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Christmas is five weeks away. You have a mere 35 shopping days left to fill the stockings, deck the halls, and prepare for holiday celebrations. It might sound like plenty of time, but that is really only 5 weekends with which to do everything from decorate your house (inside and out), to ordering your turkey, and completing all the last-minute details, like ironing the linens for the Christmas table. That’s a lot of work (unless you’ve got a team of minions that tackle your chores, you lucky soul). Have you made your list yet? Do you need a little help organizing your time?

First Step – OUTDOOR DECORATING:

Time to decorate! How tangled are your Christmas lights?

Decorate the outside of your house. Before you find yourself frozen solid to a ladder, grab the lights from storage and get hanging. Whether you trim your trees, eaves or every inch of your property with a Christmasy glow, it is far easier to do when the weather is comparatively milder. Don’t forget to give your planters a festive feel too. Add evergreen boughs, snazzy red bows, or simple birch branches for a holiday look that won’t be bothered by snow. Don’t forget wreathes for your doors. Many area nurseries create beautiful displays that will make your house shine.

And if you have to climb on the roof to attach a wooden Santa to the chimney, or eight tiny reindeers to the roof, make sure you have a helper or some kind of spotter for safety’s sake. Of course, if you want the cheery glow, but don’t want the hassle, you could always contact Christmas Decor London to decorate your home for you. They specialize in lights, garlands, wreathes and more, plus I hear tell they do a nice job. All you have to do is pick your colours, then move onto the next task on your list.

Second Stage – INDOOR DECOR:

Once the outside of the house is shining bright, it is time to tackle the inside of your home. This is a great time to pick up a duster and clean your home. Before you even look for your boxes of decorations, take the time to pack away extra decor items while Christmas takes over your world. With them stored, scrub cobwebs from the corners, wipe the mantelpiece, and dust any shelves that will host your Christmas items for the next month. That includes everywhere from your living room, kitchen and any bathrooms that might be seen by guests visiting over the holidays.

Christmas Decor is a matter of personal expression

IDEAS:

  • Choose a simple one- or two-colour scheme decor palette to give a designer theme to your home.
  • Bring the outdoors in with design items like pine cones, dogwood twigs, birch bark, or cedar boughs. They add beauty as well as a delightful scent to any space.
  • Embrace Kitsch. Do you still have your Grandmother’s old glass ornaments? Have you collected an eclectic mix of Christmas baubles at garage sales over the years? Is the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story” your favourite holiday centrepiece? Mix it up and make Christmas unique at your house this year.

Third Round – SHOPPING:

Shop Western Fair’s Farmer’s Market for all your holiday needs

Time is beginning to tick. If you haven’t started yet, it is time to hit the malls. I know there are plenty of folks that leave their shopping til the last-minute, but you have better selection the earlier you shop guys! Honestly (no, my wife didn’t force me to say that). Barring the malls, there are lots of Christmas markets around to browse through, like Christmas in the Market at Western Fair Farmer’s Market. If that still strikes fear into your hearts, you could also just hit the virtual mall and shop at home from the comfort of your easy chair with the help of your laptop. Just make sure to leave enough time for delivery!

Fourth Phase – PARTY PREP:

Make sure you have enough seating and tableware for all in attendance at any holiday parties you throw

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a few Christmas parties to attend. If you happen to be hosting one, whether it be a party or Christmas dinner itself, there is plenty to prepare for. You need to make sure you have anything from enough toilet paper for the number of guests who will be visiting, to sufficient glasses, plates and cutlery. If you are having a formal sit-down meal, place names for the table make life easier when it comes time to be seated. Plus, don’t forget to iron tablecloths, pick up extra chairs as necessary, polish the silver service, and make sure you have that giant turkey ordered in time for the gathering.

Fifth Stop – CHECKING IT TWICE & MAKING IT NICE:

You are almost there! Christmas is just about upon you. You might still have some last-minute shopping to finish, but the house should be decorated and ready to go. The last of your tasks are items like wrapping presents, finalizing your Christmas menu, baking cookies for Santa, and enjoying the joy that Christmas brings. There is just enough time left to have a glass of Christmas cheer with the neighbours and maybe gather some reindeer food to sprinkle for Rudolph on Christmas Eve. Don’t forget to clean up fireplace for Santa, so his suit doesn’t get too tarnished with ashes and soot.

As I take a look at my list, I wonder how much double-checking I have to make. What have I forgotten? Did you send out Christmas cards? Have you watered your Christmas tree? Did you open all the doors of your advent calendar? Have your children found the Elf on the Shelf every day? What other traditions do you have in your home over the holidays?

The calendar has rolled around to November. I think it is safe to say that we can wish goodbye to warmer weather. If you haven’t pulled winter hats and gloves out from storage, now is the time. The mornings come early and they are chilly! Drag your window-shaker air conditioners out, or cover up the central air conditioner outside. Drain the gas out of your mower and put it to bed for the season. Clean and stack your patio furniture away into storage for a long winter’s nap. Empty those gutters and make sure the downspouts are pointed away from your house.

Do you have anything else on your to-do list before you too can curl up in front of a toasty fire this winter? If you are anything like me, I bet you do. If you still have plenty of items on your checklist to winterize your house, how about brushing off the crock pot and pushing it back into service for the season to ensure you’ll have something tasty to eat once you tick a few items off that list. This slow cooker recipe from Savvymom.ca is sure to be a delicious hit with any family. It should certainly be a winner for any chef that is also wearing the hat of busy home owner preparing their home for winter.

SHREDDED TEX-MEX CHICKEN

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 cups salsa
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp chili powder

Directions:

  1. Place chicken thighs in a single layer at the bottom of a slow cooker and season well with salt and pepper, before pouring the lime juice over the chicken pieces.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the salsa, cumin, paprika, oregano and chili powder. Pour the salsa mixture over the chicken, spreading it evenly to cover the meat.
  3. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours (or high for 3 hours).
  4. To serve, remove the chicken from the cooker and place it in a bowl. Using two forks, pull the meat apart to shred it. Place it back in the cooker and toss with the sauce before serving.

Good to Know: If there is a lot of watery sauce in the crock-pot, pour a few scoops over the chicken when it’s in the bowl instead of returning the meat to the pot.

Have you started raking yet?

Have you started raking yet?

With the crock pot cooking, you will have plenty of time to get outside to rake leaves, wrap trees and shrubs, put away your garden ornaments, drain your hoses and store them, turn off your outdoor water taps, plus see if you need to replace any burnt out bulbs in your outdoor lighting. Night falls much earlier this time of year, so exterior lighting because that much more important for home owners. You might want to make sure that you have a store of salt for your driveway, while safety is on your mind too. A shovel or snow blower is an essential tool for anyone in this part of Canada that has to leave their house come the first snowfall of the season. That goes for the second, third and beyond’s dumps too.

Better waterproof your winter boots while you are at it. You never know when Old Man Winter will hit us with one of these nasty surprises…

Shovelling safety tips

This reality isn’t as far off as you’d like to believe. Just saying…

I hate to tell you, but it is going to be November by the end of the week. Halloween is expected to be a wet and sloppy day, followed by several more rainy days. The only bright spot is that on Sunday Daylight Savings Time ends, so we’ll get an extra hour for sleep in the morning. Either that or you can put it towards something more productive like preparing your home for the upcoming winter season. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Maybe not, but it certainly beats taking care of essential home maintenance projects in the icy cold.

Winter Prep For Your Home

Firewood storage

You won’t have to look far to find ways to keep warm in this house

    • Get in a load of firewood; If you have a wood burning fireplace, order a cord or two of wood now, so that you can have it stacked and ready when winter decides to hit us with its chilly blasts. Not only is it nice to be all cozy in front of a blazing fire, but it helps reduce your heating bills as well.
    • Caulk around your windows and doors; I can’t say it enough. Taking the time to caulk around leaky windows and doors really does save you money on your heating costs. It keeps the cold air out and the warm air in. It makes your home more comfortable, as well as reduces the amount of work that your furnace has to do to maintain an acceptable temperature in your house. A tube of caulking costs approximately $2 a tube. Isn’t that worth the investment?
    • Add weatherstripping where necessary; Like caulking, weatherstripping helps to keep the cold air outside and warm air in, where it belongs. Check to see what shape your weatherstripping is in and replace as needed.
    • A broken window pane is the equivalent of that window being left wide open for dollars to fly through the hole

      Inspect windows for cracks and broken panes; Now is the time to replace any damaged or broken windows as necessary. Caulking and weatherstripping only go so far. A broken window pane is the equivalent of leaving that window open, so replace any windows that are damaged. If the cost for new windows isn’t in the budget, put up storm windows and add window insulation film to minimize heat loss to your home.

    • Have your furnace cleaned and inspected; The worst day for your furnace to break down is on the coldest day of the year. Take the time to have someone inspect your furnace and ensure that it is in good working order for the winter season ahead. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure my friends.
    • Replace the batteries on your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; When the clocks fall back on Sunday, take the time to replace the batteries on your detectors. A working smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector saves lives. While you are at it, check on your fire extinguisher and get it charged as necessary.

Clean your chimney. Santa will certainly appreciate it.

  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected; If you are planning on having a fire or two in your wood stove this winter, have a professional come to inspect it before you light your first fire of the season. They can clean your flue of creosote buildup, to prevent any chimney fires from becoming a possibility. One less thing to worry about when it comes to the safety of your family.
  • Replace your old thermostat with a programmable one; With all the great incentive programs out there, if you haven’t replaced your old thermostat, why not?! You can set it so that the temperature of your home goes down when you are not at home or after you have gone to bed, and it automatically rises to a comfortable temperature when you return or arise in the morning. You can easily override most new thermostats, or set them to vacation mode if you will be away for an extended time period. The best part is that you don’t have to think about them and they save you money.

Don’t we all want to be more comfortable and SAVE more money? I think so. So why not tackle some of these basic home maintenance projects today!

Local greenhouses are a great place to pick up Fall Decor items for your home

It’s Autumn in Southwestern Ontario. Leaves are beginning to change colour. Apples are hanging heavy on trees. Pumpkins are scattered in farmer’s fields wherever you look. All of these fall elements can be seen in more than farmer’s markets though. Homes are decorated with dried corn stalks, hay bales and tumbles of colourful gourds to welcome in the crisp season. Businesses sport seasonal wreathes and planters at their doors. And many restaurants take advantage of the bounty from the fields, tempting patrons with mouth-watering dishes made from fresh, local finds.

 

The smell of warm mulled apple cider makes a home irresistible during an open house

Who am I to resist? Especially when I always have an eye to presenting a home in its best possible light. Autumn has so many pleasing options when it comes to staging a home for sale, whether it be light and airy grasses waving from a planter at your door, or the delicious smell of autumn in the presentation of steaming apple cider at an open house. And if you were wondering, Fall is just as good a time to sell your house as any other.

 

Fall colours are a wonderful addition to any home’s palette

In fact, many people list their homes for sale in the Fall. As noted, during a long Indian Summer, such as the one we are experiencing now, homes often look their best. As long as you can keep up with your Fall maintenance (think raked leaves, gardens ready for bed, and no hot or cold days to frighten a potential home buyer away), you will find that your home takes on a whole new look in the Autumn. Plus, if your curb appeal is at its best, then you just might find that you have more potential for a sale with fewer houses on the market, as compared to the busier Spring market. Don’t worry though, as folks that have gone on vacation in the summer will be home again to start house hunting, before getting ready for Christmas vacations (and another slow down in the real estate market).

So if you think that you have to wait until the Spring to sell your home, think again. Now is the perfect time to sell your house! Make sure to point out any of the upgrades that you have done to your home (you should be doing your Fall maintenance regardless, but it helps boost your home’s appeal when it is on the market). And if you are exhausted at the end of the day with all the work it takes to keep up a sparkly home when it is for sale, do yourself a favour and schedule a few more crock pot meals into the rotation, like this seasonal one from Allrecipes.ca. And if you get a last-minute visitor that has to see your home tonight, all you have to do is turn down the slow cooker and let them savour the scent of your seasonal dinner that will be ready whenever you get home again.

SLOW COOKER PUMPKIN TURKEY CHILI

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups cubed fresh pumpkin
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chili beans
  • 1 (15 ounce) can seasoned black beans
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat; brown turkey, stirring often, until crumbly and no longer, pink, about 10 minutes. Drain and discard any fat.
  2. Transfer turkey to a slow cooker and stir in diced tomatoes, pumpkin, chili beans, black beans, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and chili powder. Set cooker to Low, cover, and cook until pumpkin is tender and has started to break apart, at least 3 hours.

While the temperatures remain relatively warm during the day, it is obvious that Fall is in the air. Nights are cool. The leaves are beginning to change. Annuals that you may have planted in the spring are now looking relatively straggly. The grass is slowing down in its growth. As Mother Nature changes her decor, so too should you. Who’s got time to tackle some home maintenance projects?

OUTDOORS

  • Fresh Fall planters renew your home’s decor

    Pull out annuals that are leggy and spent. While you are at it, dig out summer bulbs and store them for the season. You can replace those bulbs with spring flowers, like crocuses, daffodils and tulips for that burst of colour first thing in the spring.

  • The garden isn’t the only thing that needs some TLC. Your planters are probably looking rather spent as well. Renew them with a hint of fall flair in choices like colourful mums, cool-weather-loving kale, jazzy grasses, and a selection of pumpkins and gourds.
  • Keep cutting your grass right up until it stops growing. Think about over-seeding in the early part of the fall. While the weather stays warm, continue watering your grass. A fall fertilizer applied in October will also give your lawn that boost it needs to shine next spring. Once you have cut the grass for the last time, make sure to winterize your lawn care equipment before putting it to bed for the winter.
  • When the leaves transform into a beautiful rainbow overhead, a camera might be the first thing that you think to reach for. The next thing you reach for though will be a rake. That stunning canopy only lasts so long before it gently drifts to the ground and you have some work to do. Whether you prefer a rake, leaf blower, or mulcher, now is the time to amass yard waste bags in preparation for leaf raking season.

INDOORS

  • Storm windows will keep the heat Inside your home this winter

    Prepping your indoor world for winter is a good idea too. Slowly reintroduce any plants that you took outside for the summer, back indoors. They need to gradually readjust, but most certainly can’t handle any frost or other frigid temperatures.

  • There aren’t too many hot breezes blowing through your home anymore. Time to switch your ceiling fans to clockwise for the winter. That will pull cool air up off the floor and push the warmer air off the ceiling and down the walls towards the floor. It is a simple step that will save you a couple of degrees in your house and dollars in your pocket.
  • While insects might still be buzzing in your yard, they will be gone soon, and with them the need for window screens. Now is the time to remove, wash and store your screens and haul out your storm windows if you’ve got them. While you are at it, check for any drafts and caulk around windows as necessary. If those drafts are bad enough, why not think about replacing those leaky windows altogether? It might be more expensive than tacking up plastic window barriers, but replacement windows add more value to the resale value of your home in the long run.
  • Don’t put the caulking gun away too fast. Since it is out already, now is a great time to recaulk the tub, fill any cracks in your foundation or around outdoor faucets, seal around doors, and winterize your home as needed.

There’s  plenty more to be done around the house this Autumn, but as the days get shorter, energy levels tend to lag. One step at a time my friends! It will all get done eventually…

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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