18 December 2018

How to Keep Your Kitchen Humming Over Christmas


While we all tend to think that the lounge area is where it’s at over Christmas, that’s not usually right. The festive season is a time when family and guests alike tend to hover around the kitchen because that’s where all the food preparation is going on.

When people are in and out of the kitchen area preparing tasty bites for everyone to enjoy or refilling drinks once again, people tend to gravitate there too. That’s even more the case when there’s a table to sit down, talk and eat at. With that said, you want to make sure everything is organised before the chaos descends.

Here are a few tips to keep the kitchen humming along well this Christmas.

Check All Kitchen Appliances are Working

Having a failing oven, a grill that won’t get hot enough, or a hob that’s playing up is less than ideal at Christmas time when you don’t have good alternatives. Similarly, if your household relies on a decent coffee machine producing delicious mugs of hot coffee to wake everyone up on cold winter mornings, then that coffee machine better not fail on you now.

Check all the kitchen appliances that you’ll use over the holidays. Ensure they are functioning properly with zero problems. If the cooker or oven is playing up, get someone in to perform some maintenance on them to diagnose what the problem is. Hopefully, if the appointment is made early enough, they can still order in a part if one needs to be replaced and they don’t have it in stock presently.

Also, look at the kitchen, countertops, flooring and other areas. If you’re realising that your kitchen is struggling along on its last legs or parts of it need replacing, such as the floor, then consider visiting the Fishpools website for ideas on how to remodel the kitchen. Not only can you find great decoration and kitchen designs, but you can also find more ideas on fishpools.co.uk for Christmas preparations too.

Get Some Cooking Books to Impress with Christmas Food

Whether you’re an undying fan of Jamie Oliver, are partial to the sharp tongue of Gordon Ramsey or prefer Nigella Lawson for a bit of posh, it’s sensible to have some Christmas themed cookbooks to hand.

Get some inspiration for what to prepare this holiday season to surprise friends and family at every turn. Some of the best Christmas books include Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook, The Great British Bake Off for some cakes and other delicious treats straight from the oven, and Nigella’s Christmas from Nigella Lawson which is still selling well after being released 3-4 years ago.

Try out a few different recipes to get the hang of them before serving them up to family or guests who are visiting. Put your best foot forward to impress everyone with your culinary skills.

Put Out Your Best Plates and Cutlery for the Holidays

If you’re like most British families, you tend to only put out your best plates, bowls, and cutlery for special occasions and keep them hidden away at other times. It’s an old-fashioned tradition that some families still enjoy following because it keeps their best cutlery and china preserved. When it’s an important day, they like to make it extra special by upping the mark on the presentation by using their best.

If that’s your family, don’t leave it until Christmas Day to bring out your finest because it gets too little use that way. Enjoy using it through the month of December; you own it, why not enjoy it?!
Plan Out Meals to Ensure There’s Enough Fresh and Frozen Food

For times when you’re not going to be preparing new dishes or spending extensive time in the kitchen, it’s sensible to plan out the meals each week leading up to Christmas and beyond.
Doing so makes food shopping trips much less hectic because with a meal plan you know exactly what proteins and vegetables are required for the next seven days. The same goes for if you shop online for food now and get it delivered.

Be Ready in Case There’s a Power Cut

Make some plans in case there’s a short power cut at home. It can happen at the most inopportune moment. Consider whether some candles and candle holders would be a good move or present too much of a fire hazard with kids or pets running around. Know where the fuse box is and how to reset electric fuses. Use a smartphone for a temporary light source.

Check whether you have any usable blankets to keep warm in case the electricity cuts out for a couple of hours in the evening when it’s getting chilly. The loss of indoor heating will certainly be noticeable at that time.

Don’t forget to decorate the kitchen area, but do so carefully. Avoid any decorations hanging over or near the cooking area because Christmas decorations are flammable. Strategically hang the decorations in a safe manner to keep the seasonal feel but without creating safety concerns.

Kitchen Worktop Materials Guide


Planning a new kitchen, or refurbishing an old one, always leads to the question, “Which material should I use for my new kitchen worktop?” Nowadays, there are a lot of materials to choose from but which one will fit your; style, budget and your actual kitchen needs? This guide aims to give you a comprehensive choice of the most popular surfaces, with their pros and cons.

Granite

One of the most popular surface choices is granite. This tough, resilient natural stone comes in a variety of patterns and colours. Its natural surface is durable but not indestructible, it can chip or break if not treated properly and needs to be sealed to prevent porosity, which can see bacteria seep in. Also, Granite is a heavy material which, as a kitchen worktop, can put a lot of pressure on supporting cabinetry. Granite’s main rival are quartz kitchen worktops.

Quartz

Quartz worktops are some of the most popular in the UK to date. Coming in stunning shades and a wide colour palette, quartz worktops are extremely hygienic and do not have to be sealed. Every quartz worktop is man-made, which makes it more flexible than its granite counterpart and that means it is less likely to crack or chip. Furthermore, quartz kitchen worktops are stain-resistant, making them easy to clean and low maintenance. Seams in quartz worktops are easier to hide with darker shades but they need to be cared for, any long-term exposure to UV rays can cause discolouration over a long period of time.

Hardwood

There are few materials that can compete with the tactile and visual beauty of hardwood. These kitchen surfaces come in a variety of tones and if cared for properly, improve with age. Hardwood is cheaper than its stone counterparts, including quartz worktops, but shares its property of being anti-bacterial and very hygienic. However, for all its beauty, it’s a high maintenance material, needing to be free from long-term exposure to liquids. Wood is also easy to scratch and stain, and can be damaged from intense heat. Hardwood can be hard work.

Laminate

This material is the most cost effective of any worktop surface on offer today. Like hardwood and quartz worktops, laminate is antibacterial and very hygienic, and is easy to maintain and clean. Laminate is surprisingly hard-wearing, is very hard to scratch or damage with exposure to hot pots and pans. Laminate is a chameleonic material, able to fit into any kitchen style, and can be fashioned into looking like an expensive material. However, sometimes ‘cheap is expensive’, as laminate can peel over time and if it does burn, melt or scratch, it looks very unsightly and is hard to replace.

A Material Choice

If looked at objectively, a quartz worktop is a strong candidate in almost every measurable way. Quartz worktops are a little bit more expensive than their contemporaries but; can fit almost every kitchen, come in a variety of textures, tones and colours; are easy to maintain; are amongst the most hygienic of materials and is hard to damage, stain or even chip. An all-round perfect pick.

17 December 2018

Why You Should Consider Replacing Your Flooring Before Listing Your Home for Sale


When it comes time to figure out how to sell a house, many sellers choose upgrades based on what they’d like to see in their home. But if everything goes well with the selling process, you won’t be staying. So why fix up a home you won’t be living in long term? That’s a big mistake.

It’s critical to get yourself into the mindset of the buyer rather than the homeowner.

Award-winning Northeast Florida real estate broker-associate, Cara Ameer writes: “In undertaking for sale preparation, strike a delicate balance between what to fix and what to leave alone, but in the end, make the right improvements that will result in a faster sale for top dollar.”

Ameer outlines seven major issues sellers should fix before listing, with the best being a flooring makeover.

“If you can only afford to make the investment in one significant part of your home, consider updating the flooring,” Ameer writes.

We agree.

Below, we’ll explain why upgrading your flooring before listing your home on the market will help you get a higher sale price.

Flooring matters

New flooring can completely change the look of a home. Some buyers can’t see past cosmetic issues, and others are ready to gut a home and start over. Regardless of what type of buyer purchases your home, they’ll appreciate a new canvass to work from.

And new flooring doesn’t go unnoticed. It runs throughout the entire home, which means that no matter which room buyers are in, they’ll be able to appreciate the recently installed walkways. 

When considering which type of flooring to go with, hardwood flooring has been the long-standing favorite of buyers.

The National Wood Flooring Association reports that 99 percent of real estate agents agree that homes with hardwood are easier to sell, and 90 percent say they sell for more money.

And 54 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for homes with hardwood flooring, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Consistency is key. Agents often see buyers walk away from homes that have a hodgepodge of flooring.

If you can’t afford to put hardwood flooring throughout the home, Elizabeth Weintraub, former writer for The Balance, escrow officer and real estate broker, recommends that sellers nix carpeting in entertainment areas like the living room, dining room and family room because today’s buyers prefer alternate flooring in the places they spend the most time.

Collin County, Texas based real estate agent Ryan Cave, who ranks in the top 3 percent of agents (with over $35 million in sold homes), agrees. 

“Hardwoods are especially popular with buyers when they’re hand-scraped finished, old or have an engineered look,” Cave said. So when looking at finishes, think rustic.

To further enhance the resale value of your home, keep in mind these tips on flooring:

  • Hard surfaces such as hardwood are better than carpeting
  • Keep it consistent throughout the home
  • Don’t let multiple flooring types meet in high-traffic areas of the home. 

Making the tough choices

Of course any choices you make to enhance your home’s resale value will depend on your market. Real estate agents have their fingers on the pulse of what works in each market, so it’s best to consult with your agent before making any major investments in upgrading a home.

And before you start the work, it’s best to have a timeline in mind.

For example, the best time to sell your house in Santa Rosa, California, would be in August because sellers sold for 6.69 percent more than the yearly average, according to HomeLight data from 2014-2017. The most optimal month to list the home would be in June as a home takes about three months to sell.

And because the hardwood flooring installation process varies depending on finishes and materials (and that’s after you go through the process of choosing the right flooring for your home), you’ll want to get an installation time estimate and allow room for mishaps.

A good real estate agent can help you determine what will look best, what buyers are looking for and how long it will take, so it’s best to find an agent first and keep him or her in the loop to advise you throughout the process.

11 December 2018

The Importance of Maintaining Electrical Safety at Home

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Electricity is vital in every aspect of life, especially in your home. It's hard to imagine living in a home without electricity; it keeps our food from spoiling, keeps us warm in the winter, provides light, and makes us cool in the summer. One thing to always remember, it's important to make sure all of your outlets are installed properly, and you have no loose wires because there is nothing more important than maintaining electrical safety. Scheduling an appointment for a professional electrician to perform a safety inspection will give you and your family some peace of mind, especially if you live in an older home. Companies, like Mr. Electric, have a team of licensed, experienced electricians who can perform safety inspections, and make your home a safer place.

Many people neglect scheduling annual electrical inspections, which is something that every home should have because it maintains your family's safety. Often times outdated wiring and primitive outlets can lead to fires, which is why it's important to have a well maintained electrical distribution system. Electrical fires contribute to nearly 51,000 fires annually, resulting in 1.4 billion dollars in property damage. A typical inspection consists of the electrician using a tool to test all the outlets, to make sure your outlets aren't overloaded, and to check for any loose wiring.

Here Are A Few Electrical Safety Tips

Never Overload

An electrical overload can be a really dangerous situation. It's important to figure out which outlets are on which circuits and avoid overloading them. Overloads commonly happen if you have too many items plugged into one outlet or extension cord. This is a problem many older homes typically face. Refrigerators, air conditioners, and space heaters all draw a great deal of power, and if all these devices are using the same circuit, it could exceed the capacity of the electrical wiring. This could cause the main electrical panel to shut off to prevent blowing a fuse.

Childproofing

If you're a parent, your child's safety is everything, which is why it's important to childproof your home by installing outlet protectors. In 2008, NEC (National Electrical Code) made tamperproof receptacles a requirement in all homes and businesses.

Avoid Having an Outlet Too Close to the Tub

When installing an outlet in your bathroom, you should try installing it as far away from the tub and shower as you possibly can. Maintaining your outlet's distance from the tub can potentially prevent a really deadly situation from occurring. In fact, it is required that all receptacles installed in bathrooms be at least 1 meter away from any bathtub or shower stall.

Updating Wiring

Outdated electrical wiring is an issue many homeowners typically have, which is why a vast majority of electrical fires are contributed to old or outdated wiring. If your home is 30 years or older, or built before 1985, the wiring is more than likely outdated, and you should schedule an appointment with a licensed electrician to have it inspected immediately. If your lights tend to flicker when you plug more than one appliance into an outlet, this typically means the wiring isn't supplying power properly and may need to be looked at.

Replace Outdated Electrical Outlets

Replacing outlets are just as important as replacing old wiring. Aging outlets are a big problem. Over time, wiring tends to settle, and can eventually even make contact with other wires. This can cause sparking and fires because eventually all wiring and outlets will degrade.

Protect your Computer

Nowadays, technology and information are two of the most important tools you can have in life, which is why if you're a computer owner, protecting your information is vital. If your circuit breaker or a fuse blows, the sudden loss of power can cause you to lose valuable information on your computer and potentially lose any unsaved documents you've been working on. You can avoid this by installing a separate circuit breaker to supply power to your computer and other electrical devices in your office.

Update Circuit Breaker

Your circuit breaker is the heart of your entire electrical system, and you want it to be capable of supplying electricity to your home efficiently, without tripping a breaker or blowing a fuse. Often times, if your circuit breaker continues to overload, it may have to be replaced or updated to prevent any future fires and to keep your home running efficiently.

03 December 2018

Get Biz and get cleaner laundry than you ever thought possible



A couple of months ago, I received what amounted to a care package from CR Brands due no doubt to my involvement with Mean Green and Roto-Rooter. In that package, among other goodies, were a box of Biz Powder and a bag of Biz Liquid Boosters.


I’d heard of Biz but I never really gave it a whole lot of thought. I’m a Tide user after all and my thinking was always that if Tide can’t getting my laundry clean then nothing can. As a good Proctor and Gamble customer I’d learned to trust and never question the wisdom of my laundry overlords. Quite honestly, I want my laundry to be clean and I don’t want to give it a whole lot more thought than that.


But the freebies piqued my interest and so the next time I did a load of whites I threw a Biz Liquid Booster pod into the machine as a test. As soon as I did it I moved onto other things and promptly forgot I’d added Biz to my laundry.


As I was folding that load of whites a couple of hours later I couldn’t help but notice my whites were indeed whiter. I’m a big fan of Clorox for whites and I thought the Clorox and Tide combo was the ne plus ultra of laundering whites but I was mistaken. Clorox, Tide and Biz make socks and towels radioactively white. It’s insane how white my kitchen towels in particular were.

I cook a lot and I mean a lot as you may have surmised and I am particularly brutal on my kitchen towels. I use the flour sack towels and I usually replace them every six months or so because eventually, they get so stained that nothing will get them clean.

But I’m telling you, those Biz Liquid Booster pods tore through really difficult stains like cocoa and dried milk.

So I kept using them and each time I used them on both colors and whites, my laundry came out looking better and better.

As I tore through my bag of pods I started using the box of powder I’d received and frankly the result was the same. I sound like a shill but I had cleaner laundry than I ever thought I could have. The samples I received have turned me into a lifetime customer and my laundry doesn’t feel like it’s been done properly without it. Biz Powder, Biz Liquid and Biz Liquid Boosters really work as promised and I say that as a typically skeptical shopper and consumer.

Biz is a product that’s been around a while, since 1968 in fact. It was invented by a Proctor and Gamble chemist and consists of a proprietary blend of enzymes, peroxide and detergent and those things work in concert with the laundry detergent you already have. The enzymes power through protein based stains, the peroxides make dye-type stains disappear and the detergents scrub through mud and dirt. It’s a winning combination that actually works.

You can buy Biz powder in most grocery stores and big boxes and it’s easy to use, even with front loading, HE machines like mine. The instructions are written clearly on the box so be sure to follow them if you have a front loader. Follow this link for  $1 off coupon that ought to help your buying decision. Many of the stores that carry the powder also carry the liquid and it works the same way as the powder does.

The Biz Liquid Booster pods are a bit harder to find but start requesting them from your grocery store. If enough people make enough noise about it, they’ll start carrying the pods as well.

Just remember that Biz is a laundry additive, not a detergent in its own right. It helps your laundry detergent do its job better. Biz powder and liquid have uses other than the laundry too. Biz powder dissolved in hot water made short work of my kitchen floors and cabinet doors when I put it through the test a couple of weeks ago. The package label has instructions for more of those other uses if you’re so inclined.


My involvement with CR Brands this year has been an eye opener for a host of reasons and the products I’ve tried out with their help really do work and in the case of Biz, those samples have turned me from a tester into a customer. So go get Biz-y and excuse my bad pun.

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