Saturday, April 30, 2011

Home Sweet Home

10 Easy Steps To An Organized Home Office
Without the structure of an office outside of our homes, it is easy to scatter anything work related all over the house. We still need to complete our work in a timely and efficient manner. After all, the less time we spend working, the more time we have with our family. An organized home office will make for a faster and more pleasant workday. Here are a few ideas to get you and your home office organized.

1) Do you have a home office? You don’t necessarily need an entire room, but you should have a well-defined space to contain all your office essentials and files.

A desk in your bedroom that will hold your files, paper, pens, calculator and of course computer will do fine, especially in the beginning.

If your “office” consists of the dining room table, some of the drawers in your kitchen, a file cabinet in the basement and the computer in the bedroom, you may want to think about organizing everything in one spot.

Are you spending a lot of time searching for a particular document, running from room to room to find it? Consider moving all your files and papers to one central location, preferably close to the computer if that’s where you are doing the bulk of your work.

2) Keep your personal files and papers separate from your business things.

You will eventually have enough paperwork to deal with without having your personal bills, magazines and the kids’ after-school schedule mixed in there. Create a separate spot for those somewhere outside of your home office space.

3) Create a file system that works for you. Remember, you may be working for someone else, but when it comes to your home office, you are your own boss.

Think about how you look for a particular file or piece of paper. What will be the easiest way for you to find it? Then create a file system that works for you. Don’t worry, if you don’t get it right the first time, you can always resort and try again. Sooner or later you will come up with a system that is “just right” for you.

4) Take a good look at your work area. Do you have piles of papers, files, mail, floppy discs and CDs lying around? Do you notice anything else piling up? Set aside a few hours and put everything away. Use your new file system and find “homes” for anything else.

5) Now that you have your office organized, set aside a few minutes at the end of your workday to keep it that way. Try to “leave work” for the day with a clean, empty desk. You will appreciate it the next morning. This will also prevent you from ever coming across a huge pile of papers again.

6) Add a personal touch to your office. Bring in some pictures of the kids; add some pretty plants, inspirational quotes, or anything else you can think of that will make your office a pleasant place to work in. In addition to getting and keeping you in a good mood whenever you step in your office, you are more likely to keep it clean and organized if it is a place you treasure. So splurge a little on some special office décor.

7) Let’s talk about the files on your computer. You can waist just as much time searching for an online document as for a piece of paper. If your computer is used for work as well as for personal use, create a work folder and use subfolders for particular employers, projects etc.

Again, come up with a file system that works for you and keep your work files separate from your personal files. This is particularly important if other family members access the computer as well. If that’s the case, and you are using Windows XP, I strongly recommend setting up a separate user account just for work and password protecting it. This will prevent other family members from accidentally changing or deleting your work files.

8) In addition to your regular files, you also want to keep your emails organized. Let’s be honest, we have all wasted time searching for a particular email that contained some vital information we needed fast. Setting up folders for different clients and projects has worked well for me, but again find a system that works for you and stick with it. Sort the email as soon as you read it. It only takes a second or two to drop it in the appropriate folder, but will save you a lot of time if you have to find it later.

9) Now that you have a good filing system (both physical and digital) in place, set aside a little time every few months (or weeks if appropriate) to purge your files. We can quickly accumulate a lot of documents both in our file cabinet and on our hard drive that we no longer need. At the very least, try to purge your files twice a year.

10) Now that your office is organized, you may also want to take a look at organizing your time. Again, come up with a system that works well for you.

I encourage you to start with a few of these ideas to get your office and yourself more organized. You will be surprised by how much time you will save not searching for files, papers or the stapler. Before long, you won’t know how you ever functioned without an organized home office.



10 ways to cut your electric bill
One of the major concerns in the world today is depletion of energy. As concerned citizens all of us must make a concerted effort to be conscious citizens and save electricity. Electricity has become integral to life but imagine having to live without power.

Conservation of electricity benefits you personally as you will pay lower bills. Consider:

1. Doing an energy audit. This will tell you how and when you use energy and where the wastage lies. You will be able to make an “energy savings plan” by pinpointing exactly how you can cut back on energy consumption. Some ideas may be as simple as don’t leave the coffee machine on at all times.

2. Think about resetting the thermostat ten degrees lower during the night. If you can do this for say approximately eight hours a day you will save 10% on electricity without sacrificing comfort. Insulate the home in winter by drawing shut the drapes.

3. Check all insulation in the house. If you increase attic insulation to around 12 inches the electricity consumption will reduce by 20 percent.

4. Plant more trees around the house these will cool the house in summer and insulate the house in winter. Studies show that a green cover benefits in many ways.

5. Have all electricity wires and outlets checked for leakage. Check all fuses and appliances.

6. Fluorescent light bulbs are energy efficient. They use 75% less energy than ordinary light bulbs. These have a longer life and contribute to great savings.

7. Use energy efficient appliances. These use less energy and believe it or not a high efficiency refrigerator uses less electricity than a light bulb.

8. When you are away even for a few hours or days you should turn off and unplug all electrical appliances and turn settings on the thermostat, water heater, and refrigerator to the lowest setting.

9. Ensure that you use a water-saving shower head. Water heating costs for a family can be lowered by at least US$ 250 a year.

10. Weatherize your home. This helps reduce heating bills by 20% and cooling by at least 10 percent. Even when building a home or decorating it use weather friendly materials—those that are not good conductors of heat and cold. Install windows and glass panes in the roof in such away that you use sunlight to light up the rooms during day light hours. Make an effort to switch off lights and fans when leaving a room. Ensure that the filters in air conditioners and heaters are always cleaned and free of clog and dust.

If you live an energy efficient lifestyle you will see the numbers on the energy bill actually reducing. The power to cut energy costs is well within your control. It is as simple as only washing full loads and that to in cold water. Use the hot wash option only for very dirty clothes. Cook food only just before you are ready to eat that way you can save reheating costs as well as refrigerating costs of storing the food. Turn the thermostat of the refrigerator to minimum in cold or cool weather. Switch off freezers if they are not in use. Small contributions can all add up to significant amounts of power saved. And, power saved means money in the bank.

7 Kitchen Design Ideas
Kitchens have evolved a lot over the years. Once found only in the rear of the house, today's kitchen design takes the kitchen out the background. The challenge for kitchen design is in creating a more open-faced kitchen, that is part of a dining area, a family room or a great room.

In deciding on how to design your kitchen, you must take into consideration such things as: will your kitchen have an island? Will it be of a modern or traditional design? What kinds of appliances will you need for your new kitchen design? What kind of lighting design?

1. Kitchen as 'Great Room'
Whether you are redesigning an existing kitchen or planning a new kitchen in a new home there are some design considerations to keep in mind, such as including in an island or peninsula as part of the kitchen design. These can be used to connect the kitchen to a nearby dining area or family room thereby creating a 'great room'. A kitchen island or peninsula will allow the cook to keep in visual and conversational contact with family members or guests in the adjoining family or dining room.

2. Create a Kitchen Canopy
To give the kitchen some visible borders without blocking views create a kitchen canopy. Also a high ceiling in the kitchen can create the perception of spaciousness.

3. Using Kitchen Cabinet Color to Set Tone of Kitchen Design
Kitchen cabinets will help set the tone for the whole room. The choice of wood will influence the overall look of your cabinets. To create a light look, use a light wood such as ash, beech, birch, oak, maple, or chestnut. For medium range, select cherry. To darker kitchens, choose wood that has some color to it.

4. Plan Out Use of Cabinets and Drawers in The New Kitchen Design
Plan out in the kitchen design blueprint just how your cabinets and drawers will be used and how much space and storage you will need before you start your new kitchen design. The first thing to examine is the counter surface area. Look at where you put everything in your existing kitchen and where in your new kitchen design will these things will go in the new space. Will there be more than one person cooking at a time. If so, will there be enough room for two cooks in the kitchen to work together?

5. Use The Galley-Type Kitchen Design
As for counter arrangements, many kitchen designers agree the galley-type design to be the best in terms of efficiency with it's single aisle and counters to either side, making it easy to turn around to go from sink to cooking range.

6. Under-Cabinet Kitchen Lighting
Kitchen lighting can be an overlooked area of kitchen design. Even if the kitchen has generally good lighting, the counter areas can be somewhat dark. For these areas under-cabinet lighting can help provide more light to work in. By using simple spots or fluorescent lights a smaller kitchen can be made to look larger.

7. Looking at Countertops
Granite, marble, and limestone are all popular natural materials for use in countertops are available in many colors. Ceramic tile kitchen countertops are versatile, practical, and also available in many colors, as well as many shapes, patterns, and finishes. Solid surface countertops provide seamless acrylic faces. Solid surfaces also come in almost limitless colors, patterns, and styles, and are stain and heat resistant. Laminate countertops are more affordable but not built to last. Concrete countertops are known for versatility, as well as strength. Wood countertops are long lasting and easy to clean and repair but the wood will not withstand exposure to water and household chemicals. Stainless steel countertops lack the elegance of granite or tile. These countertops do not absorb stains, but tends to scratch easily.

A Guide To Outdoor Lighting
With the evolution of lighting technology, outdoor lighting has seen its share of breakthroughs. Outdoor lighting is as important as indoor lighting. Lighting up the spaces immediately outside or surrounding our living areas is extremely vital for visual orientation, safety while navigating, and security, as well as for balancing out the indoor ambience. The outdoor milieu prepares and provides a preview to the life and living style within the four walls. Outdoor lighting is equally important in reflecting the external persona of a structure and its surrounding area. It sets a particular mood and provides a visual treat.

Outdoor lighting presents enormous scope for experimentation. It’s a virgin canvas waiting to be colored by unique lighting approaches, ideas and techniques. Outdoor lighting spaces comprise the areas surrounding the structure, pathways, swimming pools or fountains, landscape surrounding the structure, patios, balconies, decks, porches, etc.

There are a variety of options on the market, including low-voltage lighting, flood lights, tree lights, post lights, lanterns, string bulbs for festive occasions, recessed lighting, scoops, pagoda-style louvered faced lights which granite finish that easily blend without door environs, and even solar lights devoid of wires and operating on NiCad batteries.

Various techniques of lighting can be used in outdoor lighting. Spot lighting, which focuses light on architectural features, may be positioned to minimize glare and focus fully on the focal point. Silhouetting is placing the light sources behind the object to bring out the shape of the object rather than the exact color and texture. Key light or shadowing requires placing the light source directly in front of the object of interest to create a light and shadow effect. Moonlighting requires a fixture to be placed on the trees and aiming it down to provide a natural peaceful moonlit effect. Deck lighting, grazing (light focuses on the object at a sharp angle) and washing the surface (light focuses on objects at a wider or blunt angle), step lighting, walkway lighting, pond and fountain lighting, and sign lighting are some of the various techniques used for outdoor lighting.

In outdoor lighting, a basic thing that has to be kept in mind is that the lighting fixtures are exposed to all the elements outside. In case of lighting water features, the light source is sometimes from the inside to create a magical glittering and rippling effect. Therefore, appropriate lighting fixtures and lights should be chosen. Self-lighting kits of low voltage are also available for those who wish to try out their creative lighting talents.

A Luxury Featherbed Delivers The Ultimate Sleep Experience .
Today's luxury featherbeds are not your Grandma's featherbed. In her day it literally was a bag of feathers. There are many featherbeds available, the majority are made of 95% duck feather 5% duck down (not considered luxury). Feathers are flat with a hard quill, down is the soft undercoating from the bird's breast. Goose down is better than duck down, the down clusters are larger, and at least 50/50 down/feather is better than mostly feathers, which are hard and "crunchy", and they tend to leak out of the best featherproof casing over time.


There are some truly luxury featherbeds available using white goose down and feather, with larger percentages of high fill-power goose down, and even all down. The fill-power is the measurement of the down cluster's ability to loft up after compression. The higher lofting downs make puffier featherbeds. 650 fill-power or higher goose down for a featherbed is luxury quality. More down in your featherbed means a more luxurious look and an incomparable level of comfort. A down bed with all white goose down would be softer and the puffiest. More luxury to sink into.

The most common styles are baffle box, 3 compartment, or channel . It is better to have a baffle box to keep the filling from unwanted shifting, and at least a 3" - 4" baffle.

Always use a featherbed cover to protect your featherbed or down bed. Choose one that will accommodate the baffle construction to allow the filling (especially if it is a high percentage of down or all down) to loft up, and with zippers on 3 sides for easy removal. Fluff up, and turn over your featherbed weekly when you wash the cover. Send your featherbed to a down bedding specialist for cleaning every 3 or 4 years and for renovation after 7 - 10 years. Another good idea is to invest in some extra deep fitted sheets so that you get the full loft of your featherbed. A too tight fitted sheet will pull the featherbed down making it flatter. This would defeat the purpose of having a high down content luxury featherbed.

An investment in a quality featherbed or down bed is well worth it since it will deliver an unparalleled level of comfort for life with proper cleaning and renovation. Purchasing from a down specialist ensures a wide selection to choose from and knowledgeable staff. Choose a specialist that offers expert cleaning/renovation services so you will have your luxury featherbed for life.

A Wealth Of Window Design Solutions
The style, shape and function of a home's windows can underscore a home's elegance, coziness or cutting-edge style. The following are some of today's most exciting formats and treatments:

Adding Elegance

Palladian or arched windows are graceful and elegant, but hard to cover. Fortunately, Hunter Douglas offers a variety of styles to cover unusually shaped windows. For instance, Duette® honeycomb shades come in an arch shape, designed to lift and lower smoothly from top to bottom on "perfect" and "imperfect" arches, allowing for privacy, light control and easy window cleaning.

Lighten and Brighten

Skylights can lighten a room, make a space feel larger and bring a quirky element to an otherwise dull area. When left bare, skylights often allow in too much light and sun that can fade furniture and overheat a room. Duette with Skyrise® is the perfect solution, softening the light and providing energy efficiency. Hardware with rails on all four sides keeps the shade in place safely and securely. What's more, this option is offered with an easy, affordable, battery-operated remote-control system to open and close hard-to-reach shades.

Cutting-edge Sliders

Floor-to-ceiling windows add a dimension of excitement to any structure, while sliding glass doors are modeled after Japan's rice paper shoji screens. Homeowners love the extra light but often get flustered when it comes to how to dress them. Duette with Vertiglide defeats that design problem with honeycomb fabric that is oriented vertically with the shade operating sideways. When open, it folds back to a mere six inches no matter how wide the treatment. It can be manually operated or motorized.

Bay Views

A bay window is typically a center window and two angled side windows. It offers lots of light for a book nook or dining alcove. Ideal for trio windows is a Top-Down/Bottom-Up design where the shade opens from the top or the bottom or both ways for privacy as well as a view.

European Allure

French doors have been popular for decades and slim, trim Duette honeycomb shades don't add a lot of bulk or noisy rattling when these European imports are opened and closed.

Sidelight Windows

Those ubiquitous narrow windows found on one or both sides of a door beg for a window fashion solution such as the new Duette Operable Sidelight.

From the tiniest sliver of a window to arches, angles, octagons and trapezoids, virtually all window shapes and types can be beautifully dressed with Duette honeycomb shades.

An Introduction to Futons
Futons have been a fixture of college students’ dorm rooms and other urban living settings for decades. Futons are stylish, functional, and versatile; they can be integrated into nearly any setting. Futon beds are lightweight and simple, providing sleepers with a comfortable place to rest.

What most people don’t know is that futon beds originated in Japan. For hundreds of years, Japanese people have slept on thin futon mattresses placed directly on the floor. They saw no need to have an elaborate bed with a frame and box spring and headboard. All that these early futons involved was the thin mattress, small pillows, and a blanket. In the morning, the futon bed could be rolled up and put in a closet. Over time, the concept of sleeping on futon beds spread to America.

Modern futons often have adjustable frames and can be used as either a couch or a bed, depending on how the frame is arranged. The frames are usually made of colored metal, but can be wooden as well. Futon beds do not needed to be folded out like couch beds, all the sleeper needs to do is push the back of the frame from the upright couch position to a horizontal bed position. These setups are comfortable in either the couch or bed position and are great for accommodating overnight guests.

Current models of futon mattresses are thicker than the original Japanese models. They are often filled with wool, polyester, cotton, or soft man made fibers. They do not have the springs that conventional beds have. A normal mattress can become uncomfortable over time if the springs do not hold up well to pressure. This is not a problem with futons because most of them have no springs.

Futon beds have evolved greatly over time. From their simple beginnings as space saving Japanese beds to their modern multi use models, they are a great alternative to conventional beds.

Create a Green Baby Nursery
In our attempt to revert back to a Green lifestyle, it's only fitting to use Green principles when designing a baby's room. After all, a newborn will spend an average of 17 hours a day in their nursery, and it should be an environment filtered from toxins.

Here are some of the key points to consider when setting up a Green baby nursery.

Paint: Use one of the new water-based, low-volatile organic compound paints and take your friends or family up on their request to help. If you're pregnant, you shouldn't be doing the painting. Try and complete the paint job at least a month before baby arrives to give it time to cure.

Flooring: Carpets are nice and soft for babies to crawl on, but they can harbor toxic material and bacteria. VOC's can be found in the fibers, backing and glue as well as any stain resistant treatments that may have been applied. If you must go that route, choose an all-natural, biodegradable carpet made from wool fibers and no toxic adhesives. A better choice is a solid floor such as linoleum, cork or wood. Use natural fiber throw rugs with a non slip backing.

Crib: Choose real wood with natural finishes since the press wood versions can emit formaldehyde. The bedding should be an organic untreated material made from cotton or wool.

Window Coverings: Aluminum mini-blinds or wooden shutters are easy to keep clean and do a great job of adjusting the light levels.

Toys: Most toys are made of plastic, which is a major contributor to indoor air pollution. Try to purchase natural cloth or wood toys wherever possible.

Airflow: Make certain there is adequate ventilation in the nursery that allows for fresh air, but no drafts. An Air filter is also very effective, but use one that has both a HEPA filter and activated military carbon cloth. Change your furnace filters every three months to reduce dust and pollen.

Cleaning: Use 100 percent biodegradable nontoxic cleaning products.

Decorate Your Home With Unique Bamboo Curtains
Have you recently found yourself getting bored with your home’s current interior? Have you been looking for a unique conversation starter that is sure to keep people talking? Have you ever wanted to take a mini-vacation without ever leaving the house? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, a bamboo curtain might be just the thing you have been searching for. In this article, we’ll take a look at how you can decorate your home with unique bamboo curtains.

A quality bamboo curtain is made from natural bamboo beads that are strung together with wire. These strands (varying from 100 – 150) are then hung from a frame and hand-painted on both sides to create a unique curtain. These curtains can be used in doorways or as wall hangings, but either way they help to give any room in the house a whole new personality. Now, let’s turn our attention towards the many different types of bamboo curtains available.

There are hundreds of different designs available when looking for a unique bamboo curtain. This makes finding a bamboo curtain that fits your personality a very easy project. For example, say you have one room of the house that serves as your personal sanctuary, a place you can go to escape the world. You may find that a bamboo curtain featuring a beach scene or a sunset might work beautifully in such a room. On the other hand, you may have a passion for classic artists and paintings. If this is the case, you may want to consider a bamboo curtain portraying the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David. The options are limited only by your imagination. In fact, there are many companies who will hand-make a unique bamboo curtain according to your personal request!

You are probably thinking that bamboo curtains sound great, but are sure to cost a fortune. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bamboo curtains are very affordable, and can be shipped right to your home ready to hang. They are also very durable, as most bamboo curtains require very little maintenance and will last for many years. What about installing a bamboo curtain? It is as simple as placing two screws in the wall. You can then hang and start enjoying your unique bamboo curtain.

We’ve spent some time discussing how a unique bamboo curtain can be perfect for you, but let’s not forget about the kids! If you have children in your house, a bamboo curtain makes a great alternative to posters. A unique bamboo curtain will instantly change the whole feel of your child’s bedroom, while impressing even the harshest critics. Your kids (and their friends) will definitely think a bamboo curtain is “cool”, and you will be sure to score some hip parent points. Right on!

As you can see, there are several different ways in which you can decorate your home with unique bamboo curtains. These affordable pieces will add personality to any room in the house, while also serving as an instant escape day or night. Enjoy!

Door Knob Hangers
A doorknob hanger is an excellent way to convey a temporary message. It is ideal for patient rooms, guest rooms, offices, baby’s rooms and conference rooms. Some of these hangers are specially designed to convey a message of “privacy wanted”. Children love to use knob hangers to send messages to their parents, siblings and friends. For a library or a reading room, door knob hangers are a funny and creative way to promote a library referendum and encourage reading. They are also used by companies to announce their deals and new products. Additionally, these hangers work as a marketing pieces in canvassing programs. Making doorknob hangers is a fast and simple craft for kids.

Doorknob hangers are pieces of materials with different messages printed on them, making them an economical and convenient way to advertise. They are brightly colored and approximately 12 by 24 cm in size. For advertising requirements, double-sided full color hangers are available. Door knob hangers are made of heavy plastic and are designed to fit on any door knob. Today’s door knob hangers are professional and classy-looking. They are available in as homemade products and can be purchased in shops or at craft shows.

Door knob hangers made of fiber board make great reminders. Hangers with removable magnets are also commonly used. These are decorated with stickers, markers and crayons. With the growing number of manufacturers, an extensive collection of doorknob hangers in different color and design are available with prices varying on the basis of design and quality of the material.

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