Home Pre-Vacation Checklist

I love vacations – who doesn’t?  Getting away from the usual life, the phone calls, seeing new sites and having new experiences – its great!  What is NOT great is spending two weeks wondering if I’ve left a door unlocked or a tap running. (Never have, but has that stopped me wondering?  Nope.)  So I created a checklist to give me peace of mind for my vacations.  These are my MUST-DO’S – not the nice-to-do’s.

  1. Take care of all pets.  This doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  Pets will be most comfortable staying at home so there are two fairly inexpensive ways I’ve used to care for my furry family members:  one is to have a local teenager that is trustworthy take them on as a part-time job.  They can also take in the mail /paper too if you want.  Remind them that if they do a good job they can list you as a reference when they go job hunting for real.  Another arrangement is to find another pet owner close by and offer to swap pet care.  Assuming you both take similar trip times per year (they don’t travel two times a month to your two times a year, for example) this can work out nicely for both of you.
  2. Take out the garbage.  I list this as #2 for a reason.  I forgot once, and we came home to a HORRIBLY stinky home.  It was awful!  If you forget to clean out your refrigerator, it’s contained and you can quickly fix it.  If you forget your garbage, well — live with the consequences.
  3. If you take meds, be sure you have enough for your entire vacation, and PACK THEM FIRST. Chances are you aren’t taking them because they taste good so forgetting them would be a nightmare.  Imagine trying to get hold of your doctor for an emergency prescription that your insurance will approve for whatever pharmacy you are close to.  And if you are on five meds?  Yikes!
  4. Make sure any bills are paid that will hit while you are gone.  Late payments are one of the things that drag your credit score down the most.  It would be a shame to get dinged because your bill was forgotten in the rush to leave.
  5. Unplug appliances and electronics in case of a power surge while you are gone.  Make sure nothing else is running – dishwasher, washing machine, etc.
  6. Make sure that you have ALL bags, ID’s, credit cards, insurance cards, cash, travelers checks, boarding passes, reservations, emergency contacts with you before you lock up.
  7. Lock all windows and doors.  Arrange for a neighbor to have a key and check on your home periodically – just walk by and keep an eye out for anything suspicious.  They don’t need to go in unless they are getting your mail, watering your plants, feeding your pets or something.
  8. Do NOT post ANYTHING about leaving ANYWHERE.  Not on your cell phone, answering machine, Facebook, Twitter, nowhere except your security neighbor (and your alarm company if you have one).  Thieves regularly troll all of these places looking for these kinds of posts.  If they see you aren’t at home, they know your home is vulnerable. Don’t make yourself an easy target.
  9. Make sure you have your electronics and chargers, and that electronics are fully charged before you leave.  Chances are you are going to be in a car or an airport/plane for a while, so a fully charged phone/e-book/laptop/tablet is a very good idea.  When they run out of juice you will need to recharge them.  Did you bring your charger?  Yes, you can probably buy a new one, but it’s a lot easier to just remember to pack the one you have.
  10. Keep the things you have to have close by:  Keep a bottle of water, your phone, a printout of travel arrangements and emergency numbers, your wallet, meds and if possible, a change of clothing (or at least a change of underwear) with you.  Toss in a snack if there is room.  This will save you if you get stranded under any conditions — and I’ve been stranded at: airports, in the Rocky mountains when snow has closed the interstate, by the side of the road when my car has died, in the middle of South Dakota during a thunderstorm, (amazing thunderstorm but nowhere to stay!) and at a motel when I got strep and couldn’t travel until I got well.

So, there are my “Top Ten Things to Do Before you Leave on Vacation”.  There are tons of lists out there, and I’m sure many of you have lists of your own.  What is on your “must do” before YOU leave?

Designing A Living Room

When I was growing up, there were two kinds of living rooms:  “company” rooms that were always spotless and ready for anyone who should come over to visit, and living rooms that people actually lived in.  With the price of real estate these days, most of us can’t afford a room devoted to “company” and rarely are there any rooms in our homes spotless for very long. As a good friend once told me, “If you want to see me, come on over.  If you want to see my house, make an appointment!”

Living rooms can still serve multiple functions if they are designed properly.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Furniture:  living rooms serve both the family and friends, so seating should hold family members plus at least two.  Do you have a large window?  Group some /most seating to take advantage of the view.  Not all seating has to be together.  There is nothing wrong with a couple of chairs off to the side.  Don’t be afraid to move furniture away from the walls, too.
  2. Ease of use:  is there a clear path through the room to the kitchen?  Is a chair right in front of the door?  A furniture grouping may look great, but it has to function for your family too.
  3. Color scheme:  most of us tend to go with a safe neutral color.  Its great for resale, but unless you plan to sale your home in the next year, pick a color YOU like.  If your living room is on the north side of your home, choose a warm color to make up for the lack of natural light.  If it gets a lot of sun, you may want a cool color to balance it out.  Or go with a strong color on one wall.  Talk to the people in your paint department for suggestions on color ideas and treatments.  Painting is one of the easiest ways to bring a big change to a room without spending a lot of money.
  4. Accessories:  Less is more.  Living rooms tend to be the places we show off all our photographs, collections, libraries, and heirlooms.  That can make this poor room a little crowded!  I look at everything as a “dustable”.  I have to keep it, so I have to dust it – and that takes time and effort.  Do I want to display it enough to dust it all the time?  Maybe not.
  5. Flooring.  The trend is moving towards hard floors (wood, cork, stone, etc.) with rugs instead of wall to wall carpet in our main rooms.  I think this is a good thing.  Hard surfaces are easier to clean and disinfect, don’t trap allergens like carpet can, and in many cases, last longer.  Consider replacing your flooring when your budget allows.

If you keep these tips in mind, you can have a beautiful living room that can serve multiple functions with ease! Tell me about your living rooms.  What purpose did your living room have when you were growing up?

Popular Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas

One thing I love about the outdoors is getting together with family and friends around a nice fire. Whether it roasting wienies, telling stories, or just enjoying the flames, backyard fires are wonderful. But what should you consider when adding in a new fire pit? I’ve got a few ideas:
  1. Size:  Think about how you entertain in general. Are you planning to have a large crowd or an intimate few? By this I mean do you want a fire pit that is 12 inches wide or 48?
  2. Portable or permanent? You can buy a gorgeous fire pit like this that sits on your existing patio or you can build one out of stone, brick, concrete or other fireproof material. Your personal taste and budget will drive your decision.
  3. Gas or wood? Both have pros and cons. Gas is instant on and off with nothing to clean up. Wood has the traditional crackle and pop but leaves ashes behind (great for gardens as fertilizer!) What type of fire do you want?
  4. What will you use it for? Is this a gathering place for conversation and smore’s? Are you more ambitious and you want to use it as a bbq and grill as well? Do you just want as small a fire as possible without being a candle?  Trust me, there is a pit out there for every use and every style.
  5. Do you want a fire pit or a fireplace?  Some people prefer the more formal look of a fireplace.  You can have them built in or you can buy one like this that looks very elegant on a backyard patio.
  6. Is your fire pit going to be more than a fire pit?  I’ve seen many people add in outdoor home theaters for music and movies.  What a great way to spend an evening with family and friends!
  7. Keep it legal: Your city and/or county is going to have codes about fires and fire pits. When and where to have them, how far away from buildings and property lines they have to be, what they can be used for, etc. If you are going to install a permanent pit, be sure to also check with local utilities for underground lines before you start.

What do I enjoy? I have a 24-inch wood pit in the backyard for the family and a few guests that is small enough we can have a conversation without sharing it with the neighbors. Inside I enjoy this lovely gadget for s’mores because I am a chocoholic and I need a winter fix occasionally. What do you have in your backyard? I’d love to see some photos!

Gray is the New White

And brown is the new black.

Black and white are still all over the place but the rules are changing on how they are being used. I know — try to keep up – if you can.

Take a look at this kitchen from homedit.com:

This is a typical country kitchen, and you would EXPECT to see white cabinets. These are a light gray instead and they work beautifully with the rest of the room.  So if you’re tired of white, try something a little cooler.

Another place famous for using white is in the bathroom. What if we mixed in some gray there? Take a look at this bathroom from houzz:

Gray And White Bathroom Design Ideas, Pictures, Remodel, and Decor:

We still have the usual white on top in the mirrors and upper cabinet, but the lower cabinets, backsplash, floor and walls are all done in gray. The end result is clean and fresh, but not cold.

What about the new trend in brown? Well, we’ve seen a ton of black and white rooms with colorful accent pieces. Here’s a gorgeous bath from myhouseidea.com that does it in brown:


Isn’t it beautiful? It’s much less of a contrast, and much warmer. Here’s another one from DIY Craft and Home Design:

White, cozy, shabby chic decor:

Rather than introduce another color, they kept the accent colors the same as in the baskets and walls. Very simple.

So don’t be afraid to use colors in your home that suit YOU! I’d love to see what beautiful rooms you have created!