Friday, June 12, 2020

Tips for the Most Overlooked Aspect of Home Renovation: The Garden

~ This is a featured post. ~

When renovating a home, you will be looking to make an old home fresh, safe and a delight to live in. When the weather is nice, an important aspect of enjoying a home is enjoying its garden. Although major changes to a home are significant, overlooking a garden is a mistake made by too many. What’s more, renovating a garden is far simpler than renovating a home. Here are some tips.

Know your soils, plant the right flowers
A garden renovation doesn’t need to involve landscaping. Often it just means changing the flowers, removing dead or cumbersome plants, and creating a space that you enjoy. Before you plant any new plants, it’s worth making sure that you have a good awareness on how different plants perform in your climate and in different conditions: e.g. direct sun, partial sun, shaded areas, acidic soils, etc. It is worth sending in a sample of your soil for testing or getting a DIY kit, as this can inform you which fertilizers you might need if your soil has any deficiencies, as well as whether to put acidic or alkaline compounds in your soil to balance the Ph.

Perform a Health Check
If you have big plants like trees in your garden, you might want to perform a health check to make sure they don’t need to be taken down and are living healthily. There are many steps to inspecting the health of a tree, but you should inspect the central leader for splits, which can create a wound that might allow insect infestations.

Look for broken or dead branches that you need to prune and for mosses and disease. Spanish moss can be a problem in warmer climates, as it can cling to branches and weigh down your tree in a way that can cause permanent damage. Know the signs of Spanish moss, and if you spot any dangerous growths, you should go for a Spanish moss removal service as soon as possible.

Balance the heights of your plants
You should have a carefully planned plant height spectrum, with taller plants at the back and small delicate flowers at the front. If you have an island flower bed, you should avoid mixing tall and short, instead putting taller plants in the center for obvious reasons — plants are meant to be seen after all!

Know your seasons
A truly great garden should look good in all seasons, which is why you should have a mixture of different seasonal plants to make sure that your garden has a beautiful variety of colours throughout the year. Many people theme their seasons, for example planting only white spring-bloomers so that the garden is hit with a wave of snow-white petals to complement spring blossom.

The Perennial Problem
If you are renovating a perennial garden, you will probably need to remove some existing plants to simplify your beds. If you need to remove perennials, be sure to double check when would be the right time to remove them as some plants prefer a particular season for removal, which you should consider if you are doing any transplantation. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Preparing Your House for Sale

~ This is a featured post.~

Are you a homeowner planning to move somewhere new? If so, you will be getting ready to prepare your current property for sale. Depending on the condition of your property, there could be a lot to do in terms of preparation for a move. Not only do you have to think about packing up your belongings and sending them to your new house but you will need to carefully consider how to best present your home to potential buyers. Here are some things you need to pay close attention to when preparing to sell your property.

There are many things you can do to add value to a property but some of these home improvement projects probably aren’t worth the expense if you’re planning to leave in a few months. Instead, consider smaller maintenance projects around the house that need to be done. For example, a new coat of paint on the walls, or fixing a hole in the roof. If you have a swimming pool in your current home, consider looking into residential pool remodeling, especially if it’s looking worn out and needs sprucing up.

You will want to do this to make your move easier anyway, but the decluttering process can also benefit your chance of making a sale. Although you won’t be able to remove the home of all of your belongings (you’re still living there, after all) it could help the place look more spacious by getting rid of most of the unnecessary items. Furthermore, it is easier for potential buyers to imagine themselves living somewhere if there are fewer reminders that the property currently belongs to someone else.

If your house has a garden area you should make sure that it is presentable. If your outdoor space is overgrown or is filled with junk like abandoned gardening tools, kid’s toys, etc., it looks far less appealing and like a lot of work. Although buyers might have their plans in mind for how they want the garden to look, it’s a lot more alluring if the outdoor area already looks ready to sit out in and enjoy the sunshine. Plus, it helps to make the rest of the property look well cared for. You can keep things simple by keeping the grass cut and flower beds looking pretty, or get more creative and choose an interesting garden design to wow those who view your property.

Professional Cleaners
Your house must be clean and tidy whenever interested buyers come to view the property. It should feel like a show home to help enhance the sense of space and to allow them to imagine themselves living there, not your family. You can do the cleaning yourself, or you can hire a professional cleaning service to take care of this task for you. The latter might be ideal if you’re busy preparing to move house or have a busy schedule.

Selling a property can be a challenge with an ever-changing market and a lot of other homes on offer. Give yourself the best chance of making a sale by considering the points above. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Five Steps to Successfully Downsizing Home

~ This is a featured post.~

We spend our whole lives collecting “stuff,” moving into bigger houses that accommodate yet more “stuff,” until eventually we reach the point where we want to downsize.  At this point, we become all too aware of the crazy amount of stuff we have, and we realize a whole lot of it’s got to go if we’re to squeeze everything into a smaller home.

It might seem like a daunting task getting rid of the items you’ve spent decades collecting, but it’s an exercise that will free up lots of space and allow you to focus on the items that are most important to you.

Start Early

It’s never too early to start getting rid of unwanted stuff. Even if it’s just starting with that one closet you’ve been meaning to clear out for years, it makes a difference and is a good starting point.

If you’re not throwing things out, then your collection of items is only going to grow, meaning when you do come to downsize, there’s only more work to do.

Plan Out the Space You’re Moving Into

Once you know where you will be moving to, it’s helpful to plan out where everything will go so that you can understand how much space you’ve got. You won’t know the true scale of the job ahead until you know this, so save difficult decisions on what stays and what goes until you have a plan.

You can still crack on with getting rid of unwanted items you know you have no need for, but until you know exactly how much space you have, it’s best to wait before getting rid of higher end items.

Be Decisive

It’s easy to get attached to the stuff you accumulate over the years, but when you have limited space, you need to be decisive. If you haven’t used something in the past year, then what are the chances you’re going to use it in the future?

If you’re struggling to decide on whether you need to take an item with you, the answer, more often than not, is that you don’t.

There’s Only One Place for Some Items (The Trash)

There’s a lot of stuff we collect over time that has absolutely no purpose anymore and needs to be trashed. Find your Dumpster Rental Omaha NE and get rid of the stuff that has no value.

You’ll be surprised at just how much stuff you have lying around that just needs getting rid of. This will make a huge difference and help declutter your place.

Find New Homes for Your Belongings

You may no longer have any need for some of your belongings, but there are plenty of other people out there that can make use of them. Invite your family and friends over to see if there’s anything they want to take and find a local charity shop to take the rest.

Donating items to charity shops is a great way to get rid of unwanted belongings while also ensuring others benefit from them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 Holiday Home Tour: Burgundy and White

Well, you must have been wondering why I didn't post my 2019 holiday home tour, or you were so disappointed that you unfollowed me and moved on. Either way, here I am, better late than never, to post about my 2019 holiday decor. 2019 was an unexceptionally busy year at work, life, travel, among other things. As we age, each year becomes a smaller percentage of our life, and that's probably why it felt like a year flying by in the blink of an eye. 

For the 2019 holiday decor, I chose a burgundy and white theme. This was the first time ever for me to decorate with *reds* so I opted for a more muted and less vibrant burgundy shape. I was nervous because neither my home nor cottage has any red accents, but I have to say, I LOVE IT! 

This was our 9-foot Fraser Fir - we put it up in our foyer this year. It was too big and would look too out of place in our living room. 

I learned I could actually keep the Norfolk Island Pine as a houseplant, so double cheers to that! 

We moved the giant Zizi plant which used to be in the foyer to our second floor hallway for the time being. Otherwise there would be too much greenery in one room. Oh, and this vintage Royal Baluch wool runner rug was from eCarpetgallery. It has all the muted brown, caramel, tan and navy tones, so soft and doesn't shed. Such a gem! 

This was from our dinning room overlooking the foyer.  

Those onion baubles were from HM Home, red glass house ornaments were from Glucksteinhome via Hudson's Bay. 

Love all the warm glow from the tree! 

Move on to the living room. I didn't want the holiday decor to take over the room, so I chose a blue fir tree with sparse and slender silhouette and left it untrimmed. 

Remember the Fiddle Leaf Fig tree I picked up a couple of years ago, it's now standing 7-foot tall and still going strong. 

This was the Bella Tan Level Leather Bench from Article. I ordered it for our bedroom but decided to leave it in the living room for extra seating during the holiday entertaining. 

Dining room. 

Recently I took on charcuterie board as a new hobby and have been obsessed about it. They certainly have made this year's holiday entertaining so much easier for me, especially with a sprained wrist and tendinitis. In the board below, I pickled those red onion myself using apple cider vinegar. It was so easy to do and has so much presence on the board. 

I also candied the naval orange slices in this round board - they were so delicious! 

So there you have it, my belated 2019 holiday home tour. Wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous 2020! Dream big and achieve more! 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Tuscany Italy in 10 Days

I thought I should hop on to write about our 10-day trip to the Tuscany region of Italy in early September. This was our fifth time back to Italy and it was by far our best Italian experience. We flew in and out of Firenze (Florence), and took multiple day trips into the Tuscan countryside. 

Picture below: view of Florence's Ponte Vecchio from the Piazzale Michelangelo

This was our 10-day itinerary: 

Day 1: arrival, connecting through Frankfurt. I highly recommend connection flights through FRA (definitely not LHR) for the following reasons: 1) we didn't have to go through airport security again for connecting flights (unlike LHR); 2) our flight landed in the same terminal as our second leg; 3) Lufthansa's Senator Lounge was super nice. 

Day 2: Uffizi (Gallerie degli Uffizi), Firenze old town. 
Day 3: Day trip to Cinque Terre. 
Day 4: Florence markets.
Day 5: Day trip to Siena, Monteriggioni, and San Gimignano, drove by Pisa on the way back to Firenze. 
Day 6: Greve, Castellina, Val d'Orcia.
Day 7: Montalcino, and Monteplciano, drove by Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia on the way back to Firenze.
Day 8:  Shopping, climb Giotto's Campanile. 
Day 9: Departure, connecting through Frankfurt. 


Weather God must really love us. We lucked out yet again throughout our trip. I was worried about the heat wave sweeping the West Europe we heard so much about, but it was actually tolerable by the time we got there. It started out pretty hot at around 35-degree Celsius on the first day - it rained overnight and it immediately cooled down to 28-30 after that. As you could see from the pictures below, it was blue sky every day for us. 

Brunelleschi's Dome from the Piazzale Michelangelo

Arno River at dusk

Vernazza, Cinque Terre in Liguria

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza's rocky beach. This was one of my favourite photos from the trip. My friend Laura was right that it's very Alex Colville-esque.

 Monterosso beach, Cinque Terre

Monterosso beach, Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore from our boat, Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre. I recommend you go there in the afternoon when the sun shines on those colourful houses. Unfortunately it was our first stop in the morning so the entire harbour was still in the shadow.

Art and Architecture

As the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence and its vicinity is undoubtedly a feast for the eyes and the souls of the artsy. My right brain was super charged throughout our stay there. 

Picture below: last time we saw this dude (Dante Alighieri) was probably 10 years ago. He still stands tall and poetic. 10 years ago he was veiled in scooter exhaust and smog. I was pleasantly surprised to see air pollution has come way down in Florence, so the statue hasn't lost any of its intricate charms to weathering. 

Uffizi Gallery was easily my first stop in Florence. It was only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel by the Arno River bank. 

The unfinished masterpiece of da Vinci's, Adoration of the Magi

Agnolo Bronzino's Eleonora di Toledo col figlio Giovanni

Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, just breathtakingly beautiful. 

Sandro Botticelli's Primavera is one of my all-time favourites. If you follow the tale behind the making of this painting (Medici on Netflix), you would feel your heart pinched a little while taking in every detail of this masterpiece.  

STIK was here? 

Bargello Museum is a fantastic place to go if you appreciate sculptures and statues. 

The marble-clad facade of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Marble facade of Duomo di Siena, with French Gothic elements. 

He requires no introduction. 

This was hubby and I having too much fun after a few tipples. 

Piazza della Signoria, how lucky of us to have to walk through the square a few times every day to go places. 

Medieval walls of Monteriggioni in Toscana. In the picture behind the fortress gate were Gina and Kim (mother and daughter) from Texas we met during our trip, definitely a highlight of our Tuscan experience. 

The fortress gate of Monteriggioni. I don't know the girl in the picture doing the back walkover but she did make my shot so much artsier. 

San Gimignano was the top of my list to visit during our Tuscan trip, but it turned out to be a big disappointment. Main streets were packed with tourists and shops, and none of the quaint medieval town charm I had in my head. Castellina, on the contrary, turned out to be one of my favourite stops. 

We stumbled upon this super posh art studio called Lucia Volentieri while we were aimless wandering around town in Castellina (the best way to explore a new place IMO). 

This was the artist Lucia holding one of her bird prints - the blueprint she drew up for her sculpture works. She was as lovely as her artworks. 

We had to drive 20 minutes off the main road and took another 15 minutes brisk walk on gravel road under 35 degree Celsius heat to get to this Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, the world's loneliest church. My husband called it the "holy church of Instagram". 

The stunning views of the rolling Tuscan hills and fields made the trip completely worthwhile. 

Brunelleschi's dome. 

Food and Wine

One of the reasons we kept going back to Italy was food. I am convinced my husband should've been born into an Italian family. 

Picture below: pretty much my diet when in Tuscany: grilled pesce, fruitti di mare (seafood), gelato and a ton of vino. 

Hubby had no problem finding his favourite steakhouse. 

The glorious Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the t-bone steak Florence style. 

Summer truffle galore at the restaurant, which they used in almost all their food. 

While in Monterosso, Cinque Terre, we stayed in line for about 40 minutes at this fried seafood joint right outside the train station. 

It's overrated if you asked me, and definitely not worthwhile waiting 40 minutes for. If you can walk right up, sure, give it a try. It's a very "hygge" thing to do devouring these greasy and crunchy deep-fried calamaris over a bear on the beach. 

Trippa Alla Fiorentina, beef tripe Florence style, sounds intimidating but you must try it.  

Outside of Florence into the Tuscan wine country, food gets more rustic and earthier with a lot of cured meats and cheeses. 

During this trip we visited 5 wineries throughout the Tuscan countryside. We learnt so much about wine making and gained a whole new appreciation of Italian wines and cuisine. 

This was 20-year balsamic vinegar drizzled on a thin slice of sheep milk cheese, simply heaven when paired with Brunello! 

Our best experience was at the Tornesi winery. It's not as grandeur as Poggio Amorelli, or young and lively as Palagetto, but Tornesi has the most heart and soul when it comes to their wines, food and heritage. So I encourage to make a stop for them. You'd be so inspired after you speak with the little boss Elise. 

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