South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Vegetable Garden 101: Get The Kids Started On A Veggie Patch Project Today

Vegetable Garden 101: Get the Kids Started on a Veggie Patch Project TodayThinking about ways to engage your children in gardening and educational opportunities outside of the classroom?

Creating your very own veggie patch with them is a great way to help them develop interest in the wonderful hobby of gardening!

Growing a vegetable garden links together many concepts your children are learning about in school while teaching them the art of discipline, responsibility and delayed gratification. Here are some great tips on how to nurture this project with your children.

Choose Pick-And Eat-Vegetables

The joy of being able to eat the fruits of their labors straight out of the garden will be an amazing reward for children. Vegetables like snap peas and cherry tomatoes are great for this. A bonus is that pea seeds are big and easy for those tiny hands to plant if you are going to have your children involved in the garden from the very beginning.

Pick Fun Vegetables The Kids Can Use Later

Another great route when choosing what to plant is picking vegetables that children have a strong connection to. Pumpkins are a great example of this. Children will love to grow pumpkins because of the promise of carving a jack-o-lantern later in the year.

Ensure Your Garden Is Conveniently Placed

One thing you don’t think about until you have kids is how to streamline your garden activities in a way that accommodates them. Convenience is critical when trying to manage children and do gardening at the same time. Go easy on yourself by placing your garden as close to a water source as possible.

Plant A Few Seeds That Will Grow Quickly

It is always nice to give children a bit of excitement right off the start. Lettuce is always good for this. It grows fairly quickly and will grab the interest of your children while they wait for the other plants to sprout.

Make Your Children Planting Assistants

Involving your kids in the planting is definitely a lot of work, but it really helps build their interest and education later on. Get them to hoe rows, dig holes, or water as you plant. This will help them connect all the processes together in their minds, and will keep the engaged later on.

Keep The Garden Front Of Mind

Make the garden an ongoing, continuous project that the children are involved in. Don’t let weeks go by before you bring the kids out to it again – they might get bored or develop other interests. Always look for opportunities to involve them in the work.

Plant A Colorful Garden

One of the easiest ways to get children excited about what is growing in the garden is to make it come alive with color. There are many different ways you can bring a splash of color to the garden. Choose a variety of lettuce, radishes, or squash to bring interesting and unique shapes, sizes and color to the garden!

Building a garden is a fun way to teach your children the value of hard work and perseverance, and to help them learn science! A garden can engage children and draw you all closer together as you work toward a common goal.

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What’s in a Color? Six Paint Colors That Will Affect Your Mood

What’s in a Color? Six Paint Colors That Will Affect Your MoodBelieve it or not, paint colors can affect your mood. When remodeling your home, the color you use on the walls can end up being just as critical to the thematic consistency of your home as the furniture you use to decorate it.

Before you slap any old color on the walls, take some time to consider what mood you’d like each room to inspire.

Red, Yellow And Orange: The Colors Of Excitement, Hunger And Happiness

Ever wonder why the dining rooms, kitchens and entertainment rooms you see in magazines always seem come in every shade of red? It’s because these rooms are dedicated to eating and leisure time. Shades of red, especially bright, vibrant reds, have been linked to increased appetite and increases in energy levels.

In a similar vein, we have shades of yellow. Typically, yellow hues have been known to encourage feelings of happiness and joy.

That said, it’s a good idea to steer clear of especially bright shades of yellow that can be harder on the eyes, as they can foster feelings of frustration and an inability to concentrate.

Orange, like red, provides a great way to bring up energy levels, but like yellow, is prone to cause irritation when used excessively. People are more likely to be excitable and show more enthusiasm in rooms that incorporate this color. In order to reap the benefits of orange without causing irritation, restrict your use of it to the odd wall here and there.

Blue, Green And Purple: The Colors Of Restfulness, Peace And Serenity

It’s no surprise that blue is the color of calm and relaxation. For bedrooms and bathrooms, blue hues are ideal for inspiring restfulness; however, this color’s calming influence makes it a poor paint color choice for high traffic areas where high energy levels are necessary.

Occasionally, overusing this color – especially in darker shades – can bring moods down beyond calmness and into sadness and depression.

Green is yet another color that inspires peace and restfulness. The advantage of green is that the serenity it brings on is accompanied by feelings of rejuvenation and replenishment. Think of green spaces as places where you can gather yourself and quietly rebuild your energy levels.

Purple is often associated with lavishness and luxury in deep, rich hues that spark creative thinking. In lighter shades, it has the same calming influence of blue but, thanks to its red undertones, none of the sadness that blue can often have.

Making The Most of These Colors: A Little Goes A Long Way

It’s unlikely that you will be painting any of the rooms in your house in a single shade of any of these colors. Experiment with different shades and work with colors that inspire similar emotions to break up the visual impression of the room.

You can use neutral paint colors like brown, black and white to bring depth to room, or to suppress the harsh tones of brighter colors like yellow and orange.

Psychologists have long known that colors affect mood, and in recent years, the interior design world has caught on as well. Now that you understand how paint colors can alter your mood, it’s important to paint your walls wisely.

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Water Saving Tips For Spring

Green Living: Water Saving Tips for SpringWater is the planet’s most precious resource. Access to clean water is a privilege that, unfortunately, many people still     take for granted.

By utilizing new water efficiency technologies and age-old conservation methods, we can help preserve the water supply  for future generations. Cutting down on consumption whenever possible is something that everyone can do to live a little greener.

Making Sure Your Home Holds Water

The first stop on your journey to save water is to ensure your home is free of water leaks. Make your way through your home, and properly shut off the water at all fixtures and faucets. Air-cooling systems and other devices that use water should also be shut off.

Read your water meter, wait two hours (without using any water), and check it again. If your water meter gives you two different readings, you are losing water somewhere, and the problem needs farther investigating.

Air It Out And Get In the Flow

Installing aerators on faucets and shower heads reduce their usage by half. These contraptions are inexpensive and easy to install. By injecting air into the water flow, you keep the same water pressure, but use less water.

If you are in the market for a new toilet, complete your water saving bathroom makeover with a low flow, water efficient model. These toilets can save about 9,000 gallons of water a year.

If a new toilet is not in your near future, a simple homemade contraption can cut down on water being flushed away. Fill a water bottle with some pebbles so it sinks, and fill the rest with water. Place the bottle in the cistern of your toilet. By displacing some of the water in the tank, you can save around 500 gallons of water a year.

Obtain A Lush Lawn With Less Water

Over-watering your grass is wasteful and counterproductive. Watering your lawn two times a week is better for grass than daily sprinklings. Giving your lawn a good soaking with an inch of water every few days will keep it lush and save water. You should also avoid over-mowing.

Grass is happiest at two to three inches tall. Over-mowed grass tends to have weak roots, and requires more water to keep it growing strong. Let Mother Nature take care of the watering on occasion, especially during the spring.

Mulch Landscape To Lock In Moisture

Mulch around the trees and shrubs in your yard. Mulch holds in moisture, and will keep the water in the ground longer. There are also water bags on the market that do a great job of keeping young trees hydrated.

Make sure your sprinklers are putting water where it is needed, and not unnecessarily watering the sidewalk. When the sidewalks and patios need a sweeping, make sure you reach for the broom and leave the hose on standby.

By making a few informed decisions to cut down on water consumption, you can feel good knowing you are doing your part to conserve. When water flows freely, it is easy to forget how precious it is.

Remind yourself that water is a resource that needs to be saved, and should not be wasted. Access to clean water is something no one wants to see lost.

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Make Your Home Green This St. Patrick’s Day

modern homeYou’re ready to make some changes to your home, but you want to be smart with your money and see a positive return on your investment.

While most homeowners don’t see that return until they sell their home, you can start seeing the benefits now through conserving energy by making your home green.

So in honor of the upcoming green holiday, stop searching for that pot of gold. Get inspired by St. Patrick’s Day to go green to cut your energy costs with the environmentally friendly renovations below. You’ll soon see the savings building up at the end of the rainbow.

  • Use Reclaimed Wood For Flooring

Instead of chopping down more green for your floors, reclaim wood that’s already been cut. While prices vary depending on they type of wood and how it was transformed, you can get a unique look and conversational piece that no one else will have.

Just think, you could be standing on the Jackson’s old barn or a dismantled ship.

  • Green Your Latrine

Install a low-flow toilet, which according to http://www.ConsumerReports.org could save you money. Older toilets use about 3.5 gallons per flush, while newer low-flow toilets can use less than 1.3 gallons.

If you don’t want to dish out the dough for a new toilet, then add pebbles or a sealed water bottle into the back tank to displace water and reduce consumption.

  • Install A Programmable Thermostat

This is something you can easily do on your own. Purchase a programmable thermostat at any home improvement store for around $50, shut off power to the room you’ll be replacing it in, unscrew your old one and connect the wires to the new one.

Finished! Now you won’t have to worry about remembering to turn the air down at night and you’ll save money monthly.

  • Replace Old Kitchen Appliances

If your refrigerator or dishwasher is more than 10 years old, then consider replacing them with newer energy efficient models. Look for appliances that have Energy Star labels, as these machines have passed strict energy requirements.

While this upgrade might cost you up front, you’ll quickly be saving energy and leaving more green in your bank account. Don’t get pinched this St. Patrick’s Day! Instead of just wearing green, surround yourself in it by making environmentally friendly renovations.

By taking your home green, you’ll reduce your energy usage and see savings in your monthly bills!

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Dine In Style. Kitchen Design Dos And Don’ts For 2014

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home improvement, Homeowner Tips, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on January 24, 2014

Dine In Style, Kitchen Design Dos And Don’ts For 2014The kitchen is one of the most important rooms of your home. It is where you prepare all of your meals and it is often a hub of family activity. When you host a party, the action often ends up in the kitchen.

Where drinks and snacks are enjoyed into the early hours of the morning. It’s crucial that your kitchen functions well because you will use it every day, but you also want to make it beautiful and stylish.

Renovating and decorating your kitchen can also be one of the best ways to increase the resale value of your home. If you are planning on a kitchen makeover:

Here Are Some Dos And Don’ts To Keep In Mind:

  • Don’t forget to consider the proportions of everyone who will use the kitchen. Don’t choose kitchen stools that are too high for your kids to sit on, or cabinets that your wife cannot reach.
  • Think carefully about storage space. What do you need to store and how much room do you need? You might want to store away your blender and toaster and other small appliances as well, so that they don’t have to clutter up the counter all the time.
  • One of the hottest trends of 2014 is a simple and elegant white and cream kitchen. A neutral color like this can be accented with vibrant splashes of color, such as a bright fruit bowl or a wall hanging. If you are selling your home, a neutral tone will appeal more to the majority of buyers.
  • Another popular trend is green and environmentally sustainable elements within the kitchen. Recycled, renewable and energy-efficient products are in abundance at the moment and these options will not only save you money, they will be much better for the environment.
  • Instead of placing your microwave on the counter, it makes a lot more sense to fit it in seamlessly with your cabinets. This will allow you to free up counter space in your kitchen.
  • Be careful not to over design – it’s a common decorating mistake. Keep things simple and know when to stop, so that you don’t have a kitchen that looks overwhelming and cluttered.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind if you are giving the kitchen of your home a makeover for 2014.

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Top 10 Indoor Houseplants For Your Air Quality

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Homeowner Tips by southorangecounty on January 23, 2014

Top 10 Indoor Houseplants For Your Air QualityHouseplants are great for decorating. They can brighten up any room. Plus, houseplants can increase the air quality in a room. That makes you happier, healthier and reduces stress.

Speaking of stress, these plants won’t create any at all. All of the plants on this list are great at producing oxygen and require very little care.

10. Heartleaf Philodendron

A tough plant that’s a good filter for toxins like formaldehyde, Heartleaf Philodendron makes a great houseplant. The only downside is that it’s toxic to eat, so it may not be the best choice for those with kids or pets. But if you can control your appetite, the Heartleaf Philodendron is an excellent indoor houseplant for air quality.

9. Snake Plant

Also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, the Snake plant thrives in the bathroom. It loves the steamy conditions and can do without much light. It’s a great air filter as well.

8. Bamboo Palm

It thrives indoors and requires little maintenance. The Bamboo Palm even produces flowers and berries.

7. Red-edged Dracaena

Another great air filter, the Red-edged Dracaena is interesting because of its size. It can grow all the way to the ceiling. This beast of an oxygen-producing plant makes a great addition to the living room.

6. Chinese Evergreen

This is one of the prettier options. With interesting leaf colorings as well as berries and blooms, the Chinese Evergreen will contribute to your décor as well as your air quality.

5. Peace Lily

The Peace Lily only needs water about once a week. This is a great houseplant for air quality, and it’s easy to care for.

4. Devil’s Ivy

This air purifier looks great in a basket. Try hanging it in the garage.

3. English Ivy

English Ivy is an excellent filter plant. It’s been shown to filter out formaldehyde, which can be found in some cleaning products, and it even filters fecal matter particles (I bet you didn’t even know there were any of those in your house). English Ivy is an invasive species though. It’s fine to keep inside as a houseplant, just make sure it doesn’t end up in the yard.

2. Weeping fig

A type of Ficus, this is a great houseplant for air quality. It’s a bit bigger than the others though. It would fit best in the living room.

1. Spider Plant

The Spider plant is nearly impossible to kill. Even if you’ve been a plant murderer in the past, try this one. It will do wonders for your air quality, and I promise you won’t kill it.

Houseplants have been shown to reduce stress in the home. Combine that with higher air quality and your quality of life can be greatly improved with the help of a new green friend.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can take care of these. These are great houseplants for air quality.

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Before Putting Your House On The Market

Flaws You Cannot Hide By Staging Your HomeWhen you sell your home, you want it look as good as possible. To do this, a real estate agent might help you “stage” your home. “Staging” basically means de-cluttering your home, re-arranging furniture, and de-personalizing each room.

A staged home might be more appealing to buyers and helps to highlight your home’s positive features. Staging, however, is not meant to cover major flaws in your home. Some things just might have to be repaired.

Roof Problems

It doesn’t matter how pretty your home is, your buyer is going to expect you to fix roof problems or adjust your price to cover them. Your roof is one of the most important parts of your home.

Cracked Tile

Of course, you can use throw rugs to cover cracks in your tile, but chances are your buyers are going to look under them. Then they may think you are trying to hide a serious problem like a shifting foundation. Save yourself the headache and have your floors fixed.

Broken Windows

You have to expect your buyers to walk around your home checking out the views from the windows. They’re going to notice any cracks. If you have the budget, consider upgrading your windows and making your home more marketable. At the very least, you should have the glass replaced.

Torn Screens

If you have torn screens, your buyers may think you don’t take care of your property. Yet, screens are fairly easy to fix on your own. With the right supplies from your local hardware store, you can have new, sleek screens in less than a day.

Anything else that obviously needs attention?

Either fix them yourself, or get them professionally fixed. A good handyman might cost you a couple of hundred dollars, but could end up saving you thousands in later negotiations, or re-negotiations, after an inspection, while you’re in escrow.

What can you do, to help?

Before you put your house on the market, go through the house yourself, as if you’re a buyer, looking for ways to improve the presentation. Remember to think in terms of de-cluttering, de-personalizing, and creating a smooth walk-able flow for your buyers to look at your home, with as few distractions as possible.

Then give me a call.

I’ve been helping people get top dollar for their houses for over 37 years.

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Santa’s Landing Pad, Tips For Winter Roof Maintenance

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Homeowner Tips, Real Estate Tips by southorangecounty on December 13, 2013

Santa’s Landing Pad, Tips For Winter Roof Maintenance It’s that time of year again when the weather outside gets frightful but the holiday cheer is delightful. You’ve probably got a lot on your mind during these busy winter months, but make sure that you don’t neglect the roof of your home.

Taking care of your roof is an important part of home maintenance and you don’t want to suffer a leak or any other problem during the cold months.

So how can you make sure that Santa and his sleigh have a solid and well-maintained landing pad when they touch down at your house this year? Here are some tips that every homeowner should know:

Check Out Your Gutters

Your gutters are an important part of your roof, because they allow water to flow away from the roof surface before it causes rot and damage. During the winter, your gutters will be more likely to get clogged with fallen leaves and can get blocked if they are not cleared out.

Get yourself a ladder and a friend to hold it for you and clean any leaves, debris and dirt from the gutters. ( DON’T try to do this alone, if you’re working on a 2 story house. I had a friend who was trying to install Christmas lights, who fell from a tipsy ladder, and didn’t survive the fall.) Flush the gutters out with a hose afterward to ensure they are clean. If your gutters have become damaged or leaky, you can use gutter sealant or fibreglass resin to patch up the hole.

Trim Back The Trees

If you have a lot of trees and vegetation overhanging above your roof, it’s a good idea to trim it back before the winter months. At the moment, it might not be touching your roof – but once it is blown around by the wind it might do some damage.

When hiring a tree trimming service, get a few different quotes from a range of contractors so that you can be sure that you are getting the right price.

Inspect Your Roof For Weak Spots

A roof inspection can save you from a lot of roof damage, which could get even more serious when the weather gets colder and wetter. Start by performing a visual inspection of the inside and outside of your roof.

Look around for any missing tiles and make sure that the gutters are allowing the water to drain freely from the roof. This can be done while walking around your property with binoculars.

If you spot something that looks suspicious, you can hire a professional roofer to take a closer look. They will be experienced and will know what to look for, so that they can find the weak spot and fit it right away. A roof inspection will cost you, but it is a lot cheaper than paying for a new roof!

These are just a few important maintenance tasks that you can perform in order to ensure that your roof is in tip top shape to welcome the winter season – and a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer!

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Ensure Your Fireplace Is Up To Snuff

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Home safety, Homeowner Tips by southorangecounty on December 6, 2013

Ensure Your Fireplace Is Up To SnuffWhen it’s cold outside, there’s nothing quite as cozy as curling up on the sofa with a good book in front of a roaring fire. A fireplace evokes the idea of a warm and pleasant atmosphere.

However, if it isn’t properly maintained, your living room could be filled with a cloud of soot, or worse, fire. A fireplace not only creates a snug setting, but most are actually functional and can help heat your home.

Harness their heat and generate the ambiance of a softly lit living space by following the tips below to ensure yours is properly maintained and working efficiently before the first cold spell hits.

Clean It Regularly

Have your chimney cleaned out twice a year. The recommended number varies depending on how often you use your hearth. However, you should have it cleaned every fall to ensure it’s properly vented so that smoke has a way to escape.

Also, you’ll want to make sure that no animals have made their home there over the summer.

Close The Damper

Make sure you close the damper when you’re not using the fireplace. You don’t want to make your furnace work overtime because warm air is sneaking up and out the chimney.

Install A Chimney Cap

If your home doesn’t have a chimney cap, then have one installed. These help to prevent leaves, animals and other debris from falling down the chimney. Caps also help keep downdrafts from gusting into your living area.

Burn Firewood Only

A fireplace isn’t the spot to burn your broken chair or ex-girlfriends photos. Painted wood, plastic and other treated wood surfaces can release chemicals into the air of your home. Worse, they can coat the interior walls of your fireplace, so you continue breathe them in for the next couple of fires.

Mount Smoke Alarms

If you don’t already have them, mount smoke alarms near your hearth and in every bedroom. Consider installing combined carbon monoxide and smoke detectors if you have a home with a gas-burning fireplace.

Don’t use your fireplace without taking the right precautions. Get it cleaned, and if it’s your first use, then be sure to get it inspected beforehand. Make the hearth in your home the heart of your home by following the tips above to ensure it’s up to snuff this fall.

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Quick Tips To Prepare Your Home For The Winter

Posted in Around The Home, Around The House, Home How To, Home Maintenance, Homeowner Tips by southorangecounty on November 29, 2013

Quick Tips To Prepare Your Home For The WinterThe calendar has turned and with that we receive less sunlight, colder temperatures, and shorter days ahead, it’s an opportune time to cross those last-minute maintenance items off your homeowner to-do list.

Practicing preventive care – both inside and outside your home – can save thousands of dollars in repairs come later this winter. What follows is a brief checklist to get you started.

For Outside The Home:

  • Inspect exterior lights and outlets. Be sure that none of the outlets are cracked or broken, or have exposed wires.
  • Clean gutters and clear all blockages. If leaves are falling, redo after leaves are off all trees.
  • Inspect and test outdoor railings and stairs.
  • Have problem trees trimmed, including those that may damage your home in a storm.

For Inside The Home:

  • Change batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, whether they’re “dead” or not.
  • Vacuum refrigerator condenser coils, plus the front bottom grill. Empty and clean the drip pan.
  • Inspect wood stoves and fireplace inserts. Hire a certified chimney sweeper to clean the chimney, if needed.
  • Inspect automatic garage door opener. Lubricate chains according to manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure bolts and screws are properly tightened and secured.

As a constant series of chores, home maintenance is a four-season job and one which should not be taken lightly. The tasks of each season are unique and this month is mostly preparatory in advance of colder weather.

If your routine maintenance uncovers larger issues including a faulty HVAC unit, or a leaking faucet, for example, seek professional help to make the repair.

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