7th House on the Left

It’s time for your well-deserved vacation and you’re busy packing all of the necessities for a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But don’t rush out the door too fast! Here are nine things you need to remember before you head off for your vacation destination…

1. Turn off any breakers that won’t be needed while you’re gone. This can save you a pretty nice little chunk of change. Sure, you could just leave everything in the “off” position, and you’d still save some money, but many modern electronic devices still draw power even when they’re “off”. By turning off your breakers, you’re also doing a lot to lower the risk that your electronics will be hit by a power surge while you’re gone. Of course, don’t turn off the breaker to your fridge, air conditioner, or security system. You’ll still need these things (among a few others) to be running while you’re gone.

2. Clean out your refrigerator and pantry. Many people rush out the door dreaming of sandy beaches and not thinking about what their house might look or smell like when they get back. Before you leave, clean out any perishable items that might go bad while you’re having your fun in the sun. That way, your house doesn’t smell like a garbage dump when you walk in the door upon your return. Take the perishable food over to your parents’ or even a local food bank.

3. Clean, bleach, and plastic wrap your toilets. Yep, you read that right: plastic wrap. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, clean your toilet with your normal cleaning supplies to make it nice and clean. Who wants to come back home to toilet bowl rings? Then, pour in some bleach. This helps prevent mildew, which is part of what creates that musty smell in your house while you’re not there. This last (and strangest) step is optional, but great for people in warm, humid climates taking extended vacations. Tightly wrap plastic wrap over the bowl like you’re trying to seal up leftovers (that is, air-tight). You see, in warmer climates, water can evaporate from the toilet bowl and allow sewer/septic gas to leak into the house. You don’t want that. It’s smelly and can even be dangerous.

4. Set your air conditioner to a reasonably high temperature. Just bumping your temperature up a few degrees will allow you to save a decent amount on your power bill. However, setting your AC to 80 degrees (that’s about 27 Celsius for our metric friends) or more will cut your energy bill down significantly. Just remember that if your AC isn’t running much, it’s not taking the humidity out of the air, so be conscious of what the things in your house can tolerate. For example, musical instruments made from wood (guitars, cellos, pianos) don’t tolerate high heat or humidity very well, so if you have a high-end instrument, set your AC at the point where it will kick on every now and then to keep the temperature and humidity in check.

5. Turn off the water. Well, turn if off to whatever extent you’re comfortable. This is a matter of personal preference and may depend on how long you are leaving your house. Some people shut off water to their entire house while they’re gone. This takes the pressure out of your plumbing and ensures you won’t spring any costly leaks. Of course, turning it back on underneath the house right after a long car or plane ride isn’t exactly fun, so you could just hit the shutoff valves at each of your water-using appliances. The most vital are the washing machine, any leaky faucets, toilets that run constantly, etc. Of course, fixing these things before you leave would be nice, but not everybody may have that kind of time.

6. Buy timers for a couple of the lights in your house. These create the illusion that your house is still occupied, even when it’s not. Some timers even allow for different settings for different days. This is the kind of timer you want to buy. If all of your lights come on at the exact same time every night, it’s going to be rather obvious that they’re on a timer. Set each of your two (or more) timers to come on and turn off at different times each day. You might even set them to turn off or on near the same time to simulate someone coming home or going to bed.

7. Try not to order anything for delivery while you’re gone. Or, if you do, have it delivered to a friend or neighbor. There are two reasons behind this: 1) You don’t want whatever you ordered to sit outside for weeks on end. 2) Some professional criminals follow delivery trucks around to see if anybody answers the door when the driver knocks. This, along with leaving the packages on your doorstep while you’re gone, leaves the impression that you’re not around.

8. Remove any hidden keys. If no one is home and your neighbors aren’t extremely nosy, a burglar has virtually unlimited time to look around your house for keys. Make sure he doesn’t find any.

9. Recruit a friend to go by your house from time to time. You don’t really need to give them a key, either. All they need to do is pull in, make sure there aren’t any packages at your door, grab your mail, and ensure nothing looks broken or vandalized.

Do you have any helpful tips to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section!

Suitcase photo found here. Plastic wrap photo found here. Toilet found here. Light timer photo found here. Slight altered key rock photo found here

****THIS GIVEAWAY IS NO LONGER ACCEPTING ENTRIES****
Scroll down to see the winning comment chosen by Random.org…

Summer is here and it seems every Saturday morning we wake up to the sound of lawn mowers, trimmers, and mulch trucks. While we’ve been focusing primarily on the inside of the house we’ve been gearing up for some more exterior projects. We’ve been keeping up with helping the grass be all nice and green, pressure-washing and whatnot… but when it comes to actual landscaping… baby steps, people!

Last week the folks over at Black & Decker sent two packages to our doorstep. It was… drumroll… their new Lithium-Ion Cordless Trimmer and Sweeper! Knowing that B&D makes good quality products, we were really excited to break them out of their boxes and put them to work.

After some minor assembly and charging of the batteries, I headed outside to break them in. The first thing I noticed was that these tools are light. Actually the Sweeper was so light, I wondered if it could actually blow anything around! The build, quality, and finish on these tools is something B&D could definitely write home about. Everything fits together nicely, and while they’re made of mostly plastic and aluminum, the tools seem thick and sturdy where it counts. As long as you don’t abuse them, they would hold up for a very good amount of time.

First up to bat, the Lithium-Ion Cordless Trimmer/Edger

I fully expected the trimmer to do its job, and it performed just as well as I thought it would. I wouldn’t go trying to chop down any small trees with it (Yes, I tried. Sort of. It was a weed turned small tree. Don’t ask.) but it does a great job on hard-to-reach grass underneath the edge of bushes, shrubs, etc. This “little” guy would be great for those quick jobs where a gas-powered or corded trimmer would be too cumbersome… Like that line of grass that sticks up right next to the front steps you’ve neglected to trim because you would have to spend ten minutes pulling out the big trimmer for 30 seconds of work. We’ve totally been stalking you (kidding!).

Another perk of the B&D Cordless Trimmer is the adjustable angle on the handle. It’s smooth to click into place and makes the trimmer even easier to maneuver. A total plus in my book!

Another really cool feature on the trimmer is the edger setting. You loosen a piece on the shaft, turn the head 180 degrees, then lock it back down. Then you can pull out the guide, place it on the edge you’re trimming, and just slide it along. My only criticism here is the guide could stand to have some rollers or something to make it easier to slide along rough/hard surfaces. Overall, the trimmer did it’s job really well in both the “normal” and “edger” positions.

Next up to bat, the Lithium-Ion Cordless Sweeper

The sweeper is pretty simple (hence the lack of pictures) and easy to use as well. Now, earlier I voiced my doubts about the performance due to the blower being unbelievably light. Well, my doubts were laid to rest the first time I flipped the ON switch. This little guy packs some punch for its size! We successfully swept up all of the grass clippings that we had created with the trimmer, and did so in short order. I will definitely use it to keep the car port cleaned out and “sweep” the driveway from time to time.

Pretty cool, right?! Here’s what’s even cooler… the very generous guys (and gals) at Black & Decker are giving one of our lucky readers their very own Lithium-Ion Cordless Trimmer and a Lithium-Ion Cordless Sweeper!

PRIZE: One (1) Black & Decker 20-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Grass Hog Trimmer/Edger and one (1) Black & Decker 20-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Sweeper. A $200+ value!
2 CHANCES TO WIN: 1) Leave a comment on this post with the words “RECHARGE MY YARD!”. 2) “Like” Black & Decker on Facebook and come back here and leave a second comment letting us know (Don’t forget to enter their Recharge Your Life Sweepstakes for the chance to win a $2,000 Gift Card and tons of B&D tools! It’s a Win-Win!). If you already “Like” B&D, tell us what your favorite B&D tool is.
NUMBER OF WINNERS: One, Uno, Un, Eins… you get the picture.
PRIZE SHIPS: The US of A & Canada
GIVEAWAY WILL WRAP UP: Friday, July 1st @ Midnight EST. As usual, to keep things fair and square, up to two entries per email address. The winner will be selected using Random.org and will be announced right here on Saturday, July 2nd.

AND THE WINNER IS…

CHRISTY B! Congratulations Christy and we know you will enjoy your new Black & Decker yard tools! Have fun “recharging your yard” this summer!

Even though the folks at Black & Decker were super nice by gifting us these spiffy tools, the above comments were not persuaded in any way and as always, this is our honest-to-goodness opinion.

DIY: 4th OF JULY

posted by Ashley  /  5 Comments

Fourth of July is just around the corner and “Blogland” is completely full of fun creative DIY projects to make your 4th extra special. I’ve been noticing so many fun projects that I just had to share with you some of my favorites…

A 4th of July without Sparklers is like a Christmas without a Christmas tree! Dress up your sparklers with this adorable tutorial from Twig + Thistle. The tutorial also includes matchbox covers and drinking straw decorations. Click here to read the full instructions and to download the PDF to create your own!

Naomi from Bakers Royale takes the concept of fruit skewers to a whole new level with these super innovative fruit pops. Who knew watermelon, apples, and blueberries could be so adorable? Click here for a full rundown of tips on how to make your own.

Dress up your dessert table with a stylish (yet easy to make) Garland Swag from House of Three. They also offer a downloadable file (for $4) complete with artwork to make your own popcorn bags and sparkler holders. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to make your own garland swag and click here to purchase the printables for all three projects.

Who said entertaining had to be hard? You can whip up a 4th of July party in 20 minutes flat. Yeah, it’s true. Check out this post from Dream Green DIY (guest posting on NoBiggie) on how to put together an easy 4th of July shindig without the fuss.

Speaking of super easy… easy can be chic! For instance, these dessert decorations from Style Me Pretty. You could even use them on store bought cupcakes to give them that homemade-yeah-I-totally-made-those-myself look. Click here for the full (crazy easy) tutorial!

If you are looking to go all out this year, Anders Ruff has got you covered! Their 4th of July Pinwheels party is out of this world! It’s chic, modern, fun, and adorable all at the same time. I for real can’t get enough of it. All of their downloads for the entire party are available (for $15) in their Etsy shop here. For more photos, check out their blog here.

I hope this 4th of July round up gives you some inspiration of your 4th get-togethers this year! What are your plans? Are you hosting or going to someone else’s for the festivities?