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.

 

 

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’.

A Christmas Tradition

breakfast casserole

I’m half Italian. My dad’s father was born in Calabria, Italy. He arrived as a boy in the United States in 1900 through Ellis Island. He was travelling with his father, his pregnant mother and three siblings. The family settled in a duplex in a small town in New Jersey. My great grandfather and great grandmother lived on one side of the duplex, and when my grandfather married, he and his wife raised three children on the other side. My dad and his two sisters were actually born in the house. My father’s sister lived her entire life in the house (she lived to see 100) and her daughter now lives in the home. So you could say our family is steeped in tradition.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes was/is our Christmas Eve tradition. Although the venue changed over the years, the tradition remained. In recent years (like the last two decades), Christmas morning breakfast was added as a tradition with responsibility for the morning’s feast in my hands. Over the years, I experimented with a variety of breakfast foods; everything from frittatas made with leftovers from the night before to labor-intensive giant ravioli stuffed with ricotta and egg yolk. But one of our favorite Christmas morning breakfasts is also one of the easiest and most delicious. This is a dish you can make the night before and pop in the oven in the morning so you have plenty of time to languish with coffee and family while opening presents.

Christmas Morning Strata

8-10 servings

Takes about a half hour to prep, then an hour to bake.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 cups of sliced scallions (green onions)
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup grated Romano cheese (can substitute Parmesan)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh oregano or 2 tsp. dried, crumbled
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Ground black pepper, ideally freshly ground
  • 1 pound Italian sausages (hot or mild) with casings removed
  • 1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded, sliced into ½” wide strips
  • 1 one-pound rustic loaf of French or Italian bread cut into ½” thick slices
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) grated Fontina cheese (or other cheese that melts nicely)
  • Butter for coating the casserole dish

Preparation

Whisk first seven ingredients together in a large bowl. Add ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a large non-stick skillet, place sausage on one side and red pepper on the other. Sautee over high heat breaking up sausage with a fork until sausage is cooked through and peppers are brown in spots; about 7 minutes.

Arrange half the bread slices in a buttered 13” x  9” x  2” casserole. Pour half of the egg mixture on top. Sprinkle with half the cheese and half of the sausage/red pepper mixture. Repeat layering. Let stand 20 minutes if cooking shortly; or can cover and refrigerate overnight. Press down on the bread at least once to make sure everything is submerged.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for about an hour until the Strada is puffed and brown. Cool slightly. Eat!

Very nice served with fresh fruit or a simple green salad. Let’s not forget the mimosas, bloody Mary’s, screwdrivers, and/or salty dogs. And coffee.

Hope you try this strata and, perhaps, it can become a tradition for your family too. Even if you’re not Italian.

Based on an Epicurious.com recipe.

 

It’s National Clean Out Your Fridge Day

Stinky refrigerator?

I am not happy with whomever invented Clean Out Your Fridge Day which is “celebrated” on November 15. Do we really need to be reminded that although the rest of our place looks presentable, there’s probably something creepy, hairy, stinky, and unknown lurking in the back corner of the crisper drawer? Clearly, we do, or this day would not exist. My fridge is like my closet. It will go for weeks – dare I say months – looking tidy and clean and then suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, it looks like elves performed some horrible mischief in the night. My once neat, organized, color-coded (yes, I am THAT girl) closet is a sloppy wreck with clothes falling off the hangers and the fridge contains mysterious science-fair-like “stuff”. And it’s not like cleaning either the fridge or the closet is hard; it’s just an annoyance and an awful way to spend a Saturday morning when you could be brunching on eggs benedict and sipping mimosas. So what is one to do? As in the words of a dear friend of mine, “Just git ‘er done”. Here’s a few tips on making this god-forsaken process a wee bit less miserable.

Preparation

Obviously, you have to remove all food from the fridge to clean it. Short on counter space? Set up a little folding table or use a few chairs. I am pretty successful with just removing food from one section at a time, cleaning it, and putting it back before moving on. For a complete, and uber-thorough clean (completely emptying), put your food in a cooler. You’ll need at least enough room to hold a shelf’s worth of stuff. Make sure your kitchen sink is empty, too. While you’re at it, put the recycling bin and trash can nearby as you’ll likely be tossing expired items and items that no longer resemble food.

Supplies

You won’t need much: white vinegar and/or dish soap; a spray bottle or a big bowl; a sponge and/or a scrubby; and paper and/or microfiber towels — all or most of which you probably already have on hand (whew).  The vinegar breaks down grease and grime, and when mixed with hot water in a spray bottle (or bowl, or dishpan, or bucket), it becomes a food-safe cleaner that’s perfect for any gunk that might have accumulated on refrigerator shelves. The other items on the list will help you wipe, scrub, dry, and shine.

The Process

While some people have enough counter space (is there ever really enough?!?) to completely empty their refrigerators before cleaning, I find  working one shelf at a time is often the best method, because you don’t want to leave your perishables out for too long.

  • Start at the top.
  • Remove everything from a shelf and see just how messy you (or those darn elves!) have been.
  • If there are spills, carefully remove the glass from the frame or brackets, or the shelf itself (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, keep the door closed to keep everything as cool as possible.

Doors and Drawers

Refrigerator drawers often accumulate debris, especially if they’re used for produce. For a deep clean, remove the drawers and wash them in the kitchen sink with soap and water. If they won’t fit in your sink, spray and 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.

Put Stuff Back Clean

Now that your fridge is sparkling (and you realize it wasn’t THAT BAD to clean), be sure to wipe down jars, containers, and condiment bottles so you don’t bring gunk back into the fridge. Even if they don’t appear dirty, it’s a good idea to give container bottoms a quick wipe with a damp sponge or paper towel, especially if the shelf was sticky. If any bottles or jars have accumulated a little goo on the outside, rinse them under warm water then wipe them clean and dry. If gunk has accumulated around the seal or the edges of the cap, take the lid off and wash it more thoroughly in the sink. Check all expiration dates and toss anything that’s expired (like the sriracha I just threw away from 2017. Yikes.)

Wipe Down the Outside

Once everything is back in your sparkling fridge, use a clean microfiber cloth and the 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. If you have a stainless steel fridge, spray on a cleaner specially made for stainless steel and polish with a microfiber towel for a streak-free finish.

Keep It (and Yourself) Fresh

You did it and you lived to tell the tale! Enjoy your super-clean fridge. For a while, anyway. If you want to keep it smelling fresher longer, stick an open box of baking soda on one of the shelves. Now treat yourself to brunch with a bloody Mary. You deserve it.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

Roommates, Part 2. Conflict Resolution.

When Conflict Happens

 

You did your homework, or so you thought. You carefully reviewed the pros and cons of sharing a living space with another human, found the perfect roommate, and took all the appropriate steps to ensure living together would be nirvana. Yet there’s trouble in paradise. UGH. Now how are you going to resolve the conflict that has arisen with your roomie? You may feel like this is the worst, but rest assured there are tales about roommate conflicts that will make your issue seem like a walk in the park.

Conflict happens. Suddenly two people who thought nothing could ruin their friendship find themselves struggling to communicate about even the smallest things. Speaking up about things that bother you before that bother festers is tough; most people try to avoid unpleasant conversations at all costs. When living with a roommate, it’s critical to maintain a good and cordial relationship with that person. Here are some tips on ways to resolve conflict regardless of the cause of the trouble.

How To Share Your Feelings Without Starting A Fight

While you may have discussed who will pay what bill, rules pertaining to guests, and how clean you want to keep the apartment, most of us learn the importance of these conversations after a few bad experiences. If you haven’t communicated your preferences with your roommate, they probably have no idea that they have certain behaviors that drive you nuts. Moreover, you’re probably driving them bananas, too.

When an issue arises, communication is key to successfully solving the problem. Most roommate conflicts are the result of miscommunication or, in some cases, a total lack of communication. If you can communicate effectively, it will be much easier to develop a comfortable living environment for yourself and your roommate. Avoiding an uncomfortable conversation won’t make issues go away, and will only increase your level of frustration.

  • Don’t be passive aggressive by leaving sticky notes, sending emails, or texting when you probably see your roommate every day. Instead, ask if you can have an in-person conversation.
  • Start the conversation by letting your roommate know that you care about them and about your home, and you want living together to be the best experience possible for both of you.
  • Don’t approach your roommate when you’re angry as that’s going to put them on the defensive, and they’ll be less likely to consider your concerns if they feel attacked.
  • Don’t accuse your roommate of anything. Instead, use “I” statements like, “I feel really frustrated when I wash the dishes and then I come home and there are dirty dishes in the sink. I would really appreciate it if we could come together on how to keep the kitchen clean.” By using “I” statements, you’re expressing how youfeel instead of placing blame on the other person.
  • Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and showing that you are listening. Carefully listen to what your roommate says instead of becoming defensive.
  • Acknowledge your roommate’s point of view by saying something affirming like “I can understand why it’s difficult for you to wash the dishes when you work late and are tired.”  Making your roommate feel heard can really help to diffuse anger or frustration. Everyone wants their feelings to be acknowledged, and this is an important step in resolving conflict.
  • Don’t complain about your roommate’s behaviors before having an open discussion with them.

After you and your roommate have discussed the problem(s), work together to agree how to move forward. In a shared living space, you can’t expect the people you’re living with to acquiesce to all of your preferences. Instead, you need to work out a compromise you can all live with.

If, for example, the issue is something small like doing the dishes, it’s unrealistic to expect a messy roommate to suddenly become neat overnight. If having a messy kitchen makes you anxious, you may be able to agree that the messy person is responsible for a chore you don’t like while you do all the dishes. Understand that you both will have to give a little in order to create and maintain a peaceful living environment. The most important thing to remember is that letting minor issues accumulate and build up could result in one of you unleashing anger that doesn’t match the situation or living in an environment full of resentment.

While everyone appreciates honesty, presentation is everything. Before having that comversation, think about how you’d feel if that person asked you to change something about your own habits and behaviors — and how you’d wish to be spoken to, in the face of a situation like this.

  • Try to be careful about the frequency of discussing your roommate’s behavior.
  • Try to be fair and balanced.
  • Aim for a compromise that works for your both.
  • Respect your roommate’s views and try to understand their backgrounds.

Imagine a situation where your roommate brings over their significant other during a designated day over the weekend, but that’s also the only day you have to prepare for your next week’s work.

A potential solution may be to work out a reasonable schedule or timeframe, where quiet time is set for you and an alternate time is set for your roommate to entertain.

Remember that a well-constructed relationship is where both people involved are examining what’s needed on their end. If a common space is being shared, then you’re both equally liable to take ownership of what goes on in that space. Oftentimes the best roommates are the ones who are simply capable of being respectful and courteous to one another!

 

Roommates, Part 1. The Pros & Cons.

To Roommate Or Not To Roommate

 

Over the course of my life, I’ve lived with roommates and lived on my own. Friends and family have asked which I prefer – it’s really hard to say as there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both living styles. If you’ve decided to get a new place and have thought about getting a roommate, let’s explore the pros and cons.

ROOMMATE YEA

There are many good reasons to say, “YES!” to sharing a space. Consider:

Loneliness

After the last year and a half living with COVID, loneliness was a big problem for many. My mom, who lives alone, really struggled – especially at mealtime. We’re all okay with eating a meal in the company of a good book or the TV from time to time, but almost every meal cooked or ordered in, and eaten alone can be rough. Sure, you can dine with friends and family from time to time, but you will undoubtedly eat alone most of the time.

Even if you’re not close with your roommate, just having someone else around and someone else to talk to makes a body feel less isolated.

Convenience

It’s so convenient to have a roommate about. For example, if you have different schedules, a roommate can feed your pet or water the plants when you’re not at home to do it. If you go out of town, your roommate will be there to keep an eye on your place and accept packages for you. My daughter was called out of town unexpectedly for weeks. Thank goodness her roomie was there to save her plant collection (and to keep up with the dusting).

Savings

A roommate will help you save money, and who doesn’t want that? You can rent a larger apartment – say a two-bedroom instead of a one-bedroom. A two-bedroom in a typical apartment community will not be double the price of a one-bedroom, so each of you will get more room and more value. For example, at Park Lane Apartments in Cincinnati, a one-bedroom/one-bath is $920 while a two-bedroom/two-bath is available for just $225 more. You and your roomie will split utility bills and can share the cost of groceries, and other apartment expenses. When it comes to cooking/eating in, it is less expensive to cook for two (or more) than cooking for just one. There will also be savings on cleaning supplies and other household items.

Help

When I shared and apartment with a good friend, I worked a regular 9:00AM to 5:00PM schedule while she had a job that required her to attend frequent evening meetings. She loved coming home to dinner on the table, and I let her OCD keep our place tidy. Think about the possibility of half the housework, half the cooking, half the responsibility of shopping for groceries and household supplies! Or, your roommate can do the chores you dislike and vice versa. Win, win! Sharing errands and chores helps lighten the load for both of you and gives you more free time to enjoy the fun things in life.

ROOMMATE NAY

Hmmm…that all sounds great, but what about living alone? Downsides to share a space include:

Privacy

Naturally, when you live alone you’ll enjoy considerably more privacy than if you share a space. You can do what you want when you want. Have guests over, throw a party, get home late, and leave early without having to worry about disturbing a roommate. Go ahead, leave your socks on the floor!  Hang out in your undies!

Conflict

Living with another person isn’t always that easy. My freshman year in college, I had a difficult roommate. At first, everything was great. We’d agreed on room décor (posters and bedding), and got along great. Then she started using my perfume (instead of bathing – UGH!), and wound up using it up without ever asking permission.  She also helped herself to my clothes despite having so many clothes her parents shipped her a new trunk seasonally. The final straw came the day I had a big date. My best friends had helped me pick out the perfect outfit which we laid out on my bed. Later that day I saw my roommate wearing the outfit to class. Grrrr.

Conflicts are almost inevitable when sharing a home with someone else whether that person is friend, family, or relative stranger. There’s a plethora of issues that can create tension in your home. Lifestyle conflicts (a roommate who likes to play guitar while you need quiet to work from home), financial issues (a roommate who can’t or won’t pay their share of the rent and expenses), cleaning conflicts (one person is tidy, the other is a slob), or respect issues (your roommate uses your personal things – like your perfume! – without asking permission). Living alone is the only way to guarantee that none of these problems ever arises.

So as you consider whether to room with someone, let me leave you with this parting question: are you an over or an under person? You know, with the toilet paper roll. I am typically an over (although the TP roll isn’t something I lose sleep over). When my mom recently came for a two week visit, I discovered she’s an under person. I’d put on a new roll (over) and she’d switch it. This went on daily during her stay.

Neither one of us said anything about it, but I giggled every time I noticed she’d switched it. So if you can live with the toilet roll upside down, you’re probably good roommate material (read our blog next week on things you can do to ensure a good roommate relationship). Otherwise, you might want to think hard about that one-bedroom apartment.

 

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

Clean! Cook! Drink! Bake!

… Clean! Cook! Drink! Bake!

 

Lemons, lemons, lemons! Despite their reputation as being pucker-inducing and sour, lemons are a glorious fruit you can use in cooking, to make kid-friendly and/or adult beverages, and to replace harsh, chemical cleaners. A bowl of lemons can also add a pop of color to any room. Here are some of my favorite lemony things.

Freshen The Garbage Disposal

When my garbage disposal smells funky, I have an easy remedy to make it smell fresh. Pour white vinegar into an ice cube tray, and drop a small chunk of lemon into each section, then freeze. Drop a few of the frozen vinegar cubes into the running garbage disposal with a stream of cold water. The ice will help keep the blades sharp and clean, and the lemon helps to deodorize the disposal. Repeat the process once a week or so to keep things smelling fresh. For a quick refresh, just add lemon rinds to the disposal and grind away.

Brighten Shower Doors

Glass shower doors are like magnets for hard water stains and stubborn soap scum. You can spend loads on glass door cleaners or use a lemon to help you scrub them clean. Dip half a lemon into a small dish of kosher salt, and get scrubbing. Then stand back and admire the shine. Alternatively, spray lemon juice on the glass then scrub with a sponge dipped in baking soda.

Clean Your Place

Cover cut lemons or lemon scraps with white vinegar and steep for about a week. Using cheesecloth, strain into a clean spray bottle. This spray will clean linoleum kitchen counters, sinks, shower, toilets, bathtub, tile, stainless steel appliances, inside the fridge, and other durable, sealed surfaces; don’t use on granite, natural stone or hardwood floors or furniture. This lemony vinegar will also remove odors and flavors from cutting boards.  You’ll love the way they cut through dust and grime, as well as the invigorating lemon scent they leave behind!

Keep Bugs Out

Use lemon juice to repel pesky insects in your home. Squeeze some lemon juice into holes and cracks where you see ants coming in, and they’ll avoid the area in the future. A lemon and water spray will repel spiders, and a clove-studded lemon will keep flies away. Who knew?

Beverages

Lemon Water. Did you know that drinking lemon water everyday may decrease stress, enhance immune function, help prevent anemia, reduce your risk of kidney stones, and protect against several diseases? Squeeze a half lemon into a cup of water and start enjoying its benefits.

Lemonade. What says summer better than a tall cold glass of lemonade? Click the link for a five-star recipe to make your own.

Limoncello. Have you even tasted this Italian lemon liquor? It’s sweet and tart and the perfect little sip after a nice meal. Traditionally, it takes three weeks to make a batch of limencello, but the link contains a recipe that takes just two hours. By the way, homemade limoncello in small cute bottles makes a great gift or party favor! I’m such a fan, I even have a Limoncello T-shirt.

Sweet Treats

Lemon Rolls. I am not a baker, but during the COVID shutdown, me and about half of Americans tried our hand at baking. This recipe for lemon rolls with cream cheese frosting was a clear winner in our house.

Lemon Bars. Who doesn’t like lemon bars? And who doesn’t like Ina Garten? Ina’s recipe for lemon bars is divine and will be a smash hit at your next pot luck.

Lemon Meringue Pie. I am not a pie person (unless it’s my mom’s – she makes the BEST crust!), but a good lemon meringue pie is hard to beat. This recipe has five stars from 3,037 ratings, so it’s got to be good!

Savory Eats

Lemony Shrimp and Bean Stew. On the menu for dinner tonight. This dish also has a five star rating from over 4,100 folks. I’m going to serve it with the easiest homemade loaf of crusty bread and a simple salad of arugula, olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan – an Italian classic!

Lemony Orzo with Asparagus. For my vegetarian friends (any my sister), a delightful light orzo with lemon, asparagus, garlicky breadcrumbs, and Parmesan. In the words of Ina Garten, “How bad could that be?”

Time to run. A new Trader Joe’s just opened near me and they sell lemons by the bag. Pucker up, buttercup!

 

 

 

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

Smooth Sailing

Smooth Sailing Into the Sunset

The Jersey Shore. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? If you’re not from Jersey, you probably know of it from reality TV. (As a native Jersey Girl, I can attest that the show is not reality to the vast majority of folks who live or vacation there.) As an aside, everywhere else along the east coast the sandy strip which separates the ocean from towns and cities is called a beach. In NJ, people do not go “to the beach”; they go “down the shore”.

I spent this 4th of July holiday weekend near the shore with my brother who owns a home on Bay Head Harbor. We spent a great deal of time sitting on his deck overlooking the water and chatting about all things water and boat related. Because Bay Head Harbor connects to the Atlantic Ocean, there is almost always an interesting array of boat traffic. From large fishing boats to speed boats to luxury ocean-going vessels to large party boats to tiny one-person “sunfish” sail boats, there’s always something interesting to watch on the Harbor.

This trip I learned that the Harbor is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, a 3,000 mile inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States running from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. Amazingly, most of the harbor near my brother’s home is only four to five feet deep outside the main channel.

My brother pointed out one particular boat that had him drooling. He explained that the finishes on the boat were luxurious – lots of polished brass and inlaid teak – that the engines were powerful, and the cost of the vessel was exorbitant. He did not mention, what for me, is the most important feature of any boat – a bathroom. Now I’m not trying to take this tale the way of pre-teens giggling over potty talk, but seriously folks, how can one enjoy oneself for long without the comforting knowledge that a restroom is nearby?

Do you know that a bathroom on a boat is called a “head”? While my brother has been around boats all his life, he did not know why the bathroom has such a strange name. Thank goodness for Google. There I found the Index Journal with all the answers I needed, and more.

Turns out, the “head” is a nautical term that goes back to the day of the old sailing ships. The very back upper-most rear of a ship, typically known as the stern, was called the poop deck. The ship’s wheel was located in the rear of the ship near the rudder to reduce the number of pulleys and ropes needed for steering. The poop deck was elevated so the captain and pilot would have a clear view over the front of the ship. While the term “poop deck” can remind us of grade-school conversations, the name is actually quite elevated coming from the French word for the stern, “la poupe.”

When sailing, the wind ideally comes from the rear to fill the sails and propel the ship forward. During stormy and windy weather, the foam and spray from rough seas with high waves behind the ship would leave the poop deck and the captain soaked. And as you can imagine, after a day of steering in bad weather, the pilot was “pooped.”

At the front of the ship was the figurehead: often times a beautifully carved wooden figure or bust fitted on the bow of the ship. Since the wind was blowing from the rear to the front, the “head” (or front) of the ship was the best place for sailors to relieve themselves. So when the shipmates went to the toilet, they went to the head. So there you have it.

So now you (and my brother) know all about the head on a boat. Here’s hoping all your boat rides are on a vessel with a head. While most of us spend little time on the high seas, we can all agree that having a bathroom close at hand on a ship – and at home – gives one peace of mind.

As this blog is intended to focus on various aspects of apartment living, you’re probably wondering about the connection to this article’s topic. Well, it’s a shameless plug for all the hard-working service personnel at our apartment community sites who consider the smooth operation of your commode a priority – even when it gets them out of bed in the middle of the night to repair a naughty potty (if it’s the only one you have). These are the guys – and gals! – who ensure it is all smooth sailing in your Fath Properties apartment.

 

Resources: IndexJournal, Wikipedia

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!

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.