Iconic Cincinnati – Nature & Parks Edition

Iconic Cincinnati – Nature & Parks Edition

Whether you are new to the greater Cincinnati area or have lived here for a while, you’ve probably not had the chance to experience all the wonders around you. It’s so easy to take the abundance of things to do for granted and to simply be grateful that there is a plethora of activities available…if we ever need them. I am guilty of hanging out at home instead of getting off my duff and broadening my horizons. So this post is not just for you; I’m hoping it inspires me to get out there to explore and experience all the best things to do and see in our little corner of the world. Explore with me, won’t you? In this edition of Iconic Cincinnati, we’ll explore the most interesting places in the region to enjoy nature in the City’s various aminal, art, and park venues.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

In operation since 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo is home to the world-famous hippo Fiona. Throughout the property, zoogoers can also see gorillas, zebras, Sumatran orangutans, Komodo dragons, and red pandas. Check out the animal footprints on each pathway and guess which animals can be seen next or ride the colorful Safari Train past various habitats. The latter is one of the zoo’s most popular attractions, so be sure to arrive early to avoid long wait times.

The seasonal penguin parades on select days below 50 degrees are a favorite, and visitors say the zoo and gardens are a must-see attraction. The park’s commitment to sustainability is seen throughout the facility and through its outreach efforts, including the Plant for Pollinators initiative and field projects to support hippos, bonobos, manatees, and more.

This second oldest zoo in the U.S., considered one of the best in the country, is most renowned for its endangered species and birthing programs, particularly for gorillas and white tigers, and has a wonderful collection of felines, and a delightful manatee exhibit.

A few of their many special events include:

  • Penguin Days: January 8 – March 8, 2024
  • Zoo Blooms: April 1 – 30, 2024
  • Zoo Babies: May 1 – 31, 2024
  • Festival of Lights: late November 2024 until early January 2025

Krohn Conservatory

Located within Eden Park in between Cincinnati’s East Walnut Hills and Mount Adams neighborhoods, Krohn Conservatory is an incredible botanical garden filled with over 3,500 plant species from around the world. It’s widely recognized as one of the country’s largest public greenhouses. Krohn Conservatory opened in 1933, and the building is a classic example of the Art Deco style. The land in the park used to belong to Nicholas Longworth and he called it his Garden of Eden.

  • The Shape of Nature Floral Show: January 27 – April 21, 2023
  • Butterfly Show: late spring to early summer
  • Golden Days of Yule: mid-November through early January
    • Live Nativity, poinsettia display, botanical artworks, and model trains in a floral landscape filled with miniature landmarks

Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum

The third largest cemetery in the United States dates from 1844 when members of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society formed a cemetery association. They took their inspiration from contemporary rural cemeteries such as Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, and Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The numerous springs and groves suggested the name “Spring Grove”. The first burial took place on September 1, 1845. Designed with lakes, islands, footbridges, and protected woodland areas, the cemetery has hundreds of trees and plants from other parts of the world including an expansive collection of both native and exotic plant materials as well as its State and National Champion Trees and its Centenarian Collection. Today, Spring Grove encompasses 733 acres of which approximately 450 acres are beautifully landscaped and maintained. The remaining undeveloped acres ensure the permanence of the cemetery for hundreds of years.

Spring Grove offers a variety of events and private group tours, or you can explore on your own.

Smale Riverfront Park

John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park connects downtown Cincinnati to the Ohio River and the existing riverfront parks. It sits along the Ohio River near the base of the Roebling Suspension Bridge.  This 45-acre park spans the riverfront area between Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark.   It’s a wonderful location to view the bustling activity along The Ohio River Trail, and a place to gather and celebrate as a community. The park boasts multiple water play features, giant swings, an interactive foot piano, an imaginative play area for kids, expansive pollinator gardens, and Carol Ann’s Carousel. Several historical monuments can be found like the Black Brigade Monument and the recently dedicated Marian Spencer Statue.

Loads of events take place here. You can find the full listing at the link above.

Eden Park

Eden Park is nestled between East Walnut Hills and Mt. Adams. The park is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Krohn Conservatory, making Eden Park one of the most popular parks in Cincinnati. Landmarks within the park include the Hinkle Magnolia Garden, which features an enchanting gazebo that can be rented for an intimate wedding ceremony, Seasongood Pavilion, which hosts outdoor concerts and plays, and Mirror Lake featuring the Bettman Fountain in the center and the haunted Spring House Gazebo overlooking the lake. Other highlights include the charming Twin Lakes area; the lakes were once an old quarry that was converted into two small lakes, joined by a footbridge, and surrounded by walking paths. This area boasts an impressive view of the Ohio River and Kentucky, several sculptures, and a playground. It’s a great spot for chess or launching model boats. Also, within Eden Park is a historic 172-foot high Water Tower from 1894, The Memorial Grove, The President’s Grove, walking paths, and many more sights to see! Eden Park’s newest feature is Tom Jones Commons, which includes a walking loop, wetlands with a walking bridge, a picnic shelter, natural play areas, seating, beautiful landscaping, and a connection from the lower reservoir area to Seasongood Pavilion and Mirror Lake. There is something for every nature lover and parkgoer to see, experience, and enjoy at Cincinnati Parks’ Eden Park.

Newport Aquarium

The Newport Aquarium is a public aquarium located at Newport on the Levee in Newport, Kentucky. It has 70 exhibits and 14 galleries, 1,000,000 gallons of water, including five acrylic tunnels totaling over 200 feet in length. It is the first aquarium to have had success in breeding shark rays.

Delighting families since 1999, Newport Aquarium welcomes your family to discover the wonder of an underwater world. See thousands of the world’s most exotic aquatic creatures as you waddle with playful penguins, meet rare white alligators, be surrounded by sharks, and be surprised by smiling stingrays. Encounter thrilling adventures like the first-in-the-world Shark Bridge, where you can cross inches above a tank full of sharks on a rope bridge. Plus, experience the exhibit Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels and explore a long ago-sunken ship and the creatures that call this accidental reef home.

This state-of-the-art facility was named the No. 1 aquarium in the 2012 Readers’ Choice Travel Awards from 10Best.com; the Best Rainy Day Outing in 2006 in Cincinnati Family Magazine; and the Best Aquarium in the Midwest in the Zagat Survey’s U.S. Family Travel Guide in 2004.

Pyramid Hill

Pyramid Hill is a three-hundred-acre nonprofit sculpture park founded in 1997. The Park is home to over 70 monumental outdoor sculptures displayed in a landscape of rolling hills, meadows, lakes, and hiking trails. The Park also features an Ancient Sculpture Museum that displays Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Syrian, and Egyptian antiquities dating to 1550 BCE, as well as the iconic Pyramid House. Pyramid Hill is the only museum you can experience by Art Cart – a gold cart you can rent to tour the park. The carts are rented on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early if you want to ride.  Attracting more than 30,000 visitors annually, Pyramid Hill serves as the premier cultural tourist attraction in Butler County. Pyramid Hill is unparalleled in the region as a place where art, culture, education, and nature intersect.

The Park provides summer programs for children, as well as numerous special events throughout the year that are traditions for many families and our community. The stunning landscape and unique architecture offer ideal backdrops for weddings, corporate retreats, meetings, family reunions, and celebration of life ceremonies.

Mt. Airy Forest

Located between Mt. Airy and Westwood, Mt. Airy Forest is the largest Cincinnati Park at 1,459 acres. It is a man-made forest with miles of hiking trails, several picnic areas, a disc golf course, and a multi-use mountain biking trail. Mt. Airy also has Ohio’s only wheelchair-accessible public treehouse (currently closed for repairs), a beautiful arboretum, and an enclosed dog park.

Sawyer Point Park and Yeatman’s Cove

Overlooking the majestic Ohio River, Sawyer Point is a landmark destination in Cincinnati. A great place to view Cincinnati’s annual Labor Day fireworks show or watch the river traffic go by on any other day, this charming mile-long park is nestled between T.M. Berry International Friendship Park and Smale Park. Sawyer Point & Yeatman’s Cove feature beautiful landscapes, award-winning playgrounds, numerous pieces of public art, walking paths, tennis courts, pickleball courts, and volleyball courts. Sawyer Point is also a premier host site for many regional and national events, including many walks and runs, major music festivals, and other cultural events. Sawyer Point Park and Yeatman’s Cove are side-by-side parks on the shores of the Ohio River. Both are some of the best parks in Cincinnati and stretch for about a mile along the riverfront. Here, you can enjoy beautiful waterfront views and lots of activity spaces. There are places to play volleyball and tennis, as well as concession stands, picnic tables, and performance pavilions.

Sawyer Point is home to an outdoor amphitheater where you can see live events, including concerts. The Serpentine Wall is also here. It’s a wall of large concrete stairs that curve like the coils of a snake. There’s also a giant statue of Cincinnatus.

Cincinnati Observatory

The Cincinnati Observatory atop Mount Lookout is the oldest professional observatory in Ohio. The building, which has been preserved to retain its classic look, has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Cincinnati Observatory refers to itself as the “birthplace of American astronomy.”

However, the commitment to a vintage appearance doesn’t stop the observatory from looking into the future. It heavily promotes the study of 21st-century astronomy.

When you visit, you can tour the building, look through the fascinating displays of moon rocks, and watch presentations. Use the gigantic telescope during the day (solar viewing) or night (stargazing).

Devou Park

Located across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Devou Park is a city park in Covington, Kentucky. Encompassing 700 acres, it is the city’s largest park and has been in operation for over 100 years. The hilltop park’s overlooks offer panoramic views of the Cincinnati skyline and the Ohio River valley below. The park is full of opportunities to engage your mind, body, and spirit. Stroll along the scenic nature trails. Throw a frisbee. Play a round of golf on their 18-hole course. In addition to a beautiful vantage point to admire and photograph, the Devou Memorial Overlook offers open green space, benches, a shaded gazebo, parking, ADA accessibility, and picnic tables. Tour the museum. Attend a concert.

 

There are a plethora of other parks located all across the Cincinnati area. Click here for a complete listing of Cincinnati parks, and here for parks in Northern Kentucky. For folks who love nature, parks, and animals, Cincinnati is hard to beat. Let us know your favorite destination in the comments.

Iconic Cincinnati – Food Edition

Iconic Cincinnati – Food Edition

Whether you are new to the greater Cincinnati area or have lived here a while, you’ve probably not had the chance to experience all the wonders around you. It’s so easy to take the abundance of things to do for granted and to simply be grateful that there are a plethora of activities available…if we ever need them. I am guilty of hanging out at home instead of getting off my duff and broadening my horizons. Soo this post is not just for you; I’m hoping it inspires me to get out there to explore and experience all the best things to do and see in our little corner of the world. Explore iconic Cincinnati with me, won’t you?

Let’s start with Cincinnati’s unique food scene. Most famous are Cincinnati chili, Montgomery Inn barbecue, Graeter’s black raspberry chip ice cream, goetta (a mixture of beef, pork, oats, and seasonings) which reflects the city’s German heritage, Frisch’s Big Boy, and LaRosa’s Pizzeria.

But did you know about Cincinnati’s legacy of fine dining? In the 1970s, it was home to three Mobil Travel Guide five-star restaurants (New York was home to just two!). They were all French; surprisingly considering Cincinnati’s German heritage. There was Pigall’s, The Gourmet Room which featured a 30-foot mural by the artist Joan Miró (it now hangs in the Cincinnati Art Museum), and The Maisonette which still holds the record for the most consecutive years with a five-star Mobil guide rating, at 41. Beloved Jean-Robert de Cavel, a French-American chef, was chef de cuisine at The Maisonette from 1993 to 2002, executive chef at Jean-Robert at Pigall’s from 2002 to 2009. Pigall’s is now Boca. Below the Maisonette was La Normandie, now the wildly successful Sotto. These were, and are, the best of the best.

Let’s chat about foods that are so good they’ve gained popularity outside of our region. Here are eight Cincinnati favorites to check out in case you haven’t done so already.

Cincinnati Iconic Foods

  • Cincinnati Chili – Well known for its unusual chili, a thinner, soupier version than traditional chili con carne or Tex-Mex, Cincinnati chili is ladled over hot dogs and spaghetti. Customary toppings include cheddar cheese, onions, and beans; specific combinations of toppings are known as “ways”. The most popular order is a “three-way”, which adds shredded cheese to the chili-topped spaghetti (a “two-way”), while a “four-way” or “five-way” adds onions and/or beans before topping with the cheese. “Ways” are served with oyster crackers and a mild hot sauce. Cincinnati chili is seldom eaten by the bowl.  Two chain brands are famous in the region: Skyline and Gold StarHowever, there are plenty of other great places around the city to try Cincinnati chili, but none are more iconic than Camp Washington Chili.

 

  • Graeter’s Ice Cream – In business since 1870, Graeter’s uses the French Pot method to make its ice cream. It’s a slow, small batch process making only 2 1/2 gallons at a time creating ice cream that is rich, creamy and dense. Black raspberry chip is a Graeter’s bestseller, one of the flavors containing its incredible chocolate chips, some of which are as big as a quarter, in every scoop. There are almost two dozen Graeter’s stores in the tristate area, and Graeter’s is available in every major supermarket.

 

  • LaRosa’s Pizza – In 1954 Buddy LaRosa opened his first family pizzeria on Cincinnati’s West Side. His Sicilian-born father told him he was crazy. “You gonna sell pizza? You must be crazy!”  Who could argue with him? After all, back then many Americans hadn’t even heard of pizza.  LaRosa’s signature pizza is a thin crust variety made with a distinctive thick, sweet sauce (a family recipe created by the founder’s Aunt Dena) and topped with provolone cheese.

 

  • Montgomery Inn Barbecue November 1, 1951 the Gregory’s and their four children took over a restaurant and began serving ribs full-time. A local journalist dubbed Ted Gregory “The Ribs King,” a nickname that stayed with Gregory for the rest of his life. The restaurant attracted some famous customers, including Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Other famous diners include several Cincinnati Reds legendary baseball stars as well as actors and entertainers from all over the world. The secret to their success is in the sauce – Wife Matula’s still secret family recipe from 1959.  Try their barbecue in one of two restaurants: The Boathouse, located on the Ohio River is just east of downtown Cincinnati or the original location on Montgomery Road. The barbecue sauce is sold in big box and grocery stores and on Amazon.

 

  • Izzy’s World Famous Reuben – Izzy’s can trace its roots to Russia. Settling in Cincinnati Izzy Kadetz and wife Rose opened the first kosher style delicatessen West of the Alleghenies in 1901. Consistently ranked as the “best deli in Cincinnati“, visitors to this local deli can indulge in Izzy’s Famous Reuben and their famous potato pancake. The savory sandwich is piled high with Izzy’s famous corned beef, sauerkraut, Izzy’s special dressing and melted imported Swiss cheese served with a bowl of all you can eat locally made dill pickle slices. There are five locations in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.

 

  • Frisch’s Big Boy – In 1939 Frisch’s opened the Mainliner restaurant, Cincinnati’s first year-round drive-in named after the first tri-motor passenger airplane. Today, some 85 years later, a replica of the airplane still adorns the restaurant’s sign on Wooster Pike. Famous for their double-decker hamburger called the “Big Boy” with a specially formulated tartar sauce. The chain is best known for its trademark chubby boy with a pompadour hairstyle wearing red-and-white checkered overalls holding a Big Boy sandwich. Frisch’s is also known for its fish sandwich, Swiss Miss sandwich, and hot fudge cake.

 

  • Glier’s Goetta – Goetta is an old German recipe brought here in the 1800’s by the German immigrants who dominated Cincinnati 200 years ago.  It was a way for poor folks to stretch a few scraps of meat. This celebrated regional dish of pork, beef, steel-cut oats, and seasoning is somewhat similar to sausage and scrapple, is shaped into a roll or a brick and fried up in a pan.  In 1946, Robert Glier returned home from World War II and bought a small store with a sausage kitchen and a smokehouse.  The rest is history.  Glier’s goetta can found stores and at German festivals throughout the summer, especially Glier’s Goettafest at Newport on the Levee.

 

  • Busken Bakery – Founded in Cincinnati by Joseph C. Busken Sr. in 1928 the company started from humble beginnings, selling baked goods from the counter of a meat market in East Hyde Park on Erie Avenue. In 1962, Busken moved the bakery operation to its current location at the corner of Madison and Edwards roads in Hyde Park. There are four locations in the region. This 4th generation bakery operates around the clock, six days a week and produces more than 100 unique varieties of fresh baked goods every day but is famous for its smile cookie, donuts, and king cake.

And did you know that Pringles, Frank’s RedHot Sauce, Airheads, Slush Puppie, and McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish are all from Cincinnati?

The story of the Filet-O-Fish story is so fun. It began in 1962 with Franchisee Lou Groen from Cincinnati, Ohio.  Groen’s restaurant was located in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhood and he noticed a decrease in sales on Fridays.  With determination and a knack for thoroughness, Groen convinced McDonald’s to test a breaded whitefish sandwich to help satisfy customers who abstained from eating meat on Fridays in observance of Lent.

At first, McDonald’s executives were not certain about adding fish to the menu, which required a more complicated cooking process.  As a matter of fact, McDonald’s Founder Ray Kroc had plans for what he called the Hula Burger ― a slice of grilled pineapple and cheese on a bun.  Kroc made a deal with Groen that they would sell the Hula Burger and the Filet-O-Fish on a Friday, and whichever sandwich sold the most would be added to the permanent menu. Kroc was so convinced that his Hula Burger would outsell the Filet-O-Fish that he made a side bet with his first grill man Fred Turner that the loser would buy the winner a new suit.  The final score? Hula Burger: 6, Filet-O-Fish: 350.

“Fred got a new suit and McDonald’s got the Filet-O-Fish,” said McDonald’s Company Historian Mike Bullington.

Whether you are new to the greater Cincinnati area or have lived here for a while, it’s always fun to know – and taste – what the region is known for. What are your Cincinnati favorites? Let us know in the comments.

 

Tame That Hairy Beast

Tame That Hairy Beast: Cleaning Tips Every Pet Owner Should Know

 

They are adorable and we love ‘em like they are our kids, but our sweet pets can be challenging to clean up after and can make it tough to keep our homes company clean. There’s pet hair and potty accidents. There are dirty paws and sharp nails. Some of us have messy eaters (not just four-legged, LOL) and some of us have chewers and shredders. Yes, our furry friends know how to make a mess. Being able to manage and even prevent these messes can make routine cleanup a lot easier and help keep your frustration levels in check. Perhaps it’s the shedding that drives you nuts or the kitty-litter scatter.  Maybe it’s funky pet odors or water bowl splashes. Everyone has pet-owner woes and we’re here to help you tame that hairy beast with these tips designed to keep your home as clean as it was before you had pets. Unless, of course, you’re an utter slob in which case we’ll need to talk to your mom LOL.

HAIR

  • Lint Roller. A lint roller is a great way to remove pet hair from your clothes, but you can also use it on couches, chairs, curtains, and other furnishings in your home. Lint rollers usually have a wide surface area and are effective at picking up pet hair. And BONUS TIP: did you know they are also great for cleaning dust from your lampshades? For the top 8 rollers that work great on pet hair, click here.

  • Furniture Covers. I absolutely cannot say, “No!” when my pup asks to snuggle on the sofa or curl up next to me in bed. If, like me, you can’t keep pets off your furniture, use covers to protect the fabric from damage and unwanted odors. Most furniture covers are designed to be easily removed and washed. Wash regularly to help maintain a clean and odor-free environment. The Spruce Pets rate these as their top 8 choices. In addition to protecting against pet hair, furniture covers can also guard against stains caused by spills, accidents, or tracked-in dirt. Choose a cover made from pet-friendly material that is durable and resistant to wear and tear. Avoid materials that may be easily punctured or torn by your pet’s claws.”
  • Vacuum & Sweep. Keep pet hair from taking over your home by vacuuming and sweeping regularly, maybe even daily. Last summer I cared for my brother’s two yellow labs for a month while he and his wife were traveling. As the owner of a 12-pound non-shedding dog, I was overwhelmed by the amount of hair. Fortunately, they had a very nice, specialized pet hair model vacuum cleaner which was a game changer. Some vacs are also available with pet hair attachments designed to handle shedding, even intense shedding. Here are the 7 best vacuums for removing pet hair according to RTINGS.com.
  • Hair Remover. Getting pet hair off your clothes, carpet, furniture, and out of your car can become an all-consuming challenge. But the right pet hair remover can make the job a lot simpler. You might even be able to wear that black shirt again. Here are the 8 best pet hair removers of 2024, tested and reviewed by The Spruce Pets.
  • Rubber Glove. If pet hair is set into your furniture, use a rubber glove to get rid of it. Simply dampen a rubber glove, something that you probably already have on hand for washing dishes, and run it over the furniture to attract and collect hair.

  • Brush daily and bathe regularly to help keep your place hair- and dust-free. Trim nails whenever they get too long to protect your floors and doors from scratching damage. It’s important to know how to cut your pet’s nails to avoid hurting them. If you’re a chicken like I am, consider going to a groomer or your veterinarian. Speaking of nails, keep your kitty from scratching your furniture by purchasing a scratching post. Cats scratch to mark their territory and sharpen their claws; offering designated scratching surfaces can redirect this behavior away from furniture and other areas of your home.

STINK

  • Baking Soda. Pets can be stinky leaving funky odors in their wake, especially in their favorite areas of the home. Baking soda has odor-neutralizing properties and can be used to absorb and eliminate unpleasant smells. Sprinkle it on carpets, furniture, and pet bedding, let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes, and then vacuum.
  • Wash Pet Bedding Regularly. Whether it’s your pup’s bed or your kitty’s tower, pet bedding must be cleaned regularly to prevent odors and pet hair buildup. Be sure to use pet-safe detergents! Consider using covers that can be easily removed and washed. My pup’s bed is small enough to toss in the laundry, but my brother’s 75-pound dogs have sleeping quarters almost as big as a twin bed, so a removable cover is a must. If you do have a cover that isn’t removable, sprinkle the bed with baking soda and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then vacuum.
  • Quick Clean Up. Cleaning up pet messes promptly and effectively is essential for maintaining a clean and healthy living environment. Start by scraping up as much of the mess as possible. Then, clean the areas by scrubbing them with water and a pet-safe detergent. If odors remain, sprinkle the area with baking soda, let it sit, then vacuum.
  • Odor Control Litter. Let litter help control smells. Good Housekeeping tested and reviewed 20 litter brands to find the vest. Their top 11 picks are easy to scoop, control odors, and don’t stick so much to cats’ paws, which can lead to litter particles on the floor.

DRAINS

  • Protect Your Shower Drain. Getting pet hair in your shower during bath time is inevitable, but there are ways to minimize shedding for easier cleanup. Brush your pet before her bath to help remove loose fur. Be sure to use a grooming brush appropriate for your pet’s coat type to reduce shedding during the bath. Place a hair catcher over the drain, which keeps pet hair from causing clogs. It’s also very helpful in keeping your own hair out of the drain. Find the best ones here.

SPLATTER SCATTER

  • Food Mat. My little guy drinks like a crazy animal and splashes his water everywhere. One of my brother’s labs attacks her food bowl with such force, the food flies. A great resolution is to place a mat under their dish. Mats can catch any spills and make cleanup so much easier. Look for a mat that will be easy to clean. A non-skid mat will help prevent your pup from pushing bowls around.
  • Litter Mat. If you have a cat, you know they have a propensity for kicking litter out of their litter box. Keep it contained by using a litter mat, which is made with a mesh material designed to trap litter. These textured mats act like a doormat. Even the most well-behaved kitty will track litter granules out of the litter box. A good litter mat catches most of those bits before they spread throughout your house. Find New York Times Wirecutter’s top three litter mats here.
  • Litter Box. You can also avoid the spread of litter by choosing the right litter box. A litter box with higher sides prevents cats from kicking or scattering litter outside the box (does your cat love doing this?) People Magazine has tested and reviewed 15 of the best litter boxes.

PAWS

  • Wipe your pet’s feet when they come inside. While it might not be necessary to wipe every time they come inside, it’s a must in certain instances. A walk during a rainstorm, after a storm when there are mud puddles, when there is snow on the ground, and when playing in the yard or dog park (where a little time may be spent digging) are all times when paws will get dirty. I once lived in the historic section of a small town, and that old neighborhood seemed to have decades of dust and dirt everywhere. Even when we stuck to the sidewalks, my pups (there were two then) would come home looking like they were wearing brown socks. Sometimes a wipe with a damp cloth will do the trick. Other times a foot wash is in order. With my short guys, sometimes it was a half bath involving feet, legs, bellies, and chests. Chewy has 10 top-rated wipes for dogs and Rover rates these wipes for cats.

  • When it’s really mucky outside, boots make a world of difference. It took many tries for me to find the right foot cover for my pup; many dogs just don’t like wearing a boot (although they look SO CUTE!). After losing three of four adorable zip-up red boots with fur trim ($50 down the drain) in a snowstorm, I thought we were through with boots and any real chance of a successful walk in the snow. The game-changer for me – and Ollie – was Pawz Waterproof Boots. They are not only lightweight and waterproof; they also can’t be easily kicked off.

Imagine loving your pet unconditionally along with your nice, clean home free of all the dirt, hair, and stink your four-legged baby brings with him. Now you can. You’re welcome, and tell your dog we said, “Hi!”

 

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Comfort In A Cup

CUP OF COMFORT

Have you ever heard the term warm your innards? Innards is a slangy word for the gooey stuff under your skin that makes you live. What a thought, but you know what I mean. Well just before COVID, friends came to stay for a long weekend. Sadly, I was miserable with an earache: tired, aching, and crabby.  My friend Chad came to the rescue making me a hot toddy served up in a beautiful teacup. It not only warmed my innards, but it also proved to be comfort in a cup. With the latest variation of COVID rearing its ugly head this winter, we thought you might like to find some comfort in a cup. My fella has been suffering for days from this variant, and a nice hot drink followed by a nice hot shower has done him a world of good.

Hot toddy recipes vary and are traditionally drunk before retiring for the night, in wet or cold weather, or to relieve the symptoms of the cold and flu. In How to Drink, Victoria Moore describes the drink as “the vitamin C for health, the honey to soothe, the alcohol to numb.”

In its classic form, writes Barbara Rowlands for The Telegraph, the drink is served in a glass. It contains, she writes, “a shot of whisky (preferably malt), a teaspoon of honey and a dash of fresh lemon, topped up with boiling water poured over a silver spoon to prevent the glass from cracking.” Of course, you can always serve your toddy in a mug or pretty teacup.

Add spices to the mixture to reflect your personal preference and the contents of your spice cabinet. Fresh ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise are lovely, fragrant, and tasty additions. Chad studded a lemon peel with cloves for my toddy.

The psychological effect of having a comforting warm drink is important! Stress and anxiety will have an impact on your immune system and lower your resistance. Drink a hot toddy like you might take a mild sedative or tranquilizer. To give you a warm, relaxing, and cozy feeling.

How to Make the Best Hot Toddy

The secret to making the best hot toddy is simple—just tinker with the amount of lemon juice and honey until it suits your taste buds. You may be surprised by how an extra teaspoon of lemon juice or honey changes the flavor. Basics are in the recipe below.

Any good whiskey will do, like Bulleit Rye or Jameson Irish Whiskey, but you can also use Scotch, dark rum, brandy, or cognac.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 ½ ounces whiskey*
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons honey, to taste**
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice, to taste
  • 1 lemon round
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, a few cloves, a slice of fresh ginger, and/or a grind of fresh nutmeg (optional, for garnish)

* If you are doing Dry January 1) good for you! and 2) you can substitute an alcohol-free bourbon like Kentucky 74 – NA Bourbon or an alcohol-free spirit of choice.

** Especially helpful is Manuka honey. Why Manuka? Research has shown that Manuka honey has more antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties than regular honey. Or, look for a honey that is produced in your area. Local bees make local honey, which means the pollen they collect and bring back to the hive is sourced from local plants. Since these same plants cause many seasonal allergies, eating honey that contains that pollen can possibly combat those allergies. Moreover, according to talkingwithbees.com, local honey will offer better taste and nutrition: it is often raw, roughly filtered, and has not been heat treated or pasteurized. This means it tastes better and includes a wider variety of nutrients, including pollen and enzymes.

It is best for your health to opt for raw honey. Raw honey is unprocessed and can be purchased at health food stores, farmers markets, and vitamin shops. It is always best to try to use raw, organic honey with no preservatives, added sugar, or any other types of additives.

Do hot toddies really help a cold?

According to Healthline in a November 2, 2022 article, the components of a hot toddy can help relieve some symptoms associated with cold and flu. In a 2008 study, participants reported that consuming a hot beverage provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness, and tiredness.

Are there any other drinks that will help?

According to Web MD, there are!

Decaf tea. The heat can soothe sore throats, stuffy noses, chest congestion, and upset stomachs. Plus, a warm cup of tea is comforting when you’re feeling rough. If you choose one with herbs like ginger, your immune system may get a small boost, too. For an extra benefit, try adding a small dollop of honey to your cup: It can calm a cough and help you sleep. Comfort in a cup.

Water with lemon. Hot or cold, it keeps you hydrated and loosens up stuffiness and congestion. Lemon is also high in vitamin C, which may make a cold slightly shorter if you get it regularly.

Soup. Clear soups and broths give you calories when you may not have much of an appetite. Some research shows they may help relieve inflammation in the body, which can relieve some of your symptoms. The warmth also helps break up mucus.

Wonder Soup. When my mom was in the hospital after surgery, she refused to eat the awful food the hospital served, especially the weak, flavorless chicken bouillon. I went home and made a pot of Wonder Soup. I returned to the hospital the next day, smuggled in the soup, and she drank every drop. This is a very informal recipe, as you’ll see.

  • 1 whole chicken raw or a rotisserie chicken with the meat removed
  • 2 roughly chopped carrots
  • 2 roughly chopped celery stalks with leaves
  • 1 quartered onion (go ahead and leave the skin on for beautiful color)
  • 2-3 smashed garlic cloves (again, go ahead and leave the skins on)
  • A few peppercorns
  • Salt
  • A large sprig of fresh rosemary (thyme would be good too) and a several large sprigs of fresh parsley, stems and all.

Toss everything in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour or two. Skim the foamy muck off the top periodically until it stops forming (this will help the broth be nice and clear). Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Toss the veggies and the herbs in the trash; they’ve done their job. Strain the broth, ideally using cheesecloth. Adjust seasoning to taste. There you have it: Wonder Soup: a true cup of comfort.

 

NOTE: for regular consumption, remove the chicken meat from the bone and use some either shredded or cubed in the broth. The rest will make a nice chicken salad or chicken tacos. Add chopped carrots, celery, and onion. Chop and add some fresh parsley, rosemary or thyme. Later you can add noodles, peas, green leafy vegetables – whatever suits your fancy. You’ll never want to go back to canned or boxed soup.

After your hot toddy, slip into something warm and cozy – like an epsom salt bath. Read more about this little luxury here – it’s a cup of comfort on a much larger scale.

As you journey through the perilous waters of winter, we wish you smooth sailing, good health, and comfort in a cup in the event you do fall into the arms of a cold, the flu, or COVID. We’re here to provide you with thee means to obtain comfort in a cup.

 

Après-Holiday Decluttering

Après-Holiday Decluttering

I don’t know about you, but for me January came with a big sigh of relief. While I love the holidays and everything that comes with holiday celebrations: all the shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, entertaining, parties, traveling to visit family, traveling to visit friends, arranging for pet care, dressing up, being social, eating, drinking, and cleaning up is exhausting. Then the bills come in and the exhaustion is not only physical, but also mental. When I am bone tired, I cannot settle down and decompress when things around me are messy, and all this holiday fun does have a tendency to leave a path of chaos in its wake.  So to rest long and well, there are a dozen messes to address. Join me for holiday decluttering 12 things after the season vanishes.

1. Holiday Decorations

Holiday decorating is so much fun, isn’t it? But I notice every year that there are inevitably a few items that stay in the box.  Décor I once loved has lost its magic. As you strip the tree of ornaments, garlands, ribbons, bows, and lights and clear away your other holiday swag, evaluate your stash before you box everything up. If there are decorations that didn’t make the initial cut, ones you don’t have room for, or ones that are damaged, bite the bullet and toss them.

2. Baking Supplies

Baking can be a big and traditional part of the holidays, and baking supplies can use up valuable cabinet space. If the supplies are seasonal, like cookie cutters, store them with your Christmas décor. If your Bundt pans, pie plates, serve ware and cookie cutters are taking over your kitchen storage or were unused this season, purge. Sort through your baking collection and declutter what you don’t need. Either donate what you no longer use, or sell it.

3. Email Inbox

There’s nothing like the holiday season to make you realize just how many email lists you’re on. Every time you buy something on line, merchants pretend you want to hear from them again and again and again. If your inbox received a barrage of sales notifications this winter, take a look at which ones you never open or which stores you’re unlikely to shop from again. Take a moment to click “unsubscribe” or send them to junk (because sometimes that unsubscribe request seems to get lost in the mail) and your inbox will be lighter all year long. Find Gmail unsubscribe tips here.

4. Toys

I left my sweet pup with a Rover sitter on New Year’s Eve in a town close to our party destination but about an hour away from home. Her listing indicated she had two dogs and two little kids. When we arrived at the home, what was mean to be her living room was turned into a playroom with low shelves all around the perimeter filled with – literally – hundreds of toys shoved into whatever space was available.  And that’s not counting the toys and playsets on the floor.  I seriously wanted to Marie Condo-ize the space, but managed to keep that thought to myself. A good rule of thumb is when you can no longer see the floor in your child’s room or playroom because it’s covered in toys, it’s time to declutter. When kids are old enough, they can be part of the decision-making process and learn a valuable life lesson along the way. Institute a rule — each toy they keep, they donate one — and help them sort through the collection. Find a step-by-step purge process here.

If the toys are in good condition, letting your child know it will go to another kid who could really use them, and will love them, may make letting go easier. Before donating, wash the toys, make sure they are in good repair, and check any safety guidelines. Be sure to check with the charitable organization you’re donating to for any rules governing their acceptance of toys.

5. Holiday Duds

Do you have holiday clothing – seasonal tops, fancy dresses, “ugly” sweaters – that haven’t been worn in recent years? Sometimes it can be hard to part with clothing that’s “still good”.  Determine if you’ll likely ever really wear it again. If the answer is “no” donate it or if it’s as ugly as my Aunt Helen’s Christmas sweater, toss it.

If you have garments that are in great condition, do like my sister and sell them on Poshmark, ThredUp, or Facebook Marketplace. Ditto for fancy holiday shoes you’re unlikely to wear in day-to-day life. I mean how many pair of dressy black shoes does a girl need (this is a rhetorical question – she needs them all).

For more help cleaning out your closet, click here.

6. Outdoor Gear

By now, at the beginning of January with the winter in full swing, we all have a good sense of what winter gear we’ll actually wear and which coats, hats, and mittens no one in your household hasn’t (or won’t!) touch. Go through all of it and donate any coats, scarves, hats, boots, and gloves that are still in good condition. Somebody out there will be grateful. I have a friend who keeps a bag of hats, gloves, scarves, and socks to give to the homeless. It’s a thoughtful way to make sure needed items get into the right hands.

7. Cards, Boxes, Ribbons, and Bows

Hold onto only the most important cards you’d like to keep for sentimental reasons, then recycle the rest. When I was a kid, we’d make custom gift tags with last year’s cards. It was always a fun project mom gave us to keep us out of her hair, and a great way to recycle them before recycling was even a thing. Here’s how. Decide just how many cardboard boxes you’ll need for returns and/or storage, and recycle the rest. Will you really reuse those gift bags, ribbons, and bows? If they will easily get smashed before next year, may as well toss them now.

8. The Awful Gifts

I have a friend that brings me a goodie bag each time he visits. So very thoughtful – and appreciated! – but sometimes that lovely gift contains items that just “aren’t me”. Then there’s the mother-in-law that gives you a floral, flouncy blouse when you only ever wear plain solids. Or perhaps you’ve received the dreaded fruitcake. We may hold onto a gift we know we’ll likely never use out of guilt. It’s okay to donate or re-gift these items. If you do re-gift something, do so in a thoughtful way that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and certainly don’t re-gift amongst your family or circle of friends. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. It’s possible to be grateful for a gift without keeping it.

9. Leftovers

I had 12 people for a holiday dinner, and in my inevitable way of over-estimating how much people will actually eat, made two lasagnas and 30 meatballs. Even after forcing my guests to take home a doggie bag, we’re still eating leftovers days later. Not to mention the leftover cheese, fatty meats, crackers, olives, and nuts from the charcuterie board. If the holidays left your fridge a little more stuffed than usual like mine, let’s clean it out. Start by removing everything and wiping down the shelves. Freeze items that you’re sick of but are still good. Toss out leftovers that are past their prime (the USDA recommends after three to five days), before replacing everything. For tips on giving your fridge a deep clean, click here.

In the pantry, consider donating any shelf-stable foods you didn’t use during the holiday season, such as canned cranberry sauce or extra canned vegetables. Find a place to donate food here.

10. Linens

Maybe when you hosted holiday guests overnight, you realized that your spare set of sheets has seen better days. Or maybe you invested in a new set of sheets and are ready to part with the old ones. Either way, the post-holiday period is the perfect time to declutter your linen closet to determine which bedding and towels need to go. And, if this is the case, your must have missed our Hosting Overnight Guests post. (BTW, if you’re in the market for some fresh sheets, January is historically a time for bedding sales.)

11. Winter Sports Gear

I am not a winter sports person, unless riding in a horse-drawn carriage counts. But if you are and have things like skis or snowshoes, ice skates, or a sled or saucer, now’s a good time to check on your winter activity gear. Do those skates still fit? Do they need sharpening? Do your kids have skates they’ve outgrown? Donate any gear that no longer works for you but might be of use to someone else, then schedule any maintenance that your gear might need.

12. Duplicates

My fella gave me a lovely pair of earrings for Christmas this year. They were identical to the ones he’d given me two years prior and were actually on my ears the night before. LOL. If loved ones were extra-generous with the holiday gifts this year, or forgot what they’d given you previously, you may find you now have duplicative belongings. What to do? Exchange, donate, trade, sell. And let it be guilt-free.

 

Just making this “To Do” list gives me some piece of mind knowing that in the next weekend or two the holiday clutter will be gone. I’ll be able to enjoy calm and relaxing time at home knowing I’ve decluttered, cleaned up, and cleared out. Plus I now have a leg up for when spring cleaning season arrives, and next holiday season there just might be enough room to buy some new holiday stuff. Love the Place You Live even more after après-holiday decluttering. Happy New Year!

14 Tips For Hosting Overnight Guests

Last year, some friends invited us for dinner and an overnight at their new home. They live a good 30 minutes away, so the idea of spending the night was welcome. While I have occasional overnight visits from friends and family and have always thought I did a pretty good job of providing my guests with “essentials”, our friends proved that I had a lot to learn. From the moment we entered their guest room, we felt like they had eagerly anticipated our stay and had provided not only thoughtful items like phone chargers but also fun things like a goodie bag. (!) Since then, I have become much more proficient in preparing my home for guests, and I hope this guide will help you too – especially with the holidays just around the corner. Trying to leave no comfort stone unturned, here are 14 essentials for hosting overnight guests.

1.      Welcome

No matter if they are friends or family, there’s always a moment of awkwardness at first. After all, your guests are staying in a relatively unfamiliar place unused to how your household works and runs. As host, you want to dispel any discomfort by making your welcome as warm and comforting as a good hug. Show your guests to their room, where to put their suitcases and unpacked clothes, and give them a quick tour of where to find everything they may need. A small container of fresh flowers is always a thoughtful and welcoming touch.

2.      Unpack

Consider having a luggage rack on hand. Not only will it be a nice convenience for your guests, but trust me, you’ll use it every time you pack for a trip. It’s a much better option than putting dirty suitcases (and if you ever check your luggage when flying, you know how filthy your bags get) on a nice clean bed. Plus, most luggage racks fold for easy storage behind the door or under the bed. Guests may want to “live” out of their suitcase but do provide a few hangers along with a spot for hanging. Because my spare bedroom closet is filled with my off-season clothing, I installed hooks on the back of the bedroom door. If you’re a renter, you may want to consider using Command Strip hooks, a single over-the-door hook, or a multi over-the-door hook to avoid any damage to the door (unless you plan to leave those nice hooks behind for the next renter 😊).

3.      Sleep

A freshly made bed is a must. While I don’t typically iron sheets, I do iron the pillowcases for my guests. Maybe I’m nuts, but I find an ironed pillowcase softer against the face than a wrinkled one. Find the best sheets according to The New York Times Wirecutter, which rates all kinds of stuff. Their recommended on-a-budget sheets are from Target at just $55 for a queen set. And don’t underestimate the importance of a decent pillow. While some folks seem to manage sleeping on even the flattest, hardest pillows, treat your guests to a truly comfortable pillow. A decent pillow doesn’t need to be expensive, and it’s probably best to avoid feather or down anyway because of possible allergies. Target has these and Amazon has this two-pack of down-alternative pillows.

If you don’t have a guest room, a quality air mattress, a support board for your sleeper sofa, and compressible pillows can still provide your guests with a great rest. Don’t forget a cozy blanket!

For more tips on giving your guests blissful rest, check out our post on Getting A Great Night’s Sleep.

4.      Bathe

If your guests are just spending the night, they may not need the same supplies as visitors who will be staying for a few days. Still, it’s a good idea to be fully prepared…just in case. Have a full set (bath towel, hand towel, washcloth) for each person.  For anyone with a headful of hair that might wash it, two bath towels. If your friend forgets their toiletry bag, have new toothbrushes, toothpaste, make-up wipes, soap, body lotion, shampoo, and conditioner at the ready. And let your guests know where wet towels should be hung. Make sure there is actually a spot for wet towels! I stayed at a relative’s home, and it was obvious that the decorative towels in the bathroom were just there to be pretty. There was nowhere else for my wet towel except the doorknob. Ugh.

5.      WiFi

A small sign with your WiFi name and password will be appreciated by your guests so they don’t need to hunt you down to get it. There are many fun options to display this information, like a tabletop sign, a sign with a QR code, or make your own sign and display it on a cute cast iron mouse card holder.

6.      Hydrate

Always have bottled water or a stylish bedside table water carafe/glass set on the nightstand or within arm’s reach if using an air mattress or sofa bed. I don’t know about you, but I always get thirsty during the night (just like a little kid).

7.      Recharge

Your guests will so appreciate finding a charger for their device available for use. It’s one of those things that’s so easy to forget to pack. Purchase chargers with extra-long cords and place one on each nightstand, try a universal charger, or get a cordless charger that can charge multiple devices at once.

8.      Light

According to the Sleep Foundation, a dark room is recommended for the best rest. But sometimes our guest spaces don’t have room-darkening shades, the curtains or blinds don’t fully prevent light from seeping in, or there may be a bright street light outside that spills into the room. Consider having inexpensive sleep masks on hand, or splurge on luxury washable masks.

Although trying to keep the room dark, do provide a nightlight that will gently illuminate the path to the bathroom. A motion sensor nightlight is a perfect addition to the hall.  And do keep a nightlight in the bathroom itself so your guests won’t need to turn on the bright harsh bathroom lighting in the middle of the night to use the facilities. Consider one like this pretty, dimmable light.

9.      Noise

Hoffman Audiology advises that a disturbed night’s sleep can lead to sleepiness and irritability in the short term (and who wants grumpy guests?). There are several different ways you can ensure your guests will rest without noise interruption by offering:

  • A fan. We have friends who bring their own fan (mostly to cover up snoring) wherever they go. That’s a really big bring-along, so I like to provide either a tabletop fan or a large floor fan that easily stores under the bed. Not only can a fan help cover up any background noises, but it can also aid your guest in regulating the temperature in the room.
  • Earplugs. My fella sleeps with earplugs daily and swears they are key in helping him fall asleep easily. They are easy to buy in bulk making them an inexpensive option for your guests’ quiet enjoyment of the night.
  • White noise machine. A white noise machine does not need to cost a fortune! Target carries a Sharper Image product for just $14.99. The New York Times Wirecutter recommends this one as an upgrade.

10. Temperature

Extremes in temperature can ruin bedtime. But even small shifts can mean the difference between a smooth transition into dreamland or a fitful night’s sleep. The common recommendation for a good ambient temperature for sleeping is in the range of 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. A fan will help your overnighter cool things down, but what if they’re too chilly?

  • These calming sleep socks would be a luxurious gift for perpetually cold friends. Or buy a three-pack of nubby socks your guests can also use as slippers.
  • Add a throw to the bed. Here is a list of the best including options for all seasons and price ranges.

11. Goodie Bag

My favorite find in a guest room was a goodie bag prepared by our hosts with our tastes in mind. So thoughtful, and so fun! Pack a small gift bag with individual-sized packets of chips, sweets, and nuts. Think salty, sweet, crunchy chewy. Throw in a miniature bottle of your guest’s favorite adult beverages, or a can/bottle of their preferred soda or juice. Your guests will think you are the host with the most!

12. House Rules

After your guests unpack, let them know your house rules:

  • Are all items in the fridge, pantry, and bar up for grabs?
  • What time will breakfast be served (if at all)?
  • Are they allowed to feed the dog snacks?
  • If they arise first, can they make coffee?
  • Should they strip the bed on the last morning of their stay?

13. Breakfast

If you plan on offering breakfast, it makes it much easier for you and your guests if you’ve prepared in advance. For a continental breakfast, try this delicious homemade banana bread, donuts, or muffins with fresh fruit and coffee. Maybe some yogurt and granola. For something more substantial, but still very easy to serve in the morning (just heat and eat!), try our Christmas Strata which is quite satisfying any time of year and can be made the day before and will most assuredly wow your guests.

14. Sanctuary

As host, your goal is to create a sanctuary for your guests – not just a place to sleep, but also a place where they can sneak away if needed for a nap, a quiet conversation, to take a call, or to take a break from socializing.  Follow our guide and you will master successfully hosting overnight guests, the essentials, and more. Happy hosting, and happy holidays!

 

 

12 Ways to Turn Your Apartment Into a Christmas Wonderland

12 Ways to Turn Your Apartment Into a Christmas Wonderland

 

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas at your place, or do you think you just don’t have the room to decorate?  No matter the size of your home, there are always ways to bring the festive look and feel of the season to your place without breaking the bank or requiring a plethora of pre-holiday storage space. In fact, we have 12 ideas for ways you can turn your apartment into a Christmas wonderland!

1. Size Doesn’t Matter

Finding room for a tree in a small space or a room that doesn’t have a big empty corner can be tough. Rather than skip the tree altogether, how about a small tree that can fit nicely in a corner or a narrow tree that can squeeze in between furnishings? Small trees can make big statements with the right ornaments and plenty of lights. Even a tabletop tree can add a holiday flair to your home.  If you’re worried about not having enough storage for an artificial tree and ornaments, you can always get a real tree and decorate it with layers of fake snow and pine cones which can be tossed after the holidays. This kind of tree embraces a natural woodland look and can be quite pretty.

2. Be Surfa-ficial

In other [real] words, take advantage of all the flat surfaces throughout your home. Your coffee table is the center of your living room space and can become the centerpiece for your holiday decor. Add a themed garland, large Christmas ornaments, or even a basket full of greens and pinecones to the table to create a cozy central arrangement. Add a few flameless candles to set the mood. Carry the décor to your kitchen and bathroom counters, dresser or nightstand surfaces, your TV stand – the possibilities are almost endless.

3. Be Subtle

Subtle touches of holiday cheer throughout your home can tie in a holiday theme that makes your dwelling feel comfy and cozy. A small winter scape on a window ledge, holiday-themed kitchen accessories, or a seasonal garland or wreath over your bathroom mirror can invigorate the holiday spirit in your place.

4. Be A Wallflower

Hanging displays or floating shelves are a great way to optimize vertical space. Your wall space can become a replacement for a mantel, a place to hang stockings or provide a fun way to display Christmas cards. For parents, floating shelves make a great elf-on-the-shelf display. Make use of wall space by spreading out the shelves and laying garland or twinkle lights to create a winter atmosphere. Use holiday-themed tape and free paint swatches from the hardware store along with squares of wrapping paper to create a flat yet colorful Christmas tree on the wall.

5. Window Dressing

Your windows are the eyes of your home. Make use of the windows by constructing winterscapes on the windowsills, or hanging a wreath in the window. Hang large snowflakes in the window for a Christmas look that will last through the winter. Wrap lights around your curtain rods or drape them over your blinds to create a bright and airy vibe.

6. Shelves For Elves

Utilize the top of bookshelves or cabinets to lay out decor like ornaments and even tinsel. If you do not have a fireplace, you can use a bookshelf in its place to hang stockings or display Christmas cards.

7. Swap It

Swap out kitchen towels, sheets, throw blankets, and bathroom towels with holiday-themed ones to add a maximized look to your small space. Festive linens are a cute touch for any guest entering your home. The same applies to dishes and tableware!

8. Burn Baby Burn

Festive decor is not only about what you can see but also about the smell. Lean into the scents of the holidays by burning candles that smell like some of your favorite Christmas memories. Candles can also generate a relaxing ambiance, which is a great way to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the season. Just be sure to protect your surfaces from dripping wax, and never leave lit candles unattended.

9. Door Dressing

A perfect way to welcome your guests into your holiday home is with a seasonal wreath or doormat right at the entrance, even if it’s just to your apartment. Your guests will know they’ve stepped into Santa’s workshop with cute festive pieces. Select a wreath that welcomes the spirit of the season and a doormat that displays welcoming cheer.

10. Terrific Tablescapes

The holidays are a great time for get-togethers and parties, greet your guests with a bar or kitchen table that screams Christmas. Select a table runner that showcases snowy scenes, grab a candle or two that smell like pine trees, and don’t forget to add some snacks!

11. Cozy Cocoa

Revamp your bar cart by creating a hot chocolate or cider station. Swap out shakers for marshmallows and chocolate spoons. Grab holiday mugs that tout the Christmas spirit. You can still keep traditional items in your bar cart to create a hot toddy station for those wishing to indulge.

12. Greens Galore

Add fresh greens in swags, garlands, or containers to bring the outdoors in, bringing lovely scents  – especially if you can find cedar branches – into your home. Sprigs of greens are an easy and expensive way to create special scenes throughout your apartment. Kick them up a notch by adding pinecones, frosted fruits and berries, an ornament or two, and finish it off with a bit of pretty ribbon or a bow.

Bonus: Party Pets

Get your furry friends in on the action with some cute holiday gear. Whether it’s a festive collar, hat, and/or sweater, decking your dog or kitty will surely bring a smile to your face.

So there you have it. We hope you’re inspired to make the most of your home this holiday season with a little (or a lot!) of festive decor. Turning your apartment into a Christmas wonderland can be anything from quick, easy, and inexpensive to time-consuming and elaborate. It’s all up to you! No matter how you celebrate, we wish you the happiest and most joyful holiday season. And tell your dog we said hi.

6 Ways To Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season

6 Ways To Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season

 

​The holiday season is upon us! It’s the most wonderful time of the year… provided it does not include an emergency visit to a veterinary clinic for your beloved pet. To keep your holidays merry and bright, and your pup or kitty safe, we’ve come up with a few tips so your pet gets nothing but love, plenty of scritches, and perhaps a new toy from Santa Paws. Here’s our guide with six ways to keep your pet safe this holiday season.

1. FOOD

Food and the holidays go hand in hand. Even if you are not entertaining, you will probably have foods in your home that are new to your pet. The best practice is simple: keep all “people food” out of the reach of your pet. And if your pet is like mine, they can become quite devious in their seek-to-eat escapades. One year I was enjoying a glass of red and a bit of 65% dark chocolate while addressing Christmas cards. When I let the room to get a refill, I tucked the candy into the desk drawer. In the amount of time it took me to top off my wine glass, Ollie had opened the drawer (?!?) and consumed all the chocolate. He was only 10 pounds, the chocolate was dark and gone, so off we went to the emergency animal hospital. I find it so interesting that whenever one of my dogs gets into trouble, it’s always after normal vet office hours. Cha-ching.

So skip the table scrap snacks. If you’re a softie and must treat your pup to human food,

Treat your dog to:

  • Pumpkin puree (out of the can, not from the pie)
  • Unseasoned cooked veggies (sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, green beans, broccoli, carrots)
  • Turkey (unseasoned and without bones)
  • Apples (no core or seeds) and bananas
  • Unsweetened cranberries
  • Safe and special treats on the Santa Paws list might include:
    • Chew toys that are basically indestructible
    • Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods
    • Chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible
    • Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the riskiest toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn, and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery.
    • Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy, or the interactive cat dancer.

Tell Rover “Absolutely Not” to:

  • Bones can easily splinter and can cause serious health problems (even death) for your pet.
  • Candy contains the sweetener xylitol which can actually lead to liver failure, so keep sweets of all kinds away from your pup, cat, or ferret.
  • Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be extremely poisonous when ingested by dogs and may even result in seizures and death.
  • Dairy products like milk, cream, cheese, and butter are bad for dogs. They can cause diarrhea and other digestive disturbances as well as allergic reactions in dogs.
  • The entire onion family including onion flakes, onion powder, chives, and garlic, may be an ingredient in many holiday foods from mashed potatoes to gravy to stuffing. In fresh, cooked, dried, or powdered form, onions can lead to damaged blood cells and anemia.
  • Ham and bacon can cause pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease, in dogs.
  • Nutmeg, in significant amounts, can be toxic, causing hallucinations, stomach pain, and possibly even seizures. Other spices can be dangerous, too, so it’s best not to feed dogs treats from your holiday dinner.
  • Nuts have very high fat content and may contain other toxins that can result in stomach upset or other serious health complications. Macadamia nuts, in particular, when fed to your furry family member even in small amounts, can be especially toxic and result in vomiting, tremors, paralysis, rapid heartbeat, and other complications.
  • Citrus and pits. Keep foods containing citric acid away from your pets. Foods such as cherry pits, peach pits, and apple seeds contain essential oils that can cause irritations, blockages and even central nervous system depression if a significant amount if they are ingested.
  • Caffeine from coffee, tea, or chocolate is an ingredient in some desserts or other holiday dishes. Caffeine can actually be fatal to canines.
  • Raisins and grapes consumed even in small quantities may cause rapid kidney failure in some dogs, and fruitcakes are one holiday offering likely to contain them. If you were thinking that you could unload an unwanted fruitcake on your pup, think again.
  • Salt abounds in many holiday dishes, and when consumed by dogs can cause excessive thirst, urination, or worse. It’s especially detrimental to dogs with underlying kidney or cardiovascular conditions.
  • Sugar found in most holiday desserts can fuel cavities, obesity, and even diabetes. It’s also bad for dogs with arthritis.
  • Alcohol has the same effect on dogs’ livers and brains as on humans’, but it doesn’t take as much to cause serious damage and can even lead to respiratory distress, tremors, coma, and death. That rum cake? Off limits for Rover!
  • Eggnog is loaded with fat, sugar, milk, raw eggs, and alcohol, making it a quintuple whammy, none of which is good for Whisker’s health—or yours, for that matter.

 2. DECK THE HALLS

Who doesn’t love a beautifully decorated home for the holidays? Your pets may love your decorations too much. To keep your pet safe, follow these tips:

  • All By Myself. Never leave your pet alone in the room with lit candles, a decorated tree, or potpourri.
  • Boughs of Holly. Avoid mistletoe, lilies, and holly. Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.
  • Tinsel Town. Kitties love the sparkly, light-catching tinsel “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration, and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.
  • Oh, Christmas Tree. Secure your Christmas tree to keep it from falling over if your dog bumps it or your cat climbs it. A falling tree may injure your pet (not to mention precious ornaments!). A properly secured tree will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe. Hanging lemon-scented car air fresheners in the tree may deter your cat from climbing it.
  • Make sure your dogs or cats do not chew on limbs or droppings from the tree. Ingested pine needles could become lodged in the intestinal tract, puncturing the lining, or bunching together and causing an intestinal obstruction.
  • That Holiday Glow. Never leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candleholders, and place them on a stable surface. When you leave the room, put the candle out.
  • An Open Fire. If your dog enjoys chewing, avoid fake and fire starter logs. They contain sawdust and paraffin which can cause an irritated stomach or even intestinal blockage when ingested.
  • All Wired Up. Keep wires, batteries, strings of lights, and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. At the same time, shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth and digestive tract.

3. SILENT NIGHT

Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water, a place to snuggle, and a favorite toy or two. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case, kennel, crate, perching place, scratching post shelf, or hiding place or in a separate room away from the hubbub and to escape the excitement (such as a if you’re entertaining guests).

Though the excitement of a party may overwhelm some pets, keep your pets inside during cold weather and provide plenty of toys to keep them busy.

Prepare ahead of your scheduled party time with lots of play and exercise to discourage barking.

As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. And remember that many pets are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches.

4. GUESTS

Inform your visitors ahead of time that you have a pet, as some folks may be afraid of dogs or have allergies to pet dander.

Establish house rules with your guests regarding your animals. These rules should include your food and treat preferences, whether guests can feed from the table, if your pet enjoys being held (or not), and what kind of play is appropriate.  If your guests have small children, be sure you and their parents carefully watch to ensure kids don’t handle your pet too roughly or pay it too much attention.

Ask animal-loving guests if they’d like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party. If they are so inclined, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.

Safeguard your medications behind secure doors, and tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.

5. TRASH

Pets who enjoy selecting their own snacks out of the trash bin (baaaad dog) can accidentally eat foods that are potentially poisonous to them. Keep trash in tightly sealed containers or hidden somewhere your pet can’t access.

6. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario:

  • Identify your closest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic before an emergency occurs.
  • Write down or store the number for your veterinarian or pet hospital on your phone.
  • Research, then save your pet hospital or clinic’s holiday hours.
  • Write down or store the number of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435 on your phone. Note that a consultation fee may apply.

For those of us who love our pets, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them! Following simple guidelines can make sure your beloved pet stays safe this holiday season. And tell your dog we said hi.

 

 

 

Moving Checklist

 

The Ultimate Moving Checklist

So, you’ve visited one of our clean, comfortable, and well-maintained apartment communities, loved it (YAY!), applied, set your move-in date, and are ready to Love The Place You Live. We can’t wait. But now the grim reality of packing up your stuff, hiring a truck, deep cleaning your old place, schlepping your stuff, unpacking, decorating, and maybe even buying some new furniture sets in. It’s never easy, but we’re here to help you plan this next adventure so your move can be as smooth and stress-free as possible with our Moving Checklist.

One To Two Months Before Moving

Give Notice

First on our Moving Checklist is giving notice. The standard notice for most landlords is between 30 to 90 days. But this can vary by state and rental agreement, so be sure to check your lease/rental agreement. Ask your landlord/property manager to schedule a walk-through so you can be sure to do everything that’s expected for a full security deposit refund. An alternative is to photograph your empty place to prove you left it in good condition. Don’t forget to provide your forwarding address so there won’t be a delay in receiving your refund.

Schedule Cancellation of Utilities and Services

Contact each provider and let them know the effective date to terminate or transfer your service. Providers may include:

  • Water and sewer
  • Internet and cable
  • Gas and electric
  • Renters Insurance
  • Gym (if moving too far to continue membership)

Purge

A move is the perfect time to get rid of clothing, furniture, cookware, small appliances, and accessories you don’t use or no longer want. Why pay to move them?  Check our guide to assist you with purging your clothing.

Pick a Moving Company | Reserve a Truck Rental | Enlist a Friend with a Truck

Start now to ensure you have a truck for your planned moving day. If you’re using a moving company, be sure to check their reviews so you hire a reputable firm and get the best price. Large companies will be happy to provide you with an estimate, or you can get a ballpark price on many moving company’s websites. Confirm your moving company is licensed and insured by verifying their Department of Transportation (DOT) number.

Consider purchasing moving insurance to cover any damage. I learned the hard way (and by not reading the fine print), that most moving companies will not cover damages.

Create a Moving Binder or Digital Moving Folder

Key on our moving checklist is to use a three-ring binder or create a moving folder on Google Drive to keep track of everything—all your estimates, receipts, and an inventory of all the items you’re moving. Take photos of each room to assist you with the inventory. Photos and inventory will also come in handy if you need to file a claim for damaged goods.

Organize School Records

If you have kids, be sure to go to your children’s school and arrange for their records to be transferred to their new school district.

Get Supplies and Start Packing

Having the right supplies will not only ensure you can pack all your stuff but also that it will fit well inside the truck.

Moving supplies are readily available from your selected moving company and truck-rental facilities like U-Haul. In addition to boxes, consider getting tape, Bubble Wrap, and permanent markers. Don’t forget to order specialty containers, such as dish barrels or wardrobe boxes. Be sure to label all your boxes with the destination room and contents. Consider color-coding by room. Be sure to mark any boxes containing fragile items as such. Remove light bulbs from all lamps.

  • Walmart has a deal for 36 boxes, tape, bubble wrap, and packing paper for $92. Using uniformly sized boxes can help make packing up a truck much more efficient.
  • For items to take in your car, consider inexpensive IKEA bags. And the best news – while you can go to IKEA to get them, they are also available to buy on Amazon. I’ve moved almost too many times to count, and IKEA bags are a dream. They hold a boatload of clothes, towels, and sheets – and you can nestle breakable or large, unwieldy items In between the soft items. But use these only in your vehicle – having sturdy, taped containers for the moving truck is best.

Electronics

  • Take photos of all your electronics so you’ll have a guide for hooking everything back up.
  • Back up your computer.

Change Your Address

Important on any moving checklist is to make a comprehensive list and add it to your moving binder. Make notes of the dates you speak to anyone on the phone and get their name. Also note anything the agent tells you, like if you’ll owe money beyond the termination date.

  • United States Post Office (USPS). Click here to change your address online.
  • Voter Registration
  • Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, IRS
  • Landlord/Property Management Office
  • Physicians, dentists, and veterinarians (be sure to ask that your records be transferred to any new providers).
  • School (for your kids or you if you’re at university)
  • Credit card companies and banks
  • Subscription services
  • Department of Motor Vehicles for your car registration and drivers license
  • Auto Insurance Company
  • Your Employer (for your W2 form)
  • Amazon, Chewy (or any store that delivers to you regularly)
  • Don’t forget your friends and family! To make it really easy, you can send out cute a postcard with your new address or you can send a  digital

Request Time Off from Work

Unless you are super-organized and don’t have too much furniture, you’ll probably need to allow more than just a weekend to move. Add moving dates to your calendar so there are no conflicts.

Eat Everything

Try and consume everything in your fridge, freezer, and pantry so you don’t have to pack your food. You especially don’t want to try and transport perishables. Donate any nonperishable food items to a local food pantry.

Moving Week

  • Confirm your moving date with the movers, rental truck company, or friend-with-a-truck.
  • Warn neighbors so your truck doesn’t block anyone in.
  • Confirm transfer of utilities and services.
  • Clean your old apartment paying special attention to kitchens and bathrooms. Remove all trash. Clean out closets and storage areas.
  • Organize personal items to take in your car like a couple of changes of clothing, toiletries, and medication so you don’t have to hunt through all your belongings to find what you need. You should also keep valuables with you such as jewelry and important documents like birth certificates and passports.
  • If you’re moving with a furry friend, make sure your pet has an ID tag, and arrange for a pet sitter.
  • Line up a sitter for your kids.

The Day Before

  • Remind your neighbors that there will be a truck taking up space the next day; say goodbye to neighbors who have become friends.
  • Get cash for tipping anyone who helps with the move and for the pizza delivery person on your first night. Trust me, pizza or other food delivery will make your first night in your new place much less stressful.
  • Go out to eat the night before your move so you don’t mess up your sparkling-clean kitchen and create more trash to take out.
  • Shop for snacks and drinks to have on hand on a moving day, and pack some paper towels, toilet paper, basic cleaning supplies, trash bags, and maybe even paper plates, cups, and plastic silverware.

Moving Day

  • Inspect your old place to be sure you haven’t left anything behind, including trash, and that the apartment is clean. Turn off all the lights, close the windows, turn the thermostat to 55 degrees, and lock the door behind you.
  • Check your mailbox one last time.
  • Turn in your keys! Many landlords will charge rent against your security deposit until they have possession of the apartment, meaning your keys are in their hands.

Your New Home

  • You’ve done it! Your first order of business should be to inspect your apartment and note anything that you don’t want to get charged for, such as a stain on the carpet, missing switch plates, bent blinds, or torn screen. Document in writing and take photos. Many apartment communities will provide you with an Inspection Form to use.
  • Don’t forget to update your driver’s license.
  • Go grocery shopping.
  • Meet your neighbors. Here’s a how-to guide.
  • Now for the unpacking and decorating. For me, it’s the best part. Opening each box is like Christmas morning. And finding new homes for all my thingy. Maybe I’m weird, but I love it. As you begin, check out our guide for hanging artwork in your new place.

Well done. You’ve survived the move. We hope that our moving checklist checked all your boxes. Welcome home.

 

How To Host Thanksgiving In Your Apartment

how to host thanksgiving dinner in your apartment

How To Host Thanksgiving In Your Apartment

 

The season of turkey, pumpkin pie, football, friends, family, and food baby is just around the corner. If you have more than a couple folks to celebrate with, but not a lot of space to celebrate in, we’re here to help. Hosting Thanksgiving in your apartment will take a bit of ingenuity and careful planning, but it’s certainly doable. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, you can keep your event from becoming a stress fest or a hot mess with good advance planning. Preparing a strategy ahead of time will allow you to relax when the big day arrives. Our recent How To Host A Potluck focused mainly on the eats, this How-To host Thanksgiving in your apartment guide will help you optimize seating, refrigerator storage, and more.

Be creative about counter space and storage

In an apartment typically without an abundance of counter space, you’ll have to make every square foot of empty surface space count. One trick is to “recruit” some of your furniture for meal prep. Seriously! You can use your dining table and chairs, coffee table, and the like as surfaces for cooling pots, pies,  and other desserts.

In our Create More Kitchen Storage Space post, we explored many ways to add space-saving solutions for apartment kitchens, such as installing wall hooks to hang pans and cooking utensils. When it’s time to eat, you can set up the food buffet-style in the kitchen or on a piece of furniture away from where you’ll be dining to save space on the table. If that’s not possible, try  using cake stands to elevate some dishes on a crowded table, which will make room for other serve ware underneath.

Ready your fridge

Thoroughly clean your refrigerator before you begin cooking and storing. Throw out any expired food and anything you know you’ll never eat, drink, or use again. Here’s our guide on how to do just that. Ideally, your fridge will be almost empty as you begin to prep your food. This allows for plenty of room to store everything ahead of time. Plus, one of the perks of hosting is that you’ll have leftovers to keep. When it comes to packing your fridge and freezer, don’t forget that you can probably adjust the shelves to make them more efficient. Shift them around to free up space to stack storage containers. Another creative storage solution is to store items in plastic zipper bags. They’re malleable and easy to stack up in a fridge while taking up little space, making them a great way to store things like cranberry sauce, make-ahead gravy, dinner rolls, and pre-prepped veggies.

Prepare food in advance

Allowing yourself plenty of time to prepare is essential when storage and counter space are tight, not to mention when you’re working with only a few kitchen appliances. Start prepping your Thanksgiving menus a full week in advance. A practical solution for making a Thanksgiving meal is to make as much as you can ahead. Figure out what can be put together the day before, and what needs to be made the day of. You can make the pies, gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes ahead. Sauces and baked goods can be made the furthest in advance, with most pies and cakes having a shelf life of three to four days. Some sides can be made up to two days out, such as mashed potatoes and make-ahead stuffing.

Then, on Thanksgiving Day, all you need to do is roast the turkey and make the veggies. More prep work in advance means less work and less stress on Thanksgiving Day. This will also minimize bodies in the kitchen, which helps keep your kitchen from feeling cramped and hectic.

Expand your dining table 

Fitting all your guests at a table in your apartment can be tricky as most apartment dining rooms are sized for four people. And maybe this time you’ll decide to invite neighbors to your fete! Try putting several small tables together to create one long one. If possible, make sure they are all the same height and width. Then toss a tablecloth over all of them, and nobody will know the difference! If you don’t have smaller tables on hand, take this opportunity to invest in a few folding tables and chairs that can be easily stored once the holiday is over. If your space is so limited that it doesn’t allow for even a makeshift dining table, no worries. My sister-in-law rents a couple of bar-height tables and puts them in the middle of her living room. No one ever minds standing up to eat, and this dining format really encourages guests to mingle.  Or maybe some people can eat at the table, some on the sofa, maybe even some on the floor. Believe me, where your guests eat is much less important than what they eat and with whom they share the holiday.

Have guests their own (folding) chairs

When I got my first apartment, I moved in with just bedroom furniture. But that didn’t stop me from throwing a Cinco Di Mayo party. The invitation noted that guests should BYOC (bring your own chair.) My friends thought that was a hoot! They each brought a folding chair, lawn chair, or stadium chair, and everyone ate with their plates on their laps. Everyone has a great time despite (or because of?) the untraditional seating.

Rearrange furniture

The dining room isn’t the only space to consider. Even if everyone fits around the table, think about after-dinner relaxation, game-watching, and mingling. Try to balance space for your guests to move with seating to accommodate everyone. This can be accomplished by temporarily removing furniture that won’t be used and shifting couches and chairs to the perimeter of the room. If the day is mild, you can also utilize your patio, deck, or balcony.

 Create a place for coats and bags

Once you have finalized the guest list, decide where your guests’ coats, bags, and boots (if the weather is inclement) will go. Depending on where you live, most people will arrive in coats, and many will have bags. You don’t want these items to take up valuable space in the eating area, and if you’re lucky enough to have an entry closet, it’s probably already pretty full. Your bed can make the perfect place for everyone to lay their coats and bags. Or consider purchasing a coat tree to place by your front door. Spread out an old towel or some brown paper bags to collect any we footwear.

Buffet it

Set food up on one table, buffet style, and let everyone serve themselves. Your buffet can be on the kitchen counter, side table, dining table (if people will be sitting elsewhere), or on a rented folding table. This works especially well if you have a non-traditional seating situation.

Cold beverage storage

Since your fridge will probably be very full, fill your [very clean] bathtub with ice for cold wine, soft drinks, mixers, and beer. Consider adding a big bowl for clean ice service.

 Use disposables

I’m seldom one for recommending single-use anything, but Thanksgiving dinner is an exception – especially if the number of guests exceeds your plate and flatware counts. Using attractive seasonal paper dinnerware, nice paper napkins, and plastic silverware is a very smart option. There will be plenty, even if some guests toss the first plate before going back for seconds, and the cleanup will be significantly easier.  And we do want to make hosting Thanksgiving in your apartment as easy as possible.

Right after COVID, and SO READY to entertain again, I had an usually large crowd (for me) of eight for Thanksgiving. I decided to get some pretty paper and plastic products instead of using my “real” plates and cloth napkins. Everyone loved how coordinated and festive the table looked. I chose dinner, salad, and dessert plates, plus cocktail and dinner napkins. Other than the pots and pans, cleanup was a breeze.

If you prefer to use your own dishes, you can add fall- or Thanksgiving-themed appetizer, salad, and dessert plates with coordinating napkins. If that sounds like overkill, choose pretty Thanksgiving-themed dinner napkins.

Pre-clean

When you host Thanksgiving in your apartment, you will need to clean your place and clean it well. A clean apartment always feels more spacious and inviting than a dirty one. Clea out the fridge, wipe counters and floors, wipe down bathrooms, vacuum, and dust to prepare your home for your Thanksgiving Day guests. You should also guest-proof your home. This may sound paranoid, but even if you know everyone who’s coming well, advance preparations will make you more comfortable in the long run.

  • Help prevent breakage. There’s always the chance some of your things can get broken, especially if children are joining you for dinner. Remove anything valuable or personally important, or that’s low to the ground. Store these things somewhere out of the way to keep them safe.
  • Protect yourself from The Snoop. Some guests like to snoop. Anything you’d like to keep private like medications, mail, or personal items, consider hiding away.

Stock your bathrooms

Keep your bathrooms well-stocked with tissues, toilet paper, personal products, and soap, making sure that extra items are easy to find. Disposable hand towels will prevent one cloth towel from getting overly wet and gross. Be sure your bathroom trash can is in sight. On Thanksgiving Day, set a timer on your phone to remind you to do periodic bathroom checks. Then a quick wipe and swipe will keep your bathroom fresh (because people, as a general rule, are pigs). A thoughtful touch is placing a small bowl of mints on the bathroom counter so your guests can freshen their mouths.

Declutter

Not only is clutter unappealing to the eye, but it takes up precious real estate that could be used for a serving platter, or a few bottles of wine, or an extra chair. One of the simplest Thanksgiving solutions for small spaces is to clear your surfaces of unnecessary items. Leave out just enough décor to keep your apartment feeling cozy and festive and store the rest. You can bring it all back out the next day as you begin to decorate before Christmas. LOL.

 

The most important thing about hosting Thanksgiving is making your guests feel welcome, cared for, and satisfied with the food and the camaraderie.  Any successful party is as much about lively conversation and laughter as it is good food. People gather during the holidays to celebrate family and friends and to enjoy the company of people they love and enjoy.  No matter what size apartment you have, you can make this Thanksgiving one to remember. Just focus on what you do have to work with, and you’ll do an amazing job hosting Thanksgiving in your apartment.

Create More Kitchen Storage in Your Apartment

 

When she was in college, I helped my daughter move into her first non-dorm apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was a cute studio apartment with one (albeit huge) window, a living/sleeping area, a bathroom, and a kitchen. But I was shocked to the core by how incredibly small her kitchen was. There was a refrigerator, a single bowl sink, and the tiniest stove I’d ever seen. The entire kitchen is pictured below.

Of course, it never seems we have enough storage no matter how much space we actually have (at least that’s always the case with me. LOL.). So if you’re like me, always needing more storage, here are some ways to create more kitchen storage in your apartment.

Use shelf risers.

Shelf risers can almost double your cabinet and pantry storage space. Bonus: they’re not super expensive. Use them to store extra plates, bowls, glasses, and mugs in your cabinets; and canned goods in your pantry.

Steal space from an adjoining room.

An alcove, nook, or empty wall in an adjacent room or hallway can be a great spot to add some shelves or a storage unit.

Add a utility cart.

A little wheeled utility cart can work wonders to give you a little more space. You can tuck it under a countertop or hide it inside a lesser-used closet when you need the floor space more than the stuff. A narrow shelf or rolling storage cart can be a stylish and practical addition to a small kitchen. Choose a low-profile design that can easily slide against a wall or into a corner. Stock it with dishes, glassware, and other items that will look good on display.

Check out IKEA’s Raskog cart or this narrow cart from Amazon. They are small but still have plenty of room for storage. And because they’re on wheels, they can be pushed into a closet or the corner of a room and pulled out to meet you at your workspace when you need it.

Hang a pegboard.

Think Julia Child’s kitchen. A pegboard creates about as much damage to your wall as hanging a picture. You can use a pegboard to store a myriad of items from utensils to awkwardly large pots and pans with specially designed accessories. You’ll just need to spackle the holes before you move (here’s how). A pegboard is a simple storage solution that can work wonders in a small kitchen. Affix a pegboard with repositionable hooks to a wall or the inside of a tall cabinet door to hang kitchen supplies. As your storage needs change, simply remove and rearrange the hooks to efficiently store cookware, utensils, and so much more.

Hang a curtain rod or pot rack.

Use a small curtain rod to hang your utensils (with S hooks or just hooked on), and slide the lids of your pots and pan behind it. This will free up a surprising amount of space for other things (and there will always be other things).  A pot rack or a sturdy bar can provide handy storage for all types of cookware. Mount it on a wall next to the prep area or directly above the cooktop so pots and pans are easily within reach. A mounted pot rack really helps save cabinet space and makes items easier to access. If you have limited wall space, a helpful small kitchen decor idea is to hang the rack from the ceiling or over a window.

Use adhesive hooks.

Use adhesive wall-mount hooks (like Command Hooks) to hang items that would otherwise take up space on the counter or in a drawer. A set of hooks make a great kitchen catchall adding valuable kitchen storage space. Use them for kitchen towels, cutting boards, and utensils to keep them out of the way but still within arm’s reach.

Screw hooks under cabinets.

Cup hooks screwed into the bottom of cabinets can create a cute way to hang up mugs, utensils, and other smaller items.  Or you can find cup hooks like these that simply slide into place.

Use the sides of your cabinets.

Put the sides of your cabinets to good use in creating more storage in your kitchen. It’s the perfect spot to hang a magnetic knife block or use adhesive hooks to hang smaller pots and kitchen tools.

Use the tops of cabinets.

If you have space between the top of your cabinets and the ceiling, you can store less frequently items on the tops of your cabinets without making them look cluttered or messy. This gap between your cabinets and the ceiling can be critical in creating additional storage space. Think of a crockpot, a wine rack, or baskets filled with unattractive but necessary items like light bulbs and batteries. I know what some of you are thinking: “But I’m too short to store stuff this high!” A fold-flat stool you can tuck in between your fridge and cabinets will solve this worry!

Use the side of your fridge.

The side of your fridge can be the perfect spot for knife storage or spice storage, using magnetic racks. It’s an ideal spot to tack up grocery lists, hang keys, or sort mail and papers.

Install open shelving.

Create additional kitchen storage beyond your cabinets by installing open shelves. This simple project can transform a blank stretch of a wall into a stylish storage zone for dishware, cookbooks, pantry ingredients, and more. For extra organizing capacity, add hooks along the bottom of a shelf where you can hang mugs or utensils.

Divide cabinet space.

Encourage organization in smaller kitchens with dividers that break up the space inside cabinets. Use either horizontal or vertical cabinet dividers to store skillets, baking sheets, and narrow pans. You can simply slide each one out of its individual slot instead of having to sort through a haphazard stack.

Rethink spice storage.

Small containers of spices and herbs can easily become a jumbled mess inside a cabinet or pantry. To streamline access, dedicate a small drawer or sliver of cabinet space to spice storage. A drawer organizer that holds canisters in an upright position is an optimal storage solution for easy reading. Read our blog dedicated to storing spices here.

Install a small kitchen island.

Squeeze extra prep and storage space into a small kitchen with an island or kitchen cart that’s just the right size and height for your needs. Add-ons such as hooks and bins will help a small island work even harder. If space is especially tight, go with an island on casters to get the look of a built-in without the bulk. During cleanup or while entertaining, just roll the workspace out of the way.

Select small kitchen appliances.

Small appliances are essential to the kitchen, especially when it comes to entertaining and preparing last-minute meals on busy weeknights. Small appliances that pull double-duty, such as a combination air fryer, toaster, and convection oven, will save kitchen space.

Use wall-mounted bins.

A wall-mounted storage system allows a small kitchen to be the administrative hub that it is without taking up floor space. Choose metal bins that match the kitchen color scheme, and add storage labels to make them more functional. This would be a great place to store cooking magazines, bills (UGH), notepads, and the like.

Use windowsills as storage.

If you’re lucky enough to have a window in your kitchen, think about how you can use the sill as storage. Bring the outdoors in by adding plants – perhaps an herb garden, store cookbooks (if the window is not above the sink), or a dishwashing supply station (if the window is above the sink).

Use your windows as storage.

You might never dream of blocking any of that precious natural light, but you could hang your pots and pans in front of your kitchen window. This would also be an ideal spot for a hanging herb garden.

Use the top of your fridge.

The top of the fridge is a great place to store cookbooks, trays, and platters, or baskets filled with items like light bulbs and batteries, or dishtowels.

Hang a magnetic knife rack.

My fella thinks I’m nuts (because he sees threats everywhere LOL), but I love my wall knife rack. When drawer space is at a premium, every square inch counts (and I honestly see more of a threat storing sharp knives in a drawer). Squeeze out a bit more room by taking your cutlery to the walls with a magnetic knife strip. You can even use it to hang things that aren’t knives, like metal utensils.

Use the inside of cabinet and pantry doors.

A perfect spot to hang pot lids, pot holders, measuring spoons, and kitchen towels.

Turn your stovetop into extra counter space.

During dinner prep, your stovetop is just wasted space. A large cutting board creates bonus counter space while you are prepping dinner.

Hide bulky cookware in the oven.

It sounds simple, but if you’ve got a lot of heavy cookware, this trick can make all the difference. It’s a great place to store cast-iron pans and Dutch ovens (especially in a small kitchen). Just remember to relocate them before you preheat that oven.

Hang sink essentials on the sink.

Sink organizers are a total game-changer for storing soaps, sponges, and brushes where you can easily access them. Place them over your sink, next to them, or even attach them and hang them off the faucet for a space-saving way to keep essentials close.

Roll kitchen towels.

Marie Kondo your kitchen towels by rolling them instead of folding and stacking them into a toppling tower. Roll then lay them horizontally in a shallow drawer, or store them in upright rolls in a basket. They look much tidier this way—and don’t become a nuisance every time you need one.

Store canned foods on risers.

Canned foods often get tucked away in a cupboard, stacked on one another, and pushed way to the back. Instead of losing sight of all those cans, place them on risers so you can actually see what you have. An easy way to gain vertical storage is to add risers to pantries and cabinets. They help you fit more in a small space, plus you can see what you have so you don’t end up with a bunch of duplicates.

Use drawer separators.

There is nothing worse than a utensil or small tool drawer that’s messy with everything scattered about. It makes it harder to find what you’re looking for and easier to poke yourself with one of the tools. Drawer separators keep groupings, like utensils, together and are easy to sort through.

Be sure to evaluate your needs as you install the dividers, edit, and toss the duplicates. Sure it’s awesome to have multiple spatulas and non-stick skillets, but if space is a challenge, push yourself to only have one of each. While that may create a slight inconvenience occasionally, it’s better than having overflowing drawers and cabinets.

By adding dividers, everything has a spot and the drawer is less likely to get stuck on stuffed-in tools.

Under sink storage.

Maximize storage space under the sink by stacking bins or plastic drawers filled with sponges, dishwasher pods, rags, and more. Clear storage assures you won’t forget about what you already have. It’s also a great idea to have a plastic tray to store your cleaning supplies in. That way, if anything gets drippy, you just have to clean the tray and not risk warping the floor of the cabinet.

So there you have it. Who knew there were so many ways to create additional storage in any kitchen – large or small? We’d love to hear if you have any other ways to add storage to your kitchen! Let us know in the comments.

 

Sheet Pan Suppers – Your Weeknight Hero

Sheet Pan Suppers – Your Weeknight Hero

Once upon a time, I was crazy enough to commute over an hour to work. Leaving home at 7:00 AM and arriving back at 6:30 PM left me little time to get a hot dinner on the table. Then one day, I learned of sheet pan suppers. They were and still are game-changers. Delicious, easy to prepare, easy to cook, and with easy clean up, sheet pan suppers quickly became my weeknight hero. If you have a busy schedule, try them out! I’ll bet they will become your weeknight hero as well.

Sheet Pan Supper Benefits

  • Easy to prepare. Cut the veggies. Toss ingredients in a fat, like healthy olive oil. Preheat the oven. Place all ingredients on your sheet pan. A great way to use up leftovers.
  • Easy to cook. Your oven does all the work. Place the sheet pan in the oven. Roast until done. Usually around 30 minutes.
  • Easy to clean up. One pan to wash.
  • Your favorite ingredients, all in one place.

The Basic Components

The basic components of sheet pan suppers are:

  • a protein (about two pounds)
  • 2 -3 cups of chopped vegetables
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil (usually olive oil)
  • a sauce or flavoring

The Sheet Pan

Use a half-sheet pan (13″ x 18″ with a one-inch lip) made of heavy-gauge metal. It’s sturdy enough to take high oven heat and broiler heat, if you give the meal a final browning under the broiler. The half-sheet pan is large enough to cook a meal for a family of four and allows for ingredients to be spread out so you don’t crowd the pan. (Crowded pans cause ingredients to steam instead of roast, which will make dinner mushy instead of crispy.) Plus, the rim is low enough for heat to move across the ingredients to give them a crisp, brown, caramelized finish. Jellyroll pans may look the same, but they’re generally smaller and flimsier than half-sheet pans. Half-sheet pans are not expensive, readily available in big box stores, and are multi-taskers that you’ll use again and again for a whole lot more than sheet pan suppers. The quarter sheet pan, measuring about 9” x 13, is terrific for smaller ovens or kitchens as well as for cooking several ingredients in the oven at once without letting the flavors bleed into one another.

PRO TIP: Line the Pan for even easier cleanup.

Line your pan with heavy-duty foil or parchment paper (not waxed paper) to prevent ingredients from sticking to the pan. Kroger has pre-cut parchment paper that’s just the right size to make this process even easier! You will still have to wash the pan, but a well-lined pan cleans up in a jiffy.

The Rack

You’ll bake most sheet pan dinners directly on the pan; that’s how you get those tasty, caramelized surfaces. But if you want to bake breaded chicken or fish along with vegetables, use a wire rack to raise the breaded ingredients above the moisture in the pan. This technique will keep the crisp coating from getting soggy.  You can use this same approach when you’re roasting a cut of beef or pork, so the juices baste the ingredients while the meat gets gloriously browned. It’s a win-win!

The Protein

Use up to 2 pounds of protein per half-sheet pan. At 425°, most proteins cook in 30 minutes or less. All times are approximate. Bone-in meats take the longest. Fish goes fastest. Shrimp takes less than 10 minutes. Know the doneness temps for your protein and check it often. See the guide below.

  • Shrimp – Depending on size, 3-10 minutes
  • Salmon and white fish – Depending on thickness 12-25 minutes
  • Tofu – 20 minutes
  • Lamb chops, 10- 20 minutes, depending on thickness
  • Chicken, bone-in or boneless, 20 -30 minutes
  • All types of whole sausages, about 25 minutes

The Veg

Sturdy vegetables like potatoes and carrots take much longer to cook than softer vegetables like green beans, asparagus, and tomatoes. Depending on what else you’re adding to the pan, you should roast the denser vegetables for 30 minutes or more before adding the other vegetables to the pan. Cut your vegetables about the same size to promote even cooking.

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, 25-30 minutes
  • Cabbage, depending on the cut, 15-30 minutes
  • Cherry tomatoes, 20-25 minutes until bursting
  • Leafy vegetables, like kale, 10-20 minutes
  • Onions, cut into wedges or thick slices, about 15-20 minutes
  • Potatoes (small pieces and wedges), 25-30 minutes
  • Root vegetables, carrots, 30 minutes
  • Squash (soft, summer squash like zucchini or yellow), 15-20 minutes
  • Squash (hard winter squash like butternut, acorn, or delicata ) in pieces, 30 minutes

The Fat

To prevent vegetables from drying out during the cooking process, completely coat them with oil. The best way to do this is to put them into a large bowl and add the oil and any other seasonings from your recipe. Then stir with a spoon or with your hands to cover everything thoroughly. I like to use disposable, latex-free gloves to keep my hands clean, especially when handling the protein. Roast the dense vegetables first and get them started in the oven. Then use the residual oil in the bowl to coat the softer vegetables that will be added to the pan later. Finally, use the same bowl (easy clean up!) to toss your protein with whatever fat or marinade your recipe calls for.

The Flavor Boosters

There are a myriad of ways to add flavor to your sheet pan supper! Try:

If you don’t feel comfortable creating your own sheet pan supper food combinations, there are some outstanding online resources with tested recipes to ensure a successful meal. Here are a few to check out: Pioneer Woman, Food Network, NY Times Cooking (my personal favorite), Southern Living, and Food52 just to name a few!

Now you may have wondered why this post refers to this kind of meal as supper instead of dinner. For me, suppers are cozy, causal meals at home with the folks who are nearest and dearest to my heart. Dinners are at home, but more formal, or in a restaurant. Love both kinds of eating, but sheet pan suppers are my way to bring the ultimate in comfortable, easy, cozy eating to my home and my family every day. I’ll say it again, sheet pan suppers are a weeknight hero.

Puppy Proof Your Apartment

Puppy Proof Your Apartment

You took the plunge and got yourself a puppy after deciding what breed would work best. After making sure your pup has all the appropriate vaccinations to be around other dogs, you’ve considered where to take your pup to have fun, frolic, and make friends in Dayton, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, or Dallas. And, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to puppy proof your apartment.

When I got my little guy 10 years ago, he was 2.5 pounds of fluff resembling a Beanie Baby (remember those?). He was 12 weeks old and (supposedly) a purebred Maltese. Turns out he’s part Maltese, part Bichon Frisé, and part rascal. His previous owner trained him on puppy pads, so housebreaking was a nightmare since he thought it was okay to pee inside on the floor. Fortunately, he was not one to chew on anything. There was just one time – the first time I dressed him in a red raincoat with a yellow ducky on the back (adorable!!) – that he took a good chew on my most expensive pair of shoes as revenge for the humiliation. Anyway, I digress (so easy to do when talking about your dog, right?).

When you introduce a new pup to your home, it’s important to prepare your apartment. Puppy proofing serves two important purposes: one, it ensures your puppy stays safe, and two, that the puppy doesn’t damage your furniture, your stuff or the apartment itself. Here are our suggestions for successfully puppy proofing your apartment.

Protect Your Apartment From Your Puppy

  • Tidy up.  Before your puppy enters your home, put away anything you don’t want to wind up in Fido’s mouth. Ollie has a penchant for earbuds. My previous dog likes to eat undies. So think about “chewables” like shoes, remotes, chargers, baskets, decorative items — anything, really!
  • Protect. Buy a lint roller and keep it handy for your clothes and furniture. Here are eight of the best. If you plan on snuggles with Rover on the couch, consider covering it with a washable blanket or throw. If your pup is one who will shed – and most dogs do – think about a partial slipcover for the sofa and chair.
  • Create a puppy space. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as “Teddy’s House”, but a cozy spot for Fluffy’s bed or crate (if you are crate training), bed, and toys would be ideal. Preferably the puppy space is located in a low-traffic, out-of-the-way area that has easy-to-clean floors in case of accidents. You can also purchase a large heavy-duty plastic sheet or tray to place under the bed or crate.
  • Consider crate training. Whether simple or luxe – Poppy won’t care – a crate gives your pup a safe place to retreat to when she is scared or anxious. Plus, it can help with housebreaking, future travel. It will also make visits to the vet or groomers a lot easier. Of course, you’ll use a carrier for quick trips and/or travelling in public transportation.
  • Easy does it. Bringing Marshmallow into her new space and around new people is going to be exciting and overwhelming for your pup. Taking it slow will help you avoid accidents and anxiety with your new fur baby. Let the puppy get used to your place one room at a time, and use a dog (or baby) gate to block areas you don’t want the puppy in just yet.
  • Get your puppy plenty of exercise. Take your puppy for lots of long walks and spend plenty of time outside to tire them out. This will ensure that they’ll just want to cuddle during your downtime instead of search for mischief to get into.
  • Spoil your puppy. A bored dog is a destructive dog. Provide lots of toys, especially rubber toys they can chew, and squeaky toys they can pounce on. Brush them every day and keep their nails clipped. If you start good daily grooming habits while they’re in the puppy stage, you’ll get them used to the attention and build trust.

Protect Your Puppy From Your Apartment

We’ve looked at ways to puppy-proof your apartment to keep your stuff, your furniture, and your place safe from adorable but curious and mischievous pups, but it’s also important to make sure you keep your pup safe from potentially dangerous things in your home.

  • Toxins. All medicines and supplements, cleaning products, detergents, and even certain plants are dangerous for puppies to ingest. Store these items behind locked doors or out of reach to avoid a visit to the emergency vet. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control has a list of people foods your dogs should not eat and a list of poisonous plants and flowers to help you protect your pet.
  • Trash. The smell of garbage can be irresistible to curious puppies. So much to root through, especially when they’re left alone. Yet trash cans are full of objects that could harm your puppy, including bones, leftover onion or garlic skins from your latest cooking adventure, empty cleaning product containers – even the trash bag represents a suffocation danger. To keep your pup safe, get a good, sturdy trash can with a lid. And consider putting childproof locks on lower cabinets, doors, and drawers.
  • Cords. Use cord protectors to cover household electric cords, cables, and wires.Teething puppies have a hankering to chew and they might see your power cable and charger cords as a chew toy. Protect your puppy from an electrical shock, burn to the mouth, and a visit to the vet by covering and securing those cords.
  • Batteries. Remote controls, electronic toys, key fobs, and any other devices that contain batteries should be picked up and kept well out of reach. Not only can small parts be chewed and swallowed, but a swallowed battery is even more dangerous because it can cause burns to the soft tissue inside your pet’s esophagus on the way down. Disc batteries are especially dangerous!
  • Heights. Puppies are clumsy and have fragile bones, so a seat on the couch or in a standing child’s arms puts them at risk of injury if they fall or try to jump. It’s best to keep your puppy off tall furniture and have young children sit when holding them until your puppy is less fragile and more coordinated.
  • Toilets. Keep toilet lids closed, so the puppy won’t drink out of the toilet or fall in.
  • Doors & windows. Keep doors and windows closed at all times, so Spot can’t escape or fall out, and secure the cords that raise blinds, so they won’t get caught around the puppy’s neck.
  • Your bag. It’s very likely that your purse, backpack, gym bag, or diaper bag contains one, if not many items that pose a threat to your new pup. Xylitol poisoning is becoming more and more common as it creeps into more products, like sugar-free gum, hand creams, etc. Preventative Vet has a list of 700+ products containing xylitol. Unintentional poisoning is one of the most common pet emergencies, so be sure to store bags in a closed closet or on a sturdy hook that is high and out of reach.

 

Now that you and Peanut are in a safe environment, snuggle up and enjoy your new bestie.

 

How to Host a Potluck: A Complete Guide

 

A few years back, my boyfriend introduced me to his tiny, lodge-y, weekend getaway at a rural community on a lake. During my first visit, we attended a spur-of-the-moment get-together with some of his neighbors. It was a surprising night for me in two ways. First of all, everyone treated me like they’d known me forever. As a gal with definite introvert tendencies, this was most welcome and a great “note-to-self” for my own future hosting. Secondly, everyone brought their own drinks and a snack to share. Brilliant! Essentially, all the host had to provide was ice and toilet paper. Talk about stress-free entertaining! Piggybacking off this experience, here’s our complete guide on how to host a potluck.

Why Host a Potluck?
Whether you’re new to the neighborhood or a veteran resident, a successful potluck party can help create and solidify friendships and make you feel right at home in your apartment community. It’s a fun way to make memories and create long-lasting friendships. It’s a great way to host without breaking the bank, and it’s a no-brainer because people like to eat. And, hosting a potluck will create a foundation to build upon to eventually host gatherings where you provide everything…and do all the work.

Getting Started
Invite some people: your besties, relatives, coworkers, apartment neighbors – mix and match! Decide how many people your home/dining table can comfortably accommodate and plan your guest list accordingly. Consider how many place settings you have – plates and silverware. Do you have serving spoons? If not, be sure your guests know to bring one for their dish. How much guest parking is available near your apartment? Don’t forget to let your guest know where they should park. If your apartment community is gated, let your visitors know how to get in so there’s no awkwardness upon arrival.

Planning any kind of get-together can be daunting. How much food should there be? What drinks should be served, and how many will be needed? A potluck solves these problems. If everyone brings food to share there will be plenty. When they also bring their own drinks, you have no decisions to make about quantities or types of refreshments to have on hand. Do make sure you have plenty of ice and glassware.

Hosting a potluck that satisfies all appetites is easier if you create a theme. This will help make your meal complete and cohesive. Just make sure your guests advise you what they plan to bring so you can make sure there aren’t duplicates and that all portions of the meal are covered. Here are some creative potluck theme ideas to choose from for your next apartment gathering.

Apartment Potluck Themes

RESTAURANT COPYCAT

Have your guests pick a dish from their favorite restaurant in town to recreate. Who knows what you’ll end up with? Pasta, empanadas, cupcakes, tacos. So many possibilities. It’s a great theme if your guests are foodies as their contributions will assure a variety of interesting dishes that will spark conversation about the best restaurants and best foods in your area.

TEX-MEX

Who doesn’t like Tex-Mex? With simple recipes and affordable ingredients, you can’t go wrong with a Tex-Mex potluck theme. Mexican-American dishes are delicious, filling, and difficult to botch – even for the novice chef. Opt for a Tex-Mex Night and make sure that everyone brings a different dish so you don’t end up with six jars of salsa and bags of chips.

COMFORT FOODS

Everyone has a dish that reminds them of home. My mom used to make a dish she called Surprise Packages. She’d make foil pouches filled with sliced potatoes, a hamburger patty, a slice of onion, sliced carrots and peas. They were awful, but my siblings and I never tire of teasing her about them, and my father loved them. Maybe your friends have better offerings like their mom’s chili, dad’s Sunday gravy, Thanksgiving’s sweet potato casserole, or a family recipe that’s been passed down for generations.  Ask your potluck guests to bring a family favorite and prepare to enjoy a wide range of heartwarming foods along with a night of nostalgic memories!

SOMETHING YELLOW

Theme your potluck with this cheery color and be prepared for a night of mac and cheese, coconut curry with mango, buffalo chicken dip, and cornbread. Once you open your mind to seemingly random themes, the possibilities are endless. Colors, letters, and numbers are all great places to start. Be relatively lax about the “rules” and see what creativity your guests bring to the table. What might seem odd in the beginning could end up being your favorite potluck theme in the end.

FARMERS MARKET FAVES

If you’re looking for a way to make your potluck dishes more cohesive but don’t want to limit your guests to a specific cuisine, consider a theme involving where they shop for their ingredients. A farmer’s market theme is also an excellent way to support local businesses like Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Yankee Street Market in South Dayton, or Dallas Farmer’s Market. With dishes centered around in-season ingredients you’ll end up with similarities throughout your dinner spread — and high-quality ingredients, too!

THE VEGGIE

Have your meat-loving friends step outside of their comfort zones. Challenge everyone to add some type of vegetable to their dish — including the desert! A veggie tray would be a no-brainer, but there are many veggie dishes that are so hearty, no one will miss the meat. Like Alison Roman’s Spiced Chickpea Stew which went viral >> #thestew. And, who doesn’t like carrot cake or banana bread? The options are endless and delicious for a plant-based potluck theme.

HOME STATE ORIGINALS

A classic potluck theme, friends bring an iconic home state dish. In Kentucky, that could be a Kentucky Derby favorite, burgoo. How about a recreation of Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili? Dayton-style square-cut pizza is a fun option, or how about one of these seven classic dishes famous in Dallas? Not only does this potluck theme have the potential to be delicious, but it can also spark some great conversation between guests about their home states.

SALAD BAR

A wonderful theme for spring and summer months, a salad bar is easy, fresh, and tasty. There’s always plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables available in season, but don’t forget about other warm-weather staples like pasta or potato salad! A salad bar theme is perfect for a light, refreshing dinner that will require no reheating.

CASSEROLE CREATIONS

Casseroles are great for cooler months. Hot, comforting casseroles are what everyone craves during the fall and winter. And, they tend to be easy to make. How about a gooey mac and cheese or a tater-tot casserole? For dessert, think apple crisp and or blueberry cobbler.

COOKOFF

Another fun idea is to have everyone bring the same dish and see who makes it best. Think a chili cookoff, taco night, or a chocolate chip cookie bakeoff.

So make a guest list, send out invitations, dust and vacuum, stock up on toilet paper, set the table, light some candles, and let the potluck party begin! If you and your guests have as much fun as I think you will have, consider a monthly rotation from one person’s home to another. Eat and drink your way to closer friendships and better neighbors.

 

Best Dogs for Apartment Living

 

For years I tried to discourage my daughter from adopting a pup. She lives in New York City, and to me, NYC apartments are too small and everything there costs too much to add a dog to the mix. But there are large parks, and many dog-friendly shops and restaurants, and she did need the comfort only a dog can bring. So she adopted a pup with my blessings (not that she really needed them). She found a person who was fostering a litter of what were supposed to be part-Chihuahua puppies who were all part of the Berry family – Blueberry, Cranberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, and Blackberry. Cranberry soon became her bestie and although there’s definitely no Chihuahua in him, he’s shaped up to be a perfect apartment dog.

So what makes a perfect dog for apartment living? If you’re thinking about adopting a dog, you may be wondering how a dog will fare in an apartment, and what kinds of dogs are best for apartment living. Important considerations! As an apartment dweller, your first step is to check with your property manager to make sure your lease allows dogs and to determine if there are any restrictions on size or breed. Other factors, besides size, to consider when researching apartment-friendly dogs, include the breed’s personality, activity level, grooming needs, and how much noise the pup will make. I have a friend with a Basenji that never barks. Heaven! My little dog barks when leaves fall off trees or when a doorbell rings on TV. Not an ideal candidate for an apartment.

You can search for dogs by breed on websites such as Petfinder or Adopt-A-Pet, or click here for the top 10 best pet adoption websites. To further assist you, read on the learn the best large and small dog breeds for apartments, and how to be a good dog owner in a multi-family setting.

 Great Dog Breeds for Apartment Living

 According to the American Kennel Club, apartment residents have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a furry best friend. They say, “Apartment dwellers have many dog breeds to choose from when selecting a pet. The size of your living space isn’t the only consideration because many large-breed dogs have lower activity levels and are more than happy to lounge on the sofa. There are dog breeds that require high energy and plenty of space, so they may not be best suited for a smaller apartment. Some small dog breeds with high energy are satisfied with indoor playtime or a brisk walk. Just make sure to consider your neighbors when choosing a dog: You’ll want a pet that doesn’t bark incessantly and is polite when meeting other people, in the elevator, on the stairs, or in the lobby.”

Click here for Highland Canine’s comprehensive list of the best breeds for apartments; below are a few of their top-rated.

Basenji: My friend’s Basenji is a delight. This low-shedding, short-haired dog breed was originally used for hunting, so they definitely like to chase, fetch, and play. Basenjis are primarily known as a “bark-less” breed, as their larynx only allows them to “yodel.” Weighing around 25 pounds, they are slightly larger than other small dog breeds for apartments on this list, but they’ll do fine in a smaller space as long as they get some daily exercise.

 

Bichon Frise: My dog was supposed to be a purebred Maltese, but he’s most definitely part Bichon. While he does like to bark, we’ve been able to control his barking with training. Bichon’s are part of the poodle family – fluffy but smaller. Like Basenjis, Bichon’s don’t shed, so they’re considered hypoallergenic. They don’t bark too much, and at 11 pounds, they’re among the top small dogs that are good for apartments. Bichons are playful, so they need regular exercise and walks. They’re also highly trainable, can learn tricks, love to cuddle, and are great with children.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: These sweet-faced dogs are small in size (13 to 18 pounds) so they don’t require a palace. King Charles Spaniels are smart, very trainable, and friendly with humans as well as other dogs. They love to be near their owners, so while King Charles Spaniels are perfect for apartment living, they don’t like to be left alone for long periods.

 

 

French Bulldog: Smaller than their standard Bulldog cousins, French Bulldogs are small in stature (usually around 11 to 12 inches tall) but have big, goofy personalities. They have short hair, so you won’t have to groom them much, and they rarely bark, making them ideal small dogs for apartments. A daily walk or two should suffice for exercise.

 

Greyhound: These lanky dogs are much larger than the other breeds on this list (females can reach 75 pounds, while males can weigh more than 80 pounds) but they are gentle giants who love a good snuggle. Bred originally for racing, Greyhounds need regular exercise such as daily fetch sessions – but they are true couch potatoes at heart. They also don’t bark much, which will make your neighbors happy. Best of all, many organizations find homes for retired racing Greyhounds, including Greyhound Welfare.

 

 

Apartment Dog Owner Etiquette

 When living in an apartment community with a dog, a little etiquette – we call it petiquette – goes a long way. While you may love and adore your fluffy companion, that doesn’t mean your neighbor will. You can encourage positive neighborly relations by following a few simple tips. Click here for our Perfect Pettiquette post.

  • Always pick up after your dog. It’s easy if you have the right bags and a bag dispenser.
  • Always keep your pup on a good leash unless at a dog park.
  • Be cautiously sociable and let other people know if your dog doesn’t like attention.
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of outdoor exercise.
  • Train your dog, especially if Fido exhibits extreme barking, separation anxiety, or aggression. You may lose your permission to have a dog if neighbors complain about excessive noise or aggressive tendencies.

Dogs Welcome Here

Getting a dog is a big step, whether it will be your first dog or you’re a seasoned dog parent, especially if you live in an apartment community. Financial and emotional responsibility are key when opening your home and heart to a pet. You also have to be willing to put in the time and effort to train your dog to live in an apartment. And know that life will be different when you have a dog waiting for you at home. There will be sacrifices to your time – like going home after work to walk Spot instead of having a beer after work with co-workers.

Almost all Fath Properties communities are pet-friendly and a few even have dog parks. Start your search for a community that will welcome your furry friend here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garbage Disposal Operation

When I was a kid, and I will be dating myself here, we had a big old white porcelain sink with two basins. I was the dishwasher and my dad was the disposer of garbage. I washed the dishes because whenever my mom did the dishes, she broke at least one thing. My siblings and I used to joke that she filled the sink with hot, soapy water, added everything that was dirty (dishes, glasses, pots and pans), and stirred the lot with a big stick. A strainer in the sink caught any bits of food (or broken glass LOL). Once everything was washed and rinsed, I emptied the strainer into the trash for my father to take out. Good times. Today we have garbage disposals which are, when used properly (and in my humble opinion), a wonder of the world and saviors of dads everywhere. Because garbage disposals operate virtually trouble-free when used properly.

How many things operate virtually trouble-free when used properly? Best of all, they get rid of the muck when you wash dishes by hand, and the food scraps generated during food prep. But these scraps can get tricky if you try and dispose of the wrong thing. And a meal prep with a broken garbage disposal is no one’s idea of a good time in the kitchen.

Here are some helpful procedures and tips that will lead to a long life for your disposal and easy operation for you.

How To Operate Your Garbage Disposal

  1. Run a steady stream of cool water into the sink before turning on the garbage disposal.
  2. Flip the disposal switch to the “on” position before placing any food waste into the disposal.
  3. Gradually feed food waste into the disposal. Avoid putting large amounts of food waste all at once as this may slow the grinding process. Keep hands away from the inside chamber.
  4. Once the food waste has been broken down, turn the disposal off. It usually takes only a few seconds to grind food waste, although it depends on the quantity and type of food waste. The sound of the disposal will change when there is no more food waste in the grind chamber.
  5. Let water run for one or two minutes to flush the drainpipe.

Sounds easy enough, right? But my mother thought her method of washing dishes was easy, and we all know how that turned out. Although the device is easy to use, please take note of the following:

PRECAUTIONS

  • Never put your hand down a disposal when it is running.
  • Do not use hot water when operating a disposal.
  • Never try to put too much through a disposal at once. Slow and steady wins the race.

IN OR OUT?

Garbage disposals are designed to handle just about any type of everyday food waste.  But the topic of what not to put in a garbage disposal is alive and well, usually based on myths and old family stories rather than facts.

A good rule of thumb is: if you can’t eat it, neither can your disposal. Everything you put in your disposal should be biodegradable. But here is a more comprehensive list from the makers of InSinkErator Disposals which contains a few caveats.

Disposals can quickly and efficiently grind most everyday food wastes, including leftover meats, vegetables and fruits, as well as food preparation waste.  The key to keeping a disposal working properly is to follow the proper operation steps and avoid filling the disposal with too much food waste at one time. But do not put these foods in the disposal:

THE LIST OF NEVERS

  • Grease, fats, or oils
  • Fibrous materials (cornhusks, artichokes, potato skins, celery, onion skins, carrot tops, banana peels, tea bags, etc.)
  • Shellfish shells (clams, oyster) or nutshells
  • Expandable foods (rice, pasta, bread)
  • Eggshells, coffee grounds (see below)
  • Hard materials (bones, fruit pits, cigarette butts, wood, glass, plastic, anything metallic)
  • Drain cleaners or bleach
  • Dishcloths

ABOUT FAT, GREASE, AND OILS

These items should never go in your disposal. Instead, put used grease, fat, and oil into a small container like a small bowl or rinsed tin can and refrigerate. Once the fats solidify, toss in the trash.

 ABOUT COFFEE GROUNDS AND EGGSHELLS

Neither of these materials is harmful to a disposal, and will pass through without a problem.  However, problems can arise with household plumbing – especially if it is older, or has not been cleared in some time.

Both coffee grounds and eggshells are sedimentary in nature, if too much is placed in at one time, or if the plumbing is restricted, it can create a clog or a ‘slow drain’ situation.  Too help avoid any problems, feed these materials into the disposer gradually, and utilize a strong flow of cold water to help flush it through the pipes. Or, toss these items in the trash or compost them.

ONGOING

  • Grind a citrus peel or put baking soda down the drain to keep the disposal odor free.
  • Grind ice cubes to clean the unit walls and blades.
  • Place  the disposal cover or sink strainer over the drain opening when the disposal is not in use, and leave in this position to prevent foreign material from accidentally dropping into disposal.

 TROUBLESHOOTING

If the motor has stopped due to overloading, turn the disposal off.  Wait three to five minutes, and then push the red reset button (located under the sink on the unit itself).  Then follow normal operating procedure.

If the disposal has jammed, turn the power switch to the “off” position before attempting to remove an object.  With tongs, remove any objects that might be obstructing the free movement of the blades.  In many cases, you can insert a broom handle into the mouth of the disposal and turn it in a circular pattern to free the blades.

When movement is restored to the blades, push the reset button on the disposal unit.  Then follow normal operating procedure.

Of course, if you are a resident in a Fath Properties community, and ever run into an issue you cannot resolve yourself, a member of our professional, efficient maintenance team will be happy to help! Just call your leasing office and we will schedule a friendly service tech to come to your apartment home to make everything right.

 

 

Clean Clothes Closets Are A Beautiful Thing

 

I have a [rich] friend with an absolutely dreamy closet. It’s an entire room! The décor is all fresh, bright white and features a beautiful chandelier, make up table with a mirror featuring multiple light settings,  comfy side chair, elegant floor-length mirror, shoe shelves, purse cubbies, and even a dress form to display her wedding gown. Did I mention the wine fridge stocked with bubbly? Like I said, dreamy. Living in a significantly more modest home, mine is just a wall closet with less-than elegant bi-fold doors which sometime jump off track. So dreamy is a bit out of reach. However, that doesn’t mean my closet can’t be beautiful – as in beautifully organized.  Here’s how I turned my smallish, modest, messy closet into a clean clothes closet — beautiful, tidy, and well-organized storage for my clothes and shoes.

Remove Everything

I know what you’re thinking…..aaarrrggghhh!!! Same here. Took me a few weekends to work up the courage to turn a small messy closet into a huge messy pile of STUFF.

A good idea is to follow the advise of Sarah Giller Nelson, Professional Organizer and Owner of Less is More:

“Work in smaller blocks of time. Set a timer for 30 minutes to two hours, select a clothing type to go through and declutter until the time is up.”

Try it, it works (thank heavens).

Take out EVERYTHING, including hangers, and put it all on your bed. Now you can’t go to sleep until you finish the project, giving you no excuse to stop until you’re done. This will also give you a visual of the space available in your closet so you can see what will fit comfortably as you put back pieces you want to keep.

Vacuum and Dust

Tackle your now vacant closet with your vacuum and utilize its attachment to clean up dust webs and that black hole between the carpet and the wall where all manner of stuff collects. Then use your Swiffer duster to clean those top corners and the shelves. Leave the door open so the closet can air out.

If you want to kick it up a notch, consider some beautiful peel and stick wallpaper and/or some motion-sensor strip lights. Here are the 10 best peel and stick papers and below is an example of a wallpapered closet.

Sort The Pile Into Four Groups

Once you’ve put an item into a pile, don’t second guess yourself! Keep going so you don’t lose momentum.

  1. Items you love and wear all the time. Again quoting Sarah Giller Nelson, Professional Organizer and Owner of Less is More:

“Hold your wardrobe to a very high standard. When we look good, we feel good, and you deserve to always feel your best. When decluttering, be very picky and honest.”

Try to avoid the temptation keep everything and thoughts like, “but it’s still good”! Here are some ideas to help you figure out what should stay in your closet.

  • Layering pieces that are good for any season.
  • Things you want and have actually worn in the last year.
  • Clothing and accessories you can incorporate with any trend.
  • Staple and everyday pieces that you wear seasonally.

How to Decide Which Clothes to Keep

If you’re still wondering, “what should I keep in my closet?” then answer the following questions:

  • Would I buy this, or wear this, today?
  • Does this fit my lifestyle?
  • When was the last time I wore this?
  • When will I wear this in the next few months?

Try the Marie Kondo Method. She asks:

“Does this item bring me joy?”

That’s the main question famous Japanese organizing consultant Kondo says to ask yourself when decluttering your closet. So, as you’re cleaning out your clothes, think about each item. Does a certain top make you feel less than your best? If it doesn’t make you feel good, you’re not going to wear it. There’s no point in letting it take up space in your closet.

Kondo also says to think about what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of. Shift your thoughts to focus on items you truly love instead of worrying about some old clothes you don’t want.

  1. Damaged items. If you’re like me, you have a few garments in your closet that you’re hesitant to discard because you once loved them. But now you can’t wear them because they’ve shrunk, are pilled, torn, or faded. The zipper no longer works. A button is missing. There’s a food stain that just won’t wash out. These items can’t be donated because of their condition. Be brave and toss. All is not lost for these old faves though! Think recycle/reuse! Turn soft t-shirts in to polishing cloths, turn fleecy items into dust cloths.

 

  1. Maybe items. Try these on. So they look great on you? Do they still fit? Have you worn them in the last year? Put these clothes aside for two weeks. As Kristen Ziegler, Organizing Expert from Minima suggests:

“Be bold. Most people wear the same few items over and over, so just let the rest go.”

  1. Donate / Sell pile. Clothes in this pile should be in good, clean condition. There are many place where you can donate clothes, like Goodwill or Vincent DePaul. If the garments are work clothes, consider Dress For Success. Some organizations will even pick up donations from your home like Volunteers of America, and here are eight more! If you’d like to cash in on some of these clothes, you can bring them to a local consignment shop or sell online at a number of different places. For a how-to along with the five best online shops, visit NerdWallet.

Uniform Hangers

Not only will uniform hangers make your closet look uber organized,  and become a clean clothes closet, they can also save space! And, new hangers don’t need to break the bank. I like flocked hangers as clothing doesn’t slip off. Think lightweight hangers for shirts, heavier for hang-able sweaters and blazers, skirt and pants hangers, and heavy duty hangers for jackets and coats. If space is at a premium, consider hangers that hold multiple pieces.

Sort by Category

Put all your shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, jackets together in groups. You can even sort by color so it becomes super-easy to locate particular garments. Store your clothes in a way that compliments your daily routine.

For example, if you work out every day, try putting athletic wear near the front of your closet with the items you regularly wear to work. Your more casual weekend clothes don’t need prime real estate because you won’t need to access them quickly as you’re rushing out the door during the week.

Five Fast Tips

Need more help creating a clean clothes closet? Still have questions about making decisions about the items you’re still unsure about?

  1. The One-Year Rule

Has it been more than a year since you’ve worn it? Then you probably won’t ever wear it. Don’t hold onto a T-shirt or a pair of shoes hoping you’ll use it again and don’t try to convince yourself you will someday. It’s time to let it go. Stop letting it take up valuable space.

  1. Force Yourself to Wear the Maybes

Wear clothes that you’re still on the fence about. How do you feel in them? Do they make you feel good? Will you ever wear it again? Can you find a way to style it?

  1. One Thing In, One Thing Out

From clean closet forward, get rid of something every time you bring something new home to help you prevent future clutter.

  1. The Hanger Trick

When you’re putting your clothes back in your closet, make sure all your hangers are facing the same way. After you wear an item, turn the hanger around when you put it back. Wait a month, then take note of which hangers are still facing the original way. Reevaluate your need for these clothes and consider donating them. This will help you keep your closet clutter in check.

  1. Slow and Steady

If the idea of spending several hours cleaning out your closet  to make a beautifully clean clothes closet is just too overwhelming, try making it part of your daily routine. Set up a donation box in or near your closet and aim to put five items in every day.

Hopefully, this leads you to a less cluttered and more organized closet. Hoping it leads me to getting rid of “good” suits I bought for work years ago that haven’t been out of the closet in ages. I am most certainly afflicted with the “but it’s still good!” mentality. Working on changing that to “it’s still good – for someone else.”

Now back to dreaming of a beautiful, clean clothes closet large enough to hold a wine cabinet full of bubbly…

How To Survive Homework

Your kids are back in school, and you’ve had a heart-to-heart talk with them about bullying. You’ve established a great family schedule to get them to school and to bed on time, and taught the kids how to get to school safely. Look at you! What’s next? Whether your student is new to school or an experienced learner, now is a great time to help your child hone their study skills and master homework time management. I have a friend whose child receives daily homework in kindergarten, so it’s certainly not too early to work on these skills and turn them into good habits. As a parent, you’ll also need to learn how to survive getting your kids to do their homework. If your kids are like most, it won’t be easy.

Here are some curated ideas to help you get started.

  • For them: create an environment that is homework-friendly starting at a young age. Children need a consistent workspace in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study. Start with a workspace you design together. Including your child in the process help buy in. Perhaps you can share time picking out a desk, organizing homework supplies, and tools to create a quiet, interruption-free zone. For you: establish a routine and rules that keep your kids in this homework zone and allow you to enjoy the evening.
  • For them: schedule ample time for homework. Build this time into choices about participating in after school activities. Help your child weigh what’s important versus what’s fun. For you: a good schedule will help alleviate worry about the work actually getting done.
  • For them: establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time. For you: take advantage of this quiet time to indulge in self-care. A facial? Reading? Meditation? So many possibilities.
  • For them: supervise computer and internet use. For you: establishing ground rules now will help prevent argument later.
  • By high school, it’s not uncommon for teachers to ask students to submit homework electronically and perform other tasks on a computer. If your child doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet at home, work with teachers and school administration to develop appropriate accommodations.
  • For them: be available to answer questions and offer assistance. For you: never do your child’s homework for them. You’ve already done plenty of homework in your life.
  • For them: take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch and take a break periodically when it will not be too disruptive. For you: kid fatigue avoidance helps prevent meltdowns, because ain’t nobody got time for those.
  • For them: if your child is struggling with a particular subject, speak with their teacher for recommendations on how to help your child at home or at school. If you have concerns about your child’s assignments, talk with their teacher. For you: keeping lines of communication with your child and their teachers will benefit everyone in the long run.
  • For them: if your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, speak with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or health care provider to try and determine the underlying cause. For you: sometimes brining in a third party can shed new insights and help to relieve stress or worry you may feel.
  • For them: if general homework problems can’t be resolved with the teacher, consider a tutor. For you: a professional tutor or even an older student can work with your child in subjects you may not feel completely comfortable with or knowledgeable about. New math, hello?
  • For them: some children need extra help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems. For you: (especially if you are an organizer) creating checklists and calendars with your child can be fun and will be easier for your child to follow if they were involved in the creation. Parent/kid projects are always a win/win.
  • For them. If you child needs help remembering their assignments, work with your child and their teacher to develop an appropriate way to keep track of their assignments – such as an assignment notebook, student planner, or a dry erase calendar. For you: you can track assignments without having to nag.
  • For them: set up a homework completion tracker, perhaps with rewards. If you set up a homework calendar, this would be the perfect spot! For you: helping to make your child proud of completing homework on time is something you can be proud of.

For more in depth guidance, check out the US Department of Education’s homework recommendations.

Hopefully these tips will help create a peaceful environment for your child to successfully complete homework on his or her own so you can enjoy quiet time recovering from your busy day with a little self-care … and perhaps an adult beverage.

 

 

 

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Life can be hard sometimes. Like when you feel you’re between a rock and a hard place.  But with the right mindset, you can survive those challenging times just like the violet pictured above who has literally figured out a way to survive – and beautifully – between a stone wall and the sidewalk.

How?

Change your wording

Say “for” instead of “to”.  For example, do you sometimes think or say, “Why is this happening to me?” Of course, you do; we all do. Instead, try saying, “Why is this happening for me?” Life happens for us. This one word can help to change your perspective toward the challenges you’re facing. Because those moments of hardship can be great teachers. Check out this 10 Ways to Practice Positive Self Talk Post.

Keep a gratitude journal

Practicing gratitude can be an antidote to sadness and negativity. And it’s been proven that practicing gratitude can rewire your brain to improve your happiness levels in the long run! Your journal can be as simple as a legal pad, compact as a Moleskine, or a guided gratitude journal. Writing is always nicer with a good pen; here’s a link to Wirecutter’s six best. Or if you like to doodle when you write, a nice set of colored markers might be a good motivator for you.

Treat yourself

Prioritizing self-care can be a great help during times of challenge. Speak kindly to yourself, read a self-help book, start a new hobby, get plenty of sleep and exercise, or make time for a bubble bath each week (or how about a goat milk bath? Read more about that here). My favorite treat is spending some quiet time in a beautiful place – a local park or (in the best-case scenario, a beach). But you do you! Do what you love.

Keep an open mind and perspective

Sometimes our rock-bottom moments can act as a springboard to launch us toward self-improvement. Whatever you are going through, think of what it has taught you. How can you transform this challenge into an opportunity? Sure, it may take a while, but with the right mindset, you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you make. And a change of perspective can be cathartic, and dare I say life-changing? Because looking at the world in a different way is just that. Realizing that people will not always react to situations like you do and not getting angry with them when they don’t was a game-changer for me. Read more about letting go of feelings that don’t serve you here.

Surround yourself with loved ones

Your family and friends can be the beacons of light you need in life, especially those times when you feel like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Reaching out to them for support or even just to laugh together can provide the endurance you need to help you keep going. Of course, friends and family can also be the source of a lot of drama and frustration. The ability to extricate yourself from situations with loved ones that make your blood boil can be a true challenge. Here’s an article on how to do just that from Inc.

Allow yourself to have bad days

Forcing yourself to be positive can build up negative emotions and backfire over time. Allow yourself to feel all your emotions and make space for them. Crying is actually a great emotional release, so grab the tissue box and let the tears flow if it’s helpful to you. I, for one, love a good cry and it doesn’t take much for me to well up. A sappy greeting card? Sniffles. An “I did it because I love you” TV commercial? Tears trickling. When Mufasa dies in The Lion King? Sobs. Watching the movie, The Notebook? Gimme the entire box of Kleenex. If you’re not a crier, but think it would be a good release for how you’re feeling, read this article from The Cut.

Make a list of the things you can manage

If you worry about all the things you can’t control, and that worry leaves you exhausted, stop, and take a breath. It’s hard but try to accept what you can’t control and make a list of what you can. Even if all you can control is your attitude and your effort, it’s important to acknowledge what you’re capable of doing. I know what you’re thinking, “Stop worrying? Are you kidding me right now? How can I possibly?” Check out this article from Banner Health for some great guidance.

Spend time in nature

Unplug from your video streaming, your smartphone, and reality TV, and take a walk outside. Here you can find many examples of life springing from between a rock and a hard place! Spending time in nature can have an incredibly positive impact on your mood and your mental health. Being in nature is a good opportunity to practice mindfulness—which can produce many positive effects on your life. New to mindfulness? Here are some ways to get started.

Be Active

Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal. From less stress to a boost in self-esteem, exercise is as great for your brain as it is for your body. Click here for tips on how to get moving and stay active.

Add positivity to someone else’s life

Every time the world is struck by disaster — and that seems to be almost a daily occurrence these days – millions of people rally around those affected to show their support. Service is a powerful and life-changing tool—especially amid our own challenges. Selflessness can give us purpose, hope, and strength to carry on.

We all play a part in one another’s day-to-day happiness. So, what would happen if all of us did everything we could to ensure each person we encountered had a good day? What would our world look like if we started spreading positivity wherever we go, however we can? Click here for suggestions on how to do just that.

Hopefully, this blog post will help you, if you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, to not only survive but also to thrive. Just like the violet.

Bullying

About Bullying.

Bullying or cyberbullying is when one child repeatedly taunts, teases, intimidates, or torments another child. These actions can be physical, verbal, or social. Bullying can occur at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones. Being subjected to bullying is a horrible experience for anyone, but especially difficult for a child.

With school back in session in a few short weeks, we thought it might be helpful to bring this important topic front of mind.

WHEN YOUR CHILD IS BULLIED

There are several steps you can follow in the event your child is subjected to bullying.

  • Alert school officials and work with them in person toward a solution.
  • Teach your child when and how to ask a trusted adult for help, and to be comfortable with doing so. Ask them to identify who they can ask for help.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings about being bullied and recognize the serious nature of bullying.

Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:

  • Look the bully in the eye.
  • Always stand tall and stay calm despite the difficulty of the situation.
  • Walk away.
  • With your child, practice saying, in a firm voice:
    • “I don’t like what you are doing.”
    • “Please do NOT talk to me like that.”

What you can do as a parent:

  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support outside activities that interest your child.
  • Find an adult who knows about the situation and can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
  • Monitor your child’s social media or texting interactions so you can identify problems before they get out of hand.
  • Document everything.

WHEN YOUR CHILD IS THE BULLY

This is tough on any parent but cannot be ignored.

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Teach your child to be a buddy, not a bully.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
  • Ask your child how they would feel if the tables were turned, and they were subject to torment.
  • Teach empathy for other children by asking them to consider how the other child feels.
  • Be a positive role model. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening, or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Praise your child when their actions are positive, such as helping or being kind to others.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, school social workers or psychologists, and parents of the children your child has bullied.

WHEN YOUR CHILD IS A BYSTANDER

Witnessing a bully torment a friend or classmate can be frightening for any child. Be sure you and your child talk about bullying so they understand that it may happen, and what to do if they witness it.

  • Practice with your child how to find and tell a trusted adult about what is happening or has happened. Knowing what to say in advance will be helpful when/if the need arises.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • Help your child support other children who have been or may be bullied. Making friends with these kids and including them in activities will make them feel less alone and know they have a friend they can count on.

For more information or assistance, please reach out to these resources:

Let’s work together to keep our kids safe!

 

Back To School Time


Just when summer is in full swing, you go to Target and their seasonal section is full of Back To School supplies. Yikes. Is it just me, or does it seem wrong to send kids to school while it’s still summer? Growing up, school started after Labor Day, and seeing the hostas in bloom was our sure sign school was just around the corner (although my hostas started  blooming at the end of July; perhaps my mom grew a late-blooming varietal?) Now August is the back-to-school month. Regardless of when kids return to continue their education and whether or not you are a parent, this time of year affects us all.

If you are a parent, you might be jumping for joy to get your children back to a routine. Or you could be worried about transportation hassles, the cost of class supplies, school versus work schedules, or bullying.  Your kids may be excited to see their friends but could have concerns about homework, projects, navigating bus routes, virtual school, or making friends. If you are not a parent, you might experience traffic delays as those big yellow buses and school zones slow things down a bit. Needless to say, back-to-school season is a challenge for everyone involved. Here are some suggestions to help you navigate the season with grace, calm, and organization.

ROUTINE

Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful for everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing your routine in advance. Return to a regular sleep schedule a few weeks before school starts. Establish regular bedtimes and start gentle wind-down activities such as bath time and reading. Getting enough sleep is an important part of being ready to learn and concentrate.  Did you know that insufficient sleep could lead to lower academic achievement and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness? The optimal amount of sleep for most younger children is 10-12 hours per night and for adolescents (13-18 years of age) is in the range of 8-10 hours per night.

Now is the perfect opportunity to establish screen time limits. Your whole family can “unplug” in the evenings before bedtime, charge devices overnight in the same spot, and use an alarm clock instead of a cell phone to wake up in the mornings. Rising a bit earlier will allow time for a good breakfast and prevent rushing around headaches.

Establishing a consistent routine is important for kids. Write out the steps in the routine and rehearse them with your child. In the evening, this could include doing homework, playtime, brushing their teeth, having a bath, and reading before bed. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid routine will make the first day go much smoother.

PRE-SCHOOL JITTERS

Many children get nervous about new situations, including changing to a new school, classroom, or teacher. This may happen at any age! If your child seems nervous, it can be helpful to rehearse heading into the new situation. Take them to visit the new school or classroom before the first day of school. Hopefully, this will help ease their fears. Plus, it will give you a good idea of how they are spending their day.

Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible. If your child seems nervous, ask them what they are worried about and help them problem-solve ways to master the new situation.

One of the biggest back-to-school fears is “Will I like my new teacher?” Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears. Go to your school’s open house or back-to-school night. Some teachers welcome phone calls or e-mails — another great opportunity to get to know each other before the year begins.

You can also try to locate the teacher’s picture on a school website or in a yearbook, so your child can put a name with a face. If your child’s teacher sends a welcome letter, be sure to read the letter together.

Point out the positive aspects of starting school to help your kids look forward to the first day of class. Talk about how they will see old friends and meet new ones, for example.

If you feel it is needed, drive your child (or walk with them) to school and pick them up on the first day. Get there early on the first day to cut down on unnecessary stress.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Obtain the class supply list and take a special shopping trip with your child. Having the right tools will help him feel prepared. While keeping basic needs in mind, allow for a couple of splurges like a cool notebook or a favorite-colored pen. These simple pleasures make going to their place of higher learning a lot more fun. I always loved shopping for school supplies as a kid, didn’t you? In fact, I still enjoy a trip to Office Depot,  Staples, or Target to indulge myself with new office supplies and almost always find something I didn’t realize I needed!

Supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead. Get your child excited about upcoming projects by explaining how new supplies might be used. Let him practice using supplies that he’s not used before — such as colored pencils or a protractor — so he will be comfortable using them in class.

Review the school supply list and shop for as many bargains as possible. Retailers are all jockeying for you to spend money with them. Keep in mind you can often substitute store-brand items for name-brand and get the same quality for less money. Click here for The Spruce’s Top 8 Best Places to Buy School Supplies.

BACKPACKS

Most kids carry books in a backpack and not all are created equal. But they are SO MUCH BETTER than the awful, heavy bookbags of years gone by. Click here for Good Housekeeping’s 12 top-tested backpacks for the 2023 school year. Look for a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Organize your child’s backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10% to 20% of your child’s body weight. We don’t want them to tip over!  Go through the pack with your child weekly and remove unneeded items to keep it light.

Remind your child to always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Adjust the pack so that the bottom sits at your child’s waist.

If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. But keep in mind that rolling backpacks still must be transported up and down stairs, they may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers.

TRANSPORTATION

Determine how your child will travel to and from their education venue. Review the basic rules with your student and practice any new routes or modes of transportation:

School bus

  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver.
  • Practice how to cross the street before the first day of school.
  • Encourage your child to use lap/shoulder seat belts if provided.

Bike

  • Practice the bike route to school before the first day of school.
  • Require the use of a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride is. For the 10 best kids’ bike helmets, click here.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic, and ride in bike lanes if they are present.
  • Practice, then use appropriate hand signals.
  • Obey traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.

Walk

  • Most kids are ready to start walking to school at 9 to 11 years of age.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Find other kids in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school. In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them or have another adult walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely. If your child will need to cross a street on the way to school, practice safe street crossing with them before the start of school.
  • Bright-colored clothing or a visibility device, like a vest or armband with reflectors, will make your child more visible to drivers.

FOOD

  • Provide a good breakfast before starting off. Studies show that kids who eat a nutritious breakfast do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy. Click here for 35 quick and easy breakfast ideas from Eating on a Dime.
  • Check out cafeteria menus on the school’s website. With your child, plan on packing or buying lunch.
  • Many children qualify for free or reduced-price food at school, including breakfast. Complete forms for these services at the school office.
  • Does your child’s facility have a plan that allows you to pay for meals through an online account? Kids get a card to “swipe” at the register for a cashless experience.
  • Click here for 50 ideas on packed school lunches from Super Healthy Kids, and for the perfect transportation of a yummy lunch, click here for the New York Times recommendations for the best kids’ lunch boxes.

CELEBRATE

How about a celebration for the first day of school so your kids will see back-to-school as something fun instead of something dreaded? Maybe a back-to-school party the day before school starts? How about pictures in first-day-of-school outfits and pictures in front of the school?

It’s going to be a great year!

 

RESOURCES: HealthyChildren.org, NovakDjokovicFoundation.org, PBS.org, ThePersonal.com

 

 

Where Dogs Are Welcome! Cincinnati/NKY Edition

They’re like family. We want to make it as easy for you as possible to love and care for your pups without having to spend a lotof time wondering where to take your favorite furry friend for an off-leash run,  a day of monitored play, a sleepover, or to join you someplace pup-friendly for a cold brew. Read on for our list of Where Dogs Are Welcome! locations throughout Cincinnati (by region) and Northern Kentucky. Check out additional locations in the Tour De Cincinnati Dog-Friendly section!

CINCINNATI

West: Price Hill, College Hill, Mt. Healthy, Fairfield, Mt. Airy, Cleves, Hamilton, Colerain

  • Play
    • Airy Forest Dog Park. 3006 Westwood Northern Blvd. The park boasts a large area for dogs to romp around in, as well as doggy pools and agility equipment. There are miles of trails in the beautiful Mt. Airy Forest just behind the park if Fido is seeking a change of pace. Fully Fenced, Free to public, small and large dog sides. Some agility equipment. Lots of shades and some doggy pools. Lots of picnic tables. More info here.
    • Westwoof Dog Park. Montana & Epworth Aves. Artificial turf and concrete areas make this small, fenced park a great place to visit when it’s wet outside.
    • Simmons Family Dog Park. 8715 Hamilton Cleves Pike Rd., Miamitown. A huge, 11-acre park with four separate fields, dog agility equipment, shade trees, and benches. More info here.
    • Doris Day Dog Park. 3006 Westwood Northern Blvd., Mt. Airy. Located in Mount Airy Forest, this fenced-in two-acre dog park has both grassy areas and dirt/woodchip areas for pup play. There’s agility equipment and a water hose for drinks.
    • Hamilton Bark Park. 20 New London Rd., Hamilton. Playspace, room for fetch, and Frisbee. Big and small dogs are welcome. Sculpture. More info here.
    • Diamond Dogs Dog Park. 11405 E. Miami River Rd., Cincinnati. Fido can play off-leash at Diamond Dogs Dog Park, located within the 126-acre, pet-friendly Heritage Park along the Great Miami River in Cincinnati, OH. The fenced dog park offers an entrance for large and small dogs, shade, trees, waste bags, shaded seating, and a seasonally-available water source. More info here.
  • Care
    • Petey’s Pet Stop. 311 Howell Ave. Boarding, Dog Food/Treats, Pet Supplies, Self Service Dog Washing. Linda Sterling and Beth McCarty, both occupational therapists and animal lovers, founded Petey’s Pet Stop.
    • PetSmart. 6068 Glenway Ave. Chain featuring a range of pets, supplies & food (most offer grooming, boarding & other services).
  • Going Out

East: East End, Newtown, Anderson, Batavia

  • Play
    • Deer Hill Apartments. 2551 Spindlehill Dr. A residents-only facility, this fenced-in park features dog activity stations, shade trees, and a poop station. More info here.
    • Otto Armleder Dog Park. 5057 Wooster Pike, Linwood. One of the most popular places in Cincinnati to let your dog roam around off-lease and socialize with other dogs. The park spans 10 acres and offers separate areas for large and small breeds, dog drinking fountains, a canine shower, along with plenty of shade trees and benches.
    • Red Dog Park. 5081 Madison Rd., Cincinnati. A “members-only” park run by Red Dog Resort and Spa. Three acres of fenced grassy and wooded rolling grounds. Separate areas for small and large breeds with play equipment scattered throughout the park. Drinking fountains for pups and humans. Click here for more info and pricing.
    • 3810 Church St., Newtown. A private three-acre park with grassy fields, a lake, and a variety of agility equipment. Lots of seating for humans and a massive TV that plays shows and movies. Daily admission or yearly membership is available. Rates and more info here.
    • Kellogg Park Dog Field. 6701 Kellogg Rd., Anderson. Four-acre, fenced-in park for off-leash fun. Dog-height water fountain. Beautiful mural by ArtWorks. Dawn to dusk year-round; yearly permit required. More info here.
    • David J. Stricker Dog Park. 1359 Clough Pike, Batavia. A one-acre off-leash park that allows dogs to roam off-leash. Fenced-in areas for large and small breeds. Benches, shade trees.
  • Care
  • Sleepovers
  • Going Out

North Central: Norwood, Madisonville, Hyde Park, Oakley, Pleasant Ridge

  • Play
    • Washington Park Dog Park. 1230 Elm St, Cincinnati in Over-the-Rhine. An enclosed 12,000 square-foot area within Washington Park that offers a water creek for dogs to play in, large granite boulders, and a water fountain with fresh water for owners and a spout near the ground for dogs. Benches line the perimeter of the park so visitors can hang out and socialize with other owners as well. Check out the Washington Park website for more details on the park.
    • Fido Field. 630 Eggleston Ave, Cincinnati Central Business District. Located just outside of the Central Business District near the Downtown area, this is a fenced-in, off-leash park managed and maintained completely by volunteers. The park offers play areas for both large and small breeds and there is plenty of free parking next to the park under 471 or on the surface lot on Eggleston Avenue. Currently, the park doesn’t have a permanent water source, so be sure to bring your own when you visit. More info here.
    • Redbird Hollow Trail. 6168 Given Rd. Indian Hill. Not a dog park, but a wonderful secluded 3-mile round trip nature trail with beautiful views of rivers, creek beds, forests, and many plant and bird species to discover. There’s just one entrance at a bend in the road. Dogs must be kept on leash. BYOW (bring your own water).

North: Fairfield, Franklin, Mason

  • Play
    • Wiggly Field Dog Park. 7850 VOA Park Dr. West Chester Twsp, (Mason). Fenced-in areas for small and large breeds. Benches, trees, shading structures, water fountains, and dog water bowls. More info here.
    • Schappacher Dog Park. 4686 Old Irwin Simpson Rd., Mason. Within the 10-acre Schappacher Park, there are 38,000+ square feet of room for dogs to run. This one is not huge but it’s plenty big enough for your dog to stretch his/her legs. It’s mostly mulch and bark and includes a few benches and a picnic table for the accompanying humans. More info here.
    • Furfield Dog Park. 6611 River Rd, Fairfield. The dog park is stretched over more than 6 acres of grassy land and features multiple, fenced-in areas giving room for dogs of all sizes and play levels the opportunity to exercise safely. The park also features a pond. More info here.
    • Pawmyra Dog Park. 3400 Mason Morrow Millgrove Rd, Mason. A four-acre, off-leash area located inside Mason Sports Park in Mason, OH. The dog park has dedicated play areas for smaller and larger dogs and features large entrance gates and concrete pathways for wheelchairs. More info here.
  • Care
  • Sleepovers
  • Going Out

North East: Loveland, Blue Ash

  • Play
    • Nantucket Apartments. 3569 Nantucket Dr., Loveland. A residents-only park featuring shade trees, benches, activity equipment, and a poop station. Open dawn to dusk, furry friends large and small play together. BYOW (bring your own water). More info here.
    •  Summit Park Dog Park. 4335 Glendale Milford Rd., Blue Ash. Well-maintained and fenced-in park for off-leash fun. Benches for humans; pup-height water fountains. More info here.
    • Matt Haverkamp Foundation Dog Park. 236 Wall St, Loveland. Also known as Loveland Dog Park, is located within Kiwanis Park, and is dedicated to area K9 officers and their handlers. The 2-acre space is fenced and accommodates both small and large dogs in the same area. The site includes shade trees and benches for resting. Please bring your own water. More info here.

Northern Kentucky

  • Play
    • Trails of Saddlebrook Apartments. 646 Meadowlands Trail, Florence. This resident-only dog park is more of a modest doggie run, but it’s open 24 hours and nestled amongst the trees in the back portion of the community. It has a seating bench and small activity area, and a poop station. Large and small pups play side by side. BYOW (bring your own water). More info here.
    • Fort Thomas Dog Park. 199 Mayfield Ave., Fort Thomas, KY 41075 (Fort Thomas). A dog ark inside Highland Hills Park. Fenced-in areas for both small and large breeds, and grassy areas with trails. Water is available outside the dog park, so you might want to BYOW.
    • Newport Dog Park. 901 E. 6th, Newport, KY. Located behind the Campbell County Library, the park features fenced-in areas for both large and small dogs, water fountains, lots of shade, and seating for humans. More info here.
    • The Bark Park & Patio. 7544 Burlington Pike, Florence, KY, US, 41042. The Bark Park & Patio is a private dog park with an attached taproom in Florence, KY. Fido can play in the 1+ acre fenced space while you enjoy a glass of wine or an ice-cold beer. A liability waiver will need to be signed upon your first visit. Fido must be current on all vaccinations and leased in the taproom and on the patio. Day passes are offered as well as monthly and annual dog memberships. The park is closed on Mondays for private events. Human guests must be at least 21 years of age to enter. More info here.
    • Dog Park at Walton Community Park. 35 Old Stephenson Mill Rd, Walton, KY, 41094. The fenced dog park features separate areas for small and large dogs and an agility course. After your pup expends his energy, reattach his leash and enjoy Walton Community Park which occupies 30 acres and features two large playgrounds, a paved walking trail, picnic facilities, and plenty of open space. More info here.
    • SFC Jason Bishop Memorial Dog Park. 9th St & Philadelphia St, Covington, KY 41011. Features separate areas for small and large dogs and offers seating for humans to relax and watch pups play with their new friends. Water fountains for dogs are available in warmer months. More info here.

  • Care
    • World of Pets. 7199 Turfway Rd. #2, Florence. Pet supplies.
    • PetPeople. 2790 Town Center Blvd., Crestview Hills. Pet supplies.
    • Petco. 575 Clock Tower Way, Crescent Springs. Pet supplies, training, grooming.
    • PetSmart. 1060 Hansel Ave, Florence. Pet supplies, training, grooming.
    • Yelp’s top 10 NKY groomers.
  • Sleepovers
    • Allie’s Walkabout. Voted Best of NKY 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022 and most recently named the Best Doggy Daycare in all of Kentucky by Pet News Daily. It sits on 4.5 acres, so your pal will romp and play throughout their 9,000 sq. ft. facility with 4 indoor and 4 outdoor play yards full of toys and places to climb.
    • Pet Suites of Erlanger. Boarding, daycare, training, grooming.
  • Going Out
    • Check out Bring Fido’s list of dog-friendly bars and restaurants in NKY here.
    • Find Yelp recommendations
    • Or how about BARk & Patio? Northern Kentucky finally has its very first dog park and bar, The Bark Park & Patio! They have a passion for highlighting everything local, which is why you will only find the best local craft beers and wines on tap. With over an acre of fenced-in grassy space for your four-legged best friend to run around in you will have no problem relaxing while you sip on an ice-cold beer and enjoy the backyard atmosphere we all love.

 

Disclaimer: This list was assembled by the Fath Properties marketing team who have been Googling like crazy on your behalf. We have no personal experience with the vast majority of these businesses – and this list is not all-inclusive – (although we are most definitely dog lovers and have some personal experience with businesses in our various home locations), so do not necessarily endorse them due to our global inexperience. This writer would not mind a fact-finding expedition to experience them all with pup-in-tow, but that would be a story for another day). This list is provided here for you simply to narrow down your search for services and Where Dogs Are Welcome! locations throughout the greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area.

For Dogs Are Welcome Here locations in the Dallas area, click here; for locations in Dayton, click here.

Have fun taking your furry friends Where Dogs Are Welcome! locations throughout the region. Maybe we’ll see you there. Until then, tell your dog we said, “Hi!”

Be Cool At The Pool

Be Cool At The Pool illustrated by cool water and pink flamingo floatie

Summertime….and the livin’ is easy…especially if there’s a sparkling pool where you can chill on a hot day. But chillin’ only happens when everyone is mindful of their own behavior and are kind to fellow chillers. So here are some guidelines on how to Be Cool At The Pool.

Running, jumping, diving, pushing, roughhousing, and/or weapons are the epitome of uncool.
Activities that may send you – or someone else – to the ER are off limits and totally uncool.

Be cool about saved chairs.
Sorry, lounge chair monitors. Saving a seat around the pool is just fine – within reason. Respect that a chair with a towel is taken. But chair savers need to be respectful of others too. It’s not cool to save yourself a seat hours ahead of time, save an entire umbrella table for just yourself, or save half a dozen chairs. Only use chair space you need for sitting; your stuff doesn’t need a seat. Looking for a great pool towel that’s beautiful, dries quickly and takes up very little space in your pool tote? Click here.

Shower before getting in the pool.
No one wants a layer of another person’s body grime floating around the pool. Rinse off in the shower before taking a dip, especially if you’ve been running or working outside all day. If you’re sick or have an open wound? You know what to do – stay out of the pool entirely.

Dress appropriately.
Yes, we all noticed you spent all winter working on your beach bod. But, no one wants to see your downstairs outline or extreme cleavage, especially when there are kids around. Be respectful, dress confidently but modestly, and keep the G-string and banana hammock for the beach. Be cool at the pool; save street wear for the street and wear swimwear to swim. Wear pool shoes or flip-flops everywhere in the pool area (except in the water) and in the restrooms.

If it’s breakable, leave it home.
Glass of any kind and other breakable items are strictly prohibited. Folks will be barefoot for heaven’s sake! Choose from one of a boatload of uber cool, environmentally safe non-breakable drinking vessels and beverage carriers instead.

Keep your music to yourself, use your indoor voice, and watch your language.
It’s nice that you love your music and want to share with the world, but the world didn’t ask. Keep the tunes low enough so only you can hear, or wear ear buds. If someone asks you to turn down your music, do it. Some venues do not allow audible music, so check the rules and be sure to bring your headphones (check out waterproof headphones here) or waterproof earbuds.

Follow established pool rules.
All pools will post rules somewhere along the fence or on the gate doors stating what is permitted and prohibited at the pool, safety rules, and pool hours. These rules apply to everyone including you, your family, and your guests.

Clean up after yourself, you animal.
Bringing snacks and refreshments are usually allowed at most apartment pools (no glass of any kind ever). But don’t abuse the privilege by leaving wrappers, food, cans, and trash around your seating area. Be cool at the pool and keep things clean around you by making frequent trips to the garbage/recycling.

Spray with caution.
Many people prefer the spray over lotion sunscreens of easy application. While SPF is a must, spraying everyone around you is not. To contain the contents and mist, spray in your hand and apply where needed. If you must spray, walk to an area away from others to spray. Click here for the best sunscreens of 2023.

Keep the gate key or gate code to yourself.
Your community’s pool is a private pool for you and your neighbors. Inviting friends over for a swim is totally acceptable (provided you follow the guidelines for guests), but giving your access key or pool code out to everyone you know is not – and you may be violating terms of your lease.

Let kids have fun safely.
Splashing and screaming is second nature to children, but you and your kids still have to be courteous and considerate of other pool-goers. If your kids start to get rowdy, run at the pool, or get overzealous with the splashing, have them take a break until they have calmed down.

Don’t take your eyes off your kids because this could allow annoying behavior (everyone wants and deserves a peaceful environment) and potentially be very dangerous.  Know your kids’ swimming ability and be with them at all times. You birthed ‘em; you’re responsible. Here’s a great article about kids and pool safety.

Be nice.
Be cool at the pool; treat others with kindness and courtesy so everyone has a good experience in and around the swimming pool and sun deck.

Now get out there all you cool cats and enjoy some fun in the sun, tanning, swimming, and chillin’ poolside.

 

 

 

Laundry Room Etiquette

Oh no they didn’t…!

“I want my laundry day to go that ^^^ way!” said no one ever. Laundry is a chore even when you’re fortunate to have a washer and dryer in your home. But doing laundry in a shared laundry facility – whether a public laundromat or apartment community laundry center – adds an additional layer of things that can make this chore even less fun. From the wait for machines, to unkind or rude fellow launderers, to noisy kids, to blatant disrespect for you, your stuff, and the place – whew. It makes you wish we could all just spray on our clothes or be naked all the time, right?

So what can we do to make this task less tedious for everyone? Well, you could always pay someone to wash your clothes for you. But, if like most of us, you’d rather spend your money on a long weekend in Florida, a shopping spree to jump start your spring wardrobe, or just a nice dinner out with adult beverages, let’s establish some Emily Post-ish laundry room etiquette we can all use. Typically, laundry etiquette can be tossed out like an old dryer sheet, especially in a communal setting. Whether you’re an apartment newbie or an experienced renter, sometimes airing your dirty laundry in a public space can leave everyone’s patience stuck in the spin cycle.

Be prepared.  Yes, channel your inner Boy or Girl Scout and be prepared:

  • Sorting your stuff before you leave your apartment.
  • Pre-treat stains in advance so you won’t need to lug an extra product with you.
  • Check your pockets for loose change, that winning lotto ticket, tissues, or anything else that you’ll regret washing.
  • Get enough quarters to wash and dry all your loads.

Be courteous. Hello Emily Post, and Philip Galanes.

  • Don’t play Monopoly with the machines; in other words, don’t hog them all or leave your stuff in them after the cycle is complete.
  • Set a timer on your phone if you go to errands, go for a coffee, or go for a brisk walk. Washing a load of laundry typically takes 30 to 40 minutes, and drying takes 45 minutes to an hour. Time yourself to return before the cycle ends.
  • If someone else’s clothes are sitting in a stopped machine unattended for more than five minutes (10 if you’re exceptionally kind), move them with care. Neatly place the clothes on a clean surface above or near the machine. If rolling carts are available, you could place the clothes in one. Do not place the clothes in a dryer (clothes are easy to ruin, and you don’t want to be responsible for the shrinkage of their merino wool sweater) and certainly don’t place them on the floor (unless you want to be forever known as “that a$$hole).
  • Clean the lint screen after using the dryer. Shared lint = ew.
  • Use the appropriate amounts of detergent, bleach, or fabric softener so as to not leave soap or bleach residue which could affect the next person’s load of laundry. They also might be allergic to your detergent or have a thing for some scents.

Be clean.  I know, your there to clean, but people can be dirty while simultaneously trying to be clean. To wit:

  • Wipe up, rinse, and dry any and all spills.
  • Toss empty detergent, bleach, fabric softener, and stain remover containers in the trash can.
  • Toss used fabric softener sheets in the trash.
  • Toss lint from your dryer in the trash.
  • Don’t bring you cat or dog to keep you company especially if they shed.
  • Don’t throw everyday trash in the laundry room bins especially if that trash is food-related garbage.

Be mindful. Most people don’t enjoy doing laundry, but you can improve the experience for everyone by staying in a good mood and being polite.

  • Offer to help anyone struggling to use the equipment or fold that king-size fitted sheet (here’s how).
  • Resist the urge to gaze deeply at someone else’s underthings.
  • Use headphones or earbuds to enjoy music, a video, or a podcast.
  • Leave the room to take or make a call. No one wants to listen to a one-sided conversation.
  • Make sure there are seat for everyone by not filling seats with your supplies, coat, purse, or backpack.
  • If you bring your kids along, keep them as quiet as possible and seated. Tough, I know!

SUPPLIES YOU’LL NEEED

.When it comes to lugging laundry, smaller is better!

  • Fill a smaller container from your larger detergent or bleach bottle to reduce carrying weight.
  • Take a small laundry basket to leave on or next to your machine. That way, there’s a place for your stuff if someone need to move them after the cycle ends. Did you know that the big blue bag from IKEA makes a great laundry basket? It folds flat for each storage and it’s easy to carry with the dual shoulder straps. The bag is also virtually indestructible and cheap. If you don’t live near an IKEA 1) I’m sorry and 2) you can get one on Amazon!
  • Payment method. Your laundry room may use cards you can pre-load, so make sure you bring that and a payment method along to reload your card if needed. If the machines still take coins, save a trip back to your apartment (or the bank!?!) by bringing double the number you expect to use.

So there you have it. A few simple suggestions about laundry room etiquette that will make this chore less annoying. Now go separate your colors from your whites, grab some detergent and some quarters, and get that pile of dirty clothes washed, dried, folded, and put away. You got this!

 

 

Tools You Can (and will!) Use

When I was helping my daughter move into her first apartment, we quickly realized that not only was she going to need furniture, cookware, bedding, and towels (and so much more!), but she was also going to need some basic tools she could use. There were pictures to hang, a towel bar to install (unbelievably one was not provided in her bathroom), a shelf to add in her tiny kitchen, a curtain rod to install on the apartments lone, naked window, and hooks to install by her front door since her new home did not include a coat closet.

Yes, as a renter, her landlord would take care of any maintenance issue that arose in her apartment, but extras such as these would be up to us. So off we went to find everything she’s need for these and future DIY projects. I was determined to assemble a collection of tools she could use now that she could build on over time to carry her into future.

I don’t know about you, but I love going to the hardware store. Doesn’t matter if it’s a small, locally owned shop nearby such as my beloved Greive Hardware in Dayton, Ohio, a woman-owned store that employs retired men and teenagers, you could go there and buy two nails if that’s all you need. Or maybe a big box store where – unbelievably – all the employees seem to know the precise location of every item and will even walk you directly to it. So our expedition to find and create and apartment-sized tool kit was an exciting prospect.

In shopping around, we realized we had a few options:

  • Purchase pre-assembled tool kits from IKEA where we were going anyway for furniture. They have a 17-piece toolkit for $13, and a small drill for $28, both in easy-to-store cases, and both available on line. PROS: inexpensive, easy to store, not all-inclusive. CONS: no room for additional items, like nails, hangers, and screws.

 

  • Purchase Wirecutter’s “best” all-in one kit for $49. PROS: great selection of tools included, easy to store. CONS: no room for additional items, like nails, hangers, and screws.

  • Purchase everything separately along with a toolbox. PROS: completely customizable. CONS: more time consuming to select individual items, room for additional items, like nails, hangers, and screws, ease of storage will depend on toolbox selected.

If you decide to completely customize the Tools You Can (and will!) Use, below are suggested items to include:

Power Drill. This small, wireless drill is a workhorse around the house! It will help you with small projects like screwing in a cute switch plate cover to large project like assembling furniture.

Screw Driver. Get just one, but make it a screwdriver with multiple bits. Because screws tend to loosen over time, a set of screwdrivers will be very useful around your apartment so you can easily tighten screws into place. Whether it’s a loose screw on a door handle, kitchen cabinet handle or furniture you assembled a while ago, you can easily take care of these issues with screwdrivers.

Hammer.  One basic hammer will see you through.

Duct Tape. Duct tape has So. Many. Uses.

Tape Measure. Invest in a good one and it will last you forever.

Extension Cord. Or two. Helpful when trying to plug in a lamp when the outlet is behind the bed.

Utility Knife. A utility knife is a godsend when trying to open a cardboard box!

Pliers.  You won’t regret this 3-piece set. Pliers are the workhorses of the toolbox: Invest in at least two: 8-inch needle-nose and 10-inch groove-joint pliers. Add locking pliers that allow you to apply more force when needed.

Level. Whether you buy a level for your toolkit or download a level app on your phone, a level keeps everything straight even when the world is a crooked mess. A small one should do you nicely for most apartment needs.

Scissors. Lose your scissors once and you’ll realize how often you use/need them. Keep a pair in your toolbox and another pair in your kitchen junk drawer. C’mon, admit it. Everyone has a junk drawer.

Assortment of fasteners, hooks, nails, and screws. Honestly, just buy them for each specific project. If you buy them in advance, the ones you have will never be the ones you need.

Pencil.  For marking measurements.

Safety goggles. Because you never know when something will go wrong safety goggles are a smart addition to your tool kit.

Toolbox or caddy.  I’ve owned toolboxes and caddies, and prefer something that allows me to see all my stuff at a glance. This one fits that bill and is not too big!

Step Stool. Foldable. Two-step if your ceilings are 8’; three-step if you have tall ceilings.

Now you’ve got the tools you can (and will) use, so go hang that picture, tighten that loose handle on your dresser, and add a light-blocking curtain to your bedroom window. You’ve got the tools; you’ve got the power.

 

 

.

 

Your Local Hero

Distilled White Vinegar. Your New Local Hero.

Trending: ecofriendly everything.

Are your social media feeds brimming with ads for new products designed to do a better job of cleaning all kinds of specific items with minimal packaging waste? I know mine are. We could all spend a fortune and clutter up our storage spaces with products galore. Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

How about an alternative? It’s nothing new, newfangled, expensive, or “only available on line”. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you have a bottle in your cupboard. Let me reintroduce you to your new local hero: distilled white vinegar.

My admittedly dusty bottle of white vinegar sat in the back of my cabinet unused for ages. Not quite sure why I bought it; it just seemed like one of those must-have pantry staples.  But then when I moved into an old (circa 1896) apartment in the historic district of Newport, KY and my bathtub drain ran super slow, Google taught me that white vinegar would keep my drain running clear. More on that later.  That Google search opened my eyes to the almost magic trickery of distilled white vinegar which, as it turns out, is a workhorse in the kitchen, bathroom, garden, and more! Bonus: it’s cheap.

Here are just a few of the tricks white vinegar has up its sleeves:

All-Purpose Cleaning Solution. In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup of distilled white vinegar with 3 cups of water and use on just about everything. Don’t love the smell of vinegar? Let vinegar sit in a jar with strips of lemon zest and a spring of fresh thyme for a week or two in a sunny spot, then strain. Mix with water as described above. This can be done with any herb or fragrant plant like lavender or eucalyptus, just avoid anything that colors the vinegar if you plan on using it on a white carpet.

IN THE KITCHEN

Stinky Sink Drain. To keep kitchen drains fresh, pour 1 cup of distilled white vinegar down the drain once a week. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then rinse with cold water. Ahhh, fresh!

Dishwasher. Pour a small amount of white vinegar into the rinse-aid dispenser of your dishwasher. This will help prevent a cloudy residue on your glasses and keep cutlery-free of smears and streaks. And, once a year or so, more often if you have hard water, pour a cup of vinegar into an empty dishwasher and run it on a short cycle to remove lime and soap build-up.

Stainless Steel Cookware. Scrub with a mixture of white vinegar and salt.

Cutting Boards. Undiluted white vinegar cleans and disinfects cutting boards, especially those made of wood.

Microwave. To remove smells or cooked on food, combine ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar and 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe container. A slice of lemon will add a fresh, clean scent. Microwave on high until the mixture comes to a boil and steam forms on the window. Let cool slightly, then wipe away any food residue.

IN THE LAUNDRY

Stain Treatment.  For removing stains like mustard, ketchup, tomato sauce, grass, and underarm deodorants, spray a little white vinegar onto the stain before laundering. Soaking whites in vinegar will help bring back their whiteness.

And just like in your dishwasher, vinegar helps to break down detergent when added to the rinse cycle, making clothes fresher, more colorful—and it gets rid of funky towel mildew. One cup should be plenty; add less when using a front-loading washing machine.

WARNING: Never add vinegar when using chlorine bleach; it will create noxious chlorine gas, a potentially deadly compound.

Laundry Softener. If you’ve run out of fabric softener, simply add about three tablespoons (or a scant ¼ cup) to your washing machine dispenser. Your clothing will be softer, but won’t smell like vinegar because of the limited measurement.

IN THE BATHROOM

Window/Mirror/Shower Door Wash.  Spray the all-purpose solution on the glass surface and wipe it off with a clean, lint-free cloth or a balled-up piece of newspaper (does anyone still read the newspaper?).

Clean Faucets & Showerheads. White vinegar is effective in removing lime scale especially when mixed with hot water. Wrap your showerhead in a plastic bag of warm, white vinegar and secure it with a rubber band. Let it soak for an hour before rinsing it clean. Spray faucets, let sit for a bit, then wipe clean. If your toilet bowl, bathtub, or sink has lime deposits from hard water, soak or spray vinegar onto the grit. It should loosen the deposits enough to remove them easily.

Tile & Grout. Spray full strength white vinegar on mildewed or scummy grout and tile. Wait for about an hour, and scrub with a soft bathroom scrub brush.

Keep Drains Clear. To keep your sink or bathtub drain running clear, use a funnel to pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain followed by one cup of white vinegar. The concoction will foam up like crazy, so this can be a fun “science experiment” with the kids. Let sit until the foaming action stops, then rinse with hot water (this step should be kid-free). Not only will it clear your slow running drain, but it will also destroy any odor-causing bacteria.

IN OTHER PLACES

Pet Potty Accidents. Clean and refresh the soiled area by spraying vinegar. This may also deter your pet from soiling the same area. Read more in our blog post about cleaning carpet stains here.

Remove Stickers. Who hates price tag stickers??  They are a pet peeve of mine. I especially hate it when a price sticker is placed on the glass of a picture frame or in a very conspicuous place on a pretty vase. Dab white vinegar on the spot and let it sit for a minute or two. Afterward, it will be easy for you to scrape away the excess paper and gunk. And much less expensive than Goo Gone.

Relieve Sunburn Pain. No one ever plans a sun burn, so aloe is usually not close at hand. Instead, soak a washcloth in a 50/50 solution of distilled white vinegar and water and dab on your sunburn. Reapply as the washcloth warms. Or, add 2 cups to your bathwater.

Fresh Flowers. Add a few tablespoons of vinegar to your flower water to make your flowers last longer. When the water gets cloudy, dump it out and repeat.

So there you have it. Well not all of it, because the uses for white vinegar go on and on!

In closing, I’ll mention that vinegar is an acidic liquid originally created from wine gone bad. Wine gone bad is a very, very sad thought until you think of all the easy, effective, and inexpensive things that can be done with it.

Now go buy a gallon. Who doesn’t need a hero right now?

Resources: https://facty.com, www.foodandwine.com, www.thespruce.com

 

 

Travel Checklist for Packing Your Bags

You’re getting ready for a much-anticipated vacation and have prepared your place, checked off your travel essentials, and are ready to – finally! – pack your bags. The fun part, right? Um, wrong. It’s so, so easy to fall into an overpacking trap without considering the repercussions. Repercussions, you ask? Oh yes; I know from experience that over-packing can ultimately be a real pain. I learned many lessons the hard way, and I hope to save you travel headaches with a travel checklist for packing your bags.

Keep It Light

I was traveling to Paris with my mom and my daughter in the spring of one year. Stupidly, I thought Parisians would care more about how I looked than how I spoke the few words of French I knew with such an awful, American accent. So, the big suitcase it was! Also believing that my place of employment would crumple and fall without access to me (mind you, this was in the olden days when laptops were heavy and power converters for laptops even heavier), I packed my laptop and the ridiculously heavy power converter I’d purchased. (Yes friends, I actually believed I would do so work WHILE IN PARIS). Silly, silly girl. My work fantasies aside, the biggest mistake I made while packing was not researching how to get around while dreamily exploring venues to visit in this bucket-list destination. Imagine my horror when the three of us arrived just across the Seine River from Île Saint-Louis via Metro De Paris and had to climb a long flight of stairs (no elevator or escalator!) with all the huge, heavy luggage. Suddenly looking chic and pretending I would work was not very important. At all.

Tip #1 on the Travel Checklist For Packing Your Bags is Keep It Light. Think over your shoe situation carefully. I have a friend who packed an entire extra suitcase full of shoes for a vacation. Sorry, but that’s crazy. Who wants to drag a bag of shoes around? On my last trip (15 days in the fall), I packed comfy walking shoes for day wear, and pairs of dress flats and dress heels for the evening, and not one single person made fun of me. Note that my walking shoes are seriously cute and I was delighted to wear them daily.

Keep It Simple

Tip #2 on the Travel Checklist For Packing Your Bags is Keep It Simple. Realize how little you REALLY need. On a direct flight from Florence, Italy to Amsterdam, Netherlands, Alitalia managed to lose my luggage. For an entire week. Oh, they sent me updates – your suitcase is in Lisbon! Prague! Vienna! (how annoying that my suitcase was better traveled than I!), but did not actually deliver it to me until the day we left to return to the USA a week later. The day we flew from Florence, I wore capris, a tee, and my trusty Birkenstocks. Fortunately, the airport in Amsterdam had loads of shops and I was able to pick up two extra tees, and a couple of pairs of undies. A day or two later, I bought a skirt, a light sweater, a dressier top, and dressier sandals for the evening, making sure to stick with go-together colors. This meager wardrobe got me through an entire week. Again, no one gave me an eye-roll for my wardrobe. Of course, there was hand washing in the evening, but what a great lesson learned! The next time I traveled, I followed the advice of Rick Steves and packed for a 10-day trip with just a carry-on.  I can’t even tell you how liberating it is to travel light! No waiting at baggage claim. No lost luggage. No lugging around heavy luggage (even with spinning wheels, heavy is heavy).  Rick also has a very helpful packing light packing list.

Keep It Organized

This last year, I tried packing cubes for the first time. Game changer! Not only do the cubes help you get more stuff in your suitcase, but they also help you keep your stuff organized when you arrive at your destination. They are especially helpful if you will be destination hopping on your trip. Check out Travel & Leisure’s list of the best packing cubes here, and The New York Times has an excellent article on packing efficiently if you don’t want to invest in the cubes.

Avoid “Just In Case”

It’s a trap! Don’t fall into it just because you “might need it”. Remember you are going on vacation. If you need something you didn’t pack – just buy it. A great way to feel very foolish is to come home from a trip with clothes you never wore – just lugged around.

Must Haves

Aside from clothing, and important travel-related items we check-listed here, there are essentials no suitcase should be without:

  • A bag for dirty garments. A plastic shopping bag works great for this purpose, and you won’t get that used-clothing funk on whatever clean clothes you have left.
  • One or two zipper-locked plastic bags for wet or damp items, or for corralling smaller items.
  • A well-stocked toiletries case. Check to see if the place where you’re staying will provide shampoo, conditioner, soap, Q-Tips, shaving cream, etc. Big box stores have special sections for travel-sized items, or you can purchase a kit with small jars and bottles to fill with your favorite products.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss, as while most hotels provide some toiletries, you’re on your own for tooth care.
  • Shoe bag/s to keep your clothes away from whatever gunk gets on the bottom of your shoes as you trek about.

Carry On Must Haves

We’ve got you covered with your carry-on bag, too! Here’s more of our travel checklist for packing your bags:

  • If your checked-in bag gets delayed or you want to freshen up upon arrival, having your cosmetics handy is essential.
  • Medications in their original containers.
  • A small case filled with important electronics items such as chargers, noise-canceling headphones (especially helpful for napping!), or earbuds.
  • A few one-use toothbrushes to freshen up.
  • An eye mask is very helpful if you’d like to nap on the flight. Click here for some of the best ones.
  • An empty insulated water bottle. Fill it at the airport instead of paying the exorbitant prices for bottled water at the gate.
  • They don’t feed you on the plane anymore, so snacks like granola bars or nuts can come in handy.
  • Paper and pen. The pen will be helpful for customs forms, note-taking, or exchanging phone numbers with that cute human in the seat next to you.
  • Something to read.
  • A wrap in case it gets chilly or for snuggling up during your nap.
  • If you’re traveling a long distance, invest in a pair of compression socks. Styles are fun and colorful, so you don’t have to worry about looking like a little old person. Here’s why they make a great travel companion.

Okay, kids – your bags are thoughtfully packed, and your vacation awaits! Safe travels!

 

Pre-Travel Checklist Essentials

You’ve scrimped and saved, studied and planned, researched and purchased. You know when you’re going, where you’re going, where you’ll be staying. You have bus/train/plane and motel/hotel/resort/Air B & B reservations, a lighter than usual checking account, and higher than usual credit card bill. It’s what vacation is all about! And you are SO READY to go. But are you really ready? Our last blog contained a handy checklist to help you get your home vacation ready. Now we’ll focus on getting you ready with these pre-travel trip checklists essentials for general travel, international travel, and baggage.

Pre-Travel Checklist: General Trip Essentials

Rx. Make sure you have enough prescription medication to last for your entire trip. It’s a good idea to have a bit more than you need, just in case there’s an unforeseen delay. The Allianz Travel 24-hour assistance hotline can help you refill prescriptions overseas, but you must purchase their travel insurance.

Cash. Always have some cash on hand, and make sure you have some small bills for tipping.

Bank balances. Ensure your bank account and credit card limits are sufficient to handle your vacation spending.

Schedule a ride. If traveling by bus, train, or plane schedule a cab, Uber, Lyft, or ride from a friend/family member in advance to ensure you arrive on time. Downloading the Uber or Lyft app in advance can save time when you arrive at your destination. If you already have one of these apps, make sure your payment method is current.

Check in. Download the app for your airline, train, or bus. Check in online to save wait time at the terminal. Pre-pay for checked bags whenever possible.

Charge. Be sure all your electronics are fully charged as you never know for certain when or where you’ll be able to recharge. Since travel inevitably means waiting, you’ll want fully-charged devices to keep you busy – especially if there are delays. Pack all chargers in an easy-to-access spot like a purse, backpack, or carry-on that stays with you. That charger won’t do you any good if it’s in a checked bag! Consider buying a portable charger if you’re not sure when you’ll be able to plug in. I once had a late flight which allowed me all day to explore the city, but using my GPS (and with location turned on for photos), used up my charge quickly! Fortunately, I found a shop that sold fully-charged portable chargers, but boy did I pay a premium for it. If you’re traveling by car, be sure to have a charger that works in the cigarette lighter (if your car doesn’t have a USB port), and that you have a phone holder if you are the driver.

Download. Download apps for navigation, transportation, and translation.  Apps for guided meditations are helpful if you stress while traveling. Audible has books and podcasts that will greatly help to pass the time. You can even download movies or TV shows from your favorite streaming service for travel amusement.

Clearance. Consider enrolling in a TSA clearance program such as TSA PreCheck ($78 for 5 years. Good for foreign travel originating in the US, but typically not on the return flight. For that, consider Global Entry), or CLEAR (Start your enrollment here and finish at any CLEAR airport location next time you travel—no appointment needed, just remember your government-issued I.D. $189/year. Not available at all airports.)

Pre-Travel Checklist: International Trip Essentials

Boarding passes & itinerary. Double check all dates. Remember that if you are traveling abroad, dates may appear differently: May 12, 2023 could be 12/05/2023 instead of 05/12/2023.

Destination travel requirements. Your destination country may require certain vaccinations, visas, an arrival tax, a specific number of free pages in your passport, or for permissible passport expiration times.  Learn the requirements for your destination here.

Passport. Always keep your passport in the same place. You don’t want to be frantically hunting for it right before your departure. Passport renewals are taking some time these days with seven to nine weeks minimum for expedited and 10 to 14 weeks standard.

Print. Sounds old school, but do print all of your travel info/documents. If you rely solely on your phone or other device for directions, reservations and other crucial information, you’ll be in trouble if the battery dies or your electronics get stolen.

Scan/photograph. Scan or take a pic of your passport, driver’s license, proof of vaccination, and credit cards. Store in the Notes section of your phone, pinned to the top. This can help you get replacements more quickly, should you lose the originals. Carry copies of your traveling partner’s documents as well.

Travel insurance. Consider purchasing to protect yourself and your trip. I’d purchased a cruise for April 2020. Thank goodness I had travel insurance to protect this paid-in-advance trip when it was cancelled due to COVID. The world is a pretty volatile place these days, even in the USA, and travel insurance is a small price to pay for peace of mind.  You can purchase travel insurance any time before the date of your departure, although your plan choice may be limited if you wait until the last minute. If you want a plan that includes valuable trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits, as well as benefits for existing medical conditions, you’ll want to purchase travel insurance as far in advance as possible.

Read. Okay, no one likes reading the fine print, the terms and conditions, or the instruction manual. But you need to know what’s covered and understand how to file a claim.

STEP. STEP is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, run by the U.S. Department of State. Sign up in order to help the local embassy reach you in an emergency.

Pre-Travel Checklist: Baggage Essentials

Photograph. Take a pic of the contents. This makes it easier to file a baggage loss/delay claim, if anything happens to your stuff.

Tag. Be sure your luggage has a tag and contains the correct info. What should you include on the tag? Travel & Leisure advises to include your name (first initial and last name if you prefer to keep your orientation private), email address, and phone number. International travelers should also include the name of their hotel or residence in case the bag is lost. You can also purchase a smart tag luggage tracker.

Identify.  Is your suitcase easy to spot on the baggage carousel? So many bags look alike! I once saw a woman walk off with my bag and had to chase her down! Her bag was identical to mine and she neglected to check the tag. I was very fortunate to have seen her, or I’d have been without luggage in a foreign city (not that that’s never happened to me before, but that’s a tale for another day). Here are some ideas to make your bag stand out:

  • Tie a ribbon around the handle.
  • Buy a ridiculously large luggage tag.
  • Choose a different color / patterned suitcase. Solid black, navy blue, and red are the most common.
  • Purchase an identifiable luggage belt.
  • Decorate your bag with stickers.
  • Invest in handle grips.

Inspect. Look in all the pockets of your suitcase, carry on, and personal items. A forgotten pocketknife, corkscrew, or “liquid” over 3.4 ounces may mean a TSA delay and/or confiscation. I had a 5 oz. unopened jar of expensive body cream – still in its factory-sealed plastic shrink-wrap – confiscated.  I thought liquid meant pourable. Here’s what TSA thinks are liquids.

Weigh. Weigh your checked bag. If it’s more than 50 pounds (40 pounds on some airlines), you may be charged an extra fee. Check the luggage restrictions for your particular airline.

Spin it. Can you lift your suitcase and lug it upstairs? Test it before your find out the hard way that there is no elevator from the subway to street level. Yep, been there.

Measure. Measure your carry-on. Airlines are strict about size and, of course, they vary by carrier.

This seems like a lot, I know! But being well-prepared is essential for true travel enjoyment. Remember that you can replace almost anything you forget. As long as you have money, identification, travel documents, and travel insurance, you’ll be fine. Bon voyage!

 

Get Your Place Vacation Ready

How to prep your place for time away from home.

PREP YOUR PLACE FOR TIME AWAY

Your car is gassed up, your bags are packed, and you’re ready to head off for some R & R. But wait! Be sure your place is properly prepped for your time away, so you don’t return to anything unpleasant. For your peace of mind, here’s a handy checklist to follow so you won’t spoil even a moment by worrying about what you may have left undone at home. Getting your place vacation ready is the key.

SHARE your travel plans with the management of your apartment, condo, homeowners’ association, or a trusted neighbor in the event there’s an emergency. Better to be safe than sorry in this crazy world of ours. And if there’s an emergency, chances are you will want to be found. (Except for work. Don’t tell them a thing. LOL.

HOLD the mail. Visit your local post office or stop the mail online. This is such a great service for when you are on vacation, on a business trip, or will be spending time away for any reason. As an added bonus, you can schedule the day you want all your mail delivered to your home.

INSTALL a timer on one or more lights so it looks like someone is home. Programmable timers let you randomize the daily on/off times.

SET your A/C and heating system’s thermostat. When the weather is cold, set the heat to at least 50 degrees (to prevent pipes from freezing) and when it’s hot outside, set the air conditioning to 85 degrees.

SHUT OFF the water. Not really necessary for shorter trips, but if you will be away for an extended period, close the valves to your washing machine, dishwasher, ice maker, and toilets to prevent potential leaks.

ADJUST your blinds, shades, and/or curtains. Don’t completely close your window coverings if you don’t normally. Instead, close them partially to block the view while giving an “at-home” appearance. Tilting mini blind slats up will let in light but prevent snooping eyes. And you don’t want to completely close all window coverings. Remember mold and mildew thrive in dark places.

LOCK all doors and windows, and your car if you’re leaving it behind. This is a critical step for getting your place vacation ready!

PAY your bills. Sewer, electric, gas, rent, car payment, phone, internet, etc. Be sure to make any upcoming payments to keep your credit in good standing. With online banking, you can set payments to occur when they are due even if you’re away. Gotta love technology, right?

WATER your plants. Consider a Plant Nanny to self-water while you are away, or check out this DIY plant watering system.

TOSS any fresh-cut flowers, which could start to smell if left in your home.

CLEAN your kitchen and bathroom. Wash dirty dishes, clean the sink trap, and pour vinegar down your garbage disposal so you don’t come home to yucky smells, bugs, or mildew.

CHECK to ensure the oven and stove are turned off. Don’t embarrass yourself by having to call a friend or neighbor to go check. Prep your place for time away!

EMPTY the trash. Take the trash to the dumpster so you don’t come home to a horrible stench or unwanted pests.

CLEAR the fridge and pantry. Eat or toss leftovers and perishables. Check those expiration dates! Rotting potatoes smell unbelievably gross. Onions, potatoes, and garlic may sprout, so toss them, too.

FREEZE a microwave meal for when you return home tired and hungry. Especially if you’ll be arriving late.

WASH, dry, fold, and stow everything in your laundry basket. Damp workout clothes can smell really nasty if left unwashed and spread the smell to everything else in your hamper. Don’t forget that last peek into the washing machine. Wet or even damp clothes sitting for a week or more will reek and only create more work for you once you return home with all your dirty vacation clothes.

UNPLUG small appliances, such as your toaster and coffeemaker, hair dryer, and curling wand.

MAKE your bed up with fresh sheets. This one is my favorite way to get my place vacation ready. You’ll love it too when you arrive home exhausted and get to sleep in a neat clean bed instead of a tangle of dusty sheets. It will be like being back in your hotel room! (If only).

Now that your place is perfectly prepared for your time away, pack your bags, leave your cares behind, and enjoy your vacation!

 

 

Getting Rid of Spiders

Getting Rid of Spiders

Spring has arrived! Or has it? At this writing on March 29 we woke to a hard frost here in Ohio. (Mother Nature, you are a naughty girl and a tease.) Anyway, the arrival of [pseudo] spring is accompanied by the arrival of creepy crawlies. Earlier in March, we posted about getting rid of stinkbugs. Today, we’ll tackle getting rid of spiders. Personally, I don’t mind them so much as spiders deliver many benefits to both our ecosystem and inside our homes. They like to feast on pesky insects – and ones I really dislike – like roaches, aphids, moths, and earwigs. This spider feast helps keep their population in check. Did you know that if left alone, spiders will consume most of the insects in your home, providing effective home pest control? Yet there are those that have an intense dislike – shall we more accurately call it loathing? – of these eight-legged creatures such as two family members who, to prevent their public embarrassment, shall remain unnamed. I will say, however, that a video of their antics when stumbling across a spider of any size, could win me $10,000 on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Back to the matter at hand.

Here are some methods to help control any spider population in your home:

  • Set spider traps. Sticky glue traps designed to catch and kill spiders can be effective if you place them in high-traffic areas. Here is a link to the best spider traps available in 2023. Warning: there’s a pic of a spider at the link along with the list. Keep traps away from kids and pets and be sure to check and change them often.
  • Remove webs. You can use a vacuum if yours has a hose attachment to remove spider webs. Remove the webs as soon as you see them. If there are any spiders in the web, toss or empty the vacuum cleaner bag or clean out the dirt compartment into a small trash bag and take to the dumpster.
  • Use essential oils. This is a great way to repel spiders without chemicals. Spritz the deterrent anywhere you’ve noticed spider activity. Reapply regularly.

  • Use vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is also an excellent natural spider repellent. Fill a spray bottle with a half and half mixture of vinegar and. Again, spray the mixture into the corners around your home. Reapply every few days.
  • Check window screens. If you leave your windows open during the day and/or evening, check your screens for tears or holes. If you’re in an apartment, let your management office know if your screens need repair.
  • Use store-bought insecticide. Use store-bought insecticides and spray treatments along the baseboards, in the corners of your home, and under furniture. These insecticides form a barrier that repels or kills spiders. They can be an effective method to deal with serious spider infestations. Keep in mind that many contain chemicals or toxins that are unsafe for kids and pets, so it’s important to use them carefully and to read all label directions.
  • Keep a tidy home. Read our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Dusting blog post for tips on getting your home thoroughly clean, then clean regularly. Clean homes make it harder for spiders to find hiding spots that allow them to take up residence.
  • Use a spider catcher. To rid your home of spiders without killing (squishing – ewww) them, buy a spider catcher. This clever device is a hand-operated wand designed to pick up spiders in gentle, flexible fibers, and hold them securely until you can release them outdoors. A spider catcher will be most effective if you use it in conjunction with home remedies like peppermint oil and vinegar.
  • Clean up leftovers. After prepping and eating meals, clean up promptly. Food crumbs and other kitchen messes will attract pests like ants and beetles, which will attract the spiders who eat them. Wipe your counters and tables regularly, and wash all dirty dishes within a few hours.
  • Declutter. Clutter provides hiding spaces for spiders. And you don’t want any jack-in-the-box surprises when hunting for that People Magazine. Toss old magazines, and newspapers (does anyone actually read a physical newspaper anymore?), mail, cardboard boxes, and piles of clothes.
  • Smart storage. Store items in airtight plastic containers instead of cardboard. In addition to preventing spiders from hiding inside the boxes, plastic bins will keep your belongings safe from dust, moisture, mold, and mildew.
  • Hand trap. Trap the spider in a jar or glass and set it free outside, but carefully look at the markings. Learn to identify dangerous spiders here. If it does not appear to be a poisonous spider, place a cup or container over it, and then carefully slide a piece of paper or a note card under the mouth of the container. Keeping the paper in place with your hand, quickly flip over the container so the spider lands at the bottom and then walk it outside at least 10 feet from your house to let it go. Never attempt to pick up brown recluses or black widows.

NOTES

  • Foggers are ineffective at getting rid of spiders.
  • Spider trapsare non-toxic and cost-effective, but can be less effective against larger infestations.
  • Spider sprays kill on contact and are easy to use, but leave a residue.
  • Natural spider repellent is non-toxic but requires more frequent reapplication.
  • Keep cats or even frogs as pets, since they hunt spiders. If you live in an apartment, alert your local management office if you adopt a cat as pet fees may apply.
  • Remove vegetation within eight feet of the perimeter of your home. Shrubs, trees, and ivy provide shelter for spiders and harbor insects they use for food.

Wishing you a spring and summer of complete and spider-free enjoyment of your home – unless of course, you wish to train them like researchers at the University of Manchester who trained a regal jumping spider named “Kim” to leap on demand. It’s the first time a spider has been successfully trained to jump. Here’s how they did it.

Shout out to AJ Wright for the inspo!

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Kitchens

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Kitchen

We’ve sped through the backstretch and are rounding the corner to the finish line in this final edition of our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza! We’re oh-so-close to a tidy, spotless, well-organized home that will allow us to embrace the spring season and be well-prepared for summer fun. Thus far our journey has made our windows and blinds sparkling and dust free, dust has been removed from every nook and cranny in our home, and our bedrooms have become beautiful, calm, clean, and relaxing havens, and our bathrooms are gleaming. Next, we’ll tackle what is arguably the most time consuming room in the house to clean – the kitchen – with our spring cleaning extravaganza – kitchen edition.

As always we’ll begin by assuming the usual suspects aka cleaning supplies.

SUPPLIES

THE CABINETS

  • Empty cabinets and drawers. Do one section at a time.
  • Vacuum accumulated dust, and dirt from the shelves and drawers.
  • Dab a microfiber cloth with a mild cleanser. Wipe down the shelves and the inside and outside of the door. Use a clean toothbrush to treat the corners and other small crevices. Let dry completely before restocking.
  • Wipe down cabinet hardware or remove knobs/handles and wash in hot, soapy water.
  • Wash any storage bins, silverware trays, and drawer dividers and thoroughly dry.
  • As you restock shelves and drawers, consider tossing any chipped or cracked items. Organize everything neatly. Toss any pantry goods, spices, and other foodstuffs that have expired or exceeded their shelf life.

THE BACKSPLASH

Some of us have some kind of tile between the counter and upper shelves; others have wall surface. Whatever you have, this space can get grimy and greasy from cooking and splattered during food preparations. Cooking is messy!

  • Remove outlet- and switch-plate covers and place in hot soapy water. Wash, rinse, set aside to dry. If the covers aren’t too dirty/greasy, use an all-purpose cleaner and paper towel.
  • Soften grease and grime with warm water, then clean with a sponge soaked in warm, soapy water, and finally dry with a dishtowel to avoid any leftover residue that would attract dirt and grime. For stubborn stains, use a baking soda spot treatment or a spritz of distilled white vinegar.

THE STOVE AND OVEN

Stovetop

  1. Remove control knobs and drip pans and soak in hot sudsy water.
  2. Use hot, soapy water to clean the stovetop and control panel. If your stove has a glass top, apply glass top cleaner with a soft cloth or sponge. Buff with a clean, dry, microfiber cloth.
  3. Shine all surfaces with Windex and a clean paper towel.
  4. Rinse and dry knobs and replace them on the control panel.

Oven

  1. Mix about 3 tablespoons of baking soda, a bit of water, and some white vinegar in an oven-safe dish until it forms a paste.
  2. Dab the dirtiest areas with the mixture.
  3. Place the remaining mixture in the center of your center oven rack.
  4. Turn the oven to around 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Leave the mix in for around 45 minutes.
  6. Turn the oven off and allow it to cool for a bit.
  7. Wipe down the oven with a wet sponge to easily remove build up. Rinse the sponge frequently.
  8. With a freshly rinsed sponge, use clean water to give the oven interior a final rinse.

Oven door glass

  1. Mix a paste of baking soda and water and apply a thick layer to the glass.
  2. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Use a scraper to remove the crud.
  4. Wipe the glass with white vinegar to neutralize any remaining baking soda.
  5. With a freshly rinsed sponge, use clean water to give the oven interior a final rinse.

Oven drawer

  1. Empty the drawer and vacuum away all loose dirt and crumbs.
  2. Wipe clean with all-purpose cleaner and a paper towel.

Vent hood

  1. Wipe it down with an all-purpose cleaner or hot soapy water.
  2. Remove vent filters and wash in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Allow to air dry before reinstalling.

Microwave

  • Fill a microwave-safe bowl with two cups of water and two tablespoons of vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Tip: Add a small wooden spoon to the bowl or place a toothpick in the mixture. This will allow bubbles to form against the wood as the water heats up, preventing the water from becoming superheated and “exploding” into a boil.

  • Place the mixture in the microwave, close the door, and microwave on high for three minutes. Wait an additional 15 minutes without opening the door.
  • Using potholders carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and set it aside—don’t pour it out just yet.
  • Remove the turntable tray to wash it in hot soapy water in the sink.
  • Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with the vinegar mixture and wipe down the interior of your microwave. Use a non-scratch scrubbing pad for any stubborn spots or hard-to-reach crevices.
  • Spray an all-purpose cleaner onto a clean cloth and wipe down the control panel, sides, top, and bottom. (Never spray directly onto the control panel.)

THE FRIDGE

For a complete, in-depth how-to for cleaning your fridge, please visit to our blog post dedicated to that subject here.  In a nutshell:

  • Start at the top.
  • Remove everything from a shelf and see just how messy you (blame the kids! Blame your S.O. Blame the dog!) have been.
  • If there are spills, carefully remove the glass from the frame (or brackets, depending on your fridge) and clean both sides, as well as the edges, with the vinegar solution.
  • Dry with paper or microfiber towels.
  • Wash the frame that holds the glass before replacing the entire shelf. For that, I usually head to the sink and use dish soap and hot water.
  • If there aren’t any caked-on spills that require shelf removal, simply run a scrubby sponge under hot water. Give the shelf and fridge walls an initial scrub to loosen any gunk. Then, spray it all down with cleaner and give it another scrub, before wiping everything clean with a microfiber cloth.

NOTE: When you’re not actively working in the fridge, close the door to keep everything as cool as you can.

  • Remove the drawers and wash them in the kitchen sink with soap and water. If they won’t fit in your sink, spray them down, wipe them clean, and dry them before putting them back. While the drawers are removed, wipe down the walls and “floor” of the fridge with the vinegar cleaner. Use the same method for the shelves inside the doors.
  • Wash down all items you removed from the fridge to clean it. Check all expiration dates and toss anything that’s expired.
  • Use a clean microfiber cloth and vinegar spray to wipe down the outside of the doors, including the edges and seals, and don’t forget the handles! The worst area will undoubtedly be to top of the fridge as it tends to collect greasy residue from cooking and dust. I like keeping a kitchen towel on top that can just be thrown in the wash.
  • Clean under the fridge.
  • Vacuum the coils on the back of the fridge.

 

THE DISHWASHER

Filters

  • If you have a removable filter, make a habit of regularly checking the cover at the bottom, underneath the twirling spray arm. Although the holes let food through, the filter is designed to block larger, harder debris. Cleaning is easy: just pick the pieces out by hand.
  • If you have a removable filter, there is generally a circular piece at the bottom that can be turned when you want to clean the fine-mesh basket strainer underneath. The circular piece often fits into a flat piece of metal mesh with coarser holes that lifts out for cleaning.
  • Clean each part by rinsing it out in the opposite direction from the way the water flows when the dishwasher is running. An old toothbrush or sponge can loosen debris, along with soaking in soapy water or vinegar. Once you’ve removed the mesh, clean the area underneath.

Air Gap

  • The air gap is next to the sink, higher than the dishwasher, and has a liftoff cover. Below that is a part that’s plumbed to both the drain line from the dishwasher and a drain line that connects to the sink.
  • Remove the cover and clean debris from the plastic part underneath.

Nozzles

  • Clean nozzles on the spray arms by removing each arm (most dishwashers have upper and lower ones). Use a narrow wire, a pick, or sturdy needle to clean out the holes while running water thought the central opening on the arm.

Exterior

  • A dishwasher usually cleans the interior on its own, but the exterior is up to you. You can never go wrong by simply wiping away food spatters with a soft, slightly damp cloth, then drying the surface with a second soft cloth.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL

The easiest job you’ll do all day!

  • Sprinkle a half-cup of baking soda into the opening of the garbage disposal.
  • Pour in a cup of white vinegar and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Turn on the garbage disposal and allow hot water to rinse away the baking soda mixture.
  • As an alternative to baking soda and vinegar, use chopped citrus peels.
  • Pour in two cups of ice and a cup of salt, and then run the disposal to clean the blades.
  • Using a soapy sponge, wash the disposal’s rubber splashguard (also known as a gasket or baffle).

THE SINK

I always do the sink last as you’ll need it for every other step of the kitchen spring cleaning.  There’s a clean sink and then there’s a sparkling clean sink. To me, the kitchen is not really clean unless the sink is gleaming. Follow these steps once a month to keep your sink looking like you have a maid. Before you get started, clean your dish drying rack. Place it in a sink full of hot, soapy water and give it a good scrub with your scrub brush.

  • Generously sprinkle Bar Keepers Friend across the bottom of the sink(s).
  • Use a sponge to scrub the walls and bottom of the sink, and the faucet. Get in the tiny space between the sink and the counter and in the openings to the drain and garbage disposal. Don’t forget to wash the sink drainer and disposal cover.
  • Rinse with clear water.
  • Use your sponge to blot up the water until the sink and faucet are just about dry.
  • Spray with stainless steel cleaner.
  • Polish with a dry paper towel or microfiber cloth.

process for cleaning a stainless steel sink

COUNTERS

  • Wash counters with hot soapy water or all-purpose cleaner. Then dry with a paper or cloth towel.

FLOORS

  • If you have a washable rug, now is the time to wash and dry according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Vacuum or sweep floors.
  • Clean baseboards and any quarter round trim. A used dryer sheet works great in removing dust. Use soapy water and a sponge to remove any built-up dirt.
  • Damp mop with Swiffer Wet or your mop and cleaning solution of choice.

 

And that, ladies and gents is that. We’ve crossed the finish line of our spring cleaning extravaganza with this kitchens edition. At least until the next person comes home with dirty shoes, leaves toothpaste residue in the bathroom sink, or is less than neat while making dinner. But that’s our wonderful, messy lives with the people we care about. At least deep down our home is clean – and with that – our minds clear of “must-clean clutter”.

Thanks for sharing this spring cleaning journey with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Bathrooms

 

In the wee hours last Monday morning, most folks in the USA grumbled as we lost an hour of sleep during the annual “spring forward” time change reminding me that we’re ever closer to the Spring Equinox on March 20. This Spring Cleaning Extravaganza’s intention was that we would welcome spring with a tidy, spotless, well-organized home and a light heart ready to embrace the season. Thus far our journey has made our windows and blinds sparkling and dust free, dust has been removed from every nook and cranny in our home, and our bedrooms have become beautiful, calm, clean, and relaxing havens. Next, we’ll tackle what is arguably the worst room in the house to clean – the bathroom. Our spring cleaning extravaganza continues with tips, tricks, and a checklist to help you make your bathroom sparkling clean.

Think happy thoughts trying to undermine the gag factor of bathroom cleaning, and assemble the usual suspects – aka cleaning supplies and products.

SUPPLIES 

Click the links to find the best product in each category. You’re welcome.

PROCESS

Clean The Slate

  • Remove everything from the bathroom counter, shelves, ledges, back of the toilet and place in a basket. Place the basket outside the bathroom.
  • Remove any bath mats and/or bath rugs, the shower curtain and its liner, and all towels. Launder as per manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Move the trashcan, scale, and anything else that sits on the floor.

Dust Top to Bottom

  • Dust vents with a dry rag, or vacuum cleaner detachment (a compressed air cleaner really gets in there).
  • Wipe off all ledges, windowsills, and shelves with a dry rag.
  • Dust light fixture covers and the shower curtain rod.

Wipe It Down

  • Wipe all bathroom surfaces with a wet, soapy sponge or spray multi-purpose cleaner on the below items, let sit for a minute, and then wipe residue with a clean, wet sponge or paper towel:
    • Vents (careful not to get vent interior wet)
    • Sink bowl and faucets
    • Walls
    • Light switches
    • Countertops (don’t forget the underside of ledges)
    • Showerhead, faucets (don’t forget the aerator – where the water comes out), and handles
    • Shelves
    • Toilet base, back, seat. handle (now is a good time to tighten base and seat bolts if loose)

Scrub The Gunk

  • Use a bleach/water combo (¾ cup bleach to a gallon of water), disinfectant spray, or DIY baking soda solution on your tile and grout shower walls and/or shower floor to scrub away any visible mildew, mold, or discoloration. TIP: remove water from the wall tile and tub with a squeegee after every shower and leave your shower curtain open until the tub area is dry. This will help to prevent the grown of mold and mildew. Move tips for cleaning your shower are here! Detailed tips for keeping grout and tile clean are here.
  • Wipe your porcelain tub with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath. It works great on hard soap scum.
  • Use a wet soapy sponge to wipe down shower curtain rod and rings.
  • Using multi-purpose cleaner or DIY baking soda scrub, thoroughly scrub sink bowl, drain, and faucet.
  • Use your bristle brush with bathroom cleaner to scrub the shower head. Be sure to scrub the aerator where the water sprays out. See tips for descaling below in the Miscellaneous section.
  • Scrub toilet bowl, seat, and area around the bolts with bowl. TIP: to prevent an accumulation of liquid in your brush holder, let the brush hang over the bowl with the seat closed until dry.

Shine

  • Using glass cleaner and paper towels to clean and shine all windows, mirrors, glass surfaces, light fixture covers, cabinet handles, doorknobs, and hinges.
  • Spray inside and outside of shower doors with glass cleaner and wipe clean with a squeegee.

Floor & Baseboards

  • Use a Swiffer dry or a vacuum to collect all loose hair and dust from the floor.
  • Wipe down baseboards (a used dryer sheet works great on this job!)
  • Remove the floor vent and vacuum both sides of the vent along with the airway below.
  • Wipe the doorstop.
  • Wet mop the floor with a Swiffer Wet or mop, then let dry.

Sanitize

  • Spray disinfectant such as Microban 24 Bathroom Cleaner on hard, non-porous surfaces like you countertop, shower stall, bathtub, toilet exterior, sink basin, faucets, handles, and doorknobs.

Miscellaneous

  • Unclog the drains, if necessary. A monthly treatment with white vinegar and baking soda keeps drains clear. Simply sprinkle about 1/2 cup of baking soda in your tub and/or sink drain, then pour a cup or two of white vinegar on the baking soda. This will cause a bubbling reaction (which your kids will love) and will clear a slow drain. Rinse with hot water.
  • Wash the toilet brush and its holder in hot, soapy water.
  • Empty the medicine cabinet (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and discard expired medications and cosmetics.
  • Restock the hand soap.
  • Throw your toothbrush caddy and soap dish in the dishwasher.
  • Clean makeup brushes.
  • Descale the showerhead
    • If your metal showerhead is clogged with scaly mineral deposits, place it in a pot with a solution of one part vinegar to eight parts water, bring it to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. If you don’t want to take the shower head down, or if the shower head is plastic, fill a zipper bag with a solution of equal parts vinegar and hot water, tie it around the showerhead and soak.
  • Clean and organize drawers and cabinet under the sink.
    • Toss out expired sunscreen and old cosmetics
    • Vacuum wipe it clean with a damp cloth
    • Treat yourself to inexpensive trays or bins to help keep these spaces tidy.
  • Clean the filter on your hair dryer
  • Apply Rain-X to shower doors
  • Clean your toothbrush holder
    • If dishwasher-safe, just pop it in with a load of your dishes, or hand-wash it with hot soapy water, rinse, and wipe it with a disinfecting wipe.

Whew! We did it!! Now comes the easy part. Put out fresh soap, towels, and rugs; rehang the shower curtain and its liner. Place all your personal grooming tools back in their designated spots, and redecorate the room with the pretty things you love on shelves and counters. Don your sunglasses because the glare of your sparkling clean bathroom will be blinding.  LOL.

 

Stink Bugs, Well, Stink

 

We interrupt our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza series to bring you an important announcement: Stink Bug Season has arrived and those pesky critters will be around to annoy us and gross us out through September. And stink bugs? Well, they stink.  In more ways than one. I don’t know about you, but I am seriously weirded out by the brown marmorated stink bugs. They look so…prehistoric, are so…ugly, and they can be so…stinky. Removal of these unwanted visitors is assigned to another person in my household who does not have the same aversion as me. But what to do if you live alone or everyone at your place is equally reluctant to deal with these creatures? We’ve done a bit of homework to help you sort it all out. You’re welcome.

SEARCH AND DESTROY

Indoors the creatures tend to congregate on upper floors and in tight spaces. That’s why they often tuck into drapery folds and walk along the tops of walls. Typically they will gather on warm, west-facing walls and enter buildings via cracks and crevices. Once they find an ideal spot, they release pheromones, chemical signals that beckon more stink bugs to join the party.

So what do you do when you’re just trying to have a nice evening binge-watching Netflix when you spot a stink bug (besides, if you’re like me, scream your fool head off??)? Sadly, chemical pesticides and insecticides are not the answer. Horrifyingly, few actually work to kill these bugs and they often raise from the dead a few days later. And if you do manage to kill them, their bodies may attract other insects to feed on them. So put down your phone, Virginia. Your landlord or local pest control company is not going to be the best solution. Especially since most apartment communities offer visits from pest control companies on a periodic basis, and scheduling pest control is seldom immediate, you’ll want to get rid of these pests now.

Instead, try one of these techniques for fast and easy results. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to insects, I’m all about fast removal.

Natural Pesticide

Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 concentration of white vinegar and water. Then, add a small squirt of dishwashing liquid and get to work! This mixture is highly effective and safe, though it takes more time to kill the bugs than typical insecticides (requiring 30-45 minutes.)

Essential Oils

Here’s a great method that allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Make your home smell great and banish stink bugs at the same time. If you are following along with our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza, you may already have essential oils on hand. Simply mix 10 drops of mint essential oil with 16 ounces of water and spray at interior entry zones like windows and doors.

Garlic Spray

How about another way to kill two birds with one stone? Get rid of vampires (LOL) and stink bugs in one swell foop! [Good grief, it’s fell swoop. My father used to say swell foop (along with a myriad of other malapropisms we referred to lovingly as “Scoopisms”.] Combine two cups water and four teaspoons of garlic powder or a handful of garlic cloves and spray on indoor windowsills where these creepy crawlies are likely to enter your home.

Paper Towel

Grab a paper towel along with your designated stink bug killer (DSBK). If you don’t have a DSBK, you’ll have to brave this on your own thus becoming my personal hero. Ever so gently pluck the bug (do not squish) from wherever it has landed and flush the bug down the toilet. Do not flush the paper towel or you will have a toilet back up to deal with as well as stink bugs and a human can only take so much. See below section on the importance of not squishing.

Vacuum

You can also use your vacuum if you have a wand attachment, but proceed with caution. This method only works for vacuum cleaners with bags. And you’ll need to throw the bag away immediately to prevent a stink bomb from developing. Maybe use this one only in a dire emergency. (But isn’t any visible insect a dire emergency?!?)

Soapy Water

A stink bug’s natural reaction to any perceived threat is to drop straight down. Clearly, they are not too bright. Fill a wide mouth jar with soapy water (add some vinegar for extra killing power), place it underneath the pest, and most often it will drop right into the suds and drown.

Lint Roller Sheet

Cover a dry sweep mop head with a lint remover sheet (which again you may already have if you’re following along with the Dusting Edition of our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza). Use it as a long-handled stink bug catcher. It’s perfect for grabbing any high-climbing bugs. But be careful not to squish. See below.

Should I Squish A Stink Bug?

Squishing them is not an ideal solution. In fact, it’s the worst. Whether threatened or not, stepping on or swatting a stink bug is likely to release their stinky spray, resulting in a pungent odor that will fill the area where they were killed. Eww.

What Happens if a Stink Bug Releases Its Scent?

While seemingly innocuous, killing a stink bug can have lingering effects. Not only does the chemical produced by stink bugs smell, but it also releases pheromones that attract other stink bugs. With numerous stink bugs roaming through your home, it’s only a matter of time until you’re stuck with a smelly infestation!

PREVENTION

Soapy Water

Combine equal parts hot water and dish soap in a spray bottle and spray on windowsill entry points. Not advisable, however if your windowsills and window frames are wood.

Dryer Sheets

Stink bugs dislike dryer sheet odor, so rub dryer sheets on window screens and windowsills as a preventative measure. If you see holes in your screens and you are a renter, alert your management office for assistance patching or replacing the screen.

Drown By Night

Before bed, fill a wide pan with soapy water and place it in the room with the most stink bugs. Place a small light so it hangs over the dish. Obviously, you do not want the light/lamp to touch the water. Overnight the stink bugs will flock to the light, fall into the suds and drown.

Block Points of Entry

If you see cracked seals around utility entry points, doors and windows, joints where two different materials meet, like wood and concrete block or wood siding and brick, caulk the cracks as needed. Check weather stripping and sweeps on doors and look for gaps. If you are a renter, alert your management office and request assistance. Homeowners, don your tool belts or call your local handyman.

Wishing you days and months of stink-free and bug-free enjoyment of your home – unless of course, you wish to train them so you can make a million dollars on American’s Got Talent, or keep them as pets (pet fees may apply LOL).

 

RESOURCES: The Pest Rangers, Terminix, Orkin

 

Beautiful Bedrooms – Spring Cleaning Extravganza

 

Our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza Continues With Bedrooms

So far on our spring cleaning journey we’ve made our windows and blinds sparkling and dust free, and dust has been removed from every nook and cranny in our home. Next, we’ll tackle each room one at a time starting with a deep cleaning of the place where we spend a third of our life – the bedroom. Today we’ll make our bedroom beautiful.

Just as with our dusting segment, we’ll be cleaning top to bottom in our bedroom/s. Let’s get started!

Step 1. GATHER SUPPLIES

Combine these ingredients and pour them in a spray bottle:

    • 2 cups water.
    • 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar.
    • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol 70% concentration.
    • 1 to 2 drops of orange essential oil for smell (optional)
  • Glass Cleaner
  • Baking Soda
  • Essential Oils Did you know? Lavender oil is a sleep aid. Read more here.
  • Furniture polish Be sure to read labels and use one appropriate for your furniture.
  • Depending on the type of floors you have, a vacuum or Swiffer wet and dry.
  • Clothing donation bags or storage boxes

Step 2. CLEAR ANY CLUTTER

  • Gather and toss any trash into the trash bag/can.
  • Remove clutter on all visible surfaces, including shelves, dresser top, night stands, floor, bed, chair, desk. Put anything that’s just out of place away. If items belong in another room, place them in the basket to address later.
  • Organize drawers and closets removing any items ready to donate, store, sell, or toss. Place those items in donation bags, storage boxes, and/or your trash as appropriate. A good rule of thumb for most items: if you haven’t worn it in the last year, get rid of it.

Step 3. DUST

  • If you’ve already completed the Great Dusting segment of our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza, lightly dust any accumulation since then (and good for you!).
  • If you’re just now dusting, use your Swiffer to dust the ceiling, walls, and doors (both sides, top, and trim). Remember to start at the top an work your way down.

Step 3. WASH

  • Wash down walls with your Swiffer Wet.
  • Wash your doors, doorknobs, and light switches using a damp microfiber cloth.

Step 4. CLEAN LIGHT FIXTURES

  • Dust lampshades with the lint roller.
  • Clean lightbulbs, lamps, and any light fixture with the Swiffer duster or microfiber cloth. Be sure light bulbs are cool before cleaning. If bulbs are especially grimy, use a bit of your household cleaner and wipe with a paper towel or microfiber cloth.
  • Wash any glass globes in hot soapy water and hand dry to avoid spots.

Step 5. CLEAN WINDOWS AND WINDOW COVERINGS

  • If you’ve already completed the Windows and Blinds segment of our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza, you can skip this step. YAY!
  • If not, follow the above link for tips and tricks on achieving sparkling clean windows.

Step 6. THE BED

Of course, the point of our spring cleaning extravaganza is a beautiful bedroom! The bed is key. See inspiration for your beautiful bedroom at the end of this post.

  • Remove and wash all bed linens, including pillows, mattress toppers, blankets, comforters, and bed skirts. Be sure to check tags to make sure everything is washable. You may need to set some items aside for dry cleaning or to take to the laundry where there are jumbo washers and dryers. Did you know that some of these places will do the laundry for you for a per pound fee?
  • Sprinkle your mattress with baking soda and let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum it up.
  • Rotate and flip your mattress. Note that you may not be able to flip a pillow-top mattress. It’s a real rip as being able to flip gives the mattress a longer life (but the luxury of the pillow-top may be worth it).
  • Dust the bedframe and headboard, including the backside. Use the vacuum and upholstery brush if it’s super dusty or if your headboard is upholstered.

Step 7. SHINY THINGS

  • Polish any mirrors or glass, including glass on picture frames. Polish any glass decorative items.

Step 8. GO LOW

  • Dust baseboards using the used dryer sheets, and wash if needed.
  • Vacuum underneath/behind your furniture.

Step 9. POLISH

  • Polish all furniture pieces as appropriate. Follow the instructions for the type of furniture polish/ furniture you have. You can ruin  the furniture’s finish by using the wrong cleaning product on it. When in doubt, consult the furniture manufacturer or Google it.

Step 10. FLOORS

  • Sweep, vacuum, shampoo, or mop your floors depending on the type of floor you have. If you have carpet that has wine stains, read our Out, Damned Spot post for removal tips.
  • Don’t forget to get underneath the bed and any other furniture with legs.

Step 11. RELOCATION

  • Take trash to the bin.
  • Relocate basket of runaway clutter to the room/s where the items belong.

Step 12. THE FROSTING ON THE CAKE

  • Make the bed with your fresh, clean linens. I love to iron the sheets (or maybe just the pillowcases) because it makes the bed look so pretty and makes the pillowcases feel softer next to my face.
  • Consider a wee splurge to add a sweet finishing touch to your now spotless bedroom – a candle, scented diffuser, a pretty toss pillow (Because you can never have too many pillows. I gently remind my partner of this fact whenever he says, “We’re birthin’ pillows in here!!”)

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza Beautiful Bedroom Complete! Now look! We’ve a fresh clean bedroom just waiting for a night of sweet dreams (or other fun things.)

Looking for a bit of beautiful bedroom inspiration? We got you covered.

 

 

Leave No Surface Undusted. Spring Cleaning Extravaganza II

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza II. Leave No Surface Undusted.

 

In our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza I, the bold announcement was made that over the next couple of months, I will be sharing my spring-cleaning and tidying journey with you. I am ever hopeful that this commitment will keep me on track to achieve my goals before the days are too beautiful to spend inside fussing about with the Swiffer duster and the Vietnam Vets donation bags. I am also hopeful that you will share this journey with me so that you, too, can welcome spring with a tidy, spotless, well-organized home and a light heart ready to embrace the season. Whole house dusting is phase two of our spring cleaning extravaganza! Learn tips and tricks to leave no surface undusted.

Last time, we worked on letting the sunshine in by cleaning windows and blinds. I am  so glad those awful tasks have been marked as completed on my To Do List. And, admittedly, I am feeling quite proud of this accomplishment. #patontheback.

While dusting, buffing, and polishing the windows, I considered how the rest of this ordeal should proceed. Room by room or job by job? I think the way to go is job by job, then once everything is clean and organized, we can spend one day putting a spit shine on the whole place. So this time?

Dusting. It’s phase two of our spring cleaning extravaganza.

Can you really clean and organize anything in your home if there’s a thin (ok, maybe in some places thick, layer of dust. It’s so easy when doing routine dusting to just focus on the flat surfaces – coffee table, night stands, shelves – and overlook the more challenging spots like cold air returns, the leaves on plants (real and/or artificial), baseboards behind large pieces of furniture – you get the idea.

As I mentioned in my last post, I consider myself a fairly tidy person. But working my way through this spring cleaning proved that it’s so easy to overlook so many things! Here are my tips and tricks to leave no surface undusted.

First, let’s get organized.

SUPPLIES

PROCESS

First, and most importantly, do not allow yourself to become distracted by ADCD – Attention Deficit Cleaning Disorder.

I, for one, suffer significantly from this “disorder”, so have first-hand knowledge of this disruption. How many times have I started dusting in the living room, decided to go ahead and put a morning coffee mug left on the coffee table in the dishwasher, and the next thing I know I am mopping the kitchen floor. Geesh.

Okay, back to business. We will leave no surface undusted!

  1. Plan your route. Perhaps start in the bedroom/s, move to the bathroom/s, then hallway, dining room, living room, kitchen.
  2. In each room, start at the top.
    1. With a long handled duster, clean all the dust webs from the space where wall meets ceiling.
    2. Dust cold air returns.
    3. Remove any artwork from the walls and clean not only the art, but also the wall behind it.
    4. Remove all items from flat surfaces. Dust the surface. Polish with wood cleaner or glass cleaner as appropriate.
    5. Dust all items removed from flat surfaces. Polish any glass or shiny surfaces with glass cleaner and paper towels or microfiber cloths.
    6. Pay special attention to lamps. Dust the bulb, the base, and the cord. Use the lint roller to remove dust from the inside and outside of the shade.
    7. Clean live plants. Use warm water and a soft cloth to remove dust from live plants. Alternatively, place your plants in the shower and wash them down being careful not to wash soil down the drain. Dry leaves with a soft cloth to prevent water spots. Use damp paper towels to wipe down plant pots.
    8. Clean artificial plants and floral arrangements. This is where those dryer sheets come in handy! Dryer sheets will do a great job removing dust even from those leaves in the back that haven’t been dusted for a while. It’s so quick and easy!

  1. Use glass cleaner on all mirrors and picture frame glass.
  2. Dust all light fixtures and use class cleaner to polish the globes. Don’t forget to dust the light bulbs.
  3. Run the duster over the front and back of all doors, the top of the door, and the door frame.
  4. Be sure to dust the back of any picture frames. The lint roller will come in handy if they have a velvety surface.
  5. If you have candles – real or battery operated – dust the indentation around the wick and the entire candleholder. If your candle is in a lantern, use glass cleaner and paper towels to clean the glass and all surfaces.
  6. Dust bed frames, and legs of all furniture. If your headboard is fabric, clean with the lint roller or hand held vacuum.
  7. Pull furniture away from the walls and using your long handled duster, clean the back of the furniture and the wall and baseboard behind the furniture.
  8. Dust curtain rods.
  9. Use the lint roller to remove dust from curtains. Don’t forget to clean the back of the curtain!
  10. In the bathroom, dust the top of the shower curtain rod, the towel rods, the toilet paper holder, the water lines to the toilet, the sides and front of the cabinets, and the light fixtures.
  11. Be sure to dust all books, CDs, and DVD cases.
  12. Dust the back of all electronics including the TV/s.
  13. Dust all light fixtures and use class cleaner to polish the globes. Don’t forget to dust the light bulbs.
  14. Run the duster over the front and back of all doors, the top of the door, and the door frame.
  15. Dust all baseboards.

Mission accomplished: we leave no surface undusted. End your dusting session by cleaning up and tossing any used paper towels, disposable dusters, lint roller sheets, dryer sheets, and wash any dusting and microfiber cloths.

Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for a great day’s work! I did.

Next up: bathrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza!

Why a Spring Cleaning Extravaganza? Well, despite the prediction of Punxsutawney Phil last Tuesday that we’re in for another six weeks of winter, seemingly a predilection of his, this writer is itching for spring. So many wonderful things come with that glorious season: longer days, the return of robins (for those that still fly south for the winter), bulbs bursting forth from the once frozen soil, skies forming a brilliant blue dome overhead, ditching our dark, cold weather gear in favor of clothing that floats on the body, comfort in spending time out of doors, and so much more! Like a spotless home that will allow me to really enjoy spring guilt free!

I, for one, am so ready to get ready for spring. As the daylight gradually lasts longer, and there are more sunny days than cloudy ones, evidence of winter doldrums punch me in the face almost daily. Short, gloomy winter days brought with them a perfect cover for the dust webs and grimy corners along with the uncanny ability to overlook overstuffed closets and untidy drawers and cabinets. Now don’t get me wrong – at first glance my place looks pretty good. Just don’t move any of the pictures on the dresser, swipe your finger on the slats of my blinds, or peek below the crisper drawer in my fridge.

Over the next two months, I will share my spring-cleaning and tidying journey with you in a Spring Cleaning Extravaganza! Hopefully this commitment will keep me on track to achieve my goals before the days are too beautiful to spend inside fussing about with the Swiffer duster and the Vietnam Vets donation bags. And perhaps you will share this journey with me so that you, too, can welcome spring with a tidy, spotless, well-organized home and a light heart ready to embrace the season.

Let’s get started!

Throwing back the curtains and opening up the blinds has to come first. With cleaning windows and blinds, the sun can come streaming in exposing all those tasks we’ll need to tackle next.

Windows first.

How I hate washing windows! For me, it’s the worst cleaning job in the house. Except maybe for mini blinds. A true glutton for punishment, I’m doing both. Today. It’s the launch of oour spring cleaning extravaganza!

The thing that makes washing windows so awful is that so often they almost look worse after you’ve washed them because of streaking. So what is the best way to clean windows without streaking?

According to Pella, the folks who are known for their windows, a microfiber cloth is ideal but a gentle and clean paper towel can work as well. Rub from multiple directions to help avoid streaking. If you find that you still have streaks after you’ve cleaned your window, simply rinse with clear water to help remove any of the remaining cleaning solution. Check out their YouTube video!

Hmm. I think we need more details.

SUPPLIES

PROCESS

Indoors

  1. When cleaning windows from inside your apartment, place a drop cloth on the floor to catch any water drips.
  2. Pour cleaning solution (water mixed with liquid dishwashing detergent) into a plastic spray bottle, then spray the interior surfaces of the window.
  3. Immediately after spraying, clean the glass with a terrycloth rag, followed by a quick wipe down with the micro-fiber towel.

Outside (if you can safely reach)

  1. Fill bucket with clean water and add a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent.
  2. Wipe down the window frame using a wet (not dripping) terrycloth rag.
  3. Dip your window scrubber into the water bucket, then wring out the excess water.
  4. Clean the glass with the scrubber to remove all dust and dirt.
  5. Wipe the window glass dry with a rubber squeegee. Hold the edge of the squeegee at about a 30 degree-angle to the glass, then make a horizontal pass across the window.
  6. Use a terrycloth rag to wipe the squeegee dry after every pass. If you’d prefer to wipe down vertically, start by using a dry cloth or end of the squeegee to create a dry edge along the top of the window glass.
  7. Place the squeegee on the dry edge and pull straight down, cleaning the glass.
  8. Use a micro-fiber towel to wipe down the glass one last time.
  9. To clean windows with divided lites (panes), use the scrubber to first wash the glass, and then squeegee the glass clean. Only this time, hold a terrycloth rag against the bottom end of the squeegee to catch water and protect the muntins.

Read more about attaining streak free glass here!

Blinds next.

It’s so easy to forget about (IGNORE?) the need to clean your blinds. It’s pretty easy to not really see the dirt adorning the slats. I mean, when you open your blinds, do you actually look at the slats or are you looking out the window to check the weather? Then one day when you’re opening or closing them, you see – really see – the dust bunnies and the grime. Thankfully, this oft-forgotten task really isn’t so bad if you’re strategic. Here’s how to clean blinds the quick and easy way as part two of phase one of our spring cleaning journey.

SUPPLIES

Ohhh, look! You already have some of these supplies organized from your window-cleaning project!

  • Microfiber cloth – read all about microfiber cloths here.
  • Vacuum and upholstery attachment
  • Clean sock
  • White vinegar
  • Optional: Mini blind duster* link this one, just $9 from The Container Store, or this one, just $7.80 from Walmart.

* Note:  The special blinds duster isn’t necessary, but makes quick work of dusting blinds especially if you incorporate this task into your regular cleaning schedule. You’ll find it will save time in the long run by allowing you to clean multiple blades at once quickly and easily.

PROCESS

  1. Close the blinds and gently wipe them down with a microfiber cloth starting at the top and wiping side-to-side. Hold the bottom of the blind in your other hand so it’s pulled out from the window. Adjust the blinds to open them, and run the microfiber cloth over them again. Then close them the opposite way and repeat.
  2. Vacuum up any dust and debris with your vacuum attachment.
  3. For stuck-on dirt or stains, mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. Dip a clean sock (finally a use for that old sock with the hole in the toe!) into your cleaning solution. Wring it out until the sock isn’t dripping wet, then slip onto your hand. Use your fingers to run over each blind blade tightly. Leave the blinds open to dry thoroughly.
  4. For deep cleaning, remove them from the window and place them in a bathtub filled with warm water and a squeeze of dish soap. Let them soak for an hour. Rinse and hang them outside until they’re completely dry.

Read more, including the “Do’s and Don’ts” of blind cleaning, and how to incorporate cleaning those blinds in your cleaning routine here.

Now that we’ve let the sun shine in, we’ll tackle the rest of the place! Stay tuned for phase two of our spring cleaning extravaganza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Toaster Toasted?

According to Kitchen Infinity, no matter how much you shelled out for your toaster, it will survive an average of six to eight years. You can extend the life of your toaster by cleaning it regularly to remove excess breadcrumbs and additional food particles.

The factors that affect the lifespan of a toaster include:

  • Frequency of use: How often you use your toaster affects how long it lasts. Frequent use of a toaster can wear out the lever or door hinges over time.
  • Maintenance and upkeep: If you maintain your toaster, it will last longer. This includes cleaning the toaster out between uses.
  • Initial quality: The initial quality of the toaster affects how long it lasts. Stainless steel toasters tend to last longer than plastic toasters.
  • Type of use: The type of foods you cook in your toaster can also affect its longevity. If you frequently use your toaster to defrost foods or make cookies, it may wear out faster.

Whether you’re using it to warm up a quick breakfast pastry or perfect a slice of wheat toast, you count on your toaster to deliver the goods. The cost of a toaster ranges from $20-$400. Smaller, two-slice toasters are on the lower end of the range, whereas larger toasters with more cooking functions may cost even more.

How do you know when it’s time to clean your toaster? Well, if you peer into the slots and see enough crumbs to bread a chicken cutlet, it’s long overdue. We recommend cleaning the crumb tray once a week or whenever you see a buildup of crumbs. Otherwise, you’re looking at a potential fire hazard, so it’s important to take a moment every now and then to clean them out.

Wirecutter’s Michael Sullivan has been testing toasters since 2016 (think of all the delicious buttery toast!).  In 2021, he partnered with Elvin Beach, associate professor of practice, and his students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ohio State University to figure out why newer toasters seem to fail so quickly. Through their research and testing, he learned even more about how to clean toasters and help prolong their lifespan.

‌If you follow this blog and try our cleaning tips, chances are good that you already have everything you need on hand to get the job done (YAY!) and here’s how to do it.

SUPPLIES

  • A clean pastry brush: A soft-bristle pastry brush is best for gently removing the crumbs that cling to the sides of a toaster’s heating elements (don’t use a silicone pastry brush).
  • A long-handled, clean, paintbrush: Any thin brush with a long handle (like those used for watercolors) will help you sweep away crumbs in hard-to-reach crevices.
  • Paper towels or a clean cloth: For wiping down and polishing your toaster.
  • Dish soap: A drop is all you need to remove grease buildup or grime on the sides of your toaster and crumb tray. Try Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid or Dawn Liquid Dish Soap.
  • A sponge: Any sponge, such as our faves Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge or a Scotch-Brite Dobie pad (which is gentler and doesn’t scratch stainless steel), can be used to wipe down the sides of your toaster and crumb tray.
  • Bar Keepers Friend (for stainless steel toasters): A mixture of Bar Keepers Friend and a bit of water will polish the exterior and keep it looking like new.
  • Micro-fiber cloth: for a perfect polish and shiny finish.

TIME

You’ve got the time. Promise. It will only take a couple of minutes to clean your toaster. Brushing away crumbs inside the slots or wiping down the exterior of your toaster will take a few minutes more.

PROCESS

Unplug
Before you attempt to clean the toaster, always unplug it first. Inserting anything except food into a toaster while it is plugged in can cause an electrical shock or a fire. Once the toaster is unplugged, allow it to cool completely before beginning to clean.

Shake
Move the toaster to a trash can or hold over a sink with a garbage disposal. If the appliance has a removable tray in the bottom or a bottom that opens, open it and use a pastry brush to remove crumbs from the toaster and into the trash can. Don’t be tempted to flip your toaster upside down and bang on the sides to get crumbs out. According to research done by The Ohio State University, such treatment can easily break the delicate solder joints and cause an electronic component to give out.

Mix
In a sink or dishpan, mix a solution of warm water and dishwashing liquid. If the toaster has a removable crumb tray, submerge only the tray in the soapy water and wash it well with a sponge or dishcloth. Rinse the tray with clear water and dry with an absorbent cloth.

Degrease
Choose a dishwashing liquid that contains a degreaser for the best cleaning results. See our picks in the Supply List. The degreaser will cut through any build-up more quickly and with less elbow grease than regular dishwashing liquid.

Brush
With the crumb tray removed, use the pastry brush to reach any crumbs still clinging to the interior of the toaster. Do not put your fingers inside the slots or you risk damaging your fingers and the interior components. If possible, work from both the top and bottom of the appliance.

Exterior
Dip a sponge or dishcloth in the soapy water to wipe down the exterior of the toaster. Wring out most of the water so the sponge is just damp. Pay extra attention to dials or levers on the controls, as well as handles. Wash removable dials in the soapy solution.

When the exterior is clean, wipe down with a sponge dipped in clear water to remove any soapy residue. Dry the appliance well with a soft, microfiber cloth.

Shine
To make the exterior of a stainless steel toaster shine, use a commercial stainless steel cleaner or dampen a clean cloth with a bit of distilled white vinegar. Wipe down the exterior to remove smudges and leave a streak-free shine.

Reassemble
To finish the cleaning process, replace the crumb tray, reset the dials to your favorite setting, and plug-in the toaster.

FREQUENCY

If you use your pop-up toaster daily, weekly cleaning is best to remove crumbs and any food residue that could cause a burnt taste or a fire. Since toaster ovens are used for much more than making toast, they need cleaning more often. If you only use the oven to make toast, weekly cleaning is sufficient. However, if you heat foods or broil other foods, the oven—especially the food tray— should be cleaned after every use.

TIPS

Trim a reusable oven liner to fit a toaster oven’s crumb tray. This will make cleaning easier when spills happen.

  • Eliminate crumbs that can prevent bread from popping up. Clean toasters and toaster ovens regularly to prevent residue from interfering with internal mechanisms.
  • Do not place plastic bags of bread or bagels near the appliances. The heat from a toaster can quickly melt the plastic. If you forget and a plastic bag has accidentally melted onto the finish of a toaster, remove as much plastic as possible using a wooden or plastic scraper. Unplug the appliance and allow it to cool before removing the remaining plastic. Then sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub the area. Wipe away with a clean damp sponge and repeat until no more plastic is coming off. To remove the final discoloration, dip a cotton ball in acetone-based nail polish remover. Rub the area with the cotton ball and use a fresh ball as the plastic is transferred. Lastly, wipe down the area with a water-dampened soft cloth to rinse the area.

Toasters can be used for so many things from making breakfast toast or waffles, to lunchtime BLTs and a plethora of other toasty sammies, to toasted crostini for your happy hour smacks. Slightly stale bread gets new life when toasted. So be good to your toaster and it will be good to you. A clean appliance will produce tastier (and safer) toast. Now let’s get toasty! Or toasted.

RESOURCES: Wirecutter, ahs.com, The Spruce, KitchenInfinity

Energy Saving Tips For Winter

Winter Energy Savings Tips

Old Man Winter has come a’ knocking on our doors a bit early this year It’s a cold reminder to take steps to keep ourselves warm and cozy without breaking the bank paying for utilities. It’s especially important now, as inflation has driven up the cost of just about everything.

Start by taking a walk around your apartment. I know, I know, you know your apartment like the back of your hand. But this time, instead of admiring your decorating skills or making a checklist of cleaning chores to do, look closely at things that can affect your ability to keep your place comfortable even on the coldest days.

Furniture

Look at the placement of your furniture. Make sure all furnishings are away from heat registers and vents to allow for proper circulation. Check the areas behind your sofa, bed, dresser, and other large pieces to be sure they are not blocking precious warm airflow. A rule of thumb is to allow at least eight inches of space around your registers to ensure good air circulation.

Windows

Double check to make sure all windows are shut tightly. Locking your windows can provide an extra bit of snug fit. Even double paned windows can feel cold when it’s frigid outside. It is normal for windows and the area around them to feel cold to the touch since glass is not a good insulator.

A rolled towel on the windowsill can help the window feel less chilly especially if the window frame is metal.  Keep your blinds open on sunny days to let as much warmth in as possible, but do close them tightly once the sun goes down. Adding an extra layer such as a plastic barrier or a draft blocking curtain can really help. Insulated drapes and curtains are the best way to minimize the effect of this cold air on your apartment’s temperature. This can really help you save on energy expenses this winter.

If, after taking these steps, there are still noticeable drafts around your windows, please call your leasing office and request the maintenance crew come to check them out.

Doors

Check for drafts around any exit doors. If you feel a draft, you may need new weather stripping or a new door sweep. Your maintenance team can help you with that. Even with a good door sweep, you may still feel a bit of chilly air coming in.  A door snake can really make a difference in stopping this cold air from sneaking in.

Outlets

Cold air can also find it’s way into your home through the outlets and switch plates on exterior walls. Really! Fortunately, there’s a product for that (of course). You can also check with your utility company as some of them will provide these foam insulators at no charge.

Wall Air Conditioner Unit

If you have a wall AC unit, make sure the vent(s) are in the ‘closed’ position and that there is not air seeping in around the units.

Baseboard Registers

If you have baseboard registers, make sure the metal flap inside is lifted all the way up and that you can see inside the register. This flap acts as a vent; if it is resting down on the front panel, the heat cannot escape.

Thermostat

 If you have a forced air system, make sure your thermostat is set on ‘Heat’ and ‘Auto’. You can also be like my Dad and turn the heat down to 60 degrees at night. Sounds awful at first, but sleeping in a cool room in flannel jammies and under a warm comforter or cozy blanket can provide you with a surprisingly great night’s sleep while saving on your heating expense. Thanks, Dad, for this winter energy-saving tip!

Attire

You’ve heard the saying Dress For Success. In the winter, it becomes Dress For Warmth. Another winter energy-saving tips is to get cozy at home by wearing seasonal attire like wool sweaters, heavy shirts (flannel!), sweatshirts, warm pants, wooly socks, and fluffy slippers. Maybe a Snuggie?? Top this with a furry throw and you’ll be all set. Dress up/thermostat down/save money!

Fido & Fluffy

Let’s not forget our furry friends this winter! Make sure your pup or kitty has a cozy spot to snuggle in on chilly nights. Maybe that spot is your lap, or maybe it’s a cozy bed, a kitty cave, or a warm sweater.

Make my Dad proud, keep warm and cozy, save on your utility bills, and know that spring will come!

 

 

 

Paw-some Pet Friendly Holiday Events Near You!

 

Get your furry friend/s in on the holiday festivities this year! We’ve rounded up a few paws-itively pet-friendly holiday events you and your fluffy friend can do together in and around our Cincinnati, Dayton, and Dallas locations. Please be sure your best buddy says “woof!” to Santa Paws for us!

Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky

Red Dog’s Santa Paws at MadTree

  • Saturday, December 10th, Noon – 3:00 PM
  • Catch-a-Fire Pizza Oakley

Santa Paws is coming to town and his first stop will be MadTree to enjoy an ice-cold brew and to pet some pups! Party at this pet friendly event with Red Dog at MadTree Brewing, 3301 Madison Rd.

A $10 suggested donation gets you a digital photo of your dog with Santa. Donations will benefit the League for Animal Welfare and give you a lasting memory of the holiday! Professional Photos by: Alyssa Jeanine Photography. Get your dog’s photo taken with Santa and they will receive a FREE gift from the big guy! (While supplies last.)

Pet Nights with Santa

  • November 21st – December 5th, 4-7 PM
  • Kenwood Towne Center

A paws-itively good time! Get your furry friends together at this pet friendly event to strike a pose with St. Nick, capturing paw-fect holiday moments to share with family and friends!

Reindog Parade

Voted the “Best Family Event” in Cincinnati!

  • Saturday, December 10. Registration begins at 12:30; the parade starts at 2:00 p.m.
  • The Monastery, Mt. Adams. The parade will be led by Santa himself!
  • Costume categories have historically been Small Dogs (under 25 lbs), Large Dogs (25 lbs and over), Dog/Owner Look-A-Like, and Multiple Dogs (2 or more dogs). Be creative – they’re looking for fun, unique, and festive costumes for each category!

Food and vendors will be available before the parade, so you can join the party ahead of time! It’s the most fun pet friendly event in town!

Dallas, Texas

Paint Your Pet! Christmas Edition!

  • Thursday, December 8th, 6-9 PM
  • 513 E I-30 Rockwall

This is an advanced, custom class. Limited seating is available, and photos of your pet must be submitted prior to the event. Please send photographs of the pet you’re planning to paint back to the email address: Studio155@paintingwithatwist.com

Due to the difficult nature of this painting, the age is set at 15 & Up.
If you have an extraordinary young artist in their teens, they may do fine with this painting, and would be allowed to attend at your discretion.

Adults over 21 are welcome to BYOB.

Light Up Lake-woof!!!

  • Friday, December 2nd, 7-10 PM
  • Lakewood Shopping Center

It’s the 20th annual Light Up Lakewood celebration, which brings live music performances, tree lighting, meetings with Santa Claus, face paintings, balloon artists, and more! Meet our adoptable dogs and cats, leave us a donation or buy a Dogrrr t-shirt or sweatshirt!

The Boho Market Stocking Stroll

  • Saturday, December 17th, Noon – 3 PM CST
  • Main Street Garden Park

Adults, kids, and pets are invited this holiday season for the 4th Annual Downtown Stocking Stroll where you can visit your favorite Downtown merchants for fun holiday stuffers and treats. This event is free, but RSVPs are requested for this pet friendly holiday event.

Main Street Garden will also host a Boho Market with local shops, hot cocoa station, and FREE train rides at the park!

Bring your own stocking or pick one up from Main Street Garden for free (while supplies last), along with the map of all participating businesses.

Family Friendly | Pet Friendly

 

Dayton, Ohio

Pet Photos with Santa

  • Monday, December 5, 5-7 PM
  • Dayton Mall

Bring your pet (dogs and cats only, please) for a photo with Santa! Leave with a picture to cherish for years. Reservations are highly recommended.

Pawsitively Purrfect Holiday Bazaar & Christmas Pawty

  • Sunday, December 11 Noon – Monday, December 12, 5 PM
  • John’s United Church of Christ

Just in time for the holidays! We have vendors from local businesses and privately owned shops, raffles, adoptable cats and dogs, music, and our famous Gift Card Christmas Tree Raffles ready for you!

Friends of SICSA Holiday Bazaar

  • Saturday December 3, 9 AM – 4 PM
  • SICSA Washington Township

Come shop pet beds, blankets, and toys; handmade gifts for you and pet lovers, and much more! Make lasting memories by getting a picture with Santa (Saturday 9am to 3pm). Cost: $10 pictures – All proceeds help our animals.

Wishing you and your best furry friend a paw-some holiday season!

The Art Of The Hang II – Hanging Artwork

The Art of Hanging Art II – Methods

 

So. You’ve assembled all the beautiful things and are ready to get them up on the walls. What are the next steps? How can you ensure you hang art without damaging your walls and/or your pride? What tools will you need? We’ve got you covered.

If you are a renter, be sure to check your lease, your community rules, or with your landlord or management company to make sure it’s permissible for you to affix items to your walls.

    • Determine the material of your walls.
    • Most common, and easiest to work with, is drywall aka sheetrock.
    • Plaster walls can be a challenge as a regular nail hammered into plaster will crack it badly. Learned this lesson the hard way. There are nails especially designed for use on plaster walls.
    • Exposed brick walls are beautiful but tricky. If you’re a renter, don’t even think about pounding a hole into the brick or the mortar because 1) it’s hard to do and 2) it’s almost impossible to repair. Let’s not risk your security deposit! Instead, use a product you can use to hang items on brick without causing any damage – Aieve Brick Wall Clips.
    • Best to avoid trying to hang anything on tile walls unless you are using a product like Command Strips (which are also an excellent solution if your landlord says no to nail holes), and are readily available in big box, hardware, and grocery stores.

Gather supplies. Besides a hammer, measuring tape, level, and pencil, you’ll need the following supplies to hang art on plaster or drywall. Consider a tool kit which contains everything you need!

    • Weight-appropriate nails or picture hanging hooks
    • Wall anchors and screws for heavy pieces; these are super easy to use, but you’ll need need a small, lightweight drill and/or a screwdriver – ideally that has changeable flathead and Phillips tips
    • Good-quality, low-profile adhesive hooks for hanging on tile or glass
    • Brick clips for hang on brick

Decide on Placement. Most installers recommend arranging the art on the floor first, below the wall where you intend to install it, and creating a composition you find pleasing before transferring the arrangement to the wall. The ideal spacing between frames depends on the number of pieces of art and the size of the wall, but should generally be between one and a half and three inches. The vertical and horizontal spacing doesn’t necessarily have to be the same.

Now for the Art of the Hang. You’ve already decided on the placement – hopefully with the help of our The Art Of Hanging Art I – Placement. To be exact, the center of a framed piece of artwork should be 57 inches above the ground (that being the average human eye level, and the height galleries and museums use to decide where to hang pieces). Mark that height using a pencil, then measure to find the middle of the wall (from side to side), and mark where the two points meet. That’s where the middle of your artwork should go! Now, measure the distance between the middle of the piece and where it will catch the nail (either where the wire hits when bent to bear weight, or where the saw tooth hanger is. Measure that difference from your mid-point mark on the wall—that’s where the nail (or picture hanger, or wall anchor, or brick clamp) goes. If you’re hanging a super-heavy piece, first use a stud-finder to locate a stud and see if it’s in a logical location for your nail to go. If it is, hammer a big nail in and be done. If the stud is in a weird location, use the anchor-and-screw method instead: Drill a pilot-hole, tap the plastic anchor into it, then screw a screw into that, leaving it to protrude just enough that you can loop the wire or saw tooth right over it the same way you would with a nail.

Hanging Alternatives

  1. If you’re not up for hammers and nails, just lean it. The laziest way to display art is also best for anyone who is afraid of putting nail holes in the wall: lean the frame against the back of a chair, or the wall, or on a shelf somewhere. (Even homes with lots of art hung up on the walls take well to a few casually leaned pieces—it actually looks very intentional!)
  2. If you’re always re-arranging, consider a picture shelf. If you’re into the whole leaning thing and want to formalize a place for such activity, consider adding a shallow picture shelf in one of your rooms. It’s a perfect solution for those with constantly changing styles (or the rearrangement bug).

And a gentle reminder – if you are a renter, be sure to review your lease, rules and regulations, or ask your landlord before you start hammering nails or drilling holes for anchors. Now go and make your home Instagramable!

 

Resources: ApartmentTherapy.com, StudioMcGee.com, ArchitecturalDigest.com, NYTimes.com, HomeStarStaging.co

How to Clean Tile and Grout and Keep It Clean

woman cleaning shower

I dread doing many household chores. My least favorite has to be cleaning the tile and grout in the bathroom. It never ceases to amaze me that a place we use to get clean, and that’s filled with soap and water daily, can get so dirty. UGH. Because I loathe it so much, I have embraced a preventative measure – a cleaning routine.  An ounce of prevention – in this case less than two minutes a day – is worth a pound of cure – 30 minutes or more of scrubbing. Think of it as protecting your tile and grout instead of rescuing it.

My easy-peasy method utilizes a squeegee and a rinse-free daily shower cleaner. After each shower, before I even grab a towel, I do a quick dry with my squeegee. Then a quick spray of rinse free shower cleaner to keep everything sparking clean in between “big” cleans. When those faint pink blotches just start to appear, I dive in for a deeper clean usually once a week. Those pink stains are not mold; it a form of water-borne bacteria. ARGH!!

HOW TO DE-PINK

Make a Cleaning Solution

Mix one-half cup of baking soda with one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid or all-purpose cleaner. The resulting paste will be runny. Make a double or triple batch depending on how much tile you need to clean.

Protect Yourself

Do wear rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and a mask to protect yourself from exposure to the bacteria.

Prep the Area

Since the pink slime (it’s bacteria!) can grow on plastic and fabric surfaces, you should wash your shower curtain and liner. Toss washable curtains and liners in the washing machine and wash in warm to hot water with your regular laundry detergent. Dry fabric curtains following the care label instructions but air dry, or replace, plastic liners.

Scrub

Dip a nylon-bristle scrub brush in your baking soda solution and scrub away! Start at the top and work your way down.

Rinse

Rinsing is a pain if you don’t have a hand-held shower spray. You can rinse with a towel or by using a large water-filled pitcher or measuring cup.

Disinfect

In a spray bottle, mix a 50:50 solution of warm water and chlorine bleach. Use caution with the bleach mixture as it will remove color from any fabrics, towels, or rugs if you accidentally drip or overspray. Or, you can use a bathroom disinfecting spray.

Now we’re having fun, right?

Tips to Prevent Pink Goo Growth

  • Keep surfaces dry (use your squeegee after every shower!)
  • Close your shower curtain after bathing so it will dry quicker
  • Clean your tile with a bathroom cleaner weekly
  • Use your bathroom exhaust fan or crack a window (if you have either) every time you shower

CLEANING DIRTY TILE AND GROUT

“The best way to clean heavily stained or aged grout is to maintain a cleaning schedule. Do not allow stains and soils to build up over time,” said David Mowery, a business manager of Tile and Stone Installation Systems for the MAPEI Corporation. “The sooner you address grout stains, the better.”

What tools are needed?

How long will it take?

For a full-size shower, the entire process can take 15 minutes or longer depending on how much tile you’re trying to clean and the severity of the stains.

What kind of stain is that anyway?

Bathroom tile and grout stains caused by mold or mildew thrive in the damp corners of a bathroom shower and the porous, concrete-based grouts that are commonly found in between bathroom tiles.

These stains respond best to alkaline or high-pH cleaners like Tilex Mold & Mildew or StoneTech Mold & Mildew Stain Remover or Scrubbing Bubbles.

The other common source of staining in a shower is rust or lime buildup. Hard water deposits can stain the porous tile and grout in your bathroom. Rust has a reddish-brown tint, while lime scale usually has a chalky-white or pale green color.

To deal with these kinds stains, use a cleaner with a lower pH such as Bar Keepers Friend More Spray and FoamZep Grout Cleaner and Brightener, and CLR Brilliant Bath .

Cleaning the tile

Apply the cleaner by directly spraying it on the wall or onto a damp sponge, cloth, or brush. Let the solution sit for a short period, and then scrub with the brush, making sure to get the bristles into the grout itself. Rinse thoroughly and let the area dry.

No No’s

To avoid damaging your tile or grout, do not use the below items which can scratch tiles or chemically damage grout.

  • Wire brushes or steel wool
  • Abrasive cleaners like Borax or Comet

Okay, that wasn’t so bad. Now promise me you’ll keep your tile and grout clean because bathing in a dirty shower is gross and kinda counterintuitive.

 

 

Resources: Wirecutter.com, TheSpruce.com

Apartment Gardening

 

My daughter went to college in New York, and has lived there ever since, in a variety of teeny tiny apartments. Affordable apartments in New York (wait, is that an oxymoron?) are not only small, but often times are in older buildings or homes converted into rentals; floor plans can be … strange. One of the things she learned along the way has been that despite using half her income on rent, she can dress up her place and make it look warm and welcoming with houseplants. Plant shops (also miniscule) are in every neighborhood, so many city dwellers are on the same page as she and her roommate.

Besides the beauty of houseplants, there’s also distinct health benefits.

Health Benefits

  • Improving your mood.
  • Reducing fatigue and sharpen your attention.
  • Lowering stress and anxiety.
  • Improving office performance and focus.
  • Boosting healing and pain tolerance; recover from illness faster.
  • Minimizing the occurrence of headaches by improving air quality.
  • Easing dry skin and respiratory ailments due to dry air.
  • Working with plants can be therapeutic.

Wow! That’s a lot of benefits. So, how does one get started turning an apartment into a green oasis?

Start With Sunshine

First things first, learn the light in your home. Observe the light in each room and determine how it fits in these categories:

  • Full sun: six or more hours of direct sun a day.
  • Partial sun or partial shade: four to six hours of direct sun a day.
  • Full shade: less than four hours of direct sun a day.

Once you know the light in your space, you can shop for plants. Seek out sun-loving plants, and those that prefer partial or full shade. Houseplants are usually tropicals and can take some heat, although not always direct sun. While most herbs prefer a sunny window relief from late afternoon sun in the form of shade is usually welcome.

No sun, no problem! In my office building, there are plants thriving in an interior hallway who receive light just from overhead fluorescents.  If your apartment has small or few windows, choose plants that are happiest in low light areas such as:

* Toxic to kids and pets if consumed

Where to buy?

If you are fortunate enough to live near an IKEA, you can shop for live plants and containers there. The selections are not huge, but the plants are healthy and cheap. The Home Depot has houseplants, but there’s usually a better selection at Lowe’s. Check out your local garden center as well! All these will carry containers; most will also carry potting soil. Target also has some cute containers, and some of their newly redesigned store also carry live plants!

Containers

Make sure the containers you plan to use are compatible with the growth habits of your plants. Make sure they have adequate drainage as well. If you live on an upper level, be mindful of the weight of the materials you’re carrying to your garden space. Choose lightweight containers (look for self-watering planters if you travel or forget to water), potting mix in small bags and plant caddies to conveniently move planters when it’s time to rotate; a caddy will also help protect a carpeted floor.

Soil

Use a potting soil specifically designed for containers. Potting mix is light and fluffy, efficiently circulating air and water to keep roots healthy. It’s also fairly sterile, so you won’t have to worry about bringing diseases into your apartment.

All purpose potting soil will work for most houseplants, but use cactus potting soil for cacti and succulents which prefer a very quick draining soil. An added bonus of potting soil is that it will contain fertilizer. Make sure all planters have enough drainage provided by holes in the bottom. Add a single layer of rocks or chards from a terra cotta pot to the bottom of the planter to avoid blockage of drainage due to compacted soil.

Water

No matter the plants you choose to get started gardening indoors, it’s imperative you follow a watering schedule based on each plant’s needs. Many people water their plants on the same schedule, which can lead to overwatering. Each plant has unique needs and water requirements.

Soil in terra cotta pots will dry out more quickly than plastic or fiberglass containers. A water meter is an excellent inexpensive investment to prevent over-watering. Or test the soil by poking your finger an inch or two below the surface. If it feels dry, you need to water.

Humidity

If you are growing your plants on an indoor windowsill, you might need to provide some extra humidity, especially when the heat is on. Spritzing the plants with a fine mist can help, or you can place the plants near a tray of water.

Feeding

Feed your plants on regularly according to their individual growing requirements. Adding a water-soluble fertilizer when you water is usually the easiest method. Also, note whether your potting mix has fertilizer already in it, as this typically will delay the need for you to feed your plants.

Tools

Essential tools and supplies for apartment gardening include gardening gloves, pruners, soil, water, containers for your plants and a watering can. ​

Problems

Pests and diseases have a way of finding plants no matter where you grow them, and there are no natural predators for insects indoors. Inspect your plants for problems whenever you water them or harvest. If you spot signs of pests or diseases, such as discoloring or holes in the leaves, move that plant away from the other plants until the problem is resolved.

Here’s to a healthy and beautiful home! See you at the garden center; I’ll be the one with dirt under my fingernails.

 

Resources: ApartmentList.com, The Home Depot, SustainableJunglr.com, Chatelaine.com, SwansonNursery.com, Healthline.com

Staying Safe in Summertime Heat

Hot summer sun causing heat wave

Hot Sun in the Summertime

Unlike Sly and The Family Stone’s Hot Fun In The Summertimea heat wave is no fun. The extreme heat of this summer can take all the fun out of the season if we’re not careful. Let’s chat about staying safe in this summer’s heat.

But first, some background. I grew up in a small ranch-style house in northern New Jersey without air conditioning. On hot summer nights, my brother, sister, and I would sleep – or try to – on folding lounge chairs on the back patio; sometimes our friends from next door would join us in a make-shift pajama party. The huge oak tree next to the patio made us feel like we were under a leafy cathedral ceiling. We used pieces of cardboard to fan ourselves while trying to find the Big Dipper and the North Star until we finally dozed.

My folks had a box fan in one of their bedroom windows, and dad had it set to pull the hot air out of the room. To keep their room as cool as possible, their door was kept shut and the curtains were pulled. Drapes were drawn in rest of the house too, and the windows kept shut to keep out the heat and hot air. Hot summer days in the house were dark, close, and still; hot summer nights were dark and still as well and the quiet was disturbed only by the drone of mosquitos and rhythmic call of katydids.

My 87-year-old mother has lived her entire life in homes without air conditioning, and actually has trouble adjusting to air conditioned environments. But, with the extreme heat the entire country is experiencing this summer, she’s here with me in my air conditioned Kentucky home.

Despite the access to AC, this unprecedented heat wave presents other challenges to keeping our cool and enjoying the summer. What do we watch out for, how do we keep safe, and how can we still have hot fun in the summertime?

What to watch out for

 Health risks associated with heat exposure can range from milder conditions such as heat cramps to heat strokes, which can be fatal. Let’s get familiar with the symptoms of heat-related illnesses to head off potential problems.

  • Mild dehydration and heat cramps — muscle pain or spasms — may be early signs that your body is not reacting well to the environment, said Matthew Levy, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
  • Heat exhaustion symptoms are more worrisome. These can include heavy sweating, elevated heart rate, nausea and vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and generally feeling unwell. Some people who are experiencing heat exhaustion might also faint. “This is where things are getting dangerous fast,” Levy said.
  • If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it may progress to heat stroke, which means the body’s core temperature has reached the point where cellular damage may start to occur.
    • The key feature of heat stroke is central nervous system dysfunction – confusion and possible seizures.
    • Another sign is lack of sweat. A dry person who’s not thinking clearly is at big risk and should seek help ASAP.

 How to stay safe

  •  Keep cool and hydrated.
  • Stay in spaces with air conditioning. If you only have a fan, experts recommend misting yourself with a spray bottle of cold water.
  • Spend time at indoor public places such as malls or libraries.
  • Go to a park, which can be five to 10 degrees cooler than indoor space.
  • When outdoors, dress in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and protect yourself from the sun with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of water, but don’t guzzle it; drinking too much water could cause a potentially fatal condition known as hyponatremia.
  • Don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine, both of which can be dehydrating. A good way to know whether you’re adequately hydrated is to pay attention to the color of your urine. Dark yellow is not good; very pale yellow or clear is ideal.
  • Limit outdoor exercise to less intense workouts, and do them early in the morning or in the evenings.

 Who is at increased risk?

 Although anyone can be negatively affected by hotter temperatures if they’re not careful, certain populations are more vulnerable, including the elderlyyoung childrenathletespeople who have chronic medical conditionspregnant people and those who may be struggling with mental health issues.

If you know anyone who might be at increased risk, check in on them during heat waves and make sure they’re equipped to stay safe.

  • Invite an elderly relative to stay with you (like me and my mom!).
  • Help someone get to a community cooling center.
  • Stop by people’s homes to make sure their air conditioners are working or to bring them cold drinks.
  • NEVER leave young children or pets in cars on hot days, even if the windows are open.
  • Pets are at risk, too! Click here for tips on keeping your pet safe in the summer.

 What to do if you or someone else is sick from the heat

  •  Get into a cooler environment — preferably some place with air conditioning — as quickly as possible.
  • Lower the body’s core temperature by removing clothing and wetting skin with cold water.
  • Hydrate with cold fluids, such as water or electrolyte drinks.
  • For more severe problems like heat stroke, seek medical help immediately.
    • While waiting for assistance to arrive, it’s critical to take action. Get the person out of the heat and either into air conditioning or shade. The fastest way to cool someone down in an urgent situation is cold-water immersion — the colder, the better. If that’s not possible, pour cold water on the person’s head and clothing.

Ideas to have fun despite the heat

  • Go to a pool in your community if available. Bring water in non-glass containers.
  • Visit your neighborhood library or indoor shopping mall
  • Go the movies
  • Visit a local museum
  • Stay inside and read a good book
  • Eat ice cream
  • Go bowling
  • Try an escape room

Above all, remember that cool fun in the autumn-time will be here before you know it.

How about another shameless plug for our hard-working team of Fath Properties service professionals who are always there to keep your place cool so you can Love The Place You Live?

Resources: Washington Post, CDC

Summer Safety for Furry Friends

 

Some areas of the USA are experiencing record-setting high temperatures this summer while others have more rain than they can handle. Me thinks Mother Nature is a wee bit perturbed with the way we treat Mother Earth. That is a story for another day. Today we’ll talk about pet care and safety tips for the summer heat.

The news is loaded with ways to keep us humans safe during a heat wave, but what about our furry friends? We think of them in human terms as well, don’t we? Yes (emphatically), we do. But our fur babies can’t cool off by sweating like we do. Below are some summer safety tips for our furry friends.

Car Rides

“Wanna go for a ride?” is like music to most pup’s ears. But summer rides can be deadly. Watch veterinarian Ernie Ward show how quickly temperatures rise in a parked car. YIKES. Never, ever, EVER leave a pup in a parked car. Not even for a minute! Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.

Although Fido may be miffed at being left at home and may munch on your favorite kicks in retribution, do it. He’ll get over it, and you wanted to buy a new pair of shoes anyway. If you’re driving with your dog in the car, bring water and a portable water dish (or this nifty water/bowl combo) and take Gus with you when you leave the car.

Download the Humane Society’s PDF for more information.

Paws

You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk!” Yep, concrete sidewalks, asphalt, and metal can get blisteringly hot. Try to keep Moose off hot surfaces; not only can it burn paws, but it can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating. And please don’t drive around with your dog in the bed of a truck. It does not make you look cool and the hot metal can burn paws quickly. Worse yet, your dog can fall out or be injured or killed in an accident. See? Not cool. Avoid walking pups in the heat of the day and walk them on the grass. If outdoor walking on hot surfaces can’t be helped, consider some stylin’ booties or paw wax to protect those sweet Fritos-scented feets.

Water and Shade

Bring a portable doggie dish and plenty of water available to avoid dehydration. Relax in the shade as much as possible or bring your own.

Pet Sunscreen

Even very furry dogs can also be prone to sunburn if their nose, ears, belly, and other sensitive areas aren’t covered with pet sunscreen. Hairless breeds must be protected when outdoors, as they are more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Never use human grade sunscreen on pets as it is toxic. Opt for a sunscreen suitable for pets.

Protective Clothing

Putting Cookie Crumb in a shirt may seem counterintuitive (but adorable!) when it is hot outside. However, some doggie clothes can help keep Ollie cool and shaded. If Rascal has short fur, light colored fur, or is hairless, you can opt for sunscreen clothing for pets. Dogs that are sensitive to the sun’s rays might enjoy doggles, or pet sunglasses.

Haircuts

Should you shave your dog’s fur or hair? WAIT! If you have a double-coated breed like a Golden Retriever, Border Collie, Aussie, Sheltie, Newfoundland or Bernese Mountain Dog, the answer is NOPE. Ready all about it here. For other breeds, read this before giving FiFi a new do.

Cookouts & Picnics

They will beg. They will plead. They will droll. So much. While dining al fresco is loads of fun, the food and drinks offered can be bad for dogs. Keep Lily and Poppy away from alcohol and foods like grapes, onions, and chocolate and other foods Taxi should not consume.

Fireworks

Many dogs are fearful of loud noises, especially fireworks. The dangers are obvious – pets are at risk for fatal injuries and painful burns if they are allowed to run around freely when fireworks are being used. Some fireworks also contain chemicals toxic to pets like potassium nitrate and arsenic. And remember, their hearing is many times better than ours. Don’t believe me? Try whispering, “Chicken?” and see what happens.

Keep Chester indoor with the TV or music playing to lessen the disruption. Your vet can also recommend something that will calm your pup if he’s very, very afraid.

Indoor Fun

Those days when it’s just too dang hot to go anywhere, perhaps a game of the Invisible Food Challenge could be fun?

So while you are enjoying Hot Fun In The Summertime, keep Peanut Chillin’ In The Summertime.

 

Resources: Humane Society, Pet Health Network, Shiloh Veterinary Hospital, ASPCA, 5 Points Animal Hospital, Pets WebMD

Home Office 2021 Edition

Designated Home Office Space

“I get to work from home in my jammies?!? Hurrah!” That’s what you were thinking when your company sent you home to work because of the 2020 Pandemic, right? It’s what we were all thinking. Here we are over a year later and you have to admit – the thrill is gone. While many of us are back to work, many of us are still working remotely full-time or part-time. We miss our co-workers, lunches out, happy hours after work, wearing something other than sweats, and being able to just work without all the distractions working at home bring. And the guilt. You know, “As long as I am home, shouldn’t I prepare a great meal for dinner this evening? Why am I behind on my laundry? Where did all this dust come from?”  We feel you, and hopefully can help.

HAVE A DESIGNATED SPACE

Keeping your “work” space separate from your “living” space really helps when you work from home. If you’re renting a new apartment and know you’ll be working from home, look for one that has one more bedroom, a den, a larger living room or a cozy nook than can become your office. Having a designated space will allow you to feel like you’re at work, while also making it easier to “turn off” at night and maintain a strong work-life balance. Investing in a decent chair will really helps to avoid the inevitable fanny fatigue you’ll suffer from sitting in a dining chair. If a  new chair is out of reach, a chair pad can make all the difference (plus you can take it on road trips!).

TAKE BREAKS

Sitting at a desk all day can drain your energy and motivation. Set up intervals where you can take quick breaks, even if it’s just to get up and stretch your legs or make a coffee. Taking small breaks every 90 minutes or so actually increases productivity, so don’t be afraid to step away from your work to help you focus better and keep your sanity while you’re at your desk.

SCHEDULE YOUR DAY

Working at home means working on your own more often. This cuts down on the distractions that tend to happen in an office environment, but it can also be difficult to keep yourself on track with no one else around. Planning your day and following a solid task list is a great way to hold yourself accountable. While completing a task, try not to take phone calls, answer emails, or shift from that task until it is finished.

KEEP A ROUTINE

Having a regular routine will help you stay productive. This extends outside of your work hours to include a regular bedtime, wake-up time, and work time. Choose a time that you will start work each day, and stick to it. Plan everything else around it, including your meals. Take time to get ready each morning and take a lunch break every day just as you would if you went to an office for work. And wear something nice to work at least once a week. Give your jammies a rest.

 

 

 

Don’t Be Them

Frowning Mom and Son Sit on Couch with Closed Eyes and Plugged Ears from Upstairs Noise

What’s Going On Up There?!?

As an apartment dweller, you share at least one wall with another resident. And, you probably hear your neighbor from time to time. It’s to be expected. Have you ever seen the video Everyone’s Upstairs Neighbor? Back when it was created, The Washington Post wrote:

            Chances are what’s causing the movements of humans above you to sound like a giant’s conga line is a thin or poorly-insulated ceiling. But when the thumping begins at all the wrong times, you know you can’t help but wonder: are they doing that on purpose?

The experience is universal enough that when comedy writer Matt Moskovciak pretended the answer was yes, it’s on purpose, he created the most successful online video of his career.

Of course the video is hilariously exaggerated, but it does make one wonder: “Is that how I sound to my neighbors?” Yikes.

Keeping that in mind, strive to be the neighbor you wish you would always have.

  • Offer a smile and a wave to your neighbors when you see them.
  • Step outside your apartment and listen to the volume of your music, TV, gaming, etc. If you can hear it, bet your neighbors can, too. Consider using headphones after 10:00 PM and before 9:00 AM if you like to pump up the volume.
  • Planning to throw a party? Let your neighbors know what to expect and for how long – and perhaps extend them an invitation to join in the fun.

These simple steps can go a long way toward shared enjoyment of life in your apartment building and apartment community.

On the other hand, what can you do if it’s your neighbors making too much noise and commotion on their side of the wall? The simplest (though not always easiest) solution is to knock on their door and ask them to keep down any noise that they can control (electronics, a barking dog, etc.). You can explain you need your sleep, that you’re working from home, etc. A heart-to-heart with your neighbor will always be better received than getting management involved. But if you are faint of heart, another option is to contact your management company and ask them to issue a general email to all residents about noise. This keeps you (or your neighbor) from being singled out, but ideally will get the message across. If that fails, you can have your management company contact your neighbor directly, without implicating you. A good set of ear plugs and a white noise machine or app on your phone can also work wonders.

Be a great neighbor and get one in return. Without the bowling balls.

 

Out, Damned Spot; Out I Say!

illustrates damage from red wine spills

Out Damned Spot

Racked with guilt over her complicity in murder, Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth famously exclaims, “Out, damned spot; out I say!” while wringing her hands to remove a hallucinated bloodstain. You may be tempted to say something similar – or much worse – when you’re suddenly faced with a horrifying spill of red wine on your carpet.

It’s always a sad moment when that delicious glass of red winds up on the floor instead of in your belly. My good friend Stacy never fails to drip, dribble, spill, or splash whenever we get together. I have honestly never met anyone as clumsy with food and drink as she. Fortunately for us both, she is also a wizard at removing stains from everything – including carpet – with products you already have in your home.  Her advice?

  • Blot Up ASAP. Gently blot with paper towels from the outside edge of the spill to the center. Act quickly before the wine’s natural dyes and acids work their way into the carpet fibers.
  • Select a Solution. See four options below:
    • Straight club soda.
    • One tablespoon each of white vinegar and liquid dish soap mixed in two cups warm water.
    • Table salt – enough to cover the spill.
    • Wine removal product such as Wine Away (under $10 from Amazon).
  • Test Solution. Test the solution on a small inconspicuous area for colorfastness.
  • Dab and Blot. Dab your solution of choice in small amounts on the spill with a soft, clean white cloth (an old T-shirt will do nicely!), again working your way from the outside of the spot to the center. Don’t be tempted to dump the mixture all over the stain as it will cause it to spread and may damage the carpet’s backing.
    • NOTE: If using salt, cover the stain, let sit until dry, then vacuum.
  • Rinse. Rinse the cloth frequently to avoid spreading or reintroducing the wine to the area.
  • Rest. Let everything sit for five to 10 minutes.
  • Rinse Again. Rinse the area with cold water.
  • Blot and Repeat. Blot with a white towel. Repeat until no more color transfers to the towel.

Theoretically, you can use white wine to remove a red wine stain following the steps above. If wasting any wine on a spill shocks you to your core, consider having vinegar or salt or Wine Away at the ready before you pop the cork.

Cheers!

 

 

The Easy Way to Clean a Dirty Oven

If there is one chore no one enjoys doing, it’s cleaning the oven.

But it really doesn’t have to be all that difficult. Yes, there are tons of products out there for cleaning your oven but they can often be harmful to your oven’s interior finish as well as harmful to breathe in. A self-cleaning oven option is a great feature. However, if you don’t have that option, cleaning the oven doesn’t have to be difficult or harmful.

Taking a dirty oven and making it a clean oven can be done in less than one hour and without any harsh chemicals!

Check out this quick video for a super easy way to clean a dirty oven.

 

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Mix about 3 Tbsp baking soda, a bit of water and some vinegar in an oven safe dish until it forms a paste.
  2. Dab the dirtiest areas with the mixture.
  3. Sit the remaining mixture in the oven safe bowl in the center of your center oven rack.
  4. Turn the oven to around 212 degrees fahrenheit.
  5. Leave the mix in for around 45 minutes.
  6. Turn the oven off and allow to cool for a bit.
  7. Wipe down the oven and remove all the build up easily!

Be sure your oven is cool and hasn’t been used recently before beginning this process.
Do not do the cleaning process while the oven is in use for baking.

If you ever have questions about cleaning your oven, best products to use, or how it operates, give your leasing office a call and we will be happy to send a maintenance technician to your home or answer any questions.

How to Keep a Squeaky Clean Shower

Need some tips and tricks on keeping your shower or bath squeaky clean? We’ve got ’em!

 

Showers can be a hot bed for mildew and soap scum if not properly cleaned on a regular basis. Here are some tips to keep your shower fresh and clean.

Do these daily:

  1. Squeegee water off walls, floor and door. This will prevent mildew growing in the warm water left behind.
  2. Wipe all areas with a dry towel of any remaining condensation.
  3. Run a vent fan during your shower or bath and up to 30 minutes afterward. This will help remove any humidity remaining in your bathroom.
  4. Leave the shower door or curtain slightly open to release any remaining humidity in the shower and to help dry moisture.

Regular, weekly cleaning with ensure a clean shower and bath. You can use a gentle cleanser that can be purchased at most stores. However, be sure to check the bottle to make sure it is okay to use on your surface. A list is also provided in your move-in packet to all our residents at Fath Properties. If you need a copy, please contact the leasing office.

If you want an easy, non-toxic cleaner, try this. Mix white cleaning vinegar and a few drops of tea tree oil in a bottle. For every 2 ounces of vinegar, add one drop of tea tree oil. The vinegar helps to remove soap scum and slime while the tea tree oil fights mildew and mold. Vinegar can be found at numerous grocery stores while tea tree oil can be found at organic retailers like Whole Foods or online at Amazon.com. To use this vinegar-oil cleaner, simply spray on all walls, doors and floor and let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. For hard to clean areas, apply baking soda and scrub with vinegar to the problem area, and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing. Repeat as necessary.

Other tips and tricks:

  • Clogged shower head? Tie a baggy filled with white cleaning vinegar around the shower head. Leave on overnight. Remove the bag and run the shower to remove built up particles. This also works well on faucets in the kitchen and bathroom that may not flow smoothly.
  • Don’t sit bottles on the floor. Often times water can get stuck under the bottles and create a slime or mildew on the floor. Always keep bottles and other products in a shower caddy or shelf off the floor.
  • Magic erasers works wonders. If you have a hard to clean area between grout or in corners, try using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or similar product. It’s a non-toxic product and can even be used while you’re in the shower.
  • Funny colors appearing? If you see colors like pink, orange or yellow appearing in your shower, check your products. Some shampoos, conditioners or soaps have dyes that will leave residue in your shower.
  • Drop the bar. Go for gel. Bar soap will often leave soap scum and build up in your shower. Switch to a shower gel which is far less likely to result in similar build up.

Following these simple tips and tricks will keep your shower and bath clean and fresh!

As always, if you ever need assistance or would like a maintenance technician to check out your shower, feel free to call the leasing office or put in a service request online. We are happy to help!

Heat

Want to improve energy savings in the winter? Here are some tips!

Fath Properties’ goal is to provide seventy (70) degree heat to all apartments where we control the heat.  The majority of residents find this to be a comfortable temperature, and it allows us to sensibly manage our costs and do our part to conserve energy.  If your apartment’s temperature is between sixty-nine (69) and seventy-one (71) degrees, your heating system is probably working fine.  Apartment temperatures will vary slightly from unit to unit.  If your apartment is cooler than seventy (70) degrees, and no other problems exist with the system, there are several things you can do to maximize the temperature:

  • Furniture or other items set in front of your heat registers or vents will keep the heat from circulating in the apartment. Please keep all items at least eight (8) inches away from registers or vents. Proper circulation is essential!
  • Make sure all windows and doors are tightly shut. If there are still heavy drafts around windows or gaps in doors, please call your leasing office to have this addressed.
  • Make sure the vent(s) on your wall unit air conditioner(s) are in the ‘closed’ position and that there is not air sweeping in around the units.
  • It is normal for windows and the area around them to feel cold to the touch since glass is not a good insulator. Heavy insulated drapes and curtains are the best way to minimize the effect of this cold air on the apartment temperature.
  • If you have baseboard registers, make sure the metal flap inside is lifted all the way up and that you can see inside the register. This flap acts as a vent; if it is resting down on the front panel, the heat cannot escape.
  • If you have a forced air system, make sure your thermostat is set on ‘Heat’ and ‘Auto’.
  • Finally, please dress for the season, i.e. sweaters, heavy shirts, and slacks. Few people are comfortable in T-shirts or shorts, even inside, in the winter.

If you have further questions or need service for your heat, please contact your community leasing office. We will be happy to send out a maintenance technician.

Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals operate virtually trouble-free when used properly.  These helpful procedures and tips will lead to a long life for your disposal and easy operation.

When running your garbage disposal…

  • Turn cold water to maximum flow position.
  • Flip the switch to the “on” position.
  • Push refuse through the splashguard keeping hands away from the inside chamber.
  • Continue to run the disposal until the grinding sound stops, and then flip the switch to the “off” position.
  • Continue to run cold water for two to three minutes to be sure all of the waste particles have been flushed away.

Below are some DO’s and DON’T(s) for disposal usage

 DO:

  • Grind a citrus peel or put baking soda down the drain to keep the disposal odor free.
  • Run plenty of cold water during and after operation.
  • Grind coffee grounds.

 DON’T:

  • Never put your hand down a disposal when it is running.
  • Do not use hot water when operating a disposal.
  • Never try to put too much through a disposal at once.
  • Never put any of the following items into a disposal

Fibrous materials (cornhusks, artichokes, etc.)
Clam, oyster, or nutshells
Fruit/vegetable pits or seeds
Rice
Pasta
Eggshells
Bones
Drain cleaner
Tea bags, potato or banana peels, celery, tomatoes
Grease
Wooden objects
Glass, china, plastic
Metal objects (bottle caps, aluminum foil, tin cans, utensils)
Dishrags

If the motor has stopped due to overloading, turn the disposal off.  Wait three to five minutes, and then push the reset button (located under the sink on the unit itself).  Then follow normal operating procedure.

If the disposal has jammed, turn the power switch to the “off” position before attempting to remove an object.  With tongs, remove any objects that might be obstructing the free movement of the blades.  In many cases, a broom handle can be inserted into the mouth of the disposal and turned in a circular pattern to free the blades.

Once movement has been restored to the blades, push the reset button on the disposal unit.  Then follow normal operating procedure.

Of course, if you ever run into an issue you cannot resolve yourself, our friendly maintenance team will be happy to help. Just call your leasing office and we will schedule a friendly maintenance technician to come to your apartment home.