Getting Organized

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The new year often brings on new year’s resolutions and some may have added organization to their list.  Are you thinking of organizing your house?  Let’s tackle one of the most used rooms: the kitchen. 

There are so many great products currently available to help you organize your kitchen.  I know that I personally started tackling this last year and since have come across a lot of products.   

Let’s start with the pantry:  I organized my pantry using some items I already had on hand including my large mouth canning jars which came in handy for items like pasta, sugars, etc.  I also purchased some inexpensive shoebox size plastic containers from the Dollar Tree to group similar items together so that I wouldn’t have to dig for items that may have previously gotten thrown in the back of the pantry and easily forgotten about.  You can purchase many different sized food containers for cereals, snacks, flour, etc that allow you to easily stack for easy access.

Moving onto the refrigerator:  Clear bins to organize the refrigerator are a great option.  You can group similar items together to make it much easier to find what you are looking for and you can even label them to make it even easier.   

Small kitchen appliances: I found a trick online for the cords.  I always found myself trying to wrap the cord of the appliances around the appliance or trying to put it in the appliance, etc.  Using a small cord bundler from Command does the trick nicely.  You place it on the back or side of the appliance and then you can neatly wrap the cord and secure it with the Command cord bundler – It might just be me, but I had an aha moment when I discovered this tip. 

Finally, cabinets:  I like the idea of using cabinet racks.  They make a variety of them to be used for stacking plates/mugs or stacking baskets that can be used for smaller items that slide right onto the shelf themself.  Keeping similar items together is always helpful as well.  

Only buy what you need.  How many times have you purchased that extra can of tomato paste because you just didn’t realize you had the can that was hidden in the back of the pantry?  Keeping your kitchen organized will help you know what you have and what you need.  I also recommend utilizing a dry erase board or even an echo product like the echo dot or echo show to keep a list of items as you use the last of them.  You can easily add the item to your need list.   

So not only will your kitchen look great but you could even end up saving yourself some money.  We can tackle another room of the house later this year.  I’m always happy to hear from you with any great tricks or ideas you have come across.  

Saving on Energy Costs

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As many of you may have noticed, energy costs have been rising.  So what can you do about it?  Here are some ideas for cutting some energy costs.  

  • Check the seals on your exterior windows and doors – you may find that the caulking has deteriorated and can easily be scrapped and replaced.  You can also purchase weather stripping to add  
  • Update home appliances to newer energy efficient models – if this is not in your budget, check your seals on your current appliances and give your appliance a thorough cleaning to ensure it is running the best that it can be and adjust the temperatures of both your refrigerator and freezer (optimal temperatures you can adjust to are 38 degrees for your refrigerator and 0-5 degrees for your freezer)
  • Seal your home’s ductwork – some homes have leaky older ductwork and this can be easily fixed with a duct sealing tape (Lowe’s sells a 3M HVAC tape for $12.98 for 350 feet) 
  • Fix any leaky faucets – even a small drip can put a burden on your wallet.  Common issues causing a faucet to leak are mineral deposit build up or defective gaskets, o-rings or washers – all which you can easily fix without having to call a plumber 
  • Adjust your thermostat and/or upgrade to a programmable thermostat 
  • Adjust the temperature of your water heater (optimal temperature you can adjust to is 120 degrees)
  • Replace lightbulbs with energy efficient LED bulbs 
  • Call your energy companies to ensure you are getting the best rate available
  • Have your energy company complete an energy audit of your home to see if there are any other ways to save on costs 

These are just a few items that you could consider tackling this weekend to save some of your hard earned money.  

What are some steps you’ve taken to save on your energy cost recently?  I am sure that everyone would like to hear so that they too can consider taking advantage of them as well.  Sharing is caring – pass on the knowledge you have, we’d love to hear from you.

In The Kitchen: Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Toasted Pecans and Dried Cranberries

Let’s get cooking.  This New Year, we are back at it and have another recipe for you to try.  Who doesn’t like a good brussel sprout recipe?  

Ingredients

  • 12 oz brussel sprouts with ends trimmed and any yellow leaves removed
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup of pecans
  • 4 slices of cooked bacon, chopped 
  • ½ cup dried cranberries 

Instructions: Cook and prepare each part and then assemble

Roast Brussel Sprouts

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees 
  • Slice all brussel sprouts in half
  • In a medium bowl, combine halved brussel sprouts, 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and toss to combine
  • Place brussel sprouts on baking sheet, cut side down
  • Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes.  During the last 5-10 minutes of roasting, flip them over for even browning (cut side should be browned but not blackened)

Cook Bacon

  • You can cook using your preferred method (oven, stovetop, or airfryer) 
  • Chop warm bacon into bite sized pieces 

Toast Pecans

  • Reduce oven to 350 degrees
  • Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and add pecans in one layer
  • Toast the pecans for about 5 minutes until they have darkened

Prepare Dried Cranberries

  • Briefly soak the dried cranberries in hot water  
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil
  • Add dried cranberries to a medium bowl and pour the hot water over the cranberries. Soak them for about 10 minutes then drain

Assemble: In a large bowl, combine roasted brussel sprouts, warm chopped cooked bacon, toasted pecans and soaked dried cranberries.  Toss everything together.  The olive oil from the brussel sprouts and the fats from the warm cooked bacon should be enough to coat all ingredients.  If desired, you can add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the mix.

Optional: Add a sauce to create even more flavor,  like balsamic glaze, balsamic vinegar or your favorite balsamic vinaigrette based salad dressing. 

I hope that some of you try this recipe and let me know what you think.  I’d love to see pictures too. 

Cake Day, November 26th

November 26th is Cake Day! Those who are aware of this holiday and take the time to celebrate each year do so by, of course, eating cake.  

Do you enjoy making your cake or do you prefer to purchase your cake?  Ido enjoy making cakes and have tried many different recipes that I have found over the years but I love seeking out a great bakery in any new area I am in to try out the sweet treats.  I have found one great location in Milford, Delaware and it has become my go-to place for cake.  My Sister’s Fault is a cute small shop located in quaint downtown Milford.  

This incredible shop is owned and run by two sisters, Angie and Rous. I recently had the opportunity to do a quick interview with these busy ladies.  I asked them how this all began for them after moving to Delaware only 13 years ago.  When getting settled in, they first worked at Perdue Farms.  They found that they were often craving Puerto Rican desserts such as cake, quesitos, tres leches, flan, etc. but found that they could not find these in Delaware.  This is when Rous started practicing recipes she found online and developed a passion for baking. She would take her new creations to share with co-workers and everyone began telling them that they needed to open a bakery.  Both sister’s would daydream about the idea but never imagined being where they are today.  Now 4 years later, they sell out most days and have an amazing following of many locals.  They are very community-centered and often do events to help local people. Recently  they held a dress sale to generate money to help a local mother with breast cancer.  They are currently participating in Operation Christmas Child, where shoeboxes are filled with Christmas joy for children around the world in need.  They have also had events like $5 Tres Leches French toast sales on Sunday (a day they are typically closed) and celebrated Valentine’s Day in July.  They are constantly improving and renewing their ideas for their business.  

Their typical week consists of about 60 hours of work and prep and even more during the holidays.  Their kitchen operates every day even on the days they are closed just so that they can prepare for the busy schedule during their operating hours.  This takes us to the best advice they received as new business owners as well as their best advice they can give for other dreamers: to train and delegate.  This was difficult for them as it is for most people.  They personally were so protective of their recipes and their overall business that they wanted to do it all.  This led to very little time for family and self care.  Once they took this advice and took the time to train their staff (which I must say as a customer, they have a pretty amazing staff) they could delegate more and create that better work/life balance.  They emphasized the need for a good work/life balance.   Working the amount of hours they originally were was just not sustainable and you lose too much time with your family.   They really do not feel like this business is just the two of them, they believe they are a team with their staff.  From an outsider looking in, they all seem like family and the love that this family has for eachother shows through the amazing foods they serve. 

In my interviews, I always ask for a favorite customer experience and they, like others, found it hard to narrow their experience down to just one favorite.  I guess that is like asking a parent which child is their favorite.  They did bring up the “This is my happy place” sign located on the wall in the shop.  This was brought to them by a customer letting them know that this was their happy place.  They enjoy seeing that sign each day reminding them that they are not only living out their dream each day but they are creating a “happy place” for the people they serve.  

Ok for those who have not experienced My Sister’s Fault….. It’s a very cute small place full of flavors.  Primarily most orders are received online and are take-out but they do encourage you to drop in for a variety of sweet and savory items.  Angie takes on the savory menu and Rous the sweet menu, each taking great pride in their dishes.  They have a large variety of cakes and classic Puerto Rican pastries featuring new creations weekly.  Their top selling items are the Ben & Jen cake, which is a chocolate lover’s favorite – this creation was actually a creation of their neighbors, the Lifecycle shop.  The other favorites are the classics Flan, Tres Leches and Rum cake.  They are open Wednesday – Friday 8am – 5:30pm and Saturdays 8am-3pm.

I personally made sure to set my alarm early on Valentine’s Day weekend this year just so I could purchase one of their cakes for my birthday/Valentine’s Day and did the same to take advantage of a Tres Leches French toast special event on a Sunday this year.  I’ve never had a single item that I did not like.    

 


This year I ask that you take the time to celebrate Cake Day with me and eat some cake today. hen you do if you get the chance to take a picture with your cake and post to your social media and #cakeday. Let’s flood social media with all of our cake eating pictures.

https://www.mysistersfaultbakery.com/

Priorities for your pets when house hunting

We meet many buyers and I love spending time with them learning what they desire in a home.  One thing that a lot of people consider is their fur babies.  What are some key features that pet owners are looking for in a future home? 

  1. Fenced yard – Do I need to say anything more on this?  Of course they are looking for a safe place for their pet to run and play 
  2. Durable flooring – Many people think that means hardwood flooring.  Yes, that is an option but what is also popular right now is a LVP Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring. We recently went with this flooring in our own home and it is very durable, water resistant and scratch resistant which are both good things to consider if you have pets
  3. Pet friendly neighborhood – Is the neighborhood a good walking area, does it offer pet waste stations and how close is it to an actual dog park?  These are all things that a pet owner takes into consideration 
  4. Central vacuum system – If you have a pet, you know that you will be dealing with the pet hair. What better way to do this than with a central vacuum system with hookups conveniently located throughout the house for quick easy clean up of the recurring pet hair saga 
  5. Pet bathing station – Not too many homes have had this feature but when they do, a pet owner gets even more excited.  How nice would it be to wash your dog without all the mess of trying to do it in your own bathtub?  A nice pet-sized walk-in shower/tub located in a mud room or garage with a shower hose head makes for a very easy fur baby clean up 

These are the top five features I see pet owners looking for when they are looking for their furever home. 

When you were shopping for your home, what was a key feature that sold you on the home?  What makes your home stand out today if you were to sell it?  Let’s talk if you are looking to buy or sell. 

In The Kitchen: Butterscotch Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Let’s get cooking.  This recipe is a great option to include for a Thanksgiving meal.  I have personally included it in my Thanksgiving feast for several years now.  

Ingredients

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed 
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 oz evaporated skim milk
  • 2 eggs 
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice 
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 3.4oz box instant butterscotch pudding 
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar 

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
  • In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except pecans and granulated sugar, stir well.
  • Place sweet potato mixture in a 13x9x2 inch glass casserole dish
  • Toss pecans and sugar together.  Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture
  • Bake at 350 degrees, or until mixture reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees in the center of the casserole dish
  • Serve in ½ cup scoop portions 

I am hoping that some of you try this recipe and let me know what you think.  I’d love to see pictures too. 

DIY Inspiration: Fire Pit

I am back with another DIY.  We are heading outside this time.  Did you know that today is National Bonfire Night?  So let’s celebrate with a DIY fire pit.   

I must admit I completed this project a few years back and I have never regretted it.  You can go elaborate or simple.  I, of course, went with a simple plan.  

First Step: Prepare your area.  Lay your retaining wall stones in a circle where you have decided to have your fire pit.  If utilizing a fire ring insert, be sure to include this ring when placing your stones to ensure you have the correct sizing.  Once laid, use your shovel to mark the ground all the way around the stones.  You will then remove your stones andshave off the grass top, going under the roots.  Make the area level – I used a 2×4 and large level for this process.

Second Step: Lay your stones.  In alternating rows, place three layers of retaining wall stones in the circular pattern to create your fire pit.  I found that some instructions included using glue to secure your stones. This is optional and I choose not to. 

Final Step: Place your fire ring insert.  I purchased a fire ring insert, which again is optional.  Place the ring in the center of the stones and then you can either put a layer of sand or lava rock on the inside bottom of your fire pit.  Enjoy!

I did say simple right? I don’t know if you had realized it could be this simple.  Now, it’s time to roast some marshmallows and sip an adult beverage by the fire.  If you had a good experience with a recent DIY, I’d love to hear from our followers.  I’m looking for my next project, any suggestions? 

Fall Planting

Fall has arrived.  Many people are busy with fall festivals and preparing their home for the winter months.  I’m sharing some of my top tips for fall planting to get those gardens ready. 

Reason to plant in fall

  • The soil is still warm and promotes good root growth
  • The cooler weather can be less stressful for the plants
  • There are less pest and disease issues in the cooler months

Timing: It’s important to remember that new plants are tender and harsh weather can kill them so be sure to plan ahead and make sure to plant at least 6 weeks prior to ground freeze. 

Watering: You want to water the plant prior to planting soaking the roots.  Once in the ground, you should only need to water once a week due to the cooler temperatures. 

Mulching: Mulch when the weather dips down to 32 degrees or less.  This is to protect the plants during the ground freezing. 

What to Plant

  • Pansies are a great option because there is a good chance that if planted in the fall you could get two seasons out of them. They typically can survive the winter months so that you can enjoy them in the spring as well 
  • Trees and Shrubs are often planted in the fall with the cooler temperatures and the warm soil being great rooting conditions
  • Perennials like Hostas, Daylilies, Lavender, Black-eyed Susans and Peonies are some favorites 
  • Edibles like Asparagus, Rhubarb and Artichokes do well planted in the fall for a spring harvest 

Whether you already have a green thumb or maybe you are considering some gardening, I hope this information is helpful.  As always I love to hear from everyone so if you have some additional tips you think should have made the list or maybe you want to share some pictures of your beautiful gardens, reach out to me. 

If you want to plan some gardening at a home of your own, let us help you find your home for your future gardening plot. 

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Fire Safety

Each October, the National Fire Protection Association celebrates Fire Safety Month.  I thought I’d share my top five tips with you.  Raising awareness of simple fire safety tips ensures safety for you and your home.   

My Top Five Fire Safety Tips: 

  1. Smoke Detectors – You should consider having one on each level of your home at minimum.  It is also a great idea to have them in each bedroom.  I recommend replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors at least twice a year.  Choose a time of the year and stick to that same time each year.  I use the time change – each Spring and Fall, I not only change my clocks but I also change my batteries. Having a working smoke detector in a home reduces the chance of death by fire by 50%. 
  2. Fire Extinguishers – It is suggested to have one of these on each level of your home as well because a fire can start in any part of a home.  I recommend having one located in your kitchen for sure as 44% of home fires begin in the kitchen.  Not only are they common, but they can be deadly.  Making sure you know how to use it is just as important. We practiced using a fire extinguisher when my son was in cub scouts and I felt it was important for adults and children to learn about fire safety and to know how to use this important tool. 
  3. Fire Escape Plan – Make sure you and your family have developed a fire escape plan.  Have fire ladders conveniently located in second floor bedrooms, so that if needed, there is a secondary exit other than the first floor entryway.  Have a meet up spot outside where the family will gather.  Make sure the younger kids know to call 911 in an emergency.
  4. Heating – Having your furnace checked and maintained each year to ensure that it is in working condition is a fantastic habit to have.  On average heating fires jump to 27% during the colder months.  Faulty furnaces and heating with portable sources (ie. kerosene, electric, propane) can cause a fire.  Make sure if you do utilize a portable heating source that it is clear of anything flammable, curtains, blankets, etc. 
  5. Maintenance – There are a couple maintenance items.  
    1. Keeping your stove/oven clean and free of debri 
    2. Keeping your dryer clean of lint and checking the hose to ensure you don’t have anything caught behind the dryer that could catch fire 
    3. Checking your electric cords to make sure that pets haven’t chewed on them and that you don’t have any exposed wires
    4. If you have a fireplace, be sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected on a regular basis and that you dispose of your ashes in a proper metal container

If you have young children, make sure that you are talking to them about fire safety.  You can be the biggest fire safety tool and spreading the knowledge of fire safety can be your best defense.  Check with your local fire department: many offer free smoke detectors to keep the communities safe and many will also offer free tours to groups.  If your neighborhood or local organization would be interested in learning more about fire safety and taking a tour of your local fire station, I highly recommend reaching out to them today. 

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