Category Archives: Caring For Our Community

Top 5 Easy Houseplants You’ll Grow to Love

Decorating your home with indoor plants is affordable and stress-free. Here are five ideas on how to incorporate low-maintenance houseplants to your interior decor.

Add a touch of green to your home. Indoor plants brighten up any room and they can also help purify the air in your home. Here are five low maintenance houseplants and instructions on how to grow and take care of them—no green thumbs required! #cbrmr

1. English Ivy

Caring for ivy plants is easy and rewarding. English Ivy is known to grow effortlessly. It can even thrive under fluorescent light. Place your English Ivy on your bookshelf and let the vines grow for a dramatic effect.
houseplant - ivy

2. Jade Plant

Jade is a popular succulent because it requires little care. It needs moderate lighting. You can water the plant when the top soil is dry to the touch. If you are feeling creative, try mixing up different kinds of succulents for a terrarium garden.
houseplants - jade

3. Air Plants

As the name suggests, these plants don’t even need soil to survive! Each leaf of an air plant absorbs water and nutrients. Air plants need bright indirect light and they need to be soaked in a bowl of water for 30 minutes once a week. Show off your air plants on a piece of driftwood for a rustic look or in a hanging terrarium for a minimalist look.
houseplants - airplant

4. Areca Palm

Turn any room into a paradise with Areca Palms (aka Butterfly Palms). Areca Palm usually reaches a height of 6 feet when it is grown indoors. It requires bright indirect sunlight and it should be watered biweekly or when the soil dries out.

Photo credit: @almostmakesperfect

5. Basil

These fragrant herbs grow indoors just as well as they do outdoors. Just make sure they get plenty of sunlight and water them often. The best part of growing a basil plant is that you can eat it! Garnish your favorite pasta dish or make a delicious basil cucumber gin.
houseplants - basil

3 Tech Questions to Ask Before Buying a Smart Home

When you find the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions. Remember, The Mash Team is SMART HOME certified. #cbrmr

 

Smart homes are all the rage these days and are quickly becoming a hot commodity. A recent survey found that 65 percent of buyers would pay extra for houses with smart features – that is, anything in the home that connects to the internet. Smart features include connected security systems, HVAC systems, lighting, thermostats, door locks and eco-friendly appliances—all of which can be controlled remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

While smart homes offer convenience and energy savings, they do come with unique challenges—especially when transferring the home from one family to the next. If you think you’ve found the perfect smart home for you, consider these important questions.

1. What Devices are Actually in the Home?

Talk with the realtor or current homeowners to get a list of devices installed in the home. Don’t rely on a quick walkthrough tour alone, as some IoT-enabled devices are more obvious than others. For example, you’ll be able to spot a smart refrigerator’s touchscreen, but you may not notice the smart lighting solutions. These could encompass not only light bulbs but also adjustable window shades and natural-light detection that dims bulbs as natural light floods the room.

It’s also a good idea to pinpoint what you want out of a smart home, so you can find the one that meets all (or at least most) of your criteria. Additionally, check with the sellers to make sure the manuals for each device are available. They’ll highlight the various features and can quickly clue you in on where each device is and what it has to offer.

2. Are There Warranties for the Connected Devices?

Review the warranties and policies of the home’s IoT gadgets just like you would for any other appliance in the home. You can do this online if you have the serial numbers. (Ask the seller for a list of serial numbers for each device.) That way, you can make sure the devices are actually transferable to new owners so you don’t miss out on important features or security updates.

If everything checks out, remember to update the manufacturer’s pre-set passwords and see if there are any new versions of the device software once you’re all moved in. You can do this on the manufacturer’s website or by accessing the settings menu in the gadget itself.

3. Have the Devices Been Reset to Factory Settings?

Ask if the owner will (or already has) reset the devices back to their default factory settings. Doing so will make it easier for you to create your own account, set up new access protocols and adjust the settings to your liking.

It’s also wise to review the privacy settings for each device, as well as the settings for your own smartphone or tablet, which is what you’ll use to “talk” to your smart home. Keep in mind that all connected devices store and communicate data, so educate yourself as much as possible on how your smart hub works.

It’s up to you to beef up security and limit personal information stored in IoT devices as much as possible. By knowing what you want and asking questions (as many questions as you need to!), you’ll be able to smoothly transition into your new smart home.

8 Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden this Spring

Grab your gardening gear. Here is a round up list of the easiest–and most practical–vegetables to grow in your garden.

As the weather warms, you are no doubt yearning to be outside to get your hands working in the dirt again. If you have never tried gardening, spring is the perfect opportunity to give it a shot and plant your own vegetable garden. Growing your own vegetables is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, and it also allows you to get the highest possible amount of nutrients from your food. Fresh vegetables are much healthier for you than those bought from the store, as they begin to lose nutritional value the longer they sit on a shelf.

Get your gardening gear out from storage. Here is a round up list of the easiest–and most practical–vegetables to grow in your garden.

1. Tomatoes

If you are new to gardening, tomatoes should absolutely be your first plant to try. Homegrown tomatoes, ripened in the sun, are a delicious addition to any meal. They are high in fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and several vitamins (including A and C). They are also one of the only sources of the beneficial antioxidant lycopene. If you’re just starting out or have limited space, try growing tomatoes in a container on your deck first. Usually, you can get by with just an 18-inch deep container. One plant will yield dozens of tomatoes throughout the season. Just remember that tomatoes like lots of sun and heat, so if you live in a colder area, it may take a little bit longer to get them growing.

2. Beans and Peas

Beans and peas are incredibly easy to grow. Depending on your preferences and your gardening space, you can choose to grow either bush or climbing varieties. Bush beans support themselves, while climbing or “pole” varieties need a stake or trellis to climb up on.

If you’re feeling extra organic, consider planting your beans and peas next to your corn. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil which aids the corn, and also use the stalk as a natural trellis. Both peas and beans are high in fiber, iron, potassium, and a wide range of vitamins. Plus, they continue to produce basket upon basket of delicious vegetables throughout the entire season.

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is a great vegetable to grow as it is one of the most nutritionally dense. It is high in crucial nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Although broccoli can be grown in containers, it’s just as easy to plant it directly in the ground. It is commonly known as a cold-season crop, so it can withstand a light frost–and actually tastes better after doing so. Meaning, you can plant it when soil temperatures are still a bit chilly in early spring and keep it going long into autumn.

4. Peppers

There are dozens of varieties of peppers you can grow, but most of them are all cultivated in about the same way. Consider bell peppers for your first try at pepper planting. A cool feature of planting bell peppers is that you will have different types of peppers at every growing stage. Harvest them young for crunchy green peppers, or wait a few weeks to allow the sun to further ripen them into delicious red peppers.

Whichever type you choose, peppers are full of nutrients, such as riboflavin and potassium. They can also be planted in pots, but grow best directly in the ground. Like tomatoes, they like lots of heat. Make sure you plant them in a warm, sunny area.

5. Carrots

A word to the wise–if you have rocky or clay soils, consider planting carrots in a raised bed or container. Carrots like fertile, loose soil and need plenty of room to stretch out and extend their roots. Carrots are an icon of healthy eating and are high in vitamins A, B6, and C. Sow carrot seeds about two to three inches apart, and be sure to thin them as they form tops.

6. Leafy Greens

There are dozens of varieties of greens you can plant in your garden. Choose the one that best works for your climate and soil type. Popular varieties that tend to work almost anywhere include spinach and kale. Both are cold-season crops that can be started a bit earlier than other crops, and can be harvested continually throughout the year. As a bonus, once they begin to die back and your harvest dips, you can reseed over the existing plants to produce new, fresh plants. Regardless of the type of greens you plant, these are easy to grow and harvest and contain high amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins.

7. Cucumbers

 Make room for at least one cucumber plant in your garden this summer. Cucumber plants produce large quantities, all of which spiral out in spiky vines. They can spread up to twenty-five feet away, so make sure you have plenty of room. Whether you plant pickling or slicing cucumbers, you should plant about five seeds in 6-inch high hills, and then thin to the two strongest plants. These warm-season crops love heat, so consider planting them on top of a layer of black plastic to heat up the soil.

8. Zucchini

The last plant on our list is zucchini. Zucchini plants have a reputation for being prolific producers, developing so many fruits at a time. The roots of the plant need regular moisture, but besides that, this is a low-maintenance vegetable that will pump out a bumper crop with just a single plant. You can eat both the fruits and blossoms of these delicious giants. Like cucumbers, they prefer warm, moist soil, so the black plastic sheet method works well in this situation, too.

Growing your own vegetables is a noble task that can take very little time and skill. If you’re ready to start on your path to self-sufficiency, give these tasty plants a try this spring.

8 Clever Ways to Store Books Around the House

Although reading books can seem like a long lost art in the days of digital devices, there still remains something special about the smell of a brand new novel and being able to flip through physical pages. For dedicated bookworms with cherished collections, it can be a struggle to store and display your favorites without a dedicated home library. Follow along for eight ways to stylishly integrate books into any room in the house.

In the Kitchen

This is not just limited to cookbooks. Any books you’ll want to read over a good meal or while waiting for the oven to preheat are just as applicable. There are many ways to add a homey vibe to your space by installing open shelves beneath a kitchen island or along a blank unused wall. Just make sure to keep the books away from appliances so the pages and binding don’t get damaged by heat.

 

In the Bedroom

As we venture further into fall and winter, many bookworms will want to curl up under the covers with a hot cup of cocoa and a new novel. Keep your reading list at arm’s reach by storing books along a windowsill or stack them up in a corner of the room. For a more permanent solution, buy a new headboard or nightstand with built-in storage.

 

In an Unused Fireplace

Fireplaces make a lovely focal point in many living rooms, but can be a hassle to maintain and use. You can breathe new life into this space by cleaning it thoroughly and stacking books in the empty space. The different bindings will create visual interest and bring color to the previously black abyss.

 

In the Bathroom

One of life’s luxuries is being able to read a good book in a relaxing bubble bath at the end of a long day. This can be done by building recessed shelves above a freestanding tub. For renters, there are plenty of budget-friendly over-the-toilet storage cabinets that accomplish the same purpose. Be sure to take proper precautions against warped pages caused by moisture with an exhaust fan.

 

Above a Desk

In many home offices, the space above the desk goes largely unused. Simply look up for more space. You can create a home for a decently sized collection of books by installing open shelves above your computer all the way up to the ceiling. The transitional Philadelphia space shown here illustrates the idea nicely.

 

Under the Stairs

If you still haven’t found the right fit for what to put in that little nook under the stairs, look no further. Bring in an asymmetrical or diagonal bookcase to house your collection or carve out an alcove to recreate a Harry Potter vibe. Bring in a comfy chair or cushions and you’ve got the perfect personal hideout space for the season.

 

Around an Entryway

This one requires the expertise of a skilled woodworker or architect. Frame any doorway in your home with a gorgeous collection of novels that surround it left, right and above. Add a rolling library ladder to reach the highest shelves and bring rustic charm and character to any space, as seen here.

 

In Your Front Yard

If you’re really unable to squeeze any more space out of your home to store books inside, consider moving outdoors for a unique solution. The Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring communities together and share books with one another through a house-shaped box in their front yard. Fill it with a few of your favorites that you’re willing to share and encourage your neighbors to take one, leave one of their own or both. Although this is not quite a storage solution, it’s a great way to connect with your community and discover new reading material.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs. (1 kg.) chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. each ground cumin, ground paprika
  • 1 tsp. each cinnamon, ground ginger, turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. harissa
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1 (19 oz./ 561 mL) can chickpeas, drained
  • 3 carrots, chopped in 2-inch pieces
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 1 c. dried apricots
  • 1 (28 oz./ 825 mL) can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 3 slices preserved lemon (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

TOPPINGS

  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • Grated zest of half a lemon

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and brown chicken thighs for 2 minutes on each side.
2. Place browned chicken into slow cooker, and stir in all remaining ingredients.
3. Heat in slow cooker for 8 hours on low setting, or 4 hours on high.
4. Remove from slow cooker, sprinkle with toppings, and serve with couscous, rice or flatbread.

 

April Showers Bring May … Weeds?

Whether your garden covers an expanse of flowers, bushes and other greenery around your house, or whether you just have visions of tending a small vegetable patch in the backyard, you’ll want to focus on what you actually want to grow and not what tends to sprout out of nowhere — that would be those pesky weeds!

Fight back against weeds this gardening season by employing these strategies:

  • Weed when wet. Damp soil allows you to pull out the full weed, including the roots, much easier. Keep a small hoe on hand to help loosen the soil and get as much of the weed out as possible. Weed thoroughly before you start planting, then maintain the weeding often as the season goes on.
  • Be a bad weed host. Discourage the growth of new weeds by holding back on what helps them flourish, namely light and water. After clearing the weeds, plant your flowers and vegetables close together so they form a natural light barrier as they mature, and in the meantime fill in the space between the plants and mulch.
  • Choose the right mulch, and the right amount of it. Mulch helps to prevent weeds by blocking out the light, but you need to choose the right mulch. First of all, ensure you choose a high quality, finely shredded, weed-free mmulch. If you like the look of the chunkier mulch, keep in mind that it can let light in so consider putting down two to three inches of the finely-shredded mulch first, to smother the weeds, then topping it with the chunkier mulch to create the esthetic you prefer.

Container Gardening Upgrades for a Fresh Spring

While prepping for gardening this spring, go through some of your old pots and containers. #cbrmr

If you’re a gardener, you most likely have some old pots and containers in your garden shed or even your garage. And you probably didn’t get rid of them because you figured you might have a use for them eventually. While prepping for this spring, instead of buying replacements pots and containers, go through the ones you already have stored. With a little imagination and some supplies, your pots will look better than new in no time!

Clay Pots

A good clay pot can be expensive and if dropped, the fall can put a decent size crack in it. If it’s chipped or broken but is still durable, here’s what you can do to fix it:

  • You’ll need all-purpose joint compound, spray paint or textured spray paint in a desired color, and fine-grained sandpaper. Clean off the damaged area with the sandpaper. Remove any loose clay as you’re sanding and carefully blow on it to remove the dust. This will let you get a good bond when filling it in.
  • Next, using the joint compound, fill in the cracks using a popsicle stick, spreading both inside and outside the pot. Make sure the cracks are well-covered. It dries relatively fast, so spread and smooth it out as you go. It can also be sanded down later if it’s not super smooth. If needed, add more layers until it’s filled. Let it dry for 24 hours and run the sandpaper over it to smooth it out one last time.
  • Seal the pot with the spray paint or textured spray paint, let dry, and it’s good to go.

Plastic Pots

Plastic pots are another type of container commonly used for gardening. The problem with these containers is that the weather can cause them to weaken, discolor, and sometimes crack. Have no fear, these containers can easily be fixed and your favorite plastic container can be used time and time again.

  • For this you’ll need clear gorilla tape, spray paint, textured stone paint, and fine-grain sandpaper. First, lightly sand all the areas which you’re planning to tape, so the tape has a good grip when applied. Be sure to remove all the dust from the surface of the pot. If you don’t, when you use the gorilla tape, it will form bubbles because it won’t seal. If you apply some rubbing alcohol before applying the tape, the surface will be clean.
  • Next, tape both sides of the crack with strips of gorilla tape. Rub it firmly to get a good seal but don’t use more tape than you need. For edges or curves, use small pieces, that can overlap about a ¼ inch. Try to avoid forming air bubbles.
  • Finally, spray the pot with the base paint and then spray it in thin layers with stone texture paint. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly. If the paint bubbles, let the paint cure for 24 hours. Spray it with the textured paint if desired for a different look.

Repurpose With a New Design

You can also repurpose an old pot with designs, like adding a mosaic design. You’ll need a terracotta pot, some broken tile pieces, pot shards or vase filler chips, spray paint and glue. Paint the pot with the spray paint and let dry, then gently glue the tile, shards or chips on one by one in the design of your choice.

You can also add a new design by using lace on a pot or container. All you’ll need is lace of the color of your choice and transparent adhesive. Varnish the pot with the adhesive and paste the lace over it. Let dry and use as desired.

As you can see, upgrading your container and pots for spring can be both fun and easy. What ways have you revamped old containers?

Ambient Lighting Tricks to Warm Up the Whole House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Take Inventory

Many of us are surrounded by so much “stuff” in our homes, day in and day out, that we barely even notice it anymore. And that’s a problem when it comes to trying to recall everything that’s missing after a home break-in, major fire or other home disaster. Take some time now to create a thorough home inventory so that if you ever need to itemize your missing or damaged belongings on an insurance claim, you’ll be sure to cover everything and receive your fair settlement faster.

Today’s technology makes taking inventory easier than ever; you may want to utilize an app that allows you to create an inventory spreadsheet to catalogue your belongings, and upload receipts for large items such as furniture and electronics.

If you don’t have time to create a written inventory of everything you own right now, you could at least create a video of your belongings by walking through each room and visually capturing it all, zooming in on makes, models and serial numbers as necessary, and narrating details as you go along. Once you record everything, and that means not only the big, expensive things but also smaller items that would still add up if you needed to replace them, store the digital inventory in the Cloud or off-site on an external hard drive, ideally in a safety deposit box if you have one.

Now that it’s on your mind, why not make an appointment to talk to an insurance professional for suggestions on how to create an efficient inventory list, and to help sort through what kinds of coverage you need to protect your home and belongings? #cbrmr

Chilly Start to the New Year

Toronto’s real estate market received a cool reception in January, with an overall drop in sales and prices compared to the same month last year. The popularity of condos in the city, however, took some of the sting out of the overall price decline.

The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) reported a 4.1 percent year-over-year decrease in the average price for a Toronto home, to $736,783, as the number of sales fell 22 percent from last year’s record-setting pace. The average price of a detached home dropped 9.1 percent compared to January 2017, while the average price of condos — despite a drop in the number of sales — increased by 14.6 percent.

“It is not surprising that home prices in some market segments were flat to down in January compared to last year. At this time last year, we were in the midst of a housing price spike driven by exceptionally low inventory in the marketplace. It is likely that market conditions will support a return to positive price growth for many home types in the second half of 2018. The condominium apartment segment will be the driver of this price growth,” suggested Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.

The market will continue to evolve as buyers adjust to the new, tougher mortgage guidelines, and as we fully enter the busiest time of the real estate season. Please call today for the latest local market updates! #cbrmr