Making the Most of a Winter Farmer’s Market

Winter’s chill is in the air and spring is still several weeks away, but there’s plenty to do in your hometown during the colder months including checking out a winter farmer’s market.

Guest Writer

Winter’s chill is in the air and spring is still several weeks away, but there’s plenty to do in your hometown during the colder months including checking out a winter farmer’s market.

Traditional farmer’s markets usually run from early spring to late fall, but there’s a growing trend popping up in cities across the country: the winter farmer’s market.

Typically your local winter farmer’s market is held indoors, which means no matter the weather, you can still shop in comfort for your favorite offerings of the earth’s bounty.

Want to make the most of your next visit to a winter farmer’s market? Here’s what you need to know:

Manage Your Expectations

When strolling around your favorite farmer’s market during warmer months, you’re likely to find all sorts of bright, juicy fruits and beautiful growing plants. The purpose of a farmer’s market is to help connect local farmers and producers with the community, as a source of great seasonal offerings.

Your winter farmer’s market likely won’t have the same options as the markets held in spring and summer. This is mainly because those fruits and vegetables aren’t being grown or harvested during colder months.

Depending on the size of your market and where you live, it might not be possible to do all your grocery shopping at your neighborhood winter farmer’s market, but you should be able to check several items off your shopping list.

Think Outside the Box

Winter farmer’s markets are a great opportunity think outside the box, with regard to the produce you buy. There you may come across different varieties of your favorite fruits and vegetables, or different options altogether.

Take this as a chance to try something new! Never cooked with baby bok choy or purple potatoes? These are some delicious choices, and likely to be spotted at a winter farmer’s market.

And make sure you talk to the farmers or sellers about their wares. They are likely to be a wealth of free information for you. For example, if you usually cook with cilantro in the spring and summer, ask the farmer to recommend another herb you might try when it isn’t available.

Ask the farmer if he or she has a favorite way of preparing the veggies or a tip for making fruit last longer. This is your chance to talk directly with the expert about his or her produce.

Stock Up on Essentials

Whether you are a dedicated home cook or someone who just enjoys trying a new recipe every now and again, there are certain essentials that a well-stocked kitchen must have.

Often a winter farmer’s market is a great place to find things like local honey, spices and jams or preserves. It never hurts to have these pantry staples on hand. Plus, you’ll feel great knowing you are supporting the livelihood of local growers and producers.

Since these types of items are usually canned or dried, they have a longer shelf-life and will serve to be very useful for all your culinary creations until spring arrives.

You might also see cut flowers or winter plants. Depending on the type, winter is often a good time for planting. Some farmers also sell or swap their seeds, especially heirloom varieties, so make the most of this opportunity to stock up for your spring and summer garden.

Give the Gift of Local Made with Love

Winter farmer’s markets are often more than just farm fresh produce and things grown in the ground. There will likely be offerings and wares for sale by local artisans and makers.

From handcrafted jewelry and pottery to unique and one-of-a-kind art or woodworking, these selections make wonderful gifts for friends. Other items you might find include essential oils, handmade soaps and lotions, and natural cosmetics. Sellers will often allow you to sample their wares in order to see what you might like.

These are just a few ways you can enjoy a winter farmer’s market in your neighborhood. Before too long, spring will arrive with all its blooming beauty. But until then, it’s nice to know there are still some fun things to do to make the most of winter.

 

Kate Spears is a Knoxville writer and content marketing specialist who earned an M.S. in Communications from the University of Tennessee. She has, since 2012, worked as a social media manager with Coldwell Banker Wallace & Wallace, Realtors in East Tennessee.

Ambient Lighting Tricks to Warm Up the Whole House

They say setting the mood is like flipping a switch and we couldn’t agree more. Lighting plays a lead role in making your house feel like home. Here are 10 lighting tricks to enhance your home’s aura.

Guest post by Kelsey Roadruck, Houzz

They say setting the mood is like flipping a switch and we couldn’t agree more. Lighting plays a lead role in making your house feel like home. Here are 10 lighting tricks to enhance your home’s aura.

1. Control natural lighting. If you thought only stormy weather could make a breezy beach house look dark and moody, take a second look at the photo above. The lucky homeowner can draw the sheer curtains closed without completely blocking out the sun. They also get a postcard-worthy view of sunrise and sunset every day from their glass doors. The dimmed fixture above casts a warm light in an all-white room while the cloudy landscape photo tones down the views of the beach.

2. Be picky about your paint. Ask a professional about a paint’s light reflectance value (LRV) before you commit to a color. Lighter colors tend to be more reflective than dark shades. Pay attention to sheen level too since glossy finishes are more reflective than matte finishes.

3. Experiment with materials and finishes. When mixed and matched strategically, these seemingly small details can determine the mood of a whole room. This white and grey bathroom would look stark and cold without the brass fixture above. The candles around the tub help warm the room up too.

4. Install a dimmer switch. There’s nothing relaxing about straining your eyes in a room that is too bright or too dark. Use a dimmer in addition to layering your light sources for ultimate light control. Believe it or not, installing a dimmer switch can be a DIY project.

5. Recess your lights. Even if the bulb is not that bright, a central fixture with multiple bulbs and a shiny finish can be overpowering. Recessed lighting conceals the bulbs and therefore can lights feel softer. You could also hide strip lighting underneath cabinets for a nice nightlight on your way to the kitchen or bathroom. Check out this ultra contemporary island that appears to be floating mid-air.

6. Go a different direction. Uplights, like sconces and track lighting, create a soft glow. On the other hand, downlights cast ominous shadows that can really add mystery to a romantic room. Get creative by backlighting wall decor for a play on color and shapes.

7. Take a refresher course in lightbulb basics. The type of bulb is equally important as its fixture. Halogen, fluorescent and LED bulbs have a range of temperatures from warm (or yellow) to cool (or blue) hues. This is a matter of personal preference, but typically yellowish bulbs warm up cool-colored rooms nicely and vice versa. Bluer bulbs also help brighten darker spaces, like basements and windowless bathrooms.

8. Find your favorite shade. Bright colors, playful patterns and funky shapes can bring personality into a stale space. Smoky glass chandeliers intensify intimate vibes in a dining room while big paper lanterns enliven sophisticated home offices. The teal shades on this fixture match the pillows and put an icy sheen on the large dark walnut bookcase.

Note: This ceiling light is reflected in the whimsically shaped mirror that will help spread light further into the room.

9. Try twinkle lights. Not limited to holiday decor, you can use twinkle lights all year round. Drape them over windows for some extra sparkle or fill jars or empty wine bottles with a bundle of battery-operated fairy lights for an illuminated vignette.

10. Open flame. It’s no secret that candles are customary to ambience, but they’re often reserved for after dark. Next time, try starting a fire first thing in the morning and you’ll find that candles are as effective for waking up as they are for winding down. The heat will naturally draw you out of bed and the rising sun will energize you. We’re channeling all the feels from this rustic bedroom. The corner fireplace and candle chandelier are nothing short of mesmerizing.

Moving Day: Five Simple Ways to Reduce Waste & Save Green

Tips and tricks to help you stay eco-conscious on moving day

Guest post by Laura McHolm

The start of a new year brings the same old resolutions: get organized, get in shape and eat healthier. What if we all look beyond ourselves and add find new ways to be kinder to Mother Earth to our list? The impact would be pretty fantastic, a re-energized movement to preserve our one and only beautiful earth.

One simple way to fulfill that resolution is to be eco-conscious on moving day. Moving is one of the most wasteful times in a household. We finally get around to cleaning out those over stuffed closets, basements and garages. It’s the time we toss out those old clothes, electronics, magazines, bikes, etc. On top of the major weeding out of our belongings, we use tons of boxes and packing materials; and create piles and piles of waste that contribute to our landfills. Let’s just face the fact: moving time equals major trash time.

The great green news is there are simple steps you can take during a move to reduce your waste. Being eco-conscious on moving day will save you some green in your wallet too!

Follow these 5 steps to make Mother Nature & your wallet proud:

Use Eco-Friendly Moving Supplies

From boxes, packing paper to bubble, there are now green 100% recyclable materials to keep our neighborhoods cleaner and greener. Yep, there is even biodegradable eco-bubble, pop away guilt free.

ECO-BONUS: Save money by asking your moving company for used boxes made of recyclable materials. You can get used boxes at a discount and some moving companies will even give you a refund for returning your used boxes at the end of your move. Pop! Pop! Cha-ching!

It’s Not Just for the Movies

Instead of the foam popcorn and peanuts, use real popcorn to pack fragile items! Just pop and fill the gaps in your boxes to secure and pad fragile items. Cheap and earth friendly!

Give Back

Finally, the garage and closets actually are getting cleaned out. Hurray! Now is the time to get rid of what you don’t really need: the growing collection of tuna and soup cans in the pantry; the many, many sport teams t-shirts; go-go boots; your 10 year old’s toddler clothing, etc. But, don’t just toss them out. Donate unwanted furniture to the Habitat for Humanity Restore and clothing and household items to your local favorite charity such as Goodwill for someone else to enjoy.

ECO-BONUS: Reuse your moving boxes to donate your items. Simply visit GiveBackBox.com to learn how to use your used boxes to ship your donations off to a charity. Lastly, if you have any unopened leftover food on moving day, donate it to Move For Hunger. Don’t forget to keep your moving and donation receipts to save green on your taxes next year!

Be Kind to Your Electronics

You may no longer want your lemon-yellow microwave, but don’t just put it on the curb or throw it in a dump. If you do, it will likely be shipped off to unregulated third world environmental disaster dumping grounds instead of being recycled in facilities that follow U.S. environmental regulations. Contact a domestic e-waste recycler so your old computers, microwaves and other electronics are recycled domestically, under environmental laws, rather than being shipped off to be processed by highly toxic and polluting techniques.

Hire an Eco-Conscious Moving Company

Use your “green” to influence and encourage green habits by hiring companies that use environmental-friendly practices. Make sure your moving company is bright green by asking: Does the staff recycle? Are the offices and warehouse designed to be energy efficient? Do they use biodiesel to run their trucks? Do they use 100 % recyclable materials? Do they sell used boxes? Do they buy them back at the end of the move? Chances are if they care about the earth, they care about their customers too! It’s a great big green win – win!

Pat yourself on the back; you’re making Mother Earth smile and future generations will thank you!

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.

Romantic Plants for Your Valentine

Surprise your valentine with a thoughtful gift!

Guest post by Katie Kuchta

Valentine’s Day is here, and you could give the traditional gift of roses and candy to your special someone, or you could surprise them with a gift that will stick around past the weekend. Giving a plant or a small container garden as a gift is something which lasts longer than either fresh cut flowers or chocolate. You could even give your beloved the flower of their birth month!

Flowers of the Month

When you present your special one a flower which is the flower of their birth month, it’s an endearing and sentimental way to say, “I love you.” You can order some of these plants from your local florist or garden center.

January: Carnation or Snowdrop
February: Primrose or Violet
March: Daffodil, Narcissus or Jonquil
April: Daisy or Sweet Pea
May: Lily of the Valley
June: Rose
July: Water Lily
August: Gladiolus
September: Aster
October: Marigold
November: Chrysanthemum
December: Narcissus

The Meaning of the Color of a Flower

Another thought to consider is what the color of a flower means. Each color can convey a special meaning for what you want to say on Valentine’s Day. Below are some common flower meanings:

Red: Love
Pink: Sweetness
Yellow: Friendship
Crimson: Respect
White: Purity
Orange: Eternal life
Purple: Modesty

Popular Plants

If you do decide to present your sweetheart with one of these plants, be sure to attach a note explaining what the plant means regarding Valentine’s Day. Here are some plants commonly shared between partners and represent romance:

Orchids

A delicate potted orchid is a perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Orchids come is a multitude of colors such as purple, pink, white, striped and yellow. An orchid conveys beauty, strength, endurance and, most of all, love.

Dwarf Pussy Willow

Since pussy willow trees represent maternity and motherhood, it’s an excellent gift for a mother-to-be or a new mother. If twins are expected, give two plants. A pussy willow tree can remain inside until any danger of frost is gone. Then it can be transplanted outside to represent the birth of the new child or children for years to come.

Lavender

A lavender plant is a luxurious way to show your love. Lavender can be made into sachets, body lotions, and soaps or just planted to enjoy its fragrance. Lavender means purity and feelings of sentiment.

Succulents

If you’d like to give a Valentine’s Day gift to a dear friend, this is an excellent choice. Succulents are native to Texas and most of the south, and have become increasingly popular with urban decor. Being drought tolerant–not only are they easy to maintain and unique looking but they mean endurance and longevity. Isn’t that what friendship is all about?

Match Plants to Your Significant Others Personality

Bold and Beautiful

If your sweetheart is bold and beautiful, you might consider buying a Red Aglaonema. This flower has bold colors and showy leaves for the person who likes to dazzle. It’s streaked with shades of pink and bright red. It’s an easy houseplant to grow and can be grown for years. It can be grown in bright or low light and isn’t fussy about water.

Glamorous and Mysterious

An Anthurium is a gift for your Valentine if they have a taste for the exotic. It has heart-shaped, glossy leaves and tropical-looking flowers. The flowers come in beautiful shades of pink, red, purple, orange, and white. It blooms off and on all year and the flowers last for months if the growing conditions are right. It loves humidity and warmth.

As you can see, you can dare to be different for this Valentine’s Day; your sweetheart will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Katie Kuchta is a marketing guru, gardening and outdoor living expert, and self proclaimed foodie. She can often be found cooking in the kitchen or on the hunt for the best tacos, follow her on Instagram @atxtacoqueen.

A Beginner’s Guide to Wonderful Wallpaper

Wall coverings serve as a beautiful accent piece in any room and can be as subtle or as fun as you desire. Here’s how to welcome a wonderful wall treatment into your home.

Guest post by Michelle Lee, Houzz

Wallpaper has a longstanding and misunderstood reputation for being obnoxiously bold and a nightmare to apply and remove. However, it has been entirely reinvented with new materials and appropriately renamed as “wall coverings.” You’ll see it popping up again in designs everywhere. Wall coverings serve as a beautiful accent piece in any room and can be as subtle or as fun as you desire. Here’s how to welcome a wonderful wall treatment into your home.

Learn the Basics

Wall coverings come in wide range of patterns, styles and materials. In comparison, paint is uniform and very 2D while wallpaper opens the door to a new dimension to play with. A great first step to deciding if it’s right for you is to browse inspirational home photos and save the ones that appeal to you the most.

Just like paint and fabric, you can order swatches of wallpaper to test on your walls before you commit. Full rolls can cost anywhere between $50 for plain paper versions to $300 for custom made or 3D textured options. It’s highly recommended, even by the most experienced DIYers, to hire an experienced professional for the final installation. And unlike its predecessors, many wall coverings use a safe and easy-to-remove adhesive for painless removal.

Know Your Options

There are thousands of different designs in production for wallpaper, so chances are if you have a particular look in mind, you’ll find it. On the slight chance it doesn’t exist already, you can commission a custom-made pattern or make your own. Traditional paper coverings are still made today, but vinyl wall coverings are also available and are great candidates for high-traffic areas since they’re glossier and can easily be wiped down.

The Williams Morris designs are popular for historic or arts and crafts style homes and floral patterns are a timeless classic. Alternatively, mural-style wallpapers are a great choice for modern art connoisseurs. They can be made to resemble an oversized print or photograph, a landscape or a cityscape of your hometown. Wall paneled paper pays homage to industrial style and can be made to resemble a brick, wood or concrete wall. If you want something more in-the-moment, graphic, geometric and ombre designs are very contemporary.

Textured grasscloth and silk wall coverings have a unique look and bring warmth and a sense of luxury to any space. These coverings are often one uniform color for people wanting a subtler look. Consider the tone and vibe you’re going for and how it looks from different angles, rooms and light when you’re shopping for the perfect fit.

Choose a Location

Wallpaper works great in just about every room of the house, but materials should be thoughtfully chosen. For example, vinyl coverings are a great choice for kitchens and bathroom since they are moisture-resistant and can easily be wiped clean of dirt or food stains. If you want to test treatments in a small area, consider a low-traffic area such as a powder room or laundry room. If you don’t want to line an entire wall from floor-to-ceiling, you can install wallpaper above wainscoting for a half-wall look. Just like paint, wall coverings also make eye-catching accent walls.

Other fun places to try it out include the entry, along the stairwell, on the ceiling or in a nook. Wallpaper disguises wall blemishes, sets spaces apart in an open floor plan and, with the right pattern, enlarges small spaces. Wallpaper can also be applied to items other than walls, such as lining the back of a bookcase or shelving unit, a large cabinet, dresser or armoire for a stunning look.

How to Host Out-of-Town Guests Before Your Wedding

Here are a few ways to prepare your home for your out-of-town guests before your wedding.

,  COLDWELL BANKER LLC

Guest post by Marissa Hermanson

If you have friends or family flying in for your wedding, inviting them to bunk at your house is a thoughtful way to show your thanks and save them the expense of a hotel. Whether you’re hosting your parents or best friends, you want to ensure that your guests are helpful and not a hinderance during your busy wedding weekend. Here are a few ways to prepare your home so your houseguests have a space to retreat to when you’re focused on wedding planning — and a few fun and easy tasks you can delegate to them without feeling too guilty.

Give Them Privacy

During your wedding weekend, the last thing you want to worry about is entertaining your house guests. Set yourself up for success by preparing a comfortable suite where they can get away and relax while you are in the nuptial zone. If you don’t have a guest room, set up an office or finished basement with an air mattress, plenty of cozy blankets and a place to prop up their suitcase and hang up their wedding garments.

 

Provide Amenities

During the final countdown, you want your guests to feel right at home, not like they’re pestering you with special requests. Furnish the guest room with all the accoutrements that your guests will need during their stay, starting with these ideas:

  • Have fresh linens and towels folded nearby.
  • Stock up on plenty of food and beverages.
  • Give them access to a steamer for their formalwear.
  • Print out an itinerary of how the weekend will unfold.
  • Set out movies, books, magazines or games to occupy them during any downtime.

Get Them Out of Your Hair

While your guests will have their own designated area of your home to retreat to, you also many want to get them out of the house during crunch time. Give your guests an extra set of house keys so they can come and go as needed without getting in your way. Schedule a few activities for them, like visits to a nearby museum or brewery so they can get out and about and explore the area, while simultaneously giving you and your beau some breathing room. Emotions will be running high right before the wedding, and you don’t want to stress yourself by feeling like you have a zoo in your house.

 

Put Them to Work

During their stay, your guests may want to lend a hand, so be sure to put them to good use. Here are a few ways to enlist the help of your house guests with your wedding during the final countdown:

  • Give them your car keys and request that they pick up other guests at the airport as they arrive in town.
  • Have them help out with grocery shopping and party setup if you’re planning a bridal shower or farewell brunch at your house.
  • Put their talents to use! Ask them to pen your escort cards, arrange the flowers or hammer together the wedding arbor.
  • Delegate day-of tasks. The morning of the wedding, ask them to drop off decor at the venue and be on call for any last-minute requests that may arise, like paying vendors or picking up dry-cleaning. Or, put them in charge of important reminders, like bringing the wedding rings to the ceremony.

When you’re about to get married, micromanaging your houseguests should be the last thing on your mind. With these tips, you’ll be able to focus on preparing for the wedding and enjoy the company of your family and friends without stress.

 

Marissa Hermanson has written for several lifestyle publications, including The Knot, Southern Living, Cosmopolitan and others. She also provides engagement and wedding planning advice on behalf of Larson Jewelers, an online retailer that carries a wide variety of unique and affordable rings, including titanium wedding bands.

 Spring Selling Checklist

With spring selling season around the corner, it’s time to give your home the boost it needs to meet today’s buyer expectations.

,  COLDWELL BANKER LLC

Guest post by Patti Stern

With the early spring selling season kicking off shortly after the new year, it’s time to give your home the boost it needs to meet today’s buyers’ expectations. Take advantage of being inside during the cold winter months with these quick fixes that will help your property stand out from the competition, boost its value and sell quickly.

Family Room Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Declutter & Organize

Start tackling one room at a time by packing up anything that will distract buyers from seeing the unique features of your property such as personal collections, family photos, newspapers, books and magazines. Rearrange and remove excessive furniture to simplify and make the room appear larger.

Make Basic Repairs & Updates

Make sure everything is in good working condition. Repair and replace broken light switches, bulbs, ceiling fans, door knobs, leaky faucets, shower heads, windows, thermostats, etc. Update lighting fixtures with contemporary styles and consider replacing older kitchen appliances with sleek, eco-friendly models to capture young buyer interest.

Bedroom Staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Refresh and Brighten With Paint

Remove wallpaper and cover bold wall colors with a fresh coat of neutral paint to set the perfect backdrop for simple, updated styling. Give older style kitchen cabinets or wood vanities an instant facelift by covering with bright white or dark espresso paint. Then pair with knobs and drawer handles in brushed nickel or satin brass for an elegant finishing touch.

Fresh Flooring

There is nothing that dates a room more that worn, soiled carpeting. Remove and/or replace carpeting to reveal hardwood flooring underneath to instantly brighten and make the room feel more spacious. There are also many budget-friendly, easy to install options on the market now for replacing damaged flooring such as laminate and vinyl that look and feel just like wood.

Mudroom Remodel by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Add Storage Options

Today’s buyers are looking for plenty of storage. Added storage solutions such as built-in bookshelves, window seats with storage underneath, entry storage units, and extra closet hooks and rods are a practical way to attract immediate buyer attention.

Partner With a Pro

Consult with a professional stager who will have an objective eye and knowledge of what appeals to today’s sophisticated buyers. They will provide a range of solutions for enhancing your home showings by recommending everything from furniture placement to wall color to complementary modern accessories to add clean, welcoming style.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.

 

Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Her company has received Houzz 2015, 2016 and 2017 Awards for Customer Service.

Patti has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV.  She is a regular contributor to the National Association of Realtor’s Blog, “Style, Staged and Sold.”

8 Key Elements for a Productive Workspace

Here are 8 essential elements to integrate into your workspace at home to set the foundation for a great year.

Guest post by Michelle Lee, Houzz

A common New Year’s resolution that almost everyone aims for is to increase productivity in their career, personal craft or both. You’re nearly a month into 2018, so it’s time to get started on your quest for success. Here are eight essential elements to integrate into your workspace to set the foundation for a great year.

Choose Your Location Wisely

Having the right setting for a home office can make or break your progress. Dedicating a full room to work is a great setup, preferably away from the main hustle and bustle of the house to cut down on noise pollution and distractions. For those with smaller spaces, you can integrate a workspace into the bedroom, walk-in closet or basement.

 

Look to the Light

After you find a location for your office, draft your ideal layout. Start by situating the desk in front of an expansive window or door to the outside if possible. Basking in the limited daylight or watching the rain or snowfall outdoors can provide a non-invasive, relaxing break for your eyes when you’re feeling overwhelmed or worn out.

When the sun goes down, make sure you have adequate lighting to reduce eye strain. Desk lamps, floor lamps and wall-mounted sconces all provide great task lighting. Use a blue-tinted bulb, since it has been shown to increase alertness.

 

Customize Your Storage Setup

Another popular resolution is to cut clutter and a home office is a great place to organize first. Install floating shelves above the desk to free up valuable space, use file cabinets to hold papers and keep pens and pencils handy with clear glass jars. If space allows, add a refreshments station nearby to limit the number of times you have to get up and wander about.

 

Switch to a Laptop

Some professions require the use of a large monitor, but if you can do without, go for it. Laptops are great space-saving tools for small offices and pack a punch of power and reliability for whatever you’re working on. They also allow you to move around instead of being kept stationary at your desk and give you the satisfaction of symbolically closing the book at the end of a long workday.

 

Sit Pretty

With typical work days of eight hours, your choice of seating can make a big difference for your well-being. Prioritize comfort over style and invest in a sturdy ergonomic office chair that will last for years to come. Alternatively, add a detachable back or headrest to your existing setup or repurpose a plush armchair to use at your desk instead.

 

Create Visual Interest

Having something to occupy a wandering eye can be beneficial to your productivity. Patterns have been shown to promote creative stimulation at work, so look to wallpaper or artwork for interesting designs. Hang paintings at a comfortable eye level above the desk or mount them on peripheral side walls to reduce possible distractions. For a simplified look, paint an accent wall or the ceiling in your favorite hue.

 

Keep Inspiration Nearby

You’re likely all-too-familiar with battling writer’s block at some point and it’s important to learn how to overcome it in the future. Use an oversized bulletin board to pin inspiring photos, jot down fleeting ideas in a journal and assemble a folder of your previous work to look back on when your bank of ideas is running dry. Seeing what you’ve achieved and done so far can be just the boost you need.

 

Shake up Your Routine

Break yourself out of creative ruts and jumpstart your success by adopting a new hobby this year. If you’re prone to procrastination, set a timer to work less overall but smarter. With less time, you may be motivated to work harder, faster and generally better. You can also try switching your scenery to collaborate with a friend or at a coworking cafe. When you need a break from your screen, take a brisk walk around the block or exercise indoors to give your brain a much-needed reset.

Want to Buy Smart Home Tech in 2018? Look Out for These Products

Want to Buy Smart Home Tech in 2018? Look Out for These Products

,  COLDWELL BANKER LLC

It’s no surprise that smart home tech adoption is growing. In fact, our annual Smart Home Marketplace Survey unveiled on Monday found that over the past year, the number of consumers with smart home technology grew by 33%! We’re confident that this number will continue to grow as smart home gadgets become more intuitive and connected, but we were curious to see what kinds of products consumers were eager to buy in 2018.

Part of our survey ranked the types of products people were looking to buy in 2018 and found that smart entertainment, smart security, and smart temperature were the three categories consumers are most eager to add to their homes this year. Our team has scoured the CES Smart Home Marketplace (sponsored by Coldwell Banker, of course) and found the smartest – and coolest – products for you to add to your smart home wish lists this year.

Smart Entertainment – LG’s 65 Inch 4K OLED Roll-Up TV

Photo Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, you read that right – this TV can roll up like a poster. The original concept for this TV was unveiled two-years ago, but LG has now unveiled a bigger, more sophisticated model for consumers. The concept behind this flexible and portable TV is that it can free up wall space that homeowners might want to open up when the TV isn’t in use. For example, if you are hosting a fancy party, you can roll up the TV and free up 65 inches worth of space which you can use to hang up artwork. And for quality family time, this TV can roll up and create a distraction-free zone! What’s more – this roll-up TV has excellent sound and picture quality, so a win all around.

Photo Credit: Somfy


Smart Security – Somfy Outdoor Cam
Somfy unveiled its new Somfy Outdoor Cam, which was also the winner of this year’s CES Innovation Awards. The Outdoor Cam comes equipped with some sharp features including the ability to intelligently tell the difference between whether the motion detected outside your home is a harmless animal or car, or a sketchy trespasser. What’s more, the camera can actually tell how long an intruder has been lingering outside of your property and can sound a warning siren within a preset amount of time to ward off any trouble! The camera integrates with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit.

Smart Temperature – Microsoft’s Smart Thermostat Powered by Cortana

Photo Credit: Microsoft

Those of us using Windows computers are familiar with Cortana – and now she’s making a foray into smart home products. Microsoft officially unveiled its GLAS smart thermostat powered by Cortana which is a sleek, glass-encased touchscreen thermostat with an OLED display. This thermostat does more than just heat and cool your home – it monitors air quality, checks the weather and it is intuitive enough to learn your routines and preferences. The GLAS thermostat will be available in March 2018 and will retail for $319. Stay tuned for more Blue Matter content coming out of CES and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for exclusive video from the show floor throughout Smart Home Month.

If you’re already affiliated with Coldwell Banker and want to learn more about our Smart Home initiative, visit CB Exchange and search “Smart Home.”

How to Winterize Your Bedroom for Cozy Comfort

Pile on fuzzy textures and transform your bedroom into a snowy sanctuary for naps and lounging.

By Michelle Lee, Houzz

Get ready to cuddle up in bed with your significant other, furry friend or a good book this month. Pile on fuzzy textures and transform your bedroom into a snowy sanctuary for naps and lounging. Stock up on these essentials for the warmest season yet.

Invest in High-Quality Bedding

Your choice of sheets and blankets will really matter in the dead of winter and can dramatically improve your quality of sleep by wrapping you in a warm embrace. Look for ones made of insulating wool, cashmere or flannel to ensure warmth all night long. If your budget allows, splurge on an electric blanket for the room too.

To add even more warmth, shop for a goose down duvet or quilt. This fill provides thermal protection against the cold while also being breathable for ultimate comfort. For those with allergies, cotton and microfiber options are comfortable, budget-friendly alternatives.

Gather a bunch of pillows and throws on top of your bedscape. A stack of fluffy pillows provide back support for reading in bed, while layers of throws make heat control easier. Go for fleece or velvet for an irresistible look and use this opportunity to experiment with color and pattern.

Warm up Your Palette

Swap summer blues and autumn reds for creamy neutrals this winter. White is not only a foolproof choice that pairs well with every color on the spectrum, but it also helps reflect and spread the scarce daylight we have this season. Dip your toes into the timeless Scandinavian style trend by testing out a bright white palette in your bedroom. Spring to life in milky white and soft yellow hues or pair pale blue and gray together for a relaxing look.

Accent a neutral palette with warm wood around the room. As seen in this Montreal bedroom, the paneled ceiling and trim lend a cozy cabin vibe amidst the bleak winter landscape outside. You can replicate the look in smaller doses with a wooden nightstand, stool or headboard.

If you’re willing to venture past your color comfort zone, use a bold hue or two sparingly for a much-needed mood and energy booster. Welcome a bright yellow, pink or teal through accessories like decorative pillows, bedside lamps or overhead artwork.

Light it Up

Since the sun now sets hours earlier than it does on long summer nights, we have to substitute the lost hours of daylight all on our own. Invest in a layered lighting plan to illuminate every dark corner and visually enlarge your space. A great combination is having an overhead fixture, such as a statement chandelier or a cluster of pendants, and adding smaller lights where they’re needed, like lamps or wall sconces. Shop for LED bulbs for energy efficiency or incandescents to mimic the sun’s yellow tint. If you’re still in the holiday spirit, you can also hang string lights above the headboard or along a spare wall for an extra homey feel.

Stash the Nightstand

When you’re too comfy in bed to get up and venture to another cold room, look to your nightstand for one or two of your daily essentials. Choose from a humidifier to combat the dry season or an aromatherapy diffuser to set the mood; succulents or fresh flowers for a welcome burst of nature; a small tea or coffee maker for early mornings; and a journal or good book for inspiration. If your bedside table is looking a little worn out, upgrade it now to one with multiple shelves or drawers for year-round storage.