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Date Archives: October 2015

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October
27

A home is a place that belongs to the entire family and the entire family belongs to the home. In an effort to build familial relationships, joining forces to care for and maintain your house can be an excellent source of inspiration and bonding. Whether you like the cliche or not, "clean up and do your share" can go a long way toward turning family chore day into something more akin to bonding time than a war zone. You just have to get everyone on the same page and set realistic expectations. Determine what your general goal for the day is, set everyone their tasks, and then dive in.

Doing Household Chores as a Family

First and foremost, don't expect perfection. As long as everyone's chipping in you can consider it a win. Allow for breaks, don't criticize, and be willing to offer praise and encouragement . . . especially if you have younger kids trying their best.

Do expect some whining. Nobody likes getting sweaty and dirty, so it's normal that there will be the passing comments of, "This isn't fun," or "I hate yardwork." Laugh it off, agree that it can suck, but keep going. Keeping your resolve to get the job done will reap rewards and satisfaction at the end of the day.

Don't omit anyone in the family. Everyone who is physically capable should have a job to do—you'd be surprised how much fun youngsters will have gathering leaves and bagging them (after a few rolls in the piles, of course!). Something as simple as bringing glasses of water to the older folk can make them feel useful and included. By the way, did you take advantage of the photo op when your kiddos were frolicking and laughing?

Bring the Family Together

If you know the day is going to be spent clearing the chaos and clutter, plan on something special as a reward at the end, like dinner. Order pizza in, or maybe head out to your favorite restaurant. Mom and Dad deserve a break, too; especially after a day of backbreaking labor and fielding potential emotional breakdowns amongst the children. Another option is to set aside the day after as a 'lazy day' … board games, movies in the living room, anything that brings you all together without expectation to work, just have fun.

October
7

Getting back to nature is a wonderful thing. However, looking out your front window to see the local wildlife destroying your landscaping and foraging off your heirloom varietals isn't. 

You can do something extreme—like put up a ten foot fence to keep them out. This might work, maybe . . . but you'd be surprised how resourceful and agile animals can be. You could go to your local outdoor store and procure bottles of assorted wild animal urine to spray around as a deterrent. Again, it works for a short time, but is not a long-term solution (and who really wants to mess around with feral urine?). Another, more viable, option is to revisit your landscaping choices. Use nature to outwit natural animal tendencies.

Ground covers are practical, versatile, and affordable. While there are hundreds of ground cover options, only a handful can stand up to deer. Most deer-resistant covers are highly invasive, so you want to plant responsibly; i.e., if you don't have a lot of deer or other foragers, you may want to forgo these or risk having your property overrun.  These plants can help keep deer out of your garden this season.

 

1. Eastern Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens)

  • Also known as wintergreen

  • Native to cold-weather climates of the eastern U.S.

  • Has small urn-shaped flowers in the Spring, followed by red berries; in the Fall, its evergreen foliage is bronze-tinged

  • Needs rich, acidic soil and is a good choice for growing around azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons.

 

2. Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

  • Also known as bearberry

  • Sun-loving option as majority of deer-resistant, non invasive groundcovers prefer shade

  • A type of wild manzanita that grows as a low, spreading mat on the West Coast. East Coasters: look for cultivars taken from the eastern subspecies, such as 'Massachusetts'

  • Has the same evergreen foliage and smooth reddish bark manzanitas are known for

 

3. Dwarf Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)

  • Also known as leadwort

  • Sun tolerant

  • Tough, well-behaved, easy-to-grow ground cover from China

  • Foliage with sky-blue flowers which appear sporadically from midsummer through fall.

  • With the first frost of fall, the foliage becomes tinged with a burgundy color

  • Can aggressively spread with rich soil and lots of moisture

WARNING: Wear gloves when pruning or handling the plant as contact may cause dermatitis.

 

4. Barrenwort (Epimedium spp.)

  • Also known as horny goat weed

  • Tough ground cover which thrives in shady areas under large trees

  • Spreads at a moderate rate but not considered aggressive or invasive

  • Has heart-shaped leaves and hat-like flowers

  • For resisiting deer, look for varieties such as 'Sulphureum' or red barrenwort

 

5. Pachysandra  (Pachysandra spp.)

  • Most common form used is also known as Japanese spurge

  • High degree of shade tolerance

  • One of the cold-hardiest evergreen ground covers

  • Can be aggressive with growth under ideal conditions

WARNING: Pachysandra is poisonous and should not be used where there is a concern that children, pets, or livestock may consume it.

 

6. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)

  • Also known as wild baby's breath

  • Native to Europe but used in the Northeast US as deer avoid eating it despite the sweet fragrance it emits.  

 

Get more advice on keeping deer and other citters out of your garden.

Contact one of our agents today.

October
7

A flash of yellow darts around the garden, feeding on flowering seed heads or stopping at bird feeders. What could it be? Meet the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), one of the only vegetarian songbirds. Because they don't feed their young insects, they're able to hold off their nesting habits until later in the year, June or July, when seeds are abundant.

 

Here are some tips for making your garden inviting to these yellow birds:

Some common plant favorites of the American Goldfinch to feed on are thistle, sunflowers, asters, and milkweed. Looking to the trees will find these birds enjoying alder, birch, and western red cedar. They will work bits and pieces of these plants into their tightly-woven nests for both warmth and as a food source.

Goldfinches want and need an ideal habitat for seed-hunting, like shrubby fields or forest edges.

These birds prefer to build their nests in shrubs or young trees, but several feet off the ground. To maximize your chances of attracting mating pairs, be sure to incorporate larger shrub species.

Keep any feeders you have full, and clean. American goldfinches are at risk of getting mycoplasmal conjunctivitis—house finch eye disease—from birdfeeders. If you do notice that your winged guests have crusty eyes, take down the feeders and disinfect them with a 10 percent bleach solution then leave them down for about a week so the birds can heal rather than continue to spread the disease.

American goldfinches are one of the U.S.'s national treasures. Thanks to their assorted adaptations, they are often the object of fascination and admiration for everyday backyard gardeners and ornithologists alike.  If you attract the American Goldfinch to your backyard, let us know and snap a picture if you can!

 

Plant late summer to be ready for your guests to arrive in the fall!

 

Get more advice on attracting the animals you want visiting your home.

Contact one of our agents today.

October
7

Fall is in the air and the days are getting cooler. Time to pack up summer, then pull out the winter gear. This is also the perfect time to give your closets a good tidying. Here are some suggestions from professional organizers for organizing your closet space.

 

Sort 

The chief design officer for California Closets, Ginny Snook Scott, suggests the first step you need to take on is pulling everything out of your closets and then sorting the stuff into four distinct piles.

  • Now Pile—often used and worn

  • Someday Pile—special occasion clothes that still fit

  • Never Pile—face it, you're never going to put these items on again (Geralin Thomas, who is the president of Metropolitan Organizing in Raleigh, North Carolina, recommends that any "trophy garments," those that do not fit or you're keeping only because you paid a small fortune for it but are honestly never going to wear again, need to go. The money isn't coming back and all these items are doing are cluttering your space.)

  • Seasonal Pile—self-explanatory

Ms. Scott recommends going through your Someday Pile once again, see how much you can move to the Never Pile.

 

Sort Again

The first step is always the easiest, but now comes the hard part. Eliminating. For real.

Most people find that their Never Pile is often much larger than they anticipated it would be—up to 40% or more of the closet content. With this discovery usually comes motivation to keep going, to do more. Use this mindset to revisit the Now Pile; see just how much of it you can shift to the Someday and Never Piles.

 

Keep Up Your Resolve

Get that Never Pile boxed and bagged, ready for repurposing by either donating them to a goodwill store, passing them on to friends or family who can and will use them, or setting aside for a garage sale. DO NOT STORE these bags where you will be tempted to sift through or have 'one last peek'.

 

Organize the Seasonal Pile

  • Wash (or have dry cleaned) anything that is getting packed up. You don't want any lingering toiletry products on the clothes as this will draw insects. **Make sure all items are completely dry before they get stored. Unpacking your clothes to discover them threaded with mildew is nobody's idea of fun.

  • Use air tight, clear plastic containers which have been clearly labeled with what is inside.

  • Store the bins out of sight, but in an easily accessible place.

 

"Never store clothes in plastic bags like those from dry cleaners. Store them in cotton zip-up bags. No mothballs. No exceptions."  ~ Geralin Thomas

 

You're Almost Done!

 

Take advantage of the fact that the closets are empty by getting in there with the vacuum. You want to suck up all those lingering dust mites which destroy fabric and play havoc with people's allergies.

This is also a good time to evaluate your hangers. Wire hangers should go back to the dry cleaners or get recycled; these are meant for temporary use, using them long-term will stretch and ruin the shape of your clothes.

As you return the Now Pile items to your freshly cleaned closet, professional organizers suggest you "group" like items, i.e. shirts, dresses, pants, et cetera. If you want to go all out, you can do each group by color or style.

 

Enjoy the fruits of your labor. It's okay to go treat yourself to one or two new items, just don't go too crazy.

 

Get more advice on organization in any space.

Contact one of our agents today.

 

October
7

Before you take on any kind of major redecorating, you're going to want to take some preliminary steps. Like determining what your working budget for the project is, and taking a good long look at not only your likes and dislikes, but those of the other people living in the space with you, especially your significant other. If you aren't both on board, one of you could end up miserable in your home—the place that is supposed to be a sanctuary.  Discuss these home decorating tips with your family and see what ways you can spruce up your living environment.

 

"Spend an hour or two on the computer and look at some things together and talk about them. Ask your partner: 'What do you like about it? What don't you like about it?'"~Alana Homesley, interior designer (Woodland Hills, CA)

 

Having a plan in place before you begin will help make the process smooth and painless. 

That being said, there is no reason not to go after your 'dream space'. Have fun collecting pictures and ideas of what you would do if money and time were no object; create a wish list of sorts. Investing time—months, if necessary—in this step will give you a jumping point and allow you to really figure out what appeals to you, and what doesn't. This can also be an insightful tool in the event that you hire a professional home decorator.

 

"If you don't have that master list, it's hard to prioritize." ~Amy Luff, interior designer (Viva Luxe Studios in Bristol, VA)

 

Good questions to ask yourself when creating your vision:

  • What colors are comforting, welcoming, and relaxing?

  • Do you have pets that need to be accommodated?

  • What building materials 'speak' to you? Sterile and clean (marble, travertine, silk), warm and inviting (wood, bamboo, cotton and linen), et cetera.

  • What era, or style, are you most at home in? Victorian, French Country, Museum Chic . . . the choices are endless.

 

With the ideas flowing, now you need to start narrowing down your home decor ideas in order to achieve a realistic budget. Review what you have in terms of furniture and large décor pieces, and decide what can stay and what absolutely has to go. A whole new room can be created around existing pieces. Maybe you adore the design of your sectional couch, but the upholstery doesn't fit the new color palette you're considering . . . it may be cheaper to have that couch re-covered than it would be to go buy a brand new one. Love the frame on your mantle artwork, but the image itself isn't going to work with your new theme? Reuse the frame by replacing the print.

Think outside the box and be open to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Your pocketbook will appreciate it, as will mother Earth.

 

If you need an experts advice on decorating tips,

Contact one of our agents today.

October
7

 

 

wabi-sabi

"wisdom in natural simplicity"

"flawed beauty"

 

You can create your own Zen-like garden by understanding and utilizing simplicity in positioning and materials. At first glance, things may look askew or odd when you enter a Zen garden, but understand that nothing is left to chance in these special places. Every shape, plant, boulder, piece of art, and water feature has been chosen, and placed, with care.

A traditional Zen garden is enclosed and has a defined point of entry and exit, so in creating your garden, start with the gate. Both practical and symbolic, the gate allows those who enter a clear line to leave their stress and troubles behind. The gate also keeps out the unwanted, both physical and spiritual.

Extending from either side of the gate will be an enclosure; a fence.  Choosing natural materials such as wood or a living hedge, will give visitors the illusion of being 'hugged' while their eye is drawn by the continuity and rhythm of the enclosure. This elicits feelings of safety and security, and of being welcomed.

Throughout any garden you will find pathways. This is especially true in Zen gardens where the paths are not only functional, but chosen with purpose. A straight-lined path will get you there quickly, where a curved or zig-zagged path encourages the visitor to slow down, take their time . . . reflect. For this reason, Zen paths are often narrower, allowing for one person to pass, thus making the garden experience singular and unique. Common considerations for Zen paths: width, gravel (aesthetic and auditory), shape/direction of pathways, simple lines and angles.

Incorporate rhythm into your garden through repetition—patterns, plants, paths, and structures. For most people, an easygoing rhythm translates into moments of blissful tranquility.  

Boulders, in every size, color, and shape are instrumental to the antiquated feel of a Zen garden. They speak of nature and the passing millennia, while adding visual points of interest. A variety of textures and the freedom to "plant" them as deep and wherever you want, makes them a fun addition to your garden as well. Investing in a few extra large boulders, professionally delivered and installed, will be well-appreciated by your visitors to your garden. TIP: Odd numbers are more natural, so go with groupings of three or five boulders as opposed to two or four.

Provide simple, unadorned seating in your Zen garden. Let your visitors focus on the fresh air, the sounds of nature, and the other carefully chosen aesthetics of the garden.

Simple, organic art is perfect for a Zen garden. In fact, the more simple, the better. Abstract sculptures and wind chimes are great examples of artistic items you can incorporate into the landscape for the enjoyment and mental awakening of those who will wander your pathways. Stick to natural hues.

Carefully placed lighting will make your pathways safe to traverse in the evening hours, and will allow you to highlight the more special features of your garden, like prized specimen plants or a handcrafted sculpture.

Choose plants for the scents they'll emit when in bloom, the sounds they'll make when being rustled by the wind, and by how they'll feel beneath your feet or under the pads of your fingertips.

The sound, movement, and peace that water can bring to a garden is priceless. Again, go with simple and natural . . . and understated. Whether a small bird bath, a rain catcher, or even a full blown water feature with falls, you want this element to not be forced or contrived.

 

Continuity is the key to being Zen.

 

October
7

Selling a home rarely happens overnight, yet sellers can find it frustrating if it seems that too much time is passing without closing the deal. On average, a home shouldn't take more than six weeks to sell—if the market is strong and the property is priced appropriately. If it sits much longer, buyers can become wary, so let's look at some ways to generate interest if your home isn't selling as fast as you'd like.

 

Location, Price, and Condition

While you can't just move your home to a different part of town if traffic is low, you can reassess the price you're asking, and whether it's comparable to other homes in the area in addition to what the property itself offers.

If you've got some time, and have received consistent feedback over issues with the house, then you may want to go ahead and take the house off the market for a short time to address those issues. There are low-budget fixes you can do to make a house more desirable. Sometimes it's as simple as decluttering, slapping on a coat of a fresh paint, and putting out fresh flowers. In other instances, it could take a little more . . . maybe updating the kitchen and/or baths will be what it takes.

If you are unable to spare the time or money for a remodel, or the location is out of your hands no matter how nice the house actually is, another option is to go ahead and reduce the asking price.

 

Do You and Your Realtor Have the Same Goal?

As large an investment as a home is, you want to be sure that your Logan County real estate agent has your back. Be honest with your expectations from the first meeting with them. Also, be open to their suggestions and recommendations. Remember, they do this for a living and it's their job to know the market you're trying to crack. A good agent won't let you undersell or overprice, and will be willing to pursue offers by following up with any potential buyers who've shown interest.

 

If you are having trouble selling your home, let us help!

October
6

 

Whether you are looking to buy or sell a home in Central Ohio, you'll need to know your market, i.e. your 'comps'. Comps are the homes in the area where you are transacting business that are comparable, meaning they are in the same neighborhood, are similar in size, layout, and condition, and have similar features or extras (like pools, fireplaces, or even neighborhood playgrounds).

These comps are used when determining pricing. From the buyer's standpoint, knowing the market gives them a place to start with a fair offer, while from the seller's viewpoint, comps help them to figure the best price point for the property. A good real estate agent stays on top of their local market, making sure to understand the ins and outs of what makes a property comparable.

 

Location, location, location . . .

When pricing or valuing a home, the first thing you want to do is look at what's nearby. Stay within the neighborhood to ensure things like the age of the homes and the community features are similar. School zones make good measures of parameters.

 

No time like the present . . .

Keep your eye on the pending sales. The initial bargaining has taken place between the buyer and seller, so these are, in effect, a plethora of current data for the market—including the latest 'dollar per square foot' average. A good rule of thumb is to look at sales within the last three months, but not more than six months old, as trends could've changed drastically in that time.

 

Show me the extras . . .

With the where and when pinned down, now you can look at the fun stuff, the property features. The main thing to compare here are the number of bedrooms/bathrooms and the lot size. Narrow those down, and then you can get into the smaller extras. Views, updated appliances, flooring materials, pools, garages, fireplaces . . . the list can get rather long, but these are the creature comforts that are going to help you turn your purchase into an Indian Lake Home (or sell your property to the highest bidder).

 

Don't overanalyze or stress . . .

While it is a good idea to have some knowledge of how the market works, there are professionals available to help you navigate the world of home buying and selling. Choice Properties has trustworthy agents to assist with the petty details of each comparable Logan County home. We make it our job to know the market so that you can make Indian Lake, Bellefontaine, or the surrounding areas your home.

October
5

 

Plants are essential to the human way of life. We produce carbon dioxide, a poisonous gas which the plants take and convert into the oxygen that we need to breathe. Pretty important.  And they're beautiful, so why not decorate your Logan County home with a splash of life.

 

Strategically Place Plants to Maximize their Aesthetic Functionality

Kitchen. Herb gardens are functional while cooking, as well as pleasing to the eye—and perfect for apartment living where space is limited and major decorating may not be allowed. Also consider low-maintenance plants which are vine-like or create long tails as beautiful additions to upper alcoves (if you're willing to climb up and water them once a week).

Use tall, open-styled bookshelves as plant stands—they are decorative and practical. Avoid bookcases for clustering as any plants you put toward the back will not get the light and ventilation they need.

Create an oxygen-rich lush atmosphere in your dining room with a few well-placed large potted plants. If you like the 'jungle' look, you can also cluster smaller pots on windowsills or side-credenzas. Consider hanging one or two from the ceiling with macramé plant holders for a bohemian feel.

If continually changing out floral arrangements isn't your thing, consider a planted centerpiece. Wheatgrass, cat grass, and herbs are good options for the dining table, though any small, low-lying potted plant will work (you want to see the person across the table from you). Protect the table from drips with saucers underneath the plants to collect water.

Are you fortunate enough to a sun room or greenhouse? Load that bad boy up, and even have a go at something exotic or tropical. These rooms are often humid and full of direct sunlight.

Fresh greenery in your bedroom will help clean the air, refreshing the atmosphere while you sleep.

 

Not Everyone Has a Green Thumb (and even those who do, don't have it all the time)

At one time or another we've all killed a plant, it happens. Don't get discouraged. Go ahead and give it another try with these growing tips:

  • Look for healthy plants at a reputable nursery (knowledgeable staff will help you choose the right plant for your situation)

  • If you're bad about watering, use the alarm feature on your smart phone to set TIME TO WATER reminders

  • Fussy plants (like ferns) love to take a bath … or at least be in the warm "tropical" atmosphere created by steamy bathrooms.

  • If you don't trust yourself to spread the plants out, cluster them up. You'll have one place to stop and water, plus this allows the plants to create their own little ecosystem and micro-climate (good for preventing water loss).

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