Monthly Archives: March 2016

Spring Cleaning Guide

It’s that time of year again! Everyone’s least favorite part about spring is the annual spring cleaning. Are to tackle your spring projects? This handy guide breaks them down: Spring Cleaning To-Dos (once-a-year tasks perfectly suited for spring), Exterior To-Dos (fix-ups and repairs for the outside of your home), and Room-by-Room Tasks (decluttering and cleaning tips for specific rooms).

spring cleaning

Spring Cleaning To-Do

Wash Windows

Be sure to pick a cloudy day to wash windows. If it’s too sunny, the cleaning solution will dry too fast and you’ll have streaks. For a window-washing solution, combine 1/2 cup of sudsy ammonia (which is a specific type of ammonia), 1 pint of rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, and 1 gallon of water.

Sliding Door Tracks

Sliding glass door tracks probably aren’t the first spots you’d think to clean, but you’ll appreciate having done it before the outdoor entertaining season gets into full swing. Try scrubbing the tracks with an old, dry toothbrush to loosen debris, then using your vacuum hose to remove it. Finish with a wet sponge.

Overlooked Surfaces

You may overlook these surfaces on a daily basis, but once a year, give your baseboards, door frames, and walls a good scrub-down. Wash them with a sponge and a squirt of dishwashing liquid mixed in a bucket of warm water.

Deep-Clean Carpets

To maintain a new carpet’s warranty, you may need to have it cleaned professionally every 12-18 months. Otherwise, you can do it yourself by renting a deep cleaner or buying a professional-style model designed for home use.

Clean Under Furniture & Appliances

Grab a partner and move your sofa and chairs, roll up area rugs, then vacuum the floors. Move your kitchen appliances away from the wall as much as you can. In some cases you can pull them out enough that a vacuum hose will reach.

Freshen Furniture

Restore smooth leather with an upholstery cleaner and conditioner. Use a suede brush to perk up nubuck leather. For wood furniture, make your own all-natural cleaner and polish: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/2 cup of vinegar or lemon juice in a plastic spray bottle; shake well and spray onto a microfiber cloth.

Refresh Window Treatments

Curtains and draperies aren’t typically dirty enough to launder. Instead, go over them thoroughly with the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. To remove dust from sheer curtains, put them in the dryer on low with a fabric-softener sheet.

Dust Light Fixtures

Use a microfiber or lint-free cloth to dust fixtures and bulbs you can reach. For ceiling fans, skip the ladder and use an extendable duster. To clean grimy bulbs, lightly dampen your cloth with vinegar. Caution: Be sure bulbs are cool to the touch and your hands are dry.

Get Organized

  • Pick up and eliminate clutter in each room before you start cleaning.
  • Equip yourself with a few designated containers when you are picking up in each room: a box for garage sale items, another for items to donate, and a garbage bag for items to toss.
  • Put away the things you are keeping in their rightful places and rooms.

Make a Wardrobe Transition

  • Now that it’s warm outside, have your winter clothes cleaned.
  • Consider storing clothes at a dry cleaner if you don’t have enough space in your home.
  • Put away gloves, winter clothing items, and boots so you’ll have plenty of space for spring clothing.

Safety Inspection

  • Spring cleaning is the perfect opportunity to check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Perform all required safety checks.
  • If you don’t own a fire extinguisher, purchase one. Learn how to use it, and keep it in the kitchen.

cleaning window

Exterior To-Do

Exterior Paint

Spring is the perfect time to freshen the face of your home with a new paint job. An updated color scheme can take your house from forgettable to traffic-stopping. The average exterior paint job lasts 10 years, so make sure it’s done right. If your house doesn’t require a full paint makeover, consider a touch-up, which can prolong the life of your siding and trim.

Power Wash

Having your home’s exterior and windows power-washed won’t just make your home look sharp, it also will prevent the growth of mold and mildew that feed on grime. If you’re not comfortable deciding whether your home’s exterior can handle the force that pressure-washing nozzles exert, hire a professional to do the work.

Gutter Maintenance

When you consider that your roof’s drainage system diverts thousands of gallons of water a year from your house’s exterior and foundation walls, you can see why it merits a semiannual inspection. Clean and repair gutters and downspouts every spring before heavy rains begin and late in autumn after leaves have fallen.

Seasonal Change

Say goodbye to shovels, salt, scrapers, and other winter gear, and bring out garden tools and potting supplies. Also consider servicing your snowblower (if applicable) before storing it for spring.

Outdoor Furniture

Clean and repair furniture for your deck, porch, or patio. Use outdoor spray enamel to touch up chips on painted outdoor furniture.

spring cleaning vacuum

Room-by-Room Tasks

Freshen Bedrooms

  • Rotate and flip mattresses.
  • Wash blankets and comforters, or take them to be cleaned.
  • Wash mattress pads and bed skirts.
  • Have pillows professionally cleaned, hang them outside in the fresh air, or freshen them with the air (no heat) cycle of your clothes dryer.
  • Wash or dry-clean rugs.

Clean Your Bathrooms

  • You may scrub your bathroom every week, but now it’s time to battle clutter and refresh old products.
  • Go through your medicine cabinets and safely discard any outdated products.
  • Replace worn bath mats, shower curtains, and liners, or wash and dry shower curtains and liners.

Clear Your Kitchen

  • Take time to clear out your pantry, kitchen cabinets, and drawers.
  • Wipe them out and install fresh shelf paper.
  • Store or donate equipment you don’t use, such as small appliances or cookware.
  • Discard stale spices or dated items such as baking powder.
  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Vacuum the cooling coils under or behind your refrigerator.

Chicken au Champagne

Wine Down Wednesday Logo New

This chicken au champagne is going to blow your mind!  The flavors are absolutely amazing. Even if you’re not crazy about champagne, when combined with chicken and tarragon, il est magnifique! Impressive, elegant, delicious, and simple to prepare, this is a restaurant quality meal that will surely impress dinner guests.

Serve with a side of brown rice and French green beans. Be generous with the bubbly both in the dish and in your glass.

chicken au champagneINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 organic chicken breasts or thighs, skin on, bone in
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 cup Champagne
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh tarragon
  • fresh lemon juice to garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  2. Add chicken to skillet and sear for 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Remove chicken and place on a plate.
  4. Remove pan from heat and add shallots. Heat and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add champagne and scrape bottom of pan to remove all of the cooked bits.
  6. Place chicken back in the pan, baste with champagne sauce, and place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until thoroughly cooked.
  7. Heat butter in a large non-stick pan. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove chicken from oven and add sauteed mushrooms. Stir in the tarragon and drizzle with lemon juice.

How to Perform a Back Up with an External Hard Drive

new tech tuesday logo

You never think losing your files will happen to you until it actually does, and you’re caught without a backup. Backups are extremely easy to keep, so there’s no reason not to have one. Here’s how to set one up.

back up key

Whether you accidentally delete a file or lose a bunch of your data to a hard drive crash, regularly backing up your machine is always a good idea. Both Windows and Mac OS X have great built-in backup utilities, so it only takes a few steps to get started. Here’s what you need to do.

On Windows

  1. Get a backup drive. This can be just about any USB external hard drive, and you can get them at most electronics stores. Try to get one that has twice as much space as your computer, so you have room for multiple backups and so you have room for all the data you might get in the future.
  2. When you first plug it in, Windows will actually ask you if you want to use it as a backup. Tell it that you do. If you don’t get this prompt, you can just go to the Start Menu, type “backup” in the search box, and hit Backup and Restore.
  3. From there, click the “Set Up Backup” button. Pick the external drive you plugged in and hit Next. Windows’ default settings are probably fine, so you can just hit Next and the next screen too.
  4. On the last screen, hit “Save Settings and Run Backup”. Windows will make its first backup of your drive, during which you don’t want to turn off your computer. After that, it’ll make regular backups in the background as you work—you don’t need to deal with it again.

If you ever need to restore a file you lost, you can just go to the Start Menu, type in “backup”, and go back to “Backup and Restore”. You can hit the “Restore My Files” or “Restore Users Files” buttons to get those files back.

On a Mac

  1. Get a backup drive. This can be just about any USB external hard drive, and you can get them at most electronics stores. Try to get one that has twice as much space as your computer, so you have room for multiple backups and so you have room for all the data you might get in the future.
  2. When you plug in your drive, your Mac will ask you if you want to use that drive as a backup disk. Hit “Use as Backup Disk”. If you don’t get this prompt, you can always go to System Preferences > Time Machine to set it as a backup disk, too.
  3. From Time Machine’s preferences, hit “Select Backup Disk” and choose your external drive.
  4. That’s it! OS X will perform its first backup (during which you’ll want to keep your computer on), and from then on it’ll back up in the background with no work required on your part.

If you ever need to restore a file, just click on the Time Machine icon in your menu bar and hit “Enter Time Machine”. From there, you can search through your old backups for the files you lost and restore them to your hard drive.

cloud back upThere is, of course, one downside to this method. While it’ll save you if you accidentally delete a file or have hard drive issues, it won’t save you if, say, you have a fire. For truly bulletproof backup, you’ll want to back up all your data online, so you can get it back wherever you are (and whatever happens to your hardware).

Think Positive!

motivational monday logo

Focusing on positive thinking

positive thinking

Do you often see the glass as half empty rather than half full? Pessimism can be detrimental to your productivity as well as your mental health. You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you’re creating a new habit, after all. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:

 

  • Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you typically think negatively about, whether it’s work, your daily commute or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
  • Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
  • Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise at least three times a week to positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you.

positive thoughts

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress and get more accomplished!

 

“Keep your thoughts positive
because your thoughts become
your words.

Keep your words positive
because your words become
your behavior.

Keep your behavior positive
because your behavior becomes
your habits.

Keep your habits positive
because your habits become
your values.

Keep your values positive
because your values become
your destiny.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Spring Cleaning Guide

It’s that time of year again! Everyone’s least favorite part about spring is the annual spring cleaning. Are to tackle your spring projects? This handy guide breaks them down: Spring Cleaning To-Dos (once-a-year tasks perfectly suited for spring), Exterior To-Dos (fix-ups and repairs for the outside of your home), and Room-by-Room Tasks (decluttering and cleaning tips for specific rooms).

spring cleaning

Spring Cleaning To-Do

Wash Windows

Be sure to pick a cloudy day to wash windows. If it’s too sunny, the cleaning solution will dry too fast and you’ll have streaks. For a window-washing solution, combine 1/2 cup of sudsy ammonia (which is a specific type of ammonia), 1 pint of rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid, and 1 gallon of water.

Sliding Door Tracks

Sliding glass door tracks probably aren’t the first spots you’d think to clean, but you’ll appreciate having done it before the outdoor entertaining season gets into full swing. Try scrubbing the tracks with an old, dry toothbrush to loosen debris, then using your vacuum hose to remove it. Finish with a wet sponge.

Overlooked Surfaces

You may overlook these surfaces on a daily basis, but once a year, give your baseboards, door frames, and walls a good scrub-down. Wash them with a sponge and a squirt of dishwashing liquid mixed in a bucket of warm water.

Deep-Clean Carpets

To maintain a new carpet’s warranty, you may need to have it cleaned professionally every 12-18 months. Otherwise, you can do it yourself by renting a deep cleaner or buying a professional-style model designed for home use.

Clean Under Furniture & Appliances

Grab a partner and move your sofa and chairs, roll up area rugs, then vacuum the floors. Move your kitchen appliances away from the wall as much as you can. In some cases you can pull them out enough that a vacuum hose will reach.

Freshen Furniture

Restore smooth leather with an upholstery cleaner and conditioner. Use a suede brush to perk up nubuck leather. For wood furniture, make your own all-natural cleaner and polish: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/2 cup of vinegar or lemon juice in a plastic spray bottle; shake well and spray onto a microfiber cloth.

Refresh Window Treatments

Curtains and draperies aren’t typically dirty enough to launder. Instead, go over them thoroughly with the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. To remove dust from sheer curtains, put them in the dryer on low with a fabric-softener sheet.

Dust Light Fixtures

Use a microfiber or lint-free cloth to dust fixtures and bulbs you can reach. For ceiling fans, skip the ladder and use an extendable duster. To clean grimy bulbs, lightly dampen your cloth with vinegar. Caution: Be sure bulbs are cool to the touch and your hands are dry.

Get Organized

  • Pick up and eliminate clutter in each room before you start cleaning.
  • Equip yourself with a few designated containers when you are picking up in each room: a box for garage sale items, another for items to donate, and a garbage bag for items to toss.
  • Put away the things you are keeping in their rightful places and rooms.

Make a Wardrobe Transition

  • Now that it’s warm outside, have your winter clothes cleaned.
  • Consider storing clothes at a dry cleaner if you don’t have enough space in your home.
  • Put away gloves, winter clothing items, and boots so you’ll have plenty of space for spring clothing.

Safety Inspection

  • Spring cleaning is the perfect opportunity to check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Perform all required safety checks.
  • If you don’t own a fire extinguisher, purchase one. Learn how to use it, and keep it in the kitchen.

cleaning window

Exterior To-Do

Exterior Paint

Spring is the perfect time to freshen the face of your home with a new paint job. An updated color scheme can take your house from forgettable to traffic-stopping. The average exterior paint job lasts 10 years, so make sure it’s done right. If your house doesn’t require a full paint makeover, consider a touch-up, which can prolong the life of your siding and trim.

Power Wash

Having your home’s exterior and windows power-washed won’t just make your home look sharp, it also will prevent the growth of mold and mildew that feed on grime. If you’re not comfortable deciding whether your home’s exterior can handle the force that pressure-washing nozzles exert, hire a professional to do the work.

Gutter Maintenance

When you consider that your roof’s drainage system diverts thousands of gallons of water a year from your house’s exterior and foundation walls, you can see why it merits a semiannual inspection. Clean and repair gutters and downspouts every spring before heavy rains begin and late in autumn after leaves have fallen.

Seasonal Change

Say goodbye to shovels, salt, scrapers, and other winter gear, and bring out garden tools and potting supplies. Also consider servicing your snowblower (if applicable) before storing it for spring.

Outdoor Furniture

Clean and repair furniture for your deck, porch, or patio. Use outdoor spray enamel to touch up chips on painted outdoor furniture.

spring cleaning vacuum

Room-by-Room Tasks

Freshen Bedrooms

  • Rotate and flip mattresses.
  • Wash blankets and comforters, or take them to be cleaned.
  • Wash mattress pads and bed skirts.
  • Have pillows professionally cleaned, hang them outside in the fresh air, or freshen them with the air (no heat) cycle of your clothes dryer.
  • Wash or dry-clean rugs.

Clean Your Bathrooms

  • You may scrub your bathroom every week, but now it’s time to battle clutter and refresh old products.
  • Go through your medicine cabinets and safely discard any outdated products.
  • Replace worn bath mats, shower curtains, and liners, or wash and dry shower curtains and liners.

Clear Your Kitchen

  • Take time to clear out your pantry, kitchen cabinets, and drawers.
  • Wipe them out and install fresh shelf paper.
  • Store or donate equipment you don’t use, such as small appliances or cookware.
  • Discard stale spices or dated items such as baking powder.
  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Vacuum the cooling coils under or behind your refrigerator.

Chicken au Champagne

Wine Down Wednesday Logo New

This chicken au champagne is going to blow your mind!  The flavors are absolutely amazing. Even if you’re not crazy about champagne, when combined with chicken and tarragon, il est magnifique! Impressive, elegant, delicious, and simple to prepare, this is a restaurant quality meal that will surely impress dinner guests.

Serve with a side of brown rice and French green beans. Be generous with the bubbly both in the dish and in your glass.

chicken au champagneINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 organic chicken breasts or thighs, skin on, bone in
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 cup Champagne
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh tarragon
  • fresh lemon juice to garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  2. Add chicken to skillet and sear for 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Remove chicken and place on a plate.
  4. Remove pan from heat and add shallots. Heat and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add champagne and scrape bottom of pan to remove all of the cooked bits.
  6. Place chicken back in the pan, baste with champagne sauce, and place in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until thoroughly cooked.
  7. Heat butter in a large non-stick pan. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove chicken from oven and add sauteed mushrooms. Stir in the tarragon and drizzle with lemon juice.

How to Perform a Back Up with an External Hard Drive

new tech tuesday logo

You never think losing your files will happen to you until it actually does, and you’re caught without a backup. Backups are extremely easy to keep, so there’s no reason not to have one. Here’s how to set one up.

back up key

Whether you accidentally delete a file or lose a bunch of your data to a hard drive crash, regularly backing up your machine is always a good idea. Both Windows and Mac OS X have great built-in backup utilities, so it only takes a few steps to get started. Here’s what you need to do.

On Windows

  1. Get a backup drive. This can be just about any USB external hard drive, and you can get them at most electronics stores. Try to get one that has twice as much space as your computer, so you have room for multiple backups and so you have room for all the data you might get in the future.
  2. When you first plug it in, Windows will actually ask you if you want to use it as a backup. Tell it that you do. If you don’t get this prompt, you can just go to the Start Menu, type “backup” in the search box, and hit Backup and Restore.
  3. From there, click the “Set Up Backup” button. Pick the external drive you plugged in and hit Next. Windows’ default settings are probably fine, so you can just hit Next and the next screen too.
  4. On the last screen, hit “Save Settings and Run Backup”. Windows will make its first backup of your drive, during which you don’t want to turn off your computer. After that, it’ll make regular backups in the background as you work—you don’t need to deal with it again.

If you ever need to restore a file you lost, you can just go to the Start Menu, type in “backup”, and go back to “Backup and Restore”. You can hit the “Restore My Files” or “Restore Users Files” buttons to get those files back.

On a Mac

  1. Get a backup drive. This can be just about any USB external hard drive, and you can get them at most electronics stores. Try to get one that has twice as much space as your computer, so you have room for multiple backups and so you have room for all the data you might get in the future.
  2. When you plug in your drive, your Mac will ask you if you want to use that drive as a backup disk. Hit “Use as Backup Disk”. If you don’t get this prompt, you can always go to System Preferences > Time Machine to set it as a backup disk, too.
  3. From Time Machine’s preferences, hit “Select Backup Disk” and choose your external drive.
  4. That’s it! OS X will perform its first backup (during which you’ll want to keep your computer on), and from then on it’ll back up in the background with no work required on your part.

If you ever need to restore a file, just click on the Time Machine icon in your menu bar and hit “Enter Time Machine”. From there, you can search through your old backups for the files you lost and restore them to your hard drive.

cloud back upThere is, of course, one downside to this method. While it’ll save you if you accidentally delete a file or have hard drive issues, it won’t save you if, say, you have a fire. For truly bulletproof backup, you’ll want to back up all your data online, so you can get it back wherever you are (and whatever happens to your hardware).

Think Positive!

motivational monday logo

Focusing on positive thinking

positive thinking

Do you often see the glass as half empty rather than half full? Pessimism can be detrimental to your productivity as well as your mental health. You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you’re creating a new habit, after all. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:

 

  • Identify areas to change. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you typically think negatively about, whether it’s work, your daily commute or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
  • Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
  • Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise at least three times a week to positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you.

positive thoughts

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. Positive thinking just means that you approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way. When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress and get more accomplished!

 

“Keep your thoughts positive
because your thoughts become
your words.

Keep your words positive
because your words become
your behavior.

Keep your behavior positive
because your behavior becomes
your habits.

Keep your habits positive
because your habits become
your values.

Keep your values positive
because your values become
your destiny.”

-Mahatma Gandhi