Tips

Improve the safety of your home drinking water

Your tap water is probably not as clean as you think. 

We all know that water is essential for survival and maintaining health, but if you're drinking straight out of the tap, there are some things you should be aware of. When you drink tap water, especially municipal water, there are loads of additives, including beneficial minerals (like magnesium), and harmful contaminants like lead, mercury, pesticides and trace amounts of prescription medications. It can be a witches' cauldron of potentially harmful unknowns. One common misconception is that boiling tap water will remove all trace substances; it will kill off any living organisms, but it won't actually remove any contaminants in the process. However, there are some options to mitigate your exposure. 

You may be wondering how the water from your tap could possibly be so dirty. Well, simply put, it has most likely traveled several miles, through pipes which can pass along lead, chlorine, ammonia etc. before finally arriving to your home. The problem is, we may not know exactly which contaminants are present in our water. The Environmental Working Group investigated the nation's drinking water supply over the course of 3 years and found that 85% of the population's water contained more than 300 contaminants, more than half of which are not regulated by the EPA. 

Now, you may be thinking bottled water is the holy grail at this point. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case. In fact, bottled water is also not regulated by the EPA and there are no studies proving that it's any safer than the water from your tap! Not to mention the resources that are used to produce and transport the water, and the contaminants leached from the plastic bottle itself into the water. 

Some of the most common water chemicals & contaminants...

1. Fluoride

Adding fluoride to drinking water is a process that began back in the 1940’s to help reduce tooth decay. It sounds like a noble cause but fluoride is a neurotoxin and an endocrine disruptor. It can harm the thyroid gland and calcify the pineal gland. Fluoride is toxic, and several countries have banned the practice of adding it to water. 

2. Chlorine

 Chlorine is known to be a sanitizing agent, and has been added to drinking water as a purification technique, despite not being completely safe. Chlorine  bonds with water, including the water in your gut, to produce poisonous hydrochloric acid. Long term effects include memory loss and impaired balance.

3. Lead

Corroded pipes can release up to ten times the allowable amount of lead into the water. Lead is extremely toxic, especially to children and can cause developmental issues, stunted growth and even brain damage.

4. Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring element, which does not mean that it's safe. It can find its way into our water supply as a byproduct of mining practices. Unfortunately, it is an extremely efficient traveler and transfers easily from wind to water. Mercury exposure can cause brain damage, blindness, nerve damage, muscle loss and a host of other conditions.

5. Prescription Medications

If you're drinking public water, you are ingesting trace amounts of hormones, antibiotics and other prescription medications. When wastewater is treated, most contaminants are cleared, but the process cannot remove all excreted substances. Although levels are low, the risk of ingesting trace prescriptions over the course of a lifetime are unknown.

Now that we've gone over the gloom and doom, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

If you don't already have a home water filtration system, you may want to look into one. There are several options depending on your budget and your level of concern. You can go as far as to install a whole-house filtration system, or you can go the more minimally invasive route and invest in an individual drinking water and shower filter unit. 

For drinking water, you have a few options:

You can choose an undercounter unit that will be tucked away and do a great job at filtering out contaminants. There is some installation required, and the initial cost may be slightly off putting, but there are other options.

- You could opt for a countertop filter which uses water pressure to force the filtration process and results in healthier, better tasting water. These require minimal installation, little space and are cost effective.

- Lastly, you could opt for a water pitcher filter which is great if you're low on counter space, and working within a budget. These fit easily in your refrigerator and are very simple to use. 

When it comes to showering, there are a few things to consider:

Your skin is incredibly absorbent, which means any of those nasty water chemicals can enter your bloodstream. Now, you could install a shower water filter which will help mitigate exposure. These are cost effective and simple to put into place. If that isn't an option, try to reduce the time spent in the shower and reduce the temperature of the water so that pores don't absorb as much. 

Your morning shower should not include daily exposure to chlorine, carcinogens and vaporized chemical contaminants being absorbed into your skin and breathed into your lungs. Without a shower filter, it does.

We hope this information is useful to you! Investing in a water filtration system of some sort is a good idea whether you live in an area with town water, or if you use well water. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips to maximize your small kitchen.

Not every home is equipped with a spacious kitchen, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style or function! We have some great tips to help maximize any small kitchen.

 

The ceiling is the limit. 

The extent to which you'll be able to expand your storage upward will depend upon the amount of cabinetry your kitchen has. That being said, nearly every kitchen can use some amount of wall space. If you have an older home with less cabinets, installing rows of shelves is an excellent way to get utensils, appliances, cutting boards cookbooks up off of the counters. If you don't have room for extra shelving, you will have to make the most of the space between the counter tops and the bottoms of the cabinets. This can be a great area to install a spice rack, or hang magnetic strips for knives. You can even set up metal rods to hang utensils from! Sometimes it just takes a little extra creativity to figure out what will work best. 

 

 

 

Under the sink storage.

If you're like most of us, the area under your kitchen sink has become a black hole filled with miscellaneous cleaning supplies. If that sounds like you, it's time to invest in some under the sink storage  to make the most of this space. You'll be shocked at how much room you have once you get everything up and organized! You might even find a lost "treasure" or two in the process. 

 

 

Upgrade your lighting.

You know what makes a small kitchen feel even smaller? Bad lighting. Upgrading your fixtures is a relatively simple and inexpensive project that'll not only make your space feel more open, but also give you a chance to show off your style! We're especially fond of pendant lights in a small kitchen. You can find some great ones here

 

 

 

Pops of color.

Last but not least, don't be afraid to add a few pops of color! Like we said earlier, having a small space doesn't mean you need to sacrifice style. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how far a well placed piece of art, a colorful dish towel or a vase of flowers will go toward adding interest. 

 

Do these things now if you want to sell your home this fall

We're not trying to wish away the last few weeks of summer, but if you're thinking of listing your home for sale this fall, now is the time to prepare. Fall and winter may not traditionally be the busiest times for real estate sales, but they do attract the most serious buyers. With inventory decreasing, you can bet more eyes will be on your home! These tips will help make it even more attractive.

 

 

The most important step you can take when you decide to sell your home is to find a trustworthy agent to assist you. According to the National Association of Realtors, 89% of home sellers choose to work with a realtor rather than attempting to sell their home themselves. There are many reasons home sellers seek out professional help, including a notable increase in selling price, a decreased amount of time spent on the market, and the peace of mind that comes with having a seasoned realtor on call. 

It's important to find a realtor that you feel comfortable and secure with. A home is usually the largest financial asset our clients own, and it deserves to be treated with care and respect. A great realtor will keep in contact, explain every detail of the sales process, market your home widely to qualified buyers, and most importantly, help you get the greatest return possible on your investment. 

If you're considering selling your home, one of our agents would be more than happy to hear your thoughts, and provide you with a report on your home's value!

 

 

Our second tip is to start a home maintenance "to do" list and start checking things off. Take care of any obvious repairs and maintenance that you can in advance so your home is ready to be shown when it hits the market.

Below are a few commonly forgotten items that really make a difference to prospective buyers:

Inside:

- touch up paint 

- replace burned out light bulbs

- be sure doors and windows are jam-free

- shampoo carpets

- replace any broken screens

- deodorize areas exposed to pets or smoke

- pack up any superfluous belongings to make the home show-ready

Outside:

- keep grass and landscaping tidy

- rake excess leaves - especially important this time of year!

- be sure any outdoor lights are working properly

- clean garage/barn

- touch up paint if necessary

- clean gutters and windows

- be sure walkways are clear of debris

 

 

Fall in Vermont is one of the most beautiful times of year! As the daylight hours become fewer, it's important to add a few extra lights to your home before you list it. If you don't already have a porch light, it would be a very nice, welcoming touch - be sure to leave it on before showings, too! Inside you may want to add a few lamps here and there to brighten your space.

If your home has a fireplace, now is the time to emphasize it! With chilly days ahead, making your home feel cozy and warm will be especially attractive to buyers.

 

 

Curb appeal is essential for home sellers regardless of season, but it's especially important in the fall. Summer spoils us with lush greenery and beautiful flowers, and can make late fall feel dreary in comparison. Add a few potted plants or pumpkins by your front door or mailbox, remember the front porch light, and keep landscaping tidy. All of these things will help your home to stand out when it comes time to sell!

Grill marinades to make your BBQ the talk of the neighborhood

There's still plenty of summer left, and that means there will more barbecues and fun gatherings to be had this season! We have 2 delicious marinade recipes to take your upcoming cookout to the next level. Enjoy!

 

 

Ingredients: 

- 1 Cup crushed pineapple

- 1/3 Cup soy sauce or coconut aminos

- 1/3 Cup honey

- 1/4 Cup apple cider vinegar

- 1-2 Cloves crushed garlic

- 1 Tablespoon fresh crushed ginger

- 1/2 Teaspon crushed cloves

- 1/2 Teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional - adjust to taste)

Directions: 

Mix honey, cider vinegar and pineapple juice together thoroughly. Add other ingredients individually making sure that each spice is well combined and thoroughly dissolved. 

For chicken or pork: thoroughly coat meat and refrigerate for 6-8 hours in marinade. Bake or grill and enjoy!

For fish or vegetables: Coat in marinade and allow to sit for no longer than 30 minutes before baking, grilling or sauteing. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients: 

- 1 Cup red wine vinegar

- 1/2 Cup olive oil

- 1/4 Cup worcestershire sauce

- 1/4 Cup brown sugar

- 4 Cloves crushed garlic

- 2 Tablespoons paprika

- 1 Tablespoon sea salt

- 2 Teaspoons ground black pepper

- 1 Teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (Optional - adjust to taste)

 

Directions: 

Mix all ingredients, combining thoroughly. Place brisket in plastic bag or tupperwear container and coat with marinade. Refrigerate for up to 14 hours (the longer the better!) before grilling. Feel free to add any of the dry ingredients directly to the meat before grilling. Prepare to allow the brisket around 5 hours to cook (internal temperature should reach at least 195 degrees). The less you flip the meat, the better. Cook it on slow heat and let it be. Enjoy!

5 Tips to take your patio to the next level

Is there anything better than relaxing outside during the warm, sunny summer months? We've put together 5 tips to make your outdoor space the perfect place to unwind and entertain. You may even increase your home's value in the process!

 

 

 A few well placed pops of color can really tie a room together and make it look expensive. You don't have to spend a fortune, or overhaul your existing furniture to achieve a more cohesive look. Pick up a few outdoor throw pillows , a fun rug and a coordinating umbrella  and your patio will be instantly refreshed! Think of your potted plants as accessories and display them around the area for added interest. 

 

 

No need to head inside once the sun sets! Add some festive lighting to your patio and we're sure you'll find yourself hanging out there long into the evening. You can find tons of fun string lights, lanterns and even outdoor lamps at any hardware store these days. You can even add in a few citronella candles and torches to keep the bugs at bay. 

 

 

Add a stylish outdoor rug to your patio to make the area feel more cozy and pulled together. It's amazing how an area rug can make the space feel like an extension of your home! There are tons of inexpensive options available online

 

 

Turn your patio into a real retreat by adding a privacy fence and some tall landscaping around the perimeter. These plants are great for creating natural screens for your yard. 

 

 

Add a fire pit, hammock, outdoor bar or lawn games to your patio for added entertainment and fun! You may find yourself spending more time outside than inside this summer!

Tick Prevention Tips

In recent years, ticks have become a big nuisance in Vermont. We've put together some facts about these pests to keep you safe while you enjoy the outdoors this summer. We've thrown in some prevention tips and information to help if you find one on yourself or your pets. 

What are ticks anyway?

Ticks are parasitic creatures of the arachnid family; they have 4 long legs on either side of their rounded body. Thankfully they cannot jump or fly, but they do crawl onto hosts to feed. Ticks spread Lyme Disease, which can cause serious, long-term issues for the infected person or animal. 

Where do ticks live?

Tall grass, shrubs, wooded areas and low brush are havens for ticks. If you're going for a hike, be sure to keep as much skin covered as possible, and stay near the center of the trail to decrease exposure. Hunters should be warned that ticks also live on other animals, such as deer, and will move from the animal to a human if given the opportunity. According to the CDC, it is best to use a bug spray, or combination of lemon and eucalyptus oil to discourage ticks from biting. 

How do I avoid getting a tick?

In addition to keeping as much skin covered as possible, you should avoid walking in tall grassy areas as much as possible. Rake and remove loose leaves from your yard, and clear away any tall grass or brush that you can. Placing wood chips or gravel between any shrubbery and your yard will provide a barricade and keep ticks away. Make sure to keep play areas away from shrubs and vegetation. 

If you've spent any time hiking, hunting, or in known tick havens, wash your clothes in hot water and shower as soon as possible. The CDC suggests that showering within 2 hours of possible tick exposure reduces your risk of contracting Lyme Disease. Do a thorough tick check while you're at it; they love to hide so be sure to check your hair, ears and in between fingers and toes. 

If ticks are of major concern, tick repelling chemicals are available to homeowners. According to the CDC, one application of acaricide during the spring time reduces the tick population by 68-100%. Pest control companies will be able to assess your property and give you a personalized suggestion to best deal with the threat of ticks. 

What if I find a tick?

If you discover a tick on yourself or a loved one, take a pair of tweezers or a tick removing tool, and pinch the tick as close to the head as possible. Pull straight back, doing your best to remove the entire pest, and most importantly, the head. If you are unable to do this yourself, go to a doctor's office as soon as possible. 

If you've been bitten by a tick, be alert to any rashes, pains or fevers that develop in the subsequent days and weeks. If anything seems unusual, see your doctor immediately. Lyme Disease is an infection with chronic, and potentially debilitating, life long symptoms. It is best to air on the side of caution and have yourself tested for Lyme Disease at the time of exposure. 

How do I keep my pets safe?

Unfortunately, pets love to play in areas that are appealing to ticks. Ask your vet about oral and topical medications for dogs and cats that will aid in tick prevention. There are also collars and shampoos available which are effective prevention supplements. It's best to check your pet for ticks daily during the spring and summer to be safe. 

We hope these facts and tips are helpful to you! 

 

 

Tips to get your grill ready for summer

 

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and with it comes a time to remember the sacrifices made by so many to defend our freedom, as well as the official kick-off to the summer season! We hope you'll be enjoying some rest and relaxation with friends and family. In fact, this may be the perfect opportunity to whip out your grill if you haven't already this season. Here are some tips to make sure your weekend festivities go off without a hitch!

 

If you have a gas grill:

 

First, get the outside of your grill looking brand new using a solution of 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts warm water and a microfiber cloth, and soft bristled brush. The vinegar will help cut through any grease stains, and the soft cloth will ensure you don't scratch the metal. 

Next, move onto the inside of the grill, where you can be a little more aggressive. Remove the grates and place in a large container filled with warm water and dish soap. Using a stainless steel grill brush and some elbow grease, slough off any residue that's baked on, and rinse well. If you forgot to clean the tray out at the end of last season, remove it and brush any remnants into the trash. 

After you've replaced the tray and grates, be sure the gas tank is filled and secure before closing the lid of the grill and turning the heat on high for 15 - 20 minutes. This last step will ensure any leftover cleaning residue has been removed and help keep your burgers from sticking the next time you grill.

If you have a charcoal grill:

The first step is the same as if you have a gas grill -  using a solution of 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts warm water and a microfiber cloth, and soft bristled brush. The vinegar will help cut through any grease stains, and the soft cloth will ensure you don't scratch the metal. 

Next take a look inside and be sure there is no remaining charcoal left from last season. Remove the cooking grate, and leave it to soak in a solution of warm water, vinegar and dish soap. While that's soaking, take a look at the bowl of your grill - if you grill a lot, you may see some peeling, which is most likely carbonized grease. Using a stainless steel grill brush, and warm soapy water, scrub the inside until all of the layers have come off. Now that the bowl is clean, the soap solution should have loosened up any debris on the cooking grate. Go after that with the stainless steel grill brush and it'll look like new before you know it!

 

You're officially ready to start grilling!

 

If you're looking for a new home with a great backyard for barbecues, check out these listings!