Rosemary Papp

With over 35 Years Local Experience to Serve You

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Courtesy of By Mary Hunt  Photo credit: misteraitch

Iknow it’s time. It’s been time for at least two years, possibly longer. I need to clean my kitchen. Now, before you send the Health Department to my address, let me explain. What I mean by “clean” is that I need to clean out and organize my kitchen pantry, cupboards and drawers. 

If you walked into my kitchen, you’d see a tidy and sanitary place. But don’t walk into the pantry or open a cupboard too hastily. Something might hit you on the head. At this moment, a bottle of Advil has been tossed on top of cereal boxes, which are resting on pudding boxes that have long ago expired.

Cynthia Ewer, editor of OrganizedHome.com says the first thing I need to do is harden my heart. An efficient, convenient kitchen, she says, must be pared to the bone. I must dare to dump anything and everything that is not absolutely necessary and useful.

CLEAR THE DECKS. Ewer instructs me to prepare four boxes with these labels: Put Away (Kitchen), Put Away (Elsewhere), Give Away (or Sell) and Storage. Now I am to tackle one shelf, drawer and cupboard at a time, putting each item into its proper box.

KITCHEN KEEPERS. Once everything has found its box, send three of the boxes out of the kitchen. Now comes decision time. Ewer is ruthless in suggesting I need to just get rid of the electric french-fry fryer, that strange gelatin mold in the shape of Mount Rushmore and the odd collection of sports bottles from all those walk-a-thons. Ditto for pans I don’t use, dishes I don’t like and specialty cooking tools that I never use because they’re too much trouble to clean.

NO MORE STALLING. I’m going to follow the Organized Home kitchen decluttering plan starting at the top: The top shelves, which Ewer says resemble an unknown landscape at the back of the moon. (I keep wondering when she’s been sneaking into my kitchen because she seems to know this place quite well.)

Here’s the rule: If I’ve used it in the last month, it’s a candidate to stay. If I used it yesterday, that will be the backbone of my newly organized kitchen.

I am committed; I am determined. I will box and banish. I will not stop until every shelf, every cupboard, every nook and cranny of my kitchen is cleared, cleaned and organized.

I don’t think I’m alone in this need for kitchen organization, so I’m extending an invitation for you to join me. Let’s call it the EC Spring Clean Kitchen Challenge. All who dare are invited to join me in this marathon event. Actually, I could use the company. Somehow knowing others are participating in the same drudgery will keep me on track and moving forward.

The only requirement to join is a willingness to get your kitchen organized. And to post a comment below telling me how you are going to get started.

Stay tuned because next week I’m going to help you get motivated to declutter books, CDs, DVDs and electronics—and quite possibly get paid to do it!

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As you recover from this holiday season, it's the perfect time to start planning on ways to ease the stress of the next one! For example, when packing away seasonal lights, do your future self a favour and consider these storage tips: 

  • Unplug strings of lights that are attached, and wrap each strand separately.
  • Cut heavy pieces of cardboard into 6" x 12" pieces, cut notches into the long edges and wrap the lights around the cardboard, pressing the cord into the notches to stay put.
  • Empty coffee cans make for great storage too. Place replacement bulbs inside the can, then cut a slit in the plastic lid and put the receptacle end of the light cord through it. Place the lid on the can and then wrap the lights around the can.
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Dated Decor - Are there any that have overstayed their welcome in your home? With another year behind us, it seems fitting to talk about those once-stylish décor choices that could cause your home to look like it's stuck in a time warp, and turn buyers off when you're trying to sell.

Mirrored Closet Doors 
Few things evoke the 1980s quite like those sliding mirror doors with the brassy trim. But what if you like that they brighten and open up the room? Update mirrored doors by creating patterns with spray- or stick-on frosting, applying stylish decals, and/or painting the frame and track. Want to get rid of or disguise the mirror frugally? Replace the doors with panel curtains or cover them with grasscloth for a nature-inspired look, or wood veneer and rice paper for shoji-screen style.

Popcorn Ceilings 
Also called acoustic ceilings, popcorn ceilings were popular in the 1950s through the 1980s due to their ability to dampen sound and hide imperfections. Today, most homeowners want rid of them and many homebuyers consider them a dealbreaker. Why? They could contain asbestos, depending on their age; they're hard to repair and paint; and they can trigger allergies because they trap and degrade into dust. You can remove popcorn ceilings yourself by wetting them and scraping off the texture, but leave the job to professionals if asbestos is present.

Old-School Track Lighting 
Speaking of ceilings, they can feel rather cluttered and obtrusive when outfitted with older track lighting systems. You know the type: those big, bulky, white or black "cans" that were popular in the '90s. You don't have to abandon track lighting altogether to get with the times. Today's systems offer more subtle, streamlined designs, with smaller, less overwhelming, track heads and a variety of finishes, such as chrome and nickel, that also help bring track lighting into the 21st century.

Overdressed Windows 
Are your windows wearing too many layers (e.g., blinds, sheers, drapes, and valances)? Are they dressed up in frilly accessories like swags, jabots, and festoons? Are your curtains "puddled" on the floor? Heavily dressed windows not only look dated, but also block out natural light (which you definitely don't want when selling your home). The trend has moved away from a lot of fuss on windows and towards simple, sleek treatments that let the light in and that highlight, rather than overpower, your views and architecture.

Faux Finishes 
Like popcorn ceilings, faux painting techniques like ragging and sponging caught on in part due to their ability to hide imperfections. But these days, when décor trends are all about clean lines and simplicity, faux finishes are often seen as a faux pas. It's bold colors (unless your home is for sale), and the solid paint jobs that show them off, that are en vogue. Just as well – faux finishes are more difficult to apply and harder to paint over when you tire of them.

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The weather might be frightful, but that doesn't mean your heating costs have to be. Here are some tips to stay warm this winter without breaking the bank. 

1. Turn down the heat. You can save five percent of your heating costs for every degree lower you set your thermostat in the 15 to 21 degrees Celsius range. If your health permits it, the Consumer Energy Center recommends turning your heat down to 20 degrees Celsius. This doesn't mean you have to freeze this winter. A great way to save money is to turn the heat down during the day or even while you sleep. By lowering the temperature in your home by 10-15 degrees for eight hours, you can save up to 10% on your heating costs. Research also shows that keeping the house cooler at night can actually help you sleep better. 

2. Replace/clean furnace filters regularly. By keeping your furnace filters clean, you help to increase the efficiency of your furnace.  

3. Maintain your furnace. Have someone come out and give your furnace a tune-up. Make sure everything is lubricated, clean, and properly adjusted. This can make a huge dent in your heating bill. 

4. Eliminate leaks. Caulk leaks around windows, doors, and vents that lead outside. This helps to prevent the heat from escaping and can make your home feel less drafty. Caulking will fill any small gaps you may find. If you have a larger leak, your local hardware store will have a product to help fill the gap. 

5. Cover drafty windows. When it comes to covering drafty windows, there are two options. You can either use heavy-duty plastic sheeting and create and air-tight seal over the window using tape, or you can use insulating drapes. This is a cheap way to help make your home feel warmer. 

6. Use the sun to heat your home. The sun offers free heat, and in the winter, it often isn't utilized. Open the curtains on your south-facing windows on sunny days, but be sure to close them up before it gets dark to help trap the heat inside. 

7. Use ceiling fans to your advantage. Better ventilation in a home leads to better energy efficiency. Turn your ceiling fan on a low setting to help push hot air back down into the room.  

8. Get a humidifier. Air in your home can become very dry. Adding moisture to the air can actually add heat. Moist air holds heat better and feels warmer. A humidifier can help keep you feeling warm even when the temperature in your home is set lower. 

9. Cover your floors. While your tile or hardwood floors may be beautiful, covering them with a rug may help with your heating costs. Carpet and rugs hold heat better than tile or hardwood floors. This helps to keep your feet warmer without having to adjust the thermostat. 

Following these tips can help you to save money this winter while still keeping you warm and toasty.

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Going on vacation takes a lot of preparation. Although we like to take our pets with us wherever we go, sometimes that’s not possible. There are a lot of options for you when you have to leave a pet at home.

Family, friends and fans

It’s great when you have people in your life willing to take care of your cat or dog while you’re away. But whether you’re sending your pet out for a ‘sleepover’ for the duration of your trip or having someone check in on them at your place, make sure helpers understand the commitment they’re making.

If someone is visiting your house to take care of the cat, is he or she willing to stop by often and stay a while for playtime? If your pet is staying at someone else’s house, do you have an agreement about what to do if your pet breaks something or ruins the carpet? (Not like that would ever happen...) When everyone understands the expectations, chances are better that you’ll all have a good experience.

Choosing a kennel

Boarding your pet at a kennel has many advantages. You know that your pet will have around-the-clock care in a safe and secure environment. You’ll also be dealing with professionals who have experience with pets of all kinds.

But choose wisely; every pet has different needs, so you want to be sure the facility you select is a good fit and that you’re leaving your cat or dog in capable hands.

Get started by asking around. A personal recommendation can be invaluable. Keep in mind that price shouldn’t be the first consideration — a bargain might turn out to be too good to be true.

Do some checking. Is the kennel clean and well-maintained, warm in the winter and well- ventilated in the summer? Is there adequate exercise space? What’s the staff like? Visit

the facility, preferably unannounced. That way, you’ll see what it looks like under normal operating  conditions.

If you’re going on an extended trip and leaving your pet at a kennel you’ve never used before, try a weekend stay first. That way, you’ll have a chance to check things out without making a major commitment.

Professional pet sitters

If you have multiple pets or if there isn’t a suitable kennel nearby, a professional pet sitter might be a great option for you.

If the person is new to you, be sure to check credentials. Many pet sitters are members of organizations like Pet Sitters International or the Better Business Bureau. Pet sitters also should carry liability insurance and may even be licensed and bonded. Remember to ask for references. After all, if the person will be staying in your home with your pets, you want to be sure you’re choosing someone reputable.

Before you make a final decision, have the potential sitter come to your house to get acquainted. Observe how the sitter interacts: with your pet. You want to make sure your pet will receive personal attention during your holiday.

Leave a List

Help your caregivers do a great job by leaving a list with some of the details they might need to know. Here are a few things you might want to include:

•           Your vet’s contact information Where you can be reached

•           Your itinerary (when you’re leaving, when you’ll get back)

•           Medications, if any, and how and when to give them

•           Your pet’s routine —  when to walk the dog or feed the cat

•           Any special instructions about your home or preferences

Health concerns

A dog or cat with a medical condition may need special care while you are away. Befor you leave, check with your sitter or kennel to ensure they fully understand how to

look after your pet. Hopefully there won’t

be problems — but make sure you know what steps the caregiver will take if your pe becomes ill or is injured.

Remember — if you’ve taken the right steps and feel confident about the care your cat o dog will receive in your absence, everyone will enjoy the vacation more, and look forward to a healthy and happy reunion.

 

Article courtesy of Johnson Inc. Johnson is an Thsurance provider specializing in home, auto, travel and pet insurance as we/I as group benefits More information about Johnson wvvw.johnson. 

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