Bad Smell? Removing an Odor in your Home

A foul odor wafting throughout your home can send you running for your favorite air freshener. Yet, even the strongest fragrances are no match for certain home odors. Bad smells happen in even the cleanest of homes, and it is essential to find what is causing it once one has been discovered. If you find your nose wrinkling when you step through your front door, then use this step-by-step guide to do a little detective work combined with some simple home maintenance that will make sure you destroy the odor at its source.

Follow the Scent Trail

As unpleasant as it may sound, you are going to have to rely upon your nose to sniff out the culprit. Begin by trying to determine if the odor is strongest in one room. Bathrooms and kitchens tend to be the most common source of an odor, but you may also find stinky messes in kids’ rooms, the garage and even your closet. As you go from room-to-room, smell the walls, vents, drawers and floor to see where the odor may be hiding. In some instances, you may need to rely upon a professional to find the source of an odor. For example, water damage from a leak could cause mold to emanate a smell in hidden areas of your home such as beneath the floor.

Start with the Drains

The combination of moisture, soap scum, grease, decaying food particles and other debris can create a noxious odor that travels up through your pipes and into your home. Fortunately, stinky sinks are fairly simple to fix. Begin by removing your p-trap, which is the little s-curved pipe located beneath your sink. Here, debris gets trapped, and the stench can travel throughout the entire house once it begins to rot. If you are dealing with a bathroom sink, then you may also need to use a special tool to remove any hair that may have fallen into the drain. Finish up by scouring the sink bowl with your favorite cleaning solution, and your drains should now be odor-free.

Tackle the Garbage Disposal

It’s a no-brainer that any place you stuff food particles might eventually begin to stink. Yet, many people are unaware that following a few simple rules will keep garbage disposal odors at bay. First, avoid pouring grease down the disposal since this tends to clog and turn rank. Second, freshen your disposal regularly by tossing a few orange or lemon peels in and turning it on. If you still have an odor despite these methods, then try adding a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of vinegar down the drain. Let it sit until the fizzing stops. Then, run hot water through the disposal

Eliminate Pet Urine Odors

A home should never smell like a pet store, and the best way to avoid these odors is to make sure your pet is properly housetrained. Still, accidents happen, and you may discover that your home odor is due to urine on the carpets or walls. If the damage is extensive, you may need to replace the flooring, furniture or any other home goods that may have been tainted. However, small pet accidents can be handled by using commercial pet odor removal sprays, or you can try making yours at home. Simply fill a spray bottle with a liter of water, several Tablespoons of brown sugar and some citrus peels. Then, spray the area thoroughly. Let it sit, and blot the excess moisture up with a paper towel. This homemade enzymatic cleaner breaks the odor down at its source, and the citrus can serve as a natural deterrent for future pet accidents.

Clean Smelly Clothes

Whether your teenager leaves their workout clothes in their gym bag for a week or your partner comes home from work smelling foul, a stinky laundry hamper can destroy the scent of a freshly cleaned house. While most clothing odors will be removed with regular washing, there are some times when the long cycle is not enough. For these times, try a prewash soak with vinegar and water. Let the clothes sit for 15 minutes, and wash as normal. This can also help to brighten colors so your clothing will look as fresh as it smells.

Deodorize Appliances

Dishwashers, refrigerators and other appliances are subjected to many of the same materials as sinks. Spilled food and other debris can quickly accumulate and cause an odor. Begin by removing any expired food from the refrigerator, and check your appliances for any debris that must be removed. Next, wipe the inside and outside of the appliances down with soap and water. If an odor is particularly strong, then a paste of baking soda and water can be applied to the source. Let this sit, and then rinse carefully so that you do not scratch any surfaces. Leaving a box of baking soda in the refrigerator can help to prevent odors from developing.

Deep Clean Toilets

Sometimes, a daily swish of the toilet with cleaner is just not enough. If you notice your toilet still smells, then it may be time to get down and dirty. Start by tossing any floor mats and seat covers in the washing machine. Then, carefully scrub the seat, lid and inside of the toilet with bleach diluted with water. Once that is done, move to the outside of the toilet where urine may have dribbled down the front and sides. Finish up by scrubbing around the base of the toilet, and allow a cup of bleach to sit in the bowl for an hour. Flush, and enjoy the scent of a freshly cleaned bathroom.

Stopping the smell, before it stops you

When a foul odor persists in your home, it can feel as though no amount of cleaning is enough. Making sure your home has adequate ventilation can help prevent some odors, and responding quickly at the first sign of a stench will keep it from getting worse. With a little effort, you can identify the source of the most common home odors so that you can be confident your home smells company fresh all the time.

Organizing Your Closet And Optimizing Storage

Whether it is a fantastically spacious walk-in closet, or a small hole-in-the-wall, closets can be a point of contention for home and apartment dwellers alike. With time we do have a tendency to gather stuff, and just keep on gathering it without regard to its practical use. Usually, we decide we need a larger house or an apartment. This is not necessarily so!

Interestingly, you may not even need a larger closet space. Often, it’s just a question of organization and discarding what no longer serves a function in your life.

Start One Section At A Time

Chances are that you didn’t accumulate clothing and boxes of items in a month’s time. Moreover, it’s going to take a few days at least to think over your organization plan–while deciding what stays and what goes.

Categorizing According To Functionality

If you’re like some people, you may have your winter wear mixed in with your spring or summer clothing. However, if you simply allot one area of your closet to their appropriate season and their indicated uses, you will be well on the way to organizing your closet.

For instance, having your bathing suits hanging lifeless next to your cashmere coats is not this writer’s idea of categorizing properly. If need be, you may even want to have labeled areas indicating if the wear is sports-wear or leisure-wear, formally elegant or simply “going to the grocery store” everyday wear.

For example, formal dress pants, blue jeans, casual shirts, work tops and formal dress shirts all should get their own sections. You may even up your organizing skills by folding up your winter sweaters and storing all of your winter-wear in large plastic boxes.

Taking this thought even further, some people separate according to color codes so that all the peach-colored clothing goes together in one place and matching or contrasting colors, such as dark grey, go next to the peaches.

Coat Hangers

In many instances, coat hangers are still the preferred way to store clothing such as blouses or slacks. Keep in mind that appropriate hangers, such as satin-padded hangers, for more expensive and delicate items, and strong wooden hangers for tailored pants and jackets, are still the indicated way to go.

Peg-Boards, Hooks or Nail Hangers

Some loose items such as hand-mirrors, hair-dryers and necklaces better serve you in a closet if they are hanging from a peg-board, a hook or a large nail. Hand-painted to blend in with the rest of the closet colors, you may have created a functional mini-dressing area.

Plastic Shoe-Boxes, Containers and Hanging Mesh Canvas Storage Shelves

Today, clean, transparent plastic shoe boxes and containers serve storage needs much better than the conventional cardboard box of yesteryear. Moreover, hanging canvas shelves offer options to having to install built-in shelves for clothing, shoes or whatever your need.

Now that we’re on the subject of plastic, today’s vast selections of clear, colorful, plastic, storage containers make it so nice to store everything from underwear and socks to belts and scarves. A more expensive wooden, bedroom, chest drawer furniture piece is more beautiful to behold–but at what price the glory?

Customized Wire Shelving And Wire Drawers

Home improvement centers today offer myriads of solutions for storage-space crunches. One solution being used for the last couple of decades has been the customized vinyl-wired shelves and wired-drawer combo units. Whether it’s for hanging your shoes, clothing or souvenir caps, life will suddenly afford you more breathing room with these clean options for storage.

Bag-Lady Solutions

If you are a lady, then chances are that you do have some handbags to hang. Using the long rod that stretches from one end of the closet to another in most closets, you can attach hooks to the rod. Now, simply hang those tote bags or designer bags you wanted to easily access. Voila!

Shelving–Maximizing Your Space:

No matter how small your closet is, using bins and hanging shelves helps expand your space. While wood shelving is still used, if everything you use is plastic, you’ll not have to paint the shelves or worry about termite infestations.

For Your Shoes

If you’re pressed for space, a slanted plywood platform allows you to see just what it is that you have in your footwear collection–at a glance.

Keeping Your Clothes Stretch-Free

If this is your intended goal, then don’t hang the clothes. Fold them neatly, and place them in canvas, plastic or hanging wire bins. Your sweaters, T-shirts and other clothing items will appreciate it.

Gaining Extra Space

This feat can be easily carried out by using slim, plastic hangers and stack-able containers that have pull-out drawers. You can always put containers to better use if they have rolling coasters on them.

If you’re one of the many that have a walk-in closet, then convert it into a mini-dressing room by simply putting a mirror on the wall and a container bin underneath.

Shelf Dividers To Keep Your Sweaters In Place

Leaning towers of cashmere sweaters and other clothing items will keep their shape longer if held in check with simple shelf dividers.

Labeling:

Using an attractive label-making gun or a piece of post-it notes, if need be, you can begin on your road to true organization by simply labeling each section or area of your closet with its contents.

Taking Advantage Of Doors

One easy way to add more storage space is by simply hanging over-the-door racks: in a kitchen pantry, a bathroom area or practically anywhere you have a door. You can use them to hang certain items on the outside of a door or use them optimally–by hanging items on the other side of the door.

On The Road to an Organized Closest

There you have it! Our top 15 ways to easily create more storage space while organizing at the same time. With little expense and some imagination, you’ll soon have the breathing room you’ve needed in your house or apartment.

Office workouts to become a healthier you

If you are like most professionals, you spend a lot of time at the office. In fact, many professionals spend so much time at the office that they don’t take care of themselves let alone have time to work out. You are probably thinking you will start living a healthier life soon, pushing it off for tomorrow. The problem with procrastination is that it can keep you from your goals forever. Living an unhealthy life affects your mind as much as your body. That means it can reduce your productivity at the office.

Working out is vital if you want to be at the top of your game on a personal and professional level. Some studies suggest we need three hours of physical active per week. That is less than 30 minutes you have to dedicate each day to enhance your overall performance and wellbeing. On top of that, working out reduces stress, gives you more energy and adds years to your life.

It is hard to imagine why people don’t work out given all of these great benefits. You are probably thinking you don’t have time to work out. But, No matter how busy you are, you can make time to work out and stay healthy. There are several great workout options you can do while at the office. So, even if you live at work, you will be able to find time to stay healthy.

Running in Place

Running in place is the first exercise you are going to learn. This one is often overlooked, but it is valuable. No matter how busy you are, you will be able to fit it in. Running in place for at least 20 minutes at a time will give you the best results. But if you only have a few minutes here and there, it can still work. Make sure to clean out some space around your desk when you run in place. This will help you avoid bumping into your desk or office equipment.

It is important to have good running shoes. If you don’t have good running shoes, you are putting yourself at risk for shin splints and other injuries. Your office most likely has a dress code. But you can find running shoes that are designed like dress shoes. You get the best of both worlds.

Half Jacks

Half jacks are another great way to keep up on your cardio. Half jacks are just like jumping jacks except you only extend your arms and legs to half the distance. This is important for an office setting because even if you think you are aware of your surroundings, you still run the risk of damaging equipment or yourself.

You should start off doing 300 half jacks a day. It does not have to be all at once. In fact, you want to stretch them out over the entire day. Do them in sets of three.

Raise The Roof

This is another great exercise that helps with cardio. In case you’re wondering, raising the roof is exactly what it sounds like. For this exercise, walk in place while raising your hands up above your head and then bring them back down to your sides. Raising the roof will not get your heart rate up as much as running in place, but it is a great warm up exercise.

It has the added benefit of getting you out of your comfort zone as you try to explain your new dance move to your coworkers. You can buy small weights and keep them in the office to make this workout more effective.

Squats

Squats are an excellent full body exercise. They will help build your leg and back muscles. Squats are easy to do. Stand with your feet about shoulder length apart. Next, put your arms straight out in front of you and squat down as close to the ground as you can while keeping your back straight up and down. Your goal is to do between 50 and 100 squats a day.

This goal is not as hard as it sounds. Just do 20 squats at a time throughout the day. Breaking up your workouts into small chunks during the day will make them a lot easier.

Chair Dips

Doing chair dips is a great way to work out your triceps. Position yourself with your back towards your chair. Place your hands on the chair and lower yourself down below the chair and push yourself back up. Make sure you use a chair without wheels for this exercise. Don’t ask me how I know.

Your goal should be to start off doing between 50 to 100 chair dips per day. You can break them up into sections of 20 to 25 each. It is also important to give yourself enough room for this exercise. You don’t want to risk bumping into your desk or other objects in the office.

Lifestyle Tips

Working out is a great start. However, it is only part of a healthy lifestyle. There are other things you need to do. You need to get plenty of sleep and eat healthy food. You also need to manage stress.

Eating healthy is only hard when you are starting out. Once you get into the habit of watching what you eat, it becomes easy. You can even start small. For example, replace one meal a day with something healthy. If you drink coffee or energy drinks in the morning, try ginseng instead. Eat grilled chicken instead of fried chicken. You can get a smoothie instead of soda.

Challenge you to implement these healthy lifestyle tips for 30 days. Keep track of your progress. Right down how you feel every day regarding energy, stress, and overall wellbeing. You might be surprised by the difference at the end of the month.

10 Ways to Keep Kids Entertained During Holiday Travel

Keeping children entertained during a road trip can be an interesting process. In order to keep them entertained, it is best that you have multiple entertainment ideas. This article aims to provide you with some fun ideas to keep those littles ones entertained while traveling.

Coloring Book Kits

There’s nothing like the tried and true coloring book. Many children love to color with crayons and a coloring book, and you can let them do this while you’re traveling. Pack some coloring books and a few crayons, and your children will have something to keep them entertained awhile. If there is nowhere to set the coloring book, bring along a baking sheet that they can place on their lap to house the book and crayons.

Dollar-Store Toys

While planning your road trip, make sure you bring along a few dollar-store toys. Either wrap each toy in wrapping paper, or place each toy in a paper lunch bag for each child to open while traveling. Don’t let your children see the toys beforehand; let each toy be a surprise. Your children will have lots of fun awaiting the new toys they’ll be getting during the road trip.

Electronic Tablet

Many child-friendly electronic tablets are very affordable – like the Amazon Kid’s Fire Tablet for only $99. Some tablets have applications that you can download to keep your children entertained while they are traveling. Don’t forget to bring along the charger for the tablet as well.

Vehicle DVD Player

A lot of children like to watch movies while traveling, so having a portable DVD player can be an excellent idea. If you don’t want to spend too much money for DVDs, you should look in store bins for them. A lot of stores will have bins of DVDs that they sell for five dollars or less each. If your road trip is going to be a short one, you may even look into the possibility of renting some DVDs. Make sure you allow for time to return the DVDs back to the rental store before you incur late fees.

Tic-Tac-Toe

Tic-tac-toe is a reliable way to keep your youngsters entertained. You can use several sheets of paper to draw tic-tac-toe boards on, and let your children play the game in the vehicle. Once again, having a baking sheet handy will give the children a place to play the game. The tic-tac-toe idea works best when you have at least two children who want to play. If you only have one child, providing you’re not the one driving, you can sit in the back and play the game with him or her.

Audio Books

Having a few audio books ready to go can be great for children who love to read or have people read to them. There are a large number of children’s audio books available, and your youngsters may only need portable CD players in order to listen to them.

Portable Bingo

A game of bingo can take a while to complete; therefore, bingo can be a perfect game for children to play while they’re traveling. Place some bingo chips or bingo markers in a resealable plastic bag, and find some bingo sheets that you can print.  Once again, bringing along a baking sheet can give your children somewhere to place the bingo sheets and chips or markers while they’re playing.

Scavenger Hunt

Some places online offer free printable scavenger hunt papers. These papers allow children to check off things that they see during their car ride. For instance, if the scavenger hunt paper shows a stop sign, a blue car and an orange truck, they should try to find each of these things during their travel time. Make sure to print a sheet that has many things on it so that it keeps them entertained for a good while. Also, make sure to bring crayons or markers so that they can have fun checking each thing off their paper.

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Alphabet Letters

Here is an example of yet another time when a baking sheet can come in handy during your road trip. Do you remember those magnetic letters made out of plastic? Those letters, when placed on a baking sheet, can really entertain youngsters. If your child is old enough to be learning how to spell words, you can even ask him or her to spell various things that he or she sees during the trip. For instance, when your child sees a green car, try to have him or her spell those two words.

Clay on a Tray

What child doesn’t love creating things with play dough? There are many recipes online that tell you how to create your own play dough, or you can purchase the name-brand dough. Place the play dough on a baking sheet while traveling, and hand the sheet to your child. This allows children the opportunity to bring out their creativity while on road trips.

10 Qualities of Good Passwords

Keeping your information secure online can be challenging. You use the internet for everything: online banking, paying bills, and communicating important and confidential information. Even access to your social media accounts needs to be kept private. That means that you need to develop strong passwords that will keep others out of your online business. Many websites have their own idea of a “strong” password. They want letters, numbers, special characters, and capital letters randomly interspersed through a password of a specific number of characters. You may have found yourself wondering how many of these security features are really necessary for building a strong password. If you really want to keep your vital information secure, there are several qualities your password should contain.

Make it Unique

It’s different from your other passwords. Yes, it’s easier to use the same password for everything. That way, you don’t have to stretch your memory as you try to figure out what variation you used for a given website. There’s just one problem with this method: if someone figures out your password to one thing, they have it for everything else you access. Instead, use a different password for the things that really matter. The unimportant websites, like your coupon websites, access to online games that don’t require real-world funds, and message boards, can have the same, easy-to-remember password. For the sites like Paypal, your bank, and other websites that contain confidential information, use a separate, secure password to protect your information.

No recognizable words

Your password should not be a dictionary word or a name. These are the first passwords to be broken, as well as being easy to guess. Likewise, a phrase or sentence, even without spaces, is not an appropriate password.

Make it memorable

Your password should be something you can remember. Storing your passwords on your computer can help you keep access to your sites with more convoluted passwords, but it won’t help you if you need to access the site from another device or are having computer trouble. Instead, choose a password that you’ll be able to remember. Come up with a phrase that you can easily remember, then use the first letter of each word in the phrase; use your children’s initials in order; use another series of letters that has particular significance to you, but won’t be memorable to anyone else.

Make it longer

Make your password as long as possible. A short password is easier to crack than one that has plenty of length behind it. The longer your password, the safer you’ll be. Many sites have limits on how many characters you’re allowed to use, and, of course, there’s a limit on your memory. Longer passwords, however, can help keep your vital information secure.

Make it special (characters)

Use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Many users have fallen away from this key facet of security, especially as mobile use has gone up. It’s a lot more trouble to enter in all those different symbols from a mobile device; however, it also allows you a much greater level of security.

Break the pattern

Try not to use recognizable patterns. For example, using letters or numbers in order or repeating a sequence can make your password easier to crack. Some people think that a simple string of numbers–repeating 0’s, “123456789”–is a long enough password to keep them safe. Unfortunately, these passwords are easy for either computers or hackers to crack.

It’s not about you

Don’t use easily accessible information about yourself to create your password. Your birthday, anniversary, and the names of your children are out there for anyone to discover, probably as part of your social media accounts. When you use this information as part of your password, it’s easy for anyone to guess. Instead, choose something that not just anyone would know, and scramble your information. You should also select little-known information about yourself for your password reset questions. If your grandmother is on your Facebook friends list, “Mother’s maiden name” is no longer a secure piece of information.

Watch where you store it

Be careful where you store your passwords. With all these long, complex passwords, it can be tempting to save them on your phone or in a document on your computer. While that’s a perfectly valid method of keeping track of that important information, it’s also a great way to have your passwords stolen. Make sure that your computer and phone are as secure as possible before using them to store your important passwords. Consider leaving yourself hints without actually writing out the password itself.

Always shut it down

Secure passwords are found on sites that log you off automatically. If you aren’t logged off automatically when you walk away from your device, make sure that you’re taking the time to log off manually: you don’t want to end up accidentally sharing important information with someone who shouldn’t have access.

Get creative with it

Use special characters creatively. Consider, for example, replacing “S” with “$” or “E” with “3” in your standard passwords. This allows you to mix things up without coming up with a random series of characters that you won’t be able to remember later.

Its a digital world

Keeping your passwords secure and hard to guess can feel like one of the greatest challenges you’ll undertake in today’s tech-savvy society. Fortunately, by following these tips, you can enhance the security of your important sites, improve your ability to access them, and remind yourself of those passwords without leaving them sitting out for anyone to find. When you keep your passwords strong, you keep yourself safe. It decreases the odds that your identity will be stolen, your bank accounts drained without your knowledge or permission, or even your social media or email accounts used without your permission. It’s your login information. Keep it to yourself!

Harvesting and drying your garden’s herbs

So you’ve nurtured and grown your herb garden to be healthy and bountiful. The next step is to harvest and dry them so that they are ready to be used. Prepare to have your home and then your dishes be filled with naturally wonderful aromas through proper and effective harvesting and preservation.

Harvesting

The goal is to harvest your herbs when the flavors and aromas are at its peak. This can mean different things for different kinds of plants:

  • For herbs that you are harvesting for leaves, you need to harvest them just before they flower. The flowers typically give the leaves an off-flavor, so it’s important to avoid that. Leaf production is also reduced after flowering, since more of the resources of the plant is going towards the flower.
  • For herbs that you are harvesting for seeds, grab the pods just as they change their color, typically from green to brown or gray. You need to harvest seed pods before they shatter and open.
  • For herbs that you are harvesting for roots, the best time of year to harvest is in fall. Wait for the foliage to fade, and harvest them before winter sets in.

The best time of day to harvest your herbs, once they are ready, is late in the morning. Wait until the dew dries, and then harvest them quickly before the heat of the day sets in. Make sure you are using sharp pruning shears or knives; clean cuts heal faster, preventing infection. Do not remove more than 75% of the plant at one time.

Preparation for Drying

Look over the herbs you’ve picked. Remove any dead or damaged foliage. You only want the best parts of the herb to be preserved. Try not to wet the herbs if possible. Only rinse them in cold water if there is dust and dirt on them that you can’t shake off. If you do rinse some of the herbs, be diligent in carefully shaking off the water and then spreading them out on dishcloths so that the water can be drained and soaked off of the herbs in a timely manner. Turn them over a couple of times as you check on them. They will need to be completely dry before proceeding.

Hanging Herbs

Slow and natural drying methods produce the highest quality herbs. Hanging herbs is a time-tested process of preservation. This method works best with herbs that have long stems. Go ahead and remove any leaves near the bottoms of the stems, since they will be crushed when you bunch them together and hang them anyways. Grab a small bundle of herbs and make sure that you can arrange them in a way that each one can have the same amount of airflow around them. You should end up with many small, loose, bundles. Tie them together—you can use rubber bands, twist ties, or simple twine—and attach them to string that allows for you to hang the batch upside down. If you are hang drying seeds or flowers, you can put them into a small paper bag, poke holes in the sides for airflow, and tie the bag to a string to hang.

An ideal location for hanging herbs to is cool, dark, and dry. UV rays damage and release the oils that you are trying to preserve; they also cause discoloration and generally lower the quality of the preserved herbs. The area must be dry so that dew does not form, since that (and any other present moisture) will lead to the herbs molding.

Proper Storage

When the herbs are brittle and crumble easily, they have been completely dried and are ready to be stored. Separate the leaves from the stems to collect all the herbs, and store them in rigid containers with tight lids. Glass or ceramic containers with airtight seals are the best. Keep the containers somewhere out of the sunlight. Do not crush the herbs until you are ready to use them so that the flavors and aromas will be preserved. Label and date each of your containers as soon as you put them away. Use the herbs within a year of harvesting.

Hands on with the Apple TV

The age of technology has made the Internet accessible for almost anyone on any device. Watching movies and television shows is easier than ever with all of the TV- accessories available. With so many different versions of these streaming devices such as the Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and the Chrome Cast – it can be difficult to decide which is best for your home entertainment preferences. We sat down with the newest Apple TV to test out its home viewing experience.

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Design

Apple TV is currently in it’s fourth generation and has evolved in aesthetics over the years. It started out as a silver box with multiple different cable ports.

Now it is a matte black palm-sized box with two cable ports one for the power and one for the HDMI cable. It is sleek and follows suit with the rest of apple’s products as far as aesthetics are concerned. It is an app-driven device that has changed the way we watch television and movies, almost doing away with the need or want for cable. The Apple TV is meant to sit on its side unless you have your television mounted, which in case you can purchase an Apple TV mount.

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The Apple TV comes with a small remote control (shipped charged) that connects through Bluetooth and acts as your navigation for opening apps, uploading photographs, renting movies and inputting information. The Apple TV remote can also be accessed via an app called Remotes, allowing you to use your Apple iPhone as a remote if you prefer.

Integration

Although it’s not perfect, Apple TV’s new tvOS is nonetheless amazing. If you own another Apple device, the Apple TV can obtain your Wi-Fi password and account information from your portable device via Bluetooth, saving you from the laborious process of typing your password and information into the TV…which we all know is kind-of a hassle.

Once the device has your Apple ID, it will pull your photos, movies, and music from your account integrating everything you’ve purchased or saved with your television. This feature alone is probably one of my favorite aspects of using Apple TV and other Apple products together. If you’re familiar with other Apple products, the black screen with large rounded icons showing your app selections is beautiful and intuitive. Apple TV is family friendly. With logical layout and beautiful design, it is also easy to customize the way you wish to view your selections. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and every other app you can think of is available on Apple TV. However, it is unfortunate that two of my favorite apps are still unavailable on Apple TV; Spotify and Amazon Prime Video. There is a solution… The apps that you won’t find on your Apple TV can be streamed via Air Play from your Smart Phone through the Apple TV and onto your television with no extra cords or wires.

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This poses a somewhat major problem for people who use Android over Apple. No, having an Android does not mean you can’t choose Apple TV as your way of streaming. However, it is a fact that you won’t get as much value out of your Apple TV if you are an Android user than if you’re a user of other Apple products.

If you have an Android, you are not able to transfer your network or password through your Apple ID during set-up or use your smart phone as a second remote. You also are limited when gaming as you won’t be able to use your phone for any multiplayer games. While it is questionable that these limitations are even enough to persuade people to switch to Apple, in the mean time, having an Android is kind of a bummer with Apple TV.

The 4K Issue

Another issue with Apple TV video streaming is the inability to play 4K video content. 4K video can display incredible streaming quality and amazing picture. While the majority of new big screen TV’s support some form of 4K video content, it is strange that Apple TV never integrated it. However, Apple TV will evolve as technology does when newer and better content is available. At the rate that 4K video content is emerging, it won’t be long.

EDIT: Apple has released a 4K version of the Apple TV. Check it out here.

Gaming

Apple TV has games. One thing a lot of people tend to overlook is that Apple TV is also a gaming device. Casual gaming is becoming more popular as people upgrade to smart phones and enjoy a few minutes of Candy Crush or cards while waiting. This approach works surprisingly well on a large screen. Gaming on the Apple TV is a hit – especially now that some games offer multiplayer options.

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Even for games that are more simplistic though, the Apple TV remote is small and does not lend itself to very diverse or sophisticated game-playing. It is light, and somewhat insufficient when truly experiencing a competitive game that might be found on an Xbox or Playstation. The remote is similar to a joystick while gaming, and the otherwise awesome track pad cannot offer the same range of motion as a real joystick would. If you find yourself gaming a lot on the Apple TV, they make remote control wriststraps that might be a worthwhile investment considering how many Apple remotes get broken being dropped in the midst of a game.

Apple TV has now integrated Siri into the mix. While in the past I have had awkward moments with Siri on my iPhone, causing me to disable the feature altogether, the Apple TV is a bit different. In my opinion, Siri can be overwhelming and less-than-helpful on an iPhone. However, with Apple TV, Siri makes talking to your television both helpful and fun. There’s even a noise canceling mic on the back of the remote so you can be heard through background noise. Siri will even spell out the instructions along the way if you find yourself needing any clarification. You can ask Siri to search for specific movies or TV shows for you and she will draw from Rotten Tomatoes and iTunes user ratings to determine the type of selection that might interest you. In addition to movies and music, you can even ask Siri about the weather, sports teams, stock markets etc. One of my favorite features is being able to ask Siri to rewind or fast-forward a movie – or even pause it. You can of course use Siri for basic functions such as “Open YouTube” and she will do so. Over time, Siri will learn more about you and do some innovative things with her memory.

The new Apple TV does not allow for any storage upgrades, unfortunately. However, it will do a lot of things behind the scenes for you. For example, it will auto-delete your old stuff to make room for the new. However, it’s not for everyone. Android users will be limited in their experiences and the Apple TV is fairly expensive in comparison to the other streaming devices previously mentioned, The 32Gb Apple TV costs $149 and the 64Gb version is $199. You can get the newest Roku 4 for $129 and the Amazon Fire TV by comparison costs only $99 – both in which support 4K video content.

Our Final Thoughts

When I went to go buy my Apple TV, I had gotten home and opened the box only to realize that it did not come with an HDMI cable. For the cost of the Apple TV they could have at least thrown in an HDMI cable and maybe a wrist strap.

All in all, the Apple TV is a great purchase. Is it perfect? No. Could there be improvements? Yes. I would highly recommend buying an Apple TV, especially if you’re already an Apple product user.

How to Select and Care for a Real Tree This Christmas

Whether you’re picking a real tree for the first time or been making this an annual family tradition, there is nothing quite like a real Christmas tree in your home. From the bright green branches to the fresh pine smell, nothing says Christmas like a beautiful Christmas tree. And unlike fake trees that are manufactured and shipped from other countries, when you pick a real tree, you’re supporting local tree farmers. Selecting the right tree is important as each tree has branches and needles that suit a specific purpose and will fit into each home differently.

Types of Trees

Rooted Tree

With a rooted or balled and burlapped tree, there are different care instructions than a cut tree. The tree should be kept in a cool place, and only brought into the home a week before the holiday. The great thing is you can replant these trees when Christmas is over. Just make to keep the root ball moist while the tree is in the home.

If planning to plant your tree after Christmas, you will want to dig the hole for the tree before the ground freezes. It’s important to keep the dirt for the hole from freezing as well.

Cut Christmas Tree

Your typical tree you can find at any live Christmas tree shop. These are cut at the base of the tree and cannot be replanted. Just make sure you have a stand and enough water to keep it fresh throughout the holiday season.

Douglas Fir Christmas Tree Needles

Douglas Fir

One of the most popular species of tree used for Christmas, the Douglas Fir is shaped like a pyramid. It has soft, dark green needles, and its weight allows it to be easily transported to your home and into the proper stand.

This tree cannot handle large, heavy ornaments. While it’s a beautifully shaped tree, the branches can be weak. It’ll live for a long time as long as it’s properly cared for, but it cannot handle a lot of ornaments. In case you want to replant the tree, Douglas Fir does well in humid climates, which have dry summers.

Fraser Fir Christmas Tree Needles

Fraser Fir

When people think of the smell of Christmas, they are often thinking of a Fraser Fir. While the Douglas Fir doesn’t have strong branches, the Fraser Fir is a hearty tree with strong limbs.

After cutting, the soft needles will stay on the tree for a long time. The needles do not prick you while you’re hanging ornaments. This tree can handle heavier ornaments, but it’s not a full thick tree, so it’s more suitable for small rooms. it can be planted in climates where there are cold winters but cool summers.

Scotch Pine Christmas Tree Needles

Scots or Scotch Pine

Most of the fake Christmas trees you’ll see in stores are modeled after the Scotch Pine. The needles will not fall when they are dry, which makes them a great addition to many homes. They have strong branches too.

This tree can adapt to many climates, so it’s a popular tree for those who want to replant after the holiday. With the strong branches and ability to retain its needles when dry, the Scotch Pine is a great indoor tree for the holiday season.

Christmas Tree Care

Make sure that before bringing your tree home, you have a stand with a water reservoir. The most vital thing that your tree will need is water. With water, the tree will last longer and retain its needles. The size of your tree will dictate the amount of water that the tree needs. The tree needs a quart of water per inch of the stem’s diameter. The stand that you choose should fit the size of your tree and have adequate room for water around the trunk.

When driving home with your tree, you’ll need to make sure that the trunk is facing into the wind. When a tree is trussed up for transportation, the branches are brought up towards the tip of the tree. If the farm seller straps your tree to the car, he’ll know the right direction. Before leaving the farm, they might be able to cut a slice from the base. The trunk base needs a fresh cut to allow water to penetrate. If the retail lot doesn’t do it, be sure to cut it at home.

Once the tree is home, place it into the stand with plenty of water. Never let the water level drop below the trunk. It helps to fill the reservoir every day. There are devices on the market that will keep the reservoir from emptying too. Water is vital for the longevity of your Christmas tree. Keep the tree away from heat sources, and think about lowering the temperature in the room while the tree is there. It’ll help it last longer.

Add a Tree Mat

If you have hardwood floors, you might want to invest in a tree mat. These mats provide a clean and simple look that also protects your home. It will help keep your tree stand from scratching the floor and prevent soak through on live trees. The best part is they roll up and can be stored in-between seasons.

Decorating the Tree

After submerging the tree trunk into the stand with water, you’ll need to leave the tree alone for 24 hours. During this time, the boughs will fall enough to allow you to add lights and ornaments.

Before adding lights, make sure that the lights are low heat. If you have old strings of lights, consider upgrading to miniature lights or LED Christmas lights that give off lower heat signatures. While it might be a tradition to have big, old bulbs of lights on the tree, it could be a safety and fire hazard. Any lights that are not working should be replaced. Worn sets of lights should be replaced completely with a new set.

Safety Concerns

When leaving the home or going to bed for the night, turn the lights off, so you reduce the risk of a house fire. Keep an eye on the water levels in your tree stand, so that the tree doesn’t become dry or brittle, which increases the risk of fire. Never use real candles in the tree branches, or too close to the tree.

Have a Happy Holiday Season!

You’ve got your tree set up and taken care of! With the twinkling lights, colorful ornaments, and pine smell, there is nothing like having a fresh Christmas tree in your home. You only get to do this once a year, so live up the holidays and enjoy it!

10 Decorating Tips for Renters

Whether you’re renting a house or a small apartment, it’s always fun to decorate your space in a way that reflects your own style and personality. Obviously, remodeling an apartment you don’t own isn’t an option. That’s okay because these tips and tricks will maximize your space while respecting the limitations of your landlord’s property! In this post, we’ll get down and dirty with some tips that will enable you to live in a space that feels like home – but also allow you to get your security deposit back!

Let’s get real; most rental spaces look the same when it comes to the interior. There are those vertical blinds, linoleum flooring, eggshell walls with the popcorn ceiling, etc etc. There are definitely ways to get around these common odds and ends without making serious changes to the infrastructure. So here are ten of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to decorate your rental home or apartment!

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Paint!

Quick tip: one gallon of paint can cover about 400 square feet. If you’re opting for decals – when it’s time to move, warm the vinyl with a hairdryer and gently peel it away.  Go slowly and your wall will look perfect when you’re done!

One of the easiest things to do that many people seem ambivalent about is painting the walls! Just a simple coat of charcoal or periwinkle in one room can completely transform the look and feel of your apartment or home. Just remember to take note of the original color of the walls, whether it’s eggshell or solid white, you’ll want to be able to paint it back to the original color after your lease is up. Stay away from too many tapestries in order to get away from that post-grad college look, however sometimes they can be the perfect wall accent for a bedroom or a window. For an easier wall transformation, consider temporary removable wallpaper or vinyl decals. Utilize this decor treasure placing it everywhere from an accent wall, to a bathroom, to even inside kitchen drawers. 

Let’s address windows…

and more so the vertical blinds that probably come with your apartment or rental house. These can work for some areas. However, more often than not – they tend to make your home look like a hospital room. Hide them under curtains by installing a curtain rod slightly longer than the length of your windows. This will allow you to either purchase your own curtains from Amazon or somewhere with affordable options or take a day to whip up your own on the sewing machine. Purchase a curtain rod at any hardware or department store.

Hardware

Another way to add a personal touch to your space is switching out the knobs and handles on the cabinets in the kitchen or the bathroom. Just remember to keep the original hardware in a safe place for when you decide to move out, as it will greatly increase the probability of getting your security deposit back!

Mirrors

Mirrors can do no wrong! If you’re renting, you probably have the age old problem of never having enough space. Mirrors are a great way to enhance a space, and they also trick the eye into thinking a space is bigger than it really is, which can be critical in a small apartment. Thrift stores and garage sales can be a pot of gold when it comes to finding good quality mirrors for your place. And when all else fails, there’s probably an Ikea somewhere relatively close by.

Invest in quality pieces of furniture

If there is one thing you should splurge on – it’s furniture. No matter where you live, you’ll have these pieces for a long time if they’re of good quality. Look for furniture that has a pop of color or made of high quality textures. Velvet armchairs or a lacquered turquoise table can do wonders for the feng shui of your space! If you adore a piece, you’ll find room for it in your next home.

Add Green Everywhere you Can!

No yard? No problem. Something that never fails to keep a home cozy and welcoming is having live plants. Flowers are a bit difficult to keep alive but if you invest in a few succulents or an orchid for the window – it will make a huge different in a tired rental space. Look for funky planters. Don’t be afraid to mis-match them! Having plants around can reduce airborne toxins and increase productivity. Not only will a few plants add an element of zen to your living quarters, they can be displayed in a number of different creative ways. Consider hanging planters to save space and create dimension in a room.

Cacti are by far the absolute easiest way to go, and they come in so many shapes and sizes. Generally, you only need to water them once or twice a month! Sounds good to me…

Light Fixtures

A lot of rentals come with harsh lighting that isn’t doing anyone favors. Lanterns and hanging fixtures can soften things up a bit. Look for some interesting standing lamps or table lamps to brighten up your space and add a warm cozy vibe to your rooms.

One of my favorite things to do is purchase interesting light bulbs or even bulbs in different colors. Black lights can be tacky and feel like you’re living in a dorm room. However a red light or two in the bedroom or living room at night can add that mood lighting you might be looking for without having to install a dimmer switch.

Hang all the things!

Even if your landlord stresses not to put too many holes in the walls, it is not the end of the word if you hang something with a nail or a thumb tac or twelve. Many people are intimidated by putting holes in their walls, however they can easily be fixed with a little bit of spackling. I used to work in an art gallery and I learned this little trick that I carried with me from apartment to apartment throughout my early 20’s. Here’s a link to a tutorial on how to fix little holes in your walls when moving out!

Hang plates and utensils on the wall in your kitchen. Hang plants on your patio. Hang photos and unique pieces of art in your living room or bathroom. Hang photographs or prints – just don’t use the thumb tac-in-wall approach when hanging art. However, for storage purposes – Go crazy! This is an amazingly affordable way to maximize your storage possibilities!

Accessorize like crazy.

Get pillows that will brighten up your living room. Get throws and go to town with little candles or items that reflect your style and make you happy. Look for shag rugs that will add texture to a room. Especially if your place has carpet, you’ll definitely want to get some rugs. Rugs are an easy way to cover up that not-so-cute carpet and they can have the added benefit of keeping noise down.

In the end, don’t sweat the small stuff!

You’re likely only living here temporarily, and you probably can’t turn it into your dream home in just a few years. After all, you’re only renting. No matter if it’s an apartment, townhome, a house, a condo, a trailer, a duplex spend some time and money to put your personal stamp on your space. Make it a home.

Relax and enjoy the fact that if your air conditioner goes out (as mine did this past summer), you can just put in a maintenance request for someone to come and fix it.