Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Friends, fun and philanthropy - five ways to make this your summer of doing

With so many summer activities to choose from, it can be hard to decide what to do with your carefree days. From planning weekend getaways to finding ways to give back to your community, there are endless possibilities for your sunshine-filled summer.

Friends play not only a huge part in summer fun, but they also help you decide which activities to partake in. According to a recent Bing survey, more than 90 percent of people seek the opinions or advice of friends and family as part of their decision-making process for trips, purchases, events and more. In fact, 44 percent said they get the most useful recommendations on things such as travel and restaurants from their connections on Facebook and Twitter. Luckily, there are easy ways to involve friends and family in all of your planning this summer, no matter what kind of adventure or activity you're looking for.

* Plan a getaway. There's nothing like a weekend away to refresh the body and mind. Whether you prefer the city, the mountains or the beach, with the weather warm and bags packed, you can be on your way in no time. Looking to family and friends is a great way to get recommendations you can trust. At www.bing.com you can see which of your Facebook friends have visited your favorite locale, get recommendations and more, right as you search.

*Get outdoors. Grab a friend and get outside. Now is the time for outdoor activities such as hiking, running, surfing and biking. Tap friends and family for recommendations on best trails and equipment and you may even find a new running buddy as you research and plan.

*Plan a summer night out. Even if you can't get out of town this summer, there is plenty to do in your own neighborhood. Use www.bing.com to find hot restaurants and events, such as concerts in the park or sporting events - you can even book a table, purchase tickets and suggest your friends join you right within your search. Some of the hottest musical acts will tour the nation this summer; don't miss out on the fun.

* Get involved in the community: Giving back to the community through volunteerism is a great way to enjoy the sun and the perfect way to get kids involved in a good cause. During the summer, many organizations host community volunteer events, such as beach cleanups, park beautification and other activities that get you outside and doing good. This summer, Bing and DoSomething.org are teaming up to inspire people to get out and do good in the community. Visit www.bing.com/doing for more information and to find out how you can get involved in projects in your community.

*Celebrate: Take time to celebrate summer birthdays, holidays or just being together with friends and family. Plan a summer barbecue, keeping your friends involved and getting their input along the way as you research recipes, games and entertainment. Once the party rolls around, you know everyone will have a blast.
Taking time to plan ahead and keeping friends and family involved can ensure you have a great fun-filled summer.

Where there's a will, there's a way

Many Canadians will sit down and put together a will - and believe that means they're prepared in the event of the unforeseen, such as a serious illness or death. Or, they may have joint bank accounts with their spouse or partner, and believe this is everything they need to do to pass their assets to their partner. However, we often fail to remember that there are many pieces required to protect your hard-earned savings and ensure your loved ones are taken care of.

"What gives people peace of mind is knowing that their wealth is properly managed, preserved and transitioned," says Reg Swamy, Vice President, The Trust Businesses, TD Waterhouse Private Client Group. "The best way to feel this relief is to stop procrastinating and tackle the process today."

When sitting down to create - or update - your will, here are some important points to keep in mind:

• Keep it current: It's important to not only have a will - but ensure it's updated regularly (as family dynamics change, your wishes, etc.).

• Consider your legacy: Remember, a will isn't just for dictating who should inherit your assets or care for your children. Other things to think about are making contributions to charity or donating organs, as well as specifying funeral arrangements.

• Really consider your options: Take the time to carefully consider who should be the executor of your will and ensure you update it if there are any changes, such as the executor moves out of the country, or becomes ill.

• Talk about it: Have an open and honest discussion with your family and loved ones - talk about your wishes and what's most important to you now, and in the future.

"Professional advisors help families navigate the complex and emotional world of will, estate and trust planning," says Swamy. "They can help explain your choices and ensure that the documents you sign reflect your wishes, are legally valid and provide for alternate decision makers."

Whether you choose to write a will alone or with the help of a professional, begin researching and planning today. Ask yourself the tough questions, so that should the worst happen, your family and children suffer far less with a tangible and concrete outline of your wishes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Serve up an ideal space for summer outdoor entertaining

(BPT) - The arrival of milder temperatures means dining al fresco, hosting neighborhood cookouts and enjoying intimate cocktail parties under the stars. When creating a backyard oasis to entertain family and friends this summer, it's important that it be both inviting and able to withstand the wear and tear that goes hand-in-hand with warm weather fun.

The outdoor living experts at Trex suggest the following tips:

Maximize your space. Think about your deck in terms of different activities - and dedicate separate areas for relaxing, grilling, dining and socializing. Consider creating a simple seating nook or an elegant outdoor bar. Structures like trellises, or even tall potted plants, can help establish settings for cozy conversations between guests - while a pergola may offer much-needed relief from the summer sun.

"When you take a situation where you can entertain and move it outside, it immediately feels special," says Tyler Florence, culinary artist and one of the faces of Trex's new Engineered Artistry campaign. "First and foremost, think about how your space interacts with the environment and use that as inspiration to create a deck that suits your personal interests and preferences."

Create a "full service" outdoor kitchen. If you're planning to spend most weekends entertaining on your deck or patio, consider adding an exterior kitchen to your home. Incorporate elements like a grilling station, cooking range, sink, compact refrigerator - or even a built-in rotisserie or pizza oven. You'll be able to prepare and serve food while outside conversing with guests - rather than being stuck inside behind the stove. Just remember to build your outdoor kitchen in an area protected from the elements and make sure that its style - whether modern stainless steel or rustic country - complements the look of your home's exterior.

Choose low-maintenance materials. Spills, splashes and other mishaps are inevitable when entertaining outdoors. If you want to spend more time enjoying - rather than maintaining - your deck, choose materials that need only a soap and water cleaning to retain their enduring good looks.

"Because I have so much going on, I try to keep things as simple as possible and avoid situations that require an enormous amount of upkeep," says Florence. "If you're going to make the investment in a gorgeous outdoor living space, use decking and railing that will look amazing for decades to come."

High-performance, wood-alternative decking like Trex resists fading, staining, scratching and mold growth thanks to an exclusive protective shell and high-traffic formulation - even after several summers of dropping grill tools, spilling barbecue sauce and moving around heavy outdoor furniture. And while these materials offer the natural look of wood, you never need to worry about sanding, staining or painting.

Design with distinction. Select a style and color scheme for your deck that best complements your home's exterior and reflects the natural environment. Today's wood-alternative decking offers high-definition wood grain patterns and rich, saturated colors inspired by the outdoors - with a vibrancy that remains unchanged for years. When combined with a modular railing system that provides similar high performance and long-lasting beauty, composite decking offers endless mix-and-match options for incredible design flexibility to suit the style of any home.

"Go online and experiment with different resources and tools to figure out how your outdoor living elements can be integrated," says Florence. "With Trex, for instance, the ideas are endless because you have so many more opportunities to create a really luxurious space."

Don't forget the finishing touches. Customize your outdoor living space to make family and friends feel truly welcome. Add ambience for evening cookouts with dimmable LED deck lighting, and create an inviting lounge area with comfortable, durable furnishings - or even outdoor speakers. You can choose to truly "deck out" a space with luxuries ranging from flat screen televisions to stone fire pits, but if the budget is tight, adding vibrant pillows or tropical flowers and plants serves as a quick and colorful pick-me-up.

For more inspiration to create an amazing outdoor entertaining space - or for favorite outdoor living recipes from Tyler Florence - visit www.trex.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Okotoks Realty, Calgary Realty Roland J. Darel. Kitchen space-saving tips for city dwellers

(NC) As Canadians continue to opt for condo and apartment living, maximizing space has become increasingly important. This is especially important for kitchens, which have the tendency to collect an abundance of utensils and gadgets, from coffee makers and mugs to containers and cutlery. To keep your kitchen in tip-top shape and free of anxiety-causing clutter, follow these space-saving tips:

  • Think up: Don't limit yourself to using what's been provided; utilize the ceiling to install a pot rack to free up drawer space. Have empty space above your cupboards? Pop some pretty storage containers on top to help clear counter space.
  • Use your walls: Since you're short on space, hanging mirrors on your walls can help create the illusion of a larger kitchen. You can also add inexpensive shelves and hooks to help store items and keep your kitchen looking tidy.
  • Edit: If you don't need it and you can live without it, get rid of it, especially in your fridge. Condiments that don't need to be refrigerated, for example, can be moved to a cupboard. In small spaces it's especially important to control odour; use Arm and Hammer Fridge Fresh, which can be suctioned to the inside of the fridge to increase shelf space and eliminate odour. Remember to replace it every three months, say on the first day of every new season.
  • Store unused items: Do you really need that ice cream maker on your counter all year? Store it away for the season to free up counter space. The same goes for those other gadgets you love but rarely use. Consider putting items you don't use frequently up high or under your counter.

More information can be found at www.armandhammerbakingsoda.ca.


Create the perfect master suite retreat

The master bedroom is the ideal place to take refuge from reality - and when it comes to creating the perfect bedroom and bath, casual and comfortable retreats are more appealing than formal, model-home-like spaces.

But, blissful hideaways are not limited to only one style and feel. Here are some ideas and inspiration to create a serene master suite, no matter what your definition of relaxing may be.

Bathing Bliss

Before choosing a theme or color palette for the bedroom, focus your attention on the bathroom first. This functional room deserves to be updated with elegant and understated features in order to create a haven from the stresses of everyday life. After all, a true master suite escape has the ideal spa-inspired bathroom.

To achieve a charming appearance with soft comforts, start by styling the room with fixtures and accessories that exude a clean style, like the Voss collection from Moen. Voss delivers uncomplicated glamor throughout the entire bath. With a full range of bath fixtures, including rain showers, faucets and coordinated accessories, your master bath can be transformed into a personal sanctuary that will last for years to come.

Cozy Country Flair

An uncluttered room with rustic décor pieces is sure to create a relaxing environment away from the hectic world outside. The simple esthetics of an English country look accomplish this desired feeling by mixing patterns and décor elements comfortably and with a bit of flair.

To create this look, start with a simple color palette - such as blue and white or pink and brown. Patterned wallpaper, borders and curtains in floral or plaid prints are a great way to evoke that welcoming, country feeling. And keep your eyes open for one-of-a-kind antiques and wood furniture to accent your country retreat. A perfect - and often inexpensive - place to start is your local antique store, flea market, or even yard sales. After all, one person's trash is another person's vintage treasure.

Coastal Contemporary

There's a reason why tropical beaches are considered the fundamental escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The rush of the ocean and the feel of sand between your toes can bring anyone a lasting sense of tranquility.

For this laid-back theme, use an upholstered headboard in a soft blue pattern to highlight the focal point of the room - the bed. Use whimsical décor pieces such as glass bedside lamps and palm plants throughout the rest of the room to complete the theme.

Whether your style is more classic, country or coastal - or perhaps a combination - you can create a dream master suite retreat that fits your own personal style.

More information is available online at www.moen.ca.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tips for a brighter, more organized home

(NC)-Refreshing your home for warmer weather is easier than you might think. To create a brighter, lighter, more organized home, try these simple tips from Sally Morse, the director of creative services at Hunter Douglas, a leading name in custom window fashions:

• Clear Away

If cleaning and clearing away the clutter seems overwhelming, Morse has one simple trick to calm the nerves: "Try setting the kitchen timer for 15 minutes per area like the bedroom closet, pantry or foyer. Just telling yourself you're going to de-clutter the home in one weekend sounds draining," she says. "Rather, split up the tasks into smaller ones so you stay focused and don't get lost in the process." Make a list of all the areas you have to organize and space them out over a few days.

• Welcome in the Natural Light

Updating your window treatments is an uplifting and impactful décor change that can easily be made. New window fashions will not only look stylish and beautifully filter light for a glowing room, they will also provide unlimited practical benefits. Morse suggests using Nantucket window shadings (from Silhouette) a line that is streamlined and casual and also features soft fabric vanes suspended between two sheer facings. These window coverings allow you to have a view and, even with the vanes open, they filter up to 88 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays. What's more, they are now offered with a cordless lifting system for enhanced child safety and a clean look.

• Bring Nature In

As Mother Earth comes to life again, it's a great time to bring that life indoors with easy-to-maintain plants and flowers. Try the cast iron Japanese perennial, one of the toughest species available. Nearly indestructible, it withstands low light, low humidity and a wide range of temperatures. Additionally, to make your indoor and outdoor spaces feel more seamless, use the same planters on your patio and entryway as in your foyer and kitchen. Lastly, don't forget about the flowers, add bouquets to spread a cheerful dose of colour around the home.

• Lemony Fresh

Appeal to all five senses with this year's updates. After your initial scrub and sorting and clearing of clutter, extend that fresh scent by adding a lemon-scented diffuser. They are a great way to bring a pleasing, calming scent into your home, while avoiding the potential danger of burning candles. Purchase the diffuser or try creating one affordably yourself.

• Lighter Linens

For a refresher that goes a long way, try brightening up the home with lighter fabrics. The update can awaken nearly every room from the living room, bedroom and bathroom to the kitchen. Swap out heavier, darker fabrics such as rugs, pillow covers, and towels for lighter ones both in texture and colour. Top beds with a lightweight blanket, folding the comforter and placing it at the foot of the bed for chilly evenings.

With a little work and a few additions, you can happily enjoy the coming months with a clean, orderly, beautiful home.

More information is available online at www.hunterdouglas.ca.