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Welcome to our blog! Here you will find posts about can't miss properties, local events, and more! Here at Maple and Main Realty we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the Northampton area. Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us

Where to Look for Inexpensive and Attractive Home Decor!

As someone who is both a realtor (in and out of homes on a regular basis) and is working on a large home improvement project for the second time in 5 years, I can attest to the following list from apartmenttherapy.com as to where are the best places to find inexpensive and attractive home decor. I would add the following local to Northampton suggestions as well: The ReCenter Swap Shop off of Glendale Road in Florence, and EcoBuilding Bargains in Springfield, MA (more for the DIY set!). Target and Ikea should not be overlooked either!  

The Best Places to Find Cheap Home Decor, According to Interior Designers

 
Kelsey Mulvey
Nov 28, 2018
 
(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga

Let's get one thing straight: You don't need a huge budget to have a great eye for design.

 

Sure, it would be nice to have the latest (and priciest) pieces from Paris or Milan; however, there's something satisfying about searching high and low for a great deal. Plus, how cool is it when all your friends are fawning over an ottoman or throw blanket when you know you got it for next to nothing.

Of course, we're not the only ones who love some cheap thrills. Turns out, interior designers love their share of reasonably priced furniture and accessories. So, the next time you're looking for a great design deal, check out these expert-approved stores. Happy shopping!

1. Wayfair

 

(Image credit: Wayfair)

"Best places for me to find cheap home decor? Let me omit the word 'cheap,' and rephrase, the best place to find reasonably priced home decor. The Batts Chesterfield Sofa available at Wayfair, is luxurious and rich looking. You don't have to spend a fortune on home decor to make it look like you did!"  Vanessa Deleon, interior designer 

 

2. Antique Stores

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

 

"The best bang for your buck in home decor is going to be the Brimfield Antique Markets. There you will find unique one-of-a-kind pieces that you can bargain on and at least you will come home with a little piece of history and not something that everyone has." Sasha Bikoff, interior designer 

3. Etsy

 

(Image credit: Etsy/TweetHeartWallArt)

"So many hidden gems on Etsy. I recently purchased gold star decals from there and put them on a nursery ceiling for a high-end look on the cheap!" Michala Monroe, interior designer

 

4. Lamps Plus

 

(Image credit: Lamps Plus)

"When looking for high quality and affordable pricing for home decor, especially mirrors, my go to is Lamps Plus. They have mirrors for every style, from modern to traditional, and the variety has really improved several of my clients' projects." Erica Islas, interior designer

5. Unison

 

(Image credit: Unison Home)

"I love the brand Unison and they have some great, affordable finds! They have a number of small side tables under $100, the Tower Black Side Table is one of my favorites for its minimalist and sleek look." —Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and director of style at Modsy

6. Urban Outfitters

 

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

 

"Urban Outfitters is also a great place to find inexpensive yet unique items. This woven bench takes its cue from much more expensive pieces." —Alessandra Wood

"Urban Outfitters also has a ton of affordable and playful home decor items." —Caitlin Murray, interior designer and founder of Black Lacquer Design

7. Chairish

 

(Image credit: Chairish)

"I constantly look to Chairish for affordable throw pillows and vintage glassware." —Caitlin Murray

 
Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.
 

Practical Gifts for The Kitchen!

It's that time of year again - time to spend/give/receive! If you are feeling bogged down at the idea of blind consumerism, it's a good idea to focus on practical and useful, yet also fun, gift ideas for your loved ones. As someone who loves to cook, I can attest to the fact that many of the products suggested in the following post from thekitcn.com are must haves for any cook's or baker's on your holiday gift list! I use my Wusthof knives, OXO locking tongs, OXO zester/grater, 10" cast iron skillet on a nearly daily basis! All the better if you can find a well seasoned cast iron skillet, measuring cups or vintage baking dish at a local thrift store!

15 Classic Gifts That'll Stand the Test of Time

 
Lisa Freedman
Nov 14, 2018
 

 

You don't want to see a loved one at Easter and find out that the [insert gift here] you got her for the holidays has since broken. That would be terrible, right? To keep that from happening, we've compiled this list of 15 classic gifts that will stand the test of time.

Every single of one of these items consistently rank among the best in reviews. They're also pretty essential for a well-rounded kitchen. And they're from top name brands. Buy something on this list and you can rest easy, knowing that almost nothing can go wrong with it. When the holiday season of 2045 rolls around, you'll still be hearing how great that gift from 2018 is holding up.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $150

This is as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to a good-quality chef's knife. Because it actually is perfect. It's balanced just right and the blade is well-rounded on the bottom to encourage the ideal rocking motion. The price is right in the middle of the road (not too cheap and not ridiculously expensive) and it's special enough to be a sweet gift.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. OXO Good Grips 9-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs, $12

A good pair of tongs become an extension of a home cook's hands. And these are good tongs. So good, in fact, that they'll give cooks more control than, say, a spatula or turner. They lock closed, have non-slip handles, boast sturdy scalloped grippers, and can go in the dishwasher. They also go in a stocking; get one for every stocking you need to stuff.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Peugeot 7-Inch U'Select Pepper Mill, $45

Get this for your dad who always says yes to the waitress when she asks if anyone wants freshly ground pepper. Made in France, Peugeot is one of the best names in the pepper-grinding business. This model has easy-to-adjust settings to allow for all sorts of grinds (from fine to coarse), and a two-stage grinding process (the first step cracks the peppercorns and the second one grinds them) to result in the freshest and boldest flavor possible.

 

(Image credit: Amaozn)
 

4. Microplane Zester Grater, $13

The name Microplane has become synonymous with graters of all types because it really is the brand that matters the most. And this is one of their best, most important tools. It can turn hard cheeses into snow-like mountains, garlic into a paste, nutmeg into a powder, and more. Looking for a little host gift? Pair this with a wedge of Parm and you're all set.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Emile Henry Rectangular Baking Dish, from $50

Also made in France (seriously, why is all the best kitchen stuff made in France?), this baker diffuses and retains heat better than most. Because it can withstand temps up to 520°F, it can go in the broiler and directly from the fridge or freezer to a hot oven.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $15

Okay, maybe we take that French thing back ... our all-time favorite cast iron skillet is made in the good ol' US of A. It comes pre-seasoned, which means it can be used as soon it's unwrapped, it cooks better than any other cast iron skillet out there, and it only gets better as it's used over time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set, $20

The most ingenious measuring cups to have ever been invented, these are read from above instead of the side (although that is an option, too). This way, bakers can see how much they're pouring out while they're standing over the cup and they don't have to hunch over awkwardly. Get this set for anyone who bakes and maybe there will be some cookies in your future.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

8. Staub Cast-Iron Round Cocotte, from $160 at Williams Sonoma

One more French thing! We've always recommended Staub Dutch Ovens, but a few months ago, we got to take a trip to the factory to see how these babies get made and now we're even more enamored of them. So much work and care goes into each pot! (It takes about a week to make each pot and more than 20 workers play a part in every one!) So while the price is a tad high, we totally understand why. Plus, Staub really does have some of the best cooking results compared to other enameled cast iron pieces.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

9. John Boos Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board, $134

One of the things that separate beginner cooks from avid home cooks, we think, is their cutting board. Whereas, say, college students might be more likely to use a plastic one, serious home cooks have a substantial wooden cutting board that can sit out on the counter like a badge of honor. Get this 24- by 18-inch board for anyone who's hoping to feel more like an adult in 2019.

 

(Image credit: ThermoWorks)

10. ThermoPop, $34 at ThermoWorks

Nearly every professional chef will agree that a meat thermometer is one of the most crucial kitchen tools. And they'll almost always suggest the ThermoPop, too. Not only is it incredibly accurate, but it's also super responsive and easy to operate. Plus, it comes in nine fun colors, so you can make the gift feel a little more personal.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

11. Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Sheet Pans, $27 for two

We can not say enough good things about these sheet pans. (So we're just going to keep writing about them.) They don't warp or discolor, and veggies roast just as well as chicken breasts on them. Chances are, the home cook in your life is annoyed by her sheet pans but she's never going to break down and buy herself some new ones. So that's where you come in.

Related: These Are Our Editors' Favorite Baking Sheets

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

12. Duralex Picardie Glasses, $20 for six

Maybe we should have retitled this gift guide All the Kitchen Things to Buy Your Francophile friends! These made-in-France glasses make the perfect juice, water, or wine glasses. Bonus: The price is right and they'll look great in any kind of kitchen.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

13. Goldtouch Nonstick 4-Piece Bakeware Set, $80 at Williams Sonoma

For the baker in your life, this Williams Sonoma set includes four of the most key pieces. The pieces are made of commercial-grade aluminized steel, which distributes heat quickly and evenly, and have a ceramic-based coating to ensure easy release every single time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

14. GIR 11-Inch Spatula, $13

It's hard to love a spatula (or any other inanimate object) more than we love this one. Unlike other spatulas, which have a scraper attached to a handle, the GIR is just one piece of silicone so there's no place for gunk to hide. It's perfectly bendy (read: not too bendy!) to scrape a bowl of every last bit of batter. And it comes in 13 bright colors. Gift it on its own or pair it with a cookbook or anything else on this list for a more substantial present.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

15. Cuisinart 6-Quart Multi-Cooker, $118

This small appliance consistently tops editors' lists of best slow cookers. (A few of us at Kitchn also have it and swear by it.) The Instant Pot may be super trendy, but this slow cooker has been a top seller for a while now. Translation: Your loved one will still want to use this even once America's moved on to the next new gadget.

 

Aging in Place, with Local Assistance!

Any realtor can tell you, whenever a spiffy, well-built and/or well-sited single-floor home ("ranch") comes on the market in the Pioneer Valley - there is a mad dash of buyers eager to look at it, and, potentially, make an offer to buy it. There is a growing awareness in our part of the country, at least, about the benefits of aging in place. Some homeowners may choose to renovate their spaces to allow them to do so. We also see buyers who choose downsize from larger homes, transitioning into a smaller or single-floor homes.

One concern for aging homeowners is how to remain independent, when certain activities or household responsibilities become more challenging with age. We've recently learned about a wonderful new volunteer organization in the Northampton Area. Northampton Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer services and programs to empower seniors to live independent, engaged lives at home. So, whether you are in personally need of their services, you know someone who is, or you wish to volunteer or donate to this important cause - check out the hotlink above to learn more.

Neighborhood Group

Questions for your Home Inspector

It's the beautiful fall season here in the Northampton area - and the real estate market is on an upswing! As Thanksgiving and the December holidays approach, there are buyers and sellers out there still looking, buying and selling before the quiet of winter descends. So, for buyers out there, even if the home you are considering is in tip top condition, the home inspection process is an important learning tool. Your realtor can help you to prioritize issues, and come up with a list of reasonable requests for the seller, once you have your inspection report in hand. Having personally attended home inspections with clients in recent weeks, I thought this article was timely.

Home Inspection's Complete? Here's What You Must Ask Afterward

By  | Oct 9, 2018
 
home-inspector-questions
fstop123/iStock

What are some questions to ask a home inspector after he's finished the inspection? Because, let's face it, just staring at that hefty report highlighting every flaw in your future dream home can send many buyers into a full-blown panic!

Know the right questions to ask a home inspector afterward, though, and this can help put that report into perspective. Here are the big ones to hit.
 

'I don't understand [such and such], what does it mean?'

Just so you know what to expect, here's how it will go down: A day or two after the inspection, you should receive the inspector's report. It will be a detailed list of every flaw in the house, often along with pictures of some of the problem areas and more elaboration.

Hopefully you also attended the actual inspection and could ask questions then; if so, the report should contain no surprises. It should contain what you talked about at the inspection, with pictures and perhaps a bit more detail. If there's anything major you don't remember from the inspection in the report, don't be afraid to ask about it.

'Is this a major or a minor problem?'

Keep in mind, most problems in the house will likely be minor and not outright deal breakers. Still, you'll want your home inspector to help you separate the wheat from the chaff and point out any doozies. So ask him if there are any problems serious enough to keep you from moving forward with the house.

Keep in mind that ultimately it's up to you and your real estate agent to determine how to address any issues.

"The inspector can't tell you, 'Make sure the seller pays for this,' so be sure you understand what needs to be done," says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

'Should I call in another expert for a follow-up inspection?'

Expect to have to call in other experts at this point to look over major issues and assign a dollar figure to fixing them. If your inspector flags your electrical box as looking iffy, for example, you may need to have an electrician come take a look and tell you what exactly is wrong and what the cost would be to fix it. The same goes for any apparent problems with the heating or air conditioning, roof, or foundation. An HVAC repair person, roofer, or engineer will need to examine your house and provide a bid to repair the problem.

Why is this so important? This bid is what your real estate agent will take to the seller if you decide to ask for a concession instead of having the seller do the fix for you. Your inspector can't give you these figures, but he can probably give you a sense of whether it's necessary to call somebody in.

'Is there anything I'll need to do once I move in?'

Wait, you're still not done! It's easy to forget the inspector's report in the whirlwind of closing and moving, but there are almost always suggestions for things that need doing in the first two to three months of occupancy.

Lesh says he sometimes gets panicked calls from homeowners whose houses he inspected three months after they've moved in. Although he'd noted certain issues in his report, the buyers neglected the report entirely—and paid for it later.

"I had a couple call and tell me they had seepage in the basement," Lesh says. "I pulled up their report and asked if they'd reconnected the downspout extension like I recommended. Nope. Well, there's your problem!"

Everything you didn't ask the seller to fix? That's your to-do list. Isn't owning a home fun?

 
Audrey Ference has written for The Billfold, The Hairpin, The Toast, Slate, Salon, and others. She lives in Austin, TX.
 

Natural Drain Cleaner, Yup!

Let's face it, we all have recurring themes of disagreement that arise when living in the same household with other people. For example, clogged drains have lead to repeated domestic arguments in my own household. I am impulsive, and I want the problem (any problem) addressed immediately. My partner is slow and methodical, and he needs to take his time when responding to problems. My impulsivity leads me to want to reach for the Drano, in the face of a clogged drain, and nip the problem in the bud. My partner historically puts his foot down (firmly) in response to this solution. And, in this case, I have learned that he is correct. The chemicals in liquid drain cleaners can eat away at one's pipes, and cause long term damage. Not to mention the fact that they are dangerous and toxic, and just not a good thing to leave lying around one's home. At this point, to be honest, I almost always reach for the white vinegar when it comes times to clean most anything in my house. As I was perusing Apartment Therapy this morning - which I tend to do on a regular basis, I came across this recipe for how to make non-toxic drain cleaner. I think that all home owners should bookmark this page and remember to use it the next time your pipes get clogged. Happy Housekeeping!

 You Should Know How to Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Ayn-Monique Klahre

Sep 30, 2018

Dead skin cells, soap scum, random food scraps, human hair, pet hair, and just regular ol' dirt—these are all the things you regularly wash down your sink or tub's drain. And if they sound gross now, image how much worse they are once they've congealed into a stringy, slimy ball of gunk inside your pipes. Yuck!

 

You want to prevent any of this gunk buildup before it becomes a real problem—especially in homes with older pipes or large families. The first sign of a growing clog? A gray ring around your tub or sink from the water sloooooowlydraining, giving soap bubbles ample time to attach and dry to that formerly clean porcelain. Another sign is water pooling around the drain. If you can actually see the slow drainage, it's time to act!

There are strong chemical cleaners designed to tackle truly clogged drains (and boy, do they smell like they're working!), but for prevention and regular maintenance, a DIY unclogger (a professional term!) will do. This method combines a couple products—with surprising cleaning powers—that you already have in your cabinets.

 
 
1/5 Run the hot water: Turn your sink or shower on at full-blast hot and run it for a few minutes, then allow it to drain. If your water doesn't get super hot (which it might not, because the EPA recommends you keep it at 120 degrees for both energy efficiency and safety), boil a big pot of water on the stove, then pour it down the drain. Wait for the water to drain; this is the first step in loosening the gunk.
Image credit: Christine Han

How To Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Ingredients

  • Boiling-hot water
  • Baking soda (about a cup)
  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about a cup)

Equipment

  • Spoon or funnel (optional)
  • Tub stopper or rag
 

Instructions

  1. Run the hot water: Turn your sink or shower on at full-blast hot and run it for a few minutes, then allow it to drain. If your water doesn't get super hot (which it might not, because the EPA recommends you keep it at 120 degrees for both energy efficiency and safety), boil a big pot of water on the stove, then pour it down the drain. Wait for the water to drain; this is the first step in loosening the gunk.
  2. Pour in the baking soda: Slowly send about a cup of baking soda down the drain, using a spoon or funnel as necessary. Do it little by little so it's not all jammed at the top of the drain.
  3. Add the lemon juice: Slowly pour the lemon juice on top of the baking soda. Brace yourself for some action: This will cause a fizzy, bubbly chemical reaction. 
  4. Cover and wait: Use your tub stopper or a rag to cover the drain, and wait. Give the mixture enough time to work, about a half hour, and keep it covered the whole time. 
  5. Run water again: Uncover the drain and send piping-hot water down it (again, either from the faucet or heated on the stovetop), letting it run for a few minutes. Wait for it all to drain. Is it draining faster than before? If not…
  6. Repeat as necessary: If your drain is super clogged, it may take a few rounds before it clears up. But with proper maintenance (repeat this process two to four times a year, depending on your household) you can prevent those big clogs from building up again.

 

What NOT To Do When Decluttering!

I'm amazed that no matter how big the space is in which we live, we always manage to fill it with stuff! Even though we are conscientious about waste and trying not to consume too much stuff - we manage to acquire a LOT!. Also - because we are conscientious about how we dispose of every item that leaves our house (reduce, reuse, recycle), getting rid of things is often a multi-step process. Rinse or clean out containers before disposal or recycling, keep TO GO bins or boxes in anticipation of upcoming recycling events (electronics, plastics, etc), compost everything biodegradable, etc, etc.

I love reading articles such as the following one from Apartment Therapy, with smart and helpful tips about how to approach decluttering one's home. As realtors, we are always advising seller clients to "declutter" in order to ready a property for sale. It's good to have to go-to PRO tips on hand to share with clients about how to approach a decluttering project.

Pro Organizer Tips: What NOT To Do When Decluttering Your Home

Catrin Morris Sep 14, 201

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)
 

Do you need the help of an organizing professional...without the professional price? We asked Washington DC's organizing and de-cluttering guru Nicole Anzia of Neatnik for some words of organizing wisdom. Instead of giving us additional organizing and decluttering tips and strategies, Nicole though it would most helpful to tell us what NOT to do when trying to harness the chaos in your home.Nicole says these five missteps are the most common in her line of work — and most likely to derail even the best efforts to conquer clutter:

Organize First; Buy Second

Do not go out and buy a ton of storage pieces and supplies before you sort through your home. All of those pretty bins, boxes and baskets at The Container Store are very enticing, but they won't do you any good unless they fit the space (on the shelf, under the bed, in the closet); hold what you need them to hold, and function properly for your particular space.

I recommend cleaning out first, assessing what containers you REALLY need, and then buying a few bins to start. You can always add later, but you don't want a bunch of empty containers cluttering up your home while you figure out where you might use them.

 

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Che

Do not set aside an ENTIRE day to organize your WHOLE house. Very few people have the energy and/or focus to spend 8 hours organizing. You'll likely become frustrated and less efficient as the day progresses. It's much better to spend a few hours — 2 or 3 — on one project or space. This way you'll feel motivated to do more, not be burned out by the process
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Complete Each Task — Completely

Of course you will need to sort things into categories (e.g., toss, recycle, donate, give to friend, put in deep storage). But here's the crucial part: Once you have decided where something is going to go — take it there. Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. Do it now. Finish the process. Take the bags and boxes out to the trash or recycling immediately. If you're donating something or giving something to a friend or family member, put the items in your car or make arrangements for dropping them off. You've done so much work getting this stuff ready to take out, complete the deal!

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

Do not think that once you've organized your space, that you are done. You'll feel like a failure when you have to clean it up again in a month. Realize that while you have created a new, efficient, and logical system for processing and managing incoming and outgoing items, you are not done. There is no autopilot. You should expect regular upkeep, but just be glad that the new system is far more efficient than the old one.

Good Enough is Enough

Very few people have closets and drawers that resemble those in catalogues. Trust me. I've been in a lot of houses and apartments and even after we've totally reorganized a space, it doesn't look like an ad for The Container Store. It looks great and works properly, but it is a space that is used by an actual human being, not one that has been carefully staged by a team of stylists and marketers for a non-existent resident. You will ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal. The goal is to set up a space that works well for your needs. That is success.

- Re-edited from a post originally published 8.5.2014 - CM

33 Ways To Save Energy in your Home!

As we head into this holiday weekend, the last hurrah before summer ends (although, since Northampton area public schools started this past Thursday, to those of us with school-aged children, it feels as if summer is already over!) we thought we'd share the following link from Apartment Therapy. Since selling houses is what we do, we like to send out occasional reminders about how to save energy in your households, and make better choices for the environment as well. We hope you enjoy the link, and maybe learn a trick or two!

33 Small, Mindful Home Habits That'll Save You Money in the Long Run

 
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)
 
Little money-saving habits don't ever feel like they're doing much in the moment, but in the long run they can add up to significant savings. And, no, we're not talking about the same well-worn advice to brew your own coffee or bring your lunch to work. These are at-home habits, most of which involve a minor change in your routine and might only take a few seconds each.
 

Small habits that cost us money—or save us money, as the case may be—add up to pennies earned that compound day after day, month after month, year after to year into significant dollars.

Here are some money-saving habits to put into practice around the house. If you're not doing these yet, you should be:

How to Save on Air Conditioning Costs

  1. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. 
  2. Use ceiling fans to help cool rooms. 
  3. Set the thermostat a few degrees higher to shave money off your bill. 
  4. Close blinds and curtains to keep the sun out of rooms during the day to help keep temperatures inside cool. 
  5. Don't leave outside doors open when the A/C is running. 
  6. Try to put off heat-generating activities to the evening hours, when outdoor temperatures are cooler. This includes cooking on the stove (make salads or use the grill outside when it's hot out), running the dryer, etc. 
  7. Properly maintain your HVAC unit so it runs efficiently. 
  8. Change filters according to the season, usage, and the manufacturer's recommended timetable. 
  9. Switch to CFL bulbs, which generate significantly less heat. 
  10. Get a programmable thermostat (or better yet, a smart one) if you don't have one and set it to be a few degrees warmer when you're not home. 
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

How to Save on Electricity

  1. Turn off lights when you leave the room. 
  2. Keep cooled or heated air in the house by remembering to close doors and seal gaps (such as with a door snake). 
  3. Dress for the weather. Especially when it's cold, put on a sweater or use a blanket before you crank up the heat. 
  4. Choose energy efficient appliances when you're buying new ones. 
  5. Choose the cold water wash on your laundry whenever possible. 
  6. Air dry clothes whenever you can. 
  7. Unplug "energy vampires," items that are plugged in even when you're not using them. These include phone chargers, computers, and countertop appliances like the coffee maker or stand mixer. 
  8. Check your utility company for special rates. For example, some companies offer discounts for energy consumption that occurs during "off-peak" hours. 
  9. If you like to run your refrigerator cool, consider adjusting your fridge and freezer temperatures up to 40 and 0 degrees respectively, the top temperatures recommended by the FDA.
  10. Never forget to clean the lint trap in the dryer so that it can run most efficiently. 
  11. Try the air-dry rather than the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher. 
  12. Use a toaster oven rather than your full-size oven whenever possible. 
  13. Stop opening your oven to check on your cooking food; turn on the oven light and peek through the window instead. 
  14. Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees (it's safer, too). (This applies to electric water heaters, but for gas water heaters, lowering the temperature will also save money.) 
  15. Never run the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer unless they're at capacity.
 
(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

How to Save Money on Your Water Bill

  1. Fix leaky faucets. And toilets. (Try the food coloring trick!) 
  2. Stop pre-rinsing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. 
  3. Take shorter showers. Try a shower timer.
  4. Replace your shower heads with low flow ones. 
  5. Turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or soaping up in the shower. 
  6. Use water from washing produce or boiling pasta to water plants. You could also collect water while you shower to water plants with. 
  7. Collect rain water for watering plants. (Your plants will love it!)
  8. Look for special rates with your water provider. Like with electricity, some off-peak times of the day have lower usage rates. Check to see if your utility company offers a water discount during these times and run your appliances and take showers within these parameters, when possible. 

 

 
 
 
Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.
 

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

As a relatively new rescue-dog owner, I can personally attest to the mental and physical health benefits of walking and hiking. There is not a season, or a day that goes by, wherein I don't have to take my energetic dog on a lengthy walk or hike. Since we adopted her, nearly 4 years ago, I have discovered numerous walking and hiking areas in the Pioneer Valley. I enjoy them all immensely, for various reasons. And, while I admit that there are days when I dread the walk - once I am out, moving my body, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Northampton area- the dread washes away and is replaced with gratitude.

Check out this recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette which highlights some local hiking areas to enjoy this summer (spring, fall and winter as well!)

Five serene treks that can promote physical and mental well-being

  • A walking path at Atkins Reservoir in Amherst Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • By ANDY CASTILLO
    @AndyCCastillo

Monday, August 06, 2018

Ahead in a clearing lies a pine tree. Sunlight, filtering down through a leafy canopy illuminates its bare branches. There’s nothing to be heard but the gentleness of wind and the sweet trill of birdsong, which echos through towering oak trunks and across the many vernal pools scattered throughout Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.

I’ve walked through these woods many times, having grown up in Northampton near the Big Y shopping plaza on King Street. Not far away, a great blue heron stalks cautiously forward into a tributary of the Mill River, startling a deer, which raises its head from grazing in the reeds. Peace reigns over the clearing for a little while. But it doesn’t last.

It’s broken, suddenly, by two squirrels. They leap, one after the other, down from a tree and into dry leaves that outline a narrow path ahead of me, which winds on for four miles through the nature preserve’s 724 acres, which is spread across Northampton and Easthampton.

While familiar, the scene never gets old. And, even though I’ve watched Hampshire County’s commercial industry and its neighborhoods expand over the last few decades, I still find it easy to escape into the quietness of nature, for my physical and mental health, on readily accessible trails throughout the region.

Below are a few of my favorites, close to my hometown, where I still escape to for a peaceful walk.

 

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton

The trails at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, maintained by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, are open to the public from dawn until dusk. The preserve’s terrain is diverse, ranging from forest, to grasslands, to wetlands, and the walking paths aren’t too strenuous. Native flora is prevalent along the trails, as is wildlife, which can be viewed from a tower overlooking the Mill River.

A variety of trails, which include an 850-foot loop over crushed stone with a guide rope along the side, are accessible from a parking area at 127 Combs Road in Easthampton. Next to the parking area, there’s a nature center where events are held throughout the year. Audio tours that coincide with the trails can be listened to by calling 413-272-0006. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Members are free.

Directions: Arcadia Wildlife Sactuary is at 127 Combs Road, Easthampton. From Route 10, turn onto Lovefield Street, which isn’t far from Valley Recycling, take a left onto Clapp Street, another left onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road. From East Street, turn onto Fort Hill Road, pass Fort Hill Brewery, take a right onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road.

 

Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, Northampton

The dock at Fitzgerald Lake, which is about a two- minute walk from a parking area at North Farms Road in Northampton, provides a quick respite from the busyness of life. Even though it’s not far from a few of the Pioneer Valley’s main thoroughfares, with Route 9 on one side and Route 5 on the other, while standing at the end of the dock surrounded by reeds, it feels as though you’re miles from civilization.

From the dock, a two-mile trail leads around the lake to a dam on the other side, and from there, another mile or so of trail connects to a second parking area at the former Moose Lodge off of Cooke Avenue. The lake itself is artificial, and shallow, created when the dam was made in the 1960s. Growing up, jogging to the dam from the Moose Lodge, or around the lake from North Farms Road to Cook Avenue, were favorite running and mountain biking routes of mine. The trail system, which includes a shorter loop that takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk near the dock, can also be accessed from Marian Street and Coles Meadow Road. Trails are mostly protected from the sun by forest canopy and traverse rocky sections and cross small sections of grassland and wind through the woods that surround the lake.

Wildlife can be seen from various lookout points along the way, including a wildlife observation blind, and sections of the trail pass close by large swamps. The conservation area is maintained by the Broad Brook Coalition, a nonprofit organization, and the Northampton Conservation Commission.

More information on walking the trails, which are free and open to the public, can be found at www.broadbrookcoalition.org.

Directions:61 North Farms Road, Northampton. The North Farms Road access point has gravel-lot parking, and features an accessible paved path, bridge and boardwalk out to the dock. 196 Cooke Avenue (former Moose Lodge, up behind the Northampton Walmart), features an entry point to the trails and street parking on the right side of an unpaved lot. Marian Street: Entrance and street parking. Coles Meadow Road: Entrance and street parking.

Robert Frost Trail, Amherst

While there are many sections of the Robert Frost Trail, which stretches 47 miles from South Hadley to Wendell, my favorite section can be found just off of Cushman Road in Amherst next to the Atkins Reservoir. Across from the trailhead is a short walking path that leads along the reservoir’s edge, which is another beautiful place for a peaceful and short walk.

The natural colors along the trail are vivid and change with each season. In the spring, aquatic plants pop from the blue water in vibrant yellow tones.

Summertime brings a Jurassic torrent of green that’s tempered come fall by the rustic orange grace of autumn. And in the winter, the redness of dead leaves lining narrow streams, bubbling from the adjacent Adams Brook, contrasts with the whiteness of untouched snow.

The trail is aptly named in honor of Frost, the great American poet, as it highlights the simple beauty of New England’s woods. I often escape here, alone, to find inspiration in nature. A few other sections of the Robert Frost Trail that I particularly appreciate include one that leads around Puffers Pond, and another in Sunderland at the Mount Toby State Forest near Cranberry Pond, which has a beautiful trail system, albeit a little challenging, of its own.

Directions: Area of 60 Cushman Road, Amherst. The entrance to the Robert Frost Trail is on the right, across from the Atkins Reservoir, and there’s a narrow pull-off for parking nearby. From Bridge Street, which passes by Cushman Common and Cushman Market and Cafe and turns into East Leverett Road, turn right onto Market Hill Road. From there, drive straight about a mile and a half, continuing on after the street turns into Cushman Road, to the pull-off.

The Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, Amherst

Mowed paths crisscross 28 sprawling acres at the Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From a house built to look like a Renaissance cottage, home to the center, the paths sweep down a grassy hill filled with native flora and birds, which dive after crickets and other insects. At the top, next to a period era garden, a few of the trails lead into a wooded section.

It’s a beautiful place for an evening walk around sunset because of the expansive view from the top, and because many of the walking paths are completely exposed to the sun. The trails are open to the public all the time, but the center, at 650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At closing time, a gate at Pleasant Street is locked, and any cars still in the parking lot must call campus police to get out. Elsewhere, cars can also park on nearby side streets.

Directions:650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, not far from the North Amherst Fire Station and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s main campus. The center has a gravel lot, which closes at 5 p.m., and there’s additional parking at nearby streets such as Sherman Lane, which is across the road. 

Fort River Birding and Nature Trail, Hadley

A one-mile-long pathway, carved into the landscape, leads through diverse habitats, ranging from grasslands to wetlands and forest, at the Fort River Birding and Nature Trail in Hadley, which is in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The path, which was completed a few years ago, is mostly gravel, graded to accommodate wheelchairs, and traverses over vernal pools and woodland areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The pathway itself is beautiful — sometimes it’s elevated on stilts — carefully designed to highlight quintessential elements of Connecticut River’s watershed, such as tributaries, vernal pools, and the surrounding forest. At a few different points along the way there are shaded gazebos and platforms with seating areas that overlook particularly beautiful areas for birdwatching.

It’s the perfect place for a morning or afternoon walk, although it can be hot at times because some sections of trail aren’t covered. Come evening, especially in the spring and summer months, mosquitos are out in force.

Directions: 63 Moody Bridge Road, Hadley. From South Maple Street, which is one of the back roads to the Hampshire Mall from Northampton, turn onto Moody Bridge Road at the four-way stop sign. The nature trail is at the end of a dirt turn-off on the right, as indicated by a small sign.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

Thinking Ahead - Landscape Design and Climate Change

During the summer, Northampton area residents are often banned from watering their lawns between 9 am and 5 pm due to drought conditions. The recent/current rains were much needed. I'm happy not to be spending countless hours watering my lawn in the sweltering heat. But it is also noticeably still humid and hot, despite the rains we have been experiencing. One can't help but think of climate change with the strange weather patterns happening around us.

It pays to think ahead when it comes to climate change and your landscaping choices. This recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette discusses some choices an Amherst landscape design firm has made when designing an eco-friendly garden for the Amherst Historical Society. The points made in the following article could easily be applied to homeowners as well.

Amherst designer suggests cooling gardens to prepare for climate changes

  •  

  • By ANDY CASTILLO
@AndyCCastillo
Thursday, July 19, 2018

It’s sweltering under the bright sun beating down on the lawn of the Amherst Historical Society’s Strong House on Amity Street, but take a walk down a narrow stone path into a shaded garden area in the back and the temperature noticeably drops by a few degrees.

Over the next 30 years, New England’s climate will become hotter, making the shaded areas in the Strong House’s 1800s garden an important design element, says Andrew Kilduff, ecological designer and co-founder of TK.designlab in Amherst. His firm was hired by the Historical Society to create a conceptual eco-friendly design for the garden that takes into account projected changes to New England’s climate.

"In many respects, shrubs that grow between five, 10, and 15-feet-tall create a different environment," he said, while looking over the shady area from the front lawn one recent afternoon.

The garden features plants like globe thistles, trilliums, peach-leaved bellflowers, dictamnus plants and garden phlox, according to Denise Gagnon, a member of the Amherst Garden Club, which takes care of the public garden. Another member, Meredith Michaels said the flowers were selected based on what would have grown natively in the region when the garden was created 150 years ago.

Keeping in mind what would have been available in the 18th century, and in addition to perennials already there, she said, “We add a few annuals in spaces that have become denuded of whatever was supposed to be there.”

The area is a cut-through for commuters passing from Amity Street into the center of town, and connects to the garden at the nearby Jones Library. And, so, because the garden is such a visible spot, Kilduff and his firm say many different plant species should be included with adequate irrigation to showcase practical ways home gardeners, too, can prepare for climate change.

"As landscape designers, we thought what might be an interesting way to re-conceptualize the garden, and to play around with some ideas as to best honor the history here, and create a space that's reflective of the changing conditions, not only in the town, but in the region and the world as a whole," Kilduff said.

Hot, dry, stormy

Kilduff, who has a master’s degree in ecological design and planning from the Conway School of Landscape Design, notes the difference in temperature between the sunny spots and the garden’s shady areas is as much as 10 to 15 degrees, which will be particularly significant when the climate heats up.

He points out a stone patio connected to the house where rain barrels and catch basins can be placed. The collected rainwater could be redirected to irrigate the flower beds to reduce the amount of water and physical labor needed during prolonged dry spells, he says.

When the climate is warmer, the growing season will be longer, Kilduff says, and there will be more intense storms. Because of those changes, plant species that thrive in the area now might not be able to survive anymore, and others will become more suited to the climate.

As an example of one species that’s being affected as temperatures warm, Kilduff noted research by Smith College Biologist Jesse Bellemare that shows a steady migration of umbrella magnolia trees into New England.

And, he said, "The vegetables here will be more proliferous. You'll be able to start seeds earlier. Farmers will be able to, hypothetically, instead of reaping one or two mows a year for hay, do three, four, or perhaps even more."

While the design is intended to show what a garden in the year 2050 might look like, he noted that some elements his firm proposed already appear in contemporary gardens, such as the rain barrels and long depressions, called swales. In the Strong House Garden design, he says, a swale could be dug at the back of the property to drain rainwater from the flower beds in the event of a heavy storm.

Existing plants, such as the thistle globes and trilliums, would be bolstered by the other species that could survive in hotter conditions, with ferns like Ostrich or Cinnamon ferns planted near the house, flora that thrives in wet conditions such as Red Columbine, Blue Flag Iris and switchgrass in the swale, and hardy flowers that can withstand intense heat like umbrella magnolia in areas exposed to the sun. Kilduff said that because the designs are so preliminary, his firm hasn’t yet fully researched the exact kinds of flora that would be best adapted to future climate changes.

Another proposal included in the design is space for community gardens, and a suggestion to shade areas of the garden currently exposed to direct sunlight.

Think ahead

"Plant a tree, because it pulls up water out of the ground, it shades, and reduces the heat stress of you and your pets and the plants around you," Kilduff said, noting that, if a tree is planted now, it will become mature by the time changes have taken place.

In planning for the future, he recommends that gardeners study their plots and think about ways to efficiently maintain them in a hotter environment.

"If you're watering often, it's possible that you could have a small rain barrel, and that alone may offset those one or two trips," he said. Connecting a hose to the barrel to create a drip irrigation system would make the watering job easier.

In addition to shade trees and shrubs, add a few ground-covers in the garden, Kilduff says. “They're attractive, and have a functional purpose. They reduce the soil loss, allow other plants to be able to suck up water more easily, and you'll find yourself weeding less."

Change is coming, he said, and gardens will either suffer or thrive depending on how area gardeners prepare and adapt.

“Land is something that we interact with virtually at every waking movement of our lives,” he said. “Even when we're in our homes and offices, we're subject to the conditions present outside the envelope of the building. "

A summer heat wave in 2050 could last for weeks, he says, and shade trees outside of a house, go a long way in providing some comfort for those inside.

"If you find yourself boiling the moment you walk in the door, perhaps add shade trees or some shrubs along the side of the house," he said. The time to plan for coming changes is now, he says. “It's worth further investigation.”

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

 

 

 

Repost: What to Do in the Garden in July

Summer is in full swing! The lush beauty and color of peonies, and the intoxicating smell of lilacs are starting to feel like a distant memory. Asparagus season in ("Hadley Grass") is behind us, and we are deep into summer squash, onions, lettuce, garlic scapes, watermelon and berries! When I look around my garden, I notice the second round of colorful summer flowers making their presence known: coneflower, coreopsis, daisies, hydrangea, black eyed susan, day lillies, etc. Since our summer is so short compared to the colder months, here in the Northampton area, I thought this piece from Gardenista.com about gardening in July might come in handy.

What to Do in the Garden in July

by Michelle Slatalla

In the garden, July is a month with a split personality: We look back wistfully (at the successes of spring) and forward with trepidation (can this garden be saved, to withstand the August heat that’s ahead).

Here are a few quick garden fixes that will pay off next month (and in September).

Clean Up the Strawberry Patch

Choose the best weapon to renovate the strawberry patch: See Garden Tools: Which Trowel or Weeder is Best for You? Photograph by Mimi Giboin.
Above: Choose the best weapon to renovate the strawberry patch: See Garden Tools: Which Trowel or Weeder is Best for You? Photograph by Mimi Giboin.

After you’ve picked the last strawberry from your plants, it’s time to cut back brown or drooping leaves. Weed between plants and mulch with an inch or two of compost. Now it the time to thin or transplant strawberries; carefully dig up runners as well as roots to move a clump to a new spot.

For more growing tips, see Strawberries: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Deadhead

Interplanted with fuzzy-headed grass�Pennisetum villosum,�pink cosmos Dazzler will keep blooming all summer if you cut back spent flowers. See more at In the Garden with Philippa: Brit Style with a Black Backdrop. Photograph by Jim Powell.
Above: Interplanted with fuzzy-headed grass Pennisetum villosum, pink cosmos ‘Dazzler’ will keep blooming all summer if you cut back spent flowers. See more at In the Garden with Philippa: Brit Style with a Black Backdrop. Photograph by Jim Powell.

Hone your deadheading technique: See Landscaping 101: How to Deadhead Flowers.

TLC for Tomatoes

Its not too late to corral tomatoes into cages, for their own good. Which is the best support for your tomato varieties? See 10 Easy Pieces: Tomato Cages.
Above: It’s not too late to corral tomatoes into cages, for their own good. Which is the best support for your tomato varieties? See 10 Easy Pieces: Tomato Cages.

I never met a tomato plant that didn’t perform better with a little coddling. Pinch back suckers to help them focus their fruiting efforts. Make sure tomatoes get enough water (from a drip irrigation system or a hose, every day).  See more tips at Tomatoes: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Cut Back Spent Flowers

See more tips at Foxgloves: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: See more tips at Foxgloves: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

Many flowering spikes—from penstemons to foxgloves to gladiolas—have finished flowering by now. Or have they? When you cut back spent blossoms, check to see if any lateral spikes are growing from the spikes. If so, leave them in place to encourage more blooms.

Add Annuals

See more at Cleome: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Marie Viljoen.
Above: See more at Cleome: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Marie Viljoen.

Many of our favorite flowers are annuals that cheerfully take on the job of adding color to the garden just as summer perennials start to flag in August’s heat. With bright blooms and attention-grabbing flowers, these fast growers can make you love your garden in late summer. (And many annuals will live on by resowing themselves, with seeds carried on a breeze to pop up in a new spot next year.

For more ideas, see Everything You Need to Know About Cottage Gardens and browse our curated design guides Annuals 101 for tips to grow SunflowersNasturtiums, and Zinnias.

Help Your Hydrangeas

See more of this garden in�Rhode Island Roses: A Seaside Summer Garden in New England.�Photograph by Nathan Fried Lipski of�Nate Photography.
Above: See more of this garden in Rhode Island Roses: A Seaside Summer Garden in New England. Photograph by Nathan Fried Lipski of Nate Photography.

Do you wish your pink hydrangeas were blue, or vice versa? You can take control of their color destiny by amending the soil. For tips see Hydrangeas: How to Change Color from Pink to Blue.

Keep Weeding

Photograph by Sara Barrett.
Above: Photograph by Sara Barrett.

Don’t let the weeds win. If you need a new weapon to inspire you during the doldrums of summer, see a few of our favorites in 10 Easy Pieces: Weeding Forks.

Prune Fruit Trees

A water sprout is a shoot (or cluster of shoots) that appear, unbidden, on a tree trunk as shown on this cherry tree in Jindai Botanical Gardens in Tokyo. Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.
Above: A water sprout is a shoot (or cluster of shoots) that appear, unbidden, on a tree trunk as shown on this cherry tree in Jindai Botanical Gardens in Tokyo. Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.

Prune spring-flowering fruit trees in summer when spores of silver leaf disease are dormant.

For more tips, see Everything You Need to Know About Flowering Trees.

Fill Bird Baths

Photograph by Marie Viljoen.
Above: Photograph by Marie Viljoen.

Water evaporates faster in hotter temperatures. Replenish bird baths as needed. For more ideas about designing water features, see Everything You Need to Know About Fountains.

Cut Back Wisteria

Photograph by Mimi Giboin.
Above: Photograph by Mimi Giboin.

Wisteria, if unchecked, will behave like a thug, says our friend Tim Callis, a garden designer on Cape Cod. He recommends shearing several times a year. In summer, cut back long shoots and stems to no more than six leaves.

Water if Needed

Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

Gardens like an inch of rain a week. Is yours getting enough? Use a Rainwater Calculator to figure it out, and if your plants need more irrigate accordingly.

Automate your irrigation system with Hardware 101: Smart Irrigation Controllers. And if you need to upgrade or repair your irrigation, see Drip Irrigation: Emergency Repair Kit Essentials.

Don’t Mow Low

An English boxwood hedge edges a mown path in which daisies thrive. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: An English boxwood hedge edges a mown path in which daisies thrive. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

In hot, dry months keep your lawn looking green by allowing blades of grass to grow longer; a crew cut will create brown spots. Use the right tool for the job; see 10 Easy Pieces: Reel Lawn Mowers and 10 Easy Pieces: Riding Lawn Mowers.