March 22, 2019

Cleaning Hacks to Help Prevent the Flu

With the cinnamon-flavored joys of this season come another set of not so pleasant activities. Coughs, sneezes, and stuffy noses are sure to come as the weather cools down and brings the flu season upon us. However, there’s hope. Keeping clean may prevent transmission of the flu, so we’ve provided hacks that may protect you and your family.


  • Sanitize surfaces

When multiple people come into contact with the same surfaces, they run the risk of spreading and contracting germs. Find common areas that your family uses and disinfect them often. Obvious places include the kitchen counter, bathroom sink, and toilet, but don’t forget about spots in the rest of the house. Home offices and staircase railings get a lot of action, too.


  • Launder linens

When you reuse towels and sheets, you’re reintroducing yourself to germs that might have accumulated there. During flu season, it’s more important than ever to keep these items fresh. Linens, especially ones that you use on your face like pillowcases or bath towels, should be washed more often in a hot water cycle.


  • Cut out carriers

Certain items in your home are more likely to accumulate bacteria, which can turn them into potential carriers. These items include (but aren’t limited to) the one listed below.

  1. sponges
  2. toothbrushes
  3. bathroom sink handles
  4. dish towels
  5. welcome mats
  6. TV remotes
  7. cell phones

Replace the items you can like sponges and toothbrushes, and be sure to wash or wipe down the others.


Don’t wait until you see symptoms to start cleaning. Prevention is key, and by avoiding the flu you can save your sick days for a “stay at home, cuddled in blankets” day, instead.

Posted in General Advice
March 20, 2019

7 Essential Curb Appeal Tips for Sellers

With the spring real estate market heating up across the United States, it’s time to focus on curb appeal. You want your home to stand out from the others, and the exterior will be the first area buyers see. If it’s not in top shape, there is a good chance buyers will move on to the next home. So make sure you’re trimming the lawn, washing the siding and shining everything else up in preparation for showings. Here are some essential areas to address:

#1 Wash the siding

Your siding probably looks a bit dirty and dusty after this last winter, so it’s time to wash it off and make it look shiny and new for the spring. Use soapy water and a bristled brush to remove dirt and debris. If the grime and dirt won’t come off easily, you may need to use a pressure washer or power washer to remove it. You can rent a pressure washer from a local home improvement store or hire a professional power washer. The cost for exterior power washing ranges from $200 to $400, depending on the time and square footage involved. You should also take this time to wash your garage door, as it will be one of the first things buyers see. Do not use a power washer to clean your windows and doors though, because it could damage them and lead to repair costs.

#2 Revitalize the paint job

Once you’ve cleaned off the siding, it’s time to look at the paint. There’s a chance your home’s exterior will have chips, cracks and other paint issues following winter. To increase the exterior appeal of your home, consider repainting it. You could use the same paint color as before or choose a whole new color. For a job this big, you may need to hire a painting contractor. Then explore how you can accent the paint job, whether it’s with plants, trim or exterior window treatments.

#3 Fix up the lawn

Given that winter was likely harsh on your landscape, it’s time to get it back in shape for the spring market. You should trim and prune any trees and bushes that took a beating or look overgrown. Add mulch to your flower beds and around trees to give them a professional, well-kept look. Aerate and dethatch your lawn so it can breathe and absorb nutrients more easily. If you have any barren spots in your lawn from snow and ice, add seeds or sod to help renew and cover those areas. If you have the time and budget, think about new spring garden colors in the form of flowers and shrubs.

#4 Add a fence

Another nostalgic, yet high selling point for buyers is a fence around the front of your property. It doesn’t have to be a highly secure fence like those you would add around the backyard. Rather, you could install a picket fence or a short chain link fence around the front yard. This can be especially appealing to families with young children because it helps keep kids safe and enclosed near the home. Installing a fence can range from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the material you choose and the square footage of the front yard.

#5 Renew the front door

Once people pass through your fence and renewed landscape, they have to open your front door. If your entry door is beaten down, rotting and in bad shape, it sets a bad tone for the rest of the walkthrough. So look at how you can revitalize the door, whether it’s with a thorough cleaning or a paint job. Start by washing it down and then look for chips and cracks in the paint. Depending on the age of the door, it might be time to replace the door. Steel doors are noted as the safest and most effective doors for homeowners, but they are expensive. You might consider an affordable alternative like wood that you can personalize with knobs, windows, and colors that complement your home’s interior and exterior design.

#6 Add landscaping lighting

For night walkthroughs, a great addition to your landscape is outdoor lighting. Landscape lights can increase the appeal of your home’s exterior and add security. You can accent trees, shrubs and flower beds at night to attract the buyer’s eye. That way, even though it’s dark outside, they’re still noticing the high points of your landscape. You can use solar fixtures that soak up sunlight during the day and light up at night. Otherwise, you can buy light fixtures that draw on power from the house or use batteries. These decisions depend on your budget and what works best for your landscape design.

#7 Update the mailbox

Mailboxes may seem like a nostalgic idea, but they can add definite appeal to your home, especially if you live in the suburbs. You can get mailboxes at a local home improvement store, and they come in various styles to match your home design. You can also fix up the mailbox you already have, whether it means painting it a new color or adding numbers to the side in the form of stickers or metal decals.

Posted in General Advice
March 18, 2019

How to Make Your Lawn Look Like a Baseball Field

It's time to take throwing the ball around with your kids to the next level. Advance to the big leagues by getting creative with backyard landscaping. Here are our tips for how to make your lawn look more like a baseball field. 

  1. It's all in the stripes: Professional stadiums have those clean, beautiful stripes in the grass. The pattern is created by bending blades of grass: blades that are bent toward you look dark and blades that are turned away to look light.
  2. Refine your mowing techniques: Pay careful attention to your mowing and make sure to stay in a straight line. Always look a good few feet ahead of you while you mow. Try to cut the grass long, as long grass bends more. The longer the grass, the better the stripe. 
  3. Roll it out: After you've mowed, you'll need to intensify the stripes by going over them with a roller. This will really bend the grass. If you have a gas-powered rotary lawn mower, you can attach a roller to the back (found at your local garden care center or home improvement store). You can also go the DIY route and either attach weights to the rubber tail on the back of the mower, attach a heavy welcome mat to the back, or build a roller yourself.
  4. Choose your grass: Different varietals bend differently. Northern grass may bend best. And of course, make sure to fertilize well to increase the likelihood of a full, healthy, green lawn. 
  5. Pick your pattern: You have three standard stadium patterns to choose from: the basic stripe, the checkerboard, and the diagonal. To get the basic stripe look, first, mow around the perimeter of your lawn, then mow in alternating directions to create the stripes, and finish by mowing over the perimeter again. For the checkerboard, do the same as the basic stripe, but add in a step traveling in the opposite direction to create perpendicular stripes. The diagonal look is achieved by creating a checkerboard pattern but in diagonal directions.

There you have it, a few ways to make your yard look more like a field of dreams. Batter up!

Posted in Just for Fun
March 15, 2019

Fall Flowers: 5 Flowers to Plant this Fall

Love gardening? Don't put the shovel and gardening gloves away just yet. You're in luck because there are beautiful flowers that will bloom in the fall.

  1. Turtleheads: These perennial flowers are named for their shape which resembles the head of a snapping turtle. Turtleheads are low maintenance, grow up to three feet tall, and can blossom in blue, pink, or white. 
  2. Aster: Asters are small daisy-like flowers that can grow up to three feet. Some are relatively smaller, only growing four inches. Depending on the kind of aster, they can be blue, red white, or pink.
  3. Mums: Mums the word! Mums are a classic fall and winter plant that are seen in many gardens. They're a perfect flower for planting in large batches and can be either perennial or annual.
  4. Marigolds: Marigolds bloom any time of the year, including the fall. They can grow up to five feet tall and have daisy or carnation-like flower heads.
  5. Sneezeweed: These strangely named, large yellow flowers bear a striking resemblance to sunflowers. Best grown in moist, rich soil, they can sprout anywhere from three to five feet tall.

These perennials flowers will make your garden look beautiful during any season and they'll give your garden some color during the fall. Get ready to {fall} for these gorgeous flowers!

Posted in Just for Fun
March 13, 2019

From Chaos to Clean: How to Organize a Closet

It's time to combat clutter for once and for all. Start by organizing your closets. It will make getting ready faster and more enjoyable. Use these tips to organize your closets: 

  1. Completely declutter: Before you start coming up with new ways to organize, get yourself situated. Donate clothes that you don't wear. (If you haven't worn something in over a year, it may be time to let it go.) The Salvation Army or Red Cross are options for donating clothes and check local charities too. Most cities have clothing donation bins, and many shelters churches, synagogues, and sometimes schools accept appropriate donations. 
  2. Use shelves and cubbies: If your closet isn't as big as you'd like, find unique ways to expand space. Add shelving cubbies, and hanging organizers to store items that cannot be hung on the rod. 
  3. Store accordingly: Develop an organization system. Store your most used items at eye level, less used items on the bottom, and your least used items up high. Some people have a designated space for each category of clothing, and some people separate their closet by use. If you separate by use, you could have work clothes and formal clothes in one section, and less formal clothes in another. 
  4. Add lights: Some closets are so dark and dreary - we can understand why "monsters" like to reside there. To fix this problem, install lights to illuminate the space and make it easier to find the perfect outfit. 
  5. Color coordinate: Shop your closet the same way you'd shop in a store. Color coordinate items within each category. Organize your colors from light to dark or dark to light. 

Turn on some music and get started! You may be amazed at all the outfit ideas you'll come up with when everything is neat and tidy!

Posted in General Advice
March 11, 2019

What to Do With the Extra Room in Your House

What would you do if you had an extra room in your house? Get creative because the possibilities are limitless.

  1. Home Gym: Do you love to start your mornings with a good workout, but dragging yourself to a crowded gym? If you have some workout machines at home, transform your spare room into a gym. Even if you just buy some weights, a yoga mat, and other inexpensive equipment, you can turn your unused room into something useful. 
  2. Playroom: If you’re tired of tripping over your kids’ toys in your nice, fancy living room, turn that extra room into their own space. Paint the walls with chalkboard paint so they can write on the walls, store all of their toys in the room, and allow them to play. They’ll love a space of their own, and you’ll love not having a mess all over the house. 
  3. Contemplation Room: Ever just need some time alone with your thoughts? If you find yourself wanting to escape the craziness of the day and not knowing where to go, consider creating a contemplation room. Decorate it in all white with comfortable furniture, throw pillows, and blankets. This creates a serene space where you can go to clear your head, meditate, and relax.
  4. Library: If you’re a bookworm, you’ve probably always dreamed of having your very own library. Now is your chance! Install bookshelves from wall to ceiling, add comfortable, sophisticated couches, and throw in cozy area rugs to make a comfy and inviting space. Just imagine relaxing after a long day in your library with your favorite book, a cup of tea, and candles.
  5. Entertainment Center: If you don’t have a den or finished basement, and only a formal living room, you may want to consider turning the spare room into an entertainment center. Use dark woods and deep colors, reclining chairs and a sectional couch, and top it off with a flat screen television for the perfect movie theater feel. It can be a great place to have a movie marathon on a rainy day!


Having a spare room in the home leaves you with countless opportunities to be unique and create a special room that’s all your own!

Posted in General Advice
March 8, 2019

7 Ways to Combat Clutter in the New Year

The New Year is the time for a fresh start. It brings a feeling of starting over, and an opportunity to improve all areas of your life. In the New Year, take some time to complete projects you've been putting off for months. You can create an even better home for you and your family by decluttering and organizing your home. Follow these tips for easy and quick ways to de-clutter your home.

  1. Keep things at arms reach: Keep items you use daily somewhere they can be easily reached, whether that's in a basket, on a shelf, or in a cabinet. Store everything that is used sparingly on a higher shelf or in the garage or attic. It will be easier to find what you need when you need it. 
  2. Add shelves: If your home is cluttered adding more furniture won't help. Instead of adding a bookshelf or desk, add wall shelving. You'll have room for books, picture frames, paperwork, and even a television without cluttering your home with more furniture. 
  3. 12-12-12 Challenge: This challenge comes from, and is a simple project to add to your routine. Clean and organize by choosing 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, and 12 to return to a proper place in your home. This helps you organize, declutter, and give to a good cause all at the same time!
  4. Garage storage: Make your garage your main storage area. Use old dressers and other furniture to store seasonal items and items you don't use daily. Paint the furniture the same color to create a unified look.
  5. Get rid of broken items: There's no point in keeping items that are broken or unused, they're just taking up space in your home. If you haven't used it or gotten it fixed in the past six months, you probably never will. Throw it out or donate it to make room for something new.
  6. Use things up: It's a habit to save special items for special occasions, whether it's fancy bath soap or an expensive spice. Stop saving these things for the right time, use them and enjoy them now. Use what you have before you buy something new to help keep clutter at bay. 
  7. Deal with one room at a time: Take it step by step. Organize and declutter one room at a time, makes it easier to focus on the task at hand. If you try to juggle too many rooms at once, it may never get done. 

Go through these tasks every few months to help maintain an organized home. A decluttered home can give you and your family peace of mind - and room for something new. 

Posted in General Advice
March 6, 2019

How to Choose Roofing - 6 Types to Consider

Whether you're replacing an existing roof or researching options for a new home, deciding between roofing styles, materials, and costs can be complicated. To help you determine the correct roofing materials for your home, here are the pros and cons of the six most popular roofing types. 

  • Asphalt shingle: The most common roofing material, asphalt shingles, are affordable and simple to install. Asphalt shingles are produced when a fiberglass shingle is mixed with asphalt and finished with a textured surface. Asphalt shingles come in two basic configurations: single-thickness and laminate
    • Pros: Asphalt shingles are available in an assortment of color and are the most economical material available
    • Cons: Asphalt shingles have a shorter life span and don't offer the same level of insulation as other roofing alternatives
  • Wood shake: For centuries, wood was a common material used in residential roofing. But, due to its flammability, modern day use is less common
    • Pros: Wood offers a natural, rustic look
    • Cons: Wood shingles are flammable and can potentially suffer from mold or rot. The life span of wood roofing is also limited. 


Posted in General Advice
March 4, 2019

5 "Smart" Upgrades for Today's Connected Homes

More and more homeowners are automating their homes to make it easier to control systems such as lights, security, music, and even window coverings. According to the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, here are some of the smart home systems taking the technology world by storm:

  • Security devices. Many luxury homeowners are splurging on surveillance cameras, motion detectors, automated door locks, and other security devices that can be controlled by a smartphone. These systems will even notify you of suspicious activity.
  • Temperature control. Smart thermostats are easy to control via your phone and will help reduce your energy bill.
  • Hands-free faucets. Just wave your hand and the water goes on or off. It's not only less messy but also saves money and water. These faucets come in many colors and designs. There are even voice-activated showerheads. 
  • Innovative lighting. Sensor systems and "smart" lighting allow you to switch lights on or off by using a smartphone, or Amazon Alexa. Products like the Philips Hue bulbs allow you to change colors - and ambiance - as well. 
  • Smart cooking. Yes, even your kitchen appliances are controllable by Wi-Fi. There are fridges with internal cameras so you can check remotely to see if you need milk, as well as smart ovens that use sensors to recognize, monitor, and cook your food. 
Posted in General Advice
March 1, 2019

The Formula for Creating a Luxury Bath

Amy Vermillion may have over 20 years of design experience, but even she knows that designing a luxury bath can be a daunting experience. Although luxury means different things to different people, the Charlotte, NC based Vermillion says that there are certain elements that need to be included in a luxury bath no matter what the definition is. Here's what Vermillion says her clients demand in their baths:

  • A great bathing experience. Residents want to be pampered, whether they're taking a bath or a shower. But everyone had different needs. Do you want a soft or brisk shower spray? Multiple showerheads, body sprays, music, or lighting? Vermillion always includes a hand shower on a slide bar for times clients just want to rinse off without washing their hair.
  • Fine fixtures. Vermillion refers to faucets as "the jewelry of the bathroom." She looks for clean lines, interesting geometry, and beautiful finishes. Nickel is one of her favorites. Vermillion recommends ROHL faucets not just because they are stylish but because they are also relatively maintenance-free.
  • A tankless water heater. This may not instantly spring to mind when you think of luxury in the bathroom, but a tankless water heater gives you unlimited hot water without a wait. Cold showers become a thing of the past. 
Posted in Did you know?