Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Make Your Home Winter Ready

Courtesy of Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore

Hi Friends,

Getting yourself ready for winter is a snap. Gloves? Check! Scarf? Right here. But readying your home for a long, cold season is another story. So, until someone invents a turtleneck sweater you can put around your house when it gets cold, there's some organizing to do. We've got the tips to help you.

Strategy for Saving

Organizing your home for winter can seem like an annoying and perhaps unnecessary chore. But the financial benefits will outweigh any feelings of being "put out." Winter heating costs can skyrocket if your windows are poorly insulated, your plumbing breaks, or if the heating system is out-of-date. Ensuring your home is prepped properly can save you a nice chunk of change while protecting your property for years to come.

Break It Down

Looking at a giant to-do list is overwhelming. To save frustration, break it down into two or three jobs you can tackle over the next three to four weekends. First up, windows. Check each one in the house for drafts and insulation needs. The following week, inspect pipes to avoid an unfortunate burst in January. You can make things even easier by dividing the job among the family. Assign each person a room to inspect and report back on whether it's ready for winter.

Three Steps to a Safe Season

#1: Prep the Plumbing

Drain the water from your outdoor faucets and garden hoses and arrange to have any in-ground sprinkler pipes blown out. Roll up the garden hoses and store them inside. Identify any "problem" pipes that are prone to freezing in the house and consider using heat tape to keep them warm during extremely cold weather. If the worst happens, ensure everyone in the family knows how to turn off the water at the source. This will minimize leaking when and if a pipe bursts.

#2: Heat Things Up

Everyone enjoys cozy evenings by a crackling fire? Ensure your fireplace is ready to provide warm nights all winter. Be sure to have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional before the first frost. Also, have a professional perform a routine check of the heating systems before cold weather arrives. This should include vacuuming the vents and other heating components. If your furnace has a filter, check to see if it needs replacing. For more energy savings, consider installing a setback thermostat that keeps the home cooler when you are asleep or away.

#3: Seal the Leaks

Keep drafts to a minimum this winter. If you have them, install storm windows and doors -- and don't overlook the basement. Add or replace worn weather stripping around the doors and windows and caulk any gaps. If doorstops are worn, replace them. If any pipes or ducts travel through an exterior wall, be sure to use caulking and weather-stripping around all entry points. These steps will block any potential entry points for cold air. That's an idea you can warm up to.

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed people get themselves organized. They are also co-authors of Everything (almost) In Its Place.

Don't delay friends, follow these steps to prep your house for cold winter weather.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Photo Compliments of Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hi Friends,

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on Wednesday, August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington, DC. Words that resound in our history today, however, most publications only reveal a portion of the speech and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share the speech in it's entirety.

By Martin Luther King, Jr.
Wednesday, August 28, 1963

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

5 Spots You’re Forgetting to Clean in the Kitchen

Courtesy of Emily Fazio

Hi Friends,

The grimy spots you might overlook when spring cleaning. Countertops, check. Stainless appliances, check. Oven, sink, stovetop, check-check-check. When you’re running through your checklist while cleaning the kitchen, you may not even realize what you might be missing. Do a deep clean at home this spring, and be sure to add these spots to your list.

The Splatter Zone

We clean the countertops often enough when they get showered with grease while cooking, but the out-of-sight and out-of-mind areas that we usually forget about?
  • the underside of upper cabinets
  • inside of our vent fan
  • light fixtures and bulbs that are in the vicinity of the cooking space
  • and the sides of the counter that butt up against our oven and range (inevitably the most ignored spot in my home, shown below)

Wet a cloth with grease-cutting dish soap, wring it out, and wipe down all affected areas. You’ll find that it’s easier to get the area around the stove if you slide the appliance away from the wall (it’s probably on wheels and should easily pull 3-4’ off the wall without having to unhook the gas lines or electrical, although be aware of how all attachments are expanding and unfolding at all times so nothing becomes pinched.

Fridge Coils

Remember how much dust was on the floor beneath and behind your fridge last time you pulled the unit away from the wall? Bet you didn’t remember to clean the coils at the same time. First, make note of where your fridge coils are located. They might be behind the unit, but they could be fitted beneath it, accessible by a small grate across the bottom front. There’s a chance that covered coils may affect the fridge’s efficiency.

Wherever the coils are, get them in your line of sight. Pull the fridge away from the wall and unplug it. Keep the doors closed so your food doesn’t begin to warm up. Set up your vacuum with a detail attachment, and with the vacuum running to pick up the floating dust, use a small paintbrush to loosen any debris that has collected on the coils.

Fridge Drip Pan

While you’re cleaning the fridge, take note of the tray that exists to collect condensation when the freezer defrosts. The pan is almost always located at the bottom of the fridge, and regardless of make and model is often accessed behind the front grate or kick panel at ankle height.

When you locate the pan, pull it out towards you like a baking pan you’re sliding out of the oven. Don’t be alarmed when you see water, that means it’s doing its job (otherwise the water would drip all over the floor), but do note if the tray is slimy or presents with mold spots. Those spores can circulate in your kitchen, and you’ll want to sanitize the drip pan a couple of times a year to keep it clean, more often if you have sensitivities to allergies.

Also? Check the drip tray below the ice and water dispenser on your refrigerator door. Stagnant water can breed mold in there too if it isn’t monitored.

The Dishwasher

Cleaning the outer facing door of the dishwasher is natural – but that’s not where it really counts. Inside the dishwasher itself, you’ll want to clean the interior walls, the sliding racks, and the inside of the door, because all can get covered with residue over time. The drain at the bottom of the dishwasher deserves special attention, especially if the food that rinses off the plates and bowls gets clogged in the drainage area; gross, I know. I like using a diluted vinegar solution in a spray bottle to clean the space, and if you have a bit of dried food debris sitting around the drain, use the wand on a vacuum to remove it.

Also pay special attention to the interior edges of the door and the folds in the rubber seals. They get extremely grimy, and when the build-up becomes substantial it will affect the dishwasher seal. That said, if you think your dishwasher is broken because a few drops have escaped the machine during its cycle, you may want to do a deep cleaning on the seal first before resorting to a repair man.

Toaster Oven

We use our toaster oven daily, and usually multiple times a day. While most items that cook within the oven are contained either on a metal baking sheet or in their own baking container, the toasts and waffles and miscellaneous items that are best handled flat on the racks are quick to leave a mess.

When tending to your toaster oven, open the door completely and remove the drip pan at the bottom of the unit. It catches bread crumbs, cheesy drips, and inevitable saucy splatters. Wash it, rinse it, dry it. While it’s out of the oven, and with the oven unplugged, use a damp cloth to capture any crumbs that fell beyond the boundaries of that tray, or slipped off when you were extracting the tray from the oven. Allow the inside of the oven to air dry. You’ll also want to use this opportunity to use some grease-cutting soap to clean the inside of the toaster oven door – for a spot that you think never touches the food, it sure does seem to get sticky and splattered.

The things we forget...

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

11 Household Uses for Hydrogen Peroxide

Courtesy of Farima Alavi
Photography by Farima Alavi, Flynnside Out Productions, Yocamon & Julie Martens Forney

Hi Friends,

Use this natural sanitizer in every room in your home.

In the Kitchen: Sanitize the Cutting Board

Hydrogen peroxide sanitizes and removes stains from wood and plastic cutting boards. To sanitize, pour hydrogen peroxide directly onto cutting board. Scrub with a clean sponge, and let it sit until it fizzes. Rinse thoroughly.

In the Kitchen: Wash Produce

Add one tablespoon hydrogen peroxide to a gallon of cold water. Add produce, and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

In the Kitchen: Whiten Grout

Make a 3:1 mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide until it forms a paste. Scrub grout with a clean, stiff-bristle brush. Let sit for a few minutes, and wipe off with a wet rag.

In the Kitchen: Sanitize Sponges

Sanitize and remove odor from sponges. Soak the sponge in a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes, and rinse thoroughly.

In the Bathroom: Remove Soap Scum

Make a 2:1 mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide until it forms a paste. Scrub with a brush, and rinse thoroughly.

In the Bathroom: Clean Toilets

Pour one cup hydrogen peroxide directly into the toilet. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, then scrub with a toilet brush and flush.

In the Laundry Room: Whiten Whites + Remove Stains

To whiten whites, pour hydrogen peroxide directly into the washer. To remove tough stains, make a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide, water and baking soda. Rub on the stain with a brush. Let sit for 10 minutes, then wash the garment in the regular wash cycle.

In Living Areas: Remove Carpet Stains

Hydrogen peroxide can remove the toughest of stains from carpet. Pour directly onto the stain, and let sit for a few minutes (or longer for tougher stains). Rub and wipe with a clean, dry cloth.

In Living Areas: Prevent Mold

Clean your humidifier and prevent mold in your home by pouring hydrogen peroxide directly into a humidifier.

In Living Areas: Sanitize Toys

Safely sanitize toys by placing them in a bin filled with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and warm water. Rinse thoroughly. Another option is to spray hydrogen peroxide directly onto the toys, and rinse or wipe with a cloth.

In the Garden: Remove Powdery Mildew

If your plants look like this, they're covered in powdery mildew. This limits the plant's ability to nourish itself and flower or produce fruit. Hydrogen peroxide is an organic solution to this. Add one tablespoon hydrogen peroxide per half cup water to a spray bottle. Spray thoroughly once a week.

Inexpensive but effective cleaning solutions...

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

10 Crazy Ways to Use Baking Soda (That Don't Include Baking)

Courtesy of Chelsea Faulkner
Photography by Cassidy Garcia

Hi Friends,

See why baking soda is and will always be a favorite.

Dry Shampoo

Replace expensive store-bought dry shampoo with this DIY version you can make for pennies! Mix equal parts corn starch and baking soda in a bowl. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil, mix well, then funnel into a salt shaker. Sprinkle mixture onto your roots and work into scalp with fingers to freshen up your hairstyle on the go.

Chalk Paint

Make your own chalk paint at home using paint from leftover projects! Mix 1/2 cup baking soda and three tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Pour one cup latex paint into a disposable container, then slowly mix the baking soda solution into the paint, stirring well. Use immediately, discard unused paint.

Clean Up Crayon

Did the kids' creativity leave its mark on your walls? No worries! Simply make a 50/50 paste of baking soda and water, then scrub the paste onto the wall using a rag and good old-fashioned elbow grease. The marks will disappear before your eyes, without ruining your paint! Tip: put down a towel or drop cloth to catch any drips.

De-Stain Plastic Food Containers

Don't toss stained food containers! Make a paste of equal parts baking soda and water, spread evenly inside the container and let sit for 24 hours. Wipe clean with a wet sponge to reveal clean, stain-free Tupperware.

TIP: Rubbing alcohol is another good stain remover. Damp a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and wipe the container before placing in the diswasher.

Nail Scrub or Fake Tan Remover

Nails looking yellow? Is your sunless tan a little streaky? Mix a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice with one tablespoon baking soda in a small bowl and let it fizz. Once the bubbles die down, apply the mixture to your nails or tan lines and let sit for 10 minutes. Scrub with a nail brush or washcloth to reveal shiny nails and a streak-free tan.

Keep Flowers Alive Longer

Flowers looking sad? Replace dirty water with fresh and stir in a teaspoon of baking soda. Cut flower stems at an angle and arrange in the fresh water. Blooms should perk back up within hours and last for a few days longer.

Teeth Whitening Paste

Polish those pearly whites! Mix one tablespoon coconut oil, one tablespoon baking soda and half a teaspoon hydrogen peroxide in a small, resealable jar. Once mixed, add a few drops of food-safe peppermint essential oil. Brush with this mixture two to three times a week to whiten teeth and freshen breath. Discard after two weeks.

All-Natural Air Freshener

Say buh-bye to harmful chemicals! Make your own natural air freshener with ingredients you likely already have at home. In a small bowl, mash together one tablespoon baking soda and 10 drops of your favorite essential oil with a fork. Funnel this mixture into a spray bottle, then top with purified water. Shake well and spray for long-lasting freshness!

Deep Clean Your Cutting Board

Clean that nasty cutting board in a snap! Sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda all over the board, then spray evenly with white vinegar. Let bubble for 5-10 minutes, then wipe with a cloth dipped in clean, cold water. Rinse with warm water and let air dry.

Shower + Grout Cleaner

Give your shower a deep clean with this easy DIY solution. Mix 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide and one teaspoon dish soap in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray shower tile generously, let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe away grime with a wet washcloth.

Baking Soda - secret cleaning tool...

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Easiest Way to Clean a Dishwasher

Courtesy of Emily Fazio

Hi Friends,

Sanitize and sterilize your most-used appliance with a single cup of vinegar. Cleaning your dishwasher may be one of those chores that lingers on the top of your to-do-list, but I’m here to let you in on a secret that’ll make the task nearly effortless. In fact, it’ll only need about 15 seconds of your time, which probably makes the dishwasher the easiest appliance to keep clean in your entire house. Follow this quick process that only requires one common household item — white vinegar.

It seems counterintuitive to spend time cleaning the inside of your dishwasher, a zone designed for cleaning that’s by all accounts soapy, hot and disinfecting when in use.

I liken this chore to cleaning your washing machine, in that with both appliances, soapy residue and deposits will build up on the inside walls and components, making them dirty and less effective over time. Unlike in a washing machine, a dishwasher also faces build-up from grease and food particles, while still being expected to outperform your wildest expectations in a single wash cycle. You have to admit — dishwashers are pretty studly, but that doesn’t mean they’re maintenance-free.

Do These Two Things Every Time You Run Your Dishwasher
  • The disposal drainage is usually linked to the dishwasher, so keep the disposal clear to help keep your dishwasher clean.
  • It's critical to keep the drain beneath the lower rack clear. When you unload your clean dishes, always check to see if any large food particles settled there, and remove them so they don’t rot and contribute to smells or clog drainage. Spritz the drain with white vinegar between washes to help keep it fresh.

The Big Secret: A Cup of White Vinegar

Every few weeks, fill a dishwasher-safe mug two-thirds full with white vinegar, and place on the top rack of your dishwasher. Run the dishwasher on the normal cycle with hot water for extra sterilization. The vinegar loosens soap scum, food particles, and grease from the dishwasher's walls and racks and washes down the drain. That's all you need to do.

Three cheers for easy chores!

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Live well,

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

Hi Friends,

May the New Year bring you joy, prosperity and good fortune...

Happy New Year from your friends at Interior Design!

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Live well,