The phone rings and guests are dropping by in 10 minutes. Now what? Lynn Fraser, an Edmonton life and executive coach and owner of Balance Your World, reassures us that the goal is not a perfectly clean house — just a warm welcome for your friends.
After all, “your guests are coming to see you and the kids, and it doesn’t matter if your home isn’t perfect. A place that’s homey and comfortable is much more welcoming than a show home.”
Still, with a plan and some expert know-how, you can make a house presentable in almost no time (and keep your heart rate within normal range). Here’s how>
Linda Chu, the owner of Out of Chaos Professional Organizing Solutions in Vancouver, recommends focusing on the living or family room, kitchen and washroom. Don’t worry about bedrooms — your guests aren’t coming for a sleepover.
Pop the little kids’ favourite DVD into the player, suggests Chu, and give them a small no-mess snack so they’re occupied — this way, they won’t undo your work as you go (much). Meanwhile, you, your partner and big kids can zip around the house.
Give yourself three minutes for a sweep through the rooms. Grab a bin or basket or two and pick up everything that doesn’t belong: dirty laundry, excess shoes, toys, models of the Eiffel Tower. In the family room, stash books and mags into an ottoman or a drawer in your coffee table, if you have one. In the kitchen, the big kids can clear the counter and load the dishwasher. Don’t worry about sorting things nicely — that’s for another time.
Finish picking up in the bathroom and, while you’re there, take three minutes: Flush the toilet, close lid, close the shower curtain, wipe counters and replace towels. The key to a quick bathroom turnaround is a little prep, stresses Chu: Pack a set of clean coordinated towels and washcloths in a zippered bag (the kind comforters come in). Include kitchen and dining room linens, if you like. When company drops by, you won’t have to scrounge in the linen closet. After they leave, do the laundry and pack the set back up, ready for the next visitors.
On to the kitchen! You and your helpers have three minutes to wipe the table and counters, put out the garbage, clean under the table with something like a Swiffer WetJet (especially if your children are small and floors are sticky).
A minute left! Enough time, suggests Chu, to comb your hair. And take a big breath.
Read on for the more great last-minute cleaning tips>
What if you don’t have 10 minutes? What if friends just pop in? Try these quick tips:
• Grab a garbage bag and do a fast runaround, picking up what you can. Stash and sort later.
• Consider an alternative use of appliances, suggests Margaret Weeks, a home economist at the University of Prince Edward Island. Pop clothes and towels from the floor into the washer or dryer; your dishwasher will hide (er, hold) lots of dishes and pots.
• Put a fresh bar of soap in the bathroom — the room will smell nice even if you don’t have time to scrub.
• Focus on a welcoming atmosphere, says Fraser: Put on some music, turn on the kettle for coffee, clean off the table, put out a snack, clear a path to wherever you’re going to entertain your guests, and remove the clutter from the front entryway.
• Remind yourself that if people are dropping by on the spur of the moment, they must be very good friends who’ve seen you through thick and thin, says Weeks. Smile, open the door and welcome them in for a cup of coffee.
Streamline your tidying technique:
• Contain it To control clutter, you need storage — baskets, pretty boxes, plastic bins. Weeks also likes big tote bags and hampers for quick storage of toys, shoes and laundry. When not in use, stack and tuck them away.
• Give it a home If everything has a place, you can tidy in a hurry because you know where it goes.
• Hang it Install hooks or pegs at your entryway, suggests Chu. Guests can hang their coats on the hooks (rather than in closets you don’t want them to see).
• Multi-task with cleaning supplies Fraser mixes one-third vinegar to two-thirds water in a spray bottle for mirrors, counters, glass and fixtures.
• Teach your kids Keep clutter under control by picking up 10 things every day, says Weeks. Encourage your kids to learn the same habit (if you start right now, this will take approximately 24 years).
Looking for ways to get your kids to help you with chores? Check out this video:
Fancy half-price hotels and attractions far from the maddening crowd? Savvy vacationers save a packet by taking advantage of shoulder season travel—that wee sweet spot between top-price high season and bone-chilling low season. But playing the shoulder game means finding destinations that combine lower airfares and accommodations plus pleasant weather and things to do. Choose wisely and you’ll wonder why it took so long to discover the easiest route to discount travel. Here’s our guide to the world’s greatest shoulder destinations.
Europe’s summer is a sweltering mess of jam-packed cities where air-con is a foreign concept. But golden days from late-September through October can be a breath of fresh air. Enjoy the balmy coastlines of Italy, Greece or Spain, or explore some capitals before the autumnal dark days arrive. Europe-bound flights drop to half their summer peak, and if you like driving tours in France or beyond, you’ll find the roads far less thronged.
Late-September is also a smart time for springtime South Africa’s safaris and winery regions. Or consider going tropical in Costa Rica. Around late November, the rainy season recedes and you can ogle the toucans just before the tour groups arrive.
Hot spots include…
Sardinia: Explore sandy coves and foodie-loving villages off Italy’s western coastline. Why now? The Autunno in Barbagia artisanal festival starts in September.
London: Crawl blockbuster museums on a self-guided culture tour. Why now? The Victoria and Albert Museum’s sumptuous Fabric of India exhibition starts October 3.
Cape Town: Weave the delightful Cape Winelands. Why now? Late-September’s Cape Town Fringe Festival.
» Top 10 cheapest U.S. cities to visit
Our southern neighbour is stuffed with tan-tastic winter destinations. But while Florida and Arizona welcome snowbirds, it’s shoulder time in Texas. California-wise, wait for February if you’re craving better-value hotel rates and airfares for San Diego or San Francisco. Both are mild until later. Also consider Hong Kong or Thailand just before the end of March—the start of the rainy season.
Hot spots include…
Austin: Feast on America’s tastiest food trucks. Why now? January’s Free Week Austin music festival.
San Diego: Explore museum-packed Balboa Park. Why now? February’s Winter Brew Fest.
Hong Kong: Dine in a world-class foodie city. Why now? Hong Kong Arts Festival starts late February.
» How much to tip around the world
This is Europe’s other—rainier—shoulder. Airfares rise dramatically after a few weeks, so book in April. Fancy a side-trip? Reykjavik isn’t too cold in May as it readies for summer’s visitor peak. It’s similar in Canada. May-to-mid-June is a chance to visit popular destinations like Victoria, the Rockies and Quebec City before the masses arrive: hotels are discounted and the weather is balmy.
Further afield, the post-cherry-blossom-pre-rainy season May window in Japan means Tokyo hotels are keen to bargain. You’ll find similar pre-rain deals in Malaysia and South Korea, and you can also cash in on summer’s end in Australia and New Zealand, with flight deals and sleepover discounts beginning to emerge.
Hot spots include…
Victoria: One of Canada’s earliest springs starts here. Why now? Whale-watching begins.
Napier: Time travel in New Zealand’s finest art deco city. Why now? Tour Hawke’s Bay wineries sans crowds.
Melbourne: Dive into Australia’s artsiest city. Why now? May’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival.
» The best luggage you’ll ever buy
Summer offers key ways to avoid credit-card immolation. Labour Day to late September is great for Canada trips. The islands of Aruba and Bonaire are outside the hurricane belt—yet their summer room rates are still the year’s lowest. Or, shimmy south. February’s carnival season is a crowd-puller, but coastal Brazil in July is a quiet zone. Check hotels vying for business in Rio—and expect warm weather with rain.
Hot spots include…
Jasper: September’s sun lights up the mountains. Why now? The VIA train from here to Prince Rupert is a late-summer gem.
Aruba: August is hot. Why now? Restaurant Week in late August.
Rio: Hit the beaches without the crowds. Why now? Late July’s giant Anima Mundi animation festival.
» The best time to book a flight
Check out my verdict on ‘Tomorrowland’ and ‘Welcome to Me’ HERE.
Antioxidant-rich foods are easily found in the produce section of your local grocery store, and adding these brightly coloured foods to your diet is a secret weapon for banishing wrinkles and preventing chronic disease. Juicy red tomatoes, crisp orange carrots and more are rich in antioxidants, but it’s important to know which foods are best when it comes to vitamins and minerals.
Nutritional therapist Gabriela Peacock reveals the top vitamins to include in your diet, and which foods are packed with them…
Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are often packed with antioxidants
This vitamin helps the immune system, as well as the intestinal, respiratory and urinary tracts. For a boost of Vitamin A, include foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and kale in your diet.
This helps protect your cells from damage, and improves the absorption of iron which is great for your energy levels. It also helps the immune system to work properly, and can be found in citrus fruits, strawberries and kiwis.
This vitamin supports the immune system so it can fight infections, prevent blood clots and protect your cells from free radicals. Make sure to get your fix by introducing wholegrains, broccoli, nuts and seeds into your healthy diet.
Antioxidants play a key role in keeping us healthy and banishing wrinkles
This essential mineral, when partnered with Vitamin E, provides oxidative protection and helps regulate thyroid function. Usually found in foods including fish and red meat, but if you’re vegetarian you can also get your quota by eating brazil nuts.
This naturally occurring ‘phytonutrient’ gives fruit and vegetables their red colour. Studies show Lycopene reduces the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. The best lycopene foods include tomatoes, papaya and apricots.
This mineral is usually found in green, leafy vegetables. It can reduce the risk of chronic eye disease, lowers the risk of developing cataracts and protects healthy cells. Lutein can be found in kiwi, broccoli, kale and spinach.
If you’re going to do it, do it right. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your workout. A big thank you to Nicolas Clanet, personal trainer and kinesiologist at Nautilus Plus, and Sophie Rochon, in-store activities coordinator for MEC Quebec, for the great tips.
Switch up your activities
If you always do the same activity, you’re always using the same muscles. To avoid hitting a major plateau (or risking injury), try to switch up your activities on the regular. This way you can hit all the major fitness zones: cardio, strength training and flexibility. So ditch the running shoes and pick up a yoga mat now and then.
Work in intervals
By working out in intervals of high and low intensity, you can really push yourself at certain points, knowing you’ll have time to recuperate immediately afterwards. You’ll burn more energy for a longer period of time – even after your workout is done (bonus!).
Change the playing field
When you work out on an uneven surface (like an outdoor field), you automatically work more on balance. Psst! The fresh air’s not so bad either!
Finding a personal trainer, a kinesiologist or even a community that enjoys the same activity as you do will help you to develop a workout plan that’s tailored to your needs. Sharing info is the best way to learn how to achieve your goals pronto.
Keeping a fitness journal helps you track your progress. Take note of all the deets: how much weight you’re lifting, how far you’re running, how many calories you’re burning… Everything counts!
Click here for more tips
Check out my thoughts on the new ‘Mad Max’ flick plus the Scientology documentary ‘Going Clear’ HERE.
Spring has sprung and garden season is finally here, however, it isn’t always easy to know which pots, soils, or plants are right for you. Frank Ferragine came by with his best tips to make the start of gardening season a little easier.
Picking the right pot:
Although using multiple smaller pots may look more aesthetically pleasing, they may not always be the best choice for your plants. Using one larger pot for multiple plants can allow for better moisture retention due to the fact that there is a greater amount of soil in the pot to hold on to the water. Because the larger pots hold water for a longer period of time, they can be great for the busy gardener who may miss a day or two of watering. It’s also important to make sure to check the bottom of your pots for holes or a space for drainage. In order for plants to thrive, pots need to have a place where water can drain from the soil to ensure that your plants aren’t sitting in water.
Choosing the right soil:
The pot is just as important as the soil that goes in it! By buying soils that are specific to pots, you can ensure that your plants are getting the proper nutrients as well as the proper amount of space for water and root growth. Potting soil is great because it acts like a sponge to help hold in water. However, it’s important to check your plants soon after you water them. Due to this sponge-like texture, the first watering might let too much water drain to the bottom of the pot. Make sure to check back five minutes later and add more water to the soil if necessary.
Deciding on the right plants:
Certain plants thrive better depending on temperature and location. When buying plants, it is important to look at whether the plant is best in sun or shade, when they can be planted, and how long they will last. In some cases, plants may only be in bloom for a few weeks at a time, while others can last through the hot summer heat. Paying attention to all of these details when purchasing plants can make your gardening experience a lot easier by saving you both time and money.
Check out the video below for more tips from Frank:
Check out my latest batch of new Blu-ray/DVD reviews HERE.