Laundry Room Etiquette

Oh no they didn’t…!

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

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

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

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

Be courteous. Hello Emily Post, and Philip Galanes.

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

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

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

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

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

SUPPLIES YOU’LL NEEED

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

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

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

 

 

Tools You Can (and will!) Use

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Hammer.  One basic hammer will see you through.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pencil.  For marking measurements.

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Travel Checklist for Packing Your Bags

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

Keep It Light

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

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

Keep It Simple

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

Keep It Organized

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

Avoid “Just In Case”

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

Must Haves

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

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

Carry On Must Haves

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

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

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

 

Pre-Travel Checklist Essentials

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

Pre-Travel Checklist: General Trip Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Travel Checklist: International Trip Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Travel Checklist: Baggage Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Get Your Place Vacation Ready

How to prep your place for time away from home.

PREP YOUR PLACE FOR TIME AWAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Getting Rid of Spiders

Getting Rid of Spiders

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

Back to the matter at hand.

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

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

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

NOTES

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

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

Shout out to AJ Wright for the inspo!

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Kitchens

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Kitchen

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

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

SUPPLIES

THE CABINETS

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

THE BACKSPLASH

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

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

THE STOVE AND OVEN

Stovetop

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

Oven

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

Oven door glass

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

Oven drawer

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

Vent hood

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

Microwave

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

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

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

THE FRIDGE

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

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

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

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

 

THE DISHWASHER

Filters

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

Air Gap

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

Nozzles

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

Exterior

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

GARBAGE DISPOSAL

The easiest job you’ll do all day!

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

THE SINK

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

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

process for cleaning a stainless steel sink

COUNTERS

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

FLOORS

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

 

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

Thanks for sharing this spring cleaning journey with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Bathrooms

 

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

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

SUPPLIES 

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

PROCESS

Clean The Slate

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

Dust Top to Bottom

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

Wipe It Down

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

Scrub The Gunk

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

Shine

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

Floor & Baseboards

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

Sanitize

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

Miscellaneous

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

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

 

Stink Bugs, Well, Stink

 

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

SEARCH AND DESTROY

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

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

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

Natural Pesticide

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

Essential Oils

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

Garlic Spray

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

Paper Towel

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

Vacuum

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

Soapy Water

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

Lint Roller Sheet

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

Should I Squish A Stink Bug?

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

What Happens if a Stink Bug Releases Its Scent?

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

PREVENTION

Soapy Water

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

Dryer Sheets

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

Drown By Night

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

Block Points of Entry

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

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

 

RESOURCES: The Pest Rangers, Terminix, Orkin

 

Beautiful Bedrooms – Spring Cleaning Extravganza

 

Our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza Continues With Bedrooms

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

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

Step 1. GATHER SUPPLIES

Combine these ingredients and pour them in a spray bottle:

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

Step 2. CLEAR ANY CLUTTER

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

Step 3. DUST

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

Step 3. WASH

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

Step 4. CLEAN LIGHT FIXTURES

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

Step 5. CLEAN WINDOWS AND WINDOW COVERINGS

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

Step 6. THE BED

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

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

Step 7. SHINY THINGS

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

Step 8. GO LOW

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

Step 9. POLISH

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

Step 10. FLOORS

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

Step 11. RELOCATION

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

Step 12. THE FROSTING ON THE CAKE

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

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

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

 

 

Leave No Surface Undusted. Spring Cleaning Extravaganza II

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza II. Leave No Surface Undusted.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, let’s get organized.

SUPPLIES

PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up: bathrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza!

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

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

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

Let’s get started!

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

Windows first.

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

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

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

Hmm. I think we need more details.

SUPPLIES

PROCESS

Indoors

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

Outside (if you can safely reach)

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

Read more about attaining streak free glass here!

Blinds next.

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

SUPPLIES

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

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

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

PROCESS

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Toaster Toasted?

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

The factors that affect the lifespan of a toaster include:

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

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

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

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

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

SUPPLIES

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

TIME

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

PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FREQUENCY

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

TIPS

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

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

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

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

Energy Saving Tips For Winter

Winter Energy Savings Tips

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

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

Furniture

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

Windows

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

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

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

Doors

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

Outlets

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

Wall Air Conditioner Unit

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

Baseboard Registers

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

Thermostat

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

Attire

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

Fido & Fluffy

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

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

 

 

 

Paw-some Pet Friendly Holiday Events Near You!

 

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

Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky

Red Dog’s Santa Paws at MadTree

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

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

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

Pet Nights with Santa

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

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

Reindog Parade

Voted the “Best Family Event” in Cincinnati!

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

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

Dallas, Texas

Paint Your Pet! Christmas Edition!

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

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

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

Adults over 21 are welcome to BYOB.

Light Up Lake-woof!!!

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

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

The Boho Market Stocking Stroll

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

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

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

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

Family Friendly | Pet Friendly

 

Dayton, Ohio

Pet Photos with Santa

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

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

Pawsitively Purrfect Holiday Bazaar & Christmas Pawty

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

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

Friends of SICSA Holiday Bazaar

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

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

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

Eggs-actly Perfect

Eggs-actly Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

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

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

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

You’ll need:

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

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

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

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

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

Deviled Eggs

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

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

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

The Parts

The Procedure

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

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

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

 

Streak-free Glass

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

The Cleaner

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

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

The Wipe

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

The Technique

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Result

Clean, streak-free glass while fully clothed.

Go Bananas For Banana Bread

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

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

A couple of notes first:

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

Pieces & Parts

½ cup pecans, chopped

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

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

5 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (if desired)

Process

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

Store

Wrap in cling wrap and store at room temperature.

More

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

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

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

 

 

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

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

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

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

FIRST: Why Are There Fruit Flies In My Home?

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

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

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

SECOND: How Do I Make My Own Fruit Fly Trap

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

Apple Cider Vinegar + Plastic Wrap

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

Paper Cone + Vinegar + Old Fruit

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

Vinegar + Dish Soap

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

Old Beer or Wine

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

FOURTH: Don’t Play The Blame Game

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day 2021

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest

appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.

—John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

 

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe this holiday by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades, but Memorial Day is/should be much more than an excuse to party over a three-day weekend. Here are some facts to give this important US holiday some perspective.

 

Memorial Day Beginnings

  • Approximately 620,000 soldiers lost their lives during the Civil War.
  • In the years following the war, women placed flowers on the graves of their fallen soldiers. Two years later 219 Civil War veterans marched through Carbondale, IL to Woodlawn Cemetery in memory of the fallen, where Union hero Major General John A. Logan delivered the principal address. The ceremony gave Carbondale its claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance.
  • Waterloo, New York, began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the “Birthplace of Memorial Day.”

 

Major General John A. Logan Make Memorial Day Official

  • General Logan was commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans. On May 5, 1868, he issued General Order No. 11, which set aside May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” The orders expressed hope that the observance would be “kept up from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades.

 

Decoration Day

  • Originally known as Decoration Day for the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags, federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name in 1967.

 

The Holiday

  • Federal Memorial Day, established in 1888, allowed Civil War veterans, many of whom were drawing a government paycheck, to honor their fallen comrades without losing a day’s pay.
  • New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day a legal holiday in 1873.
  • After World War I, the purpose of Memorial Day was broadened to honor those who died in all our country’s wars.
  • In 1971, Memorial Day shifted from May 30 to the last Monday in May.

 

First Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

  • On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery—which, until 1864, was Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s plantation.
  • James A. Garfield, a Civil War general, Republican Congressman from Ohio, and future president delivered a speech lasting almost two hours.

 

Rolling Thunder

  • On Memorial Day weekend in 1988, 2500 motorcyclists rode into Washington, D.C. for the first Rolling Thunder rally to draw attention to Vietnam War soldiers still missing in action and prisoners of war. By 2002, the ride had swelled to 300,000 bikers, many of them veterans, and in 2018 the numbers were closer to half a million.
  • Although reported that 2019 would be the group’s last Memorial Day ride, American Veterans (AMVETS) continued the tradition in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now known as Rolling to Remember, 2020’s ride participants each rode 22 miles through their own community for a Virtual Memorial Day. Traveling 22 miles is significant, because in addition to raising awareness for soldiers missing in action and prisoners of war, AMVETS wanted to bring attention to the average 22 veterans who die by suicide every day.

 

Customs, Firsts, Dedications

  • It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half-staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.
  • The World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrea, inspired the Memorial Day custom of wearing red artificial poppies.
  • In 1915, a Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker named Moina Michael wore a red silk poppy and began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to veterans and for “keeping the faith with all who died.”
  • The first Indianapolis 500 ran on May 30, 1911. The winning driver was Ray Harroun who averaged 74.6 mph and completed the race in six hours and 42 minutes.
  • The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on May 30, 1922 by Supreme Court Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft. Lincoln’s surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln attended.
  • In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3:00 PM in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because “is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”

 

Fath Properties remembers and honors all our fallen soldiers and their families. We wish each you a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day.

 

Sources: MentalFloss, Wikipedia