We are officially in the second month of 2022—can you believe it? Hopefully you’re still riding the wave of new year excitement, but, if not, this issue of American Lifestyle is here to reenergize your outlook and help you feel enthusiastic about the months ahead.
February is a great time to prepare hearty, belly-warming meals that make you feel good, and there’s no better vessel for winter meal prep than a Dutch oven. The pair of recipes in this issue, a cheesy sausage bake and a tangy blackberry dessert, are the perfect seasonal pick-me-ups.
As a month dedicated to all things love, February would be incomplete without a proper nod to our affection for chocolate, which is something Memphis-based chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix knows all too well. Learn all about his expertly crafted confections that are as much a delight for the eyes as they for the taste buds.
It’s always sweet when we get to spend quality time with loved ones, and one of the best ways to do so is by engaging in a little friendly competition. Board games and card games are the perfect medium to get everyone in on the fun! Check out the enclosed guide for tips to spice up the traditional game night, with options well-suited for any family’s interests and skills.
If you’re looking to give your home a modern refresh this year, there are plenty of interior design trends on the rise that can elevate the look and feel of your spaces. This issue explores what’s new in the design world for 2022 and how you can easily adapt these trends for your home.
Here’s to a fun-filled February! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
Are you looking to get your home and life organized in 2022? If so, you’ll want to create your own home-management binder. This organizational tool can help you track home tasks and expenses, store contact information for neighbors and contractors, keep details—such as paint colors and furniture choices—in one place, and note where certain items are kept in your home.
While a home-management binder can be extremely helpful, there are a few documents you’ll want to keep more secure. For example, deeds and insurance policies are best kept in a fireproof box or a safe-deposit box. You can keep duplicates of these documents in your binder for quick reference.
These items will be helpful in assembling and organizing your binder:
Maintaining a home and keeping it organized involves a lot of information, so it can be tough to keep track of everything. This is where your newly created organizational system will come into play.
Note appointments and important to-dos on your binder’s calendar pages. You can design your own or find free ones online to print. Use your calendar to schedule chores you need to tackle, such as doing laundry, mowing the lawn, and cleaning the gutters, or you can note when service professionals will be completing certain tasks for you.
You can also add to-do lists to help you manage these tasks. You might want to include checklists for weekly duties such as cleaning the house and changing bedsheets, monthly chores such as paying bills, and seasonal activities like yard work or decorating for the holidays.
Once you’ve created your home-management binder, you can use it to store documents, information, and other paperwork associated with running your home. Here are a few examples of what to store:
This new organizational tool will be handy for tabulating your weekly, monthly, or yearly expenses. These outlays might include payments for utilities (such as gas, water, and electricity), cleaning supplies, home maintenance and cleaning services, pest control, and landscaping or gardening services. It can be helpful to write down when bills are due and when they are paid.
Add folder pockets for storing receipts for home purchases, such as new furniture or maintenance services. These payment records serve as proofs of purchase for warranties, or if you want to know when or where something was purchased and what date a service was performed.
If you are planning any home improvement or maintenance projects, you can create a section in your binder to store your budget and estimated costs, tasks to complete, contractor names and availability, planned start dates, projected timelines, product information, and fabric and paint swatches.
One of the best parts of keeping a home-management binder is that it can grow and evolve as your needs change. You can add to your binder to include other important pieces of information, such as grocery or shopping lists, meal plans, health and medical data, your family member’s schedules, and your children’s school and class information.
Once you have the basics down, you can use your supplies to organize and beautify your binder. Add tabbed dividers to separate your papers and folders into sections, such as for your calendars/schedules, receipts, and inventories. If you color-code each section, you will be able to locate what you are looking for quickly. Experiment with pens of various colors and stickers to highlight things of note in your binder. If you discover that you need more room for your information, expand your new organizational tool by including extra sections, folders, and binders.
If you love to watch reality television shows like Fixer Upper that highlight how renovations can completely transform a home, you’re not alone. In these shows seemingly average couples meet with professional decorators and builders, armed with an insane budget and even more insane expectations. It’s great to take inspiration from these shows and be entertained by them, but you should adjust your expectations and prepare for your own DIY project experience to be different. If you follow these tips, you can still have an award-winning renovation experience.
Before jumping into how to change your expectations, you should understand what your misconceptions are. Most people have the following takeaways after watching an inspiring renovation show episode.
If you’re doing a major home remodel, you’ll likely be knocking down some walls and lifting some floorboards. While it can be exciting to release your stress and anger into a sledgehammer, it can be a long and difficult process full of unwanted wire and pipe snags and creature discoveries. It’s wise to work with a professional who knows the process and proper precautions to take. Plus, operating a sledgehammer isn’t as easy as it appears—they can be heavy and tiring to hold.
Almost any episode of a renovation show will feature a space that undergoes a full-scale remodel, and the professionals note that it will increase the home’s value considerably. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes a major remodel won’t give you a major return. This will depend on several factors that you can discuss with a real estate agent. Minor changes like appliance upgrades and cabinet fixes can give you more bang for your buck without breaking the bank.
Speaking of budget, real estate TV does a disservice to people who are trying to do renovations on a tight budget. The households featured on these shows tend to have an exuberant budget that the average person can’t match, and they have no problem going over budget when a problem arises. You don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to accomplish your vision—less is more sometimes. That’s why it’s important to develop a thorough budget beforehand and stick to it.
The average renovation show episode lasts from thirty minutes to an hour and fits the entire home remodel within that timeframe, which means most of the proeacess doesn’t make it past the editing room. Typically, editors show the best and worst parts of the renovation and build a dramatic storyline around it. The episode shows the hurdles and triumphs of the expert builders and designers, making it a completely unrealistic depiction of a renovation timeline. Everything from building permits to adding finishing touches can take weeks or even months, so it will take a lot of patience to keep the project moving along. The hurdles you might encounter will take longer than five minutes to overcome.
Now that you understand the many misconceptions reality TV shows present, here’s what you can do to find a fixer-upper home and renovate it successfully.
It’s a good idea to start planning your vision before you even look at buying a home. What do you want your home to look like? What parts of the house are the most important? Which parts aren’t as important? You could hire a designer, but you will still have to put thought toward what you want to ensure the home you’re buying will satisfy your needs. Sites like Pinterest can help you draw inspiration from others, and you might even consider taking a course on a site such as Skillshare to prepare yourself for small DIY projects.
Before you decide on your dream fixer-upper, be sure to talk to your real estate agent about your plans. They can help guide you toward homes that fit your vision instead of showing you homes that may not be feasible for your goals. Have the seller give a thorough list of all the home’s features and blueprints, if available, as this can help you carefully choose what areas of the house to work on.
Home improvements can go over budget when the digging or demolition begins and reveals issues. Ensure you have more than the estimated costs available if you need to put more money than you anticipated toward the project. As a rule of thumb, you should have 50 percent more than your estimated cost at the ready.
If you’re not a home construction expert, it might be hard to see red flags. Do your research ahead of time on the time period your home was built during. For example, if construction was before the 1970s, be wary of lead paint and radon. If the home has hazardous materials, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue with your renovation, but you should add it to your list of fixes and budget for its removal. Additionally, investigate the building structures, such as the roof and walls, which could require the help of a specific home specialist to be maintained or repaired.
Even when you aren’t breaking ground on a project, there are regular maintenance costs to consider. Common problems, such as pipe issues, septic system failure, and foundation cracks, are to be expected—especially in an older home. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to have a thorough inspection done so you can make a list of any needed repairs. By doing so, you can stay ahead of any expensive and serious issues.
As with any field of work, inspectors and contractors can have varying opinions on home issues and projects. Find professionals who understand the vision you have for your home and will respect your choices. Ask them about any prior experience working with similar homes. If they don’t have much experience, it’s best to find people who do—they have the proper knowledge about your plumbing, heating, and electric systems to give you the best advice possible.
If you approach your home transformation with the proper expectations and preparation, the journey of renovating can be exciting and fulfilling.
Now that winter is here, you may wish to escape the elements and relax and entertain indoors with family and friends—especially if you live in a cold climate. So you’ll want to make sure your residence is clean and comfortable. These simple tips will help you freshen up areas of your home that might require extra cleaning.
A good place to start is by scouring your home’s windows and screens. There are fewer hours of sunlight in winter, so you don’t want dirty windows to block any natural light from coming through. Window screens collect dust and debris that can also obstruct light. Start by vacuuming your screens with your vacuum’s brush attachment. You can leave the screens in to simplify this process. Spritz the insides of your windowpanes with a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water, and wipe them with a sponge or microfiber cloth. Use the same process for the outsides of your windows, but spray the windows with a hose first. You can use an extender pole with a scrubber or squeegee attachment to wash and dry high windows.
Before cleaning the rest of your home’s interior, open a window or two, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to let in some fresh air. Depending on where you live, your windows might be closed for the better part of the season. Indoor air can contain common allergens and pollutants that can negatively impact your health. Opening your windows can also rid your home of unpleasant pet, trash, and bathroom odors.
While you spend more time at home this season, dust can quickly build up. Use a microfiber cloth to clean your home from top to bottom. Wipe the tops of door and window frames, ceiling fans, curtain rods, picture frames, and your fridge. Dust tables and flat surfaces. Use a brush attachment on your vacuum to clean your HVAC vents as dust can easily collect there. Extra dirty vent covers can be washed in the sink with soapy water and left to air dry. Vacuum your sofas and fabric-covered chairs with your vacuum’s upholstery attachment. Sweep, mop, or vacuum your floors, making sure to focus on the corners of rooms, underneath furniture, and other places that might get missed during regular cleanings.
If your winter sheets and comforters have been packed away, freshen them up by cleaning machine-washable items in your home’s washing machine; special care or larger items that might not fit in your machine can be taken to a dry cleaner. Consider laundering your drapes and curtains, too, as they tend to get dusty.
Before you spend more time inside your home, you’ll want to rid it of germs. Start by taking your trash cans outside and hosing them off. Follow up by wiping them down with a solution of of one part vinegar and one part water. You’ll also want to sanitize the remotes for your TV, cable boxes, and other media players. Remove the batteries, and then turn the remotes over so the buttons are facing down. Wipe the exteriors with a cotton cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol. You can use a toothpick to dislodge any particles stuck between the buttons before replacing the batteries. You can use this same solution to disinfect doorknobs and light switches. Remember that light switches are electrical, so don’t spray them directly with a solution or oversaturate your cleaning cloth.
Your entryway is the first area of your home guests will see. However, it’s also the place where the elements are likely to be tracked in, so you will want to give it a thorough cleaning by wiping the walls and floors with soap and water to remove built-up dirt. You can prevent winter mud or snow from getting into your home by putting a welcome mat and a boot tray down—look for seasonal ones to dress up your home’s decor.
T he search for the perfect kitchen tools can seem endless and expensive. It can be particularly frustrating to see your pieces fall apart, dull, melt, or break long before the end of their expected lifespan. However, you might be damaging your kitchen tools without knowing it during the rush to cook and clean your dishes. The good news is there are a few products you can eliminate and changes you can make to your cleaning routine to prolong the life of your favorite kitchen tools.
If you have a dishwasher, you know it’s a game changing appliance. But like anything else, it’s best used in moderation. It’s not the best option for cleaning all types of dishes, and here’s why.
Common kitchen materials like ceramics, stainless steel, and wood composites are dishwasher safe. However, even a dishwasher-friendly label should be taken with a grain of salt because consistent high-heat washing can wear the material down quickly. Aluminum, plastic, cast iron, nonstick, copper, and any other metals should not be placed in the dishwasher if you can avoid it. They can be gently handwashed, or, in the case of cast iron, wiped down with a paper towel.
Inexpensive detergents can help reduce your grocery bill, but it’s not worth the pennies in savings because they aren’t always as effective at washing your dishes. Look for detergents that are rated for your dishwasher, for example, high-efficiency, so you’re getting the most benefit from your machine. Avoid chemicals like sulfates, phosphates, ammonia, added fragrances, chlorine, and formaldehyde because they aren’t 100 percent safe for you or your dishes.
Even your kitchen tools need routine maintenance and checks. These are two of the most neglected tasks that can prevent damage to some of your most expensive pieces.
Invest in a knife sharpener or have your knives professionally sharpened. Aside from a quality coffee machine, knife sets are what most consumers are likely to splurge on—so keep them from dulling and becoming a safety hazard.
Do you know when you last replaced your kitchen sponge and brush? You should be replacing your sponge once a week and your brush once every three to four months to stop an overgrowth of bacteria that can corrode and damage your cookware. Consider investing in a scrub brush that has a replaceable head to cut down on costs and waste.
When your dishes and tools aren’t being used, they should be stored properly. It might be tempting to shove items into your cabinets to clean your kitchen quickly after a meal. However, you could be costing yourself more time and money. Take a few extra minutes to ensure that your kitchen storage is protecting your items and preventing buildup of dust and grime.
Mold, mildew, and other unwanted hazards thrive in warm, dark, and wet spaces, which makes a damp dishes in a cabinet a prime opportunity for growth. Always dry your items thoroughly before storing them. Even after the dry cycle in a dishwasher, it’s a good idea to keep a soft cloth hanging on the handle to give everything a quick once-over before putting it away.
At least once a week, disinfect and clean your cabinetry with a surface spray appropriate for your cabinet material. Be sure to reach to the back corners and any other spots you might forget about, like the inside of the cabinet doors and underneath the cabinets hanging over a countertop. By doing so, you can stop particles from building up and corroding your dishes over time.
If you look closely at the bottom of your plates, you’ll see that most of them don’t have glazed foot-rims. Considering this, you should avoid stacking porcelain dishes and other fragile materials on top of one another. Invest in a few rack cabinet organizers that can space your dishes on their own shelves. The same principle can apply to metal pots and pans. If you have metal on metal constantly, it can increase the risk of cracks and scratches from consistent impact and friction.
The phrase quality over quantity applies to a lot in life, including your kitchen tools. Your kitchen is the heart of your home, and it is worth the initial investment to prevent constant replacement purchases. Not every household needs a five-star rated knife set or a fancy cast-iron skillet, so take stock of your cooking habits to determine where you should spend more. For example, if you like baking, it would be worthwhile to purchase a good stand mixer and bowls rather than one made of flimsy materials.