Spring Home Improvement • May, 2018 • Lillie Newspapers

Spring Home Improvement • May, 2018 • Lillie Newspapers
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The Stories

Farm-to-table: The hot food trend you can enjoy without leaving home


Farm-fresh eggs. Locally grown tomatoes. Herbs sourced onsite.

If you’ve eaten out recently, you’ve probably noticed the menus feature locally sourced ingredients. The farm-to-table movement continues to flourish at restaurants throughout the country.

In fact, rather than the exception, it’s become the expectation. According to the National Restaurant Association, farm-to-table is quickly becoming the new norm. Diners are so attracted to the freshest fare possible, it’s inspiring some restaurants to start their own gardens on a rooftop, terrace or simple outdoor plot. Hyper-local culinary concepts like these represent the top trend on the annual “2018 Culinary Forecast” report.

You can take a cue from this hot trend by starting your own farm-to-table concept garden at home. Just imagine plucking ruby red tomatoes and rich green basil straight from your garden to make a farm-fresh, scrumptious caprese salad without ever leaving home. An at-home take on the farm-to-table trend can easily be translated to a convenient “garden-to-table” concept in your own backyard. Growing your own at home will elevate your cooking and you’ll feel good about being able to produce your own food while lowering your grocery bill (and certainly save by not dining out as much).

No matter the size of your garden space, you can grow fresh foods that are readily available right at your fingertips, even if you just have a small patio or balcony. What’s more, some of the most popular produce to eat is also easy to grow.


Caged tomatoes 

Whether you choose big, juicy slicers or sweet cherry-sized snackers, caged tomatoes are easy to grow and offer endless cooking opportunities. Determinate varieties of tomatoes are container favorites because the vines are relatively compact yet bear a productive harvest. Or create your own container garden using tomato varieties especially bred for small spaces.


Caged peppers 

Try popular and versatile green bell, a heavy yielder of large fruits and a good all-round pepper for slicing and stuffing. Or, spice up your recipes with jalapeño chile peppers, which yield a bountiful harvest.


Strawberries in hanging baskets

Sweet, juicy strawberries add loads of flavor to salads, dressings, drinks and desserts. Think you need a plot to grow a productive strawberry patch? Think again. Maximize space with Bonnie Plants’ strawberries in hanging baskets, which are everbearing and produce cascades of berries throughout the growing season.


Herbs in combo pots

Want to raise the flavor profile of any culinary dish? Fresh herbs are your best bet. Herb gardens can be grown in compact spaces, which means you can fit your favorites in no matter how much space you have.

For example, a kitchen herb combo container featuring sweet basil, cilantro and curled parsley is a powerhouse pot that’s both practical and pretty. You can set it right outside your door for convenient access and continuous harvest. Herbs are ready for harvest upon purchase and will keep growing and giving all season long.


Once it’s time to harvest, have fun exploring new recipes and experimenting with home-grown, fresh-picked produce that will shake up your supper and then some. (BPT)


Classic caprese salad

This recipe for a classic caprese salad is sure to hit the spot as a light lunch or satisfying start to dinner.


1 fresh tomato

1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese

Basil leaves

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste



Slice tomato in 1/4-inch thick slices. Do the same for the mozzarella. Alternate layers of tomato, mozzarella and basil. Begin and end with tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or your favorite Italian dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Make the most of your landscaping projects this year with these tips

Home improvement projects aren’t constrained to a single season, but during these warmer months, your focus is no longer simply on your home’s indoors. Now there’s outdoor yard work to do as well, and if you’re looking to recreate your outdoor space, your outside projects may include some landscaping. If you have landscaping as part of your to-do list this season, the right strategy can ensure that you get the most benefit from your landscaping goals with the least amount of headache.

To that end, here are five tips to simplify your landscaping projects this year.

• Plan for the entire year. Landscaping projects can be hard work, and because of that, you deserve to enjoy them for as long as possible. That’s why it’s important to plan your landscaping layout with the entire year in mind. Research your plant and flower options based on bloom periods and plant a variety so your yard is always being introduced to new pops of color. You should also add evergreen shrubs and other such plant life to your overall plan to give you a spot of color in the winter and preserve your landscaping look.

• Be mindful of other tools outside your home. When developing your landscaping strategy, you need to be aware not only of your home but the other vital components outside as well. Many homeowners are not mindful of their home’s HVAC units and may place landscaping solutions too close to the unit, which makes it difficult for techs to service the unit and exposes your system to the harmful effects of debris. 

• Touch every corner of your yard. Your home is naturally the focal point of your yard, but it doesn’t have to be the only one. Creating a berm — a mound-type space that you can fill with rocks, wood chips or a flower garden — can add a pop of color and visual appeal to an otherwise plain area. These visual attractions can be placed anywhere, but adding one to an otherwise deserted corner of your yard is a great way to tie the entire space together and make the most of an unused area.

• Add plants that fit your lifestyle. When planning your landscaping project, it’s important to remember this isn’t just a one-time solution. Your landscaping will need continual work, and as such, your landscaping plan should be based partly on the time you have to dedicate to the project. For example, if you’re a person who appreciates beautifully colorful flowers but doesn’t want to replant them every year, you should start your project by planting perennials instead of annuals. Your time commitment in year one will be roughly the same, but you’ll ease your time requirements in the years ahead.

• Monitor your budget. Like many things, a lavish landscaping project can get away from you very quickly in the financial department. Veteran landscapers know that it becomes very easy to get swept up in the project and before you know it, you’ve added a slightly larger tree or another bush or two. Then you suddenly have unexpected costs heading your way. Instead of ending your exciting project on a bad note with a higher bill, plan out your budget ahead of time. Try to get as specific as possible with where you plan to spend every dollar. The more you can hold to each line item in your budget, the better you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary expenses throughout the process.


Making landscaping improvements to your yard can be a fun and rewarding project provided you follow a strategy that makes the best use of your time and money. Apply the tips above and you’ll be rewarded with a beautifully landscaped yard that you can enjoy every day of the year. (BPT)


5 ways gardening and plants can reduce stress

In today’s busy world, people are continually searching for new ways to slow down and unwind. This has led more people to discover the calming benefits of gardening and how incorporating plants into decor provides a way to reduce everyday stress.

Studies have shown that indoor plants clean the air by removing 87 percent of airborne toxins in 24 hours, and can make people more relaxed. In fact, the very act of planting and maintaining a garden provides relaxing stress relief in today’s busy world.

With such pronounced benefits, there are many reasons people who live in crowded cities and spacious suburbs have taken up gardening. For a closer look, green industry experts at Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment offer these five ways gardening can help you create a stress-relieving sanctuary at home.


Add a fiddle leaf fig to your living room 

With large, waxy green leaves that look like a fiddle, the photogenic fiddle leaf fig adds a stunning pop of green to any living space. The trees thrive in bright to medium light and prefer room temperatures. Water them only when the surface of the soil is dry or when the leaves start to wilt; you’ll know your tree is happy when its leaves are perked up toward the sun. Caring for the tree energizes your mood and in turn, its healthy green leaves liven up your home.


Grow an herb garden in your kitchen

Home chefs and foodies alike know how important it is to have fresh herbs on hand. Rosemary, mint, sage and basil thrive in small terra cotta pots on your sunny windowsill. They not only add the finishing touch to a meal or a refreshing drink, but tending your herbs helps to relieve daily stress while enticing you to experiment with new healthy recipes featuring your homegrown harvest.


Monitor the air quality with aloe vera plants

Most people know about the medicinal properties in aloe vera plants. Most of us have slathered some on after getting a sunburn. In addition, they’re great for purifying the air. They can also serve as a monitor of air quality because they will display brown spots if something isn’t quite right. Aloe vera thrives in sunny spaces and at room temperature, so make sure to position it near an interior window to help maintain a healthy plant.


Put a snake plant in your office or wherever you’re most busy 

Offices and cubes can be some pretty sterile spaces, which can make it hard to stay motivated or feel content during the work day. There are a million and one reasons for putting a plant in your office, and because you need to focus on the work at hand, you need a stress-free plant. When it comes to caring for a plant, it doesn’t get much easier than a snake plant. These beautiful plants grow in a wide-range of lighting conditions and at any normal room temperature. They offer a low-maintenance boost of zen, produce oxygen and, because sometimes you go on vacation, can go weeks without water.


Liven up your shaded bathroom with a peace lily

The dark leaves and curvy white blossoms on a peace lily are easy on the eyes and easy to grow. Perfect for those less-well-lit areas of the house, peace lilies thrive in shade and can withstand a variety of temperatures. Looks aside, they’re known for reducing both airborne toxins and mold, making them the perfect plant for bathrooms or other damp areas of your home.


The wellness benefits of caring for and being around plants are endless. The next time you’re feeling stressed, spend some time in the garden or take a stroll through a park to enjoy the greenery and the natural comfort that comes with being surrounded by plants. (BPT)


Create an outdoor oasis with a personalized shed

The backyard. It's your oasis. Your happy place. Your second living room. It's the place to go not only for "me" time — but quality time with friends and family.

This National Barbecue Month, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association wants to help you make your backyard the best backyard it can be.

Think sheds. No, not your grandparents' tattered shed filled with a dusty mower and 30-year-old paint brushes. We're talking highly personalized sheds. Intimate covered spaces that keep the sun's rays out but bring the summer in.

Outdoor sheds come in all shapes and sizes and can be personalized to fit within all types of lifestyles. From fun-filled tapsheds where friends gather for a margarita and grilled salmon to an intimate she-shed stocked with wine and cheese or even a hobby shed for the family to play board games while munching on braised ribs and root beer, sheds can do it all.

Building a personalized shed can be a daunting task. Consider these five tips to help you create your ideal outdoor oasis just in time for summer:


 Have a plan

Are you starting from scratch or cleaning out an existing old shed? What's the theme? What's the budget? What's the goal? How much room do you have to work with? Before you start building your shed, make sure you have a plan in place. You may be eager to jump right in but it's much easier to follow a well-laid plan than to make decisions on the fly.


Stick to a theme

 A craft shed, a relaxation shed, a party shed — there are so many options when it comes to creating your perfect shed. Choose one theme and tailor all decisions around your theme of choice. For example, if you decide to go with a relaxation shed, choose calming colors and peaceful decorations.


Utilize your resources

Your shed is a part of your outdoor space and you should utilize all the free beauty that nature has to offer when it comes to decorating your shed. Build your shed under your favorite tree to offer natural shade or decorate your shed with dried flowers or vines.


Less is more 

When designing an outdoor shed, it is easy to go overboard. Remember to keep it simple and that you want to have enough room to entertain guests and to hang out in your shed. Keeping things minimal will also ensure you stay within your budget.


Remember the exterior

 One easy way to customize your shed is with a coat of paint. Choose a paint color that goes with your theme. Then invite friends and family over for a day of painting fun in the sun.


For more tips on making the most of your backyard, visit www.hpba.org. (BPT)


The secret places pests are hiding in your home

Pests can be hiding just about everywhere — whether you can see them or not. When you know where to look, there are preventative measures you can take to help avoid a pest infestation problem in your home. Check these “secret” spots to make sure the pests are staying outside. 


Sinks and drains 

One often overlooked area is the kitchen sink. When not properly sanitized, drains can become a breeding ground for pests like cockroaches, drain beetles and fruit flies. Cockroaches are one of the more common pests found in drains as they can access pipes when pushed up from sewers. Cockroaches survive in drains by feeding on available organic matter like grease, food waste and hair.

Other drain-breeding pests include drain flies, which resemble tiny moths, and fruit flies. Drain flies breed in residue found in drains. Fruit flies are attracted to garbage residue found in drains, which can contain damp, organic matter in which to lay eggs, and is a good food source to feed young larvae. Use smaller drain mesh and drain cleaner to create a less appealing environment for drain flies and fruit flies.


Ceiling light fixtures 

Bugs see UV lighting more clearly than humans, making ceiling light fixtures a common place to find insects. Flies, beetles, cockroaches and wasps are attracted to the warmth and light, which, unfortunately for them, typically results in an early death.


Electrical outlets

One of the most unexpected places pests hide is inside your electrical outlets. Ants, beetles and bed bugs have been known to hide in electrical outlets and the voids behind the outlet plate. A pest control technician may use a dry residual dust product to reduce any bugs that could be residing there. If bed bugs are found in electrical outlets, it is likely there are more in other parts of the room or home, so call a professional to schedule a full home inspection.


The kitchen pantry 

Equally likely to welcome uninvited guests is your kitchen pantry and cupboards. Pantry pests can include moths, weevils, beetles and mice, all of which are attracted to food stored in the kitchen. Pantry pests can quickly contaminate batches of cooking and baking ingredients, such as flour, grains, spices and pricey nuts and dried fruits. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to keep them out of your cabinets, including examining all packaging for damage; avoiding storing food in original cardboard and paper packaging and instead choosing airtight containers with sealing lids; buying smaller quantities of products and using them before expiration; consistently organizing and cleaning your pantry; and throwing away all contaminated food. (BPT)


Top trends to inspire your outdoor living

Outdoor living spaces rank first among special function rooms desired by consumers, according to the American Institute for Architects, and so homeowners are expected to be going all-in for the outdoors in 2018.

Here are some outdoor living trends that will dominate this year.


Year-round enjoyment 

Among the biggest trends is a shift away from seasonality as consumers adopt more of a year-round mindset, no longer restricting outdoor living to spring and summer. Thanks to new high-performance materials and innovative design approaches, homeowners everywhere are transforming their outdoor spaces into multi-seasonal extensions of their homes. 


Minimal maintenance, maximum enjoyment

Just because people are spending more time outdoors doesn’t mean they’re willing to put in extra hours for upkeep. In fact, high-maintenance materials like wood are seeing a decrease in demand as people are opting for offerings that deliver better performance and sustainability.

Unlike wood, high-performance composites resist fading, staining, scratching and mold — and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water.


Comfy cozy

Among the hottest design influences right now is “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah) - the Scandinavian term for a feeling of coziness and comfort. This year, outdoor spaces will beckon homeowners and their guests to relax and rejuvenate with hygge-inspired accents, from plush cushions and throws to protective pergolas, cozy warming features and outdoor lighting.


Residential goes commercial

While railing matched to the decking remains popular, an increasing number of homeowners are taking advantage of the complementary decking and railing pairings afforded by new railing materials in modern, metal finishes, as well as sleek designs inspired by commercial architecture. More homeowners are inspired by outdoor spaces they find in commercial settings, such as hotels and urban rooftops, and want to replicate those looks in their homes. A prime example of this commercial-to-residential trend is the growing popularity of horizontal railings such as rod rail - a sleek, industrial look that’s ideal for optimizing a panoramic view.


Hide and chic

With the increased usage of outdoor living spaces comes higher demand for chic decor and privacy. An easy design trick that adds personal style and functionality, lattice panels are perfect for enhancing privacy and concealing storage areas or unsightly views. With styles ranging from romantic to deco, lattice panels can be integrated into any outdoor area and applied to structures such as arbors, trellises and gazebos, or used as decorative wainscoting or deck skirting.


Fun and games

Kids are not the only ones who enjoy playing outside. Outdoor play spaces for all ages are on the rise, including everything from swimming pools and embedded sandboxes to regulation cornhole courts, horseshoe pits and dedicated spaces for volleyball, badminton and bocce ball.

Beyond yard games, electronics manufacturers now offer televisions and entertainment systems specifically designed for the outdoors, taking into consideration differences in lighting and outdoor acoustics. Meanwhile, new storage options include durable wall-mounted television and entertainment centers that beautifully protect pricey electronics from the elements, while concealing all of the unsightly — and potentially unsafe — cords and cables. (BPT)


Call 811 before digging for home improvement projects and landscaping this year

With nicer weather having officially arrived, many eager homeowners and landscape professionals across the country will roll up their sleeves and reach for their shovels to start projects that require digging this season.

During the transition into “digging season,” Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them, and their communities, reminds homeowners and professional diggers that calling 811 is the first step toward protecting you and your community from the risk of unintentionally damaging an underground line.

Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a free call to 811. Installing a mailbox or fence, building a deck and landscaping are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811. Calling this number connects you to your local one-call utility notification center.

According to data collected by CGA in a phone survey in February, millions of American homeowners will likely do DIY projects involving digging this year, but 36 percent of them do not plan to make a free call to 811 before digging. Extrapolated to the full population of U.S. homeowners, approximately 48.3 million people will dig this year without first calling 811.

A utility line is damaged every nine minutes in America because someone decided to dig without making a call to 811 to learn the approximate location of buried utilities in their area. Unintentionally striking one of these lines can result in inconvenient outages for entire neighborhoods, serious harm to yourself or your neighbors, and significant repair costs.

As a result, CGA offers the following tips to make sure you complete your project safely and without any utility service interruptions, so you don’t become a statistic.

Here’s how the 811 process works:

• One free, simple phone call to 811 makes it easy for your local one-call center to notify appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig. Call a few days prior to digging to ensure enough time for the approximate location of utility lines to be marked with flags or paint.

• When you call 811, a representative from your local one-call center will ask for the location and description of your digging project.

• Your local one-call center will notify affected utility companies, which will then send professional locators to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of your lines.

• Only once all lines have been accurately marked, carefully dig around the marked areas.


There are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States, which equates to more than a football field’s length of utilities for every person in the U.S. Your family depends on this buried infrastructure for your everyday needs including electric, natural gas, water and sewer, cable TV, high-speed internet and landline telephone. With that much critical infrastructure underground, it’s important to know what’s below and call 811 before digging.

To find out more information about 811 or the one-call utility notification center in your area, visit www.call811.com. (BPT)


Colorful design ideas for refreshing your home this season

If you are looking to elegantly redesign the spaces in your home, consider taking your cues from the latest trends in the luxury market. Neutral color palettes and soft, soothing shades, such as gray, taupe and cream are on the rise among today’s luxury homes and adding touches of color will help personalize these spaces.

But design experts point out that adding carefully selected accessories and home accents in bolder colors can be a pleasing way to customize the spaces in your home.

“Color selection is one of the first ways I create visual interest in any neutral space,” says Tracey Amadio of Porch Daydreamer Design Blog, who lists sapphire, turquoise, dusty pink and lavender as popular color choices this spring.


To add a splash of color to your neutral settings, try these design ideas.

• Refresh home accessories: Home accents, such as throw pillows, blankets and rugs, are items that can be quickly updated and therefore more trend-centric. These items are guaranteed to add a pop of color to the room.

Additionally, Amadio says more and more designers are choosing rich hues over white for accent furniture, kitchen islands and bathroom cabinets.

• Update an accent wall with wallpaper: Wallpaper is making a comeback in a big way. There are lots of fun patterns and colors to explore. Incorporate textured wallpaper to a powder room or smaller living area to add color and dimension.

• Incorporate mixed metals: Mixed metals are also emerging as a way to bring dimension and interest to a home’s color palette. This look can be achieved through mixing fixtures with different — but complementary — finishes.

This season, take your design vision to the next level with easy DIY projects that enhance neutral room settings using colorful home accents, wallpaper and lighting. (StatePoint)


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