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How to Prepare Your House for Winter

With cold weather approaching, it’s time to take a couple days and get your home ready for the winter weather. To help you get started, here is a checklist with some of the most important tasks to get your house ready for the snow and cold.

Check for Leaks

In the winter, you want to make sure your home is a fortress. You don’t want any of your precious heat escaping, and you don’t want any of the winter weather getting in. To help you figure out your home’s leaky spots, you can hire a professional to do an energy audit on your home. This is a great option if you don’t have the time, or the desire to climb on your roof.

Windows: Swap out your screen windows for storm windows. During that process, check around your windows to make sure they are well sealed. To help identify small gaps, carefully hold a lit match or lighter a couple inches from the frame of the window. Move the flame around, always making sure it’s a safe distance from surfaces and fabrics, and watch for the flame to “dance.” If the flame moves, there is air movement in that spot. Use caulk to seal around the frame, or use a plastic window insulation kit to cover an entire window.

Heavy curtains will help keep more heat from escaping through your windows.

Doors: Replace your screen doors with storm doors. Again, check the seals during that process. If you can see any light around your doors, you have a significant gap for warm air to escape. Even if you can’t see any light, you still want to check the rubbery weather stripping around the door. If it’s brittle or cracking, it’s not doing its job. Installing a new weather stripping kit from a hardware store is a quick fix to make sure your doors are sealed.

Ducts: As time goes by, seals on duct work can come loose. Check your duct work to make sure your ducts aren’t letting any heat out into your attic, which can cause snow to melt and refreeze as ice dams on your roof.

Roof: Before winter arrives is a great time to check your roof for the season. Climb up (or at least get on a high ladder) and examine the shingles. Replace any that are missing or broken.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's How to Prepare Your House for Winter

Make Sure Your Heating Systems Work

Furnace: Before it gets too cold, have your heating system checked out by a professional. The first really chilly day of winter is not the time to figure out your heater isn’t working. Have a heating and air company come out, check the systems, and change the filters, and you’ll be ready for Old Man Winter when he arrives.

Water Heater: The end of fall is a great time to drain your water heater. This should get done once a year, so if you haven’t done it recently, make sure you do before you find you only have really cold water in your house.

Chimney: If you have a chimney, make sure you sweep it (or have it professionally swept) before lighting any fires for the season. Removing the excess soot, as well as the birds and animals that made their homes in chimneys throughout the year, will help prevent fires and smoke damage. Also, examine the damper to make sure it’s still looking good. If it’s bent or warped, warm air will be able to escape through the chimney.

Reverse Ceiling Fans: If you have ceiling fans, now is the time to reverse them. Putting them in reverse will help blow down warm air that would otherwise be stuck near the ceiling, which will likely mean you can turn your heat down a degree or two.

If your fan runs on a remote, there is likely a button on the remote to switch the direction. If your fan runs on a switch, look for a small toggle or switch on the fan motor to make the change.

Be Ready Outdoors

Gutters: Make sure your gutters are ready to handle the winter precipitation. Empty the fallen leaves and anything else that has gathered in the gutters. Make sure they are secure to the roof, and repair them as needed. Also, make sure the drain pipe from your gutters is long enough and directing winter rains and melting snow away from your home’s foundation.

Water Lines: Prevent burst pipes by turning off all exterior water lines or insulating the pipes. If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, drain the lines to make sure no water is left to damage the underground lines.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's Fall and Winter Home Maintenance Checklist

Tools: Be ready to get yourself out of the house by making sure all your winter tools are in good working condition. Turn on the snow blower, visually check the shovels, and stock up on salt or deicers. Having everything in its place and ready to go will give you a good start on digging out from a big blizzard.

Prepare Your Safety Kits

Pantry: During the winter, it’s always a good idea to keep extra food supplies in your pantry in case a big storm prevents you from getting to the store. Boxed and canned foods are the best because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life. Stock your pantry with a week’s worth of pastas, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, rice, beans, and bottled water, and you’ll be ready if the big one hits your town.

Boxed and canned foods are the best food to keep in stock because they take no electricity to store (in case that goes out), and have a long shelf life.

Lights: If a winter storm takes out your electricity, make sure you are ready with flashlights and candles to light your home. Keep flashlights in every room, and teach your kids where they are in case they need to find them in the dark.

Heat: If you have a wood burning fireplace, keep a solid stash of wood ready in case your power goes out. If you are in an area prone to losing power, you may also want to invest in a generator to run your furnace a couple hours a day during power outages. A good stash of blankets and comforters will help you get through chilly days and cold nights.

Detectors: Winter means an increase of home fires and carbon monoxide leaks. Make sure you and your family are protected by replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and testing them before winter hits.

All the tasks on this list are important to get done before the snow starts falling. If you don’t have the time to do them all, hire a trusted professional to help you knock a few off tasks off your list. You’ll be thankful that you have everything done and ready as soon as the first big storm hits.

I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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11 Coffee Hacks for Flavor, Stains, and More

Flavor tips

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Obviously, coffee is the best part of every morning. But if your coffee needs a pick-me-up, we've got you covered. 

Make coffee more drinkable

If you’re sensitive to acidity in coffee but love the pick-me-up in the morning, here’s a way to reduce the acid level: Just add a pinch of baking soda to the drink! You can also use this tip to decrease the acidity in other high-acid drinks and foods.

Save your cream

If your cream or half-and-half has begun to develop an “off” odor, but you desperately need it for your coffee, try mixing in 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, which will neutralize the lactic acid that is causing the cream to sour.

Before you use the cream, however, taste it to make sure the flavor is still acceptable.

SEE ALSO: Grammar Girl's Why Do We Call Coffee a 'Cup of Joe'?

Perk up your coffee

Make stale coffee taste like it’s just been brewed by adding a pinch of salt and a dollop of fresh water to your cup. Heat it up in the microwave, and you’re ready to power through the rest of your workday. Works for me every time!

Remove coffee stains

These stubborn stains aren't going to get themselves out! 

Chase coffee stains

Coffee stains can be frustrating, but you can get them out of your carpet by pouring beer on them. That’s right—one great beverage deserves another! Just dribble a couple of sips onto the stain, and it should vanish. Dab up the extra beer with a paper towel, and if the coffee stain doesn’t go away completely, repeat the task a few more times. This trick works on tea stains, too.

Get creative with stains

If you can’t get a coffee or tea stain out of a white tablecloth, try one last solution. Soak the tablecloth in a bucket of strong coffee or tea (depending on the type of stain) for 2 hours. You won’t get the stain out, but you will dye your linen a lovely earth tone!

RELATED: Who Knew's How to Remove Almost Every Stain

Other ways to use coffee

Who knew that you could use coffee for reasons other than getting out of bed in the morning? 

Share some coffee

Here’s an ingenious idea for an elegant-looking decoration that also smells wonderful! Place coffee beans in votive holders or small bowls, then add tea light candles. They’ll cast a pretty glow and make your home smell like coffee.

Try vanilla-scented tea lights if you love the smell of French vanilla coffee.

Surprising use for a coffee bean

To freshen your breath, try sucking on a coffee bean. It’s much cheaper than a breath mint, and tastes great to us coffee addicts!

Reach for a coffee filter

We always prefer to clean our windows with something reusable, like an old rag. But if you like to go the disposable route, try coffee filters instead of paper towels. They won’t leave behind any lint or paper pieces. Coffee filters work great for electronic screens as well—they grab dust without scratching or leaving streaks.

SEE ALSO: Domestic CEO's No Mess Camping Coffee

Perfect wood patch

If you need to repair a hole in a piece of wood, add a small amount of instant coffee to the spackle, or to a thick paste made from laundry starch and warm water. The coffee tints the paste to camouflage the patched-up spot.

Freeze out funk

Add a shallow bowl of freshly ground coffee, uncovered, to your freezer. Leave for a few days and any funky freezer odors will disappear.

Cover up with coffee.

Would you ever imagine coffee stains could be a good thing? For your damaged wood furniture or floors, they are. Just brew a very strong pot, and then use a cotton ball or rag to apply the coffee over the scratch. It works as a stain, and will blend in the scratch in no time!

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17 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Acne and Pimples

Little bit of lemon (or vinegar)

To help clear out clogged pores, simply dab some lemon juice right on your pimples. The acid will help dissolve the oil that keeps them around. You can also use vinegar, but lemon juice smells nicer!

An aspirin a day keeps acne away

Did you know that the bottle of aspirin you’ve got at the back of your medicine cabinet is a powerful pimple popper? Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory drug, and its active ingredient is similar to salicylic acid, which is used to treat acne. To harness aspirin’s anti-acne properties, simply crush up a tablet or two and combine with enough water to make a paste. Apply it to the blemish and allow the paste to dry, then rinse off with cool water. Your skin will look great, and you won’t have had to spend an extra cent for a fancy pimple cream!

Obviously, avoid using aspirin to treat acne if you’re allergic!

Milk of magnesia mask

On the off chance you don’t have any aspirin around, you can also try using milk of magnesia. (Yes, the same stuff used to treat constipation or upset stomach.) Just dab it on affected skin like a mask. Allow to dry, then rinse it off with warm water. Not only does milk of magnesia absorb excess oil, but the zinc it contains also helps heal pimples.

Chamomile–witch hazel toner

For acne-prone skin, try this antioxidant-rich toner. Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea, allowing the bag to steep for five minutes or more. Allow the tea to cool, and mix in an equal amount of witch hazel, a powerful astringent that can be found at most drugstores. Apply the toner to clean skin with a cotton ball and rinse after 10 minutes. The leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Special blackhead buster

For blackheads, mix together 2 tablespoons salt and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Spread the paste onto skin and allow to dry, then rinse off with warm water. This wonderful smelling toner will prevent acne, get rid of blackheads, and tighten your pores!

RELATED: 4 Common Skin Problems and How to Deal

Banana peels for pimples

As we shared in our post on the many uses of a banana peel, you can rub the pulpy side of the peel right on your face to help get rid of pimples.

Acne attacker

Got a pimple problem? Don’t head to the skincare aisle of the drugstore just yet—not only are those treatments costly, they also contain tons of chemicals that your skin does not need. Instead, reach for a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. This common (and cheap) over-the-counter antiseptic is a miracle-worker on acne. It kills the pimple-producing bacteria living in your skin and oxygenates your pores to prevent new bacteria from setting up shop. First, wash your face with soap and water to remove dirt, oils, and any make-up. Gently pat dry. Then soak a cotton ball in peroxide and dab it over any blemishes or apply it all over your face. Let sit for about two minutes, or until the peroxide stops bubbling, then rinse off with water and apply oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.

Experiment with what you’ve got in your pantry and see what works best for your skin.

DIY pore strips

Here’s an affordable alternative to commercial pore strips, which help keep skin clear and free of pimples. Mix together 1–2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin with equal parts milk, and heat until warm. Spread this mixture on your skin, and allow to dry completely. You will be able to peel it off in strips, removing blackheads in the process!

Glue pore strip

Here’s another cheap and easy DIY pore strip: white glue like Elmer’s. Spread a thin layer on the problem area (avoiding the eyes), let dry, and peel away. It works on blackheads, and it’s actually pretty fun!

Potato acne fighter

Sprouting pimples like they’re going out of style? Try this neat trick to clear up your face. Cut a raw potato in half and rub the flat end over your face. Leave the juice on for 20 minutes before rinsing off. The starch in the potato will help dry out your oily skin.

RELATED: Which Type of Potato Should You Use?

Nourish with nutmeg

This nutmeg-milk scrub provides a double-whammy of skin nourishment: Nutmeg works as an astringent, exfoliant, and anti-inflammatory (goodbye blackheads and acne), while the milk’s lactic acid works as a peel to eliminate dead skin cells. To make the scrub, combine nutmeg and milk until the mixture resembles a paste. After washing your face with a cleanser, massage the nutmeg scrub onto your skin in gentle circular strokes. Exfoliate for 5–10 minutes, then rinse.

Stop a zit in its tracks

If a giant pimple sprouts up at work or school, here’s a way to make it less noticeable without applying a face mask at your desk: Place an ice cube on it for 30–60 seconds, and/or place a few eye drops onto a tissue and hold it on the spot for 3 minutes. This will cause the blood vessels below your skin to contract, making the pimple less red and easing some of the irritation.

Honey for pimples

We love this all-natural remedy for skin blemishes—it’s easy, effective, and cheap! Simply apply a drop of honey on top of the affected area and cover with a band-aid. Honey is loaded with healing enzymes that kill bacteria and toxins, reduce inflammation, and moisturize the skin. So the next time your skin acts up, just reach into your kitchen pantry for some sweet stuff.

No ifs, ands, or butts

Who knew diaper rash cream could help get rid of pimples? Dab a bit on offending areas, and the zinc oxide in the cream will dry up oil and kill bacteria, while the moisturizers will soften your skin. Meanwhile, it costs less than most store-bought acne treatments with the same ingredients.

Tea tree + toothpaste

Fear you’re getting a pimple? Dab the offending spot with a little tea tree oil (available at many drugstores), then cover it with a bit of toothpaste. The tea tree oil is a great all-natural remedy with proven results similar to over-the-counter acne creams, and the toothpaste has an anti-inflammatory effect. Repeat three times a day for an ongoing acne problem.

If you have rosacea, avoid tea tree oil because it may aggravate your condition.

Bag those blemishes

Both chamomile and mint have anti-inflammatory properties, so try soaking a tea bag in water and then applying to your acne for a few minutes several times a day. You can also use green tea, which is both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. Supercharge this remedy by making ice cubes out of the tea! Chamomile, mint, and green tea work great, but you can also use hibiscus or even basil tea. Experiment with what you’ve got in your pantry and see what works best for your skin.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 5 New Uses for Used Tea Bags

Get rid of acne scars

Do you have acne scars or other dark spots on your face? Erase them with home remedies. You can use the enzymes in certain foods to help lighten them! Here’s a soothing mask to try. Stir together 1 teaspoon each lemon juice and honey plus 2 teaspoons plain yogurt in a small bowl. Apply to your face, and leave on for about 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

For more all-natural remedies from all around the internet, check out our Health and Beauty Tips board on Pinterest. 

The suggestions offered here are for informational purposes only.  The author and publisher do not accept liability for damages arising from the use, attempted use, misuse, or application of any of the suggestions included on this website.

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17 Tips to Transform Your Outdoor Space

Whether it's improving your garden or making your patio BBQ-friendly, these clever tips will have you taking your space to the next level, all for practically nothing.

Beautiful Natural Spaces

1. Bring in the Birds
Don’t throw out those net bags that onions and citrus fruits come in! In early spring, fill them with anything that might appeal to nest-building birds: pet hair, human hair, lint, plant clippings. Then tie off the bag and hang so birds can help themselves and nest nearby. You can use the same bags to serve suet to your feathered friends in the winter.

2. DIY Birdbath
Want to try a birdbath but don’t want the expense and commitment of those heavy commercial types? Simply use a sturdy tomato cage as your base, topped with a round drainage tray for potted plants. It’s easy to move and very affordable! Place some colorful marbles or pebbles in the tray before adding water—the brighter the color, the better to attract birds.

3. Get Reddy for Hummingbirds
These fast fliers are attracted to red. But if your garden color scheme is less fire engine and more pastel, you can fake it. Just wire some red silk flowers around the garden until they discover nectar-filled flowers you’ve offered in other colors.

4. Make Your Own Nectar
Don’t spend money on hummingbird nectar when it’s so simple to make! Just dissolve 1 part sugar in 3 parts water, then add a few drops of orange extract or orange juice. Use it immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

5. The Butterfly Water Cooler
Butterflies like puddles to gather around and drink. Make a butterfly water station out of an old cookie sheet or big saucer lined with gravel. You can also “plant” an old mug up to its rim in the soil, and fill it with water when rainwater doesn’t keep it supplied.

6. Baby Your Garden
Got some old baby gear in the basement or attic? Make your family wonder by getting it out! Then take it outside. Baby gates, spindle cribs, and even the metal springs from cribs make easy trellises you can train flowers or vegetable vines to climb.

7. Stones From a Tree
Having a tree taken down? Put it to good use! Cut some “slices” (about 2 inches thick) to use as stepping-stones.

8. Mulch with Souvenirs
Every beach vacation, we bring home more shells and stones than we can use for decoration around the house. So we now bring many into our outdoor spaces. They make perfect mulch and accents around plants, just like purchased pebbles from home centers (without the steep price)!

Outdoor Problems Solved!

9. A Sweet Concrete Cleaner
Powdered lemonade mix can come to the rescue to help scrub away stains on your concrete! Simply add a few drops of water to the drink mix, just enough to form a paste. Apply the paste to a concrete stain and use a stiff scrub brush to scrub the area clean.

Entertaining Ideas

10. Lanterns for Much Less
Trendy outdoor décor stores sell lanterns for a pretty penny. But you can make your own with all kinds and sizes of jars—from baby food and minced garlic to pasta sauce and even large pickle jars. Once they’re clean with the labels removed, simply place a votive candle in the jar. You can add pebbles or sand to the jar to raise the height of the candle or steady a taller candle. Want a hanging lantern? Fine-gauge wire can be bent to form a handle, with the rest wrapped around the mouth of the jar to secure.

11. Create Your Own Luminarias
Have empty tin cans you can repurpose? Fill them with water and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can use a large nail and hammer to punch holes in a decorative design on the cans. Need a guide? Draw the design you want with a dry-erase marker that you can wipe off later. After the design is complete, simply let the water thaw, empty, and dry the can. Light a tea light inside for your own custom luminaria!

12. Color Swatch Your Lights
White string lights can go from simple to sensational with a trip to the paint counter—or maybe even your junk drawer! Collect some paint swatch strips in fabulous, bright colors. Curl them into cylinders (with the color sides facing out) and secure with clear tape. Slip one sleeve over each bulb on your light string, and attach it to the wire with tape or a small binder clip. Magical mini lampshades for free!

13. Ladder Up
Need more serving space while entertaining? Place plywood planks across the rungs of a stepladder. Runners can cover the plywood for a fancier look. Now you have a tiered serving station for food or drinks that tucks away again until the next time you need it!

14. Protect Those Drinks
Keep bugs out of drinks by supplying cupcake liners. They easily slip over the tops of cans and glasses. And you can pop a straw through them if desired. Put a stack in a mason jar for a pretty display that you can label with the intended use.

15. Forget the Ice
Replace the ice for your drink cooler, tub, or kiddie pool with frozen water balloons. To make them, fill the balloons two-thirds full and stick in the freezer. When the drinks are gone and the ice has melted at the end of the day, have fun!

16. Condiment Cleanup
Repurpose inexpensive, clear soap dispenser pumps as condiment servers. You’ll upgrade your picnic table from plastic bottles, and make topping that burger or hotdog easier, with less mess.

17. S’more Solutions
Is it feeling crowded around the fire, or are flames rising too high for kids to toast s’mores? Line terra-cotta pots with aluminum foil. Then add charcoal and light. These handy little cookers allow each person to have their own fire to toast marshmallows with ease. Sticking with one big fire but need to toast a lot of marshmallows for the hungry masses? Use a clean metal rake to fit them all over the fire at once.

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