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Removing Stains 101

Stains are inevitable in everyday life. We can’t do our best to avoid spills and splashes, but sometimes they just find a way to get to us. Common stains are easy to clean up if you know the right thing to do. Here are some of the conventional stains we may encounter everyday and how we can clean or remove them.

Before we go to specific stains, keep these general tips in mind: First, take action immediately, as the longer the stain sits, the harder it will be to remove it. Next, read washing labels carefully so you know you’re not further damaging the item. Also, soak the item for as long as you can and use the hottest temperature water possible. Finally, if your item is white linen or cotton, lemon juice will take care of most stains, but never use it on colors as it may damage them.

Mustard, Ketchup or Other Sauces

Use a color-safe beach and pre-treat the stain. Then, wash the item in hot or warm water. If the stain still remains, use stain remover and wash again.


Lipstick, depending on the ingredients and the material of the item can be cleaned with just regular washing in hot water. However, if the lipstick stain remains, use a stain remover, hairspray, or ammonia and then rinse it with warm water.


This is a tough one, and you’ll first need to apply some rubbing alcohol, then some detergent to the stain. Wash as you normally would, and it there’s still a stain do it again or try using hairspray by rubbing it in with a cloth before you wash it.

Grass Stains

Pretreat with a stain remover and use color-safe bleach or bleach and wash the item as you normally would. For more stubborn stains, you can use methanol or ethanol to treat the stain, wash it with warm water and soap, then soak the item in a solution of one part glycerin and two parts water for a few hours until the fabric softens.

Red Wine

Another tough one – this time, use salt or white wine to stop the stain from spreading and setting. Rinse it off with warm water after a few minutes. If the stain has already dried and set, you may still be able to rescue it with a mixture of one part glycerin and two parts of water. Rub it into the stain and wash as you normally would.


For fresh stains, dip the item in cold water, then scatter a small amount of ammonia on the stain. For stains which may have already set in, first wet it in warm water. Use unseasoned meat tenderizer and pour some over the stain, mixing it up with the damp cloth to form a paste-like substance. Use a paper towel to cover it overnight. The following day, use a solution of water and ammonia to wash off the paster and then wash as directed on the garment label.


Pretreat the stain with some liquid detergent before washing normally. For tougher stains, soak the item in white vinegar for up to half an hour before washing in the hottest water temperature (this may vary depending on the garment.)


Preparing Your Nursery

The arrival of a baby is a blessing for any parent. But, before the baby arrives, one of the things you need to do is prepare the nursery. This is where your baby will spend the first few years of his or her life, so you should do this well. Aside from being a beautiful nursery, it should also be comfortable and practical as you will be spending a lot of time in there caring for your baby, feeding him or her, changing diapers, and putting them to sleep. So, to help you set up your nursery, here are some tips you can do:

The Basics

What’s inside is just as important as the outside, so make sure you check your nursery inside and out. That means you have to ensure the room is clean, gets plenty or light and ventilation, and there are no molds or fungi building up in the corners of the room. If you’re paranoid about lead in paint, you may want to consider stripping down any old paint (especially if it’s more than 10 years old) and putting up new wallpaper or lead-free, baby-safe paint on the walls.


At the very least, you’ll need a good crib. What’s “good”? Well that depends on you and your budget. There are a lot of cribs out there with a lot of bells and whistles, but if you can find one that can “grow” with your baby, than that’s really the most important feature you need so you can keep your crib and not have to replace it every year. Whatever crib you choose, make sure it’s safe for babies, has no small parts he or she can swallow and not being recalled for defects.

Aside from the crib, you may want to get a changing table. As you’ll find out, babies will need their diapers changed a lot during the first year, and having a comfortable place where you can change diapers can be a godsend. You’ll also want a comfortable chair where you can sit if you have to feed or put the baby to sleep.

Other Items

There may be some other items you want to consider adding to your nursery to make it better. You can get shelving to keep your baby’s things organized. You can have a CD player so you can play some music for the baby (and yourself) and a nice area rug to brighten up your room (and keep the temperature warm for your baby.) Though these items aren’t necessary, they can make you and your baby more comfortable.


Holiday Decorating with Kids

Everyone loves the holidays, especially the little ones! Why not get them involved in getting your home ready for the holidays? Having kids help you is a great idea, for many reasons. First, they feel included in the holiday preparations. It’s also a great way to teach them some good values and it’s also a fun family activity to do. So, if you want to get decorating with the kids, here are some good tips to get you started.

Plan It Out

Getting organized will ensure that you can get everything you done in time. You should also get your kids involved in your decorating plan. You can solicit ideas from the kids and try to pick and choose from good ones. Why not ask the kids to make drawings to show what they’d like to do? Then you can choose which ones you can do and have them create a “final” plan for your holiday décor.

If your kids are old enough, you can make your own decorations. There’s something for every age, as long as you tailor the activity to the kid, you’re sure to have fun.

For very young kids, you may want something a little simple. Filling a bowl or bowls with items can be easy. Take them out for a walk and find some branches, twigs and pinecones and once you’ve cleaned these items, they can help tie ribbons and arrange them on bowls to make beautiful holiday centerpieces.

Speaking of ribbons, you can make bows with your kids or purchase pre-made ones and use those to decorate. Encourage your kids to decorate the house with bows, such as banisters, candles, doorknobs or even the Christmas tree.

There are many activities that kids of all ages can join in on. For example, why not encourage them to make their own Christmas Village? Pick a tabletop or surface to build on. Use a green cloth or base and use some white cotton to represent snow. Then you can have your kids start arranging buildings, streets, cars, carts, etc. around your Christmas Village (you can buy pre-made ones of make your own if you’re inclined.)

Finally, for that all-important Christmas tree, get your kids bundled up and take them with you when you pick your Christmas tree. You can make a day of it, and pack up some hot cider or chocolate and some snacks while you’re looking for the perfect tree (make sure you have some Christmas songs in the car.) When you get the right tree and set it up, your kids can help decorate. You can ask them to string popcorn or beads to put around the tree.

There are many more things you can do with your kids to do some holiday decorating with your kids, so just be creative!


Choosing your child's bed

There are many factors to consider when choosing a bed for your child. Among the main things to consider are the safety, functionality, and design. But aside from these considerations, parents should find out what sort of bed their child would like.


Once babies become toddlers, they are ready to leave the crib and move to their new bed. At this stage, safety is the parents’ top priority, especially because their child is still young. Toddlers are not yet ready for an adult’s bed. Beds specifically designed for three or four year olds are called starter beds. These beds are usually lower than the normal adult bed, and come with adjustable or removable side rails. Parents should check the quality of workmanship to make sure the bed is sturdy. A badly built bed is of course not safe for your child. The mattress should also match with the bed design so it is always best to buy the bed and mattress as a set.


Starter bed models, because they are for toddlers, are a lot shorter than your average bed (around 4.5 feet long). If budget is not a concern these specialized beds, which usually come in whimsical designs, are ideal. However, for more practical parents looking for furniture that can be used for many years ahead, a good option would be extendable models. These starter beds are designed in such a way that you can add an extra section and extend the bed (as well as replace or add to the mattress) as your child grows up. These starter beds are also usually the types whose side safety rails are detachable.

For parents with more than one child, they might consider trundle beds which are space saving and practical. Or, when the children are much older, a double bed is always an exciting proposition for active kids who look forward to climbing up and down the ladder.


Design is a big factor if you want to give your child a memorable sleeping experience. For parents who are keen to decorate their child’s bedroom design is important. The bed is the biggest piece of furniture in the bedroom, and so is central to the décor. In the past ensuring that the bed was in theme with the interior design meant you bought matching sheets. These days the bed itself is in theme, and there are dozens of fun ‘theme beds’ to choose from with designs ranging from sports and cartoon characters, to fanciful princess-type models with which to pamper your daughter. These them beds need additional examination, though, as sometimes safety, functionality and quality may be compromised.

But even with these considerations in mind, parents should also let their child choose his or her bed. One way parents can encourage the child to help make the choice is to take the child to the store so they can take a look at what’s available. It is also ideal to let the child try out the mattress. A comfortable mattress, aside from a sturdy bed, makes for your child’s good night’s sleep.


Choosing the Best Neighborhood

Moving can be very overwhelming. Imagine the entire task you need to accomplish. The papers you need to get done, and the money you have to spend for the preparations, and for the new house. And one of the most tiring tasks is finding the right place for you to relocate. Knowing that you have to move can be very stressful and nerve-racking. Choosing the best neighborhood for you to relocate may take much of your time. But you don’t have to worry. It is much easier than you think if you know what to do. Below are some tips how you can choose the best place for you to move.

Make a list

Not of the place you want to move in – at least not yet. Make a list of your preferences when it comes to your ideal place. Do you want it to be near the school for your kids? Or you want near your work place? Or maybe you want it strategically situated near the grocery store, the park, the church, or the hospital – make your list. You may ask your kids, or your spouse for that matter.

Once you have identified your criteria, it will be much easier for you to determine which neighborhood best fit your needs and preferences. What is important is that you’re comfortable and you have a sense of security in that place.

Do research

You may want to ask some friends about the city where you want to move to. Or if you want you can browse the web for easy and convenient research. Websites like “City Data” have comprehensive and detailed statistics of all US cities, which includes, employment, crime, housing, and other demographics you may want to know about the city. There are also active discussions about the cities in the forums found in many sites. Feel free to join the forum and ask your questions.

Go for a visit

After your research and with the help of a few friends, narrow down your choices based on the details you gathered. Find time and schedule a visit to these places. Try to drive around the neighborhood, try to feel the ambiance. You may also want to take the main streets and the back streets. Try your best to observe the situation in the area.

If you have finally decided on which place you want to move, it’s time that you find a realtor. You may want to surf the internet to search for a broker. Working with a broker will make it easier for you to locate the perfect house for you and provide you with comprehensive listings of the properties you might find interesting.

Choosing the best neighborhood may involve quite a number of tasks and may take a little time. But in case you’re having a hard time finding the right place for you, always remember that there is always a home that fits every preferences and budget.


Options for Protecting Your Move with Insurance

Moving can be an expensive time for anyone, especially if your bill isn’t being picked up by your company as part of a relocation package. One way your moving can go higher? If your stuff gets lost or damaged. The cost of replacing these items can cost you more money. Movers are supposed to provide you with insurance when you contract their services, but more often than not, this type of insurance is not enough to cover the entire value of your items. So, to protect yourself, make sure you get the right type and right amount of insurance. In some cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And so, here are some the things you should know to protect your move with insurance.

Liability Insurance

According to federal law, your moving company should provide you with a basic type of insurance called the liability-release value insurance. It’s the cheapest option available and doesn’t require you to pay anything more than your moving estimate price. However, most of these will pay around 30 cents per pound for in-state moves and 60 cents per pound out of state. Now, if you don’t have any valuables and are only moving your clothes, kitchen items and maybe some furniture, this is goo, basic coverage. However, for big ticket items like computers or flat screen TVs which can weigh in anywhere from 10 – 20 pounds, 30 cents per pound probably isn’t going to give you enough cash to replace a $2000 TV.

Full-Value Replacement Insurance

This is perhaps the most complete moving insurance plan out there. For an extra cost, you can get additional insurance the can cover the cost of the value of your item (although take note the value is at the mover’s discretion.) A lower deductible means you won’t be paying out as much when you do have to make a claim, however it can mean higher cost for the insurance premium itself. Make sure you list all your belongings on the inventory sheet, so they can be included in the coverage.

Outside Insurance

Also known as Third Party Insurance, you can purchase insurance from other parties to protect your move. If you feel your mover is giving you a high rate, or if you don’t agree with their insurance terms, then you can certainly refuse their full-value insurance offer and seek your own from third parties who specialize in moving insurance. Getting an insurance from a third party may not only mean lower premiums, but you may be able to have an easier time claiming in case of damage.

Homeowners Insurance

Many types of homeowners insurance covers the items when you move. It’s important to check your insurance provider and perhaps if it’s not, ask them how much it would cost to add this to your policy. However, if you do make a claim, this could affect your entire homeowner’s policy, so think carefully before you do decide on this.


Stress-Free Holiday Dinner Preparation

Perhaps the easiest way to avoid Holiday dinner preparation is is to not do it at all. However, if you don’t have any choice or perhaps you do enjoy cooking but not the stressing, then there are many things you can do to avoid this. Here are some ideas to help you avoid that dinner preparation stress.

Use Only Tested Recipes

Sure, it’s nice to try out new things, but if you’re trying to avoid getting stressed out, you may want to cook things you’ve only cooked (and cooked well) previously. If you really want to try that complicated chocolate soufflé, then why not do a test run a few weeks before? You can try to master the recipe, work out the kinks or at least you’ll have an idea of the steps and you won’t be glancing at the recipe book every 10 seconds.

Shop Ahead of Time

On the days before Christmas or New Year’s, you’ll probably find that the supermarket is getting more crowded with other harried last-minute shoppers, and less and less items on the shelves. To avoid the rush of that last minute grocery shopping trip, do your shopping a few weeks before. There are many non-perishables you can buy ahead of time, like dried herbs, flour, bread crumbs, canned sauces and vegetables. You can even save yourself a trip by ordering them online as well.

Cook Ahead of Time

There may some recipes or preparations you can do the day or even week before the big dinner. You can make some cold salads (like pasta or rice salad) the night before the dinner. Soups and stews always taste better after it’s been simmering for a few hours, so why not toss in your ingredients into a slow cooker and all you have to do it set the time and temperature. Desserts like jams, cookies, and even pies and tarts can be made up to 2 weeks in advanced.

Split Duties

There’s nothing wrong with asking for some help – so why not ask a close friend or relative to come early and help you cook or ask a few people to contribute to your dinner? As host, you should take care of the main dish, but why not ask people to add some sides or dessert? This also makes sense in these economic times, as you can split the costs as well, and each of you can spend more on your dishes to make it more special.

Do It Semi-Homemade

It’s not cheating if you have a little help from pre-made stuff or a restaurant. Besides, it’s the holidays, not an exam! There are some pre-made things you can use to help cooking easier on you. You can get store-bought stuffing and add a few ingredients to make it a little different. Why not get a cake or cupcakes from the bakery and frost and decorate them yourself? Just make some cream frosting and sprinkle them with red and green sprinkles.

Minimize Your Menu

There’s really no need to put on an elaborate spread with all the trimmings to impress your guests, especially if you don’t really have the time. As long as you have enough food for all your guests, just prepare one main dish (like a turkey, ham or roast), one starter, one side and one dessert. You’ll be able to give more attention to each of your dishes instead of spreading yourself thin trying to create 10 dishes.

With these holiday dinner tips, you’re sure to have a stress-free holiday, so you can enjoy your time with your loved ones.


Getting Rid of Unsightly Wires

One seemingly unavoidable eyesore that tends to mar a perfectly decorated room is the sight of electrical wires. Picture your beautiful living room equipped with the latest flat panel TV and a 5.1 home theater system – unfortunately, your rear speakers would have to be connected to the front with wires.

In the wake of all the advanced technology in electronic appliances, it seems ironic that nothing much has developed in the design of these appliances when it comes to the external wiring aesthetics. To be sure, there are already a number of devices in the market which are capable of wireless data communication and even wireless electric power transmission. But these are few and possibly only some could actually afford them.

Most devices are still connected by copper to sources of power and data. For those of us who tend to get tied up in knots at the sight of spaghetti at the back of our desktops, TV sets and game consoles, we can try to provide a semblance of order to the chaos through the use of so-called
“wire organizers”.

These are products which wrap together two or more wires along their length much like the wiring harnesses found in car electrical systems. This has the advantage of reducing the visible wire count but effectively doubles the diameter of the bound wires. In practice, these items could be plastic spirals, nylon cable ties, or plastic tubing depending on personal preferences. The wires are still there but hidden in plain sight. The plastic spirals have the advantage of easy installation and removal.

If you have the budget, there are some high-end speaker systems which can be connected remotely to the source device. Since the system has no wires which can limit the distance and location of the speakers, the audiophile can re-arrange their locations as she pleases without worrying about tripping over hidden wires. This setup is most advantageous for 5.1 or 6.1 sound systems.

For wires on the floor, you can conceal them under your carpet, or tuck them securely under rugs. Or, buy floor cord covers which now come in different colors and textured designs that can match your wood floors.

As to data transmission, there are now devices which can be plugged into home electrical outlets to convert digital signals and carry them across existing electrical power wires and over to other digital devices inside the home. This works well with computer networking and communications setups inside the home with no additional wiring to worry about. The only consideration is the cost of the converter units. Aside from this, the home itself can also be configured to receive external broadband signals over power wires.

Perhaps the best time to think about concealed wiring systems is when you build a new house. The next best time is when you decide to remodel your home. Short of these two, you may need to tear down wall sections, lift floorboards or dig into concrete to provide channels for conduits. This will take time and money.


Moving an Apartment: How to Pack


So you got a new apartment? Now what?

Whether you are moving from an apartment to another or from your old house to an apartment elsewhere, knowing how to pack your belongings right make perfect sense. On this article, we’re going to talk about the easiest and quickest way to pack. Read? Let’s go!

Getting Started

Most people would start by picking any item they see and stuffing it in the box. This is the hardest and most stressful way to pack. Being organized is the key to a smooth packing activity. So first of all – before touching anything, you need to plan on how you’re going to do the packing. For instance, you need to know where you’re going to start. Will you pack the room first? How about the kitchen? Should you begin in the living room? Wherever you start, make sure to finish packing that area before you proceed to the next. This will prevent forgetting things and going back and forth.

Preparing the Materials

As much as possible, you don’t want any item to get damaged during the move. So, you have to be equipped with the right materials. Bubble wraps, pads, clothes (fabrics), and foams are ideal for delicate furniture and appliances. You will also need packing tapes, boxes, bags, and other containers. For small items like jewelries, secure them in a plastic container or a sturdy box. To cut the cost, you can make use of towels, blankets, and bed sheets instead of buying furniture pads or foam.

Prioritizing Things

Some people would start with the biggest items like furniture and appliances while others would begin with the smallest. Which one is right? Well, nothing’s wrong with these two methods actually. But here’s the best thing to do – start packing items that are least used. They can be relocated at the earliest time possible without affecting your daily routine. So you may want to begin packing display items like painting, racks, etc.

Preparing the Survival Box

Make your move as convenient as possible by securing a survival box which contains essential items like a few utensils, medicines, food, water, clothes, towel, and toiletries. You’ll need them during the first few days after your relocation. Once you reached your new apartment, you don’t want to rummage one box after the other just to get the things you need.

Starting Early

The things mentioned above are best done in the earliest time possible. Packing takes time and a lot of effort. If you’ll just do it in one day, you’re sure to lose your energy. So take it slowly but surely. To avoid cramming, make sure to set a start date and a finish date which is ideally set one week before the actual date of move unless you have a very few items.

Seek Help

Whether you’re considering hiring a moving company or you’re just moving alone, it pays to ask some help. Packing becomes a fun and exciting activity when there are people around to assist you and make you smile in times when you seem so, so tired.


Feng Shui Ideas for Your Home


Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese practice of balancing the energy (or “qi”) in order to improve the life of the individual. It is meant to be practiced in one’s whole life, but more popularly, it’s a way of arranging one’s home to improve the balance and flow of this energy to bring good luck, fortune and happiness to the family.

Many people think that Feng Shui practices can be silly, and downright kooky. However, even if you do’t believe in energy and good fortune, there are still some Feng Shui ideas that make sense to adapt in your home. So, check out these Feng Shui ideas to put into practice at home.


Mirrors have a special meaning in Feng Shui. They are said the be the cure-all for almost anything that ails your home, and placing certain kinds of mirrors (like round framed mirrors) can be a good way to attract wealth, and putting them in your home in the wrong way (like facing a door) can drive good luck out of your home.

One practical Feng Shui advice you should take is having a mirror face the east. A mirror facing the east is said to bring good family health and life. However, practically speaking, a mirror facing the east can reflect lots of light in your living room, kitchen, dining room or bedroom in the morning, and can make waking up or having breakfast in the morning a more pleasant experience, as well as helping you get your day started.

The Bedroom

Your bedroom is an important part of your over-all health. This is the place that should provide sensual energy, as well as healing properties. One of the Feng Shui ideas that you should adapt is the balance of the elements near your bed. Two nightstands on either side of your bed will help balance the qi around you while you sleep – and aesthetically speaking, it just looks good to have it symmetrical. Also, one of the practices of Feng Shui is to remove as many electrical appliances near the bed – that means no TVs, no radios, or cellphones. While this may seem silly, it also reduces the amount of EMFs (electromagnetic fields) you expose yourself to while you sleep. Also, without distractions like TV and your cellphone ringing in the middle of the night, you’re more likely to get a better, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

The Dining Room

Feng Shui tells us that there should always be some space in the middle of the room to allow qi to circulate. The dining room, however, is the one exception. The dining table should be in the middle of the room, and it should have ample space around it for the energy to move around. Of course, this makes sense because you don’t want to be bumping into walls or chairs when you’re trying to serve dinner. Also, the dining table should not have sharp edges (like square or rectangle dining tables) as this interrupts the flow of qi. Practically speaking, a round or circular table allows people to sit together closer and also because of the shape, everyone in the table can participate in the conversation.

If you want to adapt all of the Feng Shui practices, then of course you are free to do so. However, some of the practices actually do make sense, and you should consider using them in your own home.


Keeping Your Home Clean with Pets


Pets are great source of happiness and enjoyment. Even if they don’t talk the way we do, they are able to express their love in the most special ways they can. But sometimes, pets can make your head ache especially if they seem to make your house dirty all the time. It can be their poop that stained in your carpet, the mud that marked on your sofa, or the animal hair that triggered your asthma.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your home clean even if you have lots of pets at home.

  • Keep the vacuum close by.

Animal hairs splattered around are a common problem of many pet owners. If you have furry friends at home like dogs and cats, they will shed a lot of hair most especially when they’re playing or cuddling. If you have kids who have asthma or allergies, this can be a disaster. Sweeping the hairs will not be helpful. Instead of taking them away, you might just scatter them even more. The best solution is to use a vacuum! There are pet vacs available in the market today which are specifically designed for animals. You can also keep your regular home vacuum within your reach so anytime you see those hairs messing around; you can easily sweep them away.

  • Keep your home well ventilated.

If your pet’s litter box is inside the house, it’s most likely to produce unwanted smell even if there’s enough sand. You just can’t help it. Its animal poop – what do you expect? The best thing to do is situate the litter box in the dirty kitchen or somewhere which is near to a window or door. You also want to keep the entire house ventilated so the air can just go in and out, replacing the bad air inside.

  • Clean your pet’s paws.

Dirty paws can stain your expensive carpet and your beautiful couch. So always see to it that the paws of your pet are clean the moment they enter your house. If your pet has gone outside, it’s very much possible that there’s dirt and soil stuck in its paws.

  • Keep them well-groomed

A dirty pet brings dirt to any home. Well, you can’t just jail your pet inside the house. They need to go out and play too. What you can do is to maintain their cleanliness. Give them a bath regularly. Bring them to a pet parlor and have those fur trimmed and teeth brushed. You should have a complete ‘hygiene kit’ for your pet which includes its shampoo, powder, medications, etc.

  • Disinfect your home regularly

When your pet played outside, it’s most likely to come home with bad microorganisms and parasites attached on its fur. After cleaning your pet, you must also disinfect the house. Make a water-and-soap solution for the windows and floor or if you want, you can buy a disinfectant product from a local grocery store.

See? Who says a home with pets is always dirty? It’s not. It won’t. If you know how to clean it right, you can maintain a clutter-free home while keeping as many pets as you want!


How to Create Your Own Bar At Home


After moving, there are many fun ways you can spruce up your home. If you love to entertain and you love to drink, then you should think of investing in a great home improvement project like purchasing your own home bar. True, you can mix drinks in your kitchen or your dining table, but if you’re planning to serve more than vodka mixed with juice or soda, a bar will allow you to store and mix your own liquors, and keep you organized. It’s also a good centerpiece for any occasion, and it’s simple to organize and create your own bar nook.

First off, you’ll need the actual bar. If you want to save money, you can build your own, but you should also have some sort of building and crafting skills to make even a simple bar table. There is plenty of pre-built bars in stores and online, so you should do your research. It should be the right size to fit your designated bar nook, and should be able to fit all your bottles and accessories. Some bars have additional parts, like an overhead bottle holder or shelf, so you can display your bottles and have easy access to them as well.

Next, you’ll have to fill up your bar. If you have the cash to burn, then you can fill it up in one go. Of course, if you don’t have a lot of money, then you can slowly build it up over time. What sorts of things should you get? It’s hard to decide what to buy first, but a good way to choose is by buying things for your favorite drink or drinks and build it up from there. So if you like a good martini, then a bottle of gin, vermouth, and some olives should be your first buys. It’s also good to stock up on some basics, like vodka, rum, gin, tequila and soda water, but unless you’re having a party soon, you can always add these bottle by bottle. Later on, you can add some more mixers and liquers like Baileys, Khalua, Cointreau, Brandy, Pimm’s, Vermouth, Campari, Grenadine Syrup, etc.

Of course, a good bar will also have the right accessories. You can get full bartender gear in sets, but you can also build it up as you go along. Shakers and jiggers are essential for mixing, especially if you like your drinks “shaken, not stirred.” A strainer will help you get the drink into the glass without the ice you used to shake it in. If you do like your drinks mixed, then you’ll need a long bar spoon for maximum efficiency. There are other bar tools you may need as well, such as muddlers, zesters and ice crushers. Also, good glassware is important, as you don’t want to just serve your drinks in plastic cups. Shot glasses, short old-fashioned glasses and tall highball glasses are good to have around. Martini glasses or cocktail glasses are also some essentials you can’t live without.

Once you’re done with your preparations, you can now mix your own drinks, and invite a few over’s for a fun evening!


Decorating for Christmas Ideas and Tips

By Maria Paulia Belgado

It’s December! Have you started decorating for Christmas? You probably already have some ideas on how your house will look like for this very special season. But if you haven’t thought of it yet, don’t worry! Here, you’ll learn the most exciting ways to decorate your home this 2011 Christmas celebration!

The first step to decorating for Christmas is finding a theme. This is important so you can limit your choice of décor. If you have a theme, you’ll find it easier to pick colors and decorative materials. If you love Santa Claus like many people do, you can focus your theme on him. Why not place a huge display of Santa Claus in your living room? This will totally amuse your guests. Decorate the windows, doors, and walls with some Christmas furnishings that have a touch of red. You can also add the color green as both of these colors represent Christmas. If you want diversity (because for sure, your neighbors will have the same colors and displays), you can make a white Christmas theme! Make use of shining white lanterns and cute decors. People would usually use a green Christmas tree. To be different, try using a white one or any color you want. The tree doesn’t have to be too extravagant unless you decide to have this as the only Christmas décor in your house. If you plan to install decorative items in every corner, make your Christmas tree simple. It’s not a good idea to become too hooked in decorating for Christmas. Make a focal point – a place or display where the attention of anyone entering your house will be centered. If your focal point is the Christmas tree, don’t forget the gifts!

Lights are vital in decorating for Christmas. Lights will establish the Christmas atmosphere in your house. While a combination of colors for the lighting décor can be very eye-catching, you may want to settle on one or two colors only. This will keep your home classy and elegant.

You don’t always have to buy Christmas décor every year. You probably stored some items you used last year. In these difficult times, it’s not a good idea to overspend on decorating for Christmas. If you’re buying decorative items, look for quality ones so you can use them for the coming Christmas celebrations.

Decorating for Christmas shouldn’t be tiring and exhilarating. It must be one of the most fun-filled and enjoyable experiences that happen only once a year!


How to Create a Home Inventory


A home inventory checklist documents and tracks of your possessions, allowing you to keep tabs on what and how much you own. This can be a time-consuming process, so give yourself a week or so to complete it. Tackle one room each day, or set aside a weekend to get it done.

•  Step 1: Make a spreadsheet. There are several sites that offer tips on how to document your belongings, including FEMA and the Insurance Information Institute. Individual insurance agencies also offer checklist guidelines; check with your agent for the specifics of your plan and what it covers.

Step 2: Start documenting your belongings. A basic home inventory spreadsheet is divided room by room, with columns for: item description, quantity, model/serial number, year purchased, place purchased, and cost. Make sure all big ticket items have back-up such as receipts, appraisals, or serial numbers for electronics and appliances.

•  Step 3: Take digital photographs of the items on your list and store them in a computer file with your spreadsheet. Include photographs of the outside of your home, overview shots of each room, and close-ups of any big-ticket items. For less expensive items, take a group shot. For example, empty your toolbox and take one photo of its contents.

•  Step 4: Make sure all your data is backed up online so that you can access it if your computer is stolen or damaged. If you’re using hard copies, store one set in a second location away from your home, such as a relative’s house.

•  Part Two: Use Your Inventory. Hopefully you won’t have to use your inventory in the event of a disaster or burglary, but you will be able to put it to use in your day-to-day life. Most people, when faced with the task of documenting their belongings, realize that they own too much stuff.

•  Step 1: Go through your list, room-by-room, and ask yourself how many of each item you really need. Highlight each item that can be reduced. You may realize that you only need five t-shirts instead of fifteen, two sets of sheets instead of four, or one frying pan instead of three. (Don’t do any physical decluttering yet; just work on your list. Physical decluttering brings up emotional attachments and associations that add another layer of difficulty to the process.)

•  Step 2: Set up an outbox in your home: a station where you collect the things you’re getting rid of. This is a strategy used in AT’s 8-Step Home Cure that really works. Items stay in the outbox for a little while, so that you have time to emotionally detach as well as the ability to retrieve something if you REALLY need it.

•  Step 3: With your list in hand, tackle each room. Give yourself plenty of time for this process, at least one day for each room. Don’t get discouraged; it will take longer than you think but you’ll feel great once it’s over. Go through each room, whittling down your possessions to the number you’ve benchmarked on your list and placing items in the outbox. Schedule times to empty your outbox. In our experience, once a week is usually pretty realistic.

•  Step 4: After you’ve finished de-cluttering, update your list. Whenever you make a new purchase, add it to your inventory. By keeping your records up-to-date, you’ll develop a clearer picture of everything you own, making it much easier to realize when you do or don’t need something. Once you understand the time and effort that goes into owning something, it becomes a lot easier to buy less and buy better.

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How to Keep Electricity Costs Down in the Summer

Keep cool this summer without raking up your electricity costs.

By Stephen Davis
Special to

In the summer, electricity bills can increase – especially in warmer areas in the south and west. During such periods of heat electricity consumption needs to be kept low. The key to this is efficiency and to use resources wisely.

One of the first things that you should remember is to keep your shades and blinds closed. This prevents the sun from heating up your home and wasting energy. Incandescent bulbs and other similar light sources also produce heat just like the sun does, so it is better that you keep extra lights off. A dark area generally gives a cool feeling anyway.

Hot air rises, so keep the vents and windows of the lower rooms closed. This will give the rooms upstairs more air and keep them ventilated and cool. Keep the vents and windows of the upper rooms open to the hot air escapes that way.

Also find out the sources of heat in your house. Cloth dryers use a lot of electricity and in addition to that, they also produce a lot of heat. Always install dryers near a window and have an air pipe made or an exhaust fan installed to channel away the hot air. Dryers that are placed in basements should have proper ventilation too or the hot air will escape into your living room through the stair case.

You should take a tour of your house and examine any openings from where cool air might escape. Remember cool air is heavier and will escape from places closed to the floor. This includes the spaces under doors. Some doors have a large space underneath them. This wastes a lot of cool air. Install strips of carpet or rubber at the door edges to act as a barrier to the cold air.

Human bodies also produce heat, especially during active actions like exercises. Do not do workouts indoors. Use your lawn or the local gym. The less activity there is inside the house, the cooler it will stay.

Many people keep on changing the air conditioner thermostat. This isn’t a wise idea as it uses more energy. Keep the air conditioner at one constant temperature. It will always cool better that way and consume less electricity as well. If you have a central air system, keep the fan on “On” instead of “Auto”. This will keep a steady airflow through your house and maintain the temperature beautifully.

Use pleasant weather wisely. Place a box fan in a window early in the morning and open the opposite window. This will circulate the fresh morning air through your house and cool it down.

In many areas, the air conditioner is not really necessary. Learn to live without it unless absolutely necessary. In many cases, the ceiling fan can do a nice job by itself.

Try if it works. Using less air conditioning will bring down electricity costs considerably.

And by the way, since it is the summer; go outside. Visit the beach, lake or riverside. Go to water parks and have picnics with friends. When you leave, make sure everything is turned off.

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Finding Your Dream Work

NEW YORK, December 2, 2009 – They’re called “jobbies” — a blend of job and hobby — and the people who pursue them are “hobbers.” They allow us to do what we love with a paycheck (albeit it modest) attached. Many individuals who have found themselves without a “regular” job thanks to the sour economy are taking a fresh look at their professional lives and challenging themselves to pursue work that is more aligned with their passion and curiosity. This kind of soul searching brings with it a number of practical questions, including where to put a stake in the ground to launch this new chapter.

According to’s founder Sharon Sharon Asher, people who are starting fresh often narrow the field of possible locations by considering what resources a community offers that sync with their own interests. “Affordable living costs, a vibrant learning community and a solid foundation of small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises are attributes that ‘hobbers’ may find most attractive,” says Asher.

Here are a few highlights of several “jobby”-friendly communities:

Athens, Georgia: Known for its beautiful, historical neighborhoods, warm Southern hospitality and, thanks to University of Georgia, a rich intellectual life, Athens provides an invigorating blend of college town, artist community and vibrant music scene to those seeking to set down new roots in a place with broad possibilities.

Gainesville, Florida: Home to the Florida Gators (and yes, also the real deal: Florida ‘gators), Gainesville nurtures a host of small startup companies surrounding the venerable University of Florida at Gainesville. Lovely older neighborhoods, affordable home prices and an easy Southern graciousness make Gainesville a worthy place to find or invent a “jobby.”

Austin, Texas: Selected as the No. 2 Best Big City in “Best Places to Live” by Money magazine, Austin’s vibrant music culture, strong ties to its universities and entrepreneurial setting (its nickname is Silicon Hills) make the city one of the top candidate for hobbers. In addition, in 2009, Forbes designated Austin as one of the least stressful large metro areas (it’s relaxing just reading that sentence). “Keep Austin Weird” is the unofficial slogan for the city.

San Diego, California: Although not an inexpensive place to live, San Diego entices new comers with its mild climate, burgeoning life sciences industry, well respected universities and overall mahalo beach-focused way of life.


Fewer People Bailing on California, Los Angeles

Flickr: USFS Region 5

Could California’s long slide be abating?

According to recent data from, the number of people leaving the state is shrinking compared to the number of people moving to it, a crucial gauge for measuring the state’s rebound from economic calamity.

As recently as 2005, 60.7% of the relocation activity for California was outbound – in other words, for every 2 people who were moving to California, 3 were leaving.

That kind of migration can decimate the local tax base and contribute to a further erosion in the state’s quality of life.

However, that outbound number has been slowly decreasing every year, from 58.6% in 2006 to 54.99% in 2009 year to date.

These numbers are reflected in the Los Angeles data.

We looked at the data for all moves in Los Angeles, including moves made within Los Angeles. We found that outbound Los Angeles moves accounted for 36.4% of all moves in 2009 year to date, down from 43.1% in 2008 (the earliest year for which city data are available).

However, instead of people moving to Los Angeles, we found that more people were making moves within the Los Angeles area, an indication that more people are taking advantage of housing prices to either ‘move up’ to a better home, or move to a better neighborhood.

Most importantly, of course, they’re deciding not to move out of Los Angeles.

The percentage of movers making a move within LA was 25.2% in 2008; it rose to 32.33% in 2009. utilizes real-time data from people requesting moving services, recording where people are moving from and to. It annually records over 500,000 moving requests in its database.

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