5 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Do in January

Whew. The holidays are done. The new year has rung in.

That’s when smart homeowners know it’s time to do these five things that’ll save time, money, and hassles all year long:

#1 Organize Your Seasonal Storage SpaceImage: Frank Farm / frankfarm.org

Packing away holiday decor presents a big opportunity. It’s the best time to sort, declutter, and reorganize that space where you store your seasonal stuff.

So before simply stuffing your holiday things back in there somewhere, take inventory, then sort, filter, donate, trash, and re-home as many of your things as possible.

It’ll help keep you more organized all year long, and make it easier to find all your holiday stuff next year.

A gas stovetop with food crumbs, green teapotImage: Jamie Bonilla

Purge your pantry and frisk your fridge, passing what you can on to local food banks. Scrub the walls and kick-boards, and even pull those appliances right out from the walls for a thorough vacuuming to prevent gunk (and stinks!) from accumulating.

#3 Plan Summertime Projects Now (Especially if You Need a Pro)An outdoor space with patio furniture and a dogImage: Photo by ADZA

1. If you’re DIYing, you’ll be ready to roll at the first hint of nice weather.

2. If you’re hiring a contractor or other professional, getting your bids and contracts in place now will save you from competing with the spring rush (wait too long, and you may not be able to book anyone!)

#4 Create a Schedule to Clean ALL Your Home’s FiltersTwo home air filtersImage: Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”)

Check manufacturer instructions for all the filters in your home, and create a master schedule, then add them to your calendar app to remind you.

#5 Save Some Green at White SalesA bed with white sheets and a white bedspread by windowImage: @hawkes_landing

Linens and towels go on sale in January. It’s a long-standing retail tradition that started back when linens only came in white (hence the name), and still has a solid rep as a money-saver — only in more colors today.

Cut your threadbare bath towels into rags and restock your supply, plus fill in any gaps in your bed linens you may have noticed if you had a house full of holiday guests.

Source: houselogic.com ~ By: GABRIELA BARKHO ~ Image: Frank Farm / frankfarm.org

4 Sales Trends That You Need To Know About In 2019

It’s almost the end of the year, the perfect time to look back at what you’ve done and achieved, as well as look forward to understand what’s to come.

The world of sales has been rapidly changing in the last few years as new technology evolved and became more accessible to businesses and sales teams across niches. The question is, what will 2019 bring to the table? What will be the biggest trends in sales happening in 2019?

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about 4 sales trends that you need to know about in 2019.

1.    Selling to the new generation: Generation Z

Millennials used to be the “new” generation that marketers and sales people needed to start focusing on – and while millennials are definitely increasing in terms of buying power, there is a new generation emerging that both marketers and sales people need to be aware of:

Generation Z.

This generation is formed of those born anywhere from the mid-90’s to the mid-2000’s so the oldest in their early 20s while the youngest are just barely teenagers right now. Of course, the bigger focus should be on the older of the Generation Z who are gaining more and more buying power. Currently, Gen Z account for approximately $29 – $143 billion in direct spending, and they are well on their way to becoming the biggest generation of consumers by 2020, which is right around the corner.

So, how does this affect sales? Well, this generation is quite different from previous generations, at least in some respect. For example, they were born with access to incredible technology and grew up using social media, smartphones, online shopping and all kinds of other technologies on a daily basis. They also care a lot about worldwide issues and their own impact on the world, particularly when it comes to environmental issues.

Plus, there’s one very interesting statistic that might surprise many people: some studies show that Generation Z actually prefers brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping (57% said they prefer online shopping).

How do you sell to this generation though?

The secret stands in understanding who forms this generation and what they care about – the more you learn about them, the easier it will be to come up with the best approach to sell to them.

2.    A more strategic approach to sales enablement

One way or another, every sales team gets at least little bit of sales enablement, whether it’s the software they get to help them sell more efficiently or occasional training sessions. That said, there’s certainly been a lot of growth in this area in the past couple of years, with more and more businesses and organizations implementing sales enablement strategies, a trend which is very likely to continue in the coming year.

But, what’s more, there will also be a more strategic approach to sales enablement:

  •      An actual strategy and plan with clear objectives and certain steps to be taken
  •      A bigger focus on helping sales people develop their top skills and become better at their job
  •      An easier way to onboard new sales people and help them jump right into selling
  •      More focus on new technology that can aid the sales enablement process as well as individual sales people to sell more

How do you stay on top of this trend?

In order to stay of this trend, take the time to really plan out a sales enablement strategy, from helping to onboard new sales people as efficiently as possible to consistent coaching to your existing sales people.

Make use of technology like MindTickle to implement your strategy, as well as to leverage data as part of your sales enablement strategy. You’ll be able to create onboarding and coaching programs, simulated sales scenarios to help develop your sales people’s skills, plus you have access to Artificial Intelligence to help you maximize your efficiency and results and access to in-depth analytics to help you discover any knowledge or skill gaps that need your attention.

3.    Machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence and sales

Artificial Intelligence has the power to disrupt entire industries – and sales is no exception. For example, I already showed you how AI can help with sales enablement and coaching. There are definitely a lot of ways that AI will continue to impact the world of sales in 2019, though.

The more you can implement Artificial Intelligence into the tools you use to sell, as well as into your day to day strategy, the bigger the impact on your productivity will be.

Here are the main ways that AI can help salespeople be more productive:

  •      The ability to analyse huge amounts of data in a very short time will help you personalize your sales strategy
  •      Get recommendations based on massive amounts of data, thus saving time with following up and reaching out to the right people
  •      Predict the future – with access to so much data, plus the ability to analyse this data, comes a great power: the ability to predict the future. What will your next quarter look like based on your past work? What can you do to improve the results of your next quarter?

How can you leverage Artificial Intelligence?

AI is fortunately becoming more and more accessible by the minute. While the more complex systems might be out of range for the regular business, plenty of “regular” sales tools are implementing more AI-based features, such as CRM tools and prospecting tools.

If you want to also learn about your leads and prospects as well as accurately analyse your data, you can use tools like MissingLink to automate deep learning.

4.    Moving towards the omni-channel experience

Earlier, I talked about Generation Z – the new generation of buyers that is rapidly gaining a huge buying power in the market.

One of the things that these younger generation expect more and more is an integrated experience across all of a business’s channels. The new generations use various devices at any given moment, they research products and services online extensively before they buy and they often demand personalized experiences that flow seamlessly from channel to channel.

This trend towards omni-channel marketing and creating omni-channel experiences has a huge impact on sales. Most importantly when it comes to the relationship between a sales department and a marketing department. While these departments are (historically) quite clearly separate, the move towards omni-channel marketing demands a much closer relationship between the 2.

How do you create more omni-channel experiences from a sales point of view?

There is a lot that needs to be done in order to develop a true omni-channel experience for all of your customers:

  •      Identifying all the platforms and channels your audience uses and leveraging them
  •      Creating a seamless transition between all channels and platforms that audiences have access to (for example, if a lead starts a conversation via text messages while they’re on the bus or train but then want to change the channel once they get home, then they should be able to do as seamlessly as possible, without wasting any time)
  •      Finding ways to integrate technology such as social media into bricks-and-mortar stores

From a sales point of view, the most important thing is to collaborate with the marketing department. It’s not just a case of marketers updating sales people on progress or sending them leads occasionally, but rather a truly close relationship where the 2 parties actually collaborate, as sales and marketing are more intertwined than ever.


In order to improve productivity and overall sales, it’s important to stay on top of trends and implement new technologies and new tactics, such as:

  •      Learning how to sell to Generation Z
  •      Implementing a sales enablement strategy to help your sales team be more productive
  •      Leveraging new technology like AI and machine learning to improve sales and knowledge
  •      Integrating marketing and sales and developing more omni-channel experiences for your audience

Source: forbes.com ~ By: Lilach Bullock ~ Image: pixabay.com

Etiquette Tips for the Christmas Holiday

Christmas is one of the most important celebrations for Christians around the world, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Between the crowded shopping malls and people’s expectations, we all run the risk of feeling let down, which can lead to tension and bad behavior.

Avoid letting this happen by taking breaks to think about what the holiday is truly about. Those who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas can spend some time in prayer. Take a few minutes and enjoy some quiet moments with your children to help prevent your tension from affecting them.

Christmas Cards 

Most people enjoy receiving Christmas cards. You don’t have to be wordy, but a nice thought above your signature can make someone’s day. While it’s okay to have a holiday newsletter enclosed, keep it brief and positive. Avoid too much bragging, or you’ll have your recipient rolling her eyes.

If someone has invited you for a holiday dinner, party, or overnight, be a gracious guest and mind your manners. Don’t forget to bring a gift. If you drop or spill something, clean it up to the best of your ability and let the host or hostess know. Offer to cover the cost of a cleaning bill.

Hosting a Gathering  

Greet everyone at the door and make small talk with everyone. Introduce guests to each other. Have plenty of food and activities for everyone. This is the time to use your best dishes and flatware. Do as much preparation as possible the day before so you can enjoy the party with your guests. Keep an eye on anyone who is drinking alcohol and never let anyone drive if they’ve had too many. If anyone offers to help clean up, give him or her a single task and then thank him.

Be Generous  

You don’t have to spend a fortune on gifts, but it is nice to have something for all your friends and family members. If funds are limited, bake cookies, divide them up, put them in clear bags, and decorate the package with colorful ribbons.

Show Gratitude 

Never expect a gift from anyone but be grateful for anything someone gives you. Keep in mind that the person took time to think about you and select something he or she thought you would like.


If someone gives you something you can’t use or don’t care for, it’s okay to regift it later, as long as you don’t give it back to the original person. To prevent this from happening, attach a note with the original giver’s name.

Tip Well 

It’s always important to be generous with tips after you receive good service, but it’s especially important during the holidays when you want to spread good cheer. When you go to a restaurant, get your hair done, or purchase any service, add a little extra to the tip.

Office Party 

Have fun at the office party, but don’t forget where you are. It is never okay to drink too much, tell off-color jokes, or get too chummy with the person in the next cubicle over. Laugh, make small talk, and enjoy getting to know your coworkers on a lighter level, knowing that you’ll be back to work in a few hours or days.


Spend extra time with your children or grandchildren and be prepared to remind them of the manners you taught them. It’s easy to forget during the chaos surrounding Christmas.


If you enjoy the Santa tradition, stand nearby and never take your eyes off your child. If your little angel starts talking too much and says anything you don’t want strangers to know (your address and travel plans), don’t hesitate to interrupt and change the subject. Make sure you thank Santa before you leave.

Thank You Cards

As soon as possible after Christmas, send a thank you card to anyone who has given you a gift, hosted an event that you attended, or done something special for you.

Make the Holidays Extra Special

Since proper etiquette is all about being respectful and gracious, here are some ideas to make this holiday season even more special:

  • Do a good deed. Look for opportunities to perform acts of kindness and involve your children.
  • Start a canned food drive and make a delivery to a food pantry or homeless shelter.
  • Be generous when you see bell ringers in front of stores.
  • Find a giving tree and purchase gifts for someone you don’t know.
  • Bake or purchase bakery cookies and deliver batches of them to your local police and firemen.
  • Visit lonely residents at a senior center or nursing home.

Source: thespruce.com ~ By:   ~ Image: pixabay.com

7 Traditional Housewarming Gifts (And What They Really Mean)

Housewarming gifts have been a popular tradition since medieval times. Originally, certain gifts for the home were thought to have special powers, often providing a newcomer’s place of residence with warmth, luck and wonderful wishes. While many of these items are still given as Christmas gifts, wedding presents and at housewarming parties, the meaning behind them is not well known.

Are you ready to discover the symbolism behind traditional housewarming gifts? This handy gift guide is just what you need! We’ve even included a few modern-day gift ideas to help you maintain the original spirit of housewarming.

The Meaning Behind Traditional Housewarming Gifts

The symbolism of these unique gifts for the home might surprise you!

1. Candles

Whether you’re giving Christmas gifts, presents for the new couple, or items for a recently relocated loved one, candles are a great way to go. To ensure light for your recipient through the darkest of times, choose unique candles and pair them with creative candle holders.

Home Sweet Home 6 Inch Porcelain House

2. Wine Gifts

Wish good cheer and prosperity on your friends and family with wine giftsthis year. Skip the liquor store down the street and consider a special vino from our exciting merchants! And be sure to order personalized wine glasses for a customized touch.

3. Salt and Herbs

Salt and herbs are meant to always bring spice and flavor to those you hold dear. Opt for high quality products and pair them with a creative grinder set to ensure his or her life (and dinner) is never bland.

SpiceCrafts Dual Salt & Pepper Grinder Set

4. Broom

Sweep away bad luck and evil spirits when you give your friends and family members a broom for their new home. You can choose a traditional broom and pair it with a few cleaning supplies for a practical housewarming gift. Or add a little elbow grease to an ornamental broom for one-of-a-kind home decor!

5. Coins

Meant to represent luck and good fortune, coins are unique housewarming gifts. Present your coin gifts in style with a DIY money tree or mount them in personalized photo frames. You could even embed them in homemade decorative candles and double your loved one’s luck.

BLack Friday Money

6. Plants and Olive Oils

Plants have always been popular gifts for the home that bring wishes of long lives to recipients. But giving your loved one a bottle of olive oil from the grocer downtown to wish for his or her health and well-being might seem a little odd. Combine the two to create a homemade decoration that is sure to be adored.

7. Wood

Wood symbolizes stability, peace and harmony. Since you might feel a little strange presenting a chunk of wood from your backyard tree, however, you might want to jazz this one up a bit. Consider a customized cutting or serving board for the kitchen instead!Good Food Good Life Acacia Cheese Board with Sunflower Spreader

Be sure to add a positive sentiment to not only give your gift a more personalized touch, but also to let your recipient know the meaning behind his or her traditional housewarming gift.

Source: christmasgifts.com ~ Image: christmasgifts.com

How to Inventory Your Home for an Insurance Adjuster

Q. Do I need to inventory every item I own in the event of a house fire?

A. The more detail about your belongings that you can relay to an insurance adjuster in your home inventory, the more you stand to recover from your insurance claim, says Tobie Stanger, a CR senior money editor. At the start of your home inventory, focus first on the big and valuable: major appliances, jewelry, furniture, rugs, electronics, and art or collectibles.

Using your smartphone’s video feature, sweep the camera around a room, narrating the description of items you’re filming and—if you remember—what you paid. (Photograph receipts if you have them.) Capture serial numbers and brand names when possible so that the insurer can replace what you had with exact or similar items.

Once you’ve cataloged the pricier items for your home inventory, then open cabinets, drawers, closets, and boxes and do the same. “But don’t sweat the small stuff too much. An insurance adjuster is likely to create a ‘bulk estimate’ of those things—for example, $200 for everything in your utility closet,” Stanger says.

Store the images and video for your home inventory on a cloud service, such as iCloud or OneDrive, or put it on a thumb drive and stash it in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe. Several insurers even offer free web-based home inventory storage tools and apps. American Family Insurance’s DreamVault, for instance, lets anyone create a digital home inventory; it’s available online and as an Android and iOS app.

Source: consumerreports ~ By:  Consumer Reports ~ Image: pixabay.com

Holiday Travel Tips for Homeowners

The holidays are quickly approaching, and for many of us that means traveling to visit our friends and family members that we haven’t seen in a while. Before you let the excitement and anticipation take hold, you should turn your thoughts to preparing your home for your absence.

There are a number of ways to make sure your home is safe and secure while you’re gone, each one with its own pros and cons. Think carefully before deciding which will work best for you, as not enough thought prior to your vacation can lead to a disaster upon your return.

In this post we’ll not only cover some of the most popular options, we’ll give you a pre-travel checklist for your home to help you to keep it safe and well during your adventures.


Housesitting is when someone you know, preferably a friend or family member, stays in your house while you’re away.

This is a great option for people who have someone they know close by, and who doesn’t mind leaving their own home for a short time. If they live in an apartment or other small residence, chances are they’ll enjoy the luxury of a larger home all to themselves.

Even if the individual can’t spend the nights at your home for whatever reason, having them check up on the house once a day will lift a big weight off of your shoulders.

Just make sure to leave them a list of things that need to be done and who to contact in case of an emergency.

House Swaps

If you’re traveling for the holidays, but don’t have a place to stay, a house swap may be the answer for you. If you can find another individual or family who is looking to travel to your hometown or city, you may be able to arrange to “swap” houses for the duration of the vacation.

This way, you don’t end up having to pay for accommodations or worry about booking a hotel. Just make sure that you have a clear contract with the other party so that you both understand the terms. Try to find someone through friends or family members before looking online. It’s best if you know the other person, even if it’s just through someone else.

Be careful about who you choose and ask someone you know that lives in the area to check out the house before you sign anything. Have them meet the people who you want to swap with to make sure that you aren’t about to get into a sticky situation.

Temporary Rentals

Another alternative to leaving your home vacant is to consider renting out your home on a short-term basis. In this type of agreement, you can create a lease, which can protect you from many different issues. You may even be able to find a short-term tenant through your realtor or through an old property manager or landlord.

Again, finding someone that you know (or that you know by association) is a far better option than renting to a stranger. Having your home occupied is a better option than leaving it empty, especially if you’ll be away for more than a week.

Pre-Travel Checklist

Tell Your Neighbors

The first thing that you should do when leaving your home either attended or unattended is to tell your neighbors that you will be gone. Let them know when you’re leaving, and when you plan to return.

Ask them to keep an eye on your property to make sure that no one is entering without permission, and leave them a key in case they need to check the heat or plumbing. If you get mail delivered to your home, ask them to pick it up for you so that it isn’t left unopened on your front step.

Turn the Heat Down

Keep your heat turned up enough to prevent any seasonal freezing, but low enough that you won’t be wasting power on an empty house.

If you have someone checking in on the property while you are away, ask them to turn on the faucets every couple of days to make sure that water is going through your plumbing. This helps to keep pipes from freezing, and it keeps the pea traps from drying out and causing unpleasant odors.

Leave a Timed Light On

If possible, leave an outdoor light on with a timer. Having a light on for your whole absence may show that you are actually away, while having one on a timer can indicate that someone is home. If you do have someone checking in on the house, ask them to make sure that they turn off any lights and lock any doors before leaving.

Plan for an Emergency

Traveling in the winter, either by plane or by car, is always a risky business. With inclement weather and unexpected storms, you never know whether or not you can trust your return date. Keep in close contact with whoever is taking care of your home to ensure that they are up-to-date on your plans.


If you have pets and will be leaving them at home, be sure to arrange for their care. Even if you only have a small pet like a fish or a gerbil, have someone check in to make sure that they have fresh water and food. If your trip is delayed, it won’t matter that you left them plenty of food and water before you left, they might be out by the time you get back.

Seasonal Care

If you have someone close by who you can ask, have them shovel and salt the walks while you are gone. It wouldn’t be much fun to come home to a pile of snow and a driveway that you can’t park in. If they’re able, ask if they can check on the house in the event of a power outage as well, to make sure that the heat kicks back on properly and that your appliances (such as your fridge) are back to working order.

Source: lawdepot.com ~ By:  Brittany Foster ~ Image: pixabay.com

How to Host a Thanksgiving Dinner for the First Time

For the first time ever, I am hosting my family for Thanksgiving. And not only that, I am participating in a time-honored tradition of the newly engaged: bringing the families together. Yes, for the first time ever, my parents and brother will be meeting my fiance’s mother and sister over Thanksgiving dinner — in the tiny two-bedroom apartment where we live in New York City.


As thrilled as I am to be hosting (and therefore not to have to deal with one of the busiest travel days of the year), I’ll be honest: I’m a little stressed out. Not because I think our families won’t get along — they’re all great people, it should be swell! — but because I’ve never cooked a holiday meal, let alone one featuring a meeting of future in-laws. And as much as I know they will all love the meal regardless, I’m starting to feel immense pressure to make sure it goes perfectly. I’m doing everything I can to make sure my home looks the part, that we plan ahead for the food and that everything goes as smoothly as possible the day of the feast.

But, of course, I also don’t want to go overboard when it comes to Thanksgiving Day spending. We have seven total people to feed, and on top of food and drink costs, we’ve already found ourselves stopping at HomeGoods to check out the tablecloth and festive placemat situation. In order to plan ahead as much as possible, I decided to reach out to a few cooking and finance experts to get the best possible advice on budgeting for the holiday. Here’s what they had to say:


This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s something I could definitely miscalculate: planning the right amount of food for the people you’re hosting.

Rick Camac, the Institute of Culinary Education’s Dean of Restaurant & Hospitality Management, says to be sure to consider people, portions, and yield, especially when it comes to getting your turkey:

Yield means what useable product you get after the bird is cooked down and ready to serve.

[Assume you need] 8 ounces of protein per person. This is a lot, but who doesn’t overeat for Thanksgiving, and who doesn’t want leftovers? If you’re serving more than one protein (such as a ham and a turkey) obviously cut numbers in half, meaning 4 ounces of turkey and 4 ounces of ham…Assume a 50% yield on average. You’ll likely get a tad better, but this is a good estimate. So, for 10 people, being served 8 ounces each, you need 5 lbs. of yield. That would call for a 10-lb. turkey. Personally, I’d order 12 lbs. to be sure but, that’s me.

Buying too much turkey isn’t the end of the world, especially if you can use the leftovers to make something delicious (my favorite is turning it into a shepherd’s pie). But over-buying also means you have a bigger chance of letting your turkey go to waste — and losing money because of it. Use Camac’s yield rule to make sure you get the right amount.

Source: nbcnews.com ~ By: Holly Trantham ~ Image: pixabay.com

7 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Cold Weather

As cold weather approaches, there are several things you can do around the house to make sure you and your family stay warm and safe all winter. These seven steps can ensure your house will be in top shape for whatever winter brings.
1. Protect Your Pipes:
checking pipes

We all know water expands as it freezes. If water inside your pipes freezes, it will expand, too, which can cause your pipes to crack and burst. Pipes also can burst when pressure builds up behind a chunk of ice, which is why it’s a good idea to leave faucets dripping in very cold weather. Either way, a burst pipe can cause massive damage. Take a few steps to winterize your pipes and avoid a potentially catastrophic claim.

  • Drain water from outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems to keep those pipes from freezing.
  • Disconnect and store outdoor hoses; cover outdoor faucets with foam insulators.
  • Protect water pipes that run through unheated areas of your home with insulation, such as the attic, basement, or garage.
Pro Tip: Know where your water shutoff valve is so that you can turn off the water in case of an emergency. Typically it’s located in the basement or buried near the road.
2. Check the Heat:
replacing air filter

The time to be sure you’re going to stay warm all winter is before the weather gets too cold. Check your furnace by turning on the heat and the blower to be sure they’re operating as they should.

  • Change your furnace filter at the start of the season and then every two to four months. Filters get dirty much more quickly if your home is dusty or if you have furry or feathery pets. Clogged or dirty filters are less efficient, which means your home might not warm up properly.
  • Consider installing a programmable thermostat if you don’t have one. Programming it to be cooler at night and when you’re not at home will save you money, and you can program it to be warmer for when you return or get up on cold winter mornings.
Pro Tip: Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. Everybody thinks of using fans in the summer, but they can help you stay warm in winter too. Set the blades to turn clockwise to circulate warm air from the ceiling down into the room.
3. Prevent Ice Dams:
unclogging gutters

Ice dams form when heat escapes through the roof and melts snow that’s settled there. That snowmelt flows to your roof’s edge and refreezes, usually at the eaves. Those pretty icicles can signal an ugly ice dam underneath. The problem with an ice dam is that snow that later melts can’t properly drain, so it has to go somewhere… and that might be through a leak in your roof, causing water damage in your home.

Fortunately, a few simple steps before the temperature starts to drop can go a long way toward preventing all of this:

  • Clogged gutters and downspouts are the No. 1 cause of ice dams. Clean them out to keep water flowing during the winter.
  • Seal places that may allow warm air to leak from your home to your attic, such as around vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches, and light fixtures.
  • Be sure soffit vents, which are along the eaves of the house and allow air to flow into the attic, are clear.

If you’ve had problems with ice dams before or have reason to suspect you might this year, you can take these additional steps:

  • Install snow and ice slides to prevent ice and snow from “bonding” to your roof.
  • Install a rubberized ice and water shield beneath the roof shingles, going three to six feet back from the eaves.
  • Hire a roofer to install heat cable along the eaves to melt ice.
  • Add additional insulation to your attic floor.
4. Clean and Store Lawn Equipment:
trimming hedges

After a summer of yard work, gas-powered equipment such as mowers, trimmers, tillers, and chippers can all benefit from service before being stored for the winter. This basic checklist will get you started on equipment maintenance, but be sure to check the owner’s manual for any specific requirements for your machines.

  • Empty all of the fuel. Gas can degrade all the time, and the ethanol in E10 gas can damage fuel lines and other components while sitting unused. Try to use up most of the fuel during the last mowing of the season. You can remove what’s left with a meat baster, then run the engines until they stop. Check with your local waste management or public works department for guidance on how to dispose of the fuel.
  • Clean the machine of oil and yard debris, and sharpen the blades.
  • Store them for winter in a basement, garage, or covered storage shed where they’re safe from the weather.
5. Inspect the Fireplace and Chimney:
sweeping ash from fireplace

There’s nothing like the glow of a fire to warm up a winter evening. But before you light up that first log, make sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and critter-free.

A professional chimney sweep can clean out soot and other debris that could catch fire. Keep your home’s warm air from escaping out the chimney when you’re not using it by keeping the flue closed all the way. You shouldn’t be able to feel any cold air coming down the chimney.

You can also install glass fireplace doors or a chimney inflatable that blocks cold air from coming down the chimney and keeps in warm air.

6. Seal Windows and Doors:
sealing around a door

Gaps around windows and doors can make it tough to keep your house warm in winter. Caulk around windows and install weather stripping around doors as needed. This minor and inexpensive task can help you save on heating costs.

If your windows and doors are older, they may be inefficient single-pane windows or uninsulated doors. Consider upgrading to double- or even triple-pane windows and insulated doors and garage doors to boost the energy efficiency of your home.

Another option is to add storm windows and doors. Remove, wash and store screens for the spring before you have them installed.

7. Stock Up on Cold-weather Essentials:

When winter storms hit, they often come with power outages. To ensure you and your family are prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you this winter, you will want to have an emergency kit ready. Explore this one for ideas of what to put in it, and consider having these cold-weather specific items on hand as well:

  • A working, fully charged fire extinguisher.
  • An alternative heat source such as a generator, wood-burning stove, or fireplace.
  • Sand, ice melt, and a shovel if where you live is prone to ice and snow (avoid using kitty litter, as it doesn’t provide good traction and can make a mess).

You should also develop a plan for communicating or meeting up with family in case you aren’t together when a winter storm hits.

And get your car ready too. Whether you live in a cold-weather climate or just plan to visit one, you will want to keep these essentials in your car for winter-weather emergencies.

A storm or power outage in winter can be dangerous, even when you’re in your car or home. Be prepared this winter to weather the storms and cold.

Source: libertymutual.com ~ Image: ebay.com

10 to-dos to get your kitchen ready for the holidays

Now that Halloween is behind us, I’m in holiday mode. If you’ll be doing a lot of baking, cooking or entertaining this year, there are some things you can do in the next week or two to get your kitchen ready for the holiday season.

  1. Check your spice rack. If you do a lot of baking, you’re going to need nutmeg, ground cloves, cinnamon and more. Roasting a turkey calls for poultry seasonings. Pull out all your recipes now and see what spices you’ll be needing and then make sure you have plenty of them in the kitchen. And, don’t forget the vanilla. Get a big bottle.
  2. Inspect your bakeware and cookware. While you’re pulling out your recipes to check to make sure you have all your spices, also make sure you have enough cookie sheets, roasting pans and casserole dishes to make everything.
  3. Start saving reusable containers. Sending home leftovers with guests is made easier (and more eco-friendly) when you have plenty of clean, empty jars and plastic containers that they can take home and not have to return.
  4. Make room in the freezer. Clean out the freezer so you have enough room to store make-ahead cookies and leftovers from holiday dinners.
  5. Get your knives sharpened. They’re probably due and carving the turkey and chopping onions will be easier with sharp knives.
  6. Start stocking your pantry. Right after Halloween ends, there are usually sales on flour, sugar, canned pumpkin, chocolate chips, and other holiday baking staples. Buy what goes on sale each week and put them away for when you’ll need them.
  7. Inspect your dishes, serving pieces and glassware. If every Thanksgiving you think to yourself, “Darn, I forgot to buy a second gravy boat again,” as you’re setting the table, this step is for you. If you host gatherings during the holidays, now is the time to replace any essential pieces that have broken over the years, to add the few pieces you’ve been meaning to add, or to discover that something has gone missing.
  8. Make sure your small, plug-in appliances are in working order. If your slow cooker, electric skillet, electric mixer, coffee maker, or blender or other small appliance only gets used during the holidays, make sure they’re in working order before you need them.
  9. Stock up on cleaning supplies. If you’ve ever run out of dishwashing liquid on Thanksgiving while your sisters-in-law are hand-washing your grandmother’s china after dinner, you will probably never forget to stock up on dish soap and powder again. But, it’s good to make sure you have enough of all you need – dish soap and powder, counter disinfectants, rags and perhaps a roll or two of paper towels made from recycled paper.
  10. Clean thoroughly. Wipe down the baseboards, the ceiling fan blades, the cabinets and more. Do a thorough cleaning of all the things you don’t clean on a weekly basis just to get the kitchen looking good for the high season of cooking.

Source:  mnn.com ~ By:  Robin Shreeves ~ Image: pixabay.com

Halloween Décor Safety Smarts

How to keep those Halloween decorations from causing more than a scare.

A carved pumpkin and maybe a scarecrow on the front porch used to be all the decorating you needed on Halloween. But these days more and more people are decking out their yards for All Hallows’ Eve like the Griswolds on Christmas.

Halloween is now becoming the second most decorated holiday after Here UL answers your questions about how to keep your Halloween decorations disaster free.

To submit a question to SafeBee, email editorial@safebee.com with “Ask the Expert” in the subject line.

I love to string up my yard with orange and purple lights on Halloween. How can I make sure the lights are safe, even when it rains? 

Look for the UL mark. This means representative samples have been tested and met the rigorous safety standards of UL. If the UL mark is in red, it means the product has been tested for outdoor use, including exposure to rain and UV light from the sun. If the UL label is green, the lights are suitable for indoor use only.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping your decorations from year to year, but don’t forget to inspect the lights, as well as extension cords and electronic decorations, before putting them out. Look at the wires and sockets when you pull them out of the closet. If they are broken or frayed, throw them out. These decorations are relatively inexpensive and it’s not worth the risk.

With all the lights and electronic decorations I put in my yard, how can I make sure I’m not overloading the circuits?

With the increased use of LED lights in light strings and other lighted decorations, overloading becomes less of a problem unless you are one who lights up your yard like a Broadway marquee. Most important is to be sure to use outdoor extension cords when decorating outdoors. These cords have been tested for severe weather conditions and usually have the electrical capacity for normal decorating. Look at the labels on the cord and the decorations plugged into it. The sum of the power used by the decorations should not exceed the capacity of the cord.

To get the cords out of the way, you can buy plastic hooks of all kinds at hardware stores and home centers. Never use metal nails or staples since damage to the cords or wires could result in a shock or fire hazard.

If you decorate outdoors, make sure you buy decorations that are suitable for outdoor use. Some are suitable only for indoors.

I’m nervous about using candles in my pumpkins. Are there safer options?

On Halloween day we see a big increase in fires and burns. Lighted candles are one reason. It’s easy enough and just as pretty to use a glow stick, a flashlight or a battery-operated LED candle inside your pumpkin, and also inside paper bags if you like to line your walkway with paper bag lanterns. It will be a lot safer, and once they’re inside a paper bag you can’t tell the difference.

Avoid using real candles to light your front steps. With packs of little kids running up and down, the flame could burn their costumes.

If you are going to use a real candle to light your pumpkin, a small votive candle is best. Use a long fireplace lighter to light candles inside pumpkins.

Make sure to place candlelit pumpkins, and all candles, on a sturdy surface away from curtains or children’s flowing Halloween costumes. Never leave any lighted candle unattended.

What can I do to avoid a house fire on Halloween?

Using candles safely, or using alternatives to candles, and making sure your outdoor lights and electronic decorations are UL certified are key steps.

Keep all decorations away from open flames and heat sources. And never drape fabric or crêpe paper over a light bulb.

This is an exciting time for kids, but take a few seconds to think about safety. A few tips can go a long way.

Source: safebee.com ~ By: Mary Purcell ~ Image: pixabay.com