January is the off-season for most gardens, but the work still continues, with plenty of tasks to be accomplished before the heavy lifting begins in the spring.
Clean up your supplies, including pots, tools, and your greenhouse (if you have one) in preparation for spring. You’ll be glad you did it when it’s time to start planting outside.
Look through some catalogs and sketch out a plan. Do you want to take some perennials out? Mix up your annuals? Grow some vegetables from seed? Outline the necessary tasks and note the approximate week for each item.
If you plan to grow anything from seed, order early. Supply chain issues might mean longer shipping times, so get your seeds in advance so you can get them started at the right time.
Check your winter protection and do a little maintenance if necessary, such as adding more mulch or replacing damaged stakes or ties.
If you have a vegetable garden, it might be time to start prepping the ground for early planting — peas, for example. Place a cloche over the ground to warm it up for a few weeks before sowing.
Shred up your Christmas tree (if you buy a live tree) and add it to the compost bin.
Check any stored bulbs, corms, or tubers for signs of rot or dehydration.
Look after the wildlife. Clean and fill your bird feeders, put out a few suet cakes if you’re feeling generous, and make sure to leave a few areas of the garden uncut until spring to provide winter shelter for helpful critters.
4 must-have features for the ultimate dream kitchen
Are you updating your kitchen? If so, here are four fabulous features you may want to consider installing.
1. Pot filler
A pot filler is a swing-out faucet on a long, jointed arm that’s generally mounted over the stove. Pot fillers are extremely convenient and prevent you from having to lug heavy, water-filled pots from the sink to the stove.
2. Farmhouse sink
With their white, fireclay basins and tall, stainless-steel faucets, modern farmhouse sinks aren’t only stylish; they’re also wider and deeper than standard kitchen sinks. This helps make cooking and cleaning a breeze.
3. Double oven
Double ovens provide extra cooking space, so you have the flexibility to whip up multiple dishes simultaneously. They’re especially convenient if you do a lot of entertaining.
4. Built-in refrigerator
If you want your kitchen to have a streamlined and uniform profile, a built-in refrigerator is a way to go. Built-in refrigerators sit flush with the rest of the kitchen cabinetry in the space and offer an upmarket appearance.
If you’re designing your dream kitchen, keep in mind, you don’t have to do it alone. Consider reaching out to a home designer or general contractor in your area for help.
A buyer’s guide to washers and dryers
Are you in the market for a washer and dryer? Here are some things to keep in mind as you shop for your new appliances.
Measure how much space you have to accommodate a washer and dryer. Keep in mind that you need to leave room behind both appliances for plumbing and ventilation. You should also factor in how many people will use the machines.
Top-load washing machines with agitators are often the most affordable option, but they tend to be louder, less efficient, and hasher on clothes than high-efficiency top-loaders. Alternatively, you can opt for a front-load washer, which uses a tumbling method to clean clothes. This causes less wear on fabrics and removes more water for quicker drying.
Dryers only come in front-load configurations. If you want to save space, buy front-load appliances with front-mounted display panels so you can stack them.
Most new washers and dryers come with a variety of energy-saving features such as automatic temperature control and moisture sensors. To make sure your appliances are energy efficient, be sure to look for the Energy Star certificate.
To find the right washing machine and dryer for your home, visit the appliance stores in your area.
Rock out with headphones that can fit over hearing aids
It’s your music. It’s always going to be your music. And you want to rock on.
Two problems. You don’t want to blast the neighbors (very thoughtful) and you wear hearing aids.
Well, here’s something to celebrate. You can wear headphones over hearing aids and it’s not going to further injure your hearing (when used properly).
According to Consumer Reports, audiologists advise keeping headphone use to 80 percent of maximum volume for no more than 90 minutes per day.
Overexposure to loud sounds is the top cause of hearing loss, but it won’t hurt to check with your doctor.
Choosing the right headphone is key.
For Behind-the-Ear hearing aids and Receiver-in-Canal aids, over-the-ear style headphones are an option. The headphone speakers should be at least one centimeter or more from the aid microphone to avoid feedback.
Noise-canceling headphones are best for people who have a harder time hearing over background noise.
Consumer Reports recommends the Bose QuietComfort35, a pricy headphone at $330 that functions using Bluetooth and an audio cable. These deluxe headphones can wirelessly connect to your phone or to a larger stereo system with the cable.
Cheaper is the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for $150 and the Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro — a very modest $15.
These models would work with In The Canal hearing aids, too. But ITC users can also use on-ear models such as Plantonics BackBeat Sense.
For people who, like President Bill Clinton, wear Completely-in-Canal aids, headphones that are either on-ear or over-ear work. Even some earphones that work inside the ear canal could work.
Try Bose SoundTrue Ultra ($80), a wireless earphone that is both comfortable and delivers good sound.
One good rule is to try out the devices at a store, if possible.
How to choose the right type of wood stain for your project
A fresh coat of stain can breathe new life into wood furniture and flooring. Here’s an overview of the three most common types of stains.
• Oil-based stains are inexpensive, readily available, and easy to use. They’re ideal for large projects because they dry slowly and create a uniform appearance. Oil-based stains penetrate deeply, which provides rich color and a durable finish that often doesn’t require multiple coats.
• Water-based stains are mold and mildew resistant, making them suitable for moisture-prone areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. They dry very quickly, which makes them best suited for small projects. The biggest downside is that they don’t penetrate wood as deeply as oil-based stains, which results in less saturated colors.
• Gel-based stains are often described as a cross between stain and paint. They require less preparation than other products as you don’t need to completely sand the wood’s surface to get a good result. In addition, since gel-based stains coat the surface of the wood instead of penetrating it, they’re especially suitable for woods like birch, cherry, maple, and pine.
If you need help choosing the right stain for your project, speak to the sales staff at your local hardware store.
How to choose the perfect wedding dress
Choosing a wedding dress can be both exciting and nerve-racking. To help you create the look of your dreams, here are a few tips.
Make a plan
Before you try on a single gown, make a list of the criteria you’re looking for in a wedding dress. Do you want a certain cut, style, or length? Do you want to show off your shoulders or hourglass figure? Establishing some criteria will allow you to narrow down the choices.
In addition to your list of criteria, bring along pictures of dresses to show to the bridal store consultant. They can use the information you provide to quickly find several different gowns for you to try.
Try different styles
After the first fitting, you may realize that the dresses that look good in pictures aren’t the right fit for your figure. Don’t worry, your consultant can suggest other styles until you find the dress of your dreams.
Additionally, keep in mind that all wedding dresses need to be altered. Therefore, don’t be dissuaded if a dress is too long, short, or loose.
Whether you decide to buy or rent a wedding dress, choose the one that makes you feel most beautiful. For inspiration, visit your local bridal stores.
Want a second opinion? Bring along someone you trust who knows your style and can give you honest feedback.
7 tips for safe snowmobiling
Snowmobiling is a popular winter activity in many northern communities around the world. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy beautiful snow-covered landscapes.
This year, International Snowmobile Safety Week takes place from January 15 to 23, and it’s the perfect time to highlight the importance of safe snowmobiling practices. Here are a few tips to keep in mind this winter:
1. Never ride a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You should also avoid hitting the trails if you’re tired. Doing so can slow your reaction time and affect your ability to make good decisions.
2. Always pack emergency supplies. You should have a cellphone, a flashlight, waterproof matches, a survival blanket, hand warmers, non-perishable foods, a rope, a spare drive belt, flares, a whistle, and a first-aid kit.
3. Check the weather forecast, trail conditions, and opening hours of the busines¬ses and shelters you plan to visit before you leave.
4. Always ride with someone else, and let your friends and family know where you’re headed and your estimated time of return.
5. Avoid crossing large bodies of water where there are no marked trails. It’s al¬most impossible to assess the thickness of ice at a glance.
6. Follow other snowmobilers at a safe distance, keep to the right, stay on marked trails and stop at all road crossings.
7. Avoid stopping in the middle of a trail, on a curve, or on a downhill slope to avoid blocking traffic and to ensure you’re vi¬sible to other riders.
For more safety tips, visit snowmobile.org.