One of the nicest things about spring is that you’re able to once more open the windows and feel the cool breeze flow into your apartment. After all the winter months of having the windows closed and the heat turned on, it feels so good to feel some fresh air again!
You’ll undoubtedly want to enjoy those cool breezes as long as possible. After all, if you turn on the air conditioning, your apartment will be all closed up again. Then, the only difference between summer air-conditioning and winter heating is that you’re blowing cold air instead of warm. Your apartment will still be closed up tight.
- So how can you leave your windows open as long as possible? Here are several ideas:Some days may be cool enough that you can leave your windows open all day. But if it gets a little too warm at any point, close the windows and wait until evening when the temperatures cool down. If you open your windows then and leave them open all night, your apartment should fill with refreshing evening air. When it starts to warm up the next day, just close the windows and keep that nice cool air inside. If the hot sun starts glaring in through the windows, close the blinds or curtains to keep your rooms cooler.
- If it’s one of those days when you need to keep the windows closed during the day, try putting an oscillating fan in the room to move the air around. That should make you feel cooler and more comfortable.
- If there’s an especially warm day and your apartment heats up in the afternoon, you’ll want to cool it as quickly as possible in the evening. There’s an easy and surprisingly quick way to do that! Just place a fan in the window, but it shouldn’t be blowing air into your room. Instead, you should turn it around and let it pull the hot, stale air out of the room. In order to get the most benefit, you’ll also need to open another window on the opposite side of the room. As the fan pulls the hot air out of the first window, the fresh outside air will be pulled into the second window and cool the room in just a few minutes. If you don’t have another window in the room you’re trying to cool, this principle even works if the windows are across the hall (or across the apartment) from each other. The fan that’s blowing outward will pull hot air from wherever it can find it.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the cool spring weather lasts all that long. We’ll probably have to turn on our air-conditioning pretty soon, whether we like it or not. But in the meantime, let’s open our windows wide and enjoy the cool spring breezes as long as possible!
How often have you heard the phrase, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body!”? C’mon, admit it, haven’t you thought of yourself in that way from time to time? No matter how creative we are, I think we’ve all wandered into that territory – especially when we feel the need for a fresh idea and nothing is appearing on the horizon.
Want to know a secret? Creative people, just like the rest of us, get stuck from time to time. So how about we take a little closer look at both of these scenarios?
First let’s address the primary complaint, “I’m just not creative.” Personally, I believe that most people (if not all) are creative to varying degrees. However, it seems that when it comes to defining creativity, people tend to interpret it as being artistic. And while that is understandable, it’s also limiting. Another more practical aspect might be that creativity is really just solving a problem. And how is creativity usually measured in this instance? Easy! You need to come up with a clever and new solution. If you do, you’re regarded as creative.
In the second scenario, when you’re stuck for a solution, you desperately need to demonstrate some creativity in action. Except in this case, there is no action. Instead, everything is frozen up like a computer trying to process too many commands at the same time. And we all know what a frustrating experience that can be. Now the bottom line question becomes … how do I get unstuck and start those creative juices flowing again?
The solution to both of these scenarios is….”there’s no single answer!” In either case, there are a multitude of possibilities for solving the problem. And in both cases, the best starting point is to just get moving! It’s simple inertia — you have to try something or there will be nothing to measure progress (or creativity) against.
So you see, the true sign of creativity is many times just what lengths one will go to solve a particular problem. The most creative solution in some cases may not even be the best solution, or even a solution you would choose to implement. Let’s see, a good way to find out if this bomb is live is to flip that pulsating lighted switch……. So sometimes the catapult to exceptional creative efforts is to just to get started considering potential solutions.
Then, when one of your ideas becomes the chosen method for solving the problem at hand, I think there’s an excellent chance you may hear that highly valued response, “Wow, what a great idea! How did you manage to be so creative?”
Next time you’re picturing yourself as lacking in creativity, why not give this simple advice a try? All of us here would certainly like to hear the results, so please share whatever creative thoughts you might have on this subject.
Now, “Get Out There and Make It A Great (and creative) Week!”
The weather is finally warming up and you’ve probably started walking or running outside again. But do you find yourself walking the same old routes as last year and not increasing your distances? How do you break out of those old patterns and add some new life to your exercise routine? How about training for a 5K walk/run? Just the training segment (which isn’t difficult at all) will force you to develop new habits and actually running in the race could also open up some new experiences!
So what could you gain by training for a 5K?
• Walking or running helps shape your legs, tighten your stomach, lose body fat, keep your heart healthy, lower your cholesterol, burn calories and improve your mood.
• You’ll have an extra reason to get up off the couch. If you know that you’re scheduled to run a 5K, you’ll push yourself a little harder and be less likely to make an excuse about not exercising. But don’t worry. Even though you’ll get more exercise than usual, training for a 5K isn’t strenuous. (The actual race is only 3.1 miles) 5K’s rarely have time limits either, so you won’t have to push yourself too hard during training since you can even walk the race at a comfortable pace in less than two hours if you want to.
• Because most 5k’s are affiliated with a Cause, you’ll not only learn about a worthwhile cause, but you can help raise public awareness and funds for it. Beside that, you’ll become part of a friendly group who bring their friends and relatives (including baby strollers, lawn chairs, and banners!) to support their efforts.
Benefits from the Race Itself
• You’ll undoubtedly meet some new friends on the day of the race. But you could also meet fitness-minded people with whom you might want to have a longer relationship. They can support you as you work on your fitness goals even after the race is finished.
• You’re almost guaranteed to feel good about yourself when you set this fitness goal, work to achieve it, and finish it.
If your walking/running routine has gotten old, consider signing up for a 5K. It’s an easy way to add more miles to your exercise program, make new friends, and broaden your involvement in community life.
Transform your apartment’s balcony or patio into your own secret garden retreat this summer. Lush green plants, colorful flowers, delicious vegetables, and fresh herbs can be yours all season long. All you need to create a beautiful garden is a little space, your favorite plants, and a few containers. Add a table and a couple of chairs where you can enjoy your morning coffee in the sunshine, then relax with your favorite beverage in the cool of the evening. With a little ingenuity and a few garden supplies, you will be enjoying your new outdoor space in no time.
Start by looking up. Just like when you’re decorating a small interior space, you’ll want to make use of the vertical space on your balcony or patio. This reserves the oh-so-valuable floor space for seating. Hanging plants are lovely to look at and create some privacy, too. Ferns, trailing geraniums, and even strawberries will thrive in hanging pots.
While we’re thinking vertical, think about plant shelves. Like making a bookshelf for the outdoors, you’ll be able to make an interesting group of plants in one area.
Hanging window boxes will slip right over your patio or balcony railings and create a beautiful border. Fill the planters with colorful flowers, a few tall greens, and then mix in some trailing plants for a perfectly balanced look.
After you’ve filled up the vertical spaces, use larger containers on the floor for those big, showy flowers. One on each corner of your balcony or patio creates a nice setting for a bistro set where you can relax among the greenery.
Choose a Theme
Want a flower garden? Surround yourself with your favorites. Add more interest by staggering the pot sizes and types. This creates waves of color and texture. Fill the pots to the brim to maximize their beauty. A tropical theme? A small palm, hibiscus flowers, and sweet smelling plants will carry you away to the islands.
If you want to create an herb garden, plant basil, oregano, rosemary, mints, cilantro and chives. Or try a combination of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mini cucumbers, basil, onions or peppers and cilantro for fresh off-the-vine salad or salsa.
General Growing Tips
Choose containers that look great, that provide ample room for plant growth, and which include a tray for drainage. The plants should stay evenly watered, but not soggy.
For growing tomatoes, small cucumbers, or peppers in pots, use a small trellis in the pot for the plants to climb on. Trim them occasionally to keep their shape, and you’ll have an abundance of tasty veggies in no time.
Feed and Water Them Well
If you buy potting soil with fertilizer and moisture control built right in, it will provide the proper nutrients and maintain optimal moisture levels so your plants will flourish. And it lets you skip a few extra maintenance steps along the way!
It’s truly amazing what a few plants can do to a space! Get creative. It’s your space. Surround yourself with your favorites and enjoy your new apartment garden this summer.
It’s time for spring cleaning, but the thought of having to haul out lots of bulky cleaning equipment and spend days scrubbing on your hands and knees isn’t too inviting, is it? Besides that, who has time to do that anymore?
Spring cleaning your apartment can be quick and painless. In fact, if you follow our tips below, it should be a breeze!
- Get organized first. Write down what you want to get cleaned, making sure not to schedule more than you have time to finish. Gather your cleaning supplies and put them into a bucket that will be easy to carry around.
- As you’re deciding what to clean, think about the “problem areas” you’ve noticed lately – the spot on the carpet or the greasy fingerprints on the kitchen cupboards. Clean those first and you’ll feel better right away.
- If your apartment is full of clutter, you won’t even be able to clean. Sort your clutter and put it into bins. Put the bins somewhere out of the way and go through them another day. But while you’re sorting, make a bin for things you don’t want anymore. Then throw it out, give it away, or recycle it right away. You’ll have that much less to clean now and in the future.
- Forget the old mop and bucket. A steam mop will deep-clean all kinds of floors in minutes. And you can also forget about climbing ladders with a dripping bucket to clean the walls and high ledges! Use a microfiber mop, spray it with a little cleaning solution, and you can have the walls done in no time. Long-handled dusters should take care of those grimy ledges in short order, too.
- Unless you’ve let your vacuum sit in the closet for the past six months, you won’t need to vacuum every square inch of floor. Just concentrate on the areas that get the most traffic.
- Clean your curtains in minutes with a rented steam cleaner. No need to take them down.
- Because sunlight can leave streaks, wash your windows on an overcast day, working from top to bottom with a squeegee. For the best streak-free shine, finish up with coffee filters.
- Kitchen appliances can be major cleaning projects by themselves. To quickly clean the inside of the microwave, bring two cups of water to a boil and then leave the door closed for a few minutes. The steam loosens dried-on food particles and makes them easier to wipe away. Clean the outside of the refrigerator by clearing off the notes, coupons and photos, and then cleaning the doors, handles and seals with a microfiber cleaning cloth and a little cleaning solution. Use that same kind of microfiber cloth on the stove top and on cupboards.
- If the bathroom grout needs attention, clean it with a fast-acting mold and mildew cleaner. Just be careful to follow the label directions and make sure the bathroom is well ventilated.
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a long, tedious task anymore. With some organization, the latest tools, and our time-saving tips, you’ll be done in no time!
An average communicator spends 28 per cent of the day reading and answering emails. That’s quite a change from just a decade ago, and it’s added a substantial load to the work schedule of most business people. Keeping emails brief and to the point can help you to reduce the amount of time this modern “convenience” can vacuum from your already tight work schedule.
Thank Guy Kawasaki, former Apple chief evangelist, advisor to Motorola, technical entrepreneur, and serially busy communicator for establishing this set of guidelines that can throw a lifeline to all of us facing this problem. Here are his four suggestions for quickly getting to the point.
1. Make your email answer five simple questions.
When writing the average email, make sure it contains just enough information to answer the five following questions. Who are you? What do you want? Why are you asking me this? Why should I do what you’re asking? What’s the next step?
Then apply the following steps:
2. Cut out excessive details to get a response.
If you include too much information, your recipient will often postpone reading your email or even send it to the trash unread. I know in my own case, if I can’t get to my inbox for a day or two, the emails quickly balloon into a 300-500 item list. It then becomes necessary to weed through to decide what is truly essential. The longer the email, the more likely I am to file it for a later date. Sometimes that date never arrives.
3. Shorter emails will help you stay focused.
By limiting yourself to five sentences in an email, you are forced to deliver your message in a concise manner. Shorter emails are visually easy to scan and allow the reader to arrive at a quick decision. This alone adds to your chances that your email will receive a reply.
4. Limit everything but praise.
There is one area where Kawasaki allows exception to these guidelines. “When you don’t want anything from the recipient and you simply want to heap praise and kindness upon the individual, then you can go on as long as you like.” In this instance, I’m fairly sure most people will make the email a priority and read it to the end, no matter how long it may be.
Take a look back over some of your average emails and see how close you come to implementing these steps. Then challenge yourself to apply these excellent guidelines to your daily communications. I know this is a blog post rather than an email, but I managed to get each of the points listed here across in less than five sentences. Why not see how easily you can accomplish the task and still say everything you intended?
Let us all know how it works out for you….
Now “Get Out There and Make It A Great Week!”
Sometimes I wake up on Sunday morning and I just want to start the day off with some serious self-indulgence. I dream of a sophisticated brunch with fresh cut flowers and crisp linens, a sweet mimosa and creamy, classic Eggs Benedict.
Luckily for me, someone invented Eggs Benedict! Where did Eggs Benedict originate? One story claims that in New York City over 100 years ago, a Wall Street broker named Lemuel Benedict was suffering with a wicked hangover when he entered the Waldorf Hotel. He ordered a la carte breakfast items, combined them, and created a delectable meal. The chef was impressed by the combination, later to be named “Eggs Benedict”.
Have you ever thought of making Eggs Benedict, maybe even preparing them for Mother’s Day this Sunday? The process of poaching eggs and creating your own hollandaise sauce may sound intimidating, but if you follow the simple steps below, you’ll leave everyone wondering when you became a gourmet chef! (And we’ve even included a low-cal Hollandaise recipe for you to impress your weight conscious friends!)
Traditional Eggs Benedict
- 8 (1/2-ounce) Canadian bacon slices
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 2 English muffins, split and toasted
- 4 large eggs, poached
- Hollandaise Sauce
- Coarsely ground pepper
Cook bacon in skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat until thoroughly heated, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Place 2 bacon slices on each muffin half. Top each with a poached egg, and drizzle evenly with Hollandaise Sauce. Sprinkle with pepper and paprika; serve immediately.
Add water to a depth of 3 inches in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and maintain at a light simmer. Add 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. Break eggs and slip into water, one at a time, as close as possible to the surface of water. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon. Trim edges, if desired.
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk yolks in top of a double boiler; gradually whisk in lemon juice. Place over hot water (do not boil). Add butter, 1/3 cup at a time, whisking until smooth; whisk in salt. Cook, whisking constantly, 10 minutes or until thickened and a thermometer registers 160°. Serve immediately.
Greek Yogurt Hollandaise ( A healthy alternative to traditional hollandaise sauce)
- 1 Cup Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt
- 2 Tsp. lemon juice
- 3 Omega-3 Egg Yolks
- 1/2 Tsp salt
- 1/2 Tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 pinch fresh ground pepper
• Fill a medium (about 4 quart) saucepan with two inches of water. Choose a stainless steel bowl that will sit partially inside of the saucepan without touching the water to create a double boiler.
• Fill the pan without about two inches of water and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
• Beat yogurt, lemon juice, egg yolks well
• Heat over simmering water, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened, approx 15 minutes (sauce will become thinner after about 10 min and then thicken again).
• Remove from heat and stir in salt, mustard, pepper and dill/parsley (if using).
Get innovative and add your favorite things to this breakfast! Try different combinations of flavors like tomatoes and mushrooms, salmon and spinach, sliced turkey and avocado, or crab meat. The delicious and decadent options are endless!
We could all use a little more fun and a lot less stress in our lives! A great way to accomplish that is to spend some time with your dog, enjoying the activities he enjoys, getting out of your apartment and into nature… just taking everything as it comes.
I often refer to my dog as “living Prozac,” because he’s always there to give me unconditional love and companionship. It’s hard to feel lonely when your dog is there for you. I know that the things that used to upset me and get me down haven’t seemed so bad since he’s been in my life. But even though I think he’s the best dog in the world, it’s not just MY dog that is so good for his master. Research has shown that people with pets truly are happier, calmer, and less stressed than non-pet owners. Even the simple act of petting your dog can release Oxytocin in your brain—a hormone that is responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness—and bring down your heart rate.
So pets make us happier and healthier and they can also make us more active. Anyone who has a dog knows that no matter how tired you are at 10 p.m., Fido’s not going to forget his pre-bedtime walk. Several recent studies show that people who own dogs get, on average, about 30 extra minutes of exercise per week and are overall more active than non-dog owners.
My dog is young and full of energy and I feel guilty if he doesn’t get a good work out on at least one day of the weekend. And so we join the throng of city-dwellers-with-pets on the suburban trails where dogs are permitted off-leash. It’s great for doggy and human socializing alike and it’s also become a ritual that I look forward to all week. Taking the dog for his weekend hike gives me a good workout, brings me closer to nature and knocks my stress level down several notches. Even during the week, I’m more likely to walk to the corner store or coffee shop than drive because it means I can get a little extra walk in with my buddy.
Living with a dog is often like living with a Zen Master. Dogs are forever in the present moment. From the time they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to sleep at night, they have no way of knowing or planning for what will come next. All they can do is hope for some good food (and hopefully a little fun, too). I try to imagine what it must be like for him and I, like him, try to stay happy and ready for anything. It’s the true definition of “living in the now” because they have no idea what’s around the next corner. Cultivating this openness is a great way to stop worrying and start enjoying life.
So, even if you feel like you already have too much planned on the weekends, consider making a long walk with your dog a priority. (If you don’t have a dog, borrow one from a friend or volunteer at the local shelter). It will leave you feeling active, refreshed, and much less stressed. Your dog will be a whole lot happier, too!
In the spring, everything becomes new again. The sun shines longer, the birds return, the flowers are blooming, and you seem to have a little more pep in your step because the extra sunshine just feels so good.
Since spring has finally sprung and it’s warm again, don’t waste a minute! There’s so much to do outside. Take a walk and watch the world around you come to life. Visit some outdoor venues like botanical gardens, arboretums and your local zoo. Or just find a nice place to relax with a friend and enjoy a picnic in the sunshine.
Around the World
The first day of spring falls on the Vernal Equinox. Vernal is Latin for “spring” and Equinox means “equal night.” This marks one of the two days in the year when day and night time hours are just about equal. The other day when this happens is the beginning of autumn.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re enjoying all of the warm, inviting signs of spring. But, if you were in Australia or somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, you would be celebrating the first days of fall which come after the Autumnal Equinox. In the North, we are planting; in the South, they are harvesting.
Use the Extra Sunshine
Since the outdoor growing season is just beginning, why not do some early planting indoors? If you enjoy gardening, now is a great time to start. Plant your favorite flower, herb or vegetable seeds indoors by a sunny window. Once the weather warms, move them outside on your balcony or patio and enjoy them throughout the summer.
If you have kids, let them help with the planting. They can use any fun container to hold the soil and seeds — a decorated coffee can, a painted flower pot, or even an old mug. Of course, you can always use peat pots, and then just transplant them once they are ready. Kids of all ages enjoy watching the seeds grow!
Did You Know?
- Children grow faster in the spring.
- About 1800 different bird species migrate in the spring.
- Benjamin Franklin was the first American to propose Daylight Savings Time in 1784, but it wasn’t implemented in the US until after WWII.
- In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar, which most of the world uses today. If he hadn’t, the first day of spring would come a full calendar day early every 128 years, eventually putting it in the middle of winter.
- Our bodies make Vitamin D from sunshine. Extra sunshine means extra Vitamin D, which gives us that spring-time energy boost while strengthening our immune system, muscles and bones.
- Vitamin D lowers blood pressure, stress, and is a great antioxidant. Who knew sunshine could be so good for us?
Spring is the time for blooming flowers, sunny days, and new beginnings. Take some time to stop and smell the roses, soak up some sun or do a little gardening on your patio. After all, this wonderful time only comes once a year!
Pitchers and catchers reported a few weeks ago and the first games of Spring Training are underway. The weather is starting to warm up and that can only mean one thing: It’s time for Fantasy Baseball!!
Fantasy Football has become a mainstream hobby because everyone can play it. It doesn’t take up much time and it’s even “user-friendly” for the casual fan. However, Fantasy Baseball has been around much longer and it provides the baseball fan with a new way to enjoy the sport.
As a hobby, Fantasy Baseball may appear to be slightly intimidating. There are a LOT more positions and teams in baseball than in football. Additionally, baseball games occur on a daily basis vs. a weekly basis in football. Where will you find the time to manage your team? Well, don’t fret. Even though Fantasy Baseball may appear complex, it really isn’t any harder to handle than Football.
First off, just like with Football, fantasy websites provide you with quality cheat sheets for all of your draft positions (Catcher, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS and OF). Additionally, depending on the website, they will provide you with tips on what type of player best suits your league for each position you need to fill.
Managing Your Team and League
Secondly, baseball games do occur on an almost daily basis, but that doesn’t mean you have to manage your team daily. Many people who play Fantasy Baseball only check their teams on a weekly basis. They’ll just check pitching matchups on a Monday and rotate their Starting Pitchers into their lineups when they start every four or five days.
Next, there are two main types of fantasy baseball leagues: Rotisserie and Head to Head. The Rotisserie league is the older type. It consists of tracking your statistics over the course of the entire season, with the winner of the league being determined on the total performance of the teams when the season ends.
Head to Head is more like the Fantasy Football season set-up. Your teams will face-off each week and the team with the better overall score wins that matchup.
Finally, one of the most interesting aspects of the Fantasy Baseball set-up are the statistics that your league will track. You can be a traditionalist and track things like Runs, Homeruns, Runs Batted In, and Strikeouts. Or you can join the new world of baseball statistics and use new ones like OPS (On Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage), WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched).
Regardless of which type of league you choose or the statistics you track, Fantasy Baseball is a great hobby. It can give you another way to enjoy your love of the “American Pastime” from the comfort of your favorite recliner. Play Ball!!
These days, we’re working longer hours and have more on our plates than ever before. To make thing even worse, we also have the constant disruption of in-coming calls, texts and e-mails on our smart-phones. We can be contacted at work, at home, at the gym, in the car, and we can even be reached on-line while standing in line! This means that by the end of the week, a lot of us really need the weekend to relax, recharge, and recover from our breakneck schedules. The problem is, with this never-ending connectivity, rarely do people really unplug and take uninterrupted hours away from the demands of their everyday working schedules.
All of this leads to more stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of debilitating illnesses, so it’s really imperative to make the most of our downtime. Here are some ways to ensure you’re taking care of yourself by really taking a step back from stress over the weekend.
Do errands during the week
This sounds like a lot when you are already juggling work and family life, but make a list of things that need to get done and then do one or two of them on your way home from the office everyday. This probably won’t take too much extra time and it can free up your weekend for rest and fun. Plus, you won’t have the nagging feeling that you’re neglecting things over the weekend!
Create an “away from my desk” auto-response and then really get away from your email, especially work emails. If you can’t relax without checking in, do it on a set schedule. Pledge to only look at work emails twice a day on the weekends and then stick to that. You’ll find that most things aren’t urgent and can wait until Monday. Also, it might help to let your coworkers know before hand that you will be unavailable all weekend unless there’s a genuine emergency.
When we’re stressed, sleep is the first thing to suffer and long-term, this can really affect our health and well-being. Even if your internal clock (or your kids or your cat!) wake you up at the crack of dawn, take advantage of that free time you’ve made for yourself from pre-planning, getting offline, and having checked off your to-do list earlier in the week to take a nap. Snoozing in the afternoon may feel indulgent, but hey—that’s what the weekend is for!
Get some fresh air and sunshine. That’s easier said than done in the winter months, but it’s even more important during this time. Humans can’t process Vitamin D without direct sunlight and Vitamin D deficiency can lead to what scientists call Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can cause short-term depression, anxiety, and loss of energy, among other things. So bundle up and get outside. If you can pair that with exercise like skiing or hiking, even better!
It’s not realistic to think that we can spend every weekend lounging, napping, and playing in the snow. But if we work at putting a little more relaxation into our weekend, we’re a little closer to that perfect balance between work and leisure and this is great for both our health and our happiness.
Giving your room a fresh and stylish look can be easy if you know what to focus on. The designer tips below can beautifully transform a room (and all you have to do is make some minor changes!). So why not take a look around your apartment and see which area needs a designer’s touch? A few changes in the right place and your apartment will have a whole new look!
To Make a Statement, Start Here
These easy projects will make a big statement with just a little effort on your part. They’re a fun way to break up the mid-week routine or can be a special project to work on over the weekend.
- Add a splash of bright colors in your artwork, accessories, draperies, rugs, or pillows to liven up an area.
- Find an “eye-catching” light fixture. Whether it’s new, an antique, or a great tag sale find, it’ll be a great addition to the room.
- Create a drink area. Use a side table to hold a tray and glasses, bottles, accessories, and a drink guide to create your favorite mixes. Whether they are adult beverages or not, it’s fun to have it all in one place. Get creative and add some special glasses or flavors. Add a few bowls of sweets and nuts and you’re ready for your next get-together!
- Layer on the patterns. Patterned fabrics offer so much interest in a small and inexpensive way. Pillows and blankets, or rugs and draperies in your favorite patterns add warmth and personality to the room. Use one pattern, or use a mix. Just be sure the sizes of the patterns vary and the colors coordinate.
- Mix up your style. Is your apartment more modern or traditional? Romantic or retro? Whatever it is, mix in something from the opposite style. If you have traditional furnishings, add a modern piece of artwork, chair, or lamp. The differences will make the pieces stand out, rather than just blend together.
- A big trend of 2013 is high gloss paint. Paint a shelf, accessories, or even furniture with it. It will add light and sparkle to your room — and as a bonus, it’s super easy to clean.
- Use unexpected color. Paint the inside of a bookshelf, your kitchen backsplash (if allowed by your apartment) or table top. Accessories too! A little unexpected color goes a long way.
- Display a collection. Grouping a collection in one area creates an easy-to-view focal point.
- Move seating away from the walls, toward the center of the room. This creates an interesting seating area and a cozy conversation place.
- Scatter a few coordinating rugs or runners where you would have used just one. Layers of additional patterns and colors will add interest, for a bigger punch.
- Add an arrangement of plates to the wall. Plates are fun to collect and can be a very inexpensive way to add style to your room.
- Paint older furniture white. And in high gloss! This will immediately freshen, brighten, and add life to an otherwise dull piece. Even if the pieces don’t match, one color will give them a cohesive look.
- Mix and match your bedding. Instead of everything matching, add a coordinating solid or print to the set. Add some unexpected color or the opposite style in the fabrics to update the look.
Before and After
You should be able to see a real transformation in your room now, whether you used one idea or several. A few changes in the right places can make all the difference. These simple and stylish ideas will make your apartment looking inviting, not boring, and keep it full of interest and style.
Are you a friendly extrovert or a quiet introvert? We usually think of extroverts as outgoing and engaging personalities—the life of the party or the stand-up comedian in the room—and introverts as quiet and retreating—the wallflower or the book worm—but that’s not the whole story. What does it really mean to be an introvert or and extrovert?
A Short Quiz
To find out, just take this short quiz that’s often used to determine your extrovert/introvert orientation.
Do you prefer to work alone or on a team?
Are you a better listener or do you do most of the talking?
Are you a risk taker or do you prefer to play it safe?
Do you enjoy solitude?
As you can see, these questions will probably leave most people with mixed answers. The truth is, that’s probably accurate because most people fall somewhere in the middle of the extrovert/introvert spectrum. For example, you enjoy the company of others (but not all the time) or have good conversation skills that are equally balanced between listening and talking. So then, what do we ask ourselves when we want to figure out which one we are?
Well, a more modern and revealing assessment of the extrovert/introvert question asks: “Where does your energy come from?” and it finds the answer by asking several new questions:
Do crowds enliven you or tire you out?
If you’re feeling sad, would you rather be alone or do you seek out company?
After a chaotic day at work, is being around people likely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back or do people act as a soothing balm for your weary soul?
As you can see, these questions are more about how you feel around people than how you act. Extroverts tend to gravitate towards people in times of sadness, fatigue, or difficulty, drawing energy from those around them and generally feeling refreshed after time spent in the company of others. An extrovert would find it difficult (and perhaps even exhausting) to be around people when they are feeling down or challenged in their lives. Although introverts may appear to be outgoing and engaging while at an event, they often feel the need to retreat to solitude after prolonged periods of socializing to rest and recharge. An extrovert will feel his or her most alert and happy after such periods.
As human beings, we are all highly social individuals and so we all have a little bit of extrovert AND introvert in us. This model seems to work better with our complex, highly specialized, and varying personalities. The real bottom-line question is: from where do we draw our internal strength? What do you think, are you an extrovert or an introvert?
This past week wasn’t easy. My mother passed away. Even though it wasn’t unexpected and she had made it through 89 wonderful years, it was still a blow to the family. And, it also required me to leave my normal day to day activities and travel to Ohio to help my family take care of the final arrangements.
My youngest daughter decided to make the drive with me, but that caused an added problem. I had previously been scheduled to be in Ohio for a business meeting just a few days after my mother died. So, the question of just how I could stay and take care of this business while my daughter returned to Chicago was added to the mix. We decided to drive to Ohio, but this meant that one of us would have to make the return trip by air. I knew that my daughter was not a comfortable flier, but I also wasn’t particularly comfortable with her making the return drive by herself. She eventually convinced me that she would be fine and would much prefer driving to flying.
Combine this set of circumstances with all of the family interactions that can occur around an emotion charged event such as a funeral and I’m sure you will understand when I say it can take a lot of diplomatic finesse to get through the experience. Everyone reacts differently and it is sometimes very difficult to determine what people are really thinking and feeling as events unfold. All in all, there is plenty of opportunity for someone to end up hurt and offended when no slight was intended.
In the midst of worrying about my daughter’s return drive alone and the general need to be on “emotional alert” and not offend anyone in my family, a story came to mind that I had heard some years previously. It involved, interestingly enough, a layover between flights on a normal business trip. In the story, a young woman decides to pass the time by before her flight boards by buying a book and a package of cookies and sitting down to read.
Sitting next to her at a small table was a man who was reading his newspaper. As she was about to take one of the cookies from her newly purchased package, she was suddenly shocked to see the man reach into the package and take one. Needless to say, she was horrified by the act but didn’t say anything. Continuing to read her book, she demurely fetched one of the cookies herself and watched to see what would happen. Sure enough, the man reached over and calmly took another.
Not a word was exchanged as the entire package of cookies disappeared. Finally there was a single cookie remaining and the woman thought to herself, “I wonder what will happen next?” She was soon to find out as the man reached for the last cookie. However, in a surprising move, he divided the cookie in two and wordlessly handed her half.
This was too much! She quickly gathered her things and made her way to another section of the waiting area to let her anger and confusion pass. Beginning to calm down, she reached once more into her bag for her book. When she pulled it out, along with it came her package of cookies – unopened!
Now ashamed, and feeling somewhat like a thief herself, she realized that she, not he, was at fault and this kind, unspeaking man had never judged or flared in anger, but had instead calmly and totally shared his entire package of cookies with her.
So what’s my takeaway from this story? I wonder how many times we’ve all unthinkingly eaten each other’s cookies without realizing it? Before we draw a premature conclusion about someone else’s actions or project our own fears into their decision-making process, it may pay to examine all of the details one more time.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? How did YOU handle it? Why not share your stories with us? It’s an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other’s experiences.
Now “Get Out There and Make It A Great Week!”
Well, it’s the weekend and time to start thinking about those things I keep putting off during the week. But this weekend, there’s an unusual item on my “to do” list — shopping for a new car. I can’t believe that I’m even thinking about giving up on “Old Reliable,” my 1991 full-sized Chevy conversion van. But the van just had to have the rear brakes replaced and the universal joints lubricated, and that was only a month after it was in the shop for an intermittent “Service Engine Soon” light. The problem was a sticking EGR valve (EGR = Exhaust Gas Recirculation …and no, I don’t even know what it actually does).
Maybe Old Reliable is a Money Pit
Each time something rusts out, wears out, or rots through, requiring a trip to the repair shop, my better half reminds me that she wanted me to replace the van before I bought the new Michelin tires last fall. But I didn’t listen! I have to admit that I’m a sentimental creature of habit and I feel like that van is an old friend rather than simply transportation from point A to point B. After all, when I first began driving it, we were hauling my daughter’s stuff back and forth to college. She’s now a teacher and we’ve used the van to move her in and out of several apartments and houses since her college days.
The van also transported my son’s belongings for his entire college career, and later moved him in and out of apartments after his graduation. When my parents’ house was flooded, the van carried all the plywood to replace their warped flooring, as well as all the tools necessary to install the new subfloor. All the drywall and lumber for our finished basement, as well as all the hardwood flooring for the entire house, made the trip home in the van. Over the years, it has carried countless tools, rolls of carpet, drywall, paneling, and plywood, as well as shelving units, overstuffed chairs, dining room sets, and an Amish glider we bought on vacation in Shipshewana, Indiana.
Speaking of vacations, up until 2008, the Chevy van pulled our 24 foot travel trailer, while our bicycles nestled snuggly inside the passenger compartment. So many memories and trips together without one single breakdown on the road – how could I not think of this trusty vehicle as an old friend?
Time to Pull the Plug?
How do I decide if it’s really time to sell the van and move on? It seems like there are as many arguments for keeping the van as for trading it in!
Up until now, I haven’t traded a car in until the frame was so rusted that water was coming up through the floorboards or splashing up into the trunk. That hasn’t happened to the van yet (although there is some rust eating away at the rocker panels).
We used to think a car was finished if it lasted for 100,000 miles and was 10 years old, but today’s cars are much more reliable and longer lived. Then add in the fact that I haven’t owned or driven any other vehicle for 21 years! And, of course, it’s running so smoothly and quietly now that the repairs have been made. Besides all that, I have no idea what I’d buy to replace it!
I’m not sure what to do! Maybe you have some recommendations for me? Have you ever decided it was finally time to leave your old car on the used car lot?
Does your apartment sometimes leave you feeling a little ho-hum? At times, do you wish that you could just throw everything out and start all over again with new furniture, new decorations, or an overall re-design of your entire space? Unfortunately, that may not be practical, affordable, or even possible! But one way you can help your space feel like new is to look around and see where you can add some color. This can mean a big or small job, permanent or temporary—it’s all up to you. Here are some suggestions about where to start:
Add an accent wall: Even if you’re feeling all fired up about re- decorating, painting an entire room red is pretty extreme! But you can still add a splash of your favorite color to a room by choosing an “accent wall”. Choose a smaller or half wall, the background to built-in shelving, or the wall that you want to use as the main focus of the room. You can paint it all one color that compliments the furniture, carpeting or rug.
Maybe you don’t like to paint? Just add a little color with wallpaper. For renters, temporary wallpaper that can be removed easily without damaging the wall might be the best bet for your ever-evolving aesthetic. Whatever you choose to use, one wall can change it all. For some inspiration, check out these great examples; http://marieburgosdesign.com/manoblueblog/.
Paint some furniture: This is a great way to revamp a tired piece of furniture and also add a splash of color to a room. It’s great if you have an old dresser, table, or chair that can use a coat of paint. If you don’t have any workable pieces on hand, head out to a thrift store or flea market and find a hidden treasure. Don’t feel like a DIY project right now? It’s possible to find great pieces that are already painted.
If your budget’s a little bigger, IKEA is a great option. Most of their affordable pieces come in white or wood, so it’s easy to transform them into any color you want.
Throw in an ottoman or footstool: So you’ve already invested in your couch and loveseat. Or your recliner is a household favorite and you can’t part with it? Maybe you don’t have any money or the space to add another piece of furniture. Even if it’s not the main attraction, ottomans and footstools work well even in small rooms and can add a splash of color and fun without a big investment.
It’s easy to think of a lampshade as just a utilitarian part of your lighting, but there are some really cool, colorful lampshades out there that will light up the color scheme in a room. Lampshades are a super affordable and easy way to add some punch to a neutral canvas. Here’s a great site with tons of patterns and colors to gain inspiration: http://www.shadesoflight.com/lamp-shades/.
And of course, you can always put fabric on an old lampshade or just paint it for a new look. (Make sure you use an acrylic instead of an oil-based paint or try spray-paint like this crafty lady did: http://www.decorchick.com/spray-painted-lamps/ ).
You don’t have to go through a drastic re-design to brighten up your space. With a few inspired color choices, you’ll go from ho-hum to happy in no time. What are some of your favorite ways to change up your apartment? How about sharing a few of them with us?
We’ve all heard that we should put money away for our future financial security. But we also know that we need enough money to meet our daily expenses, planned or not (i.e. the car breaks down and you have the money to fix it!). You can put away money for savings AND also have enough money to meet your daily expenses by keeping a close eye on your budget, banking, and credit card costs. Below are some simple ways that you can do that. After all, who wouldn’t like to have more money?
Check on the types of accounts your bank offers and the fees that they charge for them. Find one that best suits your needs, but read the fine print. Many banks charge fees for ATM use, transfers, or falling below the minimum balance requirement.
Make sure you don’t overdraw your account. Overdraft fees are high and excessive overdrafts not only hurt your wallet, but also your standing with the bank. Skip the fees and add to your vacation fund instead.
Credit Card Rewards & Special Savings
Credit card companies often run monthly bonus rewards programs. It might be an extra 5% reward for purchases on groceries, gas, or dining out. Look for these and use them! Pay off your balance each month to avoid paying interest. The interest rate on unpaid balances is high and balances can build up quickly. Credit cards are a great convenience and a good way to take advantage of special promotions, but use them carefully.
Spend While Saving for College
U-Promise is a credit card program that lets you save your reward dollars for college tuition. Regular, everyday purchases made with their card or through their website can earn you up to 12% of the purchase price back to your college account. Check out the details at www.upromise.com. It’s a great way to get a discount and save for college at the same time — definitely a win-win proposition.
Pay with cash when you can. You’ll need to plan your budget carefully (and stick to it), but you won’t run the risk of overspending or running up credit card debt. Weigh the benefits of using cash against gaining rewards points or discounts, too. Generally, people who pay with cash spend less than if they were paying with a credit card. Spending less always means there’s more money to save.
Interest Rates on Investments
Make certain you’re getting the best return on your investments. Compare earnings rates on checking, savings, CD’s, money markets, and of course, on larger investments like stocks and bonds. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better rate. To gain your business, many places will match someone else’s rate or fee structure if it’s close to theirs.
To help keep your budget on track, try using online accounts, spreadsheets, or even simple envelopes. Whatever method you use is fine, as long as you do it. Keep track of every dollar spent and saved; otherwise you won’t know where your money is really going. Try www.Mvelops.com for easy, online budgeting solutions.
Annually, check out www.freecreditreport.com or www.transunion.com to review your personal credit report. By having a good credit score, you will qualify for car, home or other loans more easily and at the best rate. Better scores mean more money for you to save for retirement or for that rainy day.
Extra savings here and there, along with careful spending, add up to increased earnings over time. It doesn’t take much effort, just a little know-how and a watchful eye. By managing your money, you’ll have enough money to meet your everyday expenses while you also watch your savings account grow.
I don’t know about you but lately it seems as though dozens of times a day I hear the question – how’s business? And then, without thinking, comes the seemingly standard response…it’s crazy…so crazy busy that we hardly have time to turn around!
Sure there are good reasons why everyone feels busier these days, more work for less people, etc. And for many of you the circumstances may be absolutely accurate. If truth be told however, an honest assessment of where our time is going, and why, might point out a different path to where we could fit a bit more “white space” into our everyday agenda.
In the accompanying video, Juliet Funt gives us a lot to think about. She’s the daughter of Allen Funt, who produced one of the top television hits of the 1960’s – Candid Camera. For those of you who are too young to have even heard of Candid Camera, the program was similar to today’s 20/20 version – “What Would You Do?” The basic premise is that average everyday people are filmed in a situation where they believe they are forced to react to what they think is going on around them. In truth, the whole situation is staged to see how those people would react. Take a few minutes out of your busy day and listen to this true story that makes up her message. Then let us know if it makes a difference on how you view your ever-busy world.
Now “Get Out There and Make It A Great Week!”
Not everyone is happy about another year with little snow. If you have young children, they might really be missing their favorite sledding hill. Or maybe you live somewhere where it never snows, but you still like to experience a real winter once in awhile. If you’re looking to go where the snow is, there’s nowhere else in the world that does winter better than Colorado.
And with the late winter snowfall, this year’s ski season looks like it’s going to be great for the next several weeks. Colorado is home to the best spring skiing in America because when the conditions are good—sunshine, warmer weather, and plenty of snow—they’re outstanding! And with so many activities to choose from, you can take a short trip or a long vacation that every member of your family will enjoy. But with so many majestic mountain peaks to choose from, where should you go? Here’s a short guide to help you decide.
If you only have a long weekend or a few days, this is a good option. Dubbed the “urban mountains” because of their proximity to Denver, Summit County boasts the Copper, Breckenridge, Arapaho (A-Basin to the locals), Keystone and Snowmass Mountains. With their lively, bustling downtowns and so many ski areas close at hand, these are great options for shorter trips. They’re also perfect for families or people who don’t ski or snowboard as there are lots of cool local shops to peruse during the day and great restaurants and entertainment at night. Check out mix and match options for lift tickets here.
If you have more time, you may want to head south. Although most of the resorts in southern Colorado have small airports, flights can be pricey. A great alternative is to fly into Durango–a bigger town with a good-sized airport–and rent a car. This way, you can check out more of the south and save some money too! Some stops along the way might include:
Established as a railroad depot on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad line to serve the many mines in the area, Durango is steeped in Old West history. With the Animas river snaking through downtown, it’s a beautiful place with plenty of local watering holes to relax in if you’re taking a day off the slopes. However, about 25 minutes north of town, there’s also a ski hill, the Durango Mountain Resort.
From Durango, head due north on State Highway 550 for about an hour and you’ll come to Silverton. A small, sleepy hamlet high in the mountains, Silverton also has one ski lift. Why make the trip for one measly lift, you ask? Let me warn you– this is no bunny hill! In Silverton, you are required to employ the services of a backcountry ski guide before you even get on the chairlift. There are no maps or green markers to guide the newcomer and conditions can be treacherous. If you like extreme sports and high adventure, this is your place!
Perhaps the jewel of the (Colorado) South, Telluride has only one way in and out—a two lane road that dead ends at a mountain waterfall. To wake up here, staring at the majestic mountain backdrop, is truly a treat since there are few places in the world as beautiful as Telluride. It’s a favorite for diehard skiers and snowboarders who can literally bomb down the mountain right into town, pop off their skis, and grab a seat at the bar for an après ski powwow. But there’s also snowmobiling, ice skating, and sleigh rides for non-skiers. For a full list of all snow activities check here.
If you’re wondering what happened to all the snow this year, maybe the best way to fill the void is to head to the mountains of Colorado. With so much to do and see, it’s the definition of a winter wonderland, even this late in the season!
Although it’s still winter, you can get a jumpstart on your spring-cleaning now by going through your apartment and getting rid of things you no longer need or want. Then, when it does come time for spring-cleaning, it will be much easier if you don’t have to clean around all that extra stuff! But getting rid of your belongings can be easier said than done, so we’ve come up with some questions to ask yourself when you’re de-cluttering.
Do you or anyone in your family still use it? It may be perfectly good, but no one is using it. This is the time to be realistic and level with yourself about what you should keep. It could be those skinny jeans you bought ten years ago and are still hoping you’ll fit into again one day, or the electric toothbrush that has needed new replacement heads for months and is now just accumulating dust under the sink. It’s nice to think that you may have a use for these things again, but if you haven’t used them in over a year, chances are you’re not going to any time soon.
Is it working? Can it realistically be fixed? This goes for things that are just plain broken, but also, think about whether or not it works in your space. Do you have furniture that you brought from a previous apartment where it made perfect sense, but it doesn’t really fit in your new space? Have a blender that needs a new motor? Although we’re all for refurbishing and reusing, sometimes it’s more economical and easier to replace things than to get them fixed.
Do you (or anyone in your family) love it anyway? Sometimes even the most impractical items have sentimental value. You don’t want to upset other family members by suggesting that something they love should be thrown away. This means you won’t make the executive decisions on everything—even if you are the one doing the de-cluttering. Check with people before you throw away their belongings. And hey, if they just can’t part with that G.I. Joe action figure they had in middle school, that’s ok too.
Could someone else benefit from it? Remembering that you can always give things to the Salvation Army or another good cause can help you in the separation process. Parting with things that were gifts can be incredibly challenging—you don’t feel right throwing out something someone gave you, but knowing that it will go to good use can really lessen your re-gifting guilt. And remember, if you have big-ticket items that seem too valuable to give away, there’s also Craigslist where you can sell your stuff and make a little money.
And finally, would you miss it if it were gone? Often, when we go through our things, emotions come up that convince us we really need them, even if you haven’t thought about those things in ages. So ask yourself: if this item suddenly went missing, how long would it take me to notice it was gone? Would I ever? If the answer is no, you know what you should do with it.
De-cluttering can be a long and tiring process, but you’ll almost always find something that needs to go or an item that will be more appreciated by someone else. Remember, getting rid of the old isn’t a bad thing. It makes your apartment look neat and tidy and it can also free you up to get something new that better fits your current lifestyle!