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Landscaping Tips for Your Home

I spent the evening weeding my yard, plotting what beautiful ideas I should implement this spring. The landscaping for your home sets the tone for the entire yard and house. The wonderful thing is that landscaping can be seen in many different shapes, forms and budgets. The styles are endless as you create your own oasis right in your backyard. Plus, good landscaping can add up to 15 percent to the overall value of your home.

While yards and styles are different for each home, home owner and location, there are a few tips that are universal for the sake of your landscaping. Read on for tips to make your yard the envy of the neighborhood.

Pick up your yard right.

  • If you see a weed, do not hesitate to pull it at any time. Honestly, weeds do nothing positive for your yard or garden and letting them grow can actual take over the other plants in your garden. Weeding can be a year long affair in warmer climates or just in the warm months for those locations that have a generous frost.
  • The next step to landscaping is mowing your lawn. Mowing your lawn is really the manicure of your yard. It keeps it looking kept and is actually good for the grass. That being said, do not get too excited with the lawn mower and give your yard a buzz cut. Grass should be cut about two to two and a half inches in length. Cutting it too short can actually dry out the grass. The longer blades will shade the roots making you have to water less.
  • Ditch the mower bag. Your grass is a haven for bugs and other living organisms. When you mow the lawn, ditch your mower bag (the little attachment that catches all of the grass clippings. Those clippings will become the ultimate food for any living creatures in your grass which will leave your lawn healthier AND greener.
  • Leave the fallen leaves. I hate raking and bagging leaves in the fall. The tedious task is bemoaned by many. If you only have a light layer of leaves just simply mow over them. The ground up leaves are actually good for your grass and will help keep pesky weeds at bay. That being said, a grundle of leaves will be very difficult for a lawn mower to go over.

Plant correctly.

  • Plant the right plants. Certain flowers or plants are meant to live in specific climates and sunlight. Planting the wrong plant will ruin the overall look of your garden when that one plant is dead.
  • Amp up your soil. Soil is not just any old dirt. Plants get all of their nutrients from the dirt and the sun. Dirt that does not have the correct nutrients will result in small or sad little plants. Test your soil with a local nursery or botany school to determine what types of nutrients you should add to your soil. And don’t be stingy with your fertilizer.

Cooking at Home: How to Plan a Monthly Menu

Cooking at home is my favorite way to eat. The satisfying feeling of making and eating something that I created cannot be replicated. I have long been a proponent of eating at home. I grew up eating at home almost exclusively. Eating out at a restaurant was a rare affair. Part of it was probably the burden of paying for five hungry mouths at restaurant prices and because my mother was a wonderful cook.

As an adult, I have continued on the theme of cooking at home. When I first married and lived on my own, we cooked at home for financial reasons. Eating out was ridiculously expensive, even if it was convenient. However, many nights in a row of Ramen noodles and Hamburger Helper got old fast. And I quickly learned that boxed meals were not the least bit healthy.

Enter in monthly menu planning. This craze has taken over the mommy world by storm. The premise is that you plan out your menu a month in advance and purchase the bulk of your food at the beginning of the month. Some monthly menu planners only shop at the grocery store once a month but I find that hard to follow for my favorite items: produce.

Planning your menu gives you the ease of not panicking at 5 p.m. wondering what to serve your brood. You will have a clear sense of what will happen, plus you will have already purchased everything you need for the meal.

To start, make a list of your family’s favorite meals. Find a mixture between tried and true family favorites and intersperse new recipes to keep the menu from getting stale. Many mommy blogs will post their monthly menus as inspiration. Take into account what your little ones will eat and adjust to your needs. For new recipes, peruse Pinterest, food blogs or food magazines. And know that it is OK to repeat certain meals that your family loves. Worried about the variety? Give some space in between two similar meals to keep it different.

If you are short on ideas, think about themed dinner nights like Friday night pizza or Thursday Asian. This will help give you an idea, but is broad enough to be taken into many different directions.

Next gather your recipes and make a list of everything that you will need. Organize each recipe ingredient by category (all meats together, spices together, etc) so you can find overlapping. Overlapping ingredients is a great way to save at the grocery store. You can easily purchase items at member’s only warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco with big savings. For those who like a lot of fresh produce, make a weekly list of perishable items that you will pick up each week.

Start cooking! Having a plan will avoid the dinner blues, plus those who plan dinners tend to eat healthier. You won’t make Ramen noodles out of desperation.

Month after month, tweak the menu to fit your family and the food seasons.

Happy home cooking!

Moving To A New Home; A Few Tips To Make It A Better Experience

You know how everyone usually has one chore that they just absolutely HATE to do? Like taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, mopping, laundry etc. Well, the thing i absolutely dread doing everytime it comes around is not your typical chore. I don’t mind sweeping, cleaning the bathtub or vacumning the floor. The thing i dread most is MOVING.

It seems like everytime i’ve moved to a new house i have collected a mountain of new things and have no idea how it all accumulated. When all put away and organized in my house it doesn’t seem like too much. But the second i start putting my things in boxes i find myself wondering how in the world i have collected so much stuff!

Unless you are lucky and have settled into a home that you know will be yours for the rest of your life, most likely you are going to have to move a few times (or in some cases, a lot of times) in your lifetime. If you are organized and on top of moving, it goes much smoother and is a lot less of a burden.

Here are a few tips to helping your move be a better experience:

  • Plan Ahead- Don’t think for a second that you are going to be able to pull off, start to finish, a move in one day. Although you may be able to get everything out of your house in one day, you will probably want to pack boxes starting at least a week before hand. Even if you have a small house, you really have no idea how much stuff you really have. If you want to be smart about your move, plan a head of time and make sure you are prepared.
  • Label Every Box- The most terrifying thing about moving is have a stack of boxes in your new home and having NO idea where they go. Having to go through every box to see what is in it to see which room it will be put in. To make the transition easier, make sure you label every box clearly. Write down with permanent marker which room it will go in (i.e. Kitchen, Dining Room) and then what is in it (i.e. Dishes, Towels).
  • Get Help- Its okay to get help from others to help you move. Dont be embarrassed to ask! There are plenty of people out there willing to help.  If you have a few more hands to get furniture and boxes into a moving van, the move will go a ton quicker. Its okay to ask family, friends, or wo-workers for help moving. If they are good friends they wont have a problem helping you out. Although you may want to get a brib like pizza or doughnuts for those helping out. :)
  • Keep Your House Clean- This is an obvious one that sometimes i forget. If you are trying to pack with an unorganized or unclean house, you will come out with an unorganized and unclean move. It takes much longer to pack a house that is unorganized or messy. So to help make the move quicker and less of a hassle, take a couple hours (or a whole day if you need) to organize and deep clean your house. It will make a big difference once you start putting things in boxes!

 

Work Out At Home: The Neccessary Supplies

Writing about working out is ironic as I have missed my gym appointments for over a week now. Between work and life, working out becomes very secondary and at the bottom of my life list. For some reason, it seems impossible to find the time to find my work out clothes, gather my stuff (water bottle, iPod, iPod arm band, gym id, keys and driver’s license) and drive to the gym to work out.

Working out at home cuts out the hardest hurdle for me which is getting to the gym. Once I am there, I love working out and the feeling I have after. But gathering my stuff and actually getting out of the door and into the car just is not happening. But with working out at home, you often do not even have to get out of the door.

One of my favorite (and cheapest) ways to work out is by getting outside. The minute the spring weather came it was like a switch had turned and every person was outside enjoying the weather. I mean if you have to work out, you might as well enjoy the weather, right?

Simple working out at home is just as easy as strapping on shoes and hitting the road. But if you want to get serious about working out, you need the right gear. Sure, you can do without, but you will have a better work out that is more fun.

  • Water bottle. The hard thing with running or walking outside is making sure you are hydrated. In addition to perspiring from the physical activity, you are also losing a lot of water from the heat of the sun. And replenishing after your work out might not be enough to keep you from getting dehydrated. If you are lucky enough to work out in a friendly neighborhood, you could bum a drink from a neighbor’s hose. But to be safe take a water bottle. Waist packs (read: not fanny packs) are great for this. These slim, adjustable bands have a pouch for your water bottle and often a small zipper for other items like a house key and cell phone. Waist packs are much better than carrying your water bottle, which can actually inhibit your form when running.
  • Good shoes. For basic walking, your needs are not too particular with shoes. But if you have high arches (or no arches) you will want to purchase shoes or insoles that are specifically designed for your feet. If you like to run, visit a shoe store that specializes in runner’s shoes. A sales associate can watch your run and help you find the perfect shoes for you.
  • Bright clothing. Exercising outside means you are put into a lot of potentially risky situations. The most dangerous is cars. Wear bright, reflective clothing when you run, especially at night, to ensure that all drivers on the road will be able to see you.

Be safe and have a great and cheap work out!

Home Upgrade – Painting The Outside of Your House

One of the easiest and yet hardest home repairs can be painting the exterior sides of your house. Of course, not all houses can be painted on the outside. But what a dramatic change can be seen, almost like coming home to a new house.

But there are several things that need to be done prior to performing an external painting job.

You may be itching to get this done because of the warm weather, but remember, things change quickly and this can damage and ruin your entire effort.

Let’s look at some things to remember:

Paint and the Weather

Paint is the most important aspect of the job of painting outside.  The issue with paint is long and important to remember. Weather can affect paint in a drastic form. Say you put on a paint in cold or cooler weather, it may not dry properly and this could result in a poor outcome. Adhesion may be what suffers and peeling or even cracking can occur.

If rain is in the forecast, or it arrives unexpectedly, still wet pain will slide right of the side of your house.

Surprisingly, direct sunlight can also have an adverse effect. Blistering of the paint is often seen, especially in the high temperature months.

A cloudy, but warm day, with no rain in sight is often a great way to apply paint.

Paint and Understanding Your Needs

Needs and Wants for outdoors paints are vast and changing. There are many different types of external paints.  Be aware of Consumer report that annually comes out and rates paints and what they can do.

Paints can be rated according to how well they resist cracking, dryness, color fading.  In areas of high dirt or mildew, paints can also be rated according to where you live and what needs you will have.

If you are surrounded by trees or desert, living in different parts of the country, you wouldn’t want the same paint for those two different areas.  You may end up getting the same color, but different paints.

Going Overboard

Having a unique house color is what many want and expect. But what if you stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe this is exactly what you want. But, on the other hand, choose a subtle color that you really enjoy. Don’t necessarily be too unique, but enjoy what you’ve got.

Taping and preparing.

The painting is the easy part. Often the preparation to get to that point is difficult. Mask windows, air conditioners, window wells, doors, and everything else that needs to be done.

Having a good ladder or scaffolding is vital to get to the areas of the house.  Watch out for wind spraying your paint onto adjacent fences, grass, or maybe your neighbor’s house. I am certain they wouldn’t love bright yellow with their dark brown.

Touch ups Will Be Required

Whether it’s in the first 10 days or 10 months, it is likely that touch ups will be required. Maybe the sun hit the back side of your house and you put less paint. As you look at it a few days later, another coat may be required.

Maybe you will do the walls one color and the doors, trim and other areas instead of doing the entire house. Maybe it is a gradual finishing project. Just doing some of the more basic things will ensure that your house looks better for far less.

Look at the entire project as a whole

Maybe you have brick or live in the dessert. Match existing color to what is already there.  There are even computer programs that can help match colors.

Pick a color that will do in where you live and what rocks, fence, or other colors that are already present.

Cost

Paint, especially exterior paints can be expensive and a larger number of paints can be required. Remember that to have it professionally done can cost over $4,000 and maybe much more. Find a good and well known company that does this. Even if you are just getting a quote or a professional opinion about if and what needs to be done.

Good  Luck

Perfection on the first attempt is unlikely. Work hard and you will be happy about the great changes that can happen.  It might take some luck and knowing a few good friends. But, in the least, talk with those at the store and see what their opinions may be.  There are a lot of good resources from magazines to actual professional help.

Make Money From Your Home Hobby

Have you ever found yourself crafting one day and thinking I could totally get paid for this. There comes a time in many hobbyists minds when they think about getting paid for what they love to do for free. For mass hobbyists (those who create more things than they could ever use) this can be an ideal way to support their creative habit.

Many hobbies can make money, and it is a natural progression for those who enjoy being their own boss and like extra income. Plus, you are doing something that you love and getting paid for it. What could be better?

Marketable hobbies can be anything from crafting (sewing, jewelry making, scrapbooking) to other skills like photography and Photoshop, editing or writing.

If you have a hobby that you want to make cash from, try a few of these tips.

  • Get in the fairs/conferences. For crafters, this step is easier than others because craft fairs abound. A fair or market is a great way to get your product out there and into the hands of consumers. For many small businesses, this may be the only way to get your product “in the stores.” This also gives you an opportunity to meet with people and see other crafters and their products. For those with skills that are not tangible, conferences are a great way to hone your skills and learn how to market them. Think about a writer’s conference or a photography retreat.
  • Go online. Selling your wares online has never been easier, especially with sites like Etsy.com. Getting online will open up your products to a whole new audience. If you really want to change things up, create your own online store that is designed toward your brand. Create a Facebook page and a blog to even further your online presence. This will allow your fans to get to know the person behind the product which often times can get you more clients. If you have a nontangible skill you are marketing, online is still for you. If it is photography, create a Flickr account or blog to showcase your latest work. Writers need a site to showcase their best writing work and links to other pieces.
  • Spread the word. Tell everyone you know. This might sound like being obnoxious, but most business is found by word of mouth. Letting your friends and family know that you are going into business for yourself is the best way to start. The trail of referrals will only spread from there.
  • Know hobby vs. business. If you want to make serious money, you need to stop thinking of it as a hobby and as a business. You will never break past the dabbling phase if you do not treat it like a job. That being said, there are times that making money can suck the fun out of a hobby. Decide what makes you happy and go for it. If the money makes you hate the hobby, start doing it for yourself.

Why all the fuss about having a Garden?

When you are at home, you want to relax and do something for yourself. You’ve spent the week taking care of kids, doing dishes, vacuuming, and making dinner. Maybe you’ve been having one long week at work.  What can you do at home for you?  It needs to be something relaxing and worth it.

The answer could be watching television. That’s right. Television is a way to sit back and relax. Put in a movie or TiVo your favorite show.  But at the end of the day, you have nothing productive to show for it.

That’s the difference between watching television and working on a garden.  At the end of the day, you will have something to show for it and you will feel great.  Even if you killed everything in the process.

Where to start?

My first suggestion is that gardening is as easy or hard as you want it to be. If you are just starting out, the first place to look is online. Yep, that’s right online.  Take a look at other gardens or what others are planting.  Then decide on what you want to do.  You can purchase self help books or gardening books, but really, you need to have an idea in hour head on what you are going to do.

Get some dirt!

Find out where you are going to get your clothes dirty.  Even it is small, say a garden box, it is okay. Just figure out where you want to be.

Don’t think too big

When you are just starting out, don’t start a garden larger than your own bedroom. This isn’t the standard for everyone just a good piece of mind. If you have days and days and days to work on it, this could be changed a little.

It you start something too big, it is much more likely that you won’t finish.

Choose Tools on a Need to Use basis

You can overwhelm yourself by choosing too many tools. It starts with a small shovel, a garden hose, some water, and some seeds. Don’t get much more complicated than this, at least the first day.   You won’t plant something today that will be ready tomorrow. If you find yourself needing another tool, then buy it as you go.   Don’t buy the whole store and make things worse.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t need more things than originally stated. But be careful about financially bankrupting your garden before it starts.

Choose foods that you’ll eat

If you are doing a vegetable garden, pick four or five vegetables that you would eat three times a week or more.  If you love radishes but would only eat them once a month, buy them from the grocery store. This goes for watermelon, pumpkin, and other large fruits.   If you are an experienced gardener, all bets are off.

If you want Flowers only

Maybe you detest thinking about eating food from your own garden.  Rest assured, flowers alone can be a fun thing to plant. Flowers allow you a wide variety of choices and if you kill them, what’s the harm anyways.

You can choose from indoors to outdoors, color and size. There is virtually nothing stopping you.  But, make sure you don’t chose a thousand flowers when ten different types is more manageable.

Just do it

Gardening is a great way to enjoy the spring and summer. It is virtually possible for almost anyone to do it. Of course, your small apartment may only have room from one plant, but do it. Take care of it and make it yours.

If you have a larger space, you will certainly not be wasting your time. It will be fun and you will learn something. In the end, you may just enjoy an entire summer’s worth of good and fresh garden foods. A television show surely can’t beat that.  But alas, if you love television so much, as I do, why not watch a show after you’ve done your gardening for the day.

Gardening At Home On The Cheap

Seasoned gardeners begin plotting their gardens at the end of winter. For most, growing food does not even occur to those until summer. But those who know know anything about gardening know that you must get started in the spring.

Starting early will help you get a plan which in the long run will help you save money. Gardening is one of the huge money savers during the summer. Food eats up a monthly budget (pun intended), but a garden can help you par down that cost. Think about it, after the initial cost of planting and supplies, you can ‘live off the land’ for free! How great is that? Depending on the size of garden you have, you can grow many fruits and vegetables that would cost you bucko bucks at the grocery store. That being said, you can spend a lot of money on a garden if you are not careful.

If you are not too picky about your plants and are willing to be resourceful, here are some ways to keep your gardening costs down low.

  • Start from seeds. Yes, starting from seedlings will take longer but you will reap the financial benefits. Nurseries and home improvement stores will sell you plant starts. A general rule of thumb is the bigger the start, the more expensive it will be. Growing and nurturing a seed from the beginning is the most difficult part of the plant growing process. Nurseries are banking that you will pay extra to have the work done for you, but for a price. For example, a packet of tomato seeds will cost a dollar or two, but will have almost a hundred seeds. One tomato plant start will cost at least $3 each.
  • Mooch off of friends. It sounds lame, but you can save a lot of money on your garden by getting help from friends. Many plants grow rapidly and send out shoots. These shoots will dig deep into the ground creating new roots. These new roots can be uprooted and moved elsewhere. If you have a kind friend who has such a plant and is willing to part with one, you might be in luck. You can also go in with your friends. As I mentioned before, a pack of seeds can have a ton of seeds, often more than one person would actually need. Make it cheaper by sharing seeds with a friend. You can also find extra or unwanted seeds on websites like Craigslist.com or Freecycle.com.
  • Use perennials wisely. Perennials are plants that come back year after year. These kind of plants can be a wise investment as you only have the initial investment to worry about. Perennials can be grown from seed or, more popularly, purchased as a start. Use perennials throughout your landscaping to help keep it lush year after year. Some food plants act as perennials like strawberries or raspberries. One misconception is that perennials live forever. All plants do have a life cycle, so take advantage of those with a longer one.

 

Exercising Away From Home: How to Prevent Walking Injuries

While walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get in your recommended exercise. It is the easiest because nearly everyone can do it and they can do it at any pace. Newbies can saunter and power walkers can burst down the sidewalk. And what can be cheaper than free? All you need is you and the outside world to walk.

This low-impact exercise is ideal for those who have heart problems and should not over exert themselves and for those who have joint issues. That being said, walking injuries can happen (and no, I’m not talking about tripping over your shoelace). You just need to know what to do to avoid them.

One of the most common walking/running injuries happen to your knee. The most common injury is called runner’s knee. While it happens mostly to those who hit heavier on the joint, it can still affect walkers as well. The injury happens when the cartilage under the kneecap become thin or weak. It results in serious pain for the walker. To make sure you avoid runner’s knee, strengthen your muscles around your knee, especially your quadriceps. Your quadriceps are the muscles on the top (front) of your thighs. If your muscles there are weak, it puts too much pressure on the cartilage under your knee cap. Strengthen your quadriceps with squats and wall sits.

Shin splints are equally troubling to a walker. A shin splint is also another injury to a muscle; this time the injury is around the shin or your tibia bone. The muscles are pulled around the bone by tissues. Shin splints are when that tissue and muscle are strained or injured. Shin splints are caused by very tight calf muscles, so obviously, you need to loosen your calf muscles to counter shin splints. Before you begin your daily jaunt, wake up your calves with a few calf raises. Post walk give your calves a little rub to keep the muscles loose.

Ever heard the phrase “Achilles heal” when someone is referring to his or her weakness? The phrase was not invented because of Achilles tendonitis, but it still works the same. A person can be strong in all aspects, but the “Achilles heel” is the one weakness. And those who have Achilles tendonitis know can take out even the strongest. This injury is also due to stiffness. Good stretching before and after will help keep your tendons loose and injury free.

Another big walking injury is plantar fasciitis. This injury is a strain on the tissues on the arch of your foot. Good arch support is the best way to avoid any strain on the arch. Unfortunately, those who have flat feet are most susceptible to this tissue strain. First, find a good pair of walking shoes that have good support in the soles. If you need extra help loosening the tendons, roll your feet over a tennis ball.

Use these tips to avoid any walking injuries in and around your home.

How to Care for Plants at Home and Mistake to Avoid

Gardening is a great way to beautify your home and get in touch with nature. Many people find gardening satisfying for those reasons, as well as being able to grow something.

That being said, growing a garden is a science. That is, if you want to grow a good garden. If you walk through the how-to section at the library, you will find hundreds of gardening books throughout the stacks. That is because gardening takes a lot of care and skill to make it flourish.

Here are the basic things you need to do to care for your plants:

  • Water. It is the source of life for a plant. Consistent watering literally keeps a plant from dying. This is especially important if you live in a more dry climate. When you first plant, you will need to give your plant plenty of water. This will help the plant establish roots into the soil and also help it avoid transplant shock. (Transplant shock is when the plant gets shocked from being moved from a container to the garden. If you do not ease the shock, the plant could die.) After the plant is more established into the ground, follow the recommended watering schedule. If you do not want to spend your days standing out in your garden with a hose, install an irrigation system that will do the watering for you. You can set it up to a schedule which takes out the guess work.
  • Fertilizer. This is the jump start many plants need to keep alive year after year. Perennials (the plants that you plant once and continue to live year after year) need to be fertilized once a year for optimal growth. Annuals do not need much fertilizer; those plants will get what they need from the soil. Find fertilizer at any home improvement store or plant nursery.
  • Deadhead. This is actually one of my favorite gardening chores. Deadheading is when you cut off or remove dead parts of the plant. This happens often with petunias. The flowers will bloom and then dry up and die. You need to remove those dead parts so new parts of the plant can grow. If not, the plant will put all of its energy to try to revive that part of the plant instead of focusing on new growth. Plus, it makes your garden look better.
  • Add new mulch. Mulch is your secret weapon to fight weeds. However, it can decompose after a few years, so you need to replace it to keep it looking fresh. Mulch also keeps your garden looking nice and uniform.

Planting Mistakes to Avoid

  • Avoid utility lines. When planting your garden or with any landscaping, keep an eye out for utility lines. Mark them before you do any heavy work or risk knocking out power or water for your entire neighborhood.
  • Give your plants space. Overcrowded plants will fight each other for sunlight and other nutrients. Give them space for optimal growth.
  • Ditch aggressive plants like morning glory. You will never get rid of them.