Easy kitchen updates that won’t break the bank


It goes without saying that the kitchen is one of the hardest-working rooms in the home. For most, it’s the heart of family life and usually the one room where everyone gathers together. With so much hustle and bustle, it’s no wonder that the kitchen runs the risk of looking overworked.

A remodeled kitchen not only reinvigorates the space, but the home overall. This isn’t always easy to accomplish though, as a full-blown renovation can be quite expensive and time-consuming. However, even on a tight budget, there are plenty of ways to spruce up the room without breaking the bank. 

 

As dirt and grease build up over time, appliances around the kitchen can appear old and dull. The easiest way to rejuvenate those appliances without spending a fortune on new ones is by giving them a thorough cleaning. Since the stove is often used most, it’s a good place to start. Clean the entire surface inside and out using a product that is safe for all surfaces. Try Goo Gone Foaming Kitchen Grease Cleaner to cut through the baked-on grease and stuck-on grime clinging to your stove without needing to scrub. Get into every nook and cranny until it sparkles.

 
After the stove is clean, repeat the process for the microwave, backsplash, oven hood, sink and countertops. All of your kitchen appliances will begin to look like new again, and your kitchen won’t seem so worn and outdated. 

 
Once finished with the kitchen surfaces, consider some other affordable updates that can make a huge impact:
Paint the cabinets – A lackluster room can quickly become re-energized with a vibrant new color. Repaint the cabinets a lively hue to brighten the space or freshen the existing paint color with a new coat. 

 
Update fixtures – Don’t expect that the faucet handles you installed more than 10 years ago will last another 10. In addition to being practical, kitchen fixtures can add style and enhance overall design. Look for fixtures that fit your kitchen motif, whether it’s modern and sleek or shabby chic. 

 
Change existing hardware – Think of hardware as jewelry for the kitchen. Add new glass or metal knobs, or bars to highlight cabinets and enhance the overall style of the room. If using metal hardware, choose one type and stick to it for a clean, uniform look.
Create shelving – Removing cabinet doors to create shelving can provide a sense of openness and additional space. Simply remove cabinet doors and fill in holes with wood filler. Then, sand until smooth and paint as desired. You can also paint the inside of the newly open cabinets as a decorative treatment.

 
Introduce new fabric – Are your cushions looking dingy and outdated? Re-cover chairs or stools with bright, patterned fabric that reflects your personality. Also consider framing the space with new curtains that liven up your “new” kitchen.

 
Find your green thumb – Instead of buying fresh herbs at the grocery store or farmers market, plant them in pots in your kitchen. They will help add freshness to both the atmosphere and your food (while saving you money).

 
Don’t forget about the floor – Update floors without the significant cost associated with new flooring by simply adding a rug. Find a rug that’s durable to high foot traffic, but also complements your kitchen style.

 
Complete all the updates, or pick and choose to make a difference even on the smallest budget. This process will certainly work on other areas of the home as well. Just as with the kitchen, always start with a good cleaning to instantly revitalize the items in your home. To save time and money, use products designed to clean multiple surfaces – including carpeting, upholstery, hard surfaces and more. Then, look around to see what can be updated without a complete renovation. Your home will have a fresh appeal in no time. 

Surviving swimsuit season: Tips for simplifying your summer nutrition plan


Swimsuit season is upon us, but that doesn’t mean adopting yet another fad diet to shed those lingering winter pounds. In fact, according to a recent study, “Successful Weight Loss Among Obese U.S. Adults,” which was released by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, popular diets showed no association with weight loss.

Instead, consider simplifying your nutrition plan. No counting calories, no elimination of whole food groups, just simple wellness. Navigate the path of numerous temptations by sticking to the basics and trying these easy tips.

 

Know what you are eating

 
Be aware of what is entering your body. Read labels and watch portion sizes. Fill your body with fresh vegetables, fruits and protein packed foods to keep you fueled throughout the day.
Need something convenient to grab as you run out the door? Keep your pantry stocked with wholesome, portion-controlled snacks like new Perfectly Simple nutrition bars by ZonePerfect. With 10 or fewer ingredients, these gluten-free bars provide 10 grams of protein, 200 calories or less and make simple eating, simple.

 
It’s all in the planning

 
Running late is a common excuse for a derailed nutrition plan. Stay on track by preparing meals in advance. Make a healthy meal calendar and only purchase those items needed to follow it. Prepare fruits and vegetables in single serving bags so that snacking and packing meals is convenient and won’t take a lot of time each day.

 
Surviving summer events

 
Summer ushers in cookouts, company picnics and wedding buffets. While you can’t always control the food offerings, you can prepare before heading out the door. Empty stomachs cause bad choices, so try eating a healthy, high-protein snack such as a hard-boiled egg before leaving. When you arrive, stick to nutritious options like lean meats, veggies and fruits instead of the higher calorie items.

 
Stay hydrated

 
Summer events are typically held outside, which means it is especially important to stay hydrated. Invest in a well-insulated water bottle and take it with you everywhere you go. In addition, steer clear of empty-calorie, sugar-filled beverages.

 
Simple fitness choices

 
Determine a few simple exercises that you can do anywhere. Dragging at work? Try some jumping jacks for a boost. Why not do stomach crunches while you watch your favorite evening television show? Many exercises can be done in your own home and still make a big impact.

 
For more information about other simple nutrition options, including the full line of ZonePerfect Nutrition Bars, visit zoneperfect.com.

Underground irrigation for beautiful gardens


A garden is a glorious thing. Regimented flower beds, perfect lawns, riots of color, scent and shape. So why spoil it with trailing hosepipes, unsightly watering cans or even lengths of visible irrigation piping? Underground irrigation is simple, effective and affordable – the perfect way to ensure every plant in the garden receives all the water it needs, without marring the look of the place.

Underground irrigation is exactly what it sounds like: a network of tubes and feeders running under the soil, which carry water to all the right places. The tubes in an underground irrigation network rise to the surface at predetermined points, where they eject water through nozzles, spray heads or pop up sprinklers: which not only hides the workings of the garden’s watering system, but also enables the gardener to pinpoint exactly where water is needed and deliver it efficiently, without spilling a single drop.

The true beauty of underground irrigation lies in this two-fold use. No-one likes to see a beautiful place covered in hosepipe and drag marks – and no-one, in our resource-impoverished world, wants to waste water. By tracking water exactly to where it is needed, underground irrigation can save up to 80% of the water a person would need to use when watering the garden using hosepipes and watering cans: and by being hidden, underground irrigation ensures that nothing upsets the layout and design of a domestic outdoor space.

Underground irrigation is as flexible as it needs to be. The network of piping used in underground irrigation can be added to at will, which means that any underground irrigation system can start simple and develop in perfect step with the garden it has been installed to water. Controlling an underground irrigation system is equally easy: the watering nozzles and pop-up spray heads are driven by water pressure, so there are no power issues. In the simplest form of underground irrigation a gardener just turns on a tap and watches the water pop out at all the stations along the chain.

Gardeners who require more control in their underground irrigation systems can add electronics – a range of keypads and control centers can be bought, which allow underground irrigation systems to deliver different amounts and rates of water at different times of day or year. In this model, underground irrigation systems can be sectioned into programmable areas, whereby differing amounts of water or types of delivery are activated at nominated times of day and night.

Underground irrigation offers a perfect combination of invisibility and control, suitable for any garden. And with its water-saving capabilities way beyond any other method of garden feeding, it’s an ideally sustainable way of keeping domestic outdoor spaces blooming.

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_5022.shtml

Steps to an updated outdoor entertaining space



Clear it off

The first step when updating any patio or deck is to remove all items from the area; this includes furniture, planters and even the weathered layer of grime that sits atop the wood. Use a power washer to really remove any mildew and debris. By starting with a clean surface, you’ll be able to see the current state of the wood. If the stain is faded or wearing away, consider re-staining it. Wood exposed to the outdoor elements should be coated with an oil-based finish, never a latex or acrylic paint. Paint is more susceptible to weathering, fading and flaking. Oil-based stains soak into the wood and result in better and longer-lasting results.

Purdy mini-rollers are the perfect size for applying stain to railings, spindles and any other small areas of the deck. The covers are available in 4 ½- and 6 ½-inch lengths and come in all fabric types, including fabric that works well with oil-based finishes. If your deck is currently painted, be sure to scrape away any flaking areas from the deck flooring, the steps and handrails. A Purdy scraper is a great tool for removing peeling or flaking coatings. If the entire deck is painted, consider stripping with chemicals or power sanding, and then applying a high-quality stain.

Dress it up and add some color

Is your existing outdoor furniture looking a bit drab? Repaint it and dress it up with outdoor pillows and cushions. Change up the layout of the furniture for another fresh look. By moving furniture into a more square or circular shape, you’ll increase conversations. If a focal point exists, such as a fire pit or great view, arrange furniture to face that. For a more embellished look to your railings, replace existing spindles and ball tops with more decorative ones. Repaint planter boxes and add in colorful accessories such as rugs, lawn ornaments and small plants. Flowers, herbs and many vegetables can be grown in planters, boxes and any other small space.

Lighten up your space

Many outdoor gatherings can carry on past sunset, so lighting your deck area is important. There are hundreds of options available to lighten up any outdoor area. You can create whatever atmosphere you prefer. Solar lamps are a smart, energy-efficient way to light the walk and seating areas, while Chinese lanterns hanging in the trees create a fun, party feel.

Lights lining railing walkways will direct attendees to and from the gathering areas safely, and an enclosed bonfire pit or portable fireplace is a great way to gather people for post-dinner carousing. Sufficient lighting will encourage guests to stay past dark and allow everyone to enjoy a warm evening.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be spending more time outdoors and have a fresh space to enjoy with family and friends.

Summer entertaining: Spend less time preparing, more time enjoying


There’s no question why summer is the best-loved season of the year: it’s all about fun, relaxation and enjoying the beautiful outdoors. So, it follows that homeowners don’t want to waste a minute of those glorious months of sunshine. When planning traditional summer get-togethers, save time by taking steps to ensure that your outdoor spaces are as low-maintenance as possible so that the focus is on the party, rather than the prep.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending hours preparing your home and yard before throwing a party, whether it’s the week before or the day of the event. Focusing on outdoor living spaces ahead of time with plants and products that need minimal attention will save stress and give you more time to enjoy the season.

As summer arrives, keep these time-saving tips in mind for an outdoor environment that’s as beautiful as it is low-maintenance.

* Set the stage in just one step. Having the right set-up for outdoor entertaining can take your party from standard to superb. Installing a deck provides the perfect gathering space for get-togethers but also serves as a functional area for everyday family dining. Make it easy by choosing low-maintenance decking materials, including composite and PVC decking products, that eliminate time-consuming sanding, staining and painting. Because the company also offers railing and lighting, you can opt for a package that coordinates seamlessly and is covered by a 25-year warranty. 

 
* Pick plants wisely. Wilting plants can put a damper on party decor and tending finicky flowers can eat up a lot of time in the garden, so making the right plant choices is important. Select varieties that are suited to the regional climate – as well as their location in the yard. Once you’ve decided where to place the pots and containers, head to the garden store to pick out complementary arrangements that will thrive in full sun, partial shade or full shade, depending on your unique yard. When plants are in their preferred spots, they’ll do much of the work on their own – you’ll just need to water when appropriate.

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* Keep it together. Since most summer gatherings involve food and beverages, it’s a good idea to keep a set of serving items that can withstand the outdoor exposure, like shatter-proof plates and drink ware. To save time and hassle when preparing for the party, keep all outdoor accessories in one place so that everything is easy to find. A bar cart can be a handy tool for keeping supplies together, and storing serving ware in airtight containers helps to keep it clean and in good condition.  

 
* Take a seat. Everyone likes to do a little lounging on those sultry summer nights, so be sure to give guests a place to relax and sit back. If your outdoor furniture has seen better days, the wide availability of durable, weather-resistant chairs, chaises and benches makes it easy to furnish a deck in low-maintenance style. For a budget-friendly option, buying new cushions and covers can add a fresh touch to existing furniture if it’s still sturdy. With today’s high-quality weather-resistant materials, preparing furniture for a party can be as easy as a quick wipe-down. 

 
Switching the focus from yard maintenance to outdoor enjoyment will make the summer season that much more pleasant. For more information about creating a beautiful outdoor living space, visit www.timbertech.com.

Considering a pool, spa or hot tub? What you should know before you hire a contractor


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Does your dream backyard include a lush lawn, lovely landscaping and – at the heart of the action – a pool, spa or hot tub? If so, you’re not alone, and this might be your year to turn that dream into reality.

A recent survey by the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) found that 82 percent of homeowners said they would use their backyard more if they had a pool, spa or hot tub. Nearly as many believe that adding one of those features would turn their backyard into an everyday vacation spot. The good news is that the right APSP certified professional can help make that backyard dream achievable and affordable.

 

“Owning a pool, spa or hot tub is less expensive than you may think,” says Bill Weber, APSP president and CEO. “Advances in technology have improved ease of operation and energy efficiency making the backyard pool, spa and hot tub experience within reach of more homeowners than ever before.”

 
If you’ve been dreaming of a pool, spa or hot tub, this is your year to make it happen. APSP offers insider tips to use when you call that special contractor to do the job. 

 
* Experience – Experience is more than just the number of years someone’s been in business. Does the contractor you’re considering have experience building pools or installing hot tubs in backyard environments similar to yours? Ask to see samples of past work and look for yards with conditions similar to yours, especially if your home or yard has unique challenges like slopes or drainage issues.

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* Cost – Has the contractor considered all factors in the cost estimate? Keep in mind factors that influence price go beyond just the size and shape of the installation; your contractor should also consider the quality of the materials, design, construction and installation time, durability and warranties into your cost estimate.

 
* Safety – Safety is a key concern for pool, spa and hot tub owners. Is your contractor bonded, insured and versed in all applicable installation/building regulations and standards for your state and community? Does he or she understand any unique safety concerns you may have, such as the presence of a special needs child in the home or a high-traffic corner lot where your pool may be an attractive temptation to neighborhood children?

 
* Vision – Does your contractor understand your vision for your backyard pool, spa or hot tub and can he or she help make it as cost-effective as possible? Your contractor should be able to advise you on the best location for your new pool, spa or hot tub, and provide you with sketches or even a video of your yard to help you envision the customized finished product.

 
* Education and professionalism – Does your contractor participate in continuing education to stay abreast of the newest technologies, efficiencies and design trends in the industry?

 
* Professional certification – Is the contractor you’re considering an APSP certified professional? Contractors who achieve the APSP certification have proven knowledge of design and construction, are committed to continuing education to maintain their certification, and adhere to a stringent code of ethics.

To find an APSP certified professional in your area, visit www.APSP.org/memberlocator.

Courtesy of BPT