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December 2017

Thanksgiving Home Maintenance

If you’re not already set on hitting the shopping mall during Thanksgiving weekend, you might think about taking a look around your home. As busy as this time of year can be, neglecting home maintenance just before your friends and family arrive is a recipe for embarrassment. If you don’t inspect your home now, December is almost always a lost cause. Whether you’re broiling, basting or baking this Thanksgiving, here are a few ideas to get you started on your maintenance menu and plans for your budgetary leftovers.

1. Turkey and Stuffing: Furniture and Beds

If you have less-than-comfortable furniture, the turkey’s tryptophan is going to make you feel like you’re sitting on a bird’s rump. Lumpy, unforgiving or poorly designed is going to seriously hamper guests’ ability to doze and drool, as the Pilgrims intended. Once broken in, furniture can actually become more comfortable but left to age too long, and you get a filthy, broken-down safety hazard—especially after grandpa has gone back for his third plate. For the bedroom, you might want to think about platform beds. They will modernize your bedroom decorating and provide incredible opportunity to increase your bedroom storage.

2. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy: Insulation

The old family recipe for mashed potatoes may have worked in years past, but it’s a good idea to look at your utility bills and your home’s insulation. Gravy may be a necessity for mashed potatoes, but the moisture of roof or plumbing leaks will cause bigger problems than lumpy insulation. If you can’t afford the cost of insulation, at the very least make sure your home is airtight this winter. Check windows, doors and cracks in your walls for air leakage. If nothing else, you may need to install caulk or weather-stripping. You can call this the instant-mashed-potato version of insulating.

Just as russet potatoes and fat-free buttermilk can make for healthier mashed potatoes, there are healthier insulation choices. Cotton insulation, for example, is not only made from recycled denim, but it also doesn’t use glass fibers that cause skin and respiratory irritation, nor does it use formaldehyde, which can leach into your home.

3. Green Bean Casserole: Energy-Efficient Appliances

Whether it’s salad, creamed spinach or green bean casserole, every Thanksgiving dinner needs something green. For your home’s makeup, green should be a dominate theme. If you haven’t replaced your major appliances in the last five to 10 years, chances are your home is needlessly burning through cash. It’s hard to justify replacing an appliance until it goes kaput, but it’s a good idea to look around now, before the situation becomes urgent.

To maximize energy efficiency and value, look for concrete ratings and performance standards. Looking at ENERGY STAR-rated appliances is a good start. Washing machines save you between 38 and 55 percent on water (and water heating) consumption. For dishwashers, you stand to save 25 percent on water and heating. For heating and cooling, which is half of your home’s energy consumption, ENERGY STAR air conditioners and furnaces can save you about 20 percent over most models and even more over older units. Overall, these appliances can save you $1,000 or more every year.

4. Cranberry Sauce: Stain Removal

There are dozens of tricks, home and commercial remedies, but many stains—including cranberry sauce—can be a lost cause to remove from carpet and upholstery. As frustrating as stains can be, too many homeowners think the only reasonable course of action is to rearrange the furniture to cover the carpet or haul stained couches out to the curb. The truth is you probably have more options than you think. Even if you don’t have spare carpet runs, manufacturers may still be producing your carpet and repair professionals have more than one trick up their sleeves. The average cost of carpet repair is $220, and you can hire professionals to come in to do the job quickly and efficiently so you can focus on other to-do list items.

5. Pumpkin Pie: Cleaning Services

Pumpkin pie is meant to be savored without the dread of a mountain of dirty dishes. If you’re playing host this Thanksgiving, you probably aren’t going to be thrilled with the house cleaning that hits full-force that night and the next morning. By planning ahead and scheduling maid service, you can optimize your time management, and when you tell guests not to worry about helping you clean up, you can mean it. You can probably find a maid service to clean your kitchen and living area for around $200.

This is only a few of the more popular home maintenance projects. The point is to use this last breath before the holiday season crush truly arrives and evaluate what your home needs to make it through the winter. Both you and your home will be jollier for the attention.

Formal Dining Rooms: 5 Makeover Tips

Have you ever noticed there’s always one room in the house that never gets used? Why is that? Typically it’s because of one of two reasons: 1) nobody knows exactly what to do with the space, or 2) the area feels too stuffy and impersonal. These are usually the main problems with formal dining rooms. Either they seem unfinished and cold, or they look so grand it feels like a “No Trespassing” sign should be hung in the doorway. This is why these rooms are typically reserved for fancy dinner parties or the occasional holiday meal. Except usually these rooms contain the most expensive and elegant items in the house, so why let these go to waste? Here are a few makeover tips that you can use to make this space feel more comfortable.

Give and Take: An easy way to quickly transform a formal dining room into something more casual is to add and subtract some accessories. Invest in mirrors to open up the space a little and add more reflective light. Or install window treatments made from lighter, more colorful material for $250 to $390. Possibly remove a few overbearing objects from the room (a hutch, a bookcase, etc.) to make it feel less cluttered. You still want everything to feel glamorous, but by removing a couple of heavier accessories and adding a couple of lighter focal points, the room may feel more welcoming and less cramped.

Delights of the Round Table: A lot of formal dining room furniture is polished, oversized, and comes with long, sharp edges. Although this certainly makes everything sophisticated, it can also create a harsh and imposing tone to the room. When in the market for a new table, you may want to consider investing in a round tabletop. As opposed to a long rectangular table, a circular design allows everybody to look into each others’ eyes while they eat, making the environment more cozy and intimate. Also, by choosing a less polished wood you can make your furnishings feel less intimidating and more accessible to guests.

Sit Down, Relax: Formal dining room furniture tends to be dark and upholstered, which can make the area look gloomy and old-fashioned. Instead, why not choose a lighter shade of wood, thereby making the room more casual and relaxed? Also, instead of using the standard silk material for your chairs, upholster your furnishing in something less luxurious. Not only will this save you money, it will also let your guests feel less anxious to sit down at the table for fear of “messing up your nice things.”

Informal Fixtures: Many formal dining rooms come with fancy light fixtures, usually in the form of chandeliers. However, these light fixtures tend to be expensive and sometimes are unable to provide adequate lighting for the room. Therefore, skip the chandelier and instead add other light sources to the space. Add a lamp in the corner or install wall fixtures. Possibly use candlelight throughout the room for a more elegant look by installing candle wall sconces. In any case, you don’t have to have an elaborate light fixture to keep the room feeling warm and decorative.

Mix-it-up: Most importantly, if you already have formal dining room furniture or possibly can’t afford to buy an entire new set, the best way to decorate the room is to mix and match. Use a traditional table with modern chairs. Use conventional dinnerware with funky place mats. There lots of creative solutions that won’t cost you an arm and a leg but will help a room feel more welcoming. For instance, why use a china hutch for china. You hardly ever use the fancy stuff anyway, so why not use the hutch for an impromptu bookcase or to store other knick-knacks. Personalizing a formal dining room is the most important step in make the space feel safe, inviting, and whole.