To increase the odds of a quick, well-priced sale, make the effort to get your home viewer ready.  It is important when selling a home you do a few minor improvements that can be extremely persuasive when it comes to appealing to buyers.  Buyers need to envision the homes as his or hers, not yours.  You want to try to make your home look less like you and more like a new house.  Doing the simple and inexpensive things can speed the sale of your home and ensure a fair selling price.


1.  DO A THOROUGH CLEANING:  It should go without saying, dust bunnies and dirty windows are going to be turnoffs to most buyers.  They are looking to buy a “new” house, so any signs lack of upkeep will be viewed negative.  It’s worth hiring a service to clean carpeting and remove stains from upholstery.

2.  UPDATE THE BATH:  If your toilet seat is worn, stained or dated, put in a new one (the cost is about $30 and the job takes less than 10 minutes).  Replace the shower curtain and liner.  Re-caulk around the tub, when this job is done right it will score lots of points with prospective buyers.

3.  IMPROVE THE LIGHT:  Everyone loves light, so make sure draperies are open and replace missing or dim light bulbs.  If your compact fluorescent lights have dimmed over time, replace them.  When showing the home turn on all lights and open all windows, even in the middle of the day.

4.  CLEAR OUT CLUTTER:  Get serious about throwing out or donating stuff you don’t need.  Closets, and cabinets should have space and not be packed full.  Remove unnecessary and unused furniture from rooms to help make rooms look larger.  You are getting ready to move so start packing all of the knickknacks and personal items.

5.  PAINT OVER RISKY COLOR CHOICES:  If your bedroom is purple or your living room is orange, cover it up with a nice light beige.  Even if your house is already painted in neutral colors, consider repainting rooms where the walls and ceilings are stained or faded.  Nothing makes rooms look new like a fresh coat of paint and it’s one of the most affordable ways to update your space.


All of these examples are from homes using the same furniture they already had.

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before after 6Contact the Cross Group for help on getting your home ready to sell….


In our homes we are always looking for extra space.  Consider using the area under your stairs to fill a need you might have in your home.  Below are 15 stair storage ideas to inspire you to find the best fit for your home.


























13.  DAY BED






What is under your stairs?

Provided by:

  • Kari Cross
  • Intero Real Estate Services
  • 925-584-1640
  • kcross@interodb.com


So I love Pinterest….BUT

I’m pretty sure it is responsible for many marriages ending in divorce….

and mine might be next!


What kind of people can actually “DO IT YOURSELF ?”  Is it really DIY ?

If my husband comes home from work again and I say to him “look what I found on Pinterest today”, I might have to look for a new place to live.  I have to say I have found many clever crafts on Pinterest and I have made some amazing meals that my family loves.  The problem is my percentage of good to bad is really low, and getting lower.  I have two really bad Pinterest finds and the second one might make my husband divorce me.

It started small.  I went grocery shopping and made purchased the food to put together a month of crock pot meals.  I worked all day and made the meals just like I found on Pinterest and it was totally awesome.  I won’t have to cook late at night, I will come home in the afternoon and the house will smell wonderful.  Everything was wonderful until we sat down to eat them and they were all really bad, so bad I had to make a second dinner for the family.  I have learned that my family is obviously very picky about the food we should stick to the food we are used to.


Then I decided to get crafty.  When remodeling my daughters bedroom she wanted something different and cool so obviously we went on Pinterest for ideas.  We saw several ideas that we loved and we decided on an EASY project.  Well, it looked like an easy project.  Half way through the project I found out the truth…. it was not a DIY project at all.  What kind of person can “Do It Yourself ?”   I thought we would get some old wood pallets paint them white and stack them to make an elevated bed and L-shaped coach.  In my head it looks really cool and super easy.  What it didn’t say on the website was:

  1. Not all pallets are the same size and shape   What?  How was I supposed to know that?
  2. You have to sand the pallets before you paint them.  That was not a step I planned in my head.
  3. You have to use a paint sprayer to get the paint inside the holes of the pallet.

I went from throwing some paint on some pallets and stacking them against the wall to needing my husband to cut, sand, and paint the pallets…… see how the divorce scenario came to play?  It is still an awesome idea….. just not the DIY project I thought it was.  (I will have to share pictures when it is done, only half way finished at this point)


P.S.  I know several people who have made the crock pot meals and they loved them….I also know that many projects are actually DIY, but some should be labeled Do IT With A Team Of Experts.






If you’ve been following housing market news this year, you may have been surprised by the latest home sales numbers to come out this week.  Sales of existing homes stalled at 4.92 million, dropping 0.6% in March from February.

With the recent market recovery of 2013 and the anticipation of a hot spring real estate market, many people are wondering what is going on?

THE PROBLEM IS LACK OF HOMES.   There’s plenty of demand from buyers, but just not enough to choose from on the market.   Most areas are experiencing multiple bids, and many buyers are waiting daily for new homes to come up for sale.

Some sellers are also being affected as well.   Sellers are seeing how difficult it is to find a home right now and they are not confident that if they sell their home they will be able to find a new one to move into.

Despite the decline in March sales from February, home sales were still 10.3% higher than the same month a year ago, marking the 21st consecutive month of year-over-year increases. That’s good news, and a good indicator of how the market is trending in the big picture.

Demand is still strong, according to the National Association of Realtors, which reported buyer traffic is 25% above a year ago. But the drop in available homes has put upward pressure on prices. And some buyers are getting frustrated and priced out.

SELLERS:  If you didn’t have enough equity to sell your home last year, you may be able to sell now.  Talk to a Realtor today and take advantage of the recent up turn in pricing and the current surplus of buyers.  Find out if you have enough equity in your home to make the move you have been waiting for.

BUYERS:  It is very important to have a Realtor send you homes daily as they come on the market.  If you are looking to buy a home right now you will have to be fast and be prepared for the current conditions.  Your local Realtor will help you navigate today’s market.

  • Kari Cross
  • Intero Real Estate Services
  • 925-584-1640
  • kcross@interodb.com


During peak months, my energy bill is so high!  I am looking for some easy ways to cut my energy costs and thought I would share some findings…….

TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER AT NIGHT (Save up to $105 a year)

Why?   Turning your computer off at night could save you up to a third of its energy costs, depending on your use and power management settings. Save even more by plugging your computer, monitor, and printer into one power strip and turning the strip off when you go to bed.

Is it okay to frequently shut down my computer? The U.S. Department of Energy assures that switching a computer on and off multiple times does not negatively affect its life because advances in technology, typically computers are replacement before equipment failure occurs. In fact, giving your computer a rest can be good for it. Certain software updates require computers to shut down, and the fan is more likely to wear out on a machine that run constantly. Good to know: Some computers have settings that can automatically turn a computer on or off at certain times of day. You are most likely to find these options in the Control Panel folder on a computer running Windows® or in System Preferences on a Mac®. Check your owner’s manual for more specific information.
  • Shut your computer down during the day when you will not use it for the next two hours.
  • Unplug the computer or switch off its power strip after it powers down.
  • Turn off your monitor too for greater savings.


Why?    The edges of doors and windows are often not sealed well, allowing cold air to seep into your home or air conditioning to escape. Windows and doors can be responsible for up to 25% of heat loss in a typical home and 33% of summer heat gain. Weatherstripping your windows and doors will help reduce this leakage.

Step-by-step: Do it yourself:Using affordable supplies from a local home improvement retailer, you may be able to seal your windows and doors yourself. You can usually complete the work within a day, making this an easy weekend project.
  • Doors
    1. Reduce air leakage at the bottom of exterior doors. For a no-cost solution, use rolled-up towels. Or:
    2. Install sweeps at the bottom of exterior doors. Available at most hardware and home supply stores, sweeps are generally plastic or metal strips that you apply to the bottom of the door.
    3. Install low-cost compressible foam. This creates a tight seal around the door. Don’t forget to seal doors into unheated areas of your home, such as the garage.
  • Windows
    1. Seal windows. Rope caulk and compressible foam are very inexpensive. Or,
    2. Install weatherstripping. The cost for this is slightly higher, but still reasonable. Plus, this is a more permanent solution.

SEAL AIR LEAKS (Save up to $100 a year)

Why?    Air leaks can be a large source of air loss in your home. This raises your heating and cooling costs and can make your home less comfortable.

  1. Purchase caulk and/or polyurethane foam appropriate for the surfaces you plan to seal. Check the label for its best uses and whether it is appropriate for indoor or outdoor use. Some caulks are specially designed for small leaks along the edges of walls. Foams are more appropriate for larger gaps and holes.
  2. Find leaks. To find leaks, try to follow drafts of air to their source on the wall, floor, ceiling, and around ductwork. Watching how the smoke of a smoke pen or burning incense flows is one way to check for leaks and drafts.
  3. Check where different materials meet. Look where brick meets wood siding, between the foundation and walls, between the chimney and siding, where gas and electricity lines exit your house, and where there are any penetrations through the floor from unheated crawlspaces and basements.
  4. Seal any cracks you find. Use the right sealant for each leak.

USE DIMMERS (Save up to $35 a year)

Why?   A standard light switch gives you two lighting options – full brightness or none at all.  Dimmers give you more control over the level of light in a room, which opens up stylistic possibilities and saves electricity.  By using only as much light as you need, you can save up to 40% on your lighting bill while extending the life of your bulbs.standard masonry fireplace can add charm to a home, but is also an inefficient way to produce heat. You can make a few easy changes to your fireplace to improve its efficiency.

Even a small reduction makes a difference. The human eye can barely tell the difference between full and 90% brightness, but setting a dimmer at this level can still save you 10% on the room’s lighting costs.


Why?      Though you’re rarely awake to see them, outdoor lamps left on all night can consume more electricity than most of your other light fixtures. However, motion sensors can reduce their energy use by 80% without compromising security or style.

How it works: Motion sensors turn lights on when they detect movement in their vicinity. After a certain amount of time elapses, the lights switch off. You can adjust the time delay.
  • Lights with motion sensors can also contain photocells, which sense sunlight and switch on your lights only when it’s dark outside. ENERGY STAR® fixtures with photocells are available.
  • You can buy new lights that include motion sensors or retrofit your current lights with their own sensors. Either purchase should include installation instructions. The installation itself should take about 30 minutes.
  • If you are using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), be sure to look for a motion sensor that is compatible with these types of bulbs.

TURN OFF LIGHTS WHEN NOT NEEDED (Save up to $45 a year)

Why?    An average home’s lighting bill can account for 15% of electricity costs. Turning lights off when you’re not in the room is a simple way for you to make a dent in your utility bill.

How it works:
  • You save energy whenever you turn off a light, unless you plan to turn it on again immediately. Light bulbs use a little bit of extra energy to “start up” — for a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), only a few seconds of operating power.
  • Turn off incandescent bulbs every time they are not needed.
  • Turning a CFL on and off many times per day can reduce its operating life. If you turn your CFLs on and off very often, you may need to replace them sooner. Generally, it is cost effective to turn off a CFL when you won’t need it for 15 minutes or more.
  • Make it a habit to turn lights off each time you leave a room.
  • Before you go to sleep, walk through your home and shut off any forgotten lights.
  • Encourage other family members to turn off their lights, as well. This is a great way for young children to do their part in saving energy.

USE AND SWITCH OFF POWER STRIPS (Save up to $85 a year)

Why?    Many computers, televisions, and other devices draw power even when they are turned off. Since plugs to these devices can be tough to remove from the outlet and reconnect, use a power strip. With a flip of the switch, you can easily cut off power to multiple devices at once, saving time, energy, and money.

What to look for:
  • Surge protection strips with their own circuit breakers or surge protectors. Protect connected devices in the event of a short-circuit or power surge.
  • Programmable strips with timers. Power down connected appliances according to a schedule you set.
  • Smart” strips that link electronics together. Shutting down one “master” device, such as a computer, automatically turns off peripheral devices, like speakers or printers, on the same strip.
  • Remote controls. Turn off hard-to-reach power strips with the push of a button as you leave the room.
  • More spacing between sockets. This ensures that the strip can fit multiple large power adaptors. This is an especially important feature if you are buying a power strip for a home office.
The energy that some electronics draw while they are off is called a “phantom load.” Products that waste electricity this way are often called “vampire devices.” Which of my electronics are likely to be vampire devices?

  • Televisions
  • Digital video recorders (DVRs)
  • Computers
  • Entertainment systems
  • Video game systems
  • Printers, scanners, and fax machines
  • DVD players
  • Coffee-makers
  • Microwaves
  • Cell phone and battery chargers
  • Any device with a remote control or LED indicator light


Why?    Setting your thermostat for energy savings can decrease your cooling and heating bills significantly.

  • Set your “home occupied” temperature. When you are awake and at home, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat no higher than 68°F for heating and no lower than 78°F for cooling.
  • Set your “away from home” temperature. When you are away from home, set the thermostat to an energy-saving level. Setting the temperature at least 10°F higher in the summer and 10°F lower in the winter is a good rule of thumb.
  • Go the extra mile: To save even more energy, set your thermostat at least 10°F lower in the winter or 4°F higher in the summer when you’re asleep.


Why?   A standard masonry fireplace can add charm to a home, but is also an inefficient way to produce heat. You can make a few easy changes to your fireplace to improve its efficiency.

  • Seal the top. Install a removable chimney cap or a permanent one if you do not plan to use the fireplace.
  • Keep the damper closed. The damper should be closed tightly whenever you are not using the fireplace.
  • Seal the front. Install a glass door to control the draft when you have a fire.
  • Go the extra mile: A professionally installed fireplace insert is the best option. Fireplace inserts can be cost-effective depending on the age and nature of your fireplace.

OPEN YOUR SHADES ON WINTER DAYS (Save up to $5 a year)

Why?   Taking advantage of winter sunlight can help make a dent in your heating costs. Open blinds during the day to provide natural lighting and capture free heat.

  • When you let the sun in, remember to lower the thermostat by a few degrees. These two steps combined are what save money and energy.
  • South-facing windows have the most potential for heat gain. Keep the drapes up and windows clear in order to let in the most light.
  • The sun is most intense from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so make sure windows are uncovered during these hours. Close window coverings at night to insulate windows.


Why?   Heating and cooling consume the most energy in the average home — up to 50% of total home energy use. Dirty air filters make your furnace, central air conditioner, or room air conditioner work harder to circulate air. By cleaning or replacing your filters monthly, you can improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

WASH CLOTHES WITH COLD WATER (Save up to $20 a year)

Why?   Washing your clothes uses a sizable amount of energy, especially if you use warm or hot water. About 90% of the energy consumed for washing clothes is used to heat the water. Unless your clothes have oily stains, washing with cold or warm water will clean your clothes just as effectively.

SHAVE A MINUTE OFF SHOWER TIME (Save up to $60 a year)

Why?    The average American spends about 8 minutes taking a shower roughly once a day.  Reducing average shower time by 1 minute can result in a 13% decrease in shower water use, which reduces the money you spend on water heating. 

  1. Time yourself and others. See how long you and your fellow household members take to shower and compare your shower times to the national average. Use a water-proof timer in the shower or a kitchen timer out of the shower.
  2. Set a goal for showering a bit faster.
  3. Added benefits: In addition to saving money on energy, you’ll also save on water costs.


I thought it might be time for some more kitchen and household tips.  See the previous tips at PART 1 and PART 2.

REHEAT PIZZA:  Use a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, heat on med-low until warm.  This keeps the crust crispy and not soggy like a microwave.

CHEESE:  Store open chunks of cheese in aluminum foil to keep it staying fresh longer and not mold.

GREASE:  Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef.  It will help pull the grease away from the meat when cooking.

GARLIC:  Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic, and at the end of the recipe if you want a stronger taste of garlic.

BANANAS:  Take your bananas apart at home to store them.  Leaving them connected at the stem makes them ripen faster.  Also keep them away from other items as they will ripen other food as well.

MEASURING CUP:  Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill it with hot water.  Remove the hot water but don’t dry the measuring cup.  Add ingredient (such as peanut butter) and it will come out easily.

PEPPERS:  Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.  Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

STATIC CLING:  A small safety-pin to the seam of your slip, skirt, or slacks will eliminate static cling.

ANTS WITHOUT POISON:  Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants.  They eat it, take it home, and can’t digest it.  It takes a week or so, but you won’t have to worry about your children or pets.

LEG SHAVING:  Use hair conditioner to shave your legs.  It is cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth.

FOGGY WINDSHIELD:  Use a chalkboard eraser and rub it on a foggy window.  Works better than a cloth.

MOSQUITOES:  Try putting a dryer sheet in your pocket to help keep the mosquitoes away.


If ever a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is it for me…..  I am sure I could just post this picture and it would start a wide-spread debate, but of course I have to give my two cents along with it…..

A few months back my daughter stayed with us while her husband was in boot camp and I had this debate with her….

On two different occasions I sat down to find side A and quickly changed it to side B.  The third time I sat down to the side A roll I thought it was time to have the discussion.  “Now that you have a home of your own you have to know the correct way to put on a roll of TP….I can’t believe I never taught you the correct way!…….. don’t you know better?……”  She of course had no idea what I was talking about.

Her take was “You are out of toilet paper, you put on a new roll….Period!”

Having three children (4 if you count my husband…love you Honey!)  It is always a good thing just to have the roll on the wall and not sitting on the counter next to the toilet so I shouldn’t be picky about which way it rolls.  9 times out of 10 I can go into the bathroom to find only 1 square on the roll or an empty roll on the wall and a half used roll sitting on the counter.  How many times did the family pick up the roll from the counter to use it and put it back on the counter instead of putting it on the wall?  Really?

I think I like side B because it reminds me of when I was a little girl and my family would stay in a hotel.  I remember how the end of the toilet paper was always folded into a point and looked so fancy.  Although I don’t fold my toilet paper into a point, I do always make sure it is pointed the “Right Way”…… B



With the way the Real Estate market is today, many of my clients that used to have large homes will save money buying a small home in the same neighborhood.  Also, many families are short selling their homes and finding themselves moving into a new rental home.  Whatever your situation is, it is important to make your home work for your families needs.

Buying a small home can have many advantages and benefits for your family and your pocketbook.

A small home has many advantages over larger homes.  They cost less to purchase and cost less to maintain, but making the transition to smaller square footage can be difficult unless you know how to make every inch count.

The first thing to remember is to be flexible.  Instead of defining every room with a single purpose, allow each are to adapt to your needs and be able to make changes as needed.  Just because your home has a master suite doesn’t mean you are bound to cram three kids into a second bedroom and keep the master for yourself and your spouse.  It could be hard to give up the large bedroom, but giving your children the extra space may mean they now have room for all their toys and they won’t have to have a play area in the living room.

Make things as multi-purpose as possible.  Downsize the amount of food you have in your kitchen pantry and repurpose that space into an intimate library or general utility closet.  A large walk-in closet can hold clothes and serve as your crafting corner.  A breakfast nook in the kitchen can double as an eating area and mini office.

Most homes today have multiple televisions, gaming systems and computer stations.  Scaling back to one TV/entertainment zone can inspire family togetherness and ignite more daily interaction  Another advantage to a smaller home is being able to easily keep an eye on kids, pets and guests.  Since everyone is in close proximity, it is easier to hear what’s going on throughout the house.

Always take advantage of outdoor space.  Even the tiniest patio or private deck can provide extra room for the family to spread out.  Install all-weather curtains or shades to create privacy and lay down a waterproof rug to give it a cozy feel.  A small cafe table is perfect for dining, doing homework, reading or relaxing.

Financially a small home will save you money each month.  A more modest living space equals less energy consumption which equals lower utility bills.

Learning to work with your individual space is a fun challenge.  The more you embrace the livability of your small home, the easier it becomes to see opportunities around every corner.


When your family is home, it is important to have peace of mind in knowing that your loved ones are as safe as they can be.   It is easy to be comfortable in our home and forget some simple things that can help keep your family safe.

1.  Make sure your exterior house numbers are easy to read from the street so emergency crews can find your home.

2. With everyone using cell phones for 99% of calls, it is important to make sure that children know calling 991 from a home phone will provide a faster response than calling from a cell phone.

3.  Check smoke alarms every month and replace batteries once a year.  I know this is really easy and everyone knows to do this, but it is also very easy to forget.

4.  Make sure you also have a Carbon Monoxide detector outside all sleeping areas.  Where I live, this is now a law but it is a good idea for everyone.  Carbon Monoxide is hard to detect until it is too late.

5.  Clean out the dryer vent regularly.  Many home fires are a result of dirty dryer vents.

6.  Make sure you block inappropriate content on the internet to protect your children.  This includes the computer, cable television, Xbox, Playstation, etc. Remind your kids not to talk to strangers online.

7.  Be discreet on your facebook, twitter, etc.  Don’t give out personal information such as your home address, when you will be out-of-town, etc.  This is important to remind your children when they are telling their friends what they are doing.  Teach your children to only post things that they have already done so people don’t always know were they are.

8.  Also remember to lock all doors and windows and to keep some lights on a timer to detour unwanted guests.


If you are looking for easy cooking ideas, single pot cleanup, and cutting your food and energy costs with low heat cooking, then IT IS TIME TO DUST OFF YOUR RETRO 1970’s SLOW COOKER and save yourself time and money.  As advertised…..this Rival Crock-Pot is “The Working Woman’s Dream!”  Although you probably can’t purchase one for $14.77 anymore, if used right it is well worth the expense.

Save Time:

Using a slow cooker is very easy to do….just layer your food and forget it.  It is not only hands free cooking, it is eyes free cooking.  You don’t have to stand around and monitor the food because there is no boiling over or burning.  You can spend more time with your family and friends and several hours later the food is done and  ready to eat.

Slow cookers allow you to make a meal for the entire family in one dish.  You will not be in the kitchen all night cleaning several pots and pans, one pot and your done.  Remove the slow cook insert, give it a good soak and it will clean right up.

Save Money:

When you use a slow cooker for 7 hours you will use over 50% less energy than using your stove for 1 hour.  This will translate to a lower energy bill and more money in your pocket.

When using a slow cooker, you can buy a cheaper cut of meat.  Because you will be cooking the meat over a low heat for a longer time, the meat tenderizes and will make great stews and soups.

Buy a larger cut of meat and make several meals in one.  (chicken breast for dinner, chicken noodle soup for lunch, chicken tacos the next day) or (pork roast dinner, pulled pork sandwiches for lunch, and soup the next day) etc.

I love getting up in the morning, and putting all of my ingredients into the slow cooker and heading out for my day.  When I return home in the evening, the house smells fabulous, and dinner is ready to put on the table.  Using a Crock Pot or Slow Cooker is a smart choice for many different reasons.


My families favorite recipe is: Roast

  • Place 1/2 (large can) cream of mushroom soup in bottom of slow cooker
  • Salt and pepper large roast and place in pan
  • Cut 1 onion into strips and spread over roast
  • Peal and cut carrots and place in slow cooker
  • Peel and chop potatoes into quarters
  • Add the remaining cream of mushroom soup and a little water
  • Cook all day and enjoy!


When my children help me load the dishwasher I always find myself re-arranging the dishes they put in…..Did they see where the cups go when they took the clean dishes out?  Do they put them in the “wrong” spot so I won’t ask them to load it again?  Is there way right or is my way right?

Every time I go to someones home for dinner, I see a different way to load the dishes…..Is there a wrong way and a right way, or is there really more than one way to skin a cat?

I decided to do a little reasearch and I found that as long as you follow a few simple rules, it is OK if the arrangement varies.

  1. Everything loaded in the dishwasher should always face the middle because most dishwashers have the water spray from the center out.
  2. Never cover the soap dispenser door… avoid blocking this area to ensure the soap will be dispersed correctly.
  3. Load large items at the sides and back of the dishwasher.
  4. The top rack is best for glasses, mugs, cups, small bowls, plastic and delicate items that are more fragile but dishwasher safe.  Glasses should be placed upside down in between the tines, not over them.  (They’re less secure when placed over the tines, increasing the risk of damage….plus, the tines can cause food and water to get trapped inside.  Place any utensils that will not fit properly in the silverware basket on the floor of the top rack.
  5. The bottom rack is best for pans, baking dishes, oversize bowls, and plates.  All items should face down and toward the center sprayer.
  6. Load silverware with handles down (sharp knives can be loaded with handles to avoid injury)  Be sure to mix spoons, forks, and knives to prevent them from sticking together.


My Grandmother was an amazing cook and it was always fun to watch her in the kitchen.  She never used a recipe, she would just through ingredients in and the results would be delicious.  I, on the other hand, can follow directions to the letter and it would never come out as good.

I would often call her for cooking advice, and I can remember how frustrated I would get trying to figure out what she was saying.  She should tell me to “put in some sugar,” or “add some salt.”  I would always say “how much should I put in” and her response would be “you will know……just a pinch.”  BUT I NEVER KNEW!

I found a conversion chart saw that a pinch and a dash is an actual measurement…..who knew?


  • a Hint = 1/2 drop
  • a Drop = 1/64 tsp (1/2 smidgen)
  • a Smidgen = 1/32 tsp (1/2 pinch)
  • a Pinch = 1/16 tsp (1/2 dash)
  • a Dash = 1/8 tsp (1/2 tad)
  • a Tad = 1/4 tsp
  • Juice of an orange = 1/2 cup
  • juice of a lemon = 3 Tbls


  • 3 tsp. = 1 Tbsp.
  • 4 Tbsp. = 1/4 cup
  • 16 Tbsp. = 1 cup
  • 1 cup = 8 fl oz
  • 2 cups = 1 pint
  • 2 pints = 1 quart
  • 4 quarts = 1 gallon


  • tsp = teaspoon
  • Tbsp = tablespoon
  • c = cup
  • pt = pint
  • qt = quart
  • gal = gallon
  • lb = pound
  • oz = ounce
  • fl = fluid
  • lg = large
  • sm = small
  • pkg = package


  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch = 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter = 7/8 cup oil + 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar = 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar = 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 clove garlic = 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice = 1/2 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 cup oil = 1/2 lb butter



What a Mother’s Day!  I woke up and started getting things ready for breakfast.  All the kids came in with flowers and cards.  The card I got from my oldest daughter and son-in-law said Happy Mother’s Day Grandma………What?  They told me that the were going to be having a baby!  So exciting……even thought I feel like I am a little young to be a grandmother. 🙂

The rest of my cards were also great and my middle daughter and my son wrote me some pretty great notes.  My husband gave me five cards in one which was cool.  We ate breakfast and it was time for an activity…..

This year I wanted to have everyone do a “family project” together.  I love the time we all spend together doing family projects…and usually we end up with some pretty cool stuff  (although we have had times when we just made a mess.)

Since I don’t have any kind of green thumb, or own any live plants….I thought we could try to make a TERRARIUM.  Saturday I went to the store and found a couple great glass containers and bought the needed supplies.  (I wanted to make one for my mother and have my kids make one for me) 

The kids each took turns putting in a layer and then all worked together to put in the plants and creat a scene.  We had a lot of laughs and made a huge mess.

When we were all done……we did it!  It looked sooooooo cool!  Complete with people camping on the beach and a dear coming out of the “forest”.

If you are interested in making a Terrarium…. this is how we did ours:

  • layer 1…..Small rocks to cover the bottom
  • layer 2…..soak dried moss in water for one minute and cover rocks
  • layer 3…..cover dried moss with unfertilized soil
  • layer 4…..fresh moss on top and decorate with rocks, sand, and figurines

Place a lid on the container to seal the terrarium and lock in moisture. 

What would your terrarium look like?



March 20th was the first day of Spring and at my house it was heavily raining and it felt more like the middle of Winter.  The sun has now arrived and it is starting to feel more like Spring.  With the sun arriving, it is important to remember to care for our lawns, gardens, plants, etc. 

With more families planting gardens to save money at the grocery store I thought I would share some fun trick and facts about gardening:

  • Check with your local nursery for discarded planting trays, used disposable pots, etc.  You can recycle them and use them in your own garden.
  • When you buy produce in little baskets (like berries, cherry tomatoes, etc.), save the baskets & use them for organizing around the house or garden, or even for seed starting planters.
  • Use small laundry baskets for harvesting your produce. Poke a few small drain holes in the bottom of the basket, and you can hose off the produce outside. Let them drain in the baskets, and save yourself from having to do the clean-up in the kitchen!
  • Have plants that need extra irrigation?  Save your milk cartons.  Poke drainage holes in it, and bury it near a plant (or between plants) that need extra watering.  When making your watering rounds, fill the container with water.  Water then slowly leaks out directly into the soil at the level of the roots.  Using this method, you don’t lose so much water to evaporation, as if you were watering on the ground surface level.
  • Keep your melons from rotting as they ripen by placing a flat stone (or concrete) beneath the fruit.
  • Save that old empty parmesan cheese shaker – and fill it with a mixture of fine seeds and sand.  Then simply shake to spread the seeds as you’re planting.
  • When should you transplant trees and shrubs?  Any month that has a “R” in it….September, October, November, December, January, February, March and April.  Never May, June, July or August.
  • When your hands are badly stained from gardening, add a teaspoon of sugar to the soapy water the wash them.
  • Plant a few sprigs of dill near your tomato plants to prevent tomato worms on your plants.
  • Onions, apples and potatoes all have the same taste.  The difference in flavor is caused by their smell.  Pinch your nose and try it – they will all taste sweet.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower are the only vegetables that are also flowers.


A VEGETABLE is an edible part of a plant……The root (beet), the leaf (spinach), or the flower (broccoli)

A FRUIT is the edible ripened ovary of a seed-bearing plant

Sometimes your produce might be a fruit AND a vegetable…..for example, a tomato and a watermelon are both edible parts of a plant and they are also a ripened ovaries which contains seeds. Therefore they are a fruit AND a vegetable.

Tomatoes are the world’s most popular produce, more than 60 million tons are produced every year, more than banana’s.  There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes, from small cherry ones to Ponderosa (which can weigh over three pounds)

Watermelons are very healthy, contain no fat or cholesterol and are high in fiber content, potassium and vitamins A and C.  The world record-holding watermelon was more than 260 lbs.



FOGLESS BATHROOM MIRROR:  If you would like to see your reflection in the mirror after a shower to shave or do your hair try this tip next time.  Before you get into the shower coat the mirror with non-gel toothpaste and wipe it off with a soft cloth.  When you get out of the shower the mirror will be clear.

SINK CLEANER:  While you are at it….the same tube of non-gel toothpaste, can clean your sink.  Rub the toothpaste on a sponge, scrub sink, rinse and the sink will be shiny and clean.  The toothpaste will also kill any odor coming from the drain pipe.

TOILET BOWL CLEANER:  Drop a few Alka Seltzer tablets into the toilet, wait for 25 minutes and with a few swipes of you toilet bowl brush you will have a sparkling clean toilet bowl.  Plop, plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is!

JEWELRY CLEANER:  While you are at it….. put an Alka Seltzer tablet in a glass of water and place dirty jewelry in the cup.  After about 10 minutes remove the jewelry, scrub with an old toothbrush, rinse and wear.

PAINLESS BANDAGE REMOVAL:  Apply baby oil to the edges of a bandage before pulling it off.  You will avoid pain and hair removal.

PICTURES STUCK TOGETHER?:  Unstick a photograph by sliding a length of dental floss under the corner of a photo that’s stuck to an album page or another snapshot. Work the floss between the two surfaces to separate them without damaging the picture.


Americans use 433 million miles of toilet paper a year. (enough to stretch to the sun and back)

The average home sink has 100,000 germs per square inch and the average home toilet seat only has 100 germs per square inch.

Paper towels decrease hand bacteria by 29 percent, a hand dryer increases it by 162 percent.

The first toilet cubicle in a row in the least used and usually the cleanest.



A rainbow occurs when sun is behind us and shines into the rain in front of us.  When the light reflects off the water it acts as a prism and the rainbow is created.  As you drive closer to the end of the rainbow, you also get further away from the pot of gold.  As you drive towards a rainbow, it keeps moving further away so finding the pot of gold at the end of it is not a reality.  It is important to make your own pot of gold by saving your monthly income any way you can…. avoid spending extra money at the grocery store.

Save money at the grocery store by passing the bakery section.  If you bake your own pastries, cakes, pies, cookies, etc., instead of purchasing them pre-made in the store, you will have better control of the ingredients you are putting in your body and have money left over in your wallet.  Baking a cake will make your house smell wonderful and is a lot cheaper than a store-bought pre-made cake.

This is also true for ready-made meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It is very convenient to buy the pre-packaged, ready-made meals and deserts, but in most cases these items can come at a high cost.  In preparing these foods you will be able to adapt the ingredients to your diet and taste as well as save money.

It is a good idea to buy in bulk and make large quantities of your favorite meals.  You can then freeze these meals for low-cost pre-package convenience later. 

I try to take an average desert and make it fun for everyone.  My kids loved my rainbow cupcakes.  I took regular yellow cake mix and added food color to make rainbow layers.  (purple, green, blue,  yellow, orange, red)

Bake, cool, frost and enjoy!


1.  Brown Sugar:  A slice of soft bread placed in the package of hardened brown sugar will soften it again in a couple of hours.

2.  Cheese:  Cheese won’t harden if you butter the exposed edges before storing.

3.  Cooking Oil:  To reuse cooking oil without tasting whatever was cooked previously…cook a 1/4″ piece of ginger in the oil and it will remove any remaining flavors and odors

4.  Corn Silk:  A dampened paper towel or terry cloth brushed downward on a cob of corn will remove each strand of corn silk

5.  Garlic:  Microwave garlic cloves for 15 seconds and the skins slip right off.

6.  Lemons: Lemons stored in a sealed jar of water will produce twice the juice.  Microwave a lemon for 15 seconds and you will double the juice you get.

7.  Stale Bread:  Add a piece of fresh celery in a bag of stale bread and close it.  The celery restores a fresh taste and texture to the bread.

8.  Tomatoes:  Sunlight doesn’t ripen tomatoes, warmth does.  Store tomatoes with the stems pointed down in a cool place and they will stay fresher longer.  Place a tomato in warm water for 5-10 minutes and the skin can be easily peeled off

9.  Water:  After boiling pasta or potatoes, cool the water and use it to water your house plants.  The water contains nutrients that your plants will love

10.  Wine:  If you have leftover wine at the end of an evening, freeze it in ice cube trays for easy additions to soups and sauces in the future

If you missed the previous kitchen tips go to From my kitchen to yours (part 1) to see more tips.


Paying your bills is the easiest way to save money.  Every year people give away hundreds or thousands of dollars on late fees.  If you are juggling your money, or just forget bills are due, it is important to have a system to ensure on time payments.

Here are some tips to make the bill-paying process a little easier:

Reduce your intake:  Cancel services and subscriptions you no longer use or value and consolidate services whenever possible.  Cutting down on the amount of bills received will make it easier for you to manage what you do receive.

Take a few minutes:  Process your mail as soon as you get it.  When you bring in your mail take a few minutes to open each piece and put it in correct stacks.  Recycle the junk mail, shred credit card offers, stack magazines, and prepare bills to be paid.  Lable your bills:  Once you are aware of a bill, you can write the amount and the date the payment is due on the front of the envelope so it will be easy to see quickly.  Put everything in it’s place:  Have a distinctive place set aside for your bills.  Have a box, bin, envelope, etc for bills that are to be paid.  For extra organization, they can be filed in the order of the date they are due.

Stay on top of your dates:  At a minimum, go through your bills weekly to ensure you don’t forget about a bill.

Pay online:  Nearly every major utility and bank offers the ability to pay your bills via the web, or you can use your banks automatic bill payment process.  This is a great way to set up an automatic payment to be delivered before the date they are due.  Prepay your bills:  If you are really forgetful or going out of town, pay extra the month before.  It is ok to pay a month early to ensure things are taken care of and you avoid late fees.

File:  After bills have been paid be sure to put them in a paid file.  It is a good idea to file according to the type of bill, (insurance, utilities, credit cards, mortgage, etc.) or per month (Jan, Feb, Mar, etc.)  This will allow you to retrieve payment information if needed later and have everything in order for end of the year taxes.

You will also want to review your bills to ensure that they are correct and that last months payments were applied correctly.  Finding errors can be an added savings.  Always make sure you have funds in your account when making payments.  Using over-draft on your account will charge you additional fees that can add up quickly.  Some bills do not send out regular reminders, so it is important to keep a list of those bills.  Make sure you know when these bills are do and either set up an automatic payment through your bank, mark you calendar, or put it on an electronic calendar reminder.  Paying your bills on-time will save you monthly late fees and will help your credit as well. 


The most common type  of burn is a radiation burn that comes from prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.  Another common type of burn is a thermal burn given by an external heat source usually in the kitchen (hot liquids, steam, flames, etc.)  Chemical or electrical burns are caused by electrical currents and mostly occur in the workplace (wiring, lighting, acids, solvents, etc.)   

Burns are classified as first, second or third-degree depending on how severely the burn penetrated the skin’s surface.  First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of the skin causing it to be red, painful and dry (like a mild sunburn).  A second-degree burn involves the top two layers of the skin and it usually appears red, blistered, swollen and painful.  Third-degree burns penetrate and damage deeper skin layers and can also damage bones, muscles and tendons. 

Burns are very serious!  Always see a doctor to find out how to treat a burn!

I thought you might enjoy some old home remedies:

Aloe Vera Leaf:  cut a leaf off an Aloe plant and apply to a burn for instant relief

Banana:  Apply mashed banana over a burn to have a cooling effect

Cold Water:  Running the burn under cool water for 10 minutes or longer if necessary will help take out the heat.  Don’t use ice or ice-cold water.

Egg Whites:  A cool egg white applied over a burn will relieve pain.  Allow to dry then reapply as needed

Fresh Cut Onions:  Cut an onion and squeeze the juice onto the burn

Grape Jelly:  Organic or natural jelly works best.  Spread on area for 15 minutes, rinse with cold water and reapply as needed

Honey:  After a burn wound is cleaned you can dress it with honey and it will heal faster with less pain and scarring

Mustard:  Spread mustard on the affected area to ease the pain and prevent blistering

Plain Yogurt:  Apply a generous spoonful of plain yogurt to ease pain and speed the healing process.  Let dry and reapply as needed

Raw Potatoes:  A peeled and sliced potato can be applied to a burn.  The juice of the potato should cover the burn

Tea Bags:  A wet teabag applied to a burn will bring relief and help heal.  Chilled and used teabags work well for treating sunburns

Tomato:  Acid from a sliced tomato will take the pain away

Vinegar:  White household vinegar or apple cider vinegar will relieve pain and helps prevent an infection
Baking Soda and Water:  Make a thick paste with cool water then apply to the burn for almost instant relief.  Let dry and reapply as needed

Whole Milk:  Soak gauze with whole milk and gently apply to the burn for about 15 minutes.  Repeat as needed


While we’re deciding whether or not to initiate that big home remodeling project, we think about many things…cost, timeframe, and inconvenience.  Many times we forget about the safety and happiness of our pets during a home renovation.  Our pets cannot protect themselves the way we can, so we must remember to look out for them.

It will definitely make a difference if you are doing the remodel yourself or having outside contractors do the job.  If you are not going to board your animals during a remodel it is important to remember to take care of and protect them during the process.

Many pets are uncomfortable when strangers are in the home and some pets become very protective and territorial of their family.  Along with the fear of a stranger in the home, they will no doubt be making some noises that might frighten your animals.

It is a good idea to restrict the pet from the area of your home that will be remodeled well before construction begins.  If the construction will be in your pet normal feeding area, begin training them to look for their food in another place in advance.

Once construction begins make sure to seal off the construction area so your pet will not be able to enter it and risk injury. A pet can be injured by stepping on sharp objects or by accidentally causing construction materials to fall. The safest thing for your pet is to ensure that it cannot enter the construction area.  Alert your contractor and the workers if your pet will be on the premises during the remodel. Particularly if your pet tends to be curious or territorial, they will then know they need to be careful about leaving anything around that could harm your pet.

Make sure that doors and windows will not be exposed for long periods of time.  While they are open your pet will need to be secured to prevent wondering.

If you expect workers to access the backyard you may want to restrict your pets access to the yard.  The pet will then need to be walked throughout the day.

Ensure that the workers remove or elevate all electrical wires, nails, staples, tacks or anything sharp.  Remind the workers to fully clean all areas at the end of each day and stabilize all loose items to avoid falling or choking.

Be mindful of your pets and help provide a “safe haven” for them during the renovations.  If your pet has a decreased appetite, urinary issues, hair loss, chewing or barking issues, or any unusual behavior, consult your vet immediately.


This post has been written from my personal kitchen frustrations….I hate having my hands smell like onions, I don’t understand why my bananas ripen so quickly, or how to avoid having a pot of water boil over.  I was surprised with a few of these tips and hope they might help you in your kitchen.


  • Don’t store bananas in a bunch, a bag, or in a fruit bowl with other fruits.  Use a wooden banana stand to hang the fruit or separate your bananas and place each in a different location.  bananas release gases which cause fruits and other bananas to ripen quickly
  • Don’t store bananas next to other fruits
  • Do not put them in direct sunlight, the will ripen quicker
  • Putting bananas in the fridge as they will go black and lose their nutritional value
  • You can freeze a banana if it becomes overripe and use it for cooking later on
  • ripen most fruits and avocado’s by putting them in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana


  • If you need only half an onion, save the root half, it will last longer
  • Wrap the onion individually in a newspaper and store in a cool and dark place to keep them fresh longer
  • Garlic skin comes off easily if the garlic cloves are slightly warmed before peeling

To avoid crying:

  • Freeze your onion for twenty minutes before cutting
  • Cut the onions into two parts and place them in water for 15 minutes before chopping them
  • Peel and cut your onion under running tap water
  • have someone else cut it for you 🙂

Smelly Hands: 

  • Rub them on something stainless steel, such as a spoon.  the steel is supposed to absorb the odor
  • Put a tablespoon of salt in the palm of your hands and mix with cold water and rub on hands to absorb the odor
  • Before you chop peppers, rub a little vegetable oil into your hands and you won’t absorb the spicy chili oil


  • Choosing eggs…Fresh egg shells are rough and chalky, old eggs are smooth and shiny
  • Are they still fresh…To determine if an egg is fresh, immerse it in a pan of cool, salted water.  If it sinks, it is fresh, if it rises to the surface throw it away
  • Boiled or not….To determine if an egg is hard-boiled, spin it.  If it spins it is hard-boiled, if it wobbles it is raw
  • Cracked shells…To avoid the shells from cracking during boiling, add a pinch of salt to the water
  • Removing egg shells…If you boil your eggs in salty water and quickly rinse them in cold water, the shells will come off easier
  • Slicing eggs…Wet the knife just before cutting a hard-boiled egg .
  • Boiling time:  For the perfect boiled egg, cover eggs with cold water and a pinch of salt.  Bring the water to a full boil, remove the pan from the heat and cover.  Let the eggs sit for 8-9 minutes, drain the eggs and run under cold water.


  • When defrosting meat from the freezer, pur some vinegar over it.  This will not only tenderize the meat, it will also bring down the freezing temperature of the meat and cause it to thaw quicker
  • If the meat is in a sealed package…place it in a bowl and run it under warm tap water until thawed
  • To easily slice meat, partially freeze it before slicing
  • To avoid ground beef sticking to your hands, dip your hands in cold water before handling the meat and avoid over-handling
  • Poke a hole in the middle of the hamburger patties while shaping them. The burgers will cook faster and the holes will disappear when done.


  • Put an apple in with a bag of potatoes to keep them from budding
  • Let raw potatoes stand in cold water for at least half an hour before frying to improve the crispness of french-fried potatoes
  • To clean fruit stains off your fingers, rub them with a fresh peeled potato.  White vinegar can also do the trick
  • A peeled and sliced potato can be applied to a burn.  The juice of the potato should cover the burn to help relieve pain  


  • Gravy:  When making gravy if it starts to burn….Pour it into a clean pan and continue cooking it.  Add sugar a little at a time to remove the burned taste.  Taste gravy as you go to avoid over-sugaring it
  • Rice:  Place a piece of white bread on top of the rice for 5-10 minutes to draw out the burned flavor.  Scrape the burned pieces off the bottom of the pan and serve. 

More tips to come…..