Get Your Home Clean for Christmas

We’re just ten days away from Christmas, and you probably have your shopping done and the menu planned. In your haste to finish these annual tasks, however, you may well have forgotten one of the most important: cleaning your home. You will likely have many relatives and friends coming by over the next two weeks, and you want to make the best impression possible this time of year.

Here are some tips on how you can get your home clean for Christmas:

Inspection

Think about where your guests will be during the days ahead, and make a list of what needs to be done in these spots. Prioritize the ones which need the most attention (eg. the dining room and living room are high traffic areas, the basement not so much).

Clean the Kitchen

Make sure that all food preparation areas are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Remove any superfluous materials in the general area; you will need as much room as possible to work and move around freely.

Eliminate the Clutter

You with have a lot of people, gifts, coats, boots, and other things to deal with, so try to make some extra room. Look around each of your rooms and decide on what won’t be needed. These things can go into the basement or attic for now (or into the garbage, if you have been putting it off).

Enlist Help

The family enjoys Christmas together, so there’s no reason that everyone living under this roof can’t help to clean it. After all, they were the ones who made it a mess in the first place!

Cheat

The crack in the living room wall you didn’t have time to fix? Christmas decorations can hide it for now. That stain the dog made on the rug in the corner? Try putting the Christmas tree there this year.

There is nothing wrong with a little cheating when you are down to the wire. However, you must promise to add these forgotten tasks to your New Year’s Resolutions list.

Happy Holidays!

Energy Savings Tips for Canadian Winters

Another winter is almost upon us, and Canadians need to start thinking about their yearly energy costs. There is nothing worse than dealing with Christmas credit card bills in January, and getting a second dose of shock thanks to a higher-than-expected energy bill.

Here are some tips that can help to reduce that pain and make your home more energy efficient throughout these colder months:

Get a Programmable Thermostat

You don’t need the temperature up quite so high while you are asleep, but will you remember to adjust it before bed? How about in the morning when you are stumbling around looking for coffee? A programmable thermostat will do the work for you. Higher end ones can even be controlled remotely through your smartphone. Even keeping your temperature down just a degree or two throughout the winter can save you a noticeable amount of money, while having very little effect on your comfort level.

Use Colder Water

Whenever possible, use colder water when bathing or washing clothes. If clothes are not coming out as clean as they used to with hot water, try pre-soaking them.

Electricity Savings

Even when they are not in use, electronics like televisions use power, so unplug them. A plug bar with an On/Off button makes this easy.

Make sure to always clean the lint trap before running a load of clothes in your dryer. This reduces the amount of electricity needed to effectively dry the clothes. It also reduces the possibility of fires.

Many homeowners look forward to making their houses bright and colourful for the holidays, but the related hydro costs can be enormous. LED Christmas lights look just as wonderful and use far less electricity. The upfront cost of buying new lights will be recouped in almost no time.

Avoid Idling

No one likes to get into a freezing cold car, but leaving your car idling for minutes on end with the heater blasting wastes a great deal of gas over the winter season.

For the Love of Cottages

Everyone has their own idea of the perfect vacation. Mine takes place at our family’s traditional, wooden cottage in Southampton, Ontario along Lake Huron. I love everything about our cottage, from its location to the neighbours, to our traditional wooden furniture that provides the perfect rustic look and feel. Because that is important when you want to escape the city and everything that reminds you of the hustle and bustle.

My main goal, however, is to do as little as possible. The cottage provides that rare chance to slow down and appreciate everything around you. I love the sound of the fog horn, the birds in the trees, and the cool evening breeze. I feel so relaxed up here that it is truly a home away from home.

A Second Home

Your primary home will always be important, but for many of us cottage owners, our heart really belongs to our vacation dwelling. I just gravitate towards the cottage because of the stress-free escape it offers. The closest thing I experience to anxiety is remembering that everything downtown closes by 6:00.

I also love the familiarity of life up here. Some people might call that boring, but it’s actually quite comforting to know that I can count on the fact that there will be nothing out of the ordinary to disrupt my relaxation routine.

Lounging by the Lake

Even after coming up here for so many years, I never take the pleasures of the lake for granted. I only swim a handful of times each summer, but I sit by the lake and watch the waves almost daily. The rhythmic in and out of the water puts my mind at ease. I also enjoy feeding the seagulls, even though we are not supposed to do that.

Time with Your Children

Time with my kids at the cottage was always magical. They are adults now and one has children of her own, so I get to relive that magic with two lovely grandchildren. I can already tell that the magic of this part of the country will mean just as much to them.

Getting Your Home Ready for the Winter Months

OK Canadians, Thanksgiving is now behind us, which means Halloween is around the corner, which, alas, means that winter is imminent. Whether you like the colder months or not, there is no getting around them if you are planning on staying in the country. Even if you plan to flee South for a few months, it is still necessary to make sure you house is ready to withstand all of that ice, snow, and wind.

Here are some things that should be on your “Ready for Winter?” checklist:

Check your roof

There is nothing worse than trying to deal with a roof leak (or worse) during the height of winter. Go up on the roof (or have a professional inspector do it for you) and see if there are leaks or signs of potential trouble in the coming months; have repairs done now. While you are up there, clean out the eavestroughs; not doing so can lead to ice and leaking problems.

Mulch leaves

Rather than continuing to rake the leaves off of your lawn, use your mower to mulch them. They will decompose over the winter and that will help to sustain your grass during those long months of ice and snow cover.

Get that chimney cleaned

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, you will want to use it over the winter. In addition to having enough firewood, you need to make sure that the smoke can easily exit the chimney, lest it back up and come back down into your home. A chimney inspector will let you know whether you need a cleaning and also perform a safety check, so that you won’t have to worry about chimney fires or carbon monoxide.

Avoid frozen pipes

While the pipes in your home may have proper insulation to avoid freezing and bursting in February, you still need to make sure that there is no water in your exterior faucet and lawn-irrigation system.

The Joys of Custom-Made Furniture

Are you the type of person who likes to see their personal sense of style and individuality reflected in the design of their home? If so, chances are that you would prefer to have custom designed furniture versus something you would buy from a catalogue or chain store.

If you are not yet sold on the joys of custom-made furniture, here are a few points that might help to change your mind:

Perfectly suited to your needs

With custom-made furniture, there is no need to compromise. You simply order what you want, choose the dimensions, and the final result performs exactly whatever function you need it to. Ready-made furniture can often be taken home right away, but there is almost always an element of compromise where you may end up with one piece that does not really suit your needs at all and another that only partially does. Custom-made furniture completely eliminates that situation. Got something you need to fit into a sharp corner? Not a problem! A craftsman works with you to plan and design the piece so it works perfectly in that spot.

Supporting local craftsmen

Most ready-made furniture is created overseas in factories by the thousands using machinery. If you choose to have your furniture custom-made, you are supporting local businesses and who would not want to help Canadian-owned firms, particularly when so many of them do excellent work? Especially if much of their work is done the old-fashioned way?

Spruce up your old furniture

In addition to having all-new furniture created, you can also have your old furniture repaired, revitalized, and just all around brought back to life. Damage repaired, a new coat of paint, new finish…if you believe in conservation, it is entirely possible to keep your old furniture both functional and looking good for years to come.

Top 7 Energy Saving Tips for Summer

According to the US Department of Energy, Americans spend more than $29 billion each year on air conditioning. There are several things a homeowner can do to keep their homes cool during the summer without increasing their bill.
1. Use a programmable thermostat : It is a good idea to use a programmable thermostat and raise the temperature when you aren’t home. This prevents the house from unnecessarily cooling when no one is home.


2. Turn on ceiling fans : If they are used in conjunction with an air conditioning system, the fans are very effective at lower your indoor temperature. In the summer, ceiling fan blades should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down to the floor.


3. Postpone the use of appliances: There are three major heat generating appliances in the home; oven, dishwasher and dryer. It is best to use these devices in the evening rather than the hottest part of he day.
4. Keep the doors inside the home open : While in the winter, closing interior doors helps keep heat in specific rooms. Doing so in the hot summer months is detrimental to your cause. You want air to flow freely through rooms and throughout the entire home. Good airflow means a cooler home.


5. Change air filters regularly :  Clogged filters will force the air conditioning system to work harder and use more energy, resulting in higher utility bills. Clean filters also improve indoor air quality.
6. Check the window coverings: Thermal drapes, cellular shades or blackout curtains will keep the heat outside and the cool air inside your home.


7. Schedule an air conditioner tune-up : Proper HVAC maintenance, which includes having a professional clean coils, fins, air filters and check for the proper refrigerant charge, is the best way to ensure that the unit runs efficiently and effectively.

“Vacation Colours” Bring The Happiness Back Home

Although we can’t stay on vacation indefinitely but you can definitely enjoy the colours of your favourite getaway even after you return home, by incorporating them into your decor.

Debbie Zimmer, design expert with the Paint Quality Institute, who has employed the technique in her own home. Zimmer sees it as a way to extend a special vacation. Zimmer says that painting a room in two colours reminiscent of your favourite destination is almost like being on permanent vacation. This helps to recapture the good vibes from your vacation in your own home.

The colour of one’s surrounding has long been known to have strong psychological effect. That’s why so many restaurants are painted red (it increases the appetite) and breakfast rooms are often yellow (it improves our mood).  Zimmer’s vacation colors work in somewhat the same way. We leave our best vacations with fond memories of the places we visit.  Adopting colors that – consciously or subconsciously — recall those surroundings brings back positive associations that make us happy.

Paint-Quality-Institute-Vacation-Colors

If you’re pining for a past vacation place, close your eyes and picture it in your mind.  Very likely, certain colors jump out at you:
Beach vacations are typically characterized by bright blue skies and sparkling blue or green water, with the white of the sand an important accent. Memories of mountain trips may recall a wide array of greens ranging from dark shades of jade to lighter tints like mint; or, if your visit was in the fall, rustic reds and burnt orange, interspersed with yellow highlights. Travels in desert locales such as the American Southwest may stir up memories of warm earthy colors – from tan to terra cotta, with some sage green or even gray mixed in, often punctuated with bright red or classic turquoise.

Your color recollections may match or deviate from these common impressions.  But Zimmer advises that you be true to your personal takeaway from your time away.  That’s what you want to replicate in your vacation color scheme at home.

Start with the all-important wall color:  The primary hue should be characteristic – even emblematic — of the place you’re channeling, for example, dusky tan for the desert, or bright blue for the beach.

vacation home paint

That’s not to say you need to settle on just one paint color for your walls.  You can incorporate a second essential hue by painting an accent wall.  Or, if you’re lucky enough to have chair rails, you can apply one critical color above the rail and the other below.

Any and all trim in your interior presents more painting possibilities.  Secondary shades from your vacation spot can find their way onto everything from baseboards to built-ins (bookcases, shelving, and the like).

If you want to go all in, select furnishings, fabrics, and accent pieces that recall not just the color palette, but also the style of your special place.  Although not entirely necessary, this can be some of the best fun of all.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Backyard

Each summer, a large number of children participate in outdoor activities. While many children end up spending their summer at a camp, there are others who stay right in their own backyard. Whether your child is only five years, or fifteen, you’ll needs to find activities that will keep them occupied outdoors, throughout the summer.

If you’re interested in planning your child’s summer activities, you’re in luck. There are literally an unlimited number of backyard activities that your child, their friends, or their siblings could participate in. Popular summer activities include swimming, playing outdoor sports, playing water games, or relaxing outdoors. There is a good chance that your child will enjoy participating in one or several of these summertime activities.

Really!

Our DIY Gazebo kits are very popular and allow you to take the satisfaction of building it with your own hands. Our kits come with a detailed instruction manual and with everything else you need. You just need to buy a few bags of concrete from you local hardware for the posts. If you find DIY laborious, you can always depend on our network of installers worldwide.

While it is important to plan your child’s summer activities, it is likewise important to reflect on what they’ll be eating. Unfortunately, summer is when most children resort to unhealthy eating habits. What is even worse about unhealthy summertime eating is that it’s the worse possible time to eat unhealthy. In hot conditions, it is not difficult to become dehydrated. Caffeinated beverages and sugar drinks don’t help to quench thirst despite what many individuals believe. In fact, many sugary drinks will still leave you thirsty.

When it comes to drinks, the choice perfect would be water. Water is important during the summertime, particularly when it is warm outside. Even though water is good for the body, there are children who don’t like the taste of it. If you’re the parent of any such children, you may wish to try experimenting with flavored water. Flavored water is available in a variety of different flavors. In most retail stores, for a fair price, you ought to be able to find water with strawberry, citrus, grape, raspberry, or mixed berry flavors. If even if your child doesn’t like traditional water, there exists a good chance that they would enjoy the taste of flavored water.

In addition to drinks, it is also important to reflect on the food or snacks that your child should have. While enjoying backyard activities, there are a number of families who choose to have a barbeque. A barbeque is a great idea. However, it can require a relatively large amount of time and planning. If you’re unable to plan a barbeque, you may wish to consider just having a collection of snacks on hand. Depending on the kinds of snacks you choose, you and your child could enjoy a tasty, but healthy treat.

If low-cost snacks are what you’re looking for, you should visit local dollar stores or discount stores. Many of these stores are great places to get amazing deals despite what you may think. You will find that many discount stores and dollar stores have packages of cookies and bags of chips or pretzels for a reasonable price. However, it is important to keep in mind that these snacks aren’t always ideal for a healthy diet. For a healthier option, try sugar free cookies or low salt pretzels.

The above mentioned snacks are ideal not only because they easy to afford, but also because they’re convenient. When your child is done, they can just close the package and then return to what they were doing. If you and your child are able to take a moment out of the day, fruits and vegetables make for tasty, but healthy snacks. In fact, there are also a number of different dips that you can use. Low fat vegetable dip and peanut butter are tasty toppings for many fruits and vegetables.

As previously mentioned, it is important to stay hydrated in the summer. Regardless of which foods and drinks you provide for your child’s next backyard adventure, it is important that they stay hydrated and full. Not only will promoting healthy eating habits ensure that your child eats right, but it may also contribute to make their backyard outings more pleasant.

Home Upgrades That Will Save You Money

Upgrading your home is always an expense, but what if your upgrades were saving you money? Enhancing your home’s energy efficient features is a great way to make it a more livable space while making a smaller impact on the environment and even better your bank account!

It is estimated that the average American homeowner spends about $2,000 a year on energy for heating, cooling and other power needs in their home. Often there are many inefficiencies caused by poor operating systems and other energy drains that may account for as much as 10-20 percent of wasted money per a year.

Whether your motivation is too reduce your home energy expenses or have a more earth-conscious lifestyle there are many ways you can make a significant impact on your home’s energy efficiency.

Windows
Faulty seals and cracks can be responsible up to 20 percent of air infiltration into or out of the home. If a window replacement isn’t in your budget there are still other options to prevent energy inefficiency. Adding storm windows can reduce the amount of heat loss in your home through windows by as much as 25-50 percent. Caulking and adding weather stripping around the windows can also make a noticeable difference, as can window coverings such as blinds and drapes.

energy efficent windows
Doors
Like windows, doors especially their perimeters are common sources of energy loss. Poor insulation due to faulty installation or wear over time can contribute to energy loss. Aside from ensuring that your doors are properly insulated  and sealed, the door itself can make a very big difference. A foam insulted door offers greater energy conservation than a wooden door would. Remember that proper sealing and installation applies to all access points including the garage door.
Ceiling
The ceiling is often an overlooked home element, but one that is gathering more attention quickly. It is an ideal space to integrate energy-efficient features such as skylights. Skylights engage all senses while providing balanced, natural light that reduces reliance on powered light and ventilation fixtures. In addition, skylights can work in concert with vertical windows to create the “chimney effect” where cool, fresh air enters through vertical windows and warm, stale air escapes from the skylights, cooling your home without using electricity.

energy efficent ceiling
HVAC System
Climate control can account for as much as half of the average home’s annual energy costs. An outdated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, or a system that isn’t big enough or strong enough for your home’s footprint, will draw more energy than necessary to maintain a desirable temperature. Regular service can help keep systems operating smoothly, but eventually all HVAC systems need replacing.

Three Painting Tips for the Three-day Weekend

Three day weekends are the perfect excuse to get a head start on a home project, fix odds and ends or just freshen up a coat of paint somewhere in your home.  These three tips will make painting fun and easy.

1. Pair and Sample Colours : Make sure to sample and pair before your actual painting day. This will save you a lot of time, effort and heartbreak. Knowing what colours you like and which ones will look good on the walls is very important. Lay out your colour chips on the floor to see which colours complement your flooring. Also consider purchasing sample paint and swatching it on the walls, see if you like it and it looks good. Living with the colour on the wall is a great way to see if you like the colour and if it will suit the space.

pro paint tips for a three day weekend
2. Measure the Right Amount : You have settled on your colour choice but now the question is how much paint will you need to purchase. You don’t want to buy too much or too little. A little tip is that if you are going to use more than one gallon of paint, it is a good idea to mix the cans together. Often there can be a colour discrepancy between the cans and this will allow for a more flawless finish. Also check out this handy paint calculator to help you get the perfect amount of paint.

pro paint tips for a three day weekend
3. Know What Your Going to Do : Make sure you have everything planned out and prepared. Have your walls taped and prepared, this will make it easier and faster for you to get the painting done. Having a plan of what you need to do always makes it easier for you to get the job finished and enjoy your new space.