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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kitchen Accessories That Make Cooking Easy

Cooking can be fun if you and your kitchen are set up for success. One way to do this is to make sure you have kitchen accessories that’ll make your job easier. If you’re not equipped with the proper cooking tools, cooking a meal can become a stressful and bothersome task. We all have our nights when ordering out is the only answer, but that gets old after a while.  
Whether you’re cooking for yourself or family members, the majority of us try to produce fairly healthy meals most nights. It’s easy to fall off the wagon when you’re busy working and attending to personal matters. Well, we’re here to help. We did our homework and found several cooking aids that will make your kitchen, family, life and plate a lot happier.  

The Perfect Pots & Pans

One word comes to mind when I think about pots and pans that make cooking easier; nonstick. Cookware Nation has done the legwork and created a guide to buying the best nonstick cookware in 2015. I think one of the most important tips they offer is to not waste your money on cheap sets. Take time to research and select quality pots and pans that are going to help you get the job done, not make your job harder. Eventually, your selection comes down to personal preference, but Cookware Nation’s site is a good place to at least start comparing brands and styles.

Useful Gadgets

Cooking is easier when you have the right gadgets. We found two in particular that are sure to spark your interest. Whether you cook a little or cook all the time, it's worth investing in the right accessories to save time and reduce headaches.
What’s one kitchen task that’s time consuming, necessary for your health and often dreaded by moms everywhere? Yes, you guessed it, chopping vegetables. But have no fear, we’ve found the perfect product to ease your pain. Let me introduce you to the one and only Vegetable Chop & Measure. This gadget lets you chop, measure and collect all in one easy step. A must-have utensil for those of you who like to eat and cook with lots of fresh vegetables.



Have you ever tried rolling your own dough? Well, if you have, you’re already aware that it can sometimes be a nightmare. It’s also quite messy. You’re in luck because we found the perfect kitchen gadget that will make your life easier. The kneading dough bag is versatile and non-toxic. According to Amazon, it’s not only used to mix flour, knead dough and squeeze fruit and vegetable juice, but can it also be used as a fresh-saving bag to cover or store food. Wow! I’m sold.

Knives & Cutting Board

Even though you have a solution for cutting vegetables, you’re still going to need sharp knives and a decent cutting board around the kitchen. Ever find yourself wishing you had a better or sharper knife when you’re in the middle of cooking up a delicious recipe? Believe it or not, there are specific knives for just about any food. Investing in a good set is worth it for anyone who spends any time in the kitchen. See Good Housekeeping’s 25 Best Kitchen Knives & Tools so you’re prepared to effortlessly slice, dice and chop your way to a delicious home cooked meal.
I’m sure you’ve heard the debate before; is a plastic, wood or bamboo cutting board the best for cooking? Well Kitchn has cut through all the noise and offered up some good advice on this topic. There are a lot of different features to take into account when deciding which to purchase, such as: sanitation, environment, ease of cleaning and how hard the board is on your shiny new knives. Weigh the options and then go with what works best for you.

Recommended Cookbooks

The first step to cooking a tasty meal is a delicious recipe. It’s not always easy to find and whip up a quick and healthy meal, especially when you’re short on time. We live in a digital world and there are lots of great online cooking resources out there, but nothing beats a good old fashioned cookbook. Below are five cookbooks that are sure to inspire you and satisfy your taste buds.

Conclusion

Don’t let your outdated and impractical kitchen accessories hold you back from cooking with grace and simplicity. Look around and figure out what items need to bereplaced or updated. Doing so will provide you with a more enjoyable and relaxed experience in your kitchen.
Is your kitchen in need of a facelift? Click here if you’re looking to remodel your kitchen and we’ll send you quotes from pros near you.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tips For Hosting A Dinner Party


You decide to host a dinner party at your home and several guests have RSVP’d that they’re coming. While you’re excited, you also know this means that they’ll be judging. The idea of hosting sounded fun weeks ago, but now you’re panicking because, “A” you’ve never thrown a dinner party, “B” you’ve thrown a dinner party but it flopped, or “C” you’re ready to party but your house is not.
Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to make sure you’re prepared the next time you decide to host a dinner party in your home. In this article, I’ll cover entertaining and hosting tips for creating the perfect dining room for you and your guests. I’ll also review the one thing that most people either struggle with or dread, displaying proper etiquette.

Entertain with Elegance

Be classy. We’ve all heard this at one time or another, but how exactly do you do it and not come off as awkward or insincere. When you’re 
entertaining in your home the main focus is your guests. Your primary job as a hostess is to serve your guests and make sure they’re happy. Be generous and show that you care. Remember to be visible at all times, greet your guests and be on your best behavior.
So, what makes a good party? There are four things that you can guarantee people will notice if they’re not done correctly. To ensure you’re prepared, ask yourself these four questions as you start to plan:

  1. Is there adequate space to mingle and move around? 
  2. Is there enough food to make sure your guests are well fed? 
  3. Is there a well-stocked bar and do your guests have easy access to the drinks?
  4. Are you prepared with appropriate topics to spark conversation (Hint: No politics or religion)?
Start preparing checklists around these questions and you’re sure to feel more at ease. Remember it’s not just about impressing your guests, it’s also about the host family creating a friendly, relaxing and inviting atmosphere to spend the evening.

Create an Inviting Environment

There are many factors to take into account as you think about what environment you want to create at your next dinner party. The first thing you need to do is be ready when guests start arriving at your door. Greet them with a genuine hello, a big smile and verbally 
welcome them into your home. Make them feel special and appreciated that they’re taking time out of their day to spend time with you.

It’s usually a good idea to have some soft, tasteful music playing in the background to help minimize any awkward silence as guests arrive and meet each other. Candles are always a nice touch for creating a comfortable and relaxing setting. No need to rush around, but do make sure at some point you talk to everyone you’ve invited and introduce those who don’t know each other to one another.
Once again, make sure your food and drinks are accessible and timely. This means the appetizers are out (or being passed) when guests arrive, dinner is served shortly after some initial cocktails and dessert is distributed at an appropriate time so everyone can enjoy it. I can’t emphasize enough how imperative it is to have enough food and drink available throughout the party.

Dazzling Décor

There are a lot of different ways you can go about 
your décor, but since it’s a dinner party I would suggest focusing on the centerpieces on the table. What season is it? What’s the location of the party? What are your colors? How many do you need to fill your table? How tall, wide and plush do you want the centerpieces? Are you celebrating a special occasion? These are all questions you should be asking yourself as you prepare. Also, be mindful to have tasteful decorations near any other bar or food tables. Sometimes we forget that lighting plays a big role at any event. You want lighting that’s going to help you set the mood. Check out Etsy or Pinterest for inspiration.

Set the Table in Style

She might not be your cup of tea, but Martha Stewart does know best when it comes to entertaining. If you’re unsure or need help setting your formal dining room table then get it. Do not guess. Your 
table setting adds to the quality of a meal as much as the food and wine.

Below are general guidelines to consider:

Food & Drink

What food and drink are you serving and what are you serving it in? Get organized by creating a detailed shopping list and cooking schedule. The time of day dictates what type of meal to serve. Go online and 
search for meal ideas. There are endless possibilities. Now’s not the time to experiment with a new and difficult recipe. If you’re cooking the meal, go with what you know or practice the dish ahead of time.

Some general rules of thumb:
  • Let guests add any extra sauces themselves
  • Always serve a meat and vegetarian option
  • Consider the weather and season
  • Follow your theme 
  • Keep it simple
  • Presentation matters
If you’re catering in food make sure you calculate how much food you’ll need and place the order well ahead of time. Real Simple suggests you calculate three bottles of wine for every four guests. 30 minutes before arrival you should light any necessary candles, turn on the background music, unveil any appetizers and uncork the wine. Then take a deep breath and relax, because you’re ready for your guests to arrive! 

Mind Your Manners

We’re taught please and thank you at a young age, but etiquette goes much deeper than that. It’s important that as a host you’re up to speed with behavior that’s socially acceptable at a dinner party. Not only is there dinner etiquette, but as the host you have your own set of proper etiquette responsibilities. There are 
eight key factors to keep in mind as you manage your dinner party and guests,

  • Be Reliable
  • Available
  • Prepared
  • Precise
  • A Catalyst
  • Aware
  • A Leader
  • Mindful
If you prefer to assign seating, don’t be afraid to mix together people who aren’t familiar with one another. If you’re big on seat assignments, be sure to set out place cards so there’s no confusion when guests go to sit down.

Conclusion

Be the hostess with the mostest, instead of the hostess who panics and begs for mercy. Review the suggestions above and take one step at a time. Appropriate planning and preparation will yield positive results. And remember, at the end of the day, have fun with it and enjoy your creation.

Does your home need an upgrade before you’re ready to invite guests over for a dinner party? Click here if you’re in need of a home improvement project and we’ll send you quotes from pros near you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Attitude Is Everything

Live the life that’s right for you, not the life that’s right for everyone else. Only then will you be free from self-doubt and negativity. Say it with me, I am free to be ME!
Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to everyone else and what they want. It’s found when you stop living for other people and their opinions and start being true to yourself.  You’re the only person in charge of your life. The only question is: What do you want to do with the rest of it? Businessman and philanthropist W. Clement Stone once said, “There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”
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Life isn’t perfect but it sure is great. Our goal shouldn’t be to create a perfect life, but to live an imperfect life in great astonishment. This means getting up every morning and taking on the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. It means that you start to see everything as extraordinary. Each day is a gift. Never treat life casually. To be spiritual in any way is to be amazed in every way. Be mindful, and be joyful. It’s okay to have down days, but it’s important to let go and be at peace with the reality of life’s ups and downs. You’ll soon find and accept that life’s ups require life’s downs.
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Happiness is simply the result of one’s thinking. Happiness starts with you – not with your relationships, not with your job, not with your money, but with YOU. It’s not always easy to find happiness in ourselves, but it’s always impossible to find it elsewhere. Regardless of the situation you face, your attitude is your choice. You simply can’t have a positive life with a negative attitude. When negativity controls your thoughts, it limits your behavior, actions and opportunities. If you realized how powerful your thoughts were, I bet you’d try your best to never think another negative thought again.
If you want to be successful you must remember that attitude is as equally important as ability. If you want to be a good person you must remember that character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you. These are important lessons that are often overlooked, simplified or taken too lightly. The people who live life to the fullest and make the most out of each day are those who truly see the beauty in everything and those who see the joy through the sadness.
When you live in the present moment with an open mind you are able to quickly validate your emotions and see the light in any situation. When you remove the drama and charge forward with love and gratitude there’s nothing you’ll not be able to handle. You can either wallow in your own sorrow or embrace life’s ups and downs and keep your head up. Train your mind to see the good in every situation and you won’t be caught off guard when things don’t go as planned. Strive to inspire people and be the reason they don’t give up. A positive attitude will lead to positive outcomes. I really believe that the difference between a good day and a bad day is attitude. And one thing that can quickly change a good attitude is change.
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Change is inevitable, that’s a fact. So, if we know it’s always going to happen, why is it still very difficult to accept? It’s difficult even when we know there are rewards and positive gains waiting for us on the other side. People who handle change well don’t try and fight it, they accept it and charge forward.
If you’re not being challenged you aren’t changing, growing or bettering yourself. It takes a lot of small, mindful steps and patience to make progress and move in the direction you’d like to go. It’s about doing more than just existing and leaving things up to chance. Max De Pree, American businessman and writer, once said, “We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.” We can’t change our past, but we can take action in the present. We can make mindful efforts to practice and build up our confidence until we really believe we’re strong enough to accept change, or make a change.
We take chances and face change all the time, whether it’s in our personal lives, our work, our relationships, fitness goals, the list goes on and on. The word change seems like a simple word with a simple meaning, but really it’s constant chaos. That’s why we must find ways to work within it and accept that things will not stay the same.
katieswim (2)Every new day that we’re granted is a chance to learn and grow. When life changes to be harder, change yourself to be stronger. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance (Alan Watts, Philosopher).”
I’ve always taken life pretty seriously, but am (slowly) learning to lighten up a bit, and can say with confidence, that I love this new-found freedom that comes from letting go. It takes courage and strength to really embrace the ideas that: it’s okay to make mistakes, we learn fromexperience, and perfection applies to math problems, not real life.
I want to leave you with a lesson I learned from Bruno Mars’ song, Uptown Funk. In the song he sings the lyrics, “Smoother Than A Fresh Jar Of Skippy.” This phrase made me laugh when I heard it.  I thought to myself, who doesn’t want to be smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy!? Cause I sure do!
My definition of smooth is having emotional intelligence, a good attitude, accepting change and being able to laugh at myself. It means making time for things that matter to me and spending time doing things that make me happy. What’s your definition of smooth, what does being smooth look like for you?
If you haven’t already started, I challenge you to turn up the volume in your own life. Smile. Relax. Dance. Let loose. And if nothing else, be smooth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

6 Affordable Ways To Create A Shabby Chic Kitchen


When you hear shabby chic, what words come to mind? You might think vintage, distressed and stylish. Well, that’s exactly right. Shabby chic is a form of interior design where furniture and décor are selected for signs of wear and tear. This style requires items that achieve the look of an antique and have special flair and character. 

Building a shabby chic kitchen is a great project for those looking for a change. You’ll have fun shopping around without breaking your bank. Follow these tips to add effortless and affordable elegance to your home.

Distressed Vintage Pieces

Décor and furniture are some of the most important aspects of a shabby chic kitchen. If done right, it’s possible to create both a rustic and feminine look and feel. Salvaged and whitewashed wood, pops of pastel and time-worn hints of the past are the cornerstones of shabby chic decorating. You should look for charming, antique and distressed vintage items for your kitchen. These pieces are out there and they’re affordable.
Check out a local antique shop, your parent’s or grandparent’s basement or go online and search for specific furniture and décor that fits your style. Don’t be afraid to search the nearby countryside or neighborhood for materials others might overlook.
Some shabby chic pieces that are sure to make statement are: a kitchen table, chairs and stools, wall units, an island or old window frames. To get this look right you’ll want to find furniture and décor that’s neutral in color. Light pastels are also a nice way to go. Keep it light so you can do more with your accent colors. The best part about this style is that it can be affordable and sophisticated if you’re patient, resourceful and a little creative. 

Bright Accents

While the overall color scheme of a shabby chic kitchen is neutral and pale, this is your chance to add a pop of color. Plants, flowers and dishes are just a few ideas you can use to incorporate bright accents. Don’t go overboard, keep it lively, but simple.
Some homeowners prefer to use a piece of furniture or paint as their pop of color, for example, a bright wall unit (standalone cabinet) or accent wall. Don’t be afraid to add various accents of other styles to your shabby chic kitchen such as industrial, boho or vintage.

Glass-Front Upper Cabinets

If you’re going for shabby chic, then you should install glass-front upper cabinets to show off your dishes and closed door lower cabinets to hide supplies. If you have wood cabinets and are sick and tired of the way they look, think about adding a coat of bold paint. It’s a spectacular look and cheaper than installing whole new cabinets. If you do want to replace your cabinets, think about selecting ones with beadboard panels that add subtle texture.

Paint & Kitchen Art

Shabby chic kitchens require neutral or light pastel paint colors. These colors will give you the worn and faded look, which is what you’re going for in this case. Don’t be afraid to play around with your paint so that it flakes and chips off in a natural looking way. Do It Yourself has a helpful site you can use to help you paint and distress the proper way. If you do it right, you’ll create a beautiful rustic environment in your kitchen and give your home a romantic old feel.
Now onto the fun part, wall art! Shopping for wall art and shabby chic décor can be an enjoyable experience. The options are endless, and the shabby chic style has some of the most creative pieces on the market. Some wall art ideas include: quotes on distressed wood boards, cast iron, mirror and window frames, plants, paintings, dishes and shelving. The Teardrop Bottles Trio piece that’s pictured above is a super cute example of unique kitchen décor! Each is mounted on a wood base to create a rustic and attractive look. A lot of stores carry shabby chic items these days. You can shop for items online at places like Amazon and Overstock, or find a local antique shop.

Floors

Wood floors are going to continue to be a big trend into 2015-16. In addition, shabby chic meets boho is a new style that’s trending where floors are made to be bright. If you love color and are feeling bold, Rhodium Floors suggests making your floors the creative focus of your room. You’ve been given the green light to paint your wooden floors in order to create a vibrant, exciting and beautiful canvas. Don’t forget to add a protective finish over the colored wood so you keep your floors durable and stunning for years to come.
Two other ideas we love are rustic floors with vintage patterns and white washed oak laminate. This floor is fun, neutral and fantastically shabby chic. One of my personal favorites, by the way! This floor is appealing to homeowners because it’s got a distressed look but it’s also quite trendy. This floor works well in beach houses and vacation homes as well.

Appliances

We’re going back in time! Shabby chic appliances are similar to what you saw back in the 1950s, but with a modern twist. You’ll want your appliances to be shades of light pastel, off-white, black or silver, and don’t be afraid to incorporate florals and patterns. The more vintage looking, the better. The fridge, oven, microwave, dishwasher and sinkare some of the appliances you should keep in mind as you shop around. With these tips you’re on your way to creating the perfect shabby chic kitchen for your home! 

Conclusion

Shabby chic is a style that’s affordable, trendy and sparks creativity. You can see that there are a vast amount of ways to go about transforming your kitchen to shabby chic. Whether your taste is vintage and rustic, or modern and polished, there’s definitely no shortage of décor schemes and possibilities with this style.
We all need a change once in a while. Click here if you’re looking to remodel your kitchen and we’ll send you quotes from pros near you.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Uncork The Possibilities: 5 DIY Wine Cork Projec


Uncork The Possibilities: 5 DIY Wine Cork Projects

Drinking wine is fun, but making things with wine corks is even more fun! Why not make use of your old wine corks instead of throwing them out? You can get creative, explore a new DIY project and enjoy the outcome of the décor around your house. It’s a win-win situation.
We dug deep and came up with five unique DIY wine cork projects that are sure to spark your interest. Startcollecting your corks in one spot and when you have enough to start one of these projects you’ll have an enjoyable, and possibly entertaining, experience to share. After you’re done with your project, you can share the idea with your friends and post images to social media so others can learn to reap the benefits of their wine corks too.

1. Napkin Ring

The first item I’d like to share with you is a wine cork napkin ring. I thought this was so cute and very practical! Why spend money on new holders when you can make them right in your own home by following a few simple steps. This idea comes to us from The Brass Paperclip Project. To get this look, all you need are cork slices, needle and thread and small beads.
Start by slicing the corks. You should yield about three corks per napkin ring and eight slices per cork. Use your needle and stretchy thread to alternate threading corks and beads until you have a six-inch thread. Tie off with a tight surgeon's knot, making sure that the last bead and cork are touching. Repeat as needed to make as many napkin rings as you want and set your table!

2. Cheese Spreader, Serving Tray & Glitter Wine Stopper

Nothing goes better with wine than fancy cheese. With this DIY project, you’ll be sprucing up your old cheese spreaders, serving tray and wine stoppers in no time. You can fancy up your spreaders with both wine and champagne corks so that you end up with two different, but unique, looks.
Wine Stopper
It’s true that everyone needs a little sparkle in their life. I absolutely fell in love with the glitter wine stoppers I found on Kollabora, Inc! In just a few easy steps you’ll be adding spunk to your otherwise boring cork tops and wowing your guests. These corks definitely communicate that it’s party time!
Backsplash

3. Backsplash

The next time you’re thinking about switching up your kitchen or adding a little backsplash, look no further than your wine cork stash. If you don’t want to add a backsplash to your entire kitchen, you can pick a small wall space near your glasses or bar area to install your corks. This picture gives you a good idea of how fantastic a wine cork backsplash looks in a homeowner’s kitchen. If you’re interested, click here for some guidance that will help get you started.
Table Top

4. Furniture

Check out this charming side table. Covering the top portion of any furniture piece with wine corks certainly adds charisma. You can even play with the color of the corks so that they complement the legs of the table and floors like the corks in this example.

5. Home Decor

Let’s not forget about all of the different ways you can use wine corks as décor in your home. See below for some interesting and artistic DIY wine cork home décor ideas.
Magnetic Cork Planter
These cork planters pictured above are pretty amazing! They’re easy to make and are great fridge magnets.
Ornament
Ornament
Instead of shopping around for new ornaments this season, create your own! They will be a unique and attractive addition to your tree.
Wreath
Wreath
Wreaths aren’t just for the holidays. You can use wine corks to fancy up your dining area or decorate your living room.
Monogram
Cork Monogram
Monograms are very popular right now! Use a DIY wine cork monogram as a statement piece in your home.
Note: Glue the corks to a letter base (available at Hobby Lobby). Cut corks to fit into any remaining gaps.
Sign
Signage
Long gone are the days of using paper and markers to create a sign. Grab your wine corks and create unique signs for your next party.
Painted Wall Art
Hand Painted Wine Bottle and Glass On Cork 
How remarkable is this painting?! The best part is that it’s something anyone can do right at home. Get your corks and some paint and get to work!
Vase Filler/Centerpiece
These centerpieces can be used at weddings and dinner parties. All you need is an empty vase, some old wine corks and pretty flowers. What a great look!

Conclusion

It’s time to start collecting your wine corks. DIY wine cork projects are an easy way to unleash your creative side and add a little bit of character to your home. Give a few of these ideas a try and you’ll see just how talented you really are! 
Click here to see the cost of hiring an interior designer.