21 easy home projects to tackle while you’re hunkered down

21 easy home projects to tackle while you’re hunkered down

Level up your spaces without buying anything new

As the U.S. confronts the spread of the novel coronavirus, most of the country has now implemented stay-at-home orders. And while we grapple with how to pay rent, whether we’re headed into a recession, and how the virus is impacting the housing market, we’re also left with a more basic question: What should we do while we’re stuck at home?

There’s only so much comfort TV to binge-watch before restlessness kicks in, so for those of us that are able, this extended time indoors is an opportunity to tackle those long-avoided home projects. Of course, now is not the time to flock to the stores for nonessential items, so we’ve gathered a list of ways you can upgrade your space with things you probably already have at home.

From restyling your bookshelves to prepping your planters for spring, here are 21 easy projects you can do while social distancing at home.

Rearrange things for a fresh perspective

Renovating your entire living room or splurging on a new bedroom set likely isn’t in the cards at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make some changes.

Try a new furniture layout: It’s easy to get in a rut with the same ol’ furniture setup, but what if you tried something new? Move the couch to a different wall, adjust where your armchair sits, or mix things up by swapping rugs from one room to another. Even switching a lamp from a side table to another spot in your house could brighten up a space in new ways.

Bring out the “special occasion” dinnerware: There’s no better time to add a bit of drama to your table, so bust out the china, special silverware, or fancy wine glasses. Now that we’re all eating at home, it’s the perfect chance to sip and savor at the dinner table using our favorite pieces. Want to share the fun with a few friends or family? Try hosting a virtual dinner party.

Restyle your bookshelves: Even avid readers don’t change up their bookshelves all that often, so now is the time to rethink them. If you’re focused on the literature, arrange your books by alphabetical order or by theme. If aesthetics are the priority, remember these three tips from designer Emily Henderson: Declutter, use neutral colors, and focus on a few standout pieces.

Cleaning projects

There’s a lot of talk about cleaning these days, and rightly so. But beyond disinfecting all of your high-touch surfaces, it’s also past time to buckle down on the tasks you avoid doing.

Clean your vents and baseboards: Heating and vent covers accumulate dust over time, and cleaning them can help reduce allergens in your home and increase the efficiency of your air conditioning or heating unit. Vacuum the vents with a dusting brush attachment or wipe with a dry microfiber cloth—avoid using water or other cleaning products, because they can smear the dust.

You can also unscrew the vent covers and place them in a sink filled with hot, soapy water. But don’t rub them too hard or paint may come off. And while you’re at it, turn your HVAC unit off and change the air filter on your furnace.

Go under your bed: Vacuuming and cleaning the toilets are usually on the weekly to-do list, but when was the last time you cleaned underneath your bed? Don’t wait until the next time you move to clear out the dirt—move the bed, empty out any storage boxes you might have underneath, and vacuum the dust. Plus: You might be surprised at the things you’ll find (hello, missing phone charger).

Clean out your bathroom drawers: This is another task we put off when we don’t have the time. Our bathroom drawers take a lot of daily abuse; after emptying the drawers you’ll likely find hair, spilled makeup, toothpaste, and so on. Once the insides are free of gunk, toss the junk and reorganize what’s left.

Organizing

Where to begin? There’s no shortage of home organization projects that can yield big results, but the options below won’t require a trip to the store.

Tackle the closets: Face it: Even the most organized among us can have a messy closet, and now is the time to make it right. Start by taking everything out of the closet, purging what’s no longer used, and cleaning the interior. If it’s a clothes closet, sort your clothes by category and be sure to hang delicate items and stack thicker things like denim. Put your most-used items at the front, while seasonal or rarely used pieces can go up higher or in the back.

Tidy up the entryway: Whether you have a spacious mudroom or a tiny coat stand, things accumulate in our daily life. Reevaluate your hooks: Are they helpful? Hanging at the right height? Do you need more or fewer of them? Vacuum or shake out any door mats you have, then purge any knick knacks or unused items hanging around.

Label your supplies: A few labels can go a long way in creating a more organized household. Have storage bins or containers in your kitchen pantry, under the bed, or in a linen closet? A label maker works great if you have it, but you can also write on regular paper and tape the labels on.

Pay attention to your walls

Walls may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to home projects, but a few updates can make a big difference.

Straighten—or redo—your wall hangings: From photos to artwork to TVs, the items on our walls become crooked over time. Take a stroll through your house and straighten everything—you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. Alternatively, take down all of your photos or artwork and make a new gallery, perhaps moving items to a new room to keep things fresh.

Touch up your paint: Many of us have a few cans of paint tucked away in our homes, from the last time we did a project or from when we moved in. Make sure it matches your current walls and then walk through the house and touch up the high-use areas, especially door frames, baseboards, and doors.

Put empty frames to use: Photo projects require a ton of time and energy to complete, which means they sometimes never make it off of your to-do list. Go through the house and add photos to any frames you’re not using; alternatively, you could also swap out older photos for new ones.

Evaluate your lighting

Lighting is one of the most important elements in design, and our homes can go from stark and unwelcoming to cozy and warm just by swapping out a few bulbs. Want to take the next step? Here are pro tips for improving your home’s lighting—without an electrician.

Replace bulbs: Have a few extra lightbulbs lying around? Go through the house and replace any that have gone out.

Clean your lamps: Sometimes the culprit to bad lighting isn’t a dead lightbulb, it’s dirt. Unplug lamps and clean the lampshades with a dry microfiber cloth or vacuum cleaner attachment. For other types of lamps, clean the bulbs and use a cloth to dust off the hardware. Note that you should always do this when the light bulbs are cool to the touch.

Clean your curtains: Clean curtains can make a room feel much brighter. Most drapery stores advise cleaning your curtains a few times each year, but it’s a task many of us neglect. First, look at your care instructions to determine whether you can wash your curtains or whether they have to be dry cleaned. Velvet drapes can be washed with a chamois cloth dipped in hot water, while silk curtains sometimes call for hand-washing. If you can machine-wash your curtains, use the gentle cycle, cool water, and mild detergent, and hang them to dry.

In the kitchen

The kitchen is another area of the home that benefits from special attention; we spend so much time cooking and eating that it can become disorganized quick. Beyond the regular duties of washing dishes or cleaning out the fridge, the tasks below will help your kitchen look better and function more smoothly.

Moisturize your wooden cutting boards: Remember that gorgeous wooden cutting board that you use as a cheese and charcuterie plate? When was the last time you moisturized it? In order to prevent warping or cracking, both wooden cutting boards and spoons should be oiled about once per month. Start by cleaning your boards and letting them dry. Then apply a food-grade oil like mineral oil or beeswax and let it soak in overnight.

Take stock of the essentials: Clean out your liquor cabinet or spice shelf and figure out what you have and what you might be missing. There’s no way to know if you have three bottles of cumin or a few versions of Cointreau until you take stock.

Finally clean your small appliances: Most of us probably clean out the refrigerator and wipe down the stove on a regular basis, but small appliances are often neglected. Hand-wash all of the removable parts of your coffee maker and run a few brewing cycles with distilled water. Empty out your toaster oven or toaster trap door and then shake the appliance over the sink to remove loose crumbs. Deep-clean your Instant Pot by wiping down the inner cooking chamber with a damp dishcloth; washing the silicone sealing ring in hot, soapy water; and running a cycle of water, distilled white vinegar, and a few lemon peels to remove odors.

In your yard

Spring has sprung in much of the country, and it’s an ideal time to prep our spaces for summer. Whether you have a small outdoor balcony or a sprawling yard, here are a few places to start.

Clean up from winter: If you have a small patio or balcony, grab a broom and sweep off the dirt and dust of the past few months. Larger yards will need a bigger cleanup—start by getting rid of any leaves and pine cones that might have fallen during winter storms, and then prune away dead or damaged branches. Now is also the time to clean up around your perennial plants or shrubs and remove damaged grass areas for spring seeding.

Prep your planters: Gather your empty planters—big and small—and clean them so they are ready for planting. Discard any that might have broken at the end of last season, then check for drainage holes.

Scrub your outdoor furniture: You’d be surprised how much dirt can accumulate on outdoor furniture, even if it’s been in storage. For wood and wicker furniture, use a mild oil-base soap like Murphy Oil mixed with warm water. Other types of furniture do fine with dishwashing liquid mixed in a large bucket of warm water, and many patio cushions can either be wiped down or thrown in the washing machine.

This article was written by 

Kirkland, WA: Moving forward after being the pandemic’s U.S. epicenter

Kirkland, WA: Moving forward after being the pandemic’s U.S. epicenter

As one of the country’s first cities impacted by COVID-19, Kirkland was initially given the undesirable distinction of being the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. Yet, the way in which the city has handled the crisis has garnered positive press, launching Kirkland into the spotlight as a role model.

Mayor Penny Sweet says that her city’s response has been a natural progression, and she feels grateful for the solid infrastructure that was already in place.

“We were fortunate that it hit a city with an established emergency medical system,” Sweet said. Even after a significant number of firefighters were forced to quarantine at home, there was never a time when Kirkland didn’t have a full response team available.

Sweet has been happy to speak with mayors across the nation to share what has been learned here in Washington after the first COVID-related death was reported on Feb. 29. Not long before that, a call had been made from one of Kirkland’s firefighters to a King County EMS to report: “Something big is going on here.” Despite this knowledge, getting testing has proven incredibly difficult from the beginning.

Even during those early “spinning” days, Sweet reports that those on the frontlines knew they had to act wisely — and swiftly. Though there’s clearly been no rulebook for how to navigate such a crisis, she is amazed at how residents have acted “responsibly, thoughtfully.” Sweet is most impressed by how the community has held itself together, often relying solely on the city to get things done.

“The level of responsiveness and common sense played a huge role,” Sweet said.

Throughout, there have been abundant signs of “basic hope and resiliency.” Kirkland neighbors have ordered takeout meals to support local restaurants as often as they’re able, and Sweet is constantly learning uplifting stories about inspiring individuals like Tricia LaVoice. This woman went around putting up blue bows outside the Life Care Center of Kirkland, where the crisis began. Sweet is amazed at how early LaVoice jumped to action, launching the “Blue Ribbons for Hope” initiative simply to offer glimpses of promise.

Now, she said, if you drive around Kirkland, you’ll see bows tied to trees, plus banners displaying messages like “We’ve Got This.” Then there was Hopelink’s Food Drive, a four-hour event in mid-April; organizers expected 10,000 pounds of donations, but in the end, neighbors contributed more than 25,000 pounds.

“Cars couldn’t get off the freeway because the line was so long,” said Sweet.

Sweet said they have a plan in place to anticipate what’s next. She added that her husband, Rep. Larry Springer, is actively working on the recovery response so that conversation is constantly swirling around their household. Sweet is hopeful: “I believe we’re going to make it to the other side.”

About a month ago, the city was able to raise thousands of dollars through the chamber to launch the Kirkland Small Business Relief Fund, for which the first round of grants was distributed to 250 qualifying businesses. Sweet is actively working to bring in money for a second round of funding. Local businesses have adapted in innovative ways; Purpose Boutique now offers Virtual Styling, the DERU Dinner Club offers ready-to-heat meals available for curbside pickup and Caffe Ladro announced the release of a new coffee blend called “We’re In This Together” ($3 of every bag purchased goes to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, and the bag features an illustration by Seattle-based artist Christina Dean).

(Image: Courtesy Explore Kirkland)
Sweet understands firsthand the plight of small business owners since she and her husband have owned and operated The Grape Choice, a retail wine shop in downtown Kirkland, for 35 years. When the crisis first hit, she was most worried about their staff. They’ve been able to shift their model, and now she and her husband are often the ones dropping off orders on customers’ front porches.

Sweet is realistic about the incredible losses suffered — financially speaking, as well as a massive gap in human services.

“A good percentage of businesses won’t make it,” she said. But countless calls have been dedicated to finding the right avenues and the next best steps. She deems these discussions “time well spent. It gives us a chance to hear one another’s voices.”

The mayor knows it’s human nature to try to “wrap the situation up in a hopeful, resilient, and going-forward” manner, which she thinks is wonderful. There’s really no other perspective to take. Yet she also admits that, when it comes to reopening, “doing the right thing is really, really important.” While speaking with fellow business owners, many say, “We can make it through this — this one time.” Yet they won’t make it twice.

“We have no hope if we don’t do the right thing; we can’t take another chance,” Sweet said.

Sweet is incredibly proud of Kirkland, of King County and the entire state. She credits this region’s “culture of innovation and action in the community.” Not only does this area benefit from the collaboration of really wise people, but also, “nobody hesitates to throw stuff on the table.” As soon as Kirkland and Seattle “got punched,” Sweet says they had the foresight to sit down with “really smart groups of people.”

And although Kirkland is the 12th largest city in Washington, Sweet thinks they’ve taken an approach more intimate than many larger cities. She reiterates her willingness to get on the phone with mayors across the country seeking guidance.

“The fact is,” Sweet said, “We will be a stronger community. We’re going to come out of this better.”

Donations can be made to the Kirkland Small Business Relief Fund, and EvergreenHealth Foundation is appreciative of all financial, personal protection, and food donations, too.

This article was written by Corrine Whiting and originally appeared on Seattlerefined.com

Designing Your Home Office

Designing Your Home Office

Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes effort. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization in order to be successful.

Having a designated workspace is one of the most important elements to your success when you make the switch to telecommuting. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating their work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? 

 

Here are the top five:

  1. Natural Light  Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed. 
  2. To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all. 
  3. Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space. 
  4. Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance. Choose which options works best for you by playing with both options, or something in between and see which one lets you be more productive with the least amount of stress. 
  5. Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

5 Fireplace Tips to Increase the Value of Your Home

5 Fireplace Tips to Increase the Value of Your Home

What’s the ultimate joy in owning your own home? Is it having a comfortable place to entertain friends and family members? Perhaps that is part of it, but another part of the joy of owning a home is watching the value of the home rise. There are countless ways to boost the value of your home, from refurbishing the roof to adding an outdoor pavilion in the backyard. One way to increase the value of a home escapes many homeowners.

It’s adding a fireplace.

Fireplaces represent a value-boosting accessory for any home. Even homeowners that live in the scorching hot desert landscape that surrounds Phoenix, Arizona benefit financially from installing a fireplace in the den and/or living room. Of course, fireplaces really start crackling when the temperature dips below zero.

Does a Fireplace Increase the Value of Your Home?

You might be skeptical that such a small space can increase the value of your home. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, homeowners ranked a fireplace as one of the most coveted additions to their homes. The National Center for Real Estate Research released the results of a recent study showing on average that adding a fireplace boosts home values by 12%. Nearly 70% of real estate agents polled by Angieslist stated they notice home values increase whenever a fireplace is installed.

How Fireplaces Increase Home Values

We know adding a fireplace will increase the value of your home, but the question remains how fireplaces boost home values. First, fireplaces exude a luxurious lifestyle, which includes surrounding an elegantly designed fireplace with beautiful materials and accessories. Second, both a gas and natural fire fireplace generate enough warmth to decrease the cost of heating your home. Although modern technology has upgraded home heating systems, nothing beats sitting next to a roaring fire blazing within a fireplace. Finally, installing a fireplace enhances the ambiance of a home by making it much more cozy and welcoming.

5 Fireplace Tips to Increase the Value of Your Home

We have established that adding a fireplace boosts home values. We understand how that happens. Now, the time has come to reveal the five tips that help you install a fireplace that increases the value of your home.

It Starts with a Budget

The key of any successful home improvement project is to enjoy a positive return on your investment. In other words, you want the increase in the value of your home to exceed the money you put into a home improvement project. This is especially true for adding or remodeling a fireplace. Remodeling projects typically cost less, but you have to decide if budgeting less for a home improvement project will generate enough of a boost in the value of your home. Carefully budgeting for a fireplace remodeling or installation project is the first step to realize the maximum return on your investment. Make sure to compare the cost of different materials.

Location, Location, Location

Answer this question: What’s the primary reason you want to add a fireplace? Is it to warm up a room that sees little, if any sunlight? Do you want a roaring fire to greet guests the instant they enter through the front door of your home? Have you made installing a fireplace the most important improvement you want for the primary bedroom? You have to decide why you want to install a fireplace and in return, your answer will dictate where you strategically install the home value-boosting accessory. Technological advances allow you or a contractor to install a fireplace into any wall within every room of your home. If you really want to capitalize on the home value-boosting benefit of adding a fireplace, consider installing a large fireplace in the living room and then adding a second, smaller fireplace in the entertainment room.

Surround it with Elegance

Although adding a fireplace in and of itself is a home value booster, you can accomplish much more by surrounding a fireplace with elegantly designed materials. For example, you can accentuate the sparkling beauty of a brass fireplace by surrounding it with a combination of the following materials: brick, stone, concrete, and wood paneling. Think several rows of bricks directly above the fireplace, with wood trim set along both sides of the fireplace. You can make a room more charming by placing glass and metallic vases on end tables located next to the fireplace. Another item that surrounds a fireplace is flooring material, such as finely buffed teak wood or a tile mosaic consisting of several different colors.

Let There Be Light!

The most visually appealing fireplaces produce a cascade of light colors coming from the logs and reflecting off the materials used to design a fireplace. By adding mood lighting above and to the sides of your new fireplace, you can create any type of ambiance you want. Darker colored mood lighting exudes intimacy, which makes a fireplace ideal for placing in the master bedroom. Brighter mood lighting colors do a great job of generating more energy for the living room.

What about the Mantel?

As an invention from the medieval era, a fireplace mantel ensures the chimney catches all the smoke produced by a roaring fire. It is imperative to select the correct type of mantel to keep the fireplace clean and more important, safe. An improperly designed mantel can turn a potentially home value-boosting fireplace into an accessory that turns your home into a money pit. Fireplace mantels come in a number of materials that including wood, marble and cast iron. Choosing the right fireplace mantel enhances the visual appeal of any room by adding more types of colors.

Nothing beats the ambiance created by a crackling, brightly illuminated fireplace. Just make sure you spend the time required to add a fireplace that increases the value of your home.

This post originally appeared on the NapoleonFireplaces.com Blog.

7 Places to Go Apple Picking in Washington

7 Places to Go Apple Picking in Washington

Tips to get you started

It’s not autumn (or late summer) in the Northwest without a trip to pick your own apples! And are we ever in luck: Washington state produces about 60 percent of the nation’s supply of apples, from super sweet to pucker-worthy tart varieties.

Most of the region’s apples are plucked from orchards in the Wenatchee Valley, about two hours away from the Seattle area. As the Wenatchee River snakes eastward from Leavenworth it is flanked on both sides by one pear or apple orchard after another.

Fruit trees in this part of Washington produce billions of apples annually, each one picked by hand. Varieties range from the ubiquitous Red Delicious to sought-after heirlooms like Maiden Blush and Golden Russet to wildly popular newcomers such as Honeycrisp.

For cider-pressing and more apple fun, check out these sweet fall apple events for families.

Tips for apple-picking as a family:

  • Find family-friendly spots. Many U-pick orchards are kid-friendly (click through to the pages that follow for recommendations). Some keep small trees that offer low-hanging fruit so that kids can reach the apples without assistance, and others have small step ladders (make sure you help little ones up onto them and stay close by).
  • Time it right. Apples are usually ready for picking from September through the end of October, with the peak picking time varying from location to location, but some farms start as early as August.
  • Call or check online to make sure the orchard you want to visit has U-pick open that day (hours and days can change based on the availability of crops). Facebook pages often give more up-to-date information than websites.
  • Bring along your own bags, baskets or boxes in case the farm has run out of them.
  • Pack rubber boots because the orchards may be muddy, and consider bringing a wagon to tote kids.
  • Think about how many pounds of apples you want to end up with before you start picking. You might want a few pounds for the kids’ lunch boxes, and several more for baking and preserving.
  • After apple-picking, kids will love to sample farm activities such as pressing cider, petting farm animals and going on hayrides.
  • Check on the pet policy before bringing Fido. Many farms have a no-pet policy for the safety and comfort of farm animals.

Scroll through to discover great places to pick (or taste) apples and celebrate the apple bounty in Washington State this fall. Head to Eastern Washington if you want to turn apple-picking into a fall weekend getaway, or stay close to home and make it an apple-picking day trip.

And a note about organic: While few U-pick apple orchards in the region have gone through the process of having their orchards certified organic, many of them implement organic and natural growing practices in their orchards. If this is important to you, feel free to call ahead and ask about their practices.

Jones Creek Farms, Sedro Woolley

Jones Creek Farms is a small, family-run operation in the fertile Skagit Valley, an area that was once dotted with apple orchards. It’s your best bet in the Puget Sound region for heirloom varieties of apples, as they have more than 100 unique varieties on their organically maintained orchard (mix a few different kinds together in the crockpot for delicious apple butter). Beyond apples, the farm offers U-pick Asian pears, squash and pumpkins.

Get pickin’: U-pick is open from mid August through October. U-pick hours (new this year), are Friday–Monday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Check the website for updates on U-pick hours and availability. Varieties include Akane, Belmac, Bramley’s Seedling, Dayton, Kerri Pippin, Liberty, Pristine, Scarlet Ohara, William’s Pride, Moulton’s Pride Crab, Arlie Red, Gold Rush and more (check the products page on their website for full listing). Pears and plums also available for U-pick when ripe. Garlic available for purchase.

Find it: 32260 Burrese Rd., Sedro Woolley; jonescreekfarms@yahoo.com

Bellewood Farms, Lynden

Just outside Bellingham, Bellewood Farms is a favorite for kids and adults alike. Little ones will enjoy a ride aboard the “Apple Bin Express,” a mini train that transports pickers to the U-pick area in the huge, 25,000 tree apple orchard. Parents will love stopping at the Country Café and Bakery for a delicious meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) followed by a stop at the distillery’s tasting bar.

Get pickin’: As of late August, Bellewood was open for U-pick; check the Facebook page for U-pick hours. Also, check out the pumpkin patch (with a corn maze, corn cannon and more) from late September through Oct. 31. The Country Cafe, Farm Store and distillery are open daily from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. in the fall. Bellewood offers 20 apple varieties including Sansa, Jonagold, Mountain Rose (pink inside!), Golden Supreme and Honeycrisp. Bellewood also hosts fun music and tasting events. 

Find it: 6140 Guide Meridian Dr., Lynden; 360-318-7720

The Farm at Swan's Trail, Snohomish

For a quick trip from the Seattle area, The Farm at Swan’s Trail southeast of Everett can’t be beaten. Set along the Snohomish River, The Farm hosts U-pick apples and an enormous 45-acre pumpkin patch. After your wagon is piled high with fruit, let the kids loose to find their way through an intricate corn maze, in the shape of Washington state, then visit pigs and ducks at the petting zoo. There’s also a mini-train for kids, a playground and more.

Get pickin’: You can pick apples starting in mid-September. Hop on the wagon for a ride to the acre-wide orchard of Honeycrisp and Jonagold. The apple U-pick is typically open weekends, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Check the Facebook page for updates. The pumpkin patch (and related activities) is open from Sept. 21–Oct. 31.

Find it: 7301 Rivershore Rd., Snohomish; 425-334-4124

The Stutzman Ranch, Wenatchee

Head to Stutzman Ranch if your kids love crunchy, juicy Fuji and Gala apples. Earlier in the summer, you can also pick nectarines, peaches, cherries and table grapes. If you get to the farm early in the day, you’ll have your pick of farm-fresh eggs, too. In the fall, pay a visit to their farm animals, and then watch surplus pumpkins get hurled through the air from a real pumpkin canyon.

Get pickin’: As of late August, Red Gold nectarines, Bartlett pears and Gala apples are available for U-pick. Grapes and more apples will be ready soon. Open daily, 9 a.m.–6 p.m., but always check hours and availability. $5 U-pick minimum charged for all pickers over age 12. Check the Facebook page for updates.

Find it: 2226 Easy St., Wenatchee; 509-669-3276

Skipley Farm, Snohomish

Skipley Farm is a working farm so don’t expect any manicured areas for wedding receptions or pumpkin cannons but there is plenty to pick, with more than 200 varieties of apples in the field, both unusual and the better-known Fuji and Honeycrisp. Other fruit and berries may be available depending on the season. Kids will love to visit the chickens, ducks and rabbits after picking.

Get pickin’: As of late August, Gravenstein, Redfree, Summerred and Ellison’s Orange are available for picking. Check hours on Facebook or call before visiting. This farm recommends Bramley’s Seedling apples for a great pie and tart, crunchy eating. Also available for U-pick are William’s Pride, Redfee and Pristine.

Find it: 7228 Skipley Rd., Snohomish; 206-679-6576

Apple Creek Orchard, Ferndale

Head to Apple Creek Orchards, north of Bellingham, to pick popular Jonagolds, a cross between Golden Delicious and the blush-crimson Jonathan apples that are perfect for both baking and snacking (but not for storing). This family farm also offers other fruits, vegetables, eggs and honey. Once you’ve filled your baskets, visit with the farm animals. Apple Creek has chickens, geese, ducks and guinea hens walking about to the delight of apple-picking children.

Get pickin’: Most of the trees here are Jonagolds. The farm is open for picking typically in October; check the website for hours. You can eat as many apples as you want while you are picking and any that your children can get in their pockets are free. Find the orchard on Facebook.

Find it: 5367 Barr Rd., Ferndale; 360-384-0915

Curran Apple Orchard, University Place

Curran Apple Orchard is a public orchard within the city of University Place, to the southwest of Tacoma. Its seven acres hold some 200 trees growing 15 varieties of apples. The orchard is open to the public for free picking. Just follow the rules: Trees with signs or markers have been “adopted” and the apples on those trees are reserved for the adopter. Please do not pick them. Windfalls are reserved for gleaning groups that gather them for animal feed — they may be contaminated and not suitable for human consumption anyway.

Find it: 3920 Grandview Drive W., University Place

Get pickin’: Most of the trees here are Jonagolds. The farm is open for picking typically in October; check the website for hours. You can eat as many apples as you want while you are picking and any that your children can get in their pockets are free. Find the orchard on Facebook.

Find it: 5367 Barr Rd., Ferndale; 360-384-0915

Lattin's Country Cider Mill and Farm, Olympia

Although this farm doesn’t have U-pick apples, Lattin’s is well worth a harvest season trip for kids of all ages. Lattin’s celebrates Washington’s apple harvest with a fun Apple Festival, typically held the last weekend in September and each weekend in October. Taste fresh apple cider and take a tractor-drawn wagon ride to pick pumpkins. Kids will love the plethora of farm animals to pet, plus pony rides, face painting and more. Don’t miss the delicious home-baked apple fritters!

Get tastin’: You can visit daily from 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (4 p.m. on Sundays). Apple Festival held from late September through October. Check hours and special events on Facebook.

Find it: 9402 Rich Rd. S.E., Olympia; 360-491-7328

This post originally appeared on ParentMap.com

Improve Your Curb Appeal with These Affordable Tips

Improve Your Curb Appeal with These Affordable Tips

You’ll never have a second chance at a first impression, so let’s make it count! When it comes to upping your home’s curb appeal, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have a big impact. And best of all, you don’t need to call in the pros or spend a fortune to get beautiful results. Below are some helpful and affordable tips.

A Well-Maintained Yard

Mowing: The first step to a well-manicured lawn is to mow it regularly. The experts recommending mowing high because mowing it too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root.

Weeds: To prevent weeds like crabgrass use a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring. These herbicides manage the weeds by stopping the seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Broadleaf weeds like dandelions can be stopped by applying granular weed control products.

Feeding: Lawns consume mostly nitrogen, so look for mixes of fast and slow release fertilizers; they will feed your lawn over time while keeping it lush and green. 

Watering: Nighttime watering can result in long spans of moisture on the blades, potentially exposing your grass to disease. Consider watering your lawn in the morning – the sun helps dry out the blades throughout the day.

Flowers: You can quickly and affordably dress up your yard with colorful pre-made flower pots and containers. When placing your flower pots and containers remember that asymmetrical arrangements and staggering plants will provided the liveliest setting.

Dress up the Front Door and Porch

Paint: A fresh coat of paint in a pop color can give your home a well-deserved facelift. Get some color inspiration from House Beautiful. 

Replace Old Hardware: Clean off any dirty spots around the door knob, and use a metal polish on the fixtures. Change out house numbers for an updated feel, put up a wall-mounted mailbox, or add an overhead light fixture. Keep in mind that well thought through elements, instead of mix-and-match pieces, will add the most curb appeal.

Create Perfect Symmetry: Symmetry is one of the simplest design techniques to master and is the most pleasing to the eye. Maintain symmetry by flanking your front door with two sidelights (just make sure that your hardware matches); find two urn planters or a unique visual detail to put on either side of your door.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.