smart new models. Ranges with this feature include the $1,600 Whirlpool WEE760H0DS.

 

Virtual Flames- Now you’re cooking with gas!…Or are you? The convenience of the induction-range cooktop has received a makeover from Samsung, whose NE58H9970WS model ($3,600) has added virtual LED flames to its electromagnetic cooktop field to give cooks the visual cues they relied upon when cooking on a gas or electric stovetop, so they can tell at a glance if the burner is hot.

 

Cooking Sensors- Those of us who aren’t exactly culinary wizards can use all the extra help we can get in the kitchen. The AutoChef sensor, exclusive to Bosch, claims to give cooks precise results every time by measuring the temperature of the bottom of a pan made out of a special type of aluminum, then heating the element with the exact amount of energy needed. The Bosch NETP066SUC, $1,200, takes the fear out of over- or under-cooking for novice chefs.

 

Hinged Cast Iron Grates- Cleaning up the kitchen after cooking a meal has got to be my least favorite part of the entire process. The worst part of all is trying to get the pools of liquid and tiny pieces of veggies out of the burners before the next time the stove is used. This sometimes daunting after-dinner task is about to get a lot easier, thanks to hinged gates at the back of gas cooktops from the new Whirlpool EZ-2-Lift line. All you have to do on models like the Whirlpool WCG97US0DS ($900) is lift up the entire grate and wipe your gas burners clean. It’s never been so easy!

 

French Doors- We are all familiar with the two side-by-side French doors that many refrigerators have, but what if your oven had them too? GE has answered that question by adding French doors to wall ovens like the GE Café CT9070SHSS. At the price point of $3,900, one may have to have a real disdain for traditional oven doors to invest in this model, but it does come with other impressive features, such as the ability to be controlled by smartphone. Sign me up!

 

What features do you wish you had in your Kitchen of the Future? Leave your ideas in the comments section below.

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!

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.

Mold – Don’t Let It Invade Your Home

Mold

Definition: A furry growth of minute fungal hyphae occurring typically in moist warm conditions, especially on food or other organic matter.

Synonyms: Mildew, fungus, dry rot, must

Sound like something you want in your home, around your loved ones? Didn’t think so.

So what causes mold? Mold requires a special brew of moisture, warmth and food. Because of these necessities to survive, mold is commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, basements or any area where flooding or leakage has occurred. Roofs, walls, pipes are also very common areas for this fungus to hide in.

What risks does mold bring? The most common reactions to mold are allergy-like symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing
  • Rash
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Redness of the eyes

How can you prevent mold in your home? According to Mother Nature Network you can prevent mold with these simple tasks:

  • Identify problem areas in your home and correct them
  • Dry wet areas immediately
  • Prevent moisture with proper ventilation
  • Equip your home with mold-resistant products
  • Monitor humidity indoors
  • Direct water away from your home
  • Clean or repair roof gutters
  • Improve air flow in your home
  • Keep mold off household plants