Fall is a great time to get back outside after hiding out in the air conditioning the last few months. So, now that it isn’t scorching outside, what are some cool things to do?
Fall veggies at the farmers market
There is a common misconception that farmers markets wrap up at the end of summer. In most cases, that’s simply not true; enjoy the cooler weather while perusing seasonal veggies and continuing to support local farmers.
Take a hike
The best part about the dropping temperatures is it makes going outside way more enjoyable. And there is less of a chance of encountering a snake. So, that’s a bonus. Go alone, with some friends, or take your dog. Going hiking alone can be therapeutic, but risky; let someone know where you’re going and be careful. If you’re taking a pet, read our blog to ensure you and your pet have the best time.
If you are hitting the trails with kids, try having a scavenger hunt to get them more interested. It can be as simple as two types of leaves, a pine cone, something they think is pretty. Anything, really, to get the kids engaged with the outdoors.
Check out local businesses in your area; it’s likely you have a fall festival happening near you. It’s common for nurseries, markets, and farming supply stores to host family-friendly festivals featuring seasonal produce, crafts, pumpkins, and cold weather plants.
With the new season comes the new drink menu. Hit up your local coffee shop and see what they have to offer. Trust me, there’s more to fall than pumpkin spice. If coffee isn’t your thing, try a tea shop instead.
Go to a football game
Show some support for your local high school, whether you’re an alum or not, by going to a football game.
Is staying in more your speed? That’s cool, too. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy.
Tackle your fall reading list
If you’re like me, you have a stack of books just waiting to be read. Some books just feel right in different seasons. A few you may want to check out this season are:
The Line That Held Us, David Joy
It’s an Appalachian Noir, which is reason enough to read it.
Last Night in Twisted River, John Irving
Irving, for me, just reads better when it’s cooler outside.
The Cormoron Strike series, Robert Galbraith
These intense murder mysteries will make you want to stay in with a strong cup of tea.
Baking is so much fun, but turning the oven on in the summer will heat up your whole house. Now that it’s cooler, bake some seasonal goodies. Pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, or, if you’re extra ambitious, make some caramel apples.
Cats make wonderful companions and are wonderful pets for people who don’t want, or have time for, a dog. But, there is the litter box to contend with. In a small space, litter box maintenance is crucial. Here are a few tips to keep your cat’s box, and your apartment, smelling fresh.
Choosing the right brand can make all the difference. Spring for a higher quality when it comes to your pet’s box. Litter comes in both scented and unscented. While it is a personal choice, the scented litters are often associated with litter boxes so it could actually imply that the box is dirty when it is, in fact, clean.
What your cat eats matters. For their health, you should be feeding them a high quality dry food anyway. Of course they love the canned wet food, treats, and milk, but those things aren’t necessarily good for your cat. Find other ways, such as a new toy, some play time, or a cat garden, to treat your pet.
Aren’t sure what a cat garden is? Read our blog to find out more.
Change the litter often
The litter box should be cleaned out at least once a day and the litter should be completely changed out at least once a week, more often depending on use and number of cats. Using a liner will make changing the litter a much smoother process.
To help cut down on odor, add baking soda to the mix, Rather than masking the smell with another smell like the scented litters do, baking soda works as a true odor eliminator. And it’s cheap!
In a small space, it can be difficult to find the right place for your pet’s box. Make sure, when setting it up, your cat’s litter box goes in a well-vented area.
Fresh litter boxes are essential for a healthy and happy cat. What do you do when, once your cat has finished their business, they get loose litter everywhere?
Buy a denser litter, if it’s something that will work for you and your cat.
Buy a box with taller sides. This will reduce the chances of the litter leaving the box.
Place the litter box in a secondary container. Some cats like to scratch and dig after they go. Putting a mat they can scratch and you can easily clean will make you and your cat happy.
Litter boxes may not be for you. There is an alternative. You an try potty training your cat. Yep. Some cats, with patience and work, can be taught to use the toilet. Here’s how it’s done.
The most important thing is to find something that works for both you and your cat. A clean litter box is important to their overall health and will keep your place smelling so fresh and so clean.
Fall is just around the cornet. Decorating seasonally can get expensive. These easy to make decorations will have your place looking festive without blowing your budget. Try incorporating fall textiles like burlap, fall aromas, and everyone’s favorite go-to, gourds.
Decorating with Burlap
Burlap is a signature fall textile. It’s inexpensive, versatile, and easy to work with. So, what can you do with it? Well, pretty much anything. Burlap looks effortless and marries well with other textiles and colors. To take the work out of seasonal decorating, make a few key pieces in burlap and, when the seasons change, throw in some trending colors. Don’t know what the 2018 fall color trends are? Check out our previous blog!
Some fall specific burlap decor includes:
Burlap door hanging.
Tablecloths and placements.
Burlap can be cut into fun shapes such as leaves and acorns.
For more burlap ideas and how to use burlap effectively, head to Pinterest. There you’ll find ideas and tutorials on how to make these trendy items yourself.
Scent is an underutilized sense when it comes to decor. Scents like cinnamon and nutmeg conjures up feelings of fall with minimal effort on your part. Scented oils and candles are great, but some people are sensitive to concentrated scents. An alternative to candles are scented pine cones. Yes, pine cones.
Follow these easy steps to make some for yourself:
Go for a hike and pick up some pine cones.
Rinse them in warm water to remove debris, dirt, etc.
Place them on a baking sheet and bake them at 250 for 20 minutes.
Let them cool.
Carefully place pine cones in a gallon Ziplock bag.
Add as little or as much of your favorite essential oil as you would like.
Zip up the bag and leave it alone for about a week.
Open and enjoy.
When the scent begins to fade, repeat steps 5 – 8!
Pumpkins and Gourds
Pumpkins and gourds scream fall. If you have the space to store them when you aren’t using them, you can always buy artificial pumpkins and gourds from your local craft store. Mixing and matching squashes, pumpkins, and gourds adds a fun, festive vibe to your place. Or, you can buy real ones at the grocery store. Make a festive display for your table. Easy peasy.
Go All Out
Fall is a great transitional season as we move into the holiday season. Treat it right by going all out with your decor. Try combing burlap and pine cones to make a beautiful wreath. Place a few scented pine cones to fill out your gourd display. Don’t be afraid to mix these decorating ideas with the beautiful trending colors. Olive green in particular looks stunning with pine cones and burlap.
The idea is to have fun with it. Plan a craft night with your friends and enjoy some DIY fun.
Renters’ insurance isn’t only a great idea, but it’s also becoming required. So, what exactly is renters’ insurance and, since you have to have it, what are your buying options?
What exactly is Renters’ Insurance?
Renters’ Insurance is similar to a homeowners’ policy in that it covers possessions when there’s a break-in or if your personal property is damaged due to a fire, flood, or other natural disaster. Where it differs from homeowners’ is covering the structure itself. But, since you, as a renter, are not responsible for the structure or property, you don’t need to worry about that. The person who owns the property itself is responsible for the structure.
Now that we know what it is, let’s discuss options.
Get Renters’ Insurance from a local insurance agent.
Big name companies such as Allstate, Farmers, State Farm, Geico, and Progressive all offer renters’ insurance. Getting a quote from their sites is fairly straight forward. However, there is something to be said about meeting with a local agent from one of these firms and getting a quote in person. An agent may be able to help you get the best policy for the least amount of money by offering a bundle option; insuring your vehicle, motorcycle, or other items of value in one policy.
A quick Google search should bring up a plethora of options when it comes to finding an agent.
Having a local agent isn’t for everyone. Or, maybe you use public transportation, so bundling isn’t necessary. There are other options out there.
Non-Traditional Insurance Options
Do a quick Google search for renters’ insurance and the first thing that pops up is an ad for a company that is relatively unknown in the insurance world.
Let’s explore a couple of alternative companies:
Lemonade: unusual name, but it worked for Beyonce’, why not an insurance company, too? Lemonade offers insurance in 90 seconds for as little as $5 a month.
Jetty: as with Lemonade, Jetty offers insurance beginning at just $5 a month.
Local Agent vs. Non-Traditional
Options are great and it’s nice to have options. So, when deciding what renters’ insurance to go with, consider how you would deal with it if the worst happened. Let’s say your home/apartment was struck by lightning, causing all of your electronics to fry and also, randomly, your water pipes exploded. In that situation, would you feel better and less stressed if you could talk to an actual person? For me, the answer is yes. I can say that with 100% certainty because that actually happened to me. If, unlike me, you would rather handle business over the phone or via computer, then you may not need an agent.
You Have Renter’s Insurance. What now?
Having a policy is not enough. You need to catalog what you own. Take pictures on your phone. Make a short video. Upload it to the cloud in case something happens to your phone. When in a high stress situation, it’s easy to forget what exactly you own. Yes, you know you own a smart TV. But, what brand? What model?
As with anything, shop around before you buy and get the policy that suits you best. Need more info on renters’ insurance? Check out our blog.
Now that the weather is getting cooler, you may be thinking about hitting the trails. And of course you want to take your furbaby with you! What do you need to know before hiking with your dog?
Hiking with your dog can be a lot of fun for everyone involved. However, just as with people, choosing the right trail is critical. With older dogs, choose a shorter, less strenuous trail. Dogs are just happy to be there. They’ll keep hiking as long as you do. Be mindful and don’t push your senior pups too hard.
Smaller dogs will likely tire faster than larger dogs simply because they have to take more steps to cover the area. Take breaks when you, or your dog, needs to.
Hiking Trail Etiquette
As with the dog park, there is definitely hiking trail etiquette you should abide by when hitting the trails with your dog. Letting your dog off leash may seem like a good idea. It isn’t. Remember, there are other people using the trails. Be respectful. It’s also not safe for your dog. There are other dogs to be mindful of and, of course, wild animals. A dog, especially if they have any sort of hunting dog DNA, will be over stimulated very easily. There’s too much to smell and chase. It is likely that, even if they’re the best boy or girl, they may get distracted and run off.
When going hiking with your dog, you may need to pack some extra gear, depending on how long you plan to be gone. Water is a must. To save space, take a collapsible water bowl, available at any outdoors store or online. These bowls take up minimal space and allow your pet to get a quick drink when you stop to take a break.
If you have a larger dog, let them carry their own things! Doggie backpacks are adorable and functional. Here’s a link to a backpack my dog has used.
My dog, an 80 pound Pointer mix, loves his backpack and he loves to go hiking. That doesn’t mean he’s great at it. When wearing his backpack, we clip is leash to his pack rather than his collar. Catching a scent, he kept his nose to the ground and stepped right off a cliff. Had his leash been clipped to his collar, he may have choked before we could pull him up. We were able to get him back on solid ground, thankfully the buckles held, the backpack stayed in place, and Dipstick was safe and sound.
Talk to you Vet before you go
If you plan on taking your fubaby hiking, you may want to ask your vet about any additional medications your pet may need. Besides their usual heartworm, flea, and tick meds, they may need something for water parasites. Drinking dirty water isn’t something your dog does on a regular basis and they could very easily pick up a parasite in the water, making them very ill and ruining the hiking or camping trip.
So, hit the trails with your dog this fall and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Fall is just around the corner. Thank goodness. With the new season comes new color trends. So, what are the key colors this upcoming season? Read on to find out!
Pantone is the authority on all things color and it looks like bright and bold are taking over this season. A spin on more muted fall colors, rustic reds, martini olives, and bright blues are all the rage. And they compliment the less likely fall and winter colors like lavender and yellow. So, how can you easily incorporate these colors into your space?
As a renter, you can’t use paint to incorporate color trends, but you can use pillows and blankets, doubly useful as it gets colder and colder outside. Textiles also add a sense of comfort to your space. A lot of apartments are neutral tones so adding pops of exciting colors gives it a homey feel. Also, a lavender pillow is probably easier to live with long term than lavender walls.
If you’re wanting to step it up a notch, buy a small piece of furniture, like a side table, in a trending color. Can’t find one? Hit up a few yard sales or thrift stores and paint one.
You know how much we love plants. Planters, vases, and flower pots are an easy way to incorporate trending colors. They’re not a huge commitment and you can easily paint them if you get tired of the colors. Turn your apartment into a trendy, urban jungle.
Mix and match the color trends.
The idea of mixing bold, bright colors may seem a little overwhelming. But, give it a shot. I’m so happy to see olive green in the mix because, surprisingly, it matches everything. It’s great with reds, oranges, yellows, blues, and even that lavender that’s seemingly around to stay. So, like the Pantone color trends, be bold and mix it up!
Color trends come and go with the seasons. Adding a pop here and there of the current trends will give your space a modern contemporary feel without blowing your budget. Save your dollars for important fall items like scarves and pumpkin spice lattes.
Smart upgrades to your apartment communities will help attract and retain a broader demographic of renters. Here are easy steps you can take to upgrade your rental properties.
Why Invest in Smart Upgrades?
Smart home automation is not a trend; it’s the new normal. And while there are countless gadgets and apps renters can add to their apartment themselves, smart property owners are integrating technology into their apartment communities. These smart upgrades not only help to attract and retain renters, but also increase profits and overall security.
Schlage’s Industry Insight Survey found that 86% of millennials and 65% of baby boomers are willing to pay higher rents for apartments already equipped with smart technology. In addition, many insurance companies offer lower rates for properties with smart home features. Broad rental appeal, increased revenue, and decreased expenses make these upgrades a no-brainer for property owners.
Upgrades That Reduce Energy Consumption and Cost
Thermostats- Smart thermostats offer programming and remote control of HVAC units by both renters and apartment managers. This lowers utility usage and costs and allows managers to monitor empty units. Furthermore, managers can adjust the temperature of a unit before a showing without having to leave their office.
Lighting- Smart bulbs and lighting fixtures, similarly to smart thermostats, allow for programing and remote control. Renters can turn their lights on from work so they don’t have to stumble through the dark, while managers can program a lighting schedule to make vacant units appear occupied.
Smart blinds- While smart blinds may seem like a frivolous expense, they are actually a sound investment for people looking to reduce energy costs. Program the blinds to open during the day to let warming sunlight in, then close at night for privacy.
Upgrades That Increase Security
Smart appliances- A fully connected kitchen is certain to attract renters. But, most noteworthy, it could also save property owners from disasters. For example, a smart oven can be programmed to send an alert if left on for a certain amount of time. Managers can turn off the appliance remotely, preventing an abandoned stovetop from becoming a devastating fire.
Smart outlets- Similar to smart appliances, smart outlets provide security and convenience. For example, if a renter thinks they left a curling iron turned on when they left for work, they can simply turn the outlet off from their desk instead of rushing home.
Smart locks- Smart locks allow keyless entry through access codes or thumbprint recognition. Renters and apartment managers can set temporary codes for maintenance and service workers. Temporary access codes are much safer than providing a key, which could be copied before return. Smart locks can also be reprogrammed between renters, instead of replaced like traditional locks.
Some smart home devices connect to individual apps; most connect to a central control hub, like Amazon Echo or Google Home. Many renters own one system or the other before they move in. Unless you’re willing to provide either Echo or Google Home in each unit, invest in smart devices that are compatible with both.
As a renter, you’re already making smart financial decisions. As with your other tech, your security, smart lighting and thermostats, and locks are portable. Meaning, you can take them with you when you move.
Being portable is key.
We’ve already covered, at length, the devices required to make a your apartment smart:
A security system you simply plug in. For more information on the security systems, check out SimpliSafe. Of the sites we researched, they seemed to have the most options.
Locks that are installed with ease in place of a traditional deadbolt.
Thermostats that allow you to control your environment from anywhere.
Lights you can control with your phone.
These easy to use and reasonably priced devices are more than just convenience; they offer a sense of security to your space.
One of the benefits of renting is not being financially responsible for maintenance issues; therefore, it may seem counter intuitive to spend your own money making improvements on a place that, doesn’t belong to you. The difference here is, everything is portable; you can take it all with you if and when you move.
Strike a bargain.
If you are ready for an upgrade or simply don’t feel like changing out lights and the thermostat, try talking to your landlord or property manager. Explain to them the benefits of your smart devices. Show them utility bills proving your devices have saved you money. Smart apartments are popping up all over the country; show your manager the value in having these devices. They might just buy them from you. It’s worth a shot!
If it’s a no-go, be sure to replace the fixtures you stored carefully when you replaced them with your smart devices and, because your things are portable, pack them up and install at your new place.
Feeling safe and comfortable in your space is important for physical and mental well-being, portable smart technology allows you to have that sense of security where your home may be.
As smart apartments become more mainstream, renters are faced with a decision: Amazon Echo or Google Home? Here’s an in-depth look at both systems to help you decide which is right for you.
Amazon Echo and Google Home are both smart speaker systems. Connect them to a wide range of other smart devices to allow voice control throughout your apartment. Amazon Echo’s voice assistant is Alexa. Google Home’s is Google Assistant. Use “wake words” to activate the assistants. Alexa’s wake words include “Alexa”, “computer”, “Amazon”, and “Echo”. In contrast, Google Assistant has one wake phrase: “Hey, Google.”
Let’s take a look at each system.
The system allows for control of multiple devices, grouped by rooms.
Amazon’s system is compatible with more smart devices than Google Home.
Echo has strong wi-fi connectivity.
Devices have an aux-out jack for connection to existing audio systems.
Amazon’s system offers more third party skills, like ordering takeout or rideshare services, than Google’s system.
Echo offers louder speakers than Google Home.
Users can make outbound calls to regular phones and receive calls from other Alexa systems. The optional add-on Echo Connect allows users to receive calls to their home phone through their Alexa system.
The system connects to multiple streaming services through Chromecast or Fire Sticks.
Alexa responds best to a set group of phrases, as opposed to general questions.
Speaker sound quality isn’t as good as Google Home’s.
The system relies mostly on Wikipedia to answer general knowledge questions.
Alexa must receive a verbal command to switch user accounts.
System does not allow streaming of YouTube.
The Echo speaker is a short cylinder with a single ring on top that lights up when the system is activated. Multiple cover options are available for personalization. Styles are predominately neutral fabrics and woods.
Entry level Echo systems start at $49.99. Echo Plus systems are $149.99. Multiple add-on options are available for additional costs.
Google’s system searches a much broader database than Amazon’s to answer general knowledge questions.
Speaker sound quality is much better than Echo’s.
Google Home devices allow users to upload their own music.
Like Amazon, Google Home allows control of multiple smart devices, grouped by rooms.
Google’s system supports the same streaming services as Amazon’s, with the addition of YouTube.
Google Assistant automatically switches user accounts, based on voice recognition. The system is capable of remembering up to six individual voices.
Google Assistant has more conversation capabilities than Amazon’s Alexa.
The system allows users to make outbound calls.
Google Assistant does not allow users to receive calls through the system.
The system has slightly weaker wi-fi connectivity than Amazon’s system.
Google Home offers fewer third party skills than Amazon’s system.
Google Home’s speaker is a tall, white cylinder with multiple base options. In contrast to Amazon’s neutral and wood tones, Google Home offers bright colors and metal finishes, with four LED color options that light up when the system is in use.
Google Home Mini starts at $39.00, whereas Google Home Max will cost $399.00. Multiple add-on features are available for additional costs.
Click here for a variety of smart devices you can connect to your chosen speaker system.
Smart apartments are becoming more and more popular as people realize implementing smart tech in their lives can save them money, increase efficiency, and improve their comfort. But, what gadgets make an apartment smart? Read on to find out.
The best thing about this type of system is, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee as you do with a traditional system. The bad news is, there are so many to choose from. So, we’ve done a little research on the top-rated security gadgets.
Ring Alarm Home Security
These brands range in price, but all offer basically the same features:
Notifications when someone enters or leaves your home.
Smash proof protection.
On-the-Go mobile control using your cellular device.
Built-in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Of the brands listed, SimpliSafe seems to offer a wider variety of options and, at under $300, is still relatively affordable. Check out their site to see if they are right for you.
As an added bonus, some insurance companies will actually give you a discount on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance just because you have a security system. If you rent and don’t have insurance, you could be breaking your lease agreement. Stop right here and read this to find out why you NEED renter’s insurance.
General Gadgets You Can Easily Add Yourself.
Homeowners have a bit of an advantage when it comes to updating their home; they don’t have to get permission from a superintendent. So, they can go all out, swapping out appliances such as stove tops (yes, smart stoves are real) and washing machines. Renters don’t have that luxury, but there are still things you can do to protect yourself, save some money, or both.
Smart locks – these locks, operated by your smart phone, are easy to install. They simply go in place of your existing deadbolt.
Thermostats – again, using your smart phone, you can control the temperature in your apartment or home.
Lights – if you’re like me, you don’t like leaving lights on all day. But, walking in to a completely dark home can be a little scary. Turn them on remotely when you pull up and walk into a well-lit home.
Now, which ones should you buy? Well, as with the security systems, several companies offer smart gadgets at reasonable prices. Read the reviews, ask questions, and thoroughly research before you buy.
Most importantly, before you make any modifications, get permission. If your superintendent or property manager seems hesitant, try hosting a meeting with other tenants. If more tenants are interested, you may be able to persuade the manager.
Lastly, if you do get permission, store the locks, thermostats, etc. you replace and reinstall them when you move.
Gadgets such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home can make life more convenient and safe.
Next week we’ll explore the differences between the two. Stay tuned!