Archive | April 2014

Creative DIY Hacks To Improve Your Home

A hinged painting can a great idea if you want to hide the thermostat…

A hinged painting is perfect to hide the thermostat.

Displaying bracelets on a paper towel roll is also a good idea. This can keep your bracelets organized…

Display bracelets on a paper towel holder to keep them organized.

Old drawers can be great to use for creative shelves….

Use old drawers for creative shelves.

If you want to have some creative towel holders then you can’t go wrong by using some wine racks. Talk about bringing out the creativity….

Wine racks make great towel holders.

A shoe organizer is great for the pantry to keep snacks…

A shoe organizer is perfect for the pantry.

Ice cubes can be great to use if you want to take out indentation on carpet…

Ice cubes can take indentations out of carpet.

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Novelty Mailboxes

It’s Lawn and Garden Month! Hopefully you’re out and about sprucing up your yard. However if you don’t necessarily have the green thumb to landscape your yard, or if you’re just looking for a creative outlet, try a do-it-yourself novelty mailbox! A novelty mailbox is another way to show off your personality, and it can be a focal point for your front yard.

 Do-It-Yourself mailboxes can be quite simple. Sometimes all you need to do is paint the box the right color, and add the appropriate wooden or plastic fixtures.


Reduce and reuse! If you accidentally break a decorative plate, think about using it to decorate your mailbox:

 Or turn an old computer into artwork like this:

 Or you can get creative and use some old parts that are laying around.


Sometimes novelty mailboxes are not so much about the box itself, but rather the stand.


A novelty mailbox should reflect your personality. You can keep it quite simple and classic with a stencil…


…or you can get more elaborate and crazy.



If you get overwhelmed, you can always just let your kids decorate the box for you:



Whatever you do, make sure that it complies with government or neighborhood regulations. Choose a design that is big enough to hold a small package, and one that will hold up to the weather.

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How to Build a Home Gym

There are many reasons you might want a home gym. The closest gym might be too expensive, too far away, you don’t have the time to drive to the gym everyday, or running outside is either too cold or too hot. Home gyms can be a much more convenient alternative. There’s no commute and you can work out in your underwear if you want to. Whatever your reasons, here are a few tips to get you started on your new home gym.



Admittedly there are some downsides to home gyms. One of the main negatives is that it’s harder to stay motivated and on top of your goals. So set yourself up for success, and start your home gym by getting a whiteboard and marker. Write down your goals and monitor your daily progress. If you need another person to stay motivated, get a workout buddy or join an online forum where you can discuss your progress with other people.


Find the Space

Finding a space for your home gym is simpler than it sounds.  If you can lie down and make a snow angel, and if you can stand up and wave your arms around, then you have enough space for a gym. Of course, your gym can be as big as you want. Ideally, you should find a space away from laundry hampers, running children and any other distractions.  Set up a TV or stereo to block out outside noises. Finally, set up a mirror so that you can watch yourself work out, as this will decrease your risk for injuries.


Get the Equipment

Again, set yourself up for success. Everyone’s preferences are different, and so if you know that running isn’t your thing, don’t buy a treadmill just because you’re setting up your home gym. If you really want to work on some cardio, consider a bike or an elliptical. Here are some other basics to include in your gym:



Even if you don’t like lifting weights, you should consider getting dumbbells. Cardio will help you lose weight at first, but soon your body will adjust and your weight will stay the same. Get dumbbells for your resistance training, as they are relatively cheap and don’t take up a lot of space. They are quite versatile, and can be used for almost any workout. Bonus: A great way to save money and space is to buy adjustable dumbbells.


Stability Balls

Another piece of versatile equipment is a burst-resistant stability ball. These are a great way to work on your abs, as it isolates the abdominals and supports the spine. Stability balls can be a bit bulky, so one way to accommodate their size is to use them as a chair around the house. You’ll get a workout even sitting down!


Jump Ropes

If you’re tight on space, or don’t have the money to shell out for a treadmill or elliptical, consider getting a jump rope instead.  You’ll get a great cardio workout and be sweating in no time.


The best thing about your home gym is that you can customize it to fit your style. If you’re into lifting, get an adjustable bench so that you can lift from multiple angles. If you don’t have a lot of space and enjoy more of a peaceful workout, get a yoga mat and some calming music. On the other hand if you like to have some fun when you workout, set up a TV and pop in a Richard Simmons video. Your gym should be all about your tastes and preferences and helping you reach your goals.

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The Best Indoor Plants for Cleaner Air

Spring is the time for cleaning – time to blast away those dust bunnies and open the doors to let the fresh air in. Unfortunately the cleaning products you use can give off harmful chemicals, and the “fresh” air that you bring in can be mixed with gas fumes, which contain formaldehyde. Here are some of the best plants for inside your house that will help keep the air you breathe fresh and clean.


1.) English Ivy

Why it’s good: According to NASA, English Ivy is the number one plant for filtering the air. It absorbs formaldehyde and even reduces airborne fecal particles.

Sun and water needs: English Ivy does well with moderate sunlight. It can be grown as either a floor plant or in a hanging basket. Allow the soil to get dry between waterings.


2.) Aloe Vera

Why it’s good: Aloe vera helps clear out formaldehyde and benzene, which is found in many cleaning products. If the air ever becomes too infested with chemicals, the plant will start to show brown spots. Bonus: The gel inside the plants can help soothe small burns and cuts.

Sun and water needs: Aloe vera needs a lot of sun, so be sure to put it by a window. It’s easier to over-water than under-water it, so make sure the soil stays fairly dry, and only water every so often.


3.) Philodendron

Why it’s good: The heart-shaped philodendron is one of the best at cleaning out chemicals from the air. They’re easy to care for and can last for years. NB: This plant might not be the best if you have pets or small children, as the leaves are poisonous when eaten.

Sun and water needs: Philodendrons enjoy medium light and water. Pay attention to your plant to see what it needs. If the leaves start to turn yellow, water less. If they’re brown, water more.


4.) Spider Plants

Why it’s good: If you’re worried about your ability to keep plants alive, try starting out with a spider plant. They’re quite hardy and grow quickly. Spider plants will help filter out formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, xylene and benzene.

Sun and water needs: Spider plants like the sun, so put it in a hanging basket by the window. Water thoroughly, but allow the soil to dry between waterings.


5.) Golden Pothos

Why it’s good: Golden Pothos is another easy-to-care-for plant. It grows downward, which creates a beautiful hanging vine. Golden Pothos is great to put in the garage or by the door, as it clears away the formaldehyde caused by car exhaust. It also filters carbon monoxide and benzene.

Sun and water needs: Golden Pothos is easy to care for because it can survive in very low levels of sunlight. Water thoroughly and allow to dry between waterings.


6.) Snake Plant

Why it’s good: What makes this plant special is that it takes in carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at night – something most plants do during the day. So think about sticking a few in your bedroom for a little extra oxygen. The snake plant is great for clearing out formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide.

Sun and water needs: The snake plant can survive without a lot of sun or water. Besides the bedroom, think about putting one in your bathroom, as it would do well under the steamy and humid conditions.

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5 Steps to a Greener Lawn

April is “National Lawn & Garden” month! Whether you’re mowing the lawn already or you still have a few weeks until you get started, here are a few tips and tricks to keep your lawn green all through the spring and summer.

 1.) Don’t fertilize… at least, not yet.

Don’t believe the landscapers and fertilizer companies that continually push their products. Lawns can be fairly self-sustaining and do not need to be fertilized repeatedly throughout the year. Instead, wait until the fall (October for those in the North, November for Southerners) when the air is cool but the soil is warm. You’ll only have to fertilize once. The warm soil and fertilizer in the fall will allow the roots to grow deeper and stronger, and better prepared for the following spring.


2.) Water less frequently

A healthy lawn begins with healthy roots, and the deeper, the better. Lawns can actually last for several months without water, as long as the roots are hydrated. Instead of watering everyday for a few minutes, water your lawn once a week (if it hasn’t been raining) for about an hour. The longer watering session will allow the water to reach those roots that are deep in the soil, and/or encourage roots to grow deeper. If the weather gets dry, the grass can always pull the water up from the soil.


3.) Keep the grass long

Set your lawn mower to about 3½ – 4 inches. Longer grass shades out weeds and keeps the soil cool and moist. Cool and moist soil helps the proliferation of soil microbes, which help provide nutrients to the grass. These nutrients will help your grass spread to any bare spots.


4.) Put down the pesticides!

Never apply pesticides to your lawn. Pesticides kill all the good living things that you want in your lawn, including the plants, soil microbes and the earthworms that aerate the soil. The other tips in this article should keep your lawn clean and green on its own.

5.) Stay away from nitrogen

When you go to buy fertilizer in the fall, stay away from those high in nitrogen. These fertilizers will help your lawn grow faster, but it will be weak and unable to stand up to weeds and drought. Look for a set of three numbers, X-Y-Z. The first number will tell you the percentage of nitrogen in the bag. Try to buy organic fertilizers and look for a bag with a nitrogen percentage of less than 10.

 **Tip: If you live in the East or Midwest, you’ll need to apply liquid lime to your lawn once a year to counteract the acid rain. Any time of the year will do.


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How to Install a Backyard Pond



An outdoor pond can be a great addition to your backyard. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and it brings an extra sense of nature to your backyard view. Fortunately, installing a backyard pond is no longer something that has to be left to the professionals. You can install one yourself (or with a friend) in just a weekend with these steps.


1.) Pick a liner


The liner is what will line your pond all along the bottom, and there are three ways you can go with this: flexible, rigid and concrete. If you want a concrete bottom, stop reading now and go ahead and hire a professional, as concrete can get quite complicated. Whether you want a rigid or flexible liner is up to you. A rigid liner looks like a big plastic tub, and they can be good if you would rather have a pre-determined shape. A flexible liner is basically a large sheet of plastic, and it allows you more freedom. When buying liners, look for ones that can stand up to UV rays, as these rays will wear down the plastic quickly. Darker colors will make your pond look more natural.


2.) Dig

For rigid liners, dig a hole in the shape of your liner, allowing some room for sand. Once you’ve dug your hole, add an inch or two of damp sand and then pat it down for increased stability. For flexible liners, dig your hole in the shape that you desire. You will want to create levels 6-25 inches deep around the perimeters for plant installation later. Add a layer of damp sand at the bottom. With both kinds of liners, make sure that the bottom of your pond is even by using a level.


3.) Install the liner

For rigid liners, simply place the tub into the hole and make adjustments as needed. Add an inch or two of water into the tub to check its stability before filling it up all the way. For flexible liners, fit the plastic to the contours of the hole, and place rocks along the edges to keep it in place. Fill up the pond with water, and smooth out the wrinkles.


4.) Line the pond with stones

Both kinds of liners will have a visible lip about the edges. Fix this by adding stones or bricks around the perimeter. This will give your pond a nice finished look while also helping to stabilize your pond.


5.) Finishing touches

Once your pond is filled and lined, start making it your own! Add plants to the underwater shelves both to add beauty and to filter your water. Common plants include anacharis, irises, water lilies, lotus and water hyacinth. If you want, you can also add a filter, waterfall or fountain. If you decide to add any of these features, you’ll need to make sure that you have access to a water pump. Most of these come in prefabricated packages that you can just buy from the store and install.


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Natural Ways to Keep Your Mailbox Critter-Free

Opening the mailbox can reveal all sorts of fun surprises: a letter from Grandma, an invitation to a party or perhaps a birthday card. Unfortunately with the warmer weather coming, it could also reveal some uninvited guests. Wasps, bees and other critters can often be an unwelcome surprise, keeping you from reading Grandma’s letter. Here are a few ways to keeping your mailbox critter-free.


Birds are not the worst pest you could have, as they don’t sting or bite. However no one wants bird poop all over their nice mailbox. To keep the birds away, set up your bird feeders away from the mailbox. On the mailbox itself, place a little flag or pinwheel. The constant movement will confuse the birds and keep them away.



Ants seem to make it their duty to infiltrate your mailbox. To keep them away, first clear out any food particles or plant life that might be attracting them, and clean it out with some soap and paper towels. Then at the base of your mailbox add an insect barrier product such as Tanglefoot. This will make it harder for ants to climb up and enter your mailbox.



To deter the bees, keep your grass cut short and the flowers planted away from the mailbox. Cover your trash can lids, as any sweet liquids from soda cans and the like will attract bees for miles around. Then if possible, change your mailbox from a wooden one to a metal one, as carpenter bees can drill holes and build nests there.



Wasps are very territorial. Attach a fake wasp nest underneath your mailbox, out of people’s line of sight, and the wasps should stay away from the unfamiliar nest. Then, place a few dryer sheets in the mailbox. This will keep the wasps away and your mailbox smelling nice!


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Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Handicap Accessible


Vector cartoon characters and wheelchairs

If you or a loved one is facing a disability or physical limitation that requires a wheelchair, cane or walker, you are going to be facing some important lifestyle changing decisions. One of your concerns will undoubtedly be how to get around the house.

There are certainly any number of major reconstruction projects that you can undertake, including adding a walk-in shower or lowering all of your cabinets. However, there are also many simple and affordable ways to make a home handicap accessible

Entries, Walkways and Doorways


Make sure that floors are level and that any problem transitions are evened out to avoid tripping or catching – Threshold ramps, as seen below, are a great way to even out door ways.



A handicap accessible door should be at least 3 feet wide. However, it is not always possible or affordable to widen a doorway to accommodate mobility aids. If you have sliding glass doors, consider replacing them with French doors that offer a wider opening. Replacing doorknobs with easy-grip handles is one more way to ease entering and exiting a home for someone with physical limitations



If you want to better accommodate a wheelchair, remove the doors from cabinets below the sink so that the wheelchair user can get close.

Cabinets and countertops

To make the kitchen more user friendly for people with reaching, bending or standing limitations, move dishes and items stored in upper cabinets to the bottom of the cabinet and move items stored in lower cabinets to the top shelves. You may want to also invest in something to help you reach items such as a “Reacher”




Showers and bathtubs

Apply bath safety treads to the floor of tubs and showers to avoid slipping. Replace your shower head with a handheld shower kit to limit reaching or stretching that can put a physically limited person at risk.

Hand Held Shower

Grab bars

Suction Cup Grab BarsWet and slippery are two things any person with limited mobility wants to avoid. So, bathrooms can be particularly concerning. Install grab bars in and around toilets, showers and bathtubs to increase bathroom safety.

Suction Cup Grab Bars

Small bathroom? Here’s an idea

Handicap Accessible Bathroom

See more at:

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How To Protect Your Home From a Hurricane

Hurricanes have been a major factor in the damage caused by natural disasters here in the United States. From Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy, it feels like almost everyone is vulnerable. Even though hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1st, it’s never too early to start planning ahead.  Here are some tips to prevent your home from falling victim to a hurricane.

Impact-resistant windows

Impact-resistant windows, as their name indicates, can hold up against impacts from debris blown from the high speed windows of hurricanes. These windows generally come in two types. The first kind consists of three layers – two layers of laminated glass, and one layer in between of a shatter-proof membrane. Set within a sturdy frame, this type of frame makes it nearly impossible for wind and water to penetrate your home.

 The second type of frame involves a shatter-proof film placed over the glass, which helps keep the shards intact should the glass break. This second type is less durable in general than the first, but its durability really depends on the make and assembly.

 If you’re preparing for a hurricane, don’t put masking or duct tape over the windows, as this doesn’t do anything. If you decide not to replace your windows, or you’re short on time, considering boarding them up.

Elevate your home

This is quite a drastic measure, and you should only consider it if your area is below sea level and floods often. Elevating your home can be quite costly and the regulations vary depending on where you live. Contact your local disaster-relief area for more information.

Protect your roof

After Katrina, almost every house the Greater New Orleans area had blue tarps covering the damage done to their roofs. To protect your roof before a disaster, buy hurricane straps to secure the roof to the house. Make sure no shingles are loose, as these can become violent projectiles in high winds. Seal up any small openings where wires might be, to minimize wind and water damage.


If you have trees near your house, cut away any dead branches you see. If the winds are strong enough, there’s not much you can do about the whole tree toppling over. However if you trim back some dead branches you could greatly minimize the damages to your house if the tree itself holds up.

 Prevention is always better than cleaning up the mess later, so start preparing now. Hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1, and hurricanes usually don’t meet a US coast until much later than that. However if you start now, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare your home for whatever weather comes its way.

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Bamboo: The Better Alternative?

While Asian countries have used bamboo for years to build houses and structures, bamboo is a relatively new idea to us in the West. It is likely that you think of wood, bricks, carpets and tiles when considering to build a house. Bamboo, however, is probably allocated to a small spot on the windowsill where it can grow in a cute little spiral. So, where does bamboo fall into the mix?

Bamboo has recently been hailed as an environmentally friendly alternative to hardwood floors. Bamboo acts in many ways like wood, but is in fact a tree-like grass. It is also one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, with some species being able to grow 3 feet in just 1 day! In comparison, hardwood trees can take up to 70 years to mature. The following are some more ways in which you can compare bamboo and hardwood flooring.

Hardness: Just as there as many types of hardwoods, from pine to oak to teak, there are all several varieties of bamboo. Hardness depends on species, time of harvest and how it is manufactured. Good quality bamboo (such as Moso) can have a Janka Hardness scale rating of about 1,400. However the rating can vary greatly, and within about the same range for both hardwoods and bamboo, from about 600-2000.

Appearance: A point in the hardwoods column is that, because there are so many different kinds, you can buy woods in a rainbow of natural (and artificial) colors, depending on your preference. As where bamboo must be treated, stained or carbonized to significantly change its color. Carbonization for example makes for a darker color, however it also softens the wood.

For bamboo flooring, you have two choices: vertical and horizontal. This difference pertains to how the bamboo is stranded together. Horizontal bamboo flooring is laid out and its pattern has the typical “knuckles” you see on a stalk of bamboo, giving it a more natural look. Vertical bamboo is turned on its side and stranded together in small strips, giving the flooring a busier look.

Environmental Impact: Because bamboo grows much more quickly than hardwood trees and is able to naturally regenerate, it is a common perception that it is the more environmentally friendly of the two. However, the real picture is slightly more complicated. Most bamboo comes all the way from Asia, leading to extra fuel needed for transportation. Hardwoods produce about as much product as bamboo in the same amount of time, and the longer wait time equals fewer resources needed each year to cut and harvest the product. Additionally, bamboo is not unique in being able to grow back from its base, as this is a common practice in forestry.

There really isn’t a bad choice when you’re choosing between bamboo and hardwood flooring. A lot depends on the type of wood or bamboo. In general, look for quality in whichever you choose, as you’re likely to get what you pay for.

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