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Hi there, I am wondering if everyone in January goes to the gym, goes on a diet, or just makes all kinds of promises. for the new Year.

Well I did and let me tell you this is hard..Every year I do up my goals for the following year and I am pretty good at keeping them

BUT personal goals,now that is another picture.. I ,like 27 thousand other people, started on the 2nd of January with a new diet and a new exercise regime.

Sure I can think of a thousand reasons not to get up in the morning and get going.. So I go a little later and I only go three days a week. Now I do try to go walking with my husband 1 day also ..

Now I wish I could say I woke up and there they were,a couple of pounds hanging around, nope, that is not true. It seems that there was a  few then a few more pounds come , anywhere I am and I hope to get rid of some extra pounds.

SO a few of us  got together and started this group to support each other. Some of us on Weight Watchers and some counting calories.. OMG how did this happen..

So I know , weigh the food , count the points and count calories.. It is hard.. I am not the type to plan my whole week of eating, so it is a new me who just has to learn to at least think before I put food in my mouth..

I really would like to say this is fun....Not. It is hard. I stumble but I get back up. I lost about 7 pounds but gained back 3.. Now I have lost that 3 this week so far.. 

I was told not to say I am going to Loose weight, as it means "where did it go and when will it be back?" 

So I am changing my life style and I want take off about 1-1.5 pounds a week.. Sounds great but I think it is the same thing..

SO now I gather around with all my friends in the same boat and we console each other, give each other support. I really hope it works.

We call the above statement networking in business but just coffee and support for personal.

I am not doing too bad but my co worker just gave me a candy before for a treat and she said I sounded like a woman going crazy...Well I am...

SO my question is , are you making goals personal and business and which are the easiest to keep. After all it is February and I have been at this for 6 weeks.. AHHHH



Good Morning World, here it is 2016. Today I am going to let you know about a home I have on the market is a new section of Halifax,  in a community of Mount Royal.The Sellers love this home and show it off with great care and pleasure. since they are the original owners, they know the home well.

299 BENTLEY Dr, Mount Royal Sun-division

Let us talk about this wonderful home built 5 years ago by a great Home Builder.The sub division is Mount Royal and about the same age
With wonderful walking trails, and close to the highway of any number and 10 minutes to downtown Halifax.. The bus stops close to the home so if you are working at the Dockyards , Windsor Park or downtown, you will be there in a short period of time,,, with no pressure to rush...
The area is filled with a nice mixture of people, all who want to see their neighbourhood safe and a place where you know who lives next door.
The community is growing and YOU should be a part of it!!..
Check out my video for a a look inside this 2 store. Stay tuned for more information on this home or if you JUST CANNOT WAIT call me for a private viewing.,. 



37 Insanely Creative Things To Do With Popped Corks

Wino forever.

Make coasters.

Get the directions here.

2. Make 3D letters.

Make 3D letters.

See how here.

3. Make DIY heel stays.


Directions here.

4. Make Fishing Bobbers

Make Fishing Bobbers

All you need is a cork and some nail polish. See how here.

5. Make a state-shaped cork board.

Make a state-shaped cork board.

See more here.

6. Make wine glass labels.

Make wine glass labels.

See how here.

7. Make place card holders.


Directions here.

8. Upgrade your cheese knives.

Upgrade your cheese knives.

Get the instructions here.

9. Make a new bath mat.

Make a new bath mat.

See how here.

10. Craft a wreath.

Craft a wreath.

Directions here.

11. DIY a necklace or hair clip.


See how here.

12. Make new drawer pulls.

Make new drawer pulls.

Instructions here.

13. Make labels for your plants.

Make labels for your plants.

Full instructions here.

14. Make commemorative key chains.

Make commemorative key chains.

See how here.

15. Fill up your votives.

Fill up your votives.

Directions here.

16. Make a trivet.

Make a trivet.

Instructions here.

17. Update your coffee table.

Update your coffee table.

See how here.

18. Plant some tiny succulents.

Plant some tiny succulents.

Directions here.

19. Organize your jewelry.

Organize your jewelry.

Directions here.

20. Keep your chips closed.

Keep your chips closed.

Directions here.

21. Make some 3D ombre wall art.

Make some 3D ombre wall art.

Directions here.

22. Make some outdoor stools.

Make some outdoor stools.

Cover a cheap stool or bucket with corks. Or but this one here.

23. Make a secret USB.


See how here.

24. Make a shabby chic chandelier.

Make a shabby chic chandelier.

Directions here.

25. Steady your wobbly furniture.

Steady your wobbly furniture.

See how here.

26. Dress up your lampshade.

Dress up your lampshade.

Directions here.

27. Make some vases.

Make some vases.

Directions here.

28. Make glitter wine stoppers.

Make glitter wine stoppers.

Directions here.

29. Create a cork journal.

Create a cork journal.

See how here.

30. Make these adorable baby cork animals.

Make these adorable baby cork animals.

Directions here.

31. Create tiny sailors.

Create tiny sailors.

See how here.

32. Make these pin cushions.

Make these pin cushions.

Get the instructions here.

33. Craft some easy stamps.

Craft some easy stamps.

Directions here.

34. Make an animal sculpture.

Make an animal sculpture.

See how here.

35. Make them into candles.

Make them into candles.

See how to do it here.

36. Make spools for twine or string.

Make spools for twine or string.

Instructions here.

37. Make fire starters.


See how here.

6 Ways to Make a Pumpkin Topiary by DIY Network

Don't just decorate with one pumpkin; stack three together to create a clever topiary.

 Click here or the picture below! 

8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Inspector

When hunting for a home inspector, their fee should be your last question.

Contractor checking the foundation on a home.

You might need to do a little inspecting of your own to find the right person to inspect your home.


  • As the weather warms up and open houses attract prospective buyers, hiring a home inspector can provide negotiating leverage for the buyer or warn of potential problems. "No home is perfect, not even new construction," says Brenda Avilla-Kintz, a Realtor with Legacy Real Estate & Associates in San Jose, California. "If you end up spending money on an inspection and find these red flags, then you're out a few hundred dollars for the inspection, but it saves you potentially tens of thousands of dollars" when you negotiate the price or walk away from the property.  
  • Not all states have licensing requirements for home inspection companies, so they can vary in terms of cost and quality. Your real estate agent may have suggestions for inspectors, but it's a good idea to also vet them yourself. Check out the American Society of Home Inspectors website (ashi.org) to find a member inspector in your area. Meanwhile, here's a look at the important questions to ask before hiring one.  

1. Do you perform repairs or just home inspections? Some homebuyers seek the advice of a general contractor rather than a home inspector. Avilla-Kintz says that's a mistake, as they provide expertise from a different point of view. "A home inspector is typically checking the roof or the appliances if they're included in the home," she says. "A general contractor is coming in from a repair standpoint and can quote for whatever repairs need to be done." In fact, providing both services could create a conflict of interest, because buyers can't always distinguish between necessary repairs and optional upgrades.  

After the home inspection, you may want to hire a specialist or general contractor to find out how much a kitchen renovation or plumbing upgrade might cost. "Get the unbiased opinion first," Avilla-Kintz says. "Then you bring in the contractor to quote for what those repairs are." 

2. Are you bonded and insured? Stephen Gladstone, a Connecticut home inspector and author of "The Field Guide to Home Inspections," says a surprising number of home inspectors don't have insurance. "Somebody with employees should really have workers’ [compensation], and they should have errors and omissions insurance in case there is something significant that they miss," he says. 

Say the inspector falls through the attic or slips while inspecting your roof. If the company doesn't have the appropriate insurance, it may sue you or the current homeowners or try to put a lien on the property. So make sure the company is insured before the inspector sets foot on the property. "Whenever one party is sued in the transaction, it tends to pinball all over the place where everybody ends up in the lawsuit," Avilla-Kintz says. "You're avoiding personal liability by making sure that they have their own insurance." 

3. Can you provide references? It's a good idea to check the inspection company's references, according to Scott Pruitt, vice president of operations for Commercial Building Consultants in Orlando, Florida, which has a home inspection division.

Pruitt suggests asking previous clients about whether the inspector arrived on time and inspected all aspects of the house, including the roof and attic. "Did they provide a comprehensive report that spelled out all areas of the home and the findings?" he adds. 

Consider references with a grain of salt, however, because the references given are likely to be the inspector's most enthusiastic supporters, not a complete sampling of customers, as Gladstone points out. 

4. Can I tag along on the inspection? Some homeowners leave the inspectors alone to examine the home, while others want to be more hands-on and follow along as the inspector works. If you fall into the latter camp, which several experts recommended, make sure your inspector is willing to walk you through the process. Gladstone says it's important to find an inspector who can communicate clearly and takes the time to explain things. "I offer my clients the opportunity to walk around with me and ask questions," he says. "More and more, an awful lot of my customers don't know much about the house. They want to know about the heating system and how to turn off the electric if there's a problem with the electricity."

5. What does the inspection include? To compare inspectors, you need to know what the inspection includes (or doesn't include). Ideally, the inspection should be as thorough as possible. "We open every window we can open and test every outlet we can test," Gladstone says. "A lot of inspection companies don't test the appliances, but we turn on dishwashers and laundry machines to see if there's damages on the gaskets and stuff." The extent of the inspection may also vary by region. In Florida, for instance, it's common for inspectors to test the irrigation systems. 

6. Will you send me a sample inspection report? The inspector should send you a detailed report after completing the inspection. Avilla-Kintz suggests asking to see a sample to make sure the information is presented in a clear and thorough format that's easy to understand. She especially appreciates reports that have a lot of color photographs because those images can clearly demonstrate problem areas and help during negotiations with the seller and his or her agent. 

7. Do you have any special expertise? If you're buying a special type of property, such as a historic home or new construction, make sure the inspector understands the special considerations for those types of properties. Gladstone says older homes may have issues that newer homes don’t have, while recently constructed properties may have new materials and different types of framing that require a more critical eye. Homes with swimming pools also have potential issues. Inspecting a condo tends to be simpler than a free-standing home, Gladstone adds, so it's not necessary to look for someone with specific condo expertise. 

8. How much do you charge? Notice that price is the last question mentioned. That's because shopping on price alone may lead to cutting corners. "You might be saving a couple of hundred dollars to hire the cheapest inspector," Avilla-Kintz says, "but you could be paying in a big way because the inspector wasn't thorough or the report was hard to understand." 

Well the fall season is upon us now. The sunlight is getting shorter and the temperature is getting lower. Time to start to prepare outside of our homes and yards for the winter. 

Here is a great article from Canadian Gardening on some tasks to think about and do to your gardens. Enjoy! 


16 essential fall garden tasks

16 essential fall garden tasks

By Judith Adam 

Here are some fall dos and don'ts, plus tips to help your garden get a jump-start on spring

As autumn leaves drift by your window, it may be tempting to look outside and think idle thoughts about nature taking care of itself. But like the rest of us, Mother Nature needs a good kick in the pants once in a while. Here are some fall dos and don'ts, plus tips to help your garden get a jump-start on spring.

 When available, pop ‘Icicle' pansies into spots where summer annuals have been cleared out. They will bloom until December, then lie down for the winter. Cover them with evergreen cuttings until earliest spring, when they'll be ready to sprout new flower buds.

 Leaves are garden gold. Spread small leaves of trees, such as honeylocust, birch, beech, ginkgo and silver maple (or shredded large Norway maple leaves), under shrubs and over all exposed soil. They will degrade into mineral nutrients; worms will turn them into fertilizer.

 Take a gamble and throw seeds of hardy annuals where you want them to bloom next year. Larkspur, poppies, cleome and cosmos will frequently take root from seeds sown in autumn and conditioned under winter snow.

 Plant bulbous Asiatic and Oriental lilies in late fall to ensure flower bud set. When planting is delayed until spring they may not get enough chilling and come up blind, with no flowers.

 Wait until the soil has frozen before mulching autumn-installed plants. After freeze-up, a thick mulch of leaves and evergreen cuttings will keep their root balls safe from the heaving action of frost.

 Lift big, fibrous clumps of summer phlox, hostas and Siberian irises and divide with a sharp spade or knife; tease apart fleshy roots of daylilies. Late-blooming perennials such as Michaelmas daisies and obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), purchased in bloom, can go directly into garden beds (see #5).

 Plant garlic in October, in a sunny spot with lots of manure dug in. Set individual cloves eight centimetres deep and 15 centimetres apart, and mulch with five to eight centimetres of leaves. Hard-neck Rocambole garlics such as ‘Music' are the hardiest strains, and, when planted in October, can be harvested in July, just as the first cherry tomatoes turn red.

 Autumn is a good time for planting evergreen trees and shrubs. The evergreens' root systems pump water all winter, so be sure to water them well before the ground freezes. And don't hesitate to purchase deciduous flowering shrubs at discounted prices. Even after a summer in containers, they'll adapt and make strong root growth in cool autumn soil.

9. Autumn is the only time to move clematis or honeysuckle vine to prevent shock to growth: both vines begin extending leaves and shoots while frost is still in the spring ground. If the vines are large, cut them back by half, and they'll leap forward next spring.

 Use generous amounts of anti-transpirant sprays (available at garden centres) on needle evergreens and broadleaf evergreens, such as euonymus, Japanese pieris and rhododendrons. The waxy coating helps to preserve tissue moisture and prevent winter windburn and sunscald. And lavish it on your Christmas tree to help keep it fresh through the holidays.

 Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips are sweeter after hard frost and can be harvested all winter. Remove top foliage from the plants and cover them with a 15-centimetre-thick mulch of leaves or straw (available from garden centres) spread to similar thickness. Throw an old piece of carpeting on top and let it snow. Lift the coverings to dig out veggies as needed.

 Tender hybrid teas, floribunda and grandiflora roses need hilling up about 25 centimetres above their crowns with fresh soil or triple mix. A simple trick that reaps armloads of rose blooms is to tie the flexible new canes of climbing roses in a horizontal arc along fences or trellises. This will trigger the breaking and blooming of many more buds next summer.

 As for garden hygiene, pick up or rake diseased leaves from under roses (blackspot) and crabapples (scab) and dispose of them in the garbage, not the compost pile. Left on the soil all winter, they'll reinoculate the plants with disease spores the following spring.

 Squirrels “read” the disturbed soil and marks you leave when planting their favourite tulips and crocuses. Outwit them by concentrating spring bulb plantings in large groups and disguising your marks by flooding the soil surface with water. Then cover them with five centimetres of leaves topped with some shrubby branches.

 Remove the debris of summer annuals, then be honest with yourself: will you really go out in early spring to remove remaining perennials? Clean up as much as possible now, leaving strategic clumps for attractive winter display and food for birds. Sedums, hostas, astilbes and ornamental grasses are beautiful in snow.

16. Unless you really are Snow White, try not to create a garden of little winter dwarfs all wrapped up in burlap coats. Tightly wrapped burlap does plants more harm than good by potentially holding ice against their tissues. To protect them from wind or household dryer vent emissions, set up stake-and-burlap barriers, fastened with diaper pins, to break air currents. 




As I sit here inn my living room looking out the window, I look at the peacefulness of the early morning. It seems the only time lately I get to catch my breathe and enjoy it,  is early morning.

As everyone knows the crazy time for Real Estate agents in Nova Scotia is now. Although you must love what you do , to get into this crazy business, you still need the regroup time as I call it.

Funny I was talking to someone the other day about stress and she said,"I do not know why you would be stressed,you only work when we do not and you show homes, write offers and collect a pay check" I nearly chocked on my sandwich.....   really I said!!!

Sometimes you just have to breathe, think of that nice place and close the mouth... Once I started to think about what my friend had said, I realized that lots of people think this.. So as I sit here peaceful now I am listing the job I do. I am sure there are agents that do more.

Although, this  career will seem glamorous, and at times it is but more than enough , you are working hard to bring value to a person, so he or she can buy or sell that home..

I think about all the times , I cold called a letter in the telephone directory and believe you me I know how if feels to have phones slammed in your ear. I remember walking the malls just with one goal To Pass Out 5-8 business Cards... Seems easy , Yes I know

Since this is probably the biggest purchase or sale of your life, you need someone who is on the ball 7/24.. Real Estate Agents eat sleep and socialize Real Estate.

We work with your bankers, lawyers, insurance companies, inspectors of all kinds to make sure you are taken care of. We need to know the best and the ones who will really look after you..

You know that saying"it takes a village to look that good", well it takes a team working together to bring a outcome that you will be happy with..

Now if something goes wrong with inspections, financing ,or just coming to a price, we need to know the market well, and negitioate for you  so the best is done.for you.

Showing the homes to you is the glamorous part of the job..... I love that part . well actually I like it all..

We as Realtors who work full time , made a choice that we would be out nights and week-ends, we made a choice that we would live on commission, only payable when your home closes.. It is not for the weak at heart but we love it..

Who needs drugs I just need a good day of Real Estate to get me going because there is not a better feeling when you know you have done your best and somewhere there is a client,  happy for their purchase or sale. 

So for my friend who I had lunch with < I must be doing a good job because i make it look easy!! Cheers 

Upcycling is really on the up in Britain and it is no surprise why; gone are the days when consumers solely relied on calling to the local furniture superstore and opted for a generic feeling sofa.

The recession of 2008 may have helped this change in purchasing patterns; with less disposable income, consumers were savvier about what they bought and when but, the need to recycle has also meant more and more of us are to looking to re-use items and their component parts.

So, with saving money always welcome, upcycling is increasingly popular. A great way to harness creativity, why not take a look at some great ways to upcycle furniture? And don’t forget, mixing the new with the old, such as new furniture legs, is also an acceptable part of creating something new, from the ‘old’…

New to upcycling furniture? Check out these great starter projects!

The great thing about upcycling furniture and other items for your home is that there are no hard and fast rules – you are simply creating a bespoke item that you like! These are ideas to help get your creative juices flowing.

Take a look around your home…

…and choose an item that you think you can easily create into something fabulous! Start small, with something like a lampshade or, if you are feeling super-confident, why not give the tired wooden-framed mirror a new lease of life?

Upcycling is really simple; instead of throwing away or giving away the tired looking mirror, simply think of ways that you can give it a new lease of life. Left over paints, especially gloss, can be used to create a frame with a different colour.

You could also use masking tape to create a really simple pattern on the frame and use different coloured paint.

Or aspire to be an ‘advanced upcycling genius’ – instead of getting rid of the old bedstead, think how you could parts of the bedframe creatively; there are some great examples of sawing chunks off legs and frames to create candlesticks or something similar.

Check out the health of the item

But, there are some factors that you do need to keep in mind; for example, you do not want to spend hours and hours gluing, sticking and sewing only to find that because the health of the initial piece of furniture you are upcycling is not good, that it falls apart.

Check out the weak points of many items which, in most cases, are the joints of a piece of furniture. Once you are confident it is in good shape, think about how you could re-use the piece – like an old-fashioned TV unit. With a lick of paint and a new shelf it could be a great storage items for towels and toiletries in the bathroom.

Keep an eye on charity and reclaim shops

There are still great finds lurking in shops and reclaim places all over the UK; from old glassware that can be used as tea light holders to old maps, that are a great way of creating exciting prints for the wall, or used as wallpaper in the smallest room in the house!

You can also shop for larger items at reclaim centres; doors are popular for either as old-style doors within new properties or, as table tops.

But is it hoarding?

With many programmes on TV advising that hoarding is not good for the soul, some people could say that by not throwing something, but saving it for future projects could be something could spiral out of control.

Again, it is important to remember that if you think you can re-use certain aspects or components of an item, then do so. But obviously, storing the old sofa may not be a viable option…

From newbie to advance ‘upcycler’

The great thing about upcycling is that you do not have to be a gifted artist or have too much of a trained creative eye to be able to see the potential in things. From simply recovering a lampshade with new fabric and contrasting ribbon is a great way to upcycle, breathing new life in to old things.

But take some time to do some research, and you will find a whole group of ‘upcyclers’ who have the ability and knack to see potential in everything! From ‘dumpster diving’ (rummaging through skips) to taking things from the side of the road, there are some people who have created the most beautiful interiors from reclaimed and upcycled items.

The next time…

… you need a new sofa, why not recover it in new fabric, give is some new legs or feet, rather than opting for the run-of-the-mill replacement sofa?

The pairing question is probably the most common of them all but, by following a few simple rules, you’ll never have to ask again.

Let’s start with cheese: In terms of texture, all cheeses fall into one of three categories: hard, semi-soft and creamy. Within those categories, a cheese can span an entire spectrum of flavors and aromas, ranging from mild to funky, and from bland to salty. They can be sweet, savory, earthy and bold — just like wine — but not all wines go with all cheeses, although there are some pretty neutral bottles you can always have around. 

Blue cheese: 
Blue cheeses are funky and smelly, but in taste they can range from slightly sweet to tangy or salty. As a general rule, I stay away from blues when making a cheese plate to offer to guests, because some people have a big problem with it, and it doesn't pair well with a lot of wines.

The only wines that will complement blue cheese will be sweet ones such as Sauternes, port or late-harvest wines — in other words, dessert wines. That’s when a blue cheese will taste best, too, served at the end of a meal with dried fruit and nuts, accompanied by a sweet wine — the wine is the dessert. If you’ve never tasted a blue cheese such as Roquefort with Sauternes, you haven't lived. The two flavors combine in your mouth to create a third, addictive flavor, whiich you can’t quite explain — it's funky and succulent all at once.

If you’re a true blue cheese junky (as I am) and you feel that no cheese plate in your house will be complete without something from the blue family, then offer a wine with rich, intense fruit that's big enough to stand up to the pungency of a blue cheese, such as a big, bold zinfandel or a fruit-forward Napa cabernet. In the case of a milder Roqufort, a Chateauneuf-du-Pape might do the trick.

 Champagne and sparkling: 

Another good go-to rule is Champagne and hard cheeses, which always work well together, such as real Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano. And I mean the real stuff chipped from an 80-pound wheel, not the canned powdered stuff. Real Parmigiano Reggiano is oily and salty, and has a hint of pineapple when it’s really fresh. The crisp dry citrus, chalk and green apple skin notes that come from a nice brut can cut the saltiness of the cheese, creating a quenching, rich and clean taste.

On the other side of sparkling pairings, try to avoid serving bubbles with fresh chevre (soft goat cheese), because the combination is an effect similar to when you pour root beer over a scoop of ice cream. 

Now that we’ve gotten sweet, dry, salty and funky out of the way, here are some basic rules:

Crisp white wines like Gavi di Gavi, Sancerre, pinot grigio, Chablis, dry riesling, dry chenin blanc, gruner veltliner or a crisp dry rosé will go with just about any cheese, soft or hard. They have high acid, and a mineral brightness that will combine seamlessly, rarely leaving any off-putting aftertaste.

Red wines that are neutral and safe for nearly all cheeses include pinot noir, Beaujolais, barbera, Chianti and dolcetto. They all have medium acid and a lighter to medium body, so they have the ability to combine well with most cheese without overpowering, or being overpowered.

Match the flavor intensity: 
A common cheese to have on any cheese plate is Brie, because of its buttery, soft and creamy decadence. It easily combines with fruit and can be spread on a sliced baguette because it’s more of a texture, when it comes down to it. A California chardonnay, thanks to its buttery texture and hints of tropical fruit, golden apple and ripe pear, often make it a crowd-pleasing pairing.

By matching the intensity of butter to butter, you create a savory mouth feel. The more intense the flavor of the cheese, the more intense the flavor of the wine can be. So if you’re serving cheddar, feel free to offer Bordeaux, merlot or cabernet sauvignon, or any of your favorite wines from anywhere in the world.

Match the country: 
If you’re really struggling with making a decision, matching the country is an easy go-to. French cheeses go with French wines. The same goes for Manchego and Spanish wines, or Taleggio and Italian wines, but don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Because, after all, the idea of serving wine and cheese when entertaining is mostly about the entertaining itself, and spending time with the people you want to see most. 

Real, cut Christmas trees are easy to care for, but freshness is key. Knowing how to buy and how to care for a real Christmas tree ensures maximum enjoyment throughout the holiday. These tips from the National Christmas Tree Association will help you buy and care for your cut Christmas tree:

  • When you find a tree that you like, do a freshness test to make sure that it’s worthy to come home with you. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You shouldn’t see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of the tree.

  • After you've chosen your live Christmas tree, keep it in a sheltered, unheated area, such as a porch or garage, to protect it from the wind and sun until you are ready to decorate it. If you won't be decorating it right away, place the tree in a bucket full of water that you refill as needed. As you will see in the upcoming tips, watering your Christmas tree is critical for proper care and maintenance.

  • Just before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the trunk (about 1/2 inch up from the original cut) and place the tree in a tree stand that holds a gallon of water or more. If you don’t cut off some of the trunk, the tree won’t be able to absorb water properly, and the live tree will dry out and become a fire hazard.

  • Make sure your tree stand will hold enough water for the size of your tree. Measure the diameter of your tree trunk in inches — that's how many quarts of water your tree stand should be able to hold. (For example, if it measures 6 inches across, then you need a tree stand that can hold 6 quarts of water.)

  • Keep the tree stand filled with water. A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree. If a seal does form, you’ll have to make another fresh cut, which is much harder to do when the tree’s decorated.

  • A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter. Watering your Christmas tree is important because it prevents the needles from drying and dropping off and the boughs from drooping. Water also keeps the tree fragrant.

  • For safety, keep your tree away from all heat sources, such as fireplaces, radiators, baseboard heat, portable heaters, television sets, and heat vents. Not only can all of these can make the tree dry out faster, but can also contribute to setting a tree on fire.

If you're cleaning out the garage, basement, attic or closet, you might be able to make a little money in the process

EBay and a host of TV appraisal shows have reawakened Americans to the value of clutter. But you don't have to stumble across a box of ancient artifacts or antique silver to clear a little cash after a cleaning binge. Old clothes, cell phones, books, CDs, DVDs, stereo components, furniture and even office equipment can bring you a little extra money if you know where to unload them.

First, take anything that might be really valuable out of the mix until you get a professional evaluation, preferably from several different sources.

Then investigate some of the popular venues for the items you have left. Here are some options, what you can typically sell and how to get the most out of what you no longer want:

Consignment shops: These can be a good market for a variety of goods from used clothing and toys to furniture. Most stores specialize in certain items -- usually a particular type of clothing or brand of furniture. Others carry a variety of items.

"You need to match the goods to the items the store is carrying," says Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops. Otherwise, you might not get the highest price for it, she says.

Typically, the store will take your goods and have you sign a contract. If they sell the items, you get a percentage of the sales price, typically 40 percent to 60 percent, says Meyer. A good rule of thumb: "A third of the cost of new is the sum of resale," Meyer says. But in some cases, like that designer handbag or new items with the tags still on, the selling price could be more.

While you give up a portion of the profits, you could make more in the long run than with a garage sale, flea market or even an online sale, says Meyer. "Consignment or resale stores will get the full value because store owners know the real value," she says.

Resale shops will see to it that the item is attractively displayed, plus you don't have to spend your weekend tagging and organizing merchandise or having strangers and nosy neighbors trampling your yard.

And if a buyer bounces a check, "it's not your problem," Meyer says.

Ask how the shop's consignment process works because every store tends to be a little different, says Meyer. Some stores, especially those that sell clothing for kids or teens, will offer the option of giving you cash upfront. Some let you choose between getting less cash now and a potentially larger sum when the item sells.

With some stores, if an item doesn't sell you can reclaim it. With others, it may become the property of the shop or be donated to charity. "Find out what your options are and understand everything completely," says Meyer.

The goods that sell best at consignment shops: "Almost any kind of goods," she says, especially gently used clothing, kids' toys, furniture, costume jewelry, DVDs, CDs or sporting goods.

EBay: Sometimes described as the world's largest garage sale, you can find a buyer for just about anything on eBay. A case in point: Four toilets once owned by Jerry Garcia sold for a little more than $5,000 in 2005.

At the same time, "You shouldn't treat eBay like a rummage sale," says Brad Schepp, co-author of "eBay PowerSeller Secrets: Insider Tips from eBay's Most Successful Sellers." "Selling takes work."

If you want to get a good price for your stuff, put in a little time doing some research and limit yourself to items you can sell and ship fairly easily, he says.

Skip antiques and collectibles until you've learned more about the items and have a little more eBay experience.

It can be a great venue for upscale or specialty clothing like furs or designer dresses or children's clothing from recognized labels, says G.G. Carbone, author of "How to Make a Fortune with Other People's Junk."

If you want top dollar, it also pays to be time-sensitive, she says. Spring is the wrong time of year for fur, but "it's a perfect time to put prom dresses on eBay," Carbone says.

EBay stores: These are often billed as an option that offers the convenience of a consignment store with the marketing advantages of eBay. You take your items to the store and the purveyor sells the items on eBay, ships them to the buyers, accepts and vets payments and gives you your cut of the purchase price. (You can monitor the selling process from your home computer.)

"I think they're great," says Schepp. "They're going to do a little triage on what someone walks in with."

But the concept might be better for general items, rather than specialty collectibles, says Schepp. At a store, workers "are going to know how to take pictures and write a good listing," he says. "But they might not know the jargon for a particular area and may not know how to best frame what you have."

Like consignment stores, they operate independently and rules and rates can vary. So shop around to get the best deal.

The goods that sell best on eBay and at eBay stores: specialty clothing and musical instruments and commodity items such as books, CDs, DVDs, cell phones and modems.

Garage sales: If it works, you make some money and clear some space. If it doesn't, you can put in a lot of work for very little return.

As with real estate, success sometimes comes down to location, location, location, says Carbone. If you have lots of cars going by your house on the weekend, you've got a great garage sale spot. One friend holds a successful yard sale at her beach house every Fourth of July weekend, Carbone says. That's one time she knows there will be tons of traffic going by.

One trick to draw foot traffic: Display a real show-stopper prominently, says Carbone. "A nice piece that makes not only women stop, but men."

Garage sales also take some preparation getting organized and tagged. One winning technique: Carefully hang clothing on a portable rod or even a swing set, rather than throwing it in a box or on a table.

Try to present small objects to their advantage, she says. Find a friend or relative who's good at the garage-sale game and have them arrange the items on a table with a velvet cloth.

It doesn't hurt to recruit a few extra people to help on sale day in case someone has questions or needs help loading an item into a vehicle.

The goods that sell best at garage sales: items for which you know the value (and don't mind bargaining); things you don't want to move yourself or ship (think washing machine, lawn mower, weight set), or items where the real value is in clearing space rather than a profit. Typical garage-sale fare: used clothing, tools, sports equipment, furniture, knickknacks and costume jewelry.

What you don't want to sell: anything valuable. If you've got antiques, jewelry or anything even possibly rare or valuable, you're going to make more selling it in another venue.

Flea markets: If you don't have a lot of traffic in front of your house, or if you want to sell a few household goods or some homemade crafts, try a flea market, says Carbone.

"The one good thing is you get your money that day and you can get rid of a lot of things," she says. "You can also go around and see what else is selling."

Use the same basic principles as a garage sale: lay out an attractive presentation, use an eye-catching item to draw attention and try to anticipate what a buyer might need. (Selling hats or scarves? Bring a mirror so that customers can see how they look.)

You can find flea markets in the Yellow Pages or the weekend section of the local paper. Be prepared to pay a nominal fee to lease a space and for a table if you need one, says Carbone. You can also bring your own.

The goods that sell best at flea markets: garage sale items or handmade crafts, linens, tools, sporting goods, crockery, cookware, clothing, accessories or kitchen goods.

While there are many places to sell your used things, a lot of it just comes down to personal preference.

There are a lot of great ways to sell your old stuff. "It's hard to know which is the best one," says Carbone. Analyze the type of merchandise you have, get an expert opinion on the value of anything that might be worth something, look at the venues available to you and you may find yourself gravitating toward one in particular.

Decorating With Fall Foliage

Fall. A season we all anticipate, but one that feels so fleeting.

It seems as soon as the official first day of the season hits, the leaves are nearing their peak. Soon there will be more foliage on the ground than adorning the branches of the trees. Those bright, autumnal hues of orange, crimson, and gold are ones I always wish to hold on to for just a little while longer.

Today I’m sharing three ways to do just that. When the leaves have nearly all fallen, bring a few indoors to make the gorgeous, color-filled days of autumn truly last the length of the season.

Autumn Leaf Wall Hanging



Dried leaves

Gold acrylic paint



Tacky glue or hot glue

Beads (optional)



I love the rustle of leaves in the fall and this hanging recreates that sound as it hangs in my living room.

To create this wall hanging, brush the leaves lightly with gold paint and allow to dry before adhering the leaves to equal lengths of string using the glue. Tie each string to the stick equidistant apart. Tie a length of string to opposite ends of the stick and join in the middle with a knot, adding beads if using.


Autumnal Candle Holder



Partially dried leaves

Gold paint

Parchment paper

Tacky glue


Clear jar or candle holder


Is there anything better than the soft glow of candlelight on a crisp evening? No, no there isn’t.

To create this softly glowing holder, lightly brush the leaves with the paint and allow to dry. Once the leaves are dry, brush a light layer of tacky glue across the parchment paper and arrange the leaves in a row so they’re slightly overlapping, securing the overlapped edges with more glue. Allow to dry completely. Once the leaves are dry, cut out around them and wrap the sheet of leaves around the candle holder, trimming any excess. Use the tacky glue to adhere the wrapper to the candle holder.


Fall Garland



Dried leaves

Gold paint



This incredibly easy garland adds a gorgeous fall feeling to a space when hung above a mantle or dresser. Even better? It takes all of 10 minutes to create.

If using two different kinds of leaves, lightly brush every other leaf with gold paint and allow to dry. Tie each leaf to the string by the stem.




A new school year means a new grade, new teachers, new goals, and maybe even a new school! In order to help you and your child with special needs be as successful as you can be, we've put together a list of eight helpful back-to-school tips that we hope will make the transition into a new school year a little easier for you and your child.

Organize all that paperwork

In the world of special education, there are lots of meetings, paperwork, and documentation to keep track of. Try to keep a familycalendar of school events, special education meetings, conferences, etc. Setting up a binder or folder to keep your child's special education documentation, meeting notices, and IEPs in sequential order can also help you stay organized.

Start a communication log

Keeping track of all phone calls, e-mails, notes home, meetings, and conferences is important. Create a "communication log" for yourself in a notebook that is easily accessible. Be sure to note the dates, times, and nature of the communications you have.

Review your child's current IEP

The IEP is the cornerstone of your child's educational program, so it's important that you have a clear understanding of it. Note when the IEP expires and if your child is up for reevaluation this year. Most importantly, be sure that this IEP still "fits" your child's needs! If you're unsure, contact the school about holding an IEP review meeting.

Relieve back-to-school jitters

Just talking about the upcoming year and changes can help reduce some of that back-to-school anxiety! Talk to your child about exciting new classes, activities, and events that they can participate in during the new school year. If attending a new school, try to schedule a visit before the first day. With older students, it is sometimes helpful to explain the services and accommodations in their IEP so that they know what to expect when school begins.

Keep everyone informed

It's important that you and the school communicate early and often! If there is anything (concerns, changes, questions about the IEP) that you feel is important to share with the staff working with your child before school starts, or during the year, don't hesitate to contact them! The more proactive and honest you are, the better the school staff will be able to meet your child's needs.

Establish before and after school routines

Discuss and plan the changes in you and your child's daily routine that will happen once school starts. You can even begin practicing your new schedule, focusing on morning and evening routines, and begin implementing them well in advance of the first day of school.

Stay up-to-date on special education news

Being knowledgeable about your child's IEP and their disability can help you become a betteradvocate for your child. Try to keep up-to-date on new special education legislation, news, and events. The more you know, the more prepared you will be to navigate the world of special education and successfully advocate for your child!

Attend school events

Take advantage of Open HouseBack-to-School Night, and parent-teacher conferences to help you and your child get a feel for the school and meet the teachers, other staff, students, and families. Share the positives about working with your child, and let the teacher know about changes, events, or IEP concerns that should be considered for children in special education.

For more information about starting the year off right, please visit Reading Rockets' back to school section.

We talk a lot about pairing wine and beer with food, but what about cocktails? Do you sip cocktails with snacks or with meals — or do you just drink them alone? If you drink them with a bite of food, do you have pairings that you love? Here are a few ideas for pairing cocktails with delicious snacks.

What makes a good pairing of cocktail with appetizer? Do you look for complementary flavors, colors, or textures? Personally, I look for related tastes — a pineapple cocktail with herbs to pair with mozzarella toasts; a crisp gin and tonic to go with cucumber-topped crackers.

Here are a few ideas that seem like they would make great pairings for a cocktail party.

5 Cocktails with Hors D'oeuvres to Match

• Watermelon Mojito with Paella — Sweet, salty, smoky, and a little spicy; all of these flavors would work so well together.

• Gin and Tonic with Cucumber and Shrimp Crackers — Crisp, cool flavors. These two recipes were made for each other.

• Margaritas with Smoky Deviled Eggs with Greek Yogurt — Yes, you could go the obvious route and pair a margarita with guacamole (try this grilled version) but why not try something different? The tangy, salty punch of margaritas would go splendidly with these rich, smoky deviled eggs.

• Pineapple Basil Cocktails with Fresh Mozzarella Toasts with Spicy Herb Oil — Basil paired with herb oil and mozzarella, for a summery take on the caprese salad, in cocktail form. You could also pair this cocktail with thesetomato mozzarella skewers.

• Lemon Verbena and Orange Blossom Fizz withCream Cheese and Arugula Toast Bites — A sweet, herbed (potentially non-alcoholic) cocktail is complemented by creamy yet slightly spicy toast bites. A perfect pair from the garden.

What are your favorite cocktail snacks to go with your own favorite cocktails?

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