Keep Your Fresh Cut Flowers Fresh Longer

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We are smack dab in the middle of winter. That means you have to bring some spring and summer freshness into your home to feel a little warmer inside. Fresh cut flowers may be what you need to feel warm, cozy and spring, when it’s cold outside. Want to keep your blooms fresher longer? Try some of these tips.

Start by Snipping the Stems.
Flowers have a vascular system in their stems that draws up water and nutrients to feed the blooms. If you don’t cut them, air that has been drawn into the stems while they were out of water can block water absorption. Use sharp scissors or pruning shears, and snip 1/2 inch off the bottom of the stems at a 45-degree angle. Every three days trim about 1 inch. Why do you cut the stems at an angle? It allows the flower stem to take in more water.

Trim the Foliage.
Before putting the flowers in water, trim as much foliage as you can off the flowers, if the foliage will rest under the water line. This will decrease the bacteria in the water and keep your vase clear and prevent odors. It also will redistribute the flowers’ resources to the main blooms. There will probably be some foliage in the water, but try to remove some.

Select the Right Vase.
Make sure the opening of the vase is the right size: Not so narrow that it crowds the flowers; not so wide that the arrangement loses its shape. You can even choose a short vase and really cut the stems. Fill the vase about two thirds full with fresh, cool water. Don’t use warm water. Warm water may make the flowers open faster.

Place the Flowers in Water Quickly.
Don’t waste time getting your bouquets back into water. You can even cut the stems while holding the stems in water. No matter what, don’t let the flowers lay on the counter for long!

Get the Temperature Right.
Keep fresh flowers from direct sun and other heat sources, including heat vents. To take it one step further put the arrangement in the fridge overnight. According to FTD, this strategy is the best way to preserve a bouquet.

Change the Water.
Fresh flowers need to drink fresh, clean water, every one to three days. Dump all the water out, swirl hot water in the vase to kill any bacteria and add fresh, cool water back to the vase. If the stems are ready to be cut, trim them. If there’s more foliage you can remove, remove that.

Remove Wilting Flowers.
Remove wilting flowers from the arrangement. They can get moldy and contaminate other flowers.

Place the Flowers in the Right Spot.
Flowers and fruit are not friends. Fruit and vegetables gives off ethylene gas, which causes flowers to wilt. One apple won’t make a difference, but keeping your flowers away from a large bowl of produce is a good idea.

It may not spring, but it can feel like spring in your house with some fresh blooms that stay fresh just a little longer.

Keep Your Kids and their Friends Entertained All Winter!

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Winter can be a snowy blast for kids, but when it’s too cold to play outside, kids need something that entertains them inside. Here are some winter games and activities for kids and the kid inside every adult. 

Indoor Snowball Fight

Whether there is snow on the ground or not, you can still have a snowball fight inside! Ball up some white paper or some white socks, give each kid a basket with their snowballs and let loose. Clear away furniture or anything that could be fallen over, tripped on or broken, but this is a great way to burn off some energy during the coldest days.

Pass the Antlers

Get a pair of inexpensive antlers and have them ready for a fun game of Pass the Antlers. It’s like Hot Potato, with a winter twist. Sit in a circle and start the music. Pass the antlers around the room as the music plays. Each player must put the antlers on their head when they receive them. When the music stops, the person with the antlers on their head or whose holding them is out.

Pin the Nose on the Snowman

This is a winter spin on Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Cut out a large snowman from some white paper and add some eyes and mouth, and even a hat if you’re creative. Cut several “carrots” from orange construction paper, add some tape, cover the kids’ eyes with a scarf, and let them try to get the nose where it goes on the snowman.

Reindeer Word Search

Write the word reindeer on a pieces of paper. Pass these out to the kids. They have three minutes to find and write down as many words that they find in “reindeer.”

Mitten Pictionary

Get out your classic Pictionary game and add a little winter fun. Put mittens and snow goggles on the child whose turn it is to draw the picture. This puts a fun, childlike spin on this classic game. Kids love it and cannot stop laughing while they play.

Hello to the Relatives

Grab your craft supplies and spread them out. Let the kids decorate cards with glitter, glue, paint, sequins, beads, whatever you have available. Then have them write thank you notes and messages inside the cards for all their relatives – grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and even friends. They’ll have fun creating these and the recipients will have fun opening them.

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the fun has to stop inside! 

Weekend Home Projects for Cold Winter Days

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It’s time to have some fun with indoor projects you have been putting off throughout the year. Here are some simple ideas to help you de-clutter, get organized and start your new year refreshed and ready for anything.

Clean up your digital life. The end of the year is a good time to edit digital photo files — you get to reminisce over the past year and create room on your hard drive for the year to come. Delete the fuzzy, out-of-focus and unflattering shots right away, then narrow your collection further by keeping only the best image when you come across a bunch of similar shots. Once that’s done, order yourself a book of your favorite snapshots from 2013.

While you’re at your computer, be sure to back up data using a cloud service or an external hard drive (or both) if you haven’t already done so. Collect all of your passwords in one secure place and clean up your virtual desktop.

Organize you winter wear. Rotate coats of the season. Do you have the tools you need to properly store your jackets and coats? Balancing five coats on a two coat hanging peg can be tricky, if not downright frustrating. Having the right hardware to store outerwear makes a big difference. Take stock of the storage options in your home. Do you need to purchase more hangers for the hall closet, finally fix a hanging rod, buy a coat rack or upgrade to more coat hooks?

Build a healthy pantry. Is one of your new year’s resolutions to eat more healthfully? If so, take this downtime as an opportunity to set the stage for healthier eating. Look at the raw ingredients you have and consider making some healthier swaps — whole wheat for white flour, quinoa or other grains for white rice, or maple or brown rice syrup for refined sugar. Make some healthy meal plans and shopping lists, and store them in your pantry where you can easily access them.

Make a scrapbook. Get creative and make a memory book using all the pictures you found in the clean up of your digital life. Use old ticket stubs, pictures, brochures, menus, programs. This is a fun project for the whole family on a cold and snowy day, and it gives you a chance to be creative and use those little treasures you don’t want to throw away.

Organize your greeting cards. Plan how you are going to display/organize all the cards of the season. Click here for some clever ways to be creative with your holiday card display.

The holidays and can be a hectic and often stressful time of the year. Being organized can help ease the stress and allow more time for joy and cheer

Cold Weather Hacks to Stay Warm Inside All Winter Long

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When it’s cold outside, you want to stay warm inside. Here are a few hacks to make your home warmer and cozier as we settle into whatever winter brings.

Add a rug or two. Got cold hard floors? A rug will provide some warming insulation. Even better, layering several will create a cozy barrier to keep your feet warm. Put a plush rug on a tile floor, and you’ll gladly stand up for winter.

Make your sofa snuggle-worthy. Put pillows and throw blankets on your sofa to make it a place you’re happy to snuggle on and snuggle into. Then burrow in with some tea and a good book or a good movie.

Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades. When you do this, the fan blades will push the hot air downwards (instead of drawing air upwards) and help keep the heat lower. This is especially important in rooms with high ceilings. How do you know your fan is spinning in reverse? When you look up your blades should be moving in a clockwise fashion.

Block a drafty window with a towel. Roll up a towel and place along the bottom of a door to stop drafts and heat leaks. Feeling crafty? Make some homemade door snakes.

Let the light shine in when it’s sunny. Open the curtains on sunny days; close them in the evenings. You want the sun to heat your home but you don’t want the cold nights to make your home drafty.

Warm your bed. Use flannel sheets and a warm down comforter to stay warm on frosty nights.

Wear your favorite warm clothes – the oversized sweater, the loose lounge pants – and don’t forget your socks. According to the Univesity of San Diego if your feet are cold, you’ll be cold. And wear slippers – in addition to wearing warm socks, keep your feet extra toasty when doing chores by wearing slippers.

Keep your oven door open after baking. Let the warm air circulate in your kitchen. This works especially well in a smaller home or kitchen, but it’s good to try no matter what size your home is.

Home alone? Keep your bathroom door open when you shower. The warm, humid air will seep out into your home.

Finally, close off rooms you’re not using. If you have an empty guest room or storage space, close the door and seal it with a draftstopper. You won’t waste money heating a room you don’t use.

Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

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The good news about shoveling snow is that you can burn some calories, about 250 in 30 minutes for a 170-pound person. And that may be all of the good news. As winter weather inevitably moves in, it’s good to keep in mind a few snow shoveling tips.

Prepare for shoveling.

  • Get ready before you get started.
  • Put on layers of clothing.
  • Stretch.
  • Wax your shovel blades by spraying them with cooking spray. By spraying your shovel blade with cooking spray, you make it slippery and make it easier for snow to slide off.

Once you head outside, maintain good physical health by doing the following:

  • Lift with your legs.
  • Push the snow across the walkway rather than lifting and carrying it. If you do lift, move your arms down close to the blade keep the blade close to you.
  • If the snow fall is deep, skim a layer off the top and make two passes in one area, so you aren’t pushing or lifting too much.
  • Take breaks and rest, and drink a lot of water. Shoveling snow is intense, and you need to treat the activity like you would any physical exercise, which means resting and drinking water.

Pay attention to paths.

  • Make sure you aren’t blocking any pathways or doorways with piles of snow. And push the snow far enough off the driveway or walkway that it doesn’t fall back to where you previously shoveled. By leaving room, you also are ensuring that you have room to shovel more snow if it continues to snow or snows again soon.

Care for your tree limbs.

  • If too much snow sticks to the trees, it can cause branches and limbs to break. Remember to knock snow off of branches, especially if it is heavy and wet snow. This will protect your trees and anything that is below.

Make your car safe to drive.

  • Knock all of the snow off your car’s windshield, roof, hood and trunk before driving anywhere. You need to be able to see and you don’t want it blowing back at you or blowing onto the cars in traffic.

Winter can be a snap (or a little easier, anyway) if you are careful in the snow.

Make Your Holiday Home, Holiday Guest-Ready

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Welcome your holiday visitors with a home that is guest-ready. It’s easy to feel ready for anything when the doorbell rings by taking a few simple steps today.

Clear the clutter. For a lot of us our guest room was once our “spare room” or it is still our office. Clear the clutter from the guest room when you know you are going to have visitors. If the guest room doubles your office, put away your files and move your laptop. If you store items in the guest closet, buy some storage bins and put things in the bins to keep the closet organized and welcoming. Clear out at least half of the closet, and leave plenty of open hangers so your guests can hang their clothes and jackets right away. Make sure some of the dresser drawers are available, too. Guests are more comfortable when they have a place to store their clothes and other items so they aren’t tossed around in their room or stacked on top of their suitcase.

Have a luggage rack ready. If you simply cannot empty any drawers or make room in the closet, get a couple of inexpensive luggage racks so your guests can put their luggage on those and pull their clothes from there, without having to work from a suitcase on the floor. Put an inexpensive hook on the outside of the closet and dangle a few coat hangers on that, so your guests have a place to hang up jackets and nice clothes.

Make a guest basket. Fill up a basket with everything from travel-sized soaps to snacks to munch on after you’ve gone to bed. Include a few travel essentials: lip balm, lotion, sunscreen, a lint roller and little essentials they may not have remembered or thought to bring. If you are feeling extra welcoming, put in some fun snacks, such as granola, bite-sized candy bars or fig newtons. Include some bottles of water or a reusable water bottle or glasses in the basket or next to the basket so your guests can get water during the night without having to fumble around in the dark kitchen.

Create an online cheat sheet. Make their stay easy by creating a packet ahead of time with all of the information they’ll need, like your WiFi network name and password, so they can log on whenever they want.

  • Add soft, low-key lighting. Make sure your guest room has a lamp with soft lighting or a 3-way bulb so they can adjust the lighting. Soft lighting makes it easier to read before dozing off and makes the room feel more cozy.Use good sheets. Put nice sheets on your bed. Splurge a little on sheets and a soft blanket. If the mattress is your old one from your youth, it may be time to buy an inexpensive but new mattress that is a little less used. Make the bed look lovely with a throw blanket or pillows, but don’t go overboard on the decorations. Too many throw pillows and guests get flustered trying to make the bed the way you like it.
  • Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet or on a small table or chair in the corner so your guests can be as comfy as they want.

    Provide a fan if the room gets warm, or make sure your guests know how to work the ceiling fan if there is one.

    Clear some space on top of the dresser. Don’t clutter the space with family photos or knick-knacks. Leave the space clear so your guests can put their jewelry, books, phone, etc. in a place that’s easy to see. If you do want to put something on the dresser, nothing says “welcome” more than some fresh flowers.

    Prep the bathroom, too!

  • Put out fresh towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, cotton balls, cotton swabs. If your guests forget something, they’ll be glad you thought of it.
  • Make sure you leave extra toilet paper where they can see it or in the obvious cabinet. No one wants to ask for toilet paper.
  • Put out a box of tissues, as well, if you did not put one in the guest bedroom.

Early Risers?

  • Put coffee by the coffee maker or prep the coffee maker and set the timer so your guests can start their day early (or late if you’re up and out before them). Put out some fruit and muffins so guests aren’t forced to root through your cabinets if they are hungry.

It’s all about your guests. Make them feel welcome and comfortable. By following a few simple tips, you’ll be able to make sure your guest and you have the visit of a lifetime.

Why Winter May Be the Right Time to Buy Your New Home

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It may be turning cold outside but fall and winter just may be the best time for you to get a hot deal on a new home. Don’t let the blues of shorter days keep you from house hunting in the fall winter. There are some good reasons that now may be the best time to buy your new home.

Fewer buyers are house hunting.
Most home buyers shop in the spring and summer, when homes pop up for sale like tulips. Because there are so many fewer buyers, winter home buyers are more likely to get a good deal on the house they want.

Lower prices.
With fewer buyers in the market, home sellers often lower prices to attract the buyers who are out there.

Sellers are motivated.
Motivated sellers may be a great thing for home buyers, as they are more willing to negotiate. When you find the house you are looking for, you may be able to negotiate on price, closing costs, repairs, and even items such as appliances or other items you want included in the sale.

Inspections may turn up more or different items in the different seasons.
You will have the opportunity to see the house at work in the winter. Gutters, windows, heating systems, etc. get put to test during the colder months. You may miss some of the curb appeal of the manicured lawn when shopping in the winter, but you’ll know if the plumbing is working at full capacity and able to handle extremes.

Don’t miss out on buying your dream home because it’s cold outside. Seize the opportunity to put the season to work for you.