Eggs-actly Perfect

Eggs-actly Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Sure, sure hard boiling eggs seems like a fairly simple task. Boil, peel, and eat. Until, that is, you discover they are almost impossible to peel with the shell taking chunks of the white flesh with it. Or the yolk is unappetizingly undercooked or has an unsightly greenish edge.  All equate to big fails when trying to make deviled eggs where the white is a beautiful vessel for luscious filling.

There are hard-boiled eggs in my house at all times. Not only do they make an easy (and transportable) quick breakfast, but they are also a healthy, low-calorie snack full of protein, and tasty addition to salads. (We eat a lot of salad in the summer when I just can’t bear heating up the kitchen.) Plus, whipping up a batch of deviled eggs to bring to a spontaneous picnic or cocktail party is a breeze.

After boiling literally hundreds of eggs over the years, I’ve [finally] found a method that produces eggs with perfectly firm whites, creamy yolks that are a lovely consistent shade of pale yellow and, most importantly, easy to peel.

You’ll need:

  • six to 12 large eggs (older eggs ultimately peer better than fresh ones)
  • a pot – large enough to hold a steamer basket – with a lid
  • afore-mentioned steamer basket
  • a large bowl filled with ice and water
  • a timer

Pour and inch or two of water into the pot, insert the steamer, and add the eggs. Heat over high. When the water begins to boil, reduce to medium, cover, and cook for precisely 15 minutes.

While the eggs are steaming, fill your bowl with ice and add water. Your bowl should be large enough to hold all the eggs and allow them to be fully submerged in the ice water.

When the timer goes off, immediately transfer the eggs from the steamer basket to their ice water bath. Then walk away. Let the eggs soak for at least 15-20 minutes so they cool completely – right to their core. Once cool, drain and either refrigerate for later use or peel.

If you plan to use the eggs immediately, fill your now empty bowl with cool water. Peel the egg while it’s submerged. You can also peel under running water, but results are consistently better with the dunk. The shell should separate from the white of the egg in nice big pieces leaving the egg unblemished – perfect for your deviled eggs.

Deviled Eggs

Whether you choose a pretty platter (best for home use) or a  practical platter with lid (best for transport and storage), choose the number of eggs right to fill your plate. Mine has 12 indentations, so this recipe will be for a half dozen eggs yielding a dozen deviled eggs.

Deviled eggs usually call for a dash of Tabasco sauce, but I prefer the less spicy, but zestier horseradish sauce. The addition of softened butter – thank you Julia Child – adds a wonderful, rich silkiness to the yolky filling.

Traditional garnishes include a sprinkle of paprika, a slice of pimento-stuffed olive, chopped chives, or a sprig of dill, but you can kick your garnishes up to a whole new level by adding a small piece (about one inch or so) of crispy bacon, crisped prosciutto, or crisped chicken skin (pictured). These crispy bits add a lot of textural interest, flavor, and visual appeal to your eggs.

The Parts

The Procedure

Cut the eggs in half length-wise and gently scoop the yolks into a bowl or a mini food processor. Place the whites on your platter. Blend the yolks with the remaining ingredients either in a small food processor, or mash together with a fork.

For a fancy finish, use a piping bag or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut out to pipe the yolk mixture into the whites. For a homemade look, simply spoon the filling into the egg whites. Garnish.

Don’t you just love it when things turn out eggs-actly perfect? And you can enjoy your hard-boiled ot deviled eggs without egg on your face.

 

Streak-free Glass

Unlike the streaking fad of the 1970’s, streaky glass has never been in vogue. Rather, streaky windows, glass tabletops, and mirrors is a frustrating result when cleaning your home. So often, no matter how much cleaner you spray on the surface and how you wipe it away, it seems almost impossible to leave a streak-free, shining surface in place. But guess what? Streak-free glass is possible and using the proper method will even take you less time to achieve the results you desire. Cleaning glass without leaving streaks and doing so efficiently? Win, win!

The Cleaner

Most commercial glass cleaners will do the trick when it comes to cleaning glass mirrors. One of the most effective and popular options is Windex glass cleaner, but you can also use Method if you want a natural and non-toxic formula.

Another option is to make your own glass cleaner. All you need is distilled water, distilled white vinegar, and a spray bottle. Learn to make your own distilled water here. Use distilled rather than tap or filtered water as hard water could be the cause of the streaks and grime left behind. Hard water has an accumulation of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are culprits when it comes to streaks. Mix the distilled water and distilled white vinegar in a 50/50 ratio for a non-toxic and antibacterial cleaner for a fraction of the price of store-bought cleaners.

The Wipe

When cleaning windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces, paper towels – while convenient – are not your friend. Most paper towels leave behind lint that becomes obvious on shiny surfaces like mirrors and glass top tables. Trying using a microfiber cloth or a squeegee instead. Neither leave behind lint, and you can toss the t-shirt in the wash when you’re done, and both are reusable making them more environmentally-friendly. Old newspapers, if you can find them, will also provide you with a lint-free experience. Newspaper doesn’t hold up well against the wet cleaner for very long, so have plenty on hand.

The Technique

Before you begin, make sure your surface is free of dirt, dust, crumbs, and goo. Vacuum or dust around window and mirror frames as you don’t want dirt mixing with your cleaner. Got sticky substances clinging to your glass? Don’t try and clean these up with glass cleaner, because they can smear and create even more of a mess. Instead, use plastic to scrape off any substances before you start cleaning. A plastic utensil, card, or a plastic paint scraper should do the trick and won’t scratch the glass. For especially stubborn areas, dab with a bit of liquid dish soap. Let it sit for bit, then wipe the dish soap and the goo away.

A good glass cleaning tip is to start at the top of the mirror or window and work your way down. This way, when the cleaner drips, you’ll be able to wipe it up efficiently as you work your way down.

Did you know that when you spray cleaner directly on the glass, you use more product than you actually need? And, if your cleaner produces too many suds while cleaning your glass, you’re more prone to leave behind streaks.  Spray the window cleaner directly on your microfiber cloth, newspaper, or t-shirt instead of the glass. This helps avoid drips that can leave streaks. Plus, you’ll find that you actually need less cleaner than you think you’ll need for a streak-free shine.

Be careful not to get cleaner on window and/or mirror wood frames, as it can damage or warp the wood over time.

When it comes to cleaning windows, mirrors, and glass tabletops effectively and achieving the ultimate streak-free glass , remember that it’s not always going to come out perfectly. (Nothing is ever perfect, right?) Even if you’ve used a microfiber cloth, distilled water, and a small amount of product, there could still be streaks left behind.

The good news is that these streaks can be removed by using a dry cloth and and buffing them out. Streaks disappear quickly when you use light, fast strokes over the span of the table, mirror, or window. Microfiber cloths work like magic! Best of all, this takes only a few seconds.

The Result

Clean, streak-free glass while fully clothed.

Go Bananas For Banana Bread

My fella loves bananas. But they have to be just so. Not too firm, but not soft or squishy. They must be just this side of green, and definitely without any black spots that inevitably appear as the fruit ripens. Tired of tossing that last one of the bunch that ripened a day too soon, and not wanting to attract fruit flies (read what do if those pests appear here), I started freezing them. And what a difference that made in my banana bread.

Like so many people, I turned to the kitchen to stay busy during the COVID lockdown. With plenty of bananas in the freezer, my mission was to find the BEST recipe for banana bread. I tried eight or nine different recipes, then honed in on the one we liked best, tweaking until it was (modestly speaking LOL) perfect. The winning recipe is based on a recipe for Smashed Banana Bread from Food & Wine. As you can imagine, we ate a lot of bananas and a lot of banana bread in 2020. (Really, we ate a lot of everything during COVID to avoid going stir crazy.) So here is our favorite. Here’s hoping you enjoy it as much as we do.

A couple of notes first:

  • Thaw the bananas in a bowl in the fridge overnight, or for about an hour on the counter. Reserve the liquid they release.
  • If you can find it, get the banana liqueur. It really adds to the banana-y flavor, and also tastes great poured over a bowl of good vanilla bean ice cream. I like Bols for the flavor and pretty bottle, but the Dekuyper is about half the price.
  • Sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt work equally well.
  • The bread tastes the most amazing after it cools when the edges are still a bit crispy.
  • You’ll need a baking sheet, metal loaf pan, parchment paper, nonstick cooking spray, and a cooling rack.

Pieces & Parts

½ cup pecans, chopped

1½ cups flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp fine sea salt

2 large eggs
4 frozen bananas, thawed, and their liquid
¼ cup + 2 tbsp sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp banana liqueur or dark rum

5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (if desired)

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease the loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray
  3. Line the pan with parchment paper, allowing two inches of overhang on the long sides
  4. Toast the pecans on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for about seven minutes until fragrant. Cool.
  5. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the bananas, the banana liquid, sour cream, vanilla, and banana liqueur until combined.
  7. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about two minutes.
  8. At low speed, gradually beat in the wet ingredients until just incorporated, then beat in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold in the pecans.
  9. Scrape the mixture into your prepared pan, and bake in the center of the oven for about an hour and 30 minutes. Because some ovens can bake more quickly than others, check the bake at 60 minutes and again at 75 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf. The bread is done when the toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Set the pan on a cooling rack and rest for 45 minutes.
  11. Turn the bread out of the pan and cool for 30 minutes more.
  12. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if you like.

Store

Wrap in cling wrap and store at room temperature.

More

We always fight for the end piece as soon as it’s ready to eat (those crusty edges!), but wind up sharing that slice ’cause we like each other. My guy loves to slather the bread with softened butter; it’s also great toasted (and buttered).

I recently brought this banana bread to a friend’s breakfast party. She served eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, and toast – a bounty! But the six of us still managed to devour an entire loaf of my banana bread on top of everything else in that one sitting. Just sayin’.

I hope that now you look at overripe bananas as a bonus instead of a waste, and go as bananas for this bread as we do.

 

 

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

Summer is just around the corner bringing with it a bounty of fresh produce. Vine ripened tomatoes. Peaches. Melon. Berries galore. Makes one’s heart glad as we dream of fruit pies, caprese salads, or just a bit bite into a juicy nectarine. Buyer beware, however. Pesky fruit flies may be hitching a ride into your home via fruits and veggies purchased at the grocery or farmer’s market and what better (or worse?) way to ruin your pie ala mode than to have a teeny fruit fly buzzing around your head and your home?

And although they are tiny, they are mightily challenging to get rid of once they’ve crashed your kitchen. Worse yet, they reproduce at a rate that can only be described as astonishing: According to Orkin, a pest control company, female fruit flies lay hundreds of eggs in a very short time, commonly on moist foods like overripe fruit and vegetables. Then, within 24 to 30 hours, those eggs hatch into larvae, or maggots, that feed on the food source on which they were laid. Within about a week those larvae become sexually active and not more than two days later, start the cycle over again — leaving you with way too many fruit flies to stomach. Eww, gross!

So, Virginia, what is one to do? Blame the landlord? The neighbors? The market? While you can cast blame wherever it suits you, it won’t help get rid of these little pests. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to banish these freeloaders from your kingdom. All you need is some supplies you probably already have on hand (don’t you just love that?), persistence, and some patience.

FIRST: Why Are There Fruit Flies In My Home?

Our friends and pest experts at Orkin advise that  fruit flies are attracted to ripe, rotting or decayed fruit and produce, as well as fermented goods like beer, liquor and wine, but they can also inhabit trash cans and garbage disposals if sufficient food is present. Ahhh, that explains the struggle around the kitchen sink! To cut off fruit flies from their food source and prevent them from entering your home,take these preventive measures to avoid getting fruit flies in the first place.

  • Keep all kitchen surfaces spotlessly clean
  • Throw out overripe produce the moment it becomes overripe (those bananas!*)
  • Store fruits and veggies in the fridge
  • Wash produce as soon as you get home to remove any potential eggs or larvae
  • Take out the garbage regularly
  • Clean up spills ASAP, especially fruit juice or alcohol

If, despite your best efforts, these wee invaders declare war on your household, defend yourself with simple homemade remedies or traps available in stores and online.

SECOND: How Do I Make My Own Fruit Fly Trap

Prepare yourself to be astonished how little time, effort, or money this will involve. Below you’ll discover several DIY traps you can make right now.

Apple Cider Vinegar + Plastic Wrap

    1. Pour a bit of apple cider vinegar into a glass. It’s sweeter than white vinegar and will attract fruit flies faster.
    2. Cover the opening with a bit of plastic wrap and secure it in place with a rubber band
    3. Poke a few small holes in the plastic so the fruit flies can enter
    4. Dump the mixture every few days because seeing dead fruit flies floating is, well, unappealing

Paper Cone + Vinegar + Old Fruit

    1. Pour a generous glug of apple cider vinegar into a glass or jar and a chunk of very ripe fruit
    2. Roll a piece of paper into a cone and stick it into the jar with the narrow opening down. A piece of tape will help hold the cone’s shape.
    3. Discard the vinegar and fruit cocktail when there are dead flies and begin again

Vinegar + Dish Soap

    1. Pour a generous slug of apple cider vinegar into a small bowl or glass
    2. Add three drops of dish soap (it will make the flies sink and drown)
    3. Mix with a fork
    4. Leave uncovered
    5. Clean out and refresh as needed

Old Beer or Wine

(wait, is there such a thing?!?)

    1. Fruit flies are attracted (like so many of us), to the smell of wine
    2. Leave out a bottle of wine or beer with just a few unfinished sips left in the bottle
    3. The bottle’s skinny neck will trap the flies inside
    4. The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends adding a couple of drops of dish soap to either the beer or wine dregs for surer success.

THIRD: I Hate DIY! Where Can I Buy A Trap?

You can spend a little ($6.00) or a lot ($60) on a fruit fly trap. Why not spend a little and take one of the top two recommended traps out for a spin?

 

 

 

 

FOURTH: Don’t Play The Blame Game

No matter how clean you keep your home, and how properly you store your summer bounty of fruits and vegetables, chances are that you may still see a fruit fly this summer (as I have already. UGH).  If you do, don’t beat yourself, your neighbor, or your landlord up. Simply clean like a maniac, keep your produce in the fridge, and keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar at the ready. Wishing you a pest free summer!

* Don’t toss those bananas that are a bit too ripe! Instead, toss them in the freezer. Read our next blog to learn how to turn overripe bananas into The Best banana bread.

Resources: Good Housekeeping, Old Farmers Almanac, Orkin, Bon Apetit, FDA

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

Petiquette For Perfect Pups

Petiquette For Perfect Pups

 

If you are a pup parent, chances are you think that your pup is perfect. Mine certainly is. Seriously one of the best dogs there ever was. As hard as it is to believe for us dog lovers, however, not everyone loves dogs (GASP!) and not everyone thinks your pup is perfect (WHAT?!?). As responsible pet parents, it’s up to us to make sure that our fabulous furry friends don’t interfere with our neighbor’s right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Whether you reside in an apartment, condo, or single-family home, there are things you can do to help everyone love your pup as much as you do. We call it PETIQUETTE. noun. The customary code of polite pup behavior in society to ensure endless love from your friends and neighbors.

OUTDOORS

Leashes. Unless you and Rover are at the dog park, keep your pup on a leash. You know your dog like the back of your hand, but you don’t know all the other dogs, people, and events you may encounter that might trigger unusual behavior in your dog. Leashing your pup keeps him and all the other critters and peeps safe. Plus, Rover’s leash can tell the world what kind of pup he or she  is – adventure dog, princess, fashionista, bad to the bone. The possibilities are truly endless.

Poop Bags. I was just at a nice, well-maintained dog park last weekend and came home with poop on my shoe. UGH. WHY? Pay attention people! Don’t leave home without this essential and use them every time your pup poops. Dispose of the bags in a thoughtful manner – tie them up securely and place them in a designated container or common trash can. A carabiner clip on your leash can not only hold your poop bag dispenser, but also your house key, and a used poop bag. So handy if clean up duty comes mid-walk so you don’t have to swing a full bag the whole way home. Just remember to toss the bag before entering your home! Lesson learned the hard way. P.U.!!

Vaccinations. Show your pup some serious health love. Keep up on your dog’s vaccinations according to your vet’s recommendations. Don’t forget monthly heartworm treatments and flea and tick prevention. Fully vaccinated pups make for better pup friends.

Exercise. Dogs are a big-time commitment. Critical for keeping pups happy and healthy is to make sure they get regular exercise – and by regular, think several times daily. Learn more at the AKC website.

While living in an apartment, your dog is somewhat confined. He or she isn’t going to have a lot of room to run around, let out energy or play. Not only can this make little Buddy feel cooped up or frustrated, but it could also cause him to let out his energy in not-so-constructive ways (like chewing up your furniture, digging into your walls or doors, or barking).

Training and Socialization. Expose your dog to different people and settings regularly. Take him to the park, to the pet store, on a walk through town. Check out the Bring Fido app or website for a plethora of pet-friendly places that will welcome your dog. Praise him for behaving calmly around strangers and other dogs, or any other strange dog triggers. I once had a dog that had a very negative reaction to men in hats and to Siberian Huskies, but literally loved everyone and everything else. So weirdly selective.

Praise him lavishly for obeying commands and behaving well. Using positive, rather than negative, reinforcement will help your dog enjoy training.

ID Tags, License, Registration, Microchip. Be sure to get a dog license in the county where you reside. Registration fees are nominal, and the tag will help others to identify your furry friend if she decides to go on an adventure solo. Microchipping your dog is the ultimate, as a tag is removed when your dog’s collar is removed, but a microchip is there for the life of your dog. There are also sites where you can register the microchip number; again, so helpful if your dog becomes lost or stolen. Check out Home Again or Free Pet Chip Registry.

Spay, Neuter. Unless you intend to breed your pup, spay or neuter. It’s ultimately better for your dog’s health and disposition. And he really won’t miss his boy parts. Quit anthropomorphizing.

INDOORS

Control the Bark. Keep your neighbors in mind. Be courteous and consider that many people are sharing the space around your home. A dog that barks a lot will not be best received in an apartment with shared walls or a front door that is in a high traffic area. Ask your veterinarian about behavioral training if your dog is a barker. You can invest in a hand held barking deterrent, or a device that sounds when you are not at home.

Deal with Separation Anxiety. Some dogs, like my perfect pup, suffer from separation anxiety. I envisioned him being totally miserable every time I left home. Then I purchased a dog camera that allows me to see his activity on my phone and even speak to him. Turns out I was anthropomorphizing; he mostly slept after a minute of barking to let the world know he was not happy being left alone. There are even dog monitors that will allow you to remotely dispense a treat and are compatible with Alexa. Aww, way to reward your good boy or good girl.

Create a Doggie Haven. Dogs find it easier to relax and wind down if they have their own space, so make Miss Toes her own little haven in a corner of your apartment. Put a calming dog bed, a few toys, and her food and water bowls in his corner to give her a place to retreat when she needs a break. Or if she’s crate trained, make her crate as comfortable as possible. One of your used t-shirts can provide comfort, too.

Proactive Damage Prevention. Pet Proof. Even perfect pups can occasionally find it hard to resist temptation. Or get even. When Bosley came into my life, I bought him a shiny red raincoat with a yellow duck on the back. His humiliation the first time wearing it forced him to take a nice chew of my best Italian leather loafers. I learned my lesson.  So you won’t have a hard lesson to learn, move breakables or “chewables” to higher ground. Make electrical cords inaccessible to curious paws and noses. Block off any area of the house that’s off-limits. Block access to (or give away) any house plants that are toxic to dogs.

Potty walks are essential! Potty stains on the carpet, along with chewed doors, trim, and walls will present a financial issue for you when you eventually move. When your perfect pup has an accident (that was probably your fault, haha), be sure to clean it up right away using a cleaner that will remove the stain and neutralize the odor.

Playtime and Companionship. We all need a daily dose of fun for our mental health. So does Buster. In addition to outdoor exercise, Buster will love a game of toss or tug with you – his favorite thing in the whole wide world. She’ll also appreciate a play date with others of her own kind. You know, other perfect pups. A play date with a neighbor’s dog, a visit to the dog park, or an All Day Play session at your local pet retreat can work wonders. Playtime can also reduce stress-induced destructive behavior. It’s a win-win!

Good Eats, Drinks, Treats. Who doesn’t love dinner, drinks, and snacks? Of course you are going to feed and water your dog, but strategically offered snacks can encourage and reward the best pup behavior as pups tend to prefer treats over good boy stickers.

Groom. Fur sheds. Hair grows. Whichever you pup possesses needs frequent attention. If you opt to brush outside to avoid a mountain of fur inside, do so a respectful distance from your neighbors and common area, and bag up the inevitable mountain of fluff for the rubbish bin. Be sure to keep fur cleaned up from your carpets whether you brush indoors or out.

Find a Sitter. A sitter can be heaven-sent in terms of keeping your pup happy when you’re away working or having (GASP!) a life outside of your dog. Check out local dog resorts for day care or boarding, or Rover or Wag! for pet sitting or walking.

So, so many things to do and see to as a perfect pup parent, right? But aren’t they worth the effort? And won’t it be just grand when your neighbor welcomes your furry friend with some scritches (maybe ones even good enough to get that back leg going) instead of a harsh glare.

 

RESOURCES: Pet Safe, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Kennel Club, Apartment Guide, Human Animal Support Services

 

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Dyeing Easter Eggs The Natural Way

It’s An Easter Eggstravaganza!

Easter is on April 17 this year – late enough that spring bulbs will be in full bloom, flowering trees will be in bud, grass will have turned a vibrant green, and perennials will be pushing their way through the soil. Days will be milder, and hopefully we’ll see much more of the sun. Spring is surely a time of year to appreciate nature and natural things. So why not invite the beauty of nature into your kitchen and make natural dyes for your Easter eggs? It can be a great science experiment for your kids (and the kid in you), and a wonderful afternoon project on those inevitable April showers days.

Eggs are colored with items you probably already have in your home, and you can adjust the brilliance of the color by lengthening the time of the soak. And the result will be a satisfying basket of richly hued eggs instead of a bowl of artificially colored ones. Are you game?

You’ll need perfectly hard boiled eggs, white vinegar, water, and materials from the below chart depending on the colors you seek.

Beet, Cabbage & Onion Dyes

Place prepared ingredient in bottom of large pot. Cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce to a simmer; and cook for 30 minutes, or until you’ve achieved the desired color.

Turmeric Dye

Add four cups of water and 4 tablespoons of ground turmeric to a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce to a simmer; and cook for 30 minutes. Not familiar with turmeric? Click here to discover the benefits.

Coffee Dye

Brew four cups of strong coffee.

Red Wine Dye

Use an inexpensive bottle of red. No vinegar needed. Soak until the eggs are the desired color, but do not use the oil to finish as per below.

Before You Use Your Natural Dyes

  • Strain out the solids. Add one tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid. Allow the dyes to cool before using.
  • For every dozen eggs, plan on using at least four cups of dye liquid.
  • Add the room-temperature eggs in single layer in a baking dish or bowl or coffee mug and carefully pour the cooled dye over them. Make sure the eggs are completely submerged.
  • Experiment with dying white and brown eggs. Soak for 30 minutes to three hours for lighter colors; overnight for brighter colors.
  • Transfer the eggs in the dye to the refrigerator and chill until the desired color is reached.
  • Carefully dry the eggs, and then massage in a little oil to each one. Polish with a paper towel. Store the eggs in the refrigerator until it is time to eat (or hide) them. NOTE: hard-boiled eggs outside of the refrigerator won’t last for more than two hours, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so plan accordingly,

Keep in mind that results will vary depending on the number of eggs, the color of the eggs, and the length of time the eggs soak. Typically, you’ll soak for a shorter time for lighter colors like pale pinks and blues and longer for darker, richer shades like royal blue and gold. Start with a soak of 30 minutes and leave as long as overnight. If you’re soaking overnight, soak in the refrigerator. For richer color, you can also give the eggs multiple soaks in the dye, being sure to dry them between soaks.

If the thought of doing all this makes your head feel like it is about to explode – like an overcooked cracked hardboiled egg – there are always the traditional egg dye kits like the grocery store PAAS kit (reminiscent of my youth) or the inexpensive Spritz kits from Target. For something greener and organic, Eco Kids has a kit that even grows grass. However you decide to dye your eggs, we here at Fath Properties wish you an Easter Eggstravaganza worth remembering.

 

RESOURCES: TheKitchn, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart, Rocking Point Wines, Wide Open Eats, Simply Recipes

 

Get Moving; Stay Active

Get Moving; Stay Active

Get Moving; Stay Active

Spring is just around the corner! If, like many of us, you made a New Year’s resolution to become more active but found that hard to do in the middle of a cold dark winter, now is the time to jump-start your fitness plans. Getting – and staying – active doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive; more than anything it just takes motivation and perseverance. Here are some ideas to help you incorporate movement into your daily routine.

Remember, every step counts. According to the American Heart Association, a great goal is at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week of moderate intensity activity. Breaking that down a bit, it’s just 30 minutes of brisk walking on at least five days a week. But what if you’re so tight on time that you can’t spare a half hour every day? Then get creative and break up your activity into shorter sessions. For example:

  • In the morning, park or get off the bus/train about 10 minutes away from your job and walk briskly to work.
  • At lunch, walk for 10 minutes around where you work, indoors or outdoors. Recruit a co-worker to two to join you. Time will fly when you’re conversing and can turn your walk into a time you all look forward to; a welcome respite from your busy day.
  • At the end of the day, walk briskly for 10 minutes back to your car or station.

Look for opportunities to reduce sedentary time and to increase active time:

  • Instead of watching TV, take a walk after dinner. Can’t break away from your favorite shows? Get up and move around during the commercial breaks. There are typically 12 minutes of commercials in a one-hour show, so you can get in a 30-minute workout in one evening of binge watching. Just don’t use that time to walk to the fridge.
  • I always used to say, “Great parking means great shopping!” meaning if I got the first or second space closest to the door, I thought I would actually find what I was shopping for or find a great bargain on something I didn’t even know I needed. But that notion has been flipped on its head. Better to choose the parking space farthest from the door whether you’re in the parking lot at work, the grocery store, the mall, or any other pace you visit or run errands. Those extra steps will add up (and the shopping will still be great).
  • Walk away from your desk at work to take a phone call or have a walking meeting with a colleague.
  • Add a stand for your computer that will allow you to stand at your desk. While this isn’t actually moving around, standing is better than sitting. If, unlike me, you have a level of coordination, you could walk in place while you work.

Use your smart phone, a pedometer, or a device like a Fitbit or other wearable fitness tracker to monitor your steps. If you have a competitive bone in your body, you’ll enjoy setting and achieving step goals.

Set aside specific times to make physical activity part of your daily or weekly routine. This diary from the CDC might help. Think about activities and places you enjoy, like morning walks in your neighborhood, or a free online class in the evening. Recruit family and/or friends to help motivate you. I once joined a 6:00AM fitness class with a co-worker and we took turns driving. There was no skipping class because either she was outside my apartment waiting for me or I was outside waiting for her.

Start slowly and work your way up to more physically challenging activities. For many people, walking is a particularly good place to begin. Walking is one of the simplest ways to get active and stay active. With each step you take, you travel further down the path to a healthier lifestyle. Research has shown that walking can have a significant impact on your health by lowering your chances of heart disease.

Get ready to walk!

  • For a morning walk, lay out your walking clothes and shoes the night before and eat a piece of fruit or some yogurt for energy.
  • Listen to music to get you going (just make sure you can hear traffic).
  • If dark, be sure to carry a flashlight or wear reflective clothing.
  • If you like to walk at lunch, keep your walking shoes at work.
  • A great way to pass the time while walking is to listen to a podcast or an audio book.
  • Bring along your pup so you’ll both get a nice workout.

There you have it. Easy ways to get moving, stay fit, and keep those darn New Year’s resolutions.

 

Resources: CDC, American Heart Association

Cleaning As DIY Preventative Maintenance

Cleaning as DIY Preventative Maintenance

It’s never any fun when stuff in your home doesn’t work the way it should. Of course, if you live in an apartment, there’s maintenance service to handle any issues. However, there’s still a certain degree of effort on your part – making the call, taking time to be a home (if you are uncomfortable having maintenance in your apartment when you’re not there), and securing pets. If you own your place, it’s finding a trustworthy contractor, scheduling service, taking time off to be at home, paying the bill, and the inevitable wait for service. But if doing some simple things around your home could prevent future hassles, why not incorporate cleaning as DIY preventative maintenance into your routine? Today we’ll review some simple, easy, and effective things you can do to save yourself from future maintenance headaches.

Freshen Dishwasher

Are hard water stains, greasy deposits, or drainage issues plaguing your dishwasher? Follow these easy three steps every three months to ensure your dishwasher smells nice and works effectively.

  1. To deep clean your dishwasher, remove any foreign material you find from the drain.
  2. Place a small, dishwasher-safe bowl full of white vinegar on the top rack and run a complete wash cycle on the hottest setting.
  3. Then sprinkle a handful of baking soda across the bottom of your dishwasher and run for a short hot water cycle.

Dust Fridge Coils

Condenser coils help cool refrigerant as it flows, maintaining the refrigerator’s temperature. If the coils get coated in dust and dirt, it becomes difficult for them to do their job, forcing the condenser to work harder to cool the refrigerant. When this happens, you may hear the refrigerator making noise as the condenser runs constantly. You may also notice these additional problems:

  • Extra energy usage and higher utility bills
  • Refrigerator doesn’t cool sufficiently
  • Condenser malfunctions

It’s recommended that you clean condenser coils every 6 months (more often if you have pets). Here’s how to clean refrigerator coils with the right methods and equipment.

  1. Unplug the fridge.
  2. Locate the coils. They are typically located on the back of the refrigerator or in the front behind a base grille or kick plate.
  3. If the coils are in the back, move fridge away from the wall. If there’s any resistance, don’t force the fridge to move as you may damage vinyl flooring.
  4. Use the hose attachment to vacuum in around the coils.
  5. Vacuum any loosened dust from the floor.
  6. Plug the fridge back in and push back into place.

Check HVAC Filter

Dirt and debris in your filter can obstruct airflow, increasing the workload of your system. By replacing the filter regularly, you can reduce wear and tear on your air conditioner while allowing the free movement of air for improved indoor comfort. To make sure your furnace and air conditioner run smoothly, check the filter periodically especially if you have shedding pets. Signs your filter might be ready for a change include:

  • Your AC is cold enough
  • Your electric bill has increased
  • There’s more dust near your air vents
  • Your HVAC closet is dusty

When vacuuming or dusting, don’t forget to dust your air vents and cold air returns.

Check For Leaks

When cleaning your apartment, be sure to watch for water around the toilet and under sinks which may indicate a leak. Do call your leasing/management office if you see any water where it doesn’t belong so the leak can be addressed before it becomes serious. If you own your place, now’s the time to find a reliable plumber or handyperson.

Fix Slow Drains

Don’t you hate it when you’re showering and the water starts backing up around your ankles? Then when the water finally drains, there’s a soap-scummy mess left to clean up. Most of the time, a slow bathroom sink drain or tub drain is a result of soap scum build up and/or hair clogs. Preventative maintenance is these areas is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Simply follow these steps:

  • Let the hot water run for a minute to warm up pipes
  • Pour about ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. If you have a pop up drain closure, use a funnel or a piece of paper to guide the baking soda into the drain.
  • Pour in one cup of white vinegar. It will fizz up like a science experiment; if you have kids (or are a kid a heart), they will love to watch this process.
  • Let sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Rinse with hot water.

Perform this preventative maintenance once every month or so to keep your drains flowing.

Clean Kitchen Filter

Whether you have a range hood or microwave above your stove, it’s important to clean the buildup of cooking grease on a periodic basis to keep the vent or microwave fan working properly. If you’ve never cleaned it, or haven’t cleaned it in a while, be forewarned: it won’t be pretty. Greasy buildup is, well, gross. Here’s how to get rid of the yuck:

  • Remove the filter
  • Fill your sink with boiling water
  • Add a generous squirt of de-greasing dish soap, like Dawn, and add ¼ cup baking soda. Swish with a wooden spoon or something with a handle so as to not burn your hand.
  • Submerge the greasy filter
  • Soak for about 10 minutes
  • Scrub with a non-abrasive scrub brush adding more dish soap if needed
  • Rinse thoroughly in hot water
  • Dry with paper towels or a clean cloth
  • Replace the filter

If you cook a lot, especially on the stove top, cleaning your vents once a month is a good maintenance strategy.

Garbage Disposal

When your disposal is working well, it’s such a great convenience. When it’s not, it’s a real pain. Using your disposal properly can prevent the headache of a backup.

DOs

  • Keep a steady flow of cold water during and after every use
  • Clean periodically by running a small amount of ice through the unit
  • Grind lemon peels to keep the disposal smelling fresh

DON’Ts

  • Don’t use hot water when actively using the disposal
  • Don’t fill the disposal before running. The unit will operate more efficiently if you add small amounts of food at a time.
  • Don’t use any harsh chemicals or cleaning products in the unit.
  • Don’t put anything in the disposal besides food

FOOD DON’Ts

It has been said that you shouldn’t put items in your disposal that you cannot eat. You know, like bones. Or paper towels. But there are some foods that will wreak havoc if you try to get rid of them in the disposal. Never put the following foods in your disposal:

  • Fruit pits
  • Fibrous veggies like asparagus, corn husks and celery
  • Coffee grounds (instead, sprinkle a thin layer of coffee grounds in the garden)
  • Starchy foods like potato peels and pasta
  • Grease and fat (a great way to get rid of grease and fat is to place in a bowl in the fridge. Once it hardens, you can pop it out of the bowl and into the trash.)

Now look at you, you are now on your way to becoming a DIYer with simple cleaning as DIY preventative maintenance. Feels empowering, right?

 

How To Clean Mini Blinds

How To Clean Mini Blinds

 

Not all cleaning jobs are created equal. Some are quick, easy, and satisfying – like removing all the toothpaste and water splatters from the bathroom mirror and polishing it up to a flawless and streak-free thing of beauty.  Others are ones we dread because they are hard (washing windows), time consuming (cleaning grout), or kinda gross (duh, the toilet). Once of my least favorite is cleaning mini blinds. They kind of tick all the Dreaded Chores boxes: hard, time consuming, and (especially in the case of kitchen blinds), kinda gross. The moment I start, I begin to think, “Will I EVER finish this job?!?”

Like windowsills, light switch plates, and ceiling fan blades, it’s easy to forget about (IGNORE?) the need to clean your blinds. It’s sometimes so easy not to really see the dirt. 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. After doing a bit of research, I discovered this oft-forgotten task really isn’t so bad if you’re strategic. Here’s how to clean blinds the quick and easy way.

What You’ll Need:

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

How to Clean Blinds:

  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.

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.

Dos and Don’ts

  • DO cleaning your blinds when you dust, so at least once a week.
  • DO remember to dust blinds before you vacuum or sweep, so you won’t have to vacuum again.
  • DON’T spray air freshener, hairspray, or any other spray near your blinds as dust will stick to the residue and take cleaning blinds fairly easy to hard, time-consuming, and gross.
  • DON’T clean the dust with water (unless you’re doing the deep clean soak). Dry dust first with a microfiber cloth that will catch the dust. Adding water to a dusty surface tends to make a bigger mess.

Okay, so maybe cleaning the blinds can come off the dreaded task list, because that doesn’t sound too bad. Better that cleaning grout or toilets for sure.

Winter Preparedness For Travel By Car

Sometimes, even though we know better, we decide to drive despite precarious winter road conditions. My worst driving decision occurred a few years back. It was two days before Christmas during a snowstorm. I was stupidly determined to travel from Ohio to New Jersey for the holidays despite there being six plus inches of snow on the ground already, snow coming down steadily, and a forecast of snow all day. Seriously, stupidly, stubborn.

Fortunately I’d remembered from a previous holiday drive, not to decorate all the gifts with little jingle bells. We just about lost our minds that year with the incessant jingling for 11 hours. And thank goodness, mostly because I was travelling with my daughter, the car was full of cold weather provisions because this day got uglier and scarier by the minute.

Roads were completely snow covered and visibility was awful. Our drive from Dayton to the Ohio/Pennsylvania border, normally a three-hour drive, took nine hours. My hands were aching from gripping the steering wheel and my shoulders tense from the stress. Thankfully, our cooler was filled with food, snacks, and drinks that got us through those long hours; as you can guess, every fast food place was closed because of the storm.

We found a hotel at the last exit in Ohio as the storm subsided. Our trip through Pennsylvania the next day on the PA Turnpike was blissfully uneventful – until we exited onto Route 1 in New Jersey. It was rush hour and Route 1 traffic was bumper to bumper. Thirty minutes from our destination and relieved to be coming to the end of our grueling journey, the car just died. It was dusk and we were on the shoulder of the road which people were using to bypass traffic to the exit ramp. I was sure we would be rear-ended! Luckily, I had two flares which were put to immediate use.

When I called AAA for roadside assistance, the operator advised the wait would be two hours as they were having their holiday party. Seriously? Again, we were ever so glad for the extra blankets as it got cold pretty quickly with the car turned off. Finally, the tow truck arrived and took us to the dealership and it, too, was also closed for their holiday party in their showroom. Oh, man! Frustration had me near the breaking point and I was not very polite to the young woman at the front desk as she seemed to have no sympathy whatsoever for our plight. Then a knight in shining armor – the dealership manager – happened by and came to our rescue not only by taking my car in, but by also giving us a loaner (with heated seats!) for free. Then my new hero had some of his team help with the transfer of our luggage, bags of Christmas presents, and travel supplies to the loaner car. Thirty minutes later we were snug at my mom’s de-stressing – my daughter with a cup of cocoa and me with a glass (maybe two) of vino. Whew.

Will I ever travel in the middle of a storm again? Highly unlikely. Will I ever leave the house in winter without emergency supplies? No way, José. Although my decision to travel that day was ridiculously dumb, at least I had the foresight to bring everything I needed to keep us safe and warm.

Below are some preparedness ideas for you to consider:

For You

  • Stuff to keep you warm. Extra warm clothing to layer up, an extra coat, blankets, gloves, scarf, hat, and warm boots. I like to have gloves for pumping gas, eating, and anything that requires use of fingers, but mittens are awesome for real warmth.
  • Stuff for your belly. Snacks, granola bars, water. For longer trips, food like sandwiches and fruit. Don’t forget snacks, food, and a travel water bowl if your furry friend is with you.
  • Stuff for emergencies. A working flashlight, first aid kit, ice scraper with brush, a snow shovel, basic tools (screwdrivers, pliers, wrench), warning flares, cloths or paper towels, and tissues as your nose will be runny if it’s chilly. Have important phone numbers for emergency services programmed into your mobile device, and don’t forget to bring a car charger for your phone. Can’t hurt to have a container with a lid for potty emergencies.

For Your Car

  • Air pressure. Check the air pressure in your tires. Both extremes of cold and hot temperatures can affect tire air pressure.
  • Try to keep at least a half a tank of fuel in your vehicle. You never know when you might be caught in a major traffic jam due to ice or snow, or, like yours truly, find yourself in a broken down car on the shoulder of the road during everyone else’s holiday parties.
  • Wiper fluid. Fill-up the windshield washer reservoir with fluid that won’t freeze when the temperature drops. Winter deicer fluids are formulated to prevent the solution from freezing, and also contains chemicals that melt ice and frost.

Drive safely out there, and get your Boy Scout on and be prepared for winter driving.

 

Resources: AAA, USA Today

Stay Warm and Cozy in Your Apartment This Winter

Baby, it’s cold outside. But that doesn’t mean you should be cold inside! After once residing in a drafty 1890’s apartment, I had to learn fast how to keep warm. Hope my lessons learned keep you warm and cozy in your apartment this winter.

Light

How we dream of a bright, warm sun all cold, dark winter long. Although daylight hours are short, and the winter sun is not strong, it can help to warm your home. Keep your blinds open on sunny days. Sun streaming in your windows will help to warm your place and the sunlight will make the season seem less dreary. Once the sun sets, close up your blinds to add a layer of insulation against the cold.

Layer

When I was a kid, my dad would turn the thermostat down to 60 degrees every night. When my brother, sister, and I complained that we were cold, he’d say, “Go put on a sweater.” So layering on a sweater or sweatshirt, snuggling up with a cozy throw, and wearing warm slippers or thick socks has been a life-long tradition. Thanks, Dad!

Drafts

Take a moment to see if there is any cold air coming in around doors and windows. Draft stoppers at your door or window can really cut down on the drafts. Even a rolled up towel can help! If you have curtains on your windows, you can add a plastic shower curtain liner on hooks. You can also try wide painter’s tape to cut drafts around doors and windows without worrying about damaging the walls or trim. You can also buy foam liners for your outlets and switch plates to block cold air drafts – especially helpful on outside walls.

Bedtime

Bring on the flannel sheets and flannel jammies! Flannel is just so cozy – and inexpensive! You can also layer up your bed with extra blankets and/or a throw. Years ago, I visited some friends in Denver. I cannot even describe how cold it was in their home at night. I put newspapers under my fitted sheet and wore my coat to be the first night. The next day I discovered that they kept a basement window open all winter. Whaaat?? But guess what? After a few nights, I realized I was getting great sleep and no longer needed the newspapers or coat. To this day, I like to sleep in a cool room – but with layers of flannel, blankets, and covers.

Use Your Oven and Stove

Leave your oven door open after each use. Whether backing, roasting, or broiling, this will allow the hot air to escape and add heat to the room. However, be cautious about doing this if you have children or pets; make sure they can’t reach the hot oven door or inside the oven. And never use the oven as a primary source of heat, especially if your appliance uses natural gas. Burning natural gas for long periods can increase carbon monoxide levels in your home. Think about baking something long and slow, like a delicious, easy, loaf of bread. Make a sheet pan supper! One pan, easy clean up, warms up the kitchen.

Warm Drinks

Besides warming up your space, you also can warm yourself from the inside. Opt for hot meals, such as a cup of soup, on cold days. And consider making your own soup from scratch, like chicken soup or chili. Soup generally takes a while to cook, and the simmering pot on the stove will generate heat in the kitchen. Or how about a cup of hot chocolate or a hot toddy?

Use a Humidifier

Humid air generally feels quite a bit warmer than dry air. And running the heat in the colder months can strip your indoor air of its humidity. To balance this, consider using a humidifier. Look for the models that allow you to choose between warm and cold air; they typically cost more but are well worth it for the heating ability.

Reverse the Ceiling Fan

It might seem counterintuitive to use a ceiling fan when you’re feeling cold, but it actually can help to warm you up. Let your ceiling fan turn at a low speed in a clockwise direction during the colder months. This will help to push the warm air that rises toward the ceiling back down toward floor level.

Use Microwaveable Heating Pads

A microwavable heating pad fairly inexpensive, and  can make a huge difference when you’re cold. As an added plus, you don’t need to be near an outlet us use it. Use a heating pad on your hands and feet when you’re sitting or lying down to feel considerably warmer overall. You can even make a basic heating pad yourself by sewing dried beans inside a piece of 100 percent cotton fabric, which you then can microwave in 30-second increments until it’s at your desired temperature.

Cuddle

Snuggles really can keep you warm. We all produce heat through our metabolic processes, and lose our heat to the environment as we maintain body temperature. Increasing skin contact decreases opportunities for the heat to be lost to the environment around us. If two people are under a blanket both of their heat losses combined can increase the temperature under the blanket more quickly than either could do independently. Plus, it’s fun. Don’t forget to snuggle up with your pooch – dogs are like heat generators. Remember, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy“.

Clear Heat Vents, Registers, and Radiators

Pull furniture, curtains, and other items away from heat vents, registers, and radiators. If they’re blocked, the heat won’t be able to circulate.

Be Active

Movement generates body heat. And there are many ways to get your body temperature up by being active. For instance, you could clean the house, exercise, dance, or play a game. Consider setting a timer as a reminder to get up and move every so often, so your body doesn’t become so cold and stiff that you don’t feel like being active.

While I like to dream of being someplace warm and sunny on a cold winter’s day, the idea of cozying up in a comfy sweatshirt and fluffy slippers while sipping hot chocolate under a fuzzy throw with my pup and binge watching Netflix doesn’t sound too bad. Although I am counting the days until the pool opens. Just sayin’.

The Art of Hanging Art I – Placement

In a past work life, I staged model apartments. While there was a ton of legwork (shopping, assembling, searching for perfect accessories to complement the furnishings, spending someone else’s money LOL), there was a great sense of satisfaction in creating an environment that showcased the best features of the home and making it desirable for the prospective renter while ensuring that person felt so at home, they’d be inclined to sign a lease. During those years, I learned that not only is artwork like the frosting on a cake, there’s also an art to hanging art.

“HUH?” you ask. Let me explain. When my daughter was a preschooler, we went to the home of a classmate for a play date, Bethany. As we walked down the hall to the living room, my neck craned upwards to look at a series of framed pieces of art. All were the same size, nicely framed, and evenly spaced. But something felt so…off. Wait! I was looking up while standing up. These prints were hung just a foot below the ceiling. I don’t know what Bethany’s mom was thinking (or not thinking), but this was not good. How could anyone enjoy artwork if doing so gave one a crick in one’s neck?

Doing some research, I learned that this is one of several mistakes that you can make when hanging wall décor in your space; mistakes that will not make you or your guests feel at home and at ease, but rather feeling a bit discombobulated.

Mistake #1: Hanging Art Too High

See what I mean? Hanging art too high is number one on the ApartmentTherapy.com mistake list! So what, exactly, is too high? This will be different for every home based on where the art is going, what it will be hanging above, how high the ceilings are, and what the room is used for. In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula that can tell you exactly where on your wall an art piece needs to go. But fear not; here are some easy guidelines.

  • 60” is a measurement to remember. Although different homes can require different placements, 60” on center is a great starting point. This means to place the center of your art piece 60″ from the floor. Then step back and see how that looks and feels. When hanging two art pieces, treat them as one and still hang them 60 inches from the floor to the center of the grouping. This rule also applies to groups of three and four. Make sure they are spaced only a few inches apart, so they look together and not disconnected.
  • Eyes on center is another consideration. What will you most likely be doing in the room – sitting or standing? If in a hallway where everyone is standing, you’ll want to hang art higher (but not a foot from the ceiling!) than if you’re in a room where you’re sitting most of the time. Place the art so your eyes rest on the center as appropriate in the room. Consider where your eyes rest when you walk into the rooms you use the most, including the foyer, living room, and primary bedroom. Common sense must prevail here, however. If you are 4’10” or 6’10” eyes on center may not be the best placement methodology for you.
  • Let your furniture guide placement. For a sofa or a headboard, start with 4″ to 8″ between the top of the furniture and the bottom of the art. This method will depend on how big the art piece is, and how much space exists between the furniture piece and your ceiling. Start here then step back to see if it looks right. NOTE: If the art is going above a sofa or console, the piece or group of pieces, should be approximately 2/3 width of the furniture.
  • The buddy system is also a useful method. Ask someone you trust to hold a piece of art up against a wall while you instruct them to move it up and down an inch or so at a time until it looks right. Then change places to see if you agree.

Mistake #2: Not Realizing Size DOES Matter

A tiny piece of art on a small wall will look and feel just as awkward as a huge piece in a small space. Why? The wrong size art makes the entire room – and its furnishings – seem out of scale and out of balance.

If you’ve fallen hard for a piece that’s too small, consider creating a collage wall. Two ways to achieve a successful collage wall are:

  • Use prints and photos with a similar theme and consistent frames. They could be black and white photos, botanicals, sketches, vacation pics, etc. Mixtiles is a great, inexpensive way to have fun with same size and shape photos. An added advantage is that they stick to the wall, so no nails needed, and the photos can be moved around easily.
  • Go with completely different pieces in mixed frames for an eclectic look. Hang large and medium pieces 2-3 inches apart, and smaller pieces 1.5-2.5 inches apart.

Other options for your too small art piece are to reframe using a larger frame and mat to make the piece seem larger. Or, you can paint (or hang) a solid square or rectangle of color or a beautiful piece of wallpaper behind the piece to make it seem larger. But don’t worry about achieving perfect proportion when hanging art, just remember the “go big or go home” attitude: If you’re going to do something out of scale to the rest of the room, make it obviously out of scale with the room, either way too big or way too small, so it seems intentional.

If you find you’re staring at a long, cold expanse of barren drywall, that’s usually an ideal place to hang a favorite artwork. A short wall that is sometimes obscured by an open door may not need anything.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Variety
When I moved in with my fiancé, there were Thomas Kinkade prints in every room, in every size, all framed in heavy, ornate gold frames. Kinkade’s are not really my thing, but he had a sentimental connection to this collection. So we compromised by creating The Kinkade Room – a guest bedroom filled with the entire collection. While the Kinkade’s in every room were overwhelming, they look great in The Kinkade Room.

When you hang the exact same type of art on every wall in every room of your home it’s called the Art Gallery Effect. It’s also called as “boring.” Mix unframed canvases and framed art. Hang tapestries or quilts. Display a collection – farm tools, decorative plates, masks, old printing stamps – and group on the wall. Your wall can tell the story of who you are and what you love.

Mistake #4: Improper Hanging
I used to report to a fellow who, upon entering any room, went about straightening crooked artwork. His actions drive me nuts, so I quickly got in the habit of checking for crooked artwork every day. This has become a lifelong habit (just like making sure the seams on all lampshades are turned to face the wall). Crooked artwork lends an air of “no one cares” to the space and is easily avoided by:

  • Using two nails spaced a couple of inches apart (depending on the size of the piece) instead of just one.
  • Adding small rubber bumpers to the corners of the piece will prevent your art from moving about.

Mistake #5: Not Leaning
Like an attractive person leaning up against the bar, leaning artwork can lend visual interest to a room. Consider leaning a tall mirror against the wall in a bedroom or hallway, or leaning a piece of art placed on top of your sofa, dresser, desk, or TV stand.  Not only does this trick add visual interest, it also adds textural interest to your place.

Well there you have it. You’ve decided where to hang all the beautiful things in your home. Next step? The actual hanging. Tune in next week for tips on the handyperson part of the process – The Art of the Hang.