Good For You

Has Your Curb Got Appeal?

A Weeklong Series About Landscaping, Gardening, And Money

CrappylawnI don’t know if it’s the HGTV marathon this past weekend (mom has cable and that’s our favorite channel to watch together) or some links I’ve been collecting these last few weeks but I’ve been thinking a lot about landscaping/gardening lately. I feel like a lot of people want a nice home but don’t have gardening experience or money to do the necessary projects and maintain them. Thinking about beautifying the yard is daunting to me but is clearly necessary to add value to the house and avoid judgement from the neighbors. I will devote this whole week to outdoor beauty and value. Today’s topic: groundcover.

The house I currently live in has little curb appeal mostly due to the lack of lawn. It is spotty with lots of leaves. Sean mowed it a total of three times last year because that’s all the mowing it needed. Our lawn makes it look like we don’t care, which we do. We just don’t know where to start.

SuegardenWhat you plant seems to be determined by your climate zone (see the map at this link to figure out yours if you live in the US), your soil type, and what is immediately underground. (In our case, we live in zone 5, have acidic soil, and have a lot of slate just under the surface.) You also may want to note if your yard gets a lot of shade, if the soil retains moisture well, if there are certain insects about (we’ve got a lot of ants) and you may want to calcuate the square footage you want covered so you can effectively budget your project. (In our case, about 10,000 square feet). This is all good information to take with you to the garden center, because the more information you have, the more likely you will be able to make good choices for your yard situation. 

Here are some ground cover options:

1) Reseeding the lawn with grass. According to my friend Jane, look for grass that works in the shade if you’ve got shaded areas and look for perennial grass (so it’ll come back next year—I thought all grass was perennial but it isn’t!). Prices seem to vary on variety so be prepared to shop around a bit.
2) Moss. I’ve noticed we have a lot of moss naturally growing on our lawn. The New York Times had an article about moss as ground cover just a couple weeks ago. It seems good for acidic and shaded soils (our issue) and it has the added benefit of not having to be mowed. This seems to be a little more expensive then grass seed but may be cost effective over time.
3) Astroturf. At $0.45 a square foot, for about $1,000 dollars, we could have an astroturf lawn. Ew.
4) Dig up the lawn for a huge garden. My friend Sue dug up her whole lawn and made a garden. A ton of work, but gorgeous.

I’m going to shop around for the first two options. In the meantime, does anyone have any tips for a pretty lawn that doesn’t cost a lot of money? Stay tuned tomorrow for more about making the curb of yours more appealing!

First photo: This lawn looks better than ours! From http://www.rmnpforums.com/blogs/

Second photo: Sue’s lawn is amazing and with a lot of work, yours could be, too. I’m impressed; I can’t even keep a spider plant alive. From http://www.onestep-sue.blogspot.com/

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Best Advice You Ever Got?

A Little Philosophy About Money And Life

CNN Money recently had a slideshow of financially successful people all answering the same question "What was the best advice you ever got?" The answers are what you’d expect: kind of general, a little profound, and applicable to money and life in general. Here are a few favorites:

Focus on things you do different than others. (Peter G. Peterson)
Get out of your comfort zone (David Petraeus)
Always be the person who signs your checks (Tina Fey)

To be honest, a lot of other people I didn’t know. A lot of older white guys who run large companies (at least I’m assuming, a lot of the companies were not recognizable to me). I would have liked to see a broader spectrum of different types of successful people.

Most of the advice that was stated came from fathers or bosses. I wish I could remember advice my father gave me. He was pretty tight lipped on finances in general. (According to the New York Times, it’s a movement among young people to not keep their finances to themselves but with the popularity of personal finance blogs, I’m highly doubting it’s just younger people.) I had long wanted to pick my dad’s brain for financial advice in particular because he ran a successful business and was loved by his family and community at the same time. How did he build his money early on? What were the best things he did for the business and for his life? But sometimes you can’t wait too long to ask… As far as bosses, I do remember an old boss who taught me how to "manage up", meaning to manage yourself when your direct supervisor can’t or won’t give you feedback.

The slideshow is a little superficial but does the job of getting your mind going on what you’ve gotten for financial advice (both good and bad).

What I always keep in mind, in finances and in life: 1) Everyone is doing the best they can. and 2) If it will make a good story, you should try it.

(And from the Freakonomics blog, some computer-related proverbs for these technological times.)

Have you gotten any really good advice? Maybe CNN Money forgot to ask you but I certainly won’t.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

How To Get Rid Of Carpet Odors

I Love My Dog But Hate Her Mess

Sadie_on_the_ferryBefore I tell my tale of dog odor, let’s all take a quick look to the right and remember her cuteness… Alright, here we go.

When Sadie and I first moved in with Sean, things were good. His cat Duncan only took the occasional swipe at Sadie while Mr. Boogs (the other cat) couldn’t have cared less. We settled into a routine and everything was just fine…

Until Sadie began urinating (on purpose!) on Sean’s area rug. She would walk up to it, assume stance, and go. Shooing her off didn’t work. Punishment didn’t work. She did it on Sean’s rug only, not my rug and not anywhere else.

At first, I thought it was because she’s thirteen and a half and maybe was having some bladder control issues. I quickly realized, however, that it was a dominance thing. I moved her dog bed right near where she peed (so she would think twice about it) and made it easier for her to go outside. I also bought her a new bed to put near the door so she has a place to sleep in both corners of the living room. (Dog Whisperer, watch out!) Peeing stopped.

The smell, unfortunately, did not.

Enter the Rug Doctor which your typical renting places like Rentacenter don’t even deal with… but your grocery store does. When I called about getting "The Doctah" (as Sean and I referred to him all weekend), the customer service lady informed me he was indeed available and that I needed two forms of identification to rent him. Ok.

We brought home The Doctor (after I signed my name three times and showed my two forms of identification- I had no idea there was so much to renting a rug cleaner). The $40 spent seemed excessive for a 4′ by 6′ area rug but as far as I was concerned, the big guns needed to be brought in. We passed the rug doctor over that little rug five times and it took us about half an hour. We figured we were golden.

After we brought The Doctor back and spent the day away, we walked into the house… and it reeked, way worse than before. We had to carry the rug out of the house and air the place out before attempting to eat dinner, that’s how bad it was.

Sean then proceeded to hose the rug down and let it dry. Twice. Even after drying in the sun for a week, the smell remained.

Then I went to my petstore of choice and wandered around. The Nature’s Miracle display caught my eye. The woman who worked there promised it worked or I could bring it back. I paid $10 for the spray bottle.

I emptied the whole thing onto the rug. The smell is much better then it was but still present. I’ll get another bottle this weekend. Until then, the rug has been moved to the basement where it can’t ruin our dinner.

In total, I will have invested $60 in the cleaning of this rug, which Sean paid $150 for. If a little more Miracle doesn’t work, I may have to spring for a new rug.

If anyone has any good cleaning tips, do share, especially if they are cheap. This article from Stretcher.com has lots of solutions but I’d really like to isolate the one that will work best, having already invested lots of time and energy into this… Help!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Want To Win Cool Movies?

Take Part In This Fun, Easy Contest!

Rachaelsandwich2As I mentioned about a month ago, I saw some fabulous films by Julia Radochia. She was kind enough to send me a copy of all her short films to be auctioned off. A few words from Julia: "I’ve written, directed, edited, produced/co-produced several short films that have been screened in festivals. My partner in filmmaking is Jeremy Ward who has not only helped me produce my films, but has also done sound, composed and performed music, as well as gaffed, ADed, etc. My films are: LIKE HIS FATHER, JIMMY’S HOUSE OF HUGS, SALLY’S DREAM HOUSE, EDDIE’S WINNING DATE, GO FAUX and I JUST WANT TO EAT MY SANDWICH. All have been in festivals, some more than others, with most of them having won at least one award. I’m also working on finishing up my more experimental/musical piece HAPPY AT HOME."

These funny, short films are funny and true to life and you need to get them through Julia if you want them (they are working on distribution). So what I’m saying is these neat films are an exclusive offer, and free to you if you win my little contest. 

In 250 words or less, write about your favorite form of cheap entertainment. It could be a hobby or game or even a website, basically telling us what is this cheap entertainment and why is it fun. Email submissions to nicole@breakingeveninc.com. In the subject line, write "I Want A Hug" (House of Hugs Production Company, get it?). Entries are due May 31.

The winner will have their entry published on this blog (linked to their website, of course) and get the movies in the mail. Good luck!   

Check out the House of Hugs Productions website to learn more about Julia and the movies…

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

In Praise Of Edamame Salad

I make most everything from scratch but I do go to the deli for one thing.

100_4756Last night, my usual deli woman was already reaching for it as I walked up to the counter.

"One pound edamame salad." She clearly already knew and smiled.

"You know, I’ve been telling people about you." she said "I tell people there is this woman who always gets this, says it’s a good source of protein. And then they buy it."

I had no idea I had such sway at the grocery store.

So edamame salad from the Hannaford deli is my secret. When I get home, I sometimes add black beans or corn to increase the volume. I like that it’s filled with protein and keeps me eating low on the food chain. In a Google search, I saw it listed as a South Beach diet and a Mediterranean food so it much be pretty nutritious.

I found a recipe that looks a lot like it here if you don’t have a deli in your area that makes it. Eat it alone, eat it with pasta or rice… all I can say is yum. I can also promise that you won’t feel hungry an hour later after eating some of this. Did I mention I’ve lost 10 pounds on my quest toward weight loss? Clearly, I am a person to be listened to when it comes to deli salads.

So check your local deli for edamame salad. Tell Heather I sent you!

Photo: Edamame salad plays a supporting role to pasta and cherry tomatoes in this quick supper. Add grated parm or some spinach for a walk on the wild side.   

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

5 Tips On How To Waste Less Energy

A Salute To Earth Week

Today, it’s all about energy use, or lack of use more specifically, and how you can cut back on energy use painlessly and save cash. This will give me a chance to use that list of links I’ve collected and get your ideas.

GreenenergyWhen I was a little girl, I used to turn off lights in the house. I had just read the book "50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth" and that was my take home message: little things can add up to a lot. Turning off a light in a room no one was using seemed simple, so I began doing it. There was some complaining that I turned off the lights on people when they were still in the room but when the electric bill came in, the critics were silenced.

"You saved us $75 in electricity this month!" my mom told me. And here all I wanted to do was save the Earth! When I found out you could save money, too, there was no stopping me.

Here are a few quick fixes for you:

1) Try not to use your clothes dryer. It’s quite a little energy hog. My friend Susan told me if you turn on your dryer and look at your electric meter, it’s nuts. And I believe her. Plus I found from Idealbite that the average dryer costs $135/year to run. Try a rack or the clothesline. As The Maine Life mentioned earlier this week, National Hanging Out Day is April 19!

2) Set up your computer for success. The Simple Dollar had a great post this week about how you can set up your computer to use less energy. Savings by doing all these things add up to $350 and prevent three and a half tons of CO2 emissions.

3) Phantom loads on electronics should be curbed. They result from things that are plugged in but not being used and can also be avoided by unpluging unused electronics or buying a powerstrip that turns itself off (see Idealbite if the latter is of interest). The amount of energy used by phantom loads is estimated to be about 75% by Efficiency Maine. So take 75% of your electric bill and that’s what you could potentially save!

4) Get a programmable thermostat. It’s going to sound so nerdy but I asked for a programmable thermostat for Christmas. I have often forgotten to turn down the heat as I leave the house in the winter so having something do it for me makes so much sense. Sure it’s $50 but you can save $150 a year and that’s with last year’s energy prices. This could also work for those who live in places where air conditioning is more a problem.

5) Take a look at your hot water tank. If you turn down the temperature just a couple degrees on the hot water tank (will you really notice the difference betweek 130 degrees F and 120 degrees F?) and insulate your hot water pipes with foam. I couldn’t find an amount on how much this would save but it’s probably worth the 5-10 minutes it takes (and $5 in foam for the pipes).

In my travels, I also found a neat Virtual Energy Audit you can do in your own home. I haven’t taken it yet but it takes 30 minutes and an electric bill to complete. It can target specific ways you can save money at your home. You can also usually borrow meters from your local library and test the electricity used in your devices yourself. (I’m thinking a kid or a certain scientific-minded boyfriend would love this little experiment.)

There’s plenty of ways to painlessly save energy and money; kick it off this Earth Week!

Picture from http://www.darnnews.blogspot.com 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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