The Most Overlooked And Under-Cleaned Areas Of Your Home

No matter how clean your kitchen is, there’s dirt and grime hiding underneath and behind your appliances.

The Most Overlooked and Under-Cleaned Areas of Your Home

You clean your house once a week… or do you? Sure, you dust, vacuum, and scrub the kitchen and bathrooms, but you still aren’t getting your home as clean as it can be. This is a problem if you or a family member suffers from allergies or respiratory illness. This isn’t your fault, however, so don’t beat yourself up. There are nooks and crannies in every home that hide dirt, and there are household items you might not even realize need cleaning. I’m here to help you avoid these hidden traps. Let’s talk about nine of the most overlooked and under-cleaned areas of your home.

  1. Under and Behind Major Appliances: You can see the dust bunnies under your couch; you cannot see them under your refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, and dryer… and you likely don’t want to. These areas become a breeding ground for dust, grease, and grunge. Even if it’s only twice a year (spring and fall), pull these appliances out and scrub underneath and behind them. A solution of white vinegar and water works well, and you can use baking soda to scour away any tough stains.
  2. The Appliances Themselves: Before you slide your appliances back into place, clean the backsides and sides of each, paying special attention to anything that needs cleaning on the unit, such as your refrigerator coils, which you can dry brush or vacuum clean. Empty and clean the insides of your appliances using a water and baking soda solution, and then scoot them carefully back into place. Make sure to disconnect and unplug everything before you clean.
  3. Drains: Drains collect a ton of grime. Whether it’s your kitchen drain filled with food residue or shower drains filled with hair, it’s important to regularly clean these areas in order to maintain function. Once a month, take 1/2 cup of baking soda and sprinkle it down each drain. Next, take 1/2 cup of white vinegar and pour that down so the mixture foams. Leave the drains alone for 30 minutes. After a half-hour, boil a large pot of salt water and carefully pour that down each drain to rinse everything clean.
  4. Faucets: Your drains aren’t the only things in your sinks, showers, and tubs that need attention. You also need to clean your faucets. Unscrew the faucet heads on those that are removable and soak them in white vinegar for 30 minutes. Grab an old toothbrush and gently scrub away any lime and residue, rinse clean, and then replace. Note: Some of your faucets will have multiple parts as you unscrew them, so make certain you remember how to reassemble them properly.
  5. Ceiling Fan Blades: Ceiling fans are wonderful appliances for keeping the temperature in your home even and controlled throughout the year, but as those blades are gently circulating your indoor air, they are collecting a tremendous amount of dust. If you don’t include your ceiling fan blades in your weekly dusting, make sure to dust and clean them at least once a month. You can either dust with an extended-reach duster or carefully use a stepladder to reach the blades.
  6. Lighting Globes, Panels, and Lampshades: If your home is older, you may have ceiling lights that are covered by globes. You may also have kitchen ceiling fluorescent lighting and lamps throughout your home. It’s wise to remove your ceiling lighting globes and panels at least every couple of months and clean out the dead bugs and grime that collects. Simply sponging them down with warm, sudsy water will do the trick. Don’t forget to dust your lampshades, too.
  7. Baseboards: This is one of the most forgotten areas of your home. Many people don’t think about cleaning their baseboards until the grunge is already caked on; this holds especially true in humid environments such as your bathrooms. Don’t forget to clean around the base of your walls monthly to ensure your baseboards are not gathering irritating dust. You can dust them with a feather duster or damp sponge, depending upon how dirty they are.
  8. Kitchen Cabinet Tops: In most cases, there is a space between your kitchen cabinets and your ceiling and that area is dust bunny heaven. Once a month, take a damp sponge or cloth and wipe clean the tops of your kitchen cabinets. If your home isn’t prone to collecting too much dust, a feather duster might do the trick. Don’t stand on your kitchen counters to do this; that’s dangerous. Use a sturdy stepladder and work slowly and carefully.
  9. Remote Controls: Surprise! You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Believe it or not, the one thing that you cannot pry out of your husband or kid’s hand is one of the dirtiest and germ-riddled items in your home. Dirty, grimy, sticky fingers spend all afternoon and evening pressing the buttons channel surfing, so wipe down your remote controls weekly with a cotton ball doused in rubbing alcohol, and get in between the buttons with cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol. Remove the batteries first.

This might seem like a lot, but it really doesn’t take that much additional time to clean these hidden and grimy areas of your home. If you keep it up as you do the rest of your house, you’ll forget you’ve even added them to your cleaning routine. The bottom line is that your home is your castle! You’ve worked hard for it and you’re proud of it, so make sure you’re not overlooking and under-cleaning parts of it.

Baking Soda, The Best Remedy To All Your Spring Ailments

Take the “ouch” out of bee stings with baking soda.

Baking Soda, the Best Remedy to All Your Spring Ailments

If there is one natural miracle cure, it’s baking soda. It doesn’t matter if you use it for personal health or cleaning purposes; baking soda is nature’s remedy to just about everything. As we move forward with greater concerns over our health and environment, the one thing we should always keep in mind is that our 20th-century solutions to first aid and cleaning are not as safe as we thought they were. We’re living in the 21st century, and it’s time to adopt an advanced mindset by taking things back to basics. One way to do that is to add good old-fashioned baking soda to your healthcare and cleaning arsenal, because it really is the best remedy for all your spring ailments.

15 Amazing Uses

Don’t believe me? That’s okay. I meet people daily who are afraid to let go of their chemically laden first aid kit and cleaning supplies. They still believe that bleach is the best solution for that grimy bathroom and grungy laundry, unaware of how dangerous the chemical actually is.

Rather than try to convince you by pointing out all of the chemical products’ dangers and downfalls, I’m going to give you 15 positive reasons why you should make the switch to baking soda. If these reasons don’t convince you, nothing will!

  1. Whiten Your Teeth: Skip the harsh whitening toothpastes and strips and brush your teeth with baking soda instead. It naturally and safely whitens your teeth and freshens your breath.
  2. Soak Your Kids’ Retainers or Your Dentures: Baking soda works just as well as manufactured cleaners in getting your dental appliances clean and fresh between wearing.
  3. Exfoliate Your Skin: Exfoliate your face, hands, elbows, and feet! If you make a paste of baking soda and water, you have a fantastic, natural way to remove rough, dead skin.
  4. Insect Bites and Bee Stings: With spring comes insect bites and bee stings, and baking soda takes the “sting” out of both. Just make a thick paste with water and apply to the wound.
  5. Relax: If you’re exhausted and have been on your feet all day, add 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of baking soda to warm bath water, immerse yourself, and soak the day’s troubles away.
  6. Scrub-a-dub the Tub: After you’ve soaked your stress away, clean your tub with baking soda. This amazing powder will clean all of your bathroom and kitchen tile surfaces.
  7. Clean Your Shower Curtain: Baking soda also works beautifully on your vinyl shower curtain. Sprinkle baking soda on the damp curtain, scrub it, and rinse; it’s already hanging to dry!
  8. Disinfect Your Sponges: Refresh your cleaning tools, too. Add baking soda to hot water, soak the mold and mildew out of your sponges, and allow them to air dry.
  9. Polish Your Silver: Using your silver for that special graduation dinner? A paste of baking soda and water is a safe way to polish away tarnish without the nasty cleaner fumes.
  10. Clean Your Appliances: To get your microwave and conventional ovens clean, moisten your sponge, sprinkle it with baking soda, and scour away. It even scrubs away caked-on foods.
  11. Remove Coffee Pot Stains: Coffee stains our teeth and our coffee pots. Fill your coffee pot with warm water and 1/4 cup baking soda and soak away the stains; it works on your mugs, too.
  12. Safely Scrub Walls: Don’t flip out if you come home to your three-year-old’s crayon “graffiti.” Scrub the crayon off with baking soda on a damp sponge and wipe clean.
  13. Skip the Bleach and Fabric Softener: Adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to each wash load safely whitens and softens your laundry without the dangers of bleach and fabric softener.
  14. Deodorize Your Carpets: Perfumes are brutal to spring allergies, so skip the flowery carpet powders and sprinkle baking soda on your carpet instead to deodorize it.
  15. For the Pets, Too: Baking soda works wonders in neutralizing cat box and pet bedding odors. Sprinkle it in your cat’s litter box and on the dog’s bed. Vacuum the bed clean.

I could go on; you can use baking soda for so many things! The best part is it’s safe. When using baking soda, you don’t have to fret about chemicals that are dangerous to you and your home. This natural wonder has been used for centuries for personal hygiene, healthcare, and cleaning, and it’s time you added it to your routine to enjoy the best remedy for all your spring ailments.

Cleaning Tips To Ease Your Seasonal Allergies

Spring is upon us and so is allergy season. We can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, until that familiar tingling in the nose sets in. Along with spring comes seasonal allergies, and for those who also suffer from severe allergies and/or asthma, this is a particularly difficult and dangerous time of the year. In some cases, allergies to spring’s pollens and dust can turn into allergic rhinitis, sinus infection, and for asthmatics serious breathing trouble. You don’t have to seal yourself into a bubble, however, to avoid the discomfort of spring allergies. Keep things clean and fresh and be surprised at the difference it makes.

Allergy-proof Your Cleaning Products

Before you dive into your spring-cleaning, it’s important to look at what you use to clean first. This might surprise you, but your cleaning products could actually be causing your allergic reaction more than seasonal allergies. Studies show that perfumes can trigger allergies in some people and are definitely bad news for asthmatics, so dump the air fresheners, scented detergents, furniture polish, everything, and opt for natural, unscented cleaners instead.

Scent isn’t the only thing that might be irritating to you and your family. Certain ingredients that were once thought as fantastic for cleaning are also detrimental to those suffering from seasonal allergies and asthmatics. Even if you do have unscented cleaners, check the labels for ammonia, bleach, calcium hypochlorite, chlorine, D-limonene, formaldehyde, sodium hypochlorite, and sodium lauryl sulphate. Don’t be surprised if your cleaning products fail to list the ingredients, and if they do, turn them in during your city’s next hazardous waste collection.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are plenty of simple, affordable, and natural cleaning options out there that will clean, sanitize, and freshen your home without harsh allergy-inducing chemicals. If you don’t want to purchase natural cleaners, make your own using ingredients such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemons, olive oil, salt, and white vinegar. Check out my post “When Life Gives You Lemons, Use Them in These Amazing 14 Ways” for recipes.

Spring Clean Your Allergies Away

Once you’ve removed the irritants from your cleaning supplies, it’s time to clean. As you know, pollens and dust multiply exponentially in the spring and summer months. This is in part due to everything blooming and in part due to your doors and windows being open. Cleaning tasks that could have been put on hold in the winter cannot be set aside in spring, particularly if you are suffering from allergies. It’s time to roll your sleeves up, put on a mask if cleaning exacerbates your allergies, and follow these tips:

  • Start outside. It does you no good to clean the inside of your home from top to bottom if dirt and pollen is going to be tracked in from the outside, particularly if you have carpeting to trap the irritants. Keep your driveway, walkways, front porch, and patios swept clean to avoid additional dust being tracked or blown into your house.
  • Reduce your clutter. Speaking of dust, there is no better dust trap than a ton of knick-knacks, bookshelves full of books, boxes everywhere, magazines, newspapers, piles of clothes… I could go on. If your house is cluttered, it’s dusty, not to mention a lot harder to clean. Reduce your clutter to avoid dust traps. You don’t want the dust and you definitely don’t want the mites.
  • Replace mattress covers and pillowcases. Speaking of dust mites, replace your mattress covers and pillowcases with dust-proof covering. It’s also wise to replace your bedding with hypoallergenic, natural options to ensure that your allergies are not being triggered at night during your sleep. The same goes for your blankets and comforters.
  • Wash them weekly. Aside from protecting your mattress and pillows from dust mites, you should also wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly in your washing machine’s hot cycle, and your blankets and comforters monthly. Use unscented, hypoallergenic, biodegradable laundry detergent and soften your bedding naturally with white vinegar or baking soda.
  • Don’t dry outside. It admittedly saves energy to avoid using your dryer and air-dry your laundry, but as your linens and clothing are sun drying, they are also picking up pollen from the air. When your allergies kick up, dry everything in the dryer using the lowest heat setting possible to save energy, and skip dryer sheets – those are all kinds of trouble, including causing allergic reactions.
  • Trap the dust. Speaking of the dust and pollen outside, you need to trap the dust and pollen inside while cleaning; otherwise, it’ll just be released into the air and settle onto your floors, furniture, and décor. Use damp clothes to wipe everything down instead of dry dusting, and make sure your vacuum has a good HEPA filter that traps dust instead of kicking it into the air.
  • Watch for mold. Keep your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and any other area in your home where there is moisture as dry and clean as possible to avoid mold growth. Mold is a primary allergen and can be extremely hazardous to everyone’s health, particularly if you or a family member suffers from asthma. Air out damp environments and keep them clean.
  • Do this weekly. You might be able to clean your house bi-monthly or monthly in the winter, but you won’t be able to in the spring and summer. Perform all of the steps above weekly to ensure that you are keeping dust and pollen down to a minimum, and vacuum at least twice a week; if you notice the house becoming dirty prior to your weekly schedule, clean earlier to avoid unnecessary irritation.

If you find after practicing these cleaning tips that your allergies aren’t getting any better, you may have to take drastic steps, such as redoing your flooring, curtains, and blinds to avoid allergy triggers like carpeting and heavy drapes that cannot be washed regularly. You might also have to keep your doors and windows shut and run your air-conditioning instead of allowing fresh, yet pollen-laden, air inside. I hope you don’t have to do this, because a beautiful spring day needs to come into your home. Either way, ease your seasonal allergies by keeping everything clean and dust-free.

The Best Parks In NYC To Play And Relax In

No one does dog parks quite like New York City.

A huge part of New York City’s appeal is Central Park, and it is an amazing park, but if you visit it frequently, you’ve likely discovered how crowded it becomes, especially during tourist season. As with everything else about New York City, however, we do parks better than most, and there are plenty of smaller, less packed options to enjoy during the warmer months. Whether you’re looking for a romantic picnic spot, a family day of fun, or a place to take the pooch so it can run around, NYC has the perfect park to play and relax in.

Love Is in the Air

It doesn’t matter which borough you call home; there’s a park for the perfect romantic picnic in all five. From the Bronx to Staten Island, NYC city planners have always understood the need for adequate outdoor space in our busy concrete jungle, and not just for the kids. Couples can enjoy a hand-in-hand walk along these places of greenspace, followed by a relaxing picnic in the fresh outdoors.

  • Brooklyn’s Lullwater Bridge at Prospect Park: Set your blanket down near this park’s boathouse and enjoy a beautiful waterfall as you munch on your picnic fare. You’ll feel as if you’ve been catapulted out of the city and into a lush work of art.
  • Manhattan’s Carl Schurz Park: Built in 1799, the elegant Gracie Mansion offers visitors a glimpse into NYC’s past and access to its glorious greenspace called Carl Schurz Park. Wander the gardens, and then steal a kiss on one of the many benches.
  • Queens’s Kissena Park: You might think I chose this park because “kiss” is part of the name, but that’s not the only reason. You and your significant other won’t realize you’re in NYC anymore once you see the glorious lake surrounded by weeping willows.
  • Staten Island’s Willowbrook Park: What makes this park special is its carousel. What’s more romantic than snuggling on a carousel bench or riding horses side by side as the machine turns? You can even steal a kiss or two; just be careful!
  • The Bronx’s Orchard Beach: Another park to transport you from the hustle and bustle that defines NYC, Orchard Beach will leave you thinking you’re in New England… old New England. Wander this rocky shoreline hand-in-hand and enjoy the beauty and fresh air.

For the Kids

Now it’s time to get the kids away from the video games and head outdoors. Fortunately, New York City has you more than covered with a ton of playgrounds. It’s hard to pick the best ones, but notables in each borough include:

  • Brooklyn’s Imagination Playground: Not only can your kids play amongst a towering dragon and storybook characters throughout the park’s statuary, but they can also enjoy summer performances put on in the park that are perfect for all ages.
  • Manhattan’s Hudson River Park: Head over to the playground at this beautiful revamp of Tribeca’s Pier 25 and watch your kids go crazy over the climbing walls and nets, out-of-this-world play equipment, skate parks, miniature golf course, and more. You’ll find it all here.
  • Queens’s Elmhurst Park Playground: Climbing structures, rock piles for exploration, and manmade hills to buffer the nearby Long Island Expressway noise and pollution make this Queens playground the perfect place for kids to explore, climb, and imagine to their heart’s content.
  • Staten Island’s Seaside Nature Wildlife Park Playground: Located beachside, you’ll find all sorts of sea-themed playground equipment upon which your kids can play pirates and get lost in their imagination. You get to lay down a towel and enjoy some relaxation in the sun.
  • The Bronx’s River Park Playground: Imagine your kids playing in a park just outside the Bronx Zoo! It will be a day of excitement they’ll never forget. This dream-come-true location is filled with swings, slides, and climbing structures.

Bring the Dog

We cannot forget human’s best friend when talking about the best NYC parks, and the city offers plenty of dog park options that allow Fido to be off the leash and running rampant with his doggy friends. Some parks go all out; others simply offer a clean, safe exercise space.

  • Brooklyn’s Hillside Dog Park and Run: This dog park is open 24/7 all year long and offers plenty of space for your dog to blow off some steam (two acres to be exact). There are hills, wooded areas, and recycled wood chips to give Spot a chance to roll around in something other than dirt.
  • Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Dog Park Run: Regardless of your dog’s age, there’s something for it to do at Tompkins Square. There are pools, dog runs, a “puppy patch” for the little ones, and, yes, a dog wash area. At Halloween, dress up your dog and join the costume party and parade.
  • Queens’s Cunningham Park Dog Run: This dog park in Queens has the ever-important reputation of being friendly, not to mention clean. Let your dog run and play with other dogs while you take a break and visit with other fun and friendly dog owners.
  • Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park: Take your pet on a walking trail designed just for dogs at Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park. During on the of park’s many special events, you can test your dog’s agility at a trial or enjoy watching other canines amaze you with their abilities.
  • The Bronx’s Canine Court at Van Cortlandt Park: This dog park has it all, including teeter-totters for your dogs. You’ll also find agility playgrounds, hurdles, tunnels, and a puppy swing made out of a specially designed hanging tire.

New York City is filled with parks, and these are just some of the ones I feel are worthy of a visit. A great spring and summer activity for the whole family is to check out as many parks as possible throughout the season. That way, you get plenty of outdoor time and the opportunity to find your favorites among the mix.

The 9 Kitchen Hot Spots For Germs

When was the last time you cleaned your refrigerator’s ice and water dispensers?

The 9 Kitchen Hot Spots For Germs

There is danger lurking in your kitchen and it’s not the two-week leftovers you’ve forgotten about in the fridge. Many of your kitchen appliances and, believe it or not, cleaning tools are actually the perfect breeding grounds for germs, and this includes germs that can cause serious illness and even death. For you and your family’s health and safety, it’s important to know where the hot spots for germs are in your kitchen and how you can clean them effectively. Let’s talk about the top nine.

Blender

Sure, smoothies are healthy, but the bacteria they leave behind is not. Germs can hide in all kinds of places in your blender, including on and underneath the rubber seal, in the blades, and in the crevices where the lid rests. A common mistake people make is doing what you see being done in smoothie shops and coffeehouses, and that is simply running the assembled unit under some hot water when you’re done using it. This is precisely what causes the germs in the first place, as it does not clean the crevices. Disassemble your blender after each use and wash each part thoroughly, then allow it to dry completely before reassembling.

Can Opener

This might seem as if it’s an odd place to find germs in your kitchen but your can opener, whether manual or electric, is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria on the magnet, blades, handle, and anywhere else you touch the unit. Just like doorknobs and your phone, places where you touch begin to harbor bacteria, and you can see the foodstuff seeping out of the can onto the blade as you open it. Most people don’t think to clean this appliance regularly, much less wipe off the cans before opening them. Do both, and if you can take your can opener apart to clean it, do so to ensure that germs aren’t hiding between the pieces.

Cutting Boards

Cutting boards are an absolute germ haven, particularly if you do not clean them thoroughly after each use. What’s worse is you could end up with E.coli, clostridium, listeria, salmonella, or other dangerous and even fatal bacteria, depending on what you’re chopping up on the board. As you cut your ingredients, you are scoring your board, no matter if it’s made of wood, plastic, or other material. The food liquid and debris settles in those scores and germs and mold begin to breed. Thoroughly clean and dry your cutting boards after each use, and use separate ones for meats, vegetables, and so on. If your board is dishwasher safe, toss it in the unit. If it’s made from wood, check with the manufacturer to determine the best way to clean and sanitize the utensil.

Ice Bins

This is a hidden danger that most people fail to consider. You know you are supposed to clean your refrigerator’s icemaker annually, but when was the last time you cleaned the bin into which the ice falls? Is your ice starting to taste funny? Are the cubes sticking together and to the bottom of the bin? It’s time to clean it. In fact, you should clean it once a month, because, yes, germs can survive for a time in that freezing environment. Turn your icemaker off, empty the bin, and wash it thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Allow it to dry completely before placing it back into your freezer.

Meat Compartment

The meat compartment in your fridge is honestly one of the most dangerous places. You know the different types of food poisoning you can receive from tainted or uncooked meat, and the stuff leaking from your deli packages is no exception. As you go about your life grabbing the lunchmeat for your sandwich and then tossing it back into the compartment, bacteria is building up on the bottom of the drawer. Dark, cool, and damp environments are the perfect breeding ground for germs and mold. Remove your meat compartment monthly and wash it thoroughly will hot, soapy water. Allow it to dry completely before inserting it back into your fridge.

Refrigerator Seals

Your refrigerator and freezer seals quickly and easily breed bacteria and mold when not kept clean. Open your refrigerator and look at the seal. Notice the folds? Moisture gets trapped between them, as does dirt, and this makes for the perfect place in which mold and bacteria will grow. As you’re cleaning your kitchen and wiping down your fridge, don’t forget to take a clean, soapy cloth and gently scour between the seal’s folds. Dry the seal thoroughly with a clean towel, ensuring that it’s completely dry before closing the fridge.

Sponge

Ah, your kitchen sponges; these are, without a doubt, one of the worst culprits for growing germs, bacteria, and mold, as they are almost always damp. You recognize the mildew scent they eventually get, and if you’re washing your dishes and wiping down your counters with them, you’re transferring those germs onto other surfaces. Toss your sponge into the dishwasher each time you run it to clean and sanitize it properly, and have a vented place to set it to ensure that it thoroughly dries in between uses. In fact, if you can dry it in the sunlight pouring into your kitchen, even better.

Vegetable Compartment

You might be thinking that you do not need to worry about your refrigerator’s vegetable compartment. After all, there aren’t any fluids or blood leaking out of your food in this drawer, as there are in your meat compartment. There is, however, the potential for bugs, especially if you buy organic, and the possibility that your produce is also tainted by bacteria-laden water. Another danger is if you wash your veggies the minute you bring them home and then toss them into the compartment, as this adds moisture to environment. As with your meat compartment, remove your veggie drawer once a month and clean it thoroughly. And if you pull out a veggie and see some creepy crawlers you missed when inspecting your produce at the store, empty the bin and wash it immediately.

Water Dispenser

Your refrigerator’s water dispenser hides germs all over it, not only in the spout and the hand/glass-press, but also throughout the unit itself. This is because it’s a moist environment and people are consistently touching it, no doubt with grubby hands when your kids retrieve water from the dispenser. Annually, you need to disassemble the entire unit and clean it per your manufacturer’s instructions. Weekly, you should take a clean, small brush (you can even use a brand new toothbrush), soak it white vinegar, and scrub the spout and opening around it. Once clean, open the spout to rinse it out, and wipe down the hand press, catch tray and area surrounding the dispenser with warm, soapy water. Dry thoroughly.

The Best Things To Do In NYC Once The Weather Warms Up

Spring is one of the most beautiful times to visit Central Park.

The Best Things to Do in NYC Once the Weather Warms Up

Spring is a refreshing time in New York City for everyone; it’s a time we all look forward to enjoying. NYC winters are cold and harsh, and none of us can wait for the sun to start shining – sans the April showers of course – and the weather to warm up. This is especially true for my employees and me. During work hours, we spend our time indoors cleaning, and nothing is better than heading outside for sunshine and fresh air. You might think that the holiday season is the most magical time of the year in NYC, but spring has its own charm that you cannot miss. So, after you’ve finished your spring-cleaning, get outdoors, take a deep breath, and check out some of the best things to do in NYC in the warmer weather.

For the Art Enthusiast

Whether you’re an artist or art enthusiast, there is plenty of new art to see in spring and Central Park is where you’ll find it. You might be thinking that Central Park is a strange place to suggest checking out art; after all, it’s not one of our amazing museums, but I’m not talking about manmade art primarily, I’m also talking about nature’s art. Spring is the perfect time to stroll through Central Park and enjoy all of the flowers and trees in bloom; you’ll see colors you’ve never imagined. It’s also a chance to see a variety of bird species, and, yes, there is new manmade art on display in the many plazas in Central Park.

For the Beer Enthusiast

Located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, spring is the time when the recently expanded and famous Brooklyn Brewery unleashes some new brew upon its patrons, so get your taste buds ready. Take a tour and learn all about the brewery’s manufacturing process, including being able to see some classic and new German beer-making equipment. Yes, this brewery crafts beer the authentic way, so take that Munich and Oktoberfest, we have our own beer “festival” right here in Brooklyn in the spring.

For the Film Enthusiast

Spring is time for NYC’s annual Tribeca Film Festival. The film festival was founded by acting great Robert De Niro and colleagues Craig Hatkoff and Jane Rosenthal in 2002 and pays homage to the Lower Manhattan neighborhood and its tragic losses after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the nearby World Trade Center. Hollywood’s best, brightest, and up and coming talent is on display at this annual event, and you’re sure to see stars and fantastic films aplenty.

For the Flower Enthusiast

Aside from enjoying all the flowers in bloom while wandering through Central Park, another annual spring event definitely worth checking out is the Macy’s Flower Show. Macy’s doesn’t just give NYC a wonderful fireworks show on July 4, a Thanksgiving Day parade, and its annual Santatown, it also ushers spring fittingly with a beautiful flower show. This garden expo features over 30,000 varieties of fresh flowers. The sights and smells will amaze you.

For the Kite Enthusiast

Socrates Sculpture Park is located in New York City’s borough of Queens, and alongside some amazing sculpture – hence its name – you’ll find kite flying galore in spring. In fact, the park has an annual kite-flying event, usually held in April, and you’d be amazed at how much fun it is to be a kid again, or to watch your kids, spend the day tackling the winds with a colorful flyer. It’s also amazing to watch the professional flyers there; I never knew kites could do what some of these pros make them do.

For the Shopping Enthusiast

April and May usher in the seasonal flea markets, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find tons of things you simply must have. Whether you’re looking to fill your home with antiques or get your hands on some new or vintage jewelry, the seasonal flea markets in spring make shopping in NYC a fun-filled and exciting annual event; just think about all the treasures you might unearth. There are also plenty of food stalls, including some wonderful ice cream vendors, to help you cool off in the warmer weather.

For the Sports Enthusiast

New York City is home to the most famous team in Major League Baseball: the New York Yankees. But we’re also home to the National League’s New York Mets, so whether you’re an American or National League fan, we’ve got you covered when baseball season officially opens in spring. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you have to check out a Yankees game and wander through the museum dedicated to some of baseball’s most famous names, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

As you can see, spring is really a magical time in New York City, and there is plenty to do to get you outdoors, in the warm weather, and dusted off yourself. It doesn’t matter what you enjoy, I’m certain there is a “best thing” to do in NYC right up your alley once the weather warms, so get out there and enjoy.

How To Turn Spring Cleaning Into A Less Daunting Task

cleaning

If everybody pitches in, spring cleaning is a snap. Photo by Dave Schoeff (Flickr)

Spring is here, and for most, it is a favorite time of the year. Why shouldn’t it be? The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, the birds are chirping, and the days are such that you can actually go out and enjoy some fresh air. Spring is also the time to refresh, not only yourself from being locked indoors all winter but also your home. Spring cleaning might seem as if it is a task that will take the fun out of spring, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, spring cleaning can be something the entire family can enjoy. If you get motivated, dive in, and get it done, you’ll not only have a wonderful sense of accomplishment but also the time to do the things you really want to during the spring, so follow these tips to turn spring cleaning into a less daunting task.

Motivate and Delegate

Without the ambition to do it, spring cleaning will become like climbing Mount Everest. You cannot hope to get your spring cleaning done if you aren’t motivated to do it in the first place. I won’t even get into how hard it will be to encourage your significant other and kids to pitch in if they aren’t inclined to do so. There are some easy things you can do to motivate yourself and your family, however.

Sitting down with each family member and discussing a reward for completing spring cleaning tasks is your first step. The best way to motivate your family is to find out something each person really wants and then agree to it as a reward for completing spring cleaning. Does your son want the latest kill-’em-all video game? OK, he can have it when he finishes his chores. Does your daughter want a shopping spree at her favorite clothing store? Same thing. And your hubby can have his shopping spree at the hardware store or tickets to the ballgame once he finishes his list, too.

Next, agree on the chores together. Sometimes, the best way to motivate others is to let them do the chores they want to do. The bottom line is that your house and yard need spring cleaning, so it doesn’t really matter who does what as long as it all gets done. Sit down as a family and make a list of all of the chores. Draw straws, or numbers, or whatever to determine the selecting order, and then each pick a chore you want to do until the list is covered. It’s fair, and everyone gets to do at least something they don’t mind doing.

Agree on a set schedule together. Once the chores have been divvied up, it’s time to make a plan for completion that is realistic and agreeable to everyone. There’s nothing more deflating to motivation than having a list of chores that will take you all day. That isn’t fun no matter how you justify the work. Set up the chores so that they will get done but everyone has time for other things. If you’re planning on doing your spring cleaning during the spring break, for example, set a couple of hours aside each for everyone to work on their chores, and then have some family fun. Be realistic in your scheduling and allow for some down time; otherwise, everyone will become unmotivated very, very quickly.

Operate and Compensate

You’ve divided the work and scheduled it; now, it’s time to crank up the volume and get cracking. What’s your family soundtrack? Do you all have a favorite movie? If so, put on the soundtrack and enjoy the music while working. Do you all agree on an artist or band? Probably not, but if you’re lucky enough to do so, play that music. Otherwise, create a playlist of everyone’s favorite tunes and play that. Music is incredibly motivating when you’re cleaning; this is why I allow my staff to play music when they’re working. So crank up the volume and jam!

Help out where you can. If you finish your list early, help the rest of your family with their list, and encourage everyone else to do the same. The bottom line is that spring cleaning has to be done, so why not help each other accomplish the end goal? Helping out once your list of chores is complete for the day is very motivating for everyone else. Teamwork is gratifying and encourages people to produce results. This is why projects are completed more effectively through teamwork than when someone tackles something alone.

Celebrate. You’ve done it. You’ve completed your spring cleaning chores. Sure, you set up individual rewards, but why not go out and celebrate as a family, too? After all, you worked together to get the job done, so celebrate together. Go to your favorite pizza joint and order an extra-large with all of the toppings. Then, hit the movies, miniature golf, or another fun family activity. Spring cleaning is a daunting task, but you planned it, tackled it, completed it, and deserve an entire day of fun together to reward yourselves for it.

How You Can Contribute To Saving Our Planet This Earth Day

How can this not be destroying our planet? Photo by Bill McChesney (Flickr)

How can this not be destroying our planet? Photo by Bill McChesney (Flickr)

April is upon us, and Earth Day is coming up. This annual event is a reminder that we need to take care of our planet so it continues to take care of us. The data is in, and we need to make changes to our habits permanently, not just during Earth Day. It really isn’t as hard as you think it is. I run an environmentally friendly cleaning business in the busiest and most populous city in the United States. How can you contribute to saving our planet on Earth Day and every other day of the year? Keep reading to find out.

Simple Things

Let’s begin with some simple things that make a huge difference but won’t cause you distress or damage your pocketbook. In fact, these suggestions will save you money. If you aren’t doing so already, save our planet by:

  • Minding Your Water Usage: You learned when you were a kid to turn off your water when you’re brushing your teeth, but are you really doing so? Did you know that if you aren’t, you’re wasting five gallons of water per day, and if your toilet is leaking, you’re wasting 20 gallons of water per day? Turn off the faucet when you brush, and fix your leaky toilets. Buying the toilet innards at your local hardware store costs much less than hiring a plumber.
  • Avoiding Plastic: The bottled water you consume every day is an environmental nightmare. Not only does manufacturing the water bottles take 1.5 billion barrels of oil annually, but it also unleashes greenhouse gasses, as do the empty bottles as they pile up in landfills. Guess what? Your bottled water is treated tap water, so why not filter your taps instead? The filters aren’t expensive. In fact, do the math: Calculate your monthly bottled water expense. Filtering is cheaper!
  • Recycling: Did you know that recycling one soda can saves enough energy to run your television for three hours? Using recycled paper cuts air pollution by 74 percent and saves water by 35 percent. Recycling your used products and using recycled products make a tremendous difference in saving our environment, so much so that there’s just no excuse not to do it, especially if you go to a center that will give you cash for the recycled goods.
  • Changing Your Bathing Habits: Aside from turning off the water when you brush your teeth, you should also turn it off when you wash your hands. Turn it off between soaping up and rinsing in the shower as well. Ladies, did you know that those plastic beads in your exfoliating face wash actually harm fish and wildlife once they go down the drain? And washing your hair introduces chemicals into the water supply unless you use an all-natural, biodegradable shampoo.
  • Going Vegetarian: When you buy that pound of hamburger for tonight’s dinner, you’ve just wasted 2,500 gallons of water. I am not kidding. It can take that much water to produce one pound of beef. It’s not that hard to go vegetarian these days; in fact, going vegan is even better, as dairy production is also extremely detrimental to the environment. If you don’t want to make the life choice permanent, have a veggie night weekly, or go vegetarian for one week a month or year. Guess what? Eating healthy beans for protein instead of meat is much cheaper anyway.
  • Leaving Your Car in the Garage: Whether you live in a big city with public transit or a small town, you can leave your car at home. I know it’s convenient, but it’s also killing our environment. Here is a fact to chew on: If you leave your car in the garage two days each week, you’ll save 1,590 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a lot. Why not carpool two days a week, take public transit, or take better care of yourself by biking or walking to work?

Some Big Things

Let’s talk about some major changes that will be, admittedly, expensive at first but will pay off in the long run. You can also save our planet by:

  • Replacing Your Appliances with Energy-Efficient Ones: You’ve been wanting to remodel your kitchen and laundry room anyway, so why not recycle those old appliances and replace them with Energy Star appliances? Include replacing your water heater and HVAC units if these are old. All of these appliances cost you thousands of dollars to run each year. Purchasing an energy-efficient dishwasher alone will save you (and the planet) hundreds of gallons of water monthly.
  • Performing Much-Needed Remodeling: If your windows and sills don’t seal anymore, if your weatherstripping is worn, if your insulation is degraded, if your plumbing is old… I could go on. These things are costing you a tremendous amount of money and placing an unnecessary burden on the environment. Replace your windows and sills, and tint them if you live in a hot climate. Replace all weatherstripping and insulation, and install low-flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads.
  • Composting Your Garbage: This really isn’t a big thing, but many people view it as such. I know it seems daunting to begin composting your garbage, but it’s an easy thing to do once you get the hang of it. It also saves you money on that dangerous and chemically laden fertilizer you’re buying at the nursery; compost is a natural fertilizer. Start the compost pile and clean up our landfills. Why? Because your tax dollars are going toward running those environmentally hazardous sites.
  • Buying a Hybrid: I mentioned above keeping your car off the road, and that really is the best solution. If you’re shaking your head and saying “No way,” then at least invest in a hybrid. These cars save you gas money annually and save the environment greenhouse gas emissions. While you’re out cruising in your new hybrid, slow down. Did you know that driving 10 miles per hour slower saves four miles per gallon of gas? And if you ensure that your tires remain properly inflated, you’re saving even more fuel.

These are just a few ways you can save the planet not only this Earth Day but every day. There’s so much more, such as switching to incandescent bulbs and turning off the lights the minute you leave a room. Unplugging appliances when you’re not using them also saves energy. The list goes on and on, but here’s the kicker: All of us can save this planet. We really can, and as you can see now, it only takes minor adjustments to your lifestyle to do so. So let’s all contribute to saving our planet every day of our lives.

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Step Away from the Trash Can! Donate Your Unwanted Items to These New York City Organizations

trash

Avoid this by donating your unwanted items rather than throwing them away. Photo by: Iris Goldstein (Flickr)

Whether you’re moving or simply decluttering, there is nothing more frustrating than looking at piles of stuff that you don’t want or need anymore. It is extremely tempting to fill the dumpster with your unwanted items: Problem solved, stuff gone, and in a very timely manner! There are many reasons why you shouldn’t do this, however. Aside from the environmental implications of continuing to load up our landfills, wouldn’t it make you feel better to give your unwanted stuff to somebody else who needs it? In a city the size of New York, the needs are extreme and, fortunately for you, there are plenty of organizations ready, willing, and able to take your junk off your hands. So, step away from the trash can and donate your unwanted items to these places instead. You may be able to get a nice tax deduction along the way!

  • Baby Buggy: Babies and kids grow up too fast, and you’re going to blast through a ton of clothing and equipment that is perfectly usable once you’re done with it. Don’t need that stroller anymore? Head to Baby Buggy in Midtown West and donate clothes and equipment your kids no longer use.
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters: The Long Island chapter of this wonderful organization accepts donated furniture to give to other Long Islanders in need. Rather than throw your back out trying to lift the old couch into the dumpster, donate it instead.
  • Bowery Mission: Lower East Side residents are likely familiar with this organization that accepts clothing, linens, and bedding for the NYC residents in desperate need of bath towels, pillows, and, most importantly in the wintertime, coats, scarves, gloves, and hats.
  • Furniture Distribution Program: This wonderful city-run service is for all five NYC boroughs and addresses the needs of those recovering from a disaster or domestic violence, or anyone else that requires shelter. Donate your furniture and give someone in need a fresh start.
  • Goodwill: This organization also services all five NYC boroughs and accepts gently used clothing for men, women, and children, and takes in the used toys that your kids are no longer playing with. Just make sure the toys have all the parts necessary for play, please.
  • Housing Works: You’ll see Housing Works thrift stores throughout New York City, and proceeds from the sales of donated goods help those suffering from HIV/AIDS. This organization accepts clothing, household goods, jewelry, and even used books, CDs/DVDs, and LPs for its bookstores.
  • J-CAP: This unique Queens organization accepts window air conditioning units for those at-risk people who are in desperate need of a cool-down during NYC’s hot and humid summers. J-CAP will also take in your old bedroom set provided it’s in usable condition.
  • Room to Grow: Located in Chelsea, Room to Grow accepts donations for babies from infancy to three years old. This organization supports and monitors children born into poverty and accepts your used clothing, baby gear, toys, and other essentials.
  • Salvation Army: These thrift stores support Adult Rehab Centers located in all five NYC boroughs, and the good news is that the Salvation Army will take just about anything, including your used appliances and furniture. Even better, they will sometimes even pick up your unwanted items for you.
  • St. Francis Thrift Shop: Located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, St. Francis supports needy children by accepting your gently used clothes, toys, and even the books your kids don’t read anymore.
  • St. Luke’s Thrift Shop: Greenwich Village’s St. Luke’s Thrift Shop focuses on the homeless, and one of the greatest things it provides is job interview clothing for those seeking to change their unfortunate situation. Don’t wear that old business suit anymore? Donate it to St. Luke’s.

This is just a small list of the organizations located throughout New York City that will accept the items you’re likely to give a dumpster burial. With so many options that do good within your community, there really is no excuse to throw things like clothing and furniture away, unless of course, they are completely unusable. Rather than litter our already overfilled landfills, donate your unwanted items. You’ll help someone else in need, and that just makes you feel great, doesn’t it?

Spring Is Here, And With It The Mud! These 6 Tips For Keeping It At Bay Will Have You

He probably won’t wipe his feet before coming inside.

Spring Is Here, And With It The Mud! These 6 Tips for Keeping It at Bay Will Have You “Floored”

Spring is in the air, and it’s pretty much everybody’s favorite time of the year. Nothing refreshes you more than a nice walk in the fresh, warm air. There’s just something about the sun shining, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, and… the slushy mud! Okay, I set you up there, but it’s true. Spring really is a wonderful time of the year, but it’s also a messy one. Whether you live in an area like I do where the snow is melting into the ground or you’re dealing with spring showers (or both) you’ve got mud on your shoes and, no doubt, in your house. I’m not going to let this problem ruin your spring, however. Read my six tips to find out how to clean the mud once it’s indoors and, better yet, how to prevent it from getting there in the first place.

Clean It Up

Let’s just assume that you’re already staring at mud on your floors and carpets. This isn’t a stretch, especially if you have little ones. Don’t fret, panic, cry, or gnash your teeth at the muddy mess, however, because cleaning up the mud, even on white carpet, is not only doable but easy. Here are some suggestions:

1. Tile Floors: The type of tiling you have dictates the cleaner you can use. Your best bet for an environmentally safe floor cleaner is simply a mixture of white vinegar and purified water. This combo removes the mud safely and effectively without harming your floor. You can also use hydrogen peroxide to lift stains and then wipe the area clean with water.

2. Wood Floors: A mild white vinegar solution also works on wood floors, but sometimes these floors are more porous and can stain more easily. If this is the case, take a chemical-free dish detergent (you can find them in the organic aisle) and gently clean the mud off your wood floor with a mixture of the detergent and purified water. Condition the area with a dab of olive oil after it’s rinsed and clean.

3. Carpet: The worst thing you can do is immediately begin cleaning up muddy footprints on your carpeting. Wait… and breathe calming breaths while you’re waiting. Once the mud has dried, vacuum as much of it up as possible. Then, mix 1 tablespoon of your chemical-free dish detergent with two cups warm water. “Sponge” the mud stains; don’t rub or scrub. Take another clean, dry cloth and apply pressure to stain until the dish liquid and stain are absorbed and lifted away.

4. Upholstery: Thankfully, the carpet solution also works on your upholstery and throw rugs. Provided you purchase chemical-free dish soap, you needn’t worry about ruining the couch after the kids put their muddy feet on it. If you are concerned, however, spot check a small area with the cleaner (the back of the couch works well if you have it up against the wall) to ensure that you can safely remove the mud from it with your homemade dishwater solution.

Better Yet, Prevent It

Rather than subject yourself to the frustration of having to clean the mud stains off your floors, carpets, and furniture, let’s talk about how you can prevent the stains in the first place. After all, “Prevention is the best medicine…” I believe that’s how the proverb goes!

5. Shoes: The first and most logical prevention tool is to remove the guilty party: the shoes. Have a safe space out front or back for your shoes. If you have an entry into your home from the garage, you can establish the space there. If you don’t want the shoes outside, set up a couple of racks to accommodate the footwear just inside the doors and make the new household rule: Shoes off before entry. This avoids other things, such as outdoor pesticides, from being tracked into your home, as well.

6. Flooring/Mats: Another option is to get welcome mats for all outside entries, machine-washable entry rugs for all spaces just inside the doors, and/or tile your entryways with an easy-to-clean tiling option, such as vinyl or ceramic. Then, the rule becomes wipe your feet on the mat, the rug, and then enter the house. Just in case someone doesn’t do a perfect job of wiping his or her feet on the mats and rugs, the tile should catch the rest of the mud.

Spring is in the air and it’s time to enjoy it for all its wonder and beauty. Don’t stress about the mud. Rather, get outside and enjoy the fresh air and warm sunshine. Become a kid again with your children and play in the mud. You’d be surprised how therapeutic that can be. With these six tips, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the spring and the mud that comes with it, so Happy Springtime to everyone!

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