Home renovation shows are fascinating glimpses into the creativity and hard work it takes to transform the worst looking houses into architectural splendors. The vision that the designers need in order to see the character of a home beneath the bad renovations, poor decoration, or just sad neglect is an amazing talent.

These renovations remind me that sometimes we need to dig a little deeper and scrub a little harder to find the beauty in things. When looked at more closely, a brick wall may be hiding a stunning original fireplace just waiting to be carefully restored to its former beauty.

It may not always be easy to discover the true beauty within, but it’s always worth it. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve uncovered recently?

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I’ve made little mistakes. Big blunders. Sometimes I’ve outright failed. And that’s OK.

Because the thing about getting something wrong is that learning how *not* to do things is just as important as getting them right. If you never mess up, how can you look back, learn and improve yourself?

Sometimes when you make a mistake, you get a second chance to get it right. But you have to be willing to reflect on your missteps, no matter how scary that may be. It’s far worse to hold yourself back because you’re too afraid to fail.

Remember that mistakes are proof that you’re trying. So go ahead and try, then try again in a better way.

Whenever I’m faced with a new challenge I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Ask yourself the same thing the next time you want to take a leap in life. I promise, you won’t regret it.




As long as you are walking in fear you’re never going to be truly free!

If you’re afraid of something, name it. Call it out. Take a really good look at it, even if it scares you.

Often if you just name and sit with your fear — if you really feel it — that will be enough to release it.

Other times you need to ask questions about that fear. Why are you really worried? Will worrying about something really change it? Ask that fear, “Why are you here?”

The trick is to stop avoiding it. Drag the monster out of the closet and look at it. Once you do, your fear will start to lose its power and disappear!



Make Your Backyard Party an Event to Remember

Having a party in your own backyard is a great way to get together with family and friends and enjoy the warm weather. Here are a few simple things you can do to help ensure your party will go smoothly and be remembered.

Consider a Theme Party Choosing a theme for your party is a great way to make your event stand out from other summer soirées. These party themes are easy to pull off and won’t break the bank:

• Tropical Luau Give your place an island feel. Decorate the deck and tables with bright flowers, tropical fruits and tiki torches. Ask your guests to wear Hawaiian shirts or flowing skirts and sandals and hand out leis when they arrive. Play island music. To keep the party lively, you can play limbo or pass out hula-hoops to shake things up.

• South of the Border Bash It’s hard to beat a south of the border fiesta. Set the mood with brightly colored tableware and decorate with red, orange and yellow peppers, maracas, sombreros and piñatas. Put out a big bowl of guacamole with chips and salsa to get started. Serve Tex-Mex food or tacos and Mexican-style roasted corn on the cob with butter, chili pepper, grated cheese and lime. Play mariachi music.

Whether you go with a theme or not, here are a few basic things that can make any summer party more enjoyable for you and your guests.

Set Up Buffet Tables For summer parties, it’s a good idea to keep things casual and put the food and fixings out buffet style. You can set a nice summer table by adding colorful plants or fresh flowers from the garden and simple tea lights. Use decorative paper plates and napkins along with disposable cups and utensils to avoid breakage and make for an easy clean up.

Set the Mood with Lighting By adding the right lighting outside, you can create a more magical and party-like atmosphere for your guests. Try stringing up lanterns and sparking white lights on the deck, on fences and in the trees and shrubs to create some ambience. Also consider putting out votive candles in cupcake foils or glass jars on the tables and in the sitting areas to add a little touch of elegance and romance.

Don’t Let the Bugs Bite Mosquitoes can put a damper on any summer soirée, so don’t give them a reason to stick around. Before your party, empty any flowerpot trays, birdbaths or gutters that contain standing water where mosquitoes like to breed. Surround the yard with citronella candles or incense to help drive the pests away. You should also keep a bug repellant handy, but be sure to follow all directions and use it sparingly.

Remember, no matter what kind of party you have, the most important thing to do is have a good time!

– Adapted from AHS Home Matters Inside & Out June 2014 Newsletter


30 Minutes to a Clean Fridge

There are plenty of reasons to clean a fridge (unidentifiable leftovers, funky odors) and one big excuse not to — namely, lack of time. But you don’t need to set aside several hours to complete a basic cleanout and scrub down. Get it done in 30 minutes when you follow this guide.

Before you start. There’s no reason to clean out your fridge the day after a big supermarket trip. Pick a day just before you go shopping, when your fridge is relatively empty.  For safety reasons, it’s a good idea to unplug your fridge before you start cleaning it.  Gather your supplies:  small bucket small cleaning brush terrycloth towel large sponge new box of baking soda.

Get to it. Take food from the fridge and place it on the table or counter. As you do this, check expiration dates and toss anything that’s no longer edible.  Fill the bucket with warm water, and add a half cup of baking soda. (Save the rest of the baking soda — you can put the box in the fridge later to neutralize odors.) Use this solution to wipe down the empty shelves and interior with a sponge, starting from the top and working your way down.  Use a brush to clean around brackets and gaskets and to dislodge any dried food. Wipe the interior dry with a terrycloth towel.

Rearrange, reseal, restock.  Before you put the food back in the fridge, take a moment to group similar foods together. This will help you find items easier. Separate ethylene-sensitive produce (e.g., apples, broccoli) from produce that releases ethylene gas (e.g., bananas, pears) to prevent premature decay. Make sure that all containers are sealed properly and that anything wrapped is covered completely. Airtight storage will help prevent spills and spoilage.  As you begin to put items back in the fridge, be careful to space food out to allow a free flow of air. Keep eggs, poultry, meat and seafood separate from all other items to help limit the spread of bacteria. For more food safety tips, visit  foodsafety.gov  . And if you’ve unplugged your fridge, don’t forget to plug it back in!  A final note: A basic cleanout like this is no substitute for a thorough cleaning, which your fridge and freezer require periodically. To do that, you’ll need to remove and clean shelves, vacuum coils and wipe down the exterior.

American Home Shield is providing the information for general guidance only. Due to the general nature of the property maintenance and improvement advice in this material, neither American Home Shield Corporation, nor its licensed subsidiaries assumes any responsibility for any loss or damage which may be suffered by the use of this information.

from AHS August Newsletter Inside & Out

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Xeriscaping: Environmentally Wise Landscaping – From HomeAdvisor Newsletter by Matt Goering

Xeriscaping is a landscaping term that refers to the practice of planting  native plants, shrubs, and trees to reduce maintenance, water usage, and upkeep.  It is most popular in the Western United States, where recent drought and water  shortages have highlighted how wasteful keeping non-native species alive can be  when it comes to sucking up water resources. And while many homeowners assume it  means drab and colorless landscape, xeriscaping is more often than not achieved  with stunning and beautiful results.

Does It Really Make a Difference? Absolutely. By some accounts,  over fifty percent of the water resources in many municipalities goes towards  keeping landscape alive and well. Xeriscaping, by utilizing smart choice of  vegetation, water saving irrigation techniques, and other water conservation  measures, can cut down the water use in your home by up to 60%! That means big  savings on water bills, a clean conscience when it comes to environmental  responsibility, and best of all, this style of landscaping means the amount of  time you’ll have to waste on maintaining your landscape will be reduced  accordingly as well.

Xeriscaping Improves the Value of Your Home For all these reasons,  this landscaping practice isn’t just a good decision from an environmental  standpoint, it’s also a great investment from a financial standpoint. Because it  drastically reduces water usage and yard maintenance, it is a big selling point  to prospective homebuyers. Most new homeowners aren’t going to take shine to a  garden filled landscape that they’ll have to spend hours each week to maintain.  But if they can have a beautiful yard without doing much work, then it’s an easy  sell. In fact, property value increases of up to 15% are not unheard when this  landscaping strategy is utilized.

Go Native, Or at Least Think Climate When You Buy Choosing the  right vegetation is a big part of the equation with xeriscaping. When shopping  for the plants to put in your yard, make sure they’re used to your native  climate, or come from an area with similar demands. And be conscious of each  plant‘s needs when you plant. Hydrozoning refers to the practice of planting  vegetation with similar water needs in the same area, making watering much more  efficient in the end.

Xeriscaping Isn’t All about the Plants Planting native species of  plants isn’t the only strategy that makes this environmentally-friendly  landscaping work. It’s actually a holistic philosophy that relies as much on  irrigation practices, mulching, and smart landscaping layout as it does on low  water vegetation. Drip irrigation is the irrigation of choice, mulching your  flower and garden beds goes a long way towards conserving water (and reducing  weeds), and layout can make a huge difference. That luscious green yard is one  of the biggest offenders when it comes to wasting water, so reducing it as much  as possible is a must. Keep it where you need it, such as areas where kids and  pets play, but let rock gardens, flower beds, water wise shrubbery, and other  less demanding landscaping dominate your yard. It will go a long way towards  conserving water and saving you the money and time required to keep everything  alive during the hot and dry season.

If you think saving water, saving money, increasing your home’s value, and  getting a beautiful yard to boot sounds like a good idea, talk to a landscaper  in your area about designing a landscape with xeriscaping in mind. It’s one of  the best landscaping choices you’ll ever make.

Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter,  is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over  600 articles.


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Landscape Solutions – from Home Advisor Newsletter

Landscape designers are experts at landscape design, schooled in both the practical aspects of landscaping, as well as adding an artistic touch to your outdoor spaces. Besides that, they are also well-trained at meeting the challenges of landscape problems, and in transforming tough-to-work-with properties into beautiful landscapes to behold. Here’s a short list of some common landscape problems, and ways that landscape designers suggest you overcome them.

1. Working with Small Yards

Landscape designers are quick to point out that you need to combine vigorous landscaping with space conscious design when working with small yards. Curves and tiered levels, for example, are excellent additions to a small yard because they add more depth and points of interest without swallowing up your valuable space. Still, you do want think ahead with your landscape designer as you choose which type of plants to use. Plant small trees instead of large ones and hide the fence with flowering vines instead of big shrubs.

2. Avoid High Maintenance Landscapes

Landscape designers are quick to encourage all homeowners to avoid high maintenance landscapes. The reason is simple: high maintenance usually ends up in homeowner neglect. Instead, most designers suggest planting species native to your area (or similar climates), and planting one that don’t require a lot of pampering. With the large variety of low maintenance plants available to homeowners today, you can have a yard that requires almost no upkeep, but that looks great all the same. Besides being easy to maintain, low maintenance yards are also usually low water ones. In this time of environmental concern, designing a landscape that conserves resources, rather than wasting them, is always a plus.

3. Refurbish Rather than Replace Your Yard

Landscape designers always recommend that you re-use, and take advantage of, as much of your existing yard as possible, even when undertaking a large landscaping renovation. Skilled designers generally help homeowners decide which plants to leave in place, which to transplant, and which ones are best removed altogether. Any designer will tell you that thinking “refurbish” rather than “replace” means saving money, time, and learning to appreciate the landscaping resources you have ready at your disposal.

4. Landscaping Solutions for Busy Streets and Intersections

No landscape problem offers more challenges than the high traffic and noise of a busy street or intersection. Landscape designers do have natural solutions, however. A buffer of fast-growing, dense shrubbery can make a world of difference when it comes to providing privacy and a sound barrier, while the soothing sound of a fountain or waterfall provides soothing, natural sounds to compete with the din of the city. Other designer ideas: create small, enclosed gardens where you can go to forget your surroundings, and think about installing uplighting beneath trees and shrubbery to provide extra privacy at night.

5. Landscape Designers are Worth Every Penny

The landscape solutions offered here are just a taste of what a good landscape designer can provide you as you design landscaping for your property. Whether you’re looking for a total landscape renovation, or just want to “refurbish” your yard a little bit, the expertise a professional designer brings to the table is always well worth the money you spend to hire them.

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Mmm – Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This year when you carve your jack-o-lantern, save those pumpkin seeds.  You can make a tasty snack on the cheap that will have everyone asking for more.  Try some of these variations this fall season.  For each recipe, follow this easy procedure.  Remove and clean your seeds.  Rinse them well, let them dry and then season them.  Spread on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, stirring half way through, until the seeds are crispy and light golden brown.  Remove from baking sheet, give them a good stir, and serve once they’ve cooled.  After you’ve toasted them, you can store them in an airtight container for up to one week.

Spicy Garlic Pumpkin Seeds

1 c. pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed, 1 tbls. melted butter, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. crushed red pepper, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper

Savory Pumpkin Seeds

1 c. pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed, 1 tbls. melted butter, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Curried Pumpkin Seeds

1 c. pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed, 1 tbls. melted butter, 2 tsp. curry powder, 1 tsp. salt

Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

1 c. pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed, 1 tbls. melted butter, 1 tbls. brown sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt




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De-Cluttering 101

If you’ve dug through your supply closet for more than five minutes in search of one item, it might be time to re-organize and clear out the clutter. Try these simple tips for getting rid of the clutter and making more room for yourself!

Start Small, Think Big Pick one space like a countertop or a messy drawer to tackle first and set aside just ten minutes to work. When you choose an area with strict parameters, you won’t feel quite so overwhelmed by the clutter and you’ll accomplish a lot more in the long run.

Let it Go Are you keeping anything because you might need it someday? Chances are, some of these items may never be used enough to warrant taking up space. As you clean up around your home, start a “might use” pile for anything you don’t often use and dedicate time to deciding if you really need each one—then toss or donate what you don’t want.

Invest in Organization There are lots of great products that make storage a snap. For a messy closet, consider a vertical shelf unit. A fabric model will hang from your closet rod, is inexpensive and can exponentially increase your storage space. Too many shoes? Try an under-the-bed bag with dividers for each pair or an over-the-door unit for easy access and visibility, plus you’ll never need to dig for that second shoe again.

Put Your Items to Good Use Once you’ve cleared out your clutter, don’t just toss it—donate it! If old items like clothes, unused appliances or office supplies are in good condition, take them to your local donation drop-off or consignment shop. Many of these stores will be happy to take your donations or compensate you for your goods. Best of all, donating items not only helps local organizations, it could help you earn tax deductions next year!

When you set aside a little time and a few dollars to the cause, you can start clearing out your home for a fresher look and a cleaner feel, just in time for spring!

from American Home Shield July Inside & Out Newsletter

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