What to Clean Before You Move In

What to Clean Before You Move In

Your dream home sure looked spotless during the open house. But gird yourself: No matter how clean the place seemed, it’s likely there are some dirty surprises in store for move-in day.

Sanitizing the bathtub’s a good place to start (you bought someone else’s house, not their bath grime!), but don’t stop there. Before you unpack, buy some rubber gloves, stock up on your favorite cleaners, replace your vacuum’s HEPA filter and hunt down these not-always-obvious dirt hotspots that old homeowners often leave behind.

Heads up!
Step into the dining room and inspect the chandelier. If you find spider webs or dust, use a cleaning system that includes a soft microfiber cloth on an extendable, bendable handle to wipe that mess into submission.

The crown molding throughout the house may be gorgeous, but you should check to see whether dead bugs and dust lurk between the wall and the molding itself. A microfiber cloth or the nozzle attachment on your vacuum works well here. You’ll need a step ladder, of course.

Keep your chin up and check out the ceiling fans; clean the blades before they spin all that dust into the atmosphere. If you’re binge-cleaning at midnight and run out of clean microfiber cloths, remember: An old sock (worn on your hand) or dryer sheets double as dusters.

Hmm, what have we here?
Scan the main living areas of the house for unexpected cleaning projects. Did the former residents keep a sofa strategically placed over a huge scuff on the hardwood? Work your magic with cleaners designed to restore specific surfaces.

Did pets precede you? Don’t just clean the carpet — de-flea it (ideally before you move in). Wipe down the doors (knobs, too!), paying close attention to the lower half, where pets may have pawed or scratched.

The refrigerator vent is probably screaming for some cleaning, too. Don’t skip this one; the dusty buildup is a fire hazard. Vacuum away (bet you’re feeling good about that new HEPA filter now).

Inspect the dishwasher. Any gooey gunk in the food filter? Eww. Give it a good white-vinegar rinse, and deodorize the garbage disposal while you’re at it.

Appliances (sadly) don’t clean themselves.
You didn’t peek inside the furnace during the inspection, did you? Clean or replace the filter, and if you feel comfortable doing so, clean the fan and blower assembly — or call in a pro: The expense may be offset by your energy savings.

Scheduling a professional cleaning for ductwork is a smart move. And now’s the time to replace air filters and clean out dusty water-heater closets.

Investigate the laundry area. Sterilize the washing machine (there are cleaner tablets for this job). Then, turn to the dryer and clean out the lint trap and its cavity; wipe it down with a damp cloth before replacing the trap.

It may take some elbow grease to get these messes out of your way, but you’ll be glad you did — then, you can entertain fearlessly when you throw your housewarming bash.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind

Sometimes, you move into a new place and discover something so odd, it makes you shudder: a pizza left in the oven; a bayonet in the closet; chicken bones in the wall. What a welcome! Here are 10 especially bizarre “housewarming” gifts.

Not a Bright Idea

When a Maplewood, New Jersey, family moved into their new house, they were literally left in the dark by the seller’s peculiar actions: He’d replaced every working lightbulb in the overhead fixtures with burnt-out bulbs.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind2

Say Cheese!

A Fort Lauderdale, Florida, woman was cleaning out her new home’s basement closet when she saw something pink, white and scary lurking in a corner: a set of false teeth! As if that weren’t strange enough, when she contacted the previous owners, they said they didn’t want the chompers.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind3

Showing Signs

When you walk down into your new basement and see a big, bold warning sign marking the area as a blast zone, you can either worry — or laugh. That’s precisely what happened to two new homeowners in Chicago, who found the sign so hilarious, they decided to keep it!

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind4

Get a Load of This

One Phoenix homeowner went to the laundry room of his new abode, where a basket of dirty clothes was sitting on top of the washing machine — but the clothes weren’t his. Ewww.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind5

Nailed It!

People collect lots of things, from stamps to dolls to baseball cards, but an Ann Arbor, Michigan, transplant surgeon left behind a collection worthy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. When the new homeowners opened a bathroom drawer, they found it was full of human nail clippings.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind6

Who’s Hungry?

When you open the oven in your new home, the last thing you expect to find is someone else’s dinner. But that’s what happened when a Seabeck, Washington, woman found a large pizza left by the hungry (but forgetful) previous owners.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind7

Fowl Play

If you run out of garbage bags, where should you dispose of dinner remains? Behind a metal grate in your home, apparently. An apartment dweller in Washington, D.C., unearthed a trove of chicken bones when the power company came to update his electric meter and removed the wall grate. Wonder where the leftover mashed potatoes are.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind8

Holy Moley!

While doing some gardening in the front yard of their new Little Silver, New Jersey, home, a couple dug up what they first thought was a doll, but turned out to be a statue of a saint. Following religious tradition, the home’s former occupants had buried a plastic St. Joseph to bring them good luck in selling their home. It worked!

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind9

No Fighting!

An apartment dweller in Brooklyn, New York, found an engraved 19th-century ceremonial French bayonet on a closet shelf in his new rental. He ended up giving it to his brother, who hung it on a wall in his home. It was a particularly meaningful find, because their late mother was from France.

Welcome Home? 10 Weird Things Former Residents Left Behind10

Creature Discomforts

When a family moved into their dream home in rural Idaho, they were surprised to find it was already occupied — by a colony of snakes. Constant hissing sounds and odd-tasting tap water led to the discovery of thousands of serpents that refused to vacate the residence; the owners eventually moved out.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes

Rounding up, packing up, lifting, trucking, lifting again and unboxing every single item you own unfortunately leaves some room for error. Cross your fingers, double up on tape, and whatever you do, don’t commit these 19 hilariously bad moving mistakes.

1. Give up on packing and just move the whole house.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes1

2. Booking the first “cheap moving van” that popped up on Google, then being disappointed when a cheap, moving van shows up.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes2

3. Remembering that your phone charger’s in there … somewhere.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes3

4. Not bending at the knees.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes4

5. Loading too much on the dolly.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes5

6. Using a box cutter to open your kid’s belongings … and Mr. Wiggles is at the top of the box.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes6

7. Thinking one string is enough.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes7

8. Being a lounger and not an unpacker.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes8

9. Failing to pack Great Aunt Doris’ china securely.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes9

10. Assuming your coffee table would fit in the passenger seat.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes10

11. Underestimating the size of your figurine collection.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes11

12. Not checking the weather on moving day.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes12

13. Purchasing bubble wrap but not earplugs.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes13

14. Instructing the truck to head to Springfield, Fla. … and the truck ends up in Springfield, Ill.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes14

15. Forgetting to make moving-day arrangements for Fido.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes15

16. Asking your party-animal buddy to help you move.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes16

17. Insisting on doing it all in one trip.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes17

18. Reassembling every table and bookcase, and somehow having these screws left over.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes18

19. Boxing yourself in and just giving up.

Don’t Make These 19 Moving Mistakes19

How to Pack Fragile Items: A Professional Mover’s Secrets

How to Pack Fragile Items- A Professional Mover’s Secrets

You don’t want Great-Aunt Mildred’s heirloom china or the champagne flutes that you and your sweetie toasted with on your wedding day to end up in shards, do you? Bubble wrap alone won’t protect your breakables; you need to pack like a professional if you want your fragile lamps, glassware and tchotchkes to make it from point A to B.

Stock for Success
Here’s a tip from Derek Williams of Adam’s Moving & Delivery Service in Seattle: Don’t overpack each box and hope that applying extra packing tape will keep it covered. Bulging boxes make it much harder for your movers to pack the moving van.

“It’s so much better to get more boxes than you think you’ll need than to try to overstuff them,” Williams says.

He adds that cardboard boxes have a shelf life — they can become flimsy over the years — so don’t count on old ones that have been in your basement forever to keep your stuff safe.

Mix It Up
You might think it’s best to buy boxes that are all uniform in size. But for your movers (or you, if you’re the one loading the van), fitting all your boxes in is a lot like Tetris. To conquer the puzzle, a variety of sizes works best.

Purchase boxes ranging from shoebox small to ottoman large, keeping in mind you likely can’t securely carry anything larger than 2-feet square. Then, pack heavier items in the shallower boxes, and fill the big ones with lighter stuff. You can also place heavy items at the bottom of deeper boxes and add lighter items on top — never the other way around.

Pillow-Top Packing
For odd-shaped items, be generous with the boxes. Particularly fragile, irreplaceable heirlooms deserve a box to themselves. Williams recommends this technique: Place a blanket on the bottom, then the (carefully wrapped) item, and then place a pillow on top. Seal up the box and label it FRAGILE “on the top, sides, bottom — everywhere. Overcommunicate!” Williams stresses. And, of course, label each box with its contents.

No Jiggling!
For glasses, cups and mugs, you don’t necessarily need box inserts (sometimes called cellular inserts) to keep the items separated. It’s more important to wrap each item up completely, with two layers of packing paper for extra-fragile things such as wineglasses. And make sure everything’s packed snugly, to prevent jiggling. For hollow items such as goblets and vases, stuff them with crumpled packing paper, then wrap individually with more paper before setting them inside a box lined with paper or bubble wrap. For flat items like plates and picture frames, wrap each item in packing paper and place them in a box vertically, alternating with a sheet of bubble wrap.

Also, do yourself a favor and use some containers designed for specific items, like partitioned holiday ornament boxes and gift-wrap organizers; these long-term storage options can slide right into your closet and bypass your “unpack” list.

Make Plastic Your Pal
Plastic wrap, that is. Stretch wrap comes in handy for all sorts of packing jobs: bundling shower and curtain rods, keeping rugs rolled tight, securing the tops on plastic storage tubs. You can try this move to spare yourself the work of packing up the contents of dresser drawers: Place a packing blanket around the dresser to protect it; then shrink-wrap the whole shebang.

If you opt for plastic stretch wrap, use a moving vehicle or storage area with climate control if you won’t be immediately heading to your new home, as moisture can build up and potentially damage wood, leather and other materials.

CHECKLIST: Everything You Need to Pack Properly

CHECKLIST- Everything You Need to Pack Properly

Your stuff will never survive the truck ride on shoeboxes and Scotch tape. Here’s a list of all the supplies you need to properly pack your entire home.

Purchase clean, dry cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes if your moving company doesn’t already provide them.

Special Containers
Order wardrobe boxes, partitioned “dish pack” boxes and other containers designed for specific items.

Bubble Wrap
Buy a large roll, and cut sheets for padding boxes and wrapping breakable items.

Plastic Storage Bags
Use gallon-size bags for grouping small items, and snack-size bags for rounding up screws and fasteners.

Packing Paper or Plain Newsprint
Avoid using newspaper for stuffing and wrapping fragile items; the ink may stain some materials (and your hands).

Bright Tissue Paper
Use it to wrap small items that are easily lost or may be mistaken for trash.

White Tissue Paper
Use it for stuffing and wrapping lampshades; packing paper is too stiff.

Packing Tape
Buy multiple rolls, and at least one dispenser for each person who will help you pack.

Mark each box with its contents (except for valuables) and the room where it belongs.

Permanent Markers
Choose thick-tipped markers for strong, clear labeling.

Small Colored Stickers
Use them for labeling electronics cords, color-coding boxes and more.

Trash Bags
Corral throw pillows and stuffed animals inside bags, and label them like boxes so they’re not mistaken for trash.

Box Cutters
Half-empty boxes don’t stack properly; trim boxes to fit their contents.

You’ll need an assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches and fasteners for disassembling and reassembling furniture.

Plastic Stretch Wrap
Wrap it around furniture to secure drawers, or use it to bundle curtain rods and other awkwardly shaped items.

Mattress Bags
Purchase ones sized to fit your mattress; they’re easiest to carry.

Drop Cloths or Old Sheets
Drape them over furniture for protection.

Quilted Pads
Wrap large furniture to protect it inside the truck.

Measuring Tape
Measure odd-shaped items to find a box that fits.

Notepad & Pen
Jot down directions, measurements and notes.

Lighten Up: What to Digitize Before You Move

Spare yourself the stress (and the weight!) of moving your CDs, movies and more. Go digital to get organized and literally feel a weight lifted from your shoulders.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move1

How many pounds of cookbooks and foodie magazines do you have? If it feels like your collection weighs as much as your fridge, go digital. Scan and upload recipes to Evernote or Google Docs (or apps like Dropbox and Paprika), and then tag each by category (snack, dessert) and cuisine (Asian, low-carb). While you’re at it, tidy your email by uploading all of the recipes you’re hoarding in your inbox.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move2


All those bulky DVDs are a burden, and storing the files on your laptop makes your computer sluggish (making unauthorizied digital copies is also illegal). Try a program like Vudu, which converts your movie collection to digital files stored in the cloud and accessible on any device.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move3

Music CDs

You officially have permission to recycle all of your CDs (though you should never toss them into your recycle bin; consult the CD Recycling Center of America to find a collection center). But before you do, save the CDs digitally using your computer’s music-storage software. Or preserve everything with a collection program like MediaMonkey, which converts music files to different formats while adding track information and album artwork.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move4

Old Cards and Letters

If you’re hanging on to boxes brimming with handwritten notes, start scanning. Future generations may consider those notes priceless; don’t run the risk of letting them get damaged or lost! The TurboScan app is handy; it saves documents in easily shareable PDF or JPEG formats.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move5


Preserve your precious snaps, once and for all. Scan your nondigital photos (and while you’re at it, remove the red-eye effect). Just be sure to have a reliable physical or cloud backup system — or, better yet, both. Using an external hard drive and a cloud-based program such as Dropbox is smart. You can also easily share digitized photos with relatives and friends.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move6

Photo Negatives

Don’t toss old-school photo negatives; preserve them, then toss them. It’s a DIY job if you’re using a professional-grade scanner; otherwise, mail-order scanning services such as DigMyPics and ScanCafe can convert your negatives, fixing scratches and correcting exposure in the process.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move7


If you’re still shoving receipts into shoeboxes — gas receipts in the stillettos box, food receipts in the loafers box! — simplify your stash. Apps like Expensify (intended for business expenses, but great for organizing household ones, too) instantly rid your wallet of receipts before they start piling up. Upload a smartphone photo of each receipt and the program will automatically categorize it. Remember, if you’re tapped for an IRS audit, you’ll need many records going back 7 years; keep physical copies of your W2s and other sensitive documents until risk of an audit has passed.

Lighten Up- What to Digitize Before You Move8

Vinyl LPs

Audiophiles may scoff at the thought of digitizing vinyl, because the sound quality is diminished — but it is a space-saver. With a USB connection and a program like Audacity, you can digitize your records; it’s not a lightning-fast process (you may burn through a turntable needle), but start early enough and you’ll spare your moving crew a few boxes.

How to Host the Ultimate Garage Sale

How to Host the Ultimate Garage Sale

Garage sales are a lot of work — there’s no getting around that. But they are still a good way to get rid of stuff you don’t need, and they’ll put some cold, hard cash in your pocket. Blogger Chris Heiska, aka “The Yard Sale Queen,” has been scouring garage sales for years, so we turned to her for pro tips on hosting the most amazing garage sale ever.

1. Time it right.
Many people are paid on the first of the month, so a garage sale in the first or second week of the month may be more profitable than one at the end. You should also limit your time frame: two-day sales are becoming passé, Heiska says. And you’ll get early birds no matter what, so she recommends confining the sale to 7 a.m. to noon on, say, a Saturday only.

2. Create buzz.
To get it all sold, you have to get noticed. Start with prominent, legible signs. (This may not be a job for kiddos, as much as they’d like to help.) If there’s a chance of rain, make sure your signs are waterproof; office supply stores can laminate signs for you. Place signs on community bulletin boards and in high-traffic zones near your home (be sure to follow local sign ordinances). Ask a neighbor to drive by your signs and verify they’re legible and clear; have another pal make the rounds halfway through the sale to make sure the signs are still standing. And go digital: List your sale on community boards, neighborhood blogs, Craigslist, Facebook and Twitter.

3. Offer treats.
Heiska remembers one garage sale that was a big hit because it featured nonalcoholic daiquiris for $1. The colorful drinks grabbed the attention of people driving by, and shoppers stuck around longer than they normally would have. Coffee for early birds and candy at the checkout make friendly treats.

4. Set up shop.
Take time to thoroughly clean, neatly fold and attractively display everything you sell. “Books and CDs should be displayed with the titles all facing the same way, to make them easier to read,” Heiska says. She also recommends one big sign for items that are all priced similarly — “All CDs $1 each; softcover books 50 cents each” — to keep pricing easy. Keep fragile and valuable items close to your checkout area.

5. Attract clothes horses.
Displays of run-down clothing can tell potential shoppers to keep driving; higher-quality clothes hangers (instead of cheap wire ones) will make your sale feel more upscale and will hold shoppers’ interest. To minimize clothing chaos, Heiska recommends a portable clothing rack; prominently display any standout items, such as formal dresses or designer-brand coats, on the rack’s ends to entice buyers. No rack? Get creative and hang a shower rod between two ladders.

6. Price it right.
Don’t start the day with sky-high prices. “Start with a reasonable price you would like to get for something,” Heiska says. “If a customer sees too many high prices, they may leave quickly. It’s good to have a variety of items at a variety of prices.”

7. Stock up on supplies.
To avoid fumbling with cash and change in your pockets, store money in a cash box (don’t leave it unattended!) or a cashier’s belt — and be sure you have plenty of small bills and coins to make change. Have plenty of newspaper, bubble wrap and shopping bags handy for wrapping glassware and other breakables. Roll out (or borrow) a dolly for moving heavy furniture to shoppers’ cars; a skateboard or two can work in a pinch.

8. Handle hagglers.
Stand your ground with bargainers asking for price reductions that are more than you’re comfortable with. If someone seems genuinely intrigued by an item, hold your ground. Chances are, he or she is making the garage-sale rounds and will return in an hour. An exception: Consider letting heavy furniture (and anything that might be tedious to lug to a donation center) sell cheap and early; choose your battles!

CHECKLIST: Your Last Box

CHECKLIST- Your Last Box

Moving day is hectic, to put it mildly, and the last thing you want is for important items — like your wallet, cell phone charger or your kid’s favorite blankie (imagine the tears!) — to be boxed, loaded and driven away in the moving truck. To help you avoid such pitfalls, we’ve devised a list of essentials you’ll need on moving day, plus additional must-haves you’ll want the second you arrive at your new home. Pack them all in your last box (or two!).

For the New Place:

Lightbulbs & Flashlight
To ensure you don’t get stuck moving in the dark.

Garbage Bags
To round up those pesky packing peanuts.

Basic Tools
To reassemble furniture.

Extension Cords & Batteries
To get power where you need it in your new home.

Cleaning Supplies & Paper Towels
To give the bathroom and kitchen a quick cleanup as soon as you arrive.

To cover your bases, pack a roll of each — Scotch, duct, masking, etc.

Scissors or Box Cutters
To open boxes.

Pen & Paper
To jot quick notes.

For You

Toilet Paper
So you don’t get stuck without a roll.

Shower Liner and Rings
So you can clean up and feel human again.

Bath Towels
So you don’t have to dig through boxes in the buff.

So you have everything you need — soap, razor and shampoo — to clean up.

So you don’t have to sleep on a bare, fresh-off-the truck mattress.

Coffee Supplies
So you remain alert. Bring a coffee pot or tea kettle, and be sure to pack instant coffee (or tea), plus single-serving creamers and sugars.

Bottle Opener & Corkscrew
So you can make your first toast in your new home.

So you have enough food to last until you locate the pots-and-pans box.

So you don’t have to unpack and wash dishes, pack plastic or disposable plates, cups and utensils.

First-Aid Kit
So you’re covered in the unlikely case of a moving accident!

For Your Family

Curtain or Makeshift Shade
Don’t let the sun’s first rays wake your exhausted family.

Beloved Toys or Books
Don’t leave a blanky, binky or lovey behind!

Pet Supplies
Pack Fluffy’s bowl, leash, essential toys and at least a day’s worth of food.

Camera & Charger
Start snapping new memories instantly!

PLUS: What Not To Pack
Keep these items off the truck and close to you on moving day:

Important documents (e.g., passports, marriage license, birth certificates, any records containing bank account information or Social Security numbers, and any other legal documents)
Phone and charger
Laptop and charger
A change of clothes (one for each member of your household)
Snacks and water (for kids and pets)
A child’s special toy or blanket (if they can’t bear to pack it)
Tape measure
Credit and ATM cards
Any other valuables, heirlooms or irreplaceable items

CHECKLIST: What to Measure Before You Move

CHECKLIST- What to Measure Before You Move

Measure twice, move once: This is the rule to remember so you don’t get stuck prying out a door frame to get your couch inside, or hiring a crane to swing your foosball table in through a bedroom window. Here’s a list of every measurement you should take to ensure your stuff can actually move in on moving day.

Your Stuff

Bookcases & Armoires
Measure the width, depth, height and diagonal height (see “How to Measure Diagonal Height,” below).

Measure the length, depth, back height and diagonal height (measure each piece of a sectional sofa separately). Determine whether legs can be removed.

Measure the width, depth and height. Determine whether removing drawers shortens the depth.

Measure the width and height.

Tables & Desks
Measure length, width and height. Determine whether legs are removable.

Measure width, depth and height. Determine whether doors are removable.

Measure length, width and height. Assess its bendability.

Measure length, depth and height. Consider hiring a professional piano mover.

Billiards & Gaming Tables
Measure length, width and height. Determine whether legs are removable.

In the New House

Main Door
Measure the height and width of the door opening, as well as the clearance of the entryway: Is there a radiator or step immediately inside? How far can you walk before you hit a wall? Finally, measure the ceiling height inside the entry.

Secondary Doors
Measure the height, width and clearance of the openings of side, patio or deck doors. Sliding glass doors often have bigger openings than traditional doors.

The Biggest Window
Measure the height, width and clearance of the largest window that opens, as well as its height from the ground outside. A window may be the best entry for some items.

Measure the width and ceiling height from the first step (not the ground floor), and take the same measurements of the last step; use the smallest width and height measurements. Measure the length, width, ceiling height and clearance of any landings or turns.

Measure the width and ceiling height of hallways, as well as the clearance of connecting doorways.

Low-Hanging Ceiling Fixtures
Measure the space from the ground up to low ceiling fans and chandeliers that may pose a hazard for moving tall items.

PLUS: How to Measure Diagonal Height
Diagonal height tells you whether an item can tilt around doorway and stairway turns when it can’t slide straight through. For a rectangular item like a bookcase, find the diagonal height by measuring from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. For sofas, draw an imaginary line between the highest point of the couch’s back and the highest point on the couch’s arm; find the midpoint of that line, and measure the distance from the midpoint to the couch’s back leg.

10 Genius Packing Hacks for Moving Tricky Items

10 Genius Packing Hacks for Moving Tricky Items
Sigh! If only everything in your home were featherlight and cube-shaped and easily slipped into a standard box. For the stuff that isn’t and won’t, 10 clever time-saving ways to pack.

1. Knives
Keep safe by storing sharp knives inside oven mitts. These cushiony kitchen gloves offer built-in bubble-wrap-like protection, minus the popping sound.

2. Power Cords
Don’t throw away empty toilet-paper rolls; use them to keep your umpteen power cords organized. Just wind cords around your hand and stuff inside the roll, where they’ll stay neat and untangled.

3. Books
You might not need your roller suitcase for vacation anytime soon, but drag it out of the closet anyway: It’s perfect for moving heavy books without breaking your back.

4. Jewelry
And you thought ice cube trays were good only for chilling your happy-hour cocktail. Instead of filling them with water, load dry, empty trays with earrings, rings and delicate necklaces and then cover tightly with plastic wrap.

5. Flatware
Break out the plastic wrap again — this time, for your forks, knives and spoons. Simply lift your flatware tray with its contents out of its current drawer and wrap tightly with the plastic. When you get to your new home, unwrap, slip the tray into its new spot, and you’re done!

6. Glasses
Make friends with the folks at your local liquor store, and ask them to hold aside a couple of wine boxes for you. These cardboard boxes are designed with a dozen compartments, which make cozy storage units for delicate glasses and cups.

7. Clothes
Instead of folding your entire closet into boxes (yawn), keep clothes on hangers and slip them into 30-gallon drawstring trash bags. Cut a small hole in the middle of each bag’s sealed end, so you can pull the hangers through; use twist ties to bind hangers together. Pull the bag down over the clothes and tie a knot with the drawstring. Congratulations — you’ve mastered a DIY garment bag!

8. Mattresses
To prevent your mattresses from getting dirty on the moving truck, cover the tops and bottoms with old fitted sheets. You’ll sleep better knowing your mattresses aren’t grimy.

9. Dishes
Buy a package of disposable dinner-size foam plates, and place one between each plate in your china and everyday (ceramic, stoneware) sets. Instant cushioning!

10. Screws and Bolts
After dismantling furniture, its hardware can be easily misplaced — and, let’s face it, all screws look pretty much alike. Your best bet is to store and label each set in a plastic sandwich bag, and then affix the bag to the underside of its corresponding furniture with masking tape.

The Empty Nester’s Guide to Moving On and Letting Go

The Empty Nester’s Guide to Moving On and Letting Go

Your kids have moved out for the last time (or so they say), and you’re ready to downsize. But doing so is all about getting rid of what doesn’t matter, holding on to what does — and knowing the difference.

Julie Morse, a resident of Lake Bluff, Illinois, knew from her experience as a Realtor that using space wisely is tantamount to downsizing. But as a mother of six grown children, she sought to strike a balance between tossing everything and saving cherished childhood items.

So when Morse and her husband moved from a 2,000-square-foot house to a 1,200-square-foot townhome, they downsized gradually by renting a storage unit. “I think it’s good to ease in, which is where the storage unit is helpful,” says Morse. “Have things in a keep pile, a maybe pile and a get-rid-of pile. The maybe pile becomes important, because you should think through it. Because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Deciding what to keep often comes down to determining if the item is useful and personally significant, sentimental but not really useful, or easily replaceable and taking up space. When Cynthia McIntyre and her husband downsized following a move from Indianapolis to Hastings, Minnesota, they donated or sold some of the furnishings and stuff their three adult children had left behind, but saved the furniture that McIntyre’s father-in-law had built for the kids when they were young. She stored additional heirloom items in a curio cabinet, giving them an organized home. “We kept what was most precious,” says McIntyre. “The youngest two don’t have kids yet and they don’t want it now, but maybe they will once they have kids.”

Both Morse and McIntyre were able to create space for the things they (and their kids) valued by installing closet organizing systems and additional storage. Morse carved out space for a closet in a bathroom, while McIntyre added large cabinets to her laundry room. Both women say they felt the effort was worthwhile.

“Downsize with a deliberate sense, but also with a sense of caution that you don’t go too far too fast,” says Morse. “I love living in our condo. It’s sleek, uncluttered and extremely organized. But if I had to get rid of the posterity stuff — things that were the maybes — I think I would have gone too far.”

Let It Go: 10 Things to Ditch Before the Moving Truck Arrives

Let It Go- 10 Things to Ditch Before the Moving Truck Arrives

Everyone has too much stuff, and that becomes super clear when it’s time to start packing for a move. Do you really need 17 frayed bath towels, or a drawerful of expired antibiotics? Take a hard look at your old or [cringe!] still-new-but-never-used belongings and you’ll find plenty of things to sell, donate, recycle or trash — anything but stick in a box headed to your new home! Consider saying “buh-bye” to these items:

1. Old Paint
The colors are dated, the buckets are half full and — admit it — you have no intention of using any of it again. Donate leftover latex paint that’s still in good shape (not lumpy or dry) to a local school or charity, such as Habitat for Humanity; take oil-based paint to an authorized disposal facility in your area.

2. Tired Pots and Pans
Has Aunt Rhoda’s hand-me-down cookware seen better days? If it’s scorched, scratched or dented, recycle it; for nonstick pans, consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for disposal (some coatings can’t be recycled). Either way, cross one heavy box off your list!

3. Toilet Brush
The only place this germy, bacteria-laden cleaning tool belongs is in the garbage. Spring for a new brush in your new bathroom.

4. Expired Medications
Think of them like milk: Once they’re past their freshness date, old meds lose their potency and may become chemically altered. That’s why you need to get rid of them. But you shouldn’t automatically flush them down the toilet, which may compromise the water supply; instead, follow the Food and Drug Administration’s disposal guidelines.

5. Unused Gifts
Maybe it’s owl-emblazoned napkin rings, a bamboo steamer or a neon plaid tablecloth—if you received it for your wedding (or your last housewarming party) and still haven’t opened it, it’s ready for the sell or donate pile.

6. Coffee Mugs and Souvenir Cups
Yes, you are the “World’s Greatest Napper,” and that visit to “Alcatraz, 2006” was certainly memorable, but if too many souvenir mugs or plastic cups are crowding your cabinets, it’s time to edit your collection. Pick six of your favorites, and recycle the rest.

7. Plastic Takeout Containers
No judgment here about your eating habits, but if you’ve got enough containers to start your own restaurant, it’s time to head to the recycle bin with every last one of these beauties.

8. Anything That Doesn’t Fit
Sadly, moving closets won’t magically make that little black dress from college fit again. Don’t bother moving ill-fitting clothes or anything you haven’t worn in the past 6 months; direct them straight to the “donate” box instead.

9. Vases
Lucky you: Every birthday and Valentine’s Day, someone sends you flowers in a vase. If the containers are cheap glass or plastic, march them to the “donate” pile before the next delivery arrives.

10. Linens
Give your worn-out towels and sheets a second life by dropping them off at your local animal shelter, which will use them to care for abandoned dogs and cats. While you’re at it, assess your bed-pillow collection. If any pillow isn’t worthy of your head resting on it at night, it’s not worthy of your overnight guests’, either!

Get It Sold: 10 Tips From a Home Staging Pro

Get It Sold- 10 Tips From a Home Staging Pro
They say you only get one chance at a first impression. So if would-be buyers have already sidestepped your bursting-at-the-seams closet or shuddered at your dreary laundry room, you can’t undo it — but you can do some strategic home staging before the next house-hunter shows up.

Barb Nazzaro, a professional house stager who runs A Simply Staged Home, in Natick, Massachusetts, insists that it’s essential to stage. “When people walk into a house, they form an opinion almost instantaneously.” There’s a knee-jerk reaction that happens, she says; within seconds, buyers either adore the place or want to flee. And while homes in hot neighborhoods may sell themselves, Nazzaro says any home can benefit from staging to bump up the asking price and help speed a sale.

“People see gorgeous homes on television and want exactly that for themselves,” Nazzaro says. And, she adds, just as you wouldn’t wear sweatpants to a job interview, your home needs to put its best foot forward. Moving represents a fresh start, and if your home isn’t clean and doesn’t evoke a peaceful feeling, potential buyers will bail.

Here’s how to make your house gorgeous for its time in the spotlight:
1. Purge the hallway closet.
Remove at least 70 percent of the coats. “Wooden hangers are great investments,” says Nazzaro. And make sure each coat is facing the same way. Nazzaro also likes to hang just one beautiful red raincoat in the hallway, with rain boots neatly arranged on a doormat, to set a boutiquelike tone.
2. Edit the china cabinet.
A chaotic collection of mismatched teacups and saucers inherited from your great-grandmother looks more Hoarders than home sweet home. “I like to see a nice, clean and organized, elegant, understated china cabinet,” Nazzaro says. “It speaks to how entertaining will go.” Pare down and clean out, and store items you don’t really need right now, using china cases designed for the job.
3. Liven up the laundry room.
It goes without saying that drip-drying your unmentionables during an open house probably won’t get the place sold. But put extra effort into transforming the room where the dullest household chore takes place to show buyers that your laundry room is a place of peace, not punishment. Use apothecary jars to hold wooden clothespins and powdered laundry detergent, clear everything else off the shelves and lay down a small, plush area rug. “Who lives like that?” Nazzaro asks. “Not too many people! But we’re trying to tell a story.”
4. Tidy the kitchen cabinets.
Yes, house-hunters will open and close your kitchen cabinets a half-dozen times during walk-throughs. Clear out the clutter — you’ll have to pack up that fondue set sooner or later! — and make sure pots and pans are sparkling clean and in their place.
5. Scale back on photos and wall hangings.
Remove any family photos (visitors want to envision their family in the home, not yours) and any art that might evoke a strong reaction. “Religious icons and anything that really reflects a personal taste should go,” Nazzaro says, recalling a client whose basement was filled with nude sketches. “They were probably very expensive,” she says, “but I said, ‘These have to go!’”
6. Add a bed skirt.
Nobody wants to inspect your slipper collection or your dust-bunny farm. “A dust ruffle or bed skirt is an absolute MUST.” Nazzaro laughs, “I’ve worked with bachelors who don’t know what they are. But a bed skirt is a finishing touch that completes a room.”
7. …And while you’re at it, change your comforter or duvet.
Nazzaro recommends a solid, neutral-color comforter or duvet, and a tasteful arrangement of throw pillows and blankets. “Make the bed look luxurious.”
8. Round up the kid stuff.
Have a mountain of craft supplies in the dining room, or a giant table for the little one’s train set in the center of the living room? That only tells potential buyers that your home’s too small for a family. Start packing early, and box up the Barbie dolls and board games first.
9. Beautify bedroom closets.
Again, the idea is to make the space feel like there’s ample storage; the closets shouldn’t appear overstuffed. Get rid of lonely wire hangers, neatly fold and stack clothing and clear all but essentials off the tops of shelves. Store most nonhanging clothes and accessories in pretty bins — “Not an old wooden crate,” Nazzaro advises (or — the horror! — old milk crates you used in your dorm). Metal cubes are fine in the kids’ rooms, she adds, but not the master closet, which should feel more upscale.
10. Don’t forget the basement and the attic.
Many potential buyers will want to poke around. Nazzaro has heard of buyers who ask for a ladder so they can climb into the attic — which means that staging your house by stuffing your belongings into the attic or the basement will backfire. It’s better to store your items attractively, or simply get them out of the house.

Starting Fresh: Tips for Buying New Towels, Sheets and Dishes

As you packed up for the big move, did you ruthlessly distill your belongings down to only those that you love or that are in good shape? If you ditched — or (eek!) broke — a mismatched dish set, or abandoned sheets and towels that had seen better days, here are practical tips for restocking.

    Picking the Perfect Towel

So you used all your towels to pack your china and now you need new ones? Fine towels can make every morning just a little special. Choose standard-size towels if that’s your preference, but larger bath sheets have that upscale-hotel feel to them (and that’s a great way to start your day). Some people prefer to double up — a bath towel for hair and a bath sheet for body — so think about your shower habits as you shop.

Check for softness. Egyptian cotton towels have longer, denser loops and are often more durable and super soft. But no matter where your towel is from, check out the nap of the towel. Run your hand along the fibers. If the towel’s backing shows, it’s not dense enough, won’t absorb well and probably won’t last as long as you’d like.
Check the weight. Does the towel feel heavy for its size? That’s a great sign. Check the edges and the quality of the sewing on the seams. Straight seams — not curved ones — indicate a well-made towel.

    The Sweetest Sheets

The perfect sheets can mean sweet dreams. Whereas, lower-quality ones can be irritating or will need replacing sooner rather than later. Thread count — which indicates the number of threads woven per inch, ranging from 200 up to 800 or higher — is a quick way to judge quality, though it’s not the only factor to consider.

Sheets with higher thread count are softer and often feel smoother. But high-thread-count sheets are more expensive. Before making such an investment, consider how important a luxurious bed is to you and how you really like to feel when you’re snuggled up at night.

Cotton fabric is a time-honored choice, but it’s not the only material that feels soft and smooth. Flannel and fleece sheets are warm and toasty for winter months. Jersey sheets are like sleeping in an old T-shirt. Percale sheets are crisp but lightweight, and sateen has a silky and luxurious feel.

Particularly if you sleep with multiple pillows, consider buying an extra set of pillowcases, as they’re often washed more frequently. And it’s easiest to coordinate the color and style of throw pillows when you’re shopping for sheets — so browse decorative pillows, too.

    The Dish on Dishes

It’s not an exaggeration to say you should really love your dishes — after all, you’ll use them three times a day! Of course, you should buy dishes in a color or pattern that fits your style, but they should also fit your lifestyle: If you regularly throw elegant dinner parties, consider a set of fine china, but if you entertain with buffalo wings more than duck á l’orange, a more casual set will do. Do you regularly refrigerate or reheat leftovers? Search for a set that’s fridge- and microwave-safe.

Fine china appears delicate, but is often more durable than casual dinnerware; both porcelain and bone china are quite strong. Patterns range from modern to traditional, and may have metallic bands or painted details that can’t stand up to extreme heat, cold or microwaves; you might consider choosing a set that can be passed down through generations. Typically, fine china is sold by the place setting — each set contains all the pieces a single person needs at a table.

Alternatively, durable casual dishware can endure everyday use. Often made of stoneware (refined clay) or earthenware (unrefined clay), these dishes come in an array of solids and patterns, many of which are dishwasher- and microwave-safe. These dishes are usually sold in boxed sets or individually (called “open stock”); determine whether you need an entire set, or single pieces to mix and match.

Can’t decide between the two? Consider a best-of-both-worlds set of “casual china,” porcelain or bone china dinnerware in a solid color or transitional pattern that can work for weeknight meals and more formal dinner parties.

Design Mashups: How to Combine Two Different Styles

Design Mashups How to Combine Two Different Styles

You’ve made the big decision and are moving in together, but realize you have totally different styles and tastes. Let interior designer Kyle Schuneman show you how to combine two different styles in a dining room and a living room — easily and successfully.

Dining Room Design Mashup: Neutral versus Color


Your New Home Essentials Checklist

Your New Home essentials Checklist

You’ve made the move and now you are ready to settle in. Where do you begin? This handy list of new home essentials will more than get you started.


Paper Towel Holder
Drawer Organizers
Cabinet Organizers
Dish Rack/Drying Mat
Spice Rack
Water Filtration
Cutting Board
Kitchen Towels/Mitts
Shelf Liners
Food Storage
Spatulas/Mixing Bowls


Shower Curtain
Shower Liner
Shower Hooks/Rings
Bath Rug
Bath/Hand Towels
Tub Mat
Toilet Brush/Holder
Toilet Seat
Toothbrush Holder
Soap Dish
Shower Rod
Shower Caddy
Towel Bars/Racks
Air Fresheners


Curtains & Drapes
Blackout Options
Blinds & Shades
Scarves & Valances
Tie Backs
Curtain Rods
Window Hardware


Cleaning Products
Hand Soap
Dust Pan/Mop/Broom
Room Fresheners
Trash Can/Trash Bag
Step Stool
Lint Rollers


Light Bulbs
Extension Cords
Surge Protectors
Smoke/CO2 Detectors
First Aid Kit
Night Lights
Basic Tool Set


Door Hooks
Double Closet Rod
Shelf Organizers
Shoe Racks
Storage Bins
Cube Storage Units
Door Mirrors
Drawer Organizers
Under Bed Storage
Space Bags
Accessory Organizer


Mattress Pad
Mattress Protector
Mattress/Air Mattress
Pillow Protectors
Duvet Covers


Toss Pillows
Picture Frames
Wall Art
Area Rug/Door Mats
Wall Hanging Kits

How Shoppable Content Increases Purchases


With a Microzine you can introduce Shoppable Content, a new way for brands to offer direct links to purchase items featured in their content.

Shoppable Content transforms the way consumers shop on mobile. This new approach to merchandizing your branded content like blogs and video elicits brand loyalty and increases ROI. The best news for brands is that you do not have to create any new content.  Microzines enable you to leverage your existing content to simplify your consumer’s path to purchase–from content to cart.

Microzines Drive Higher Consumer Engagement


When a Microzine is run as an interstitial ad, brands can experience engagement rates as high as 9% with a Microzine from Zumobi.

Microzine interstitial ads cover the full screen of a mobile device and offer users a high-level of engagement with your brand. These are typically displayed at natural transition points in the flow of an app or mobile website destination, such as between articles or activities.

Microzines curate a brand’s content into innovative mobile experiences with advanced targeting capabilities. Zumobi offers premium custom audiences to meet your exact targeting specifications. Brands can leverage our app-based retargeting, behavioral targeting contextual targeting, geo targeting and more.

Does Your Retirement Portfolio Need More Stocks?

MAY 13, 2016

How big should your stock allocation be when you retire? The financial industry has devoted much intellectual muscle to the search for an “ideal” allocation. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The case for stocks is pretty straightforward: Historically, they’ve been one of the best sources of growth and returns. But they’re riskier than other investments. The success of your retirement plan depends in part on how you balance these qualities. On one hand, your portfolio needs to continue growing even after you retire so you don’t outlive your savings. On the other, you don’t want to endanger your savings by taking unnecessary risks.

So the “right” amount of stocks really comes down to your individual needs and preferences, which we’ll explore in more detail below. And what makes sense at the beginning of retirement may not make sense later on, so you will need to make adjustments over time.

“You don’t need all of the money for your retirement on the day you retire. Your portfolio should continue to grow over the years,” says Rob Williams, Managing Director of Income Planning at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “What’s important is that you have the right balance at the beginning of retirement.”

So how do you strike that balance? That depends on a few things.

What’s in your portfolio?

For most investors, stocks should account for anywhere from 40% to 60% of their portfolios in the years just prior to and after retirement, with the rest invested in bonds and cash.

Where you fall on that range depends on factors including your risk tolerance, wealth, how much you expect to rely on your portfolio for income, and your anticipated longevity.

For example, if you have a long time horizon, are more risk tolerant and worry your savings will fall short, you might aim for a stock allocation of 60% when you retire. If you have a shorter time horizon, adequate savings and are less comfortable with risk, you might fall closer to the 40% end of the spectrum. What’s important is that your portfolio is geared to go the distance.

“You may retire, but your portfolio shouldn’t retire with you,” Rob says. “Your portfolio should continue growing over the course of your retirement.”

Once you’ve set your allocation, you will generally need to adjust it over the next 15 to 20 years by reducing your risk as you shift from saving to stability. The diagrams below show one approach to managing this transition.

A portfolio for all seasons

With an appropriately balanced allocation, you should be ready for whatever the market throws your way. This is important: How the markets are doing at the start of your retirement can have an impact that lasts for years.

If you retire during a bull market, congratulations. Your portfolio could get an extra boost that will add to your savings and give you a little more freedom in your spending plans.

But what about a bear market? This is where the value of good planning is most obvious, as a well-structured portfolio can provide some cushion to help manage market risk.

The key is to minimize a phenomenon known as sequence-of-returns risk. Basically, this refers to the possibility that your savings could be permanently damaged if you start withdrawing from your retirement account at the same time that it’s losing value. Selling assets when prices are down often means you burn through them faster—and that leaves you with little fuel to drive growth if markets recover. If the decline is steep or lasts a while, that could make it even harder to make up lost ground.

To help protect yourself against sequence-of-returns risk, you could consider using a “bucketing” approach. It works like this:

Bucket one: Set aside enough cash to cover your spending needs, after nonportfolio income sources like Social Security or a pension, for the next 12 months. In other words, if your plan is to withdraw $40,000 a year from your portfolio, you would keep that entire amount in your cash bucket. Treat this money as “spent.”

Bucket two: Put another two to four years’ worth of cash into assets that can be liquidated if needed. For example, if we stick with the $40,000-a-year plan, you’d put $80,000–$160,000 in easily liquidated assets such as cash alternatives or short-term bonds.

Bucket three: This is where you’ll keep your stock allocation and other more aggressive investments.

The idea is that you should have enough cash or cash alternatives on hand to cover your expenses over the near term, while at the same time aiming to preserve your portfolio’s growth potential over the longer term. After all, over the past 50 years, it took the S&P 500® Index slightly more than three years, on average, to recover from a downturn, according to research from the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

“With several years’ worth of living expenses positioned in lower-volatility investments, like cash, cash alternatives and bonds, you can feel more comfortable taking on the risks that can help you get to your goals,” says Rob.

At the end of the day, your target allocation—that mix of stocks, bonds and other assets—should reflect your long-term priorities in retirement. You shouldn’t change it just because of a temporary setback in the market.

Making your portfolio last

The bottom line is that you’ll likely need at least some stocks throughout retirement for diversific­ation and growth potential.

It also helps to stay flexible. Check on your portfolio regularly—say, once a year—to make sure it still fits with your plans. You can always adjust as needed.

Important Disclosures

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, please consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.

Examples provided are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.

Fixed income securities are subject to increased loss of principal during periods of rising interest rates. Fixed income investments are subject to various other risks including changes in credit quality, market valuations, liquidity, prepayments, early redemption, corporate events, tax ramifications and other factors.

International investments involve additional risks, which include differences in financial accounting standards, currency fluctuations, geopolitical risk, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets.

Diversification and asset allocation strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets.

The Schwab Center for Financial Research is a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.


Pre-Retirement Playbook

MARCH 10, 2016

Important Disclosures

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, Schwab recommends consultation with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, Financial Planner or Investment Manager.

This example is hypothetical and provided for illustrative purposes only. It is not intended to represent any specific investment products and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.


Winter Rum Balls


Part libation part dessert, our adult friendly Winter Rum Balls are the perfect easy treat for parties and make a great conversation piece too. Add extra powdered sugar for a super snowy holiday look.


  • 1 box (11oz) of Nabisco Nilla Wafers
  • 5 oz. ground almonds
  • 4 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp. Karo Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 cup Bacardi Select
  • powdered sugar


  1. In a blender, or food processor, crush the Nilla Wafers to a powder. Some lumps are OK.
  2. Place the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and quickly mix with hands. Don’t mix too long or the texture changes into a dense, stringy mix. You want it to feel like Marzipan as much as possible.
  3. Roll into balls (about 2 tsp.) and drench in powdered sugar
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days (ideal: 1 week) so that the texture can develop even more.
  5. Before serving, allow the balls to reach room temperature (whilst still in a container) for full flavor.

Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake


We used fragrant favorite Fall flavors to create our Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake. From cinnamon to cloves and allspice to pumpkin, this charming cheesecake will please any palate.



  • 2  1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 3/4 cups of unsalted butter, melted


  • 1  15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1/2  tsp. salt
  • 1/4  tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4  tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4  tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2  tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 lbs. (3 packages) cream cheese, left to soften at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 large eggs, left at room temperature about 30 minutes
  • 1 cup heavy cream



  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Pour graham cracker crumbs into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add sugar.
  3. Add ginger.
  4. Add cinnamon.
  5. Add cloves.
  6. Mix together with a fork, until combined then add melted butter.
  7. Mix until butter is completely incorporated.
  8. Pour mixture into a greased 9″ spring form pan.
  9. Press crust down and slightly up the sides of the pan.
  10. Bake crust for 15 minutes, until edges are just slightly browned.
  11. Set on a cooling rack to cool.



  1. Take a baking sheet and line it with three layers of paper towels.
  2. Scoop contents of 1-15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin onto the paper towels.
  3. Spread pumpkin evenly onto the towels using a spatula.
  4. Use a second triple layer of paper towels and press down on top of pumpkin to remove excess moisture.
  5. Peel away top layer of paper towels.
  6. Fold pumpkin onto itself.
  7. Fold pumpkin onto itself again, and slide onto the baking sheet.
  8. In a stand mixer, with the flat paddle attachment, mix cream cheese until smooth.
  9. Add the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt.
  10. Mix well then scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  11. Add the pumpkin, vanilla and lemon juice.
  12. Mix well and then again scrape sides with a spatula.
  13. Add the first three eggs, one at a time mix well, then scrape bowl again.
  14. Add the last two eggs, mix well then scrape the bowl yet again.
  15. Add the heavy whipping cream.
  16. Mix well and give the bowl a final scrape and stir by hand.
  17. Pour batter into waiting crust.
  18. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  19. Let cool for 1 hour, and then remove Springform pan.
  20. Let cool for an additional 2-3 hours, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate until time to serve. Chill for 4 hours, up to three days.

Hot Toddy


The tantalizing Hot Toddy is simple, yet so satisfying to cozy up with after a long day.


  • 3 oz. Maker’s Mark
  • 1 oz. honey (more to taste)
  • Add hot water
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar
  • Lemon


  1. Combine the lemon, honey, and water over the stove.
  2. Cover and heat, stirring occasionally, until the honey dissolves completely, 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Add the Maker’s Mark and stir to combine.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and serve warm with lemon slices and a cinnamon and sugar rim.

Oreo Peppermint Chocolate Cake


Re-energize and indulge in this Oreo Peppermint Chocolate Cake.

Secret: This amazing treat starts out as a cake from the box making it easy to create this chocolate peppermint perfection.


  • 1 chocolate cake mix, prepared and baked according to the directions on the box
  • 1 cup peppermint dairy creamer
  • 14.5 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 jar Smuckers hot fudge sundae sauce
  • 1/4 cup peppermint dairy creamer
  • 1 cup crushed Oreos
  • 8 oz. Cool Whip
  • Andes Peppermint Chips for topping
  • (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
  • Crushed Oreos for topping (approximately 1 cup)


  1. Once the cake has cooled, use the bottom of a wooden spoon to poke 20+ holes (the size of a pencil top eraser) in the cake.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and 1 cup of the peppermint dairy creamer. Pour over the cake, trying to fill in the holes.
  3. In the same bowl, whisk together the hot fudge sundae sauce and 1/4 cup peppermint dairy creamer. Mix in 1 cup crushed Oreos.
  4. Pour and spread the fudge mixture over the cake as evenly as possible.
  5. Spread the cool whip over the fudge. Sprinkle on the Andes candy bits and crushed Oreos (as much or as little as you want).
  6. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours, until the sweetened condensed mixture has soaked into the cake and it’s thoroughly chilled. Cut and enjoy.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Rice Krispy Treats


Say Happy Holidays with a tasty “Snap, Crackle, POP”.  Our Peanut Butter Pretzel Rice Krispies are picnic friendly and bring together all your favorite ingredients to make a lip-smacking statement.

Warning: your dad may be demanding these daily.


  • 3 cups pretzels
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 package marshmallows  (16oz.)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 package chocolate chips (16oz.)


  1. Grease a 13×9 inch pan using butter or cooking spray
  2. Crush the pretzels into bite-sized pieces
  3. Melt the butter in a large pot over low heat
  4. When butter is melted, add the marshmallows and stir constantly until melted
  5. Add the peanut butter and stir until well mixed
  6. Remove from heat
  7. Immediately add the crushed pretzels and Rice Krispies and stir until well mixed
  8. Transfer the mixture to the pan and press down into the shape of the pan
  9. In a saucepan, melt the chocolate chips over low heat
  10. When fully melted, drizzle the chocolate over the Rice Krispie Treats

Vanilla-spiced Caramel & Pear Tart


A classic pear is the  inspiration for our Vanilla-Spiced Caramel & Pear Tart. Once you taste the pear’s fruity notes paired perfectly with the vanilla and caramel spice, you’ll swear we took the Spring season and put it directly on your plate.



  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-oz. package), thawed, or one 14- to 16-oz. package all-butter puff pastry (1 to 2 sheets, depending on brand), thawed 


  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Generous pinch of coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 medium firm but ripe Anjou pears, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored


  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise in half
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Generous pinch of coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 egg white, beaten to blend
  • Special equipment: 10-inch-diameter Springform pan



  1. Roll out pastry to 12-inch square and trim off corners, forming slightly rounded crust. (If using all-butter puff pastry, roll out to 12-inch round.)
  2. Transfer pastry to 10-inch-diameter Springform pan, pressing pastry firmly onto bottom and 1 to 1 1/2 inches up sides of pan.
  3. Freeze crust until firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.


  1. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over low heat. Add sugar and next 4 ingredients. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring until sugar melts and turns brown (color of peanut butter), about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium; add pears, rounded side down. Cook until pears are almost tender, turning and moving skillet around occasionally to ensure even cooking, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on ripeness of pears.
  4. Carefully turn pears over; continue to cook until pears are very tender, about 10 minutes longer.
  5. Remove skillet from heat; cool pears in skillet with spices (pears will release juice while cooling).


  1. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Add cinnamon, star anise, and cloves.
  2. Increase heat to medium; cook until butter is golden (watch to avoid burning), 3 to 4 minutes. Remove vanilla bean and spices from butter; discard.
  3. Whisk sugar, egg, and coarse salt in medium bowl. Whisk in flour. Gradually whisk browned butter into egg mixture.
  4. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400°F.
  5. Brush frozen crust with beaten egg white.
  6. Pour filling into crust; spread evenly over bottom of crust (filling will be very thin).
  7. Using slotted spatula, remove pears from skillet, allowing excess syrup to drain back into skillet; reserve syrup.
  8. Arrange pears, rounded side up, atop filling (about 9 around edge and 3 in center of pan).
  9. Bake tart until crust is deep golden and filling is set and brown at edges, about 1 hour.
  10. Run small knife around sides of pan to loosen tart. Release pan sides. Transfer tart to platter.
  11. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature to cool slightly until just warm.
  12. Just before serving, boil syrup in skillet until reduced to generous 1/3 cup, 1 to 2 minutes. Discard spices. Drizzle syrup over pears. Serve tart slightly warm.


  • All-butter puff pastry is available frozen at Whole Foods markets. One 14- to 16-oz. package contains two 11-inch rounds.
  • Whole star anise is available in the spice section of some supermarkets.
  • PREPARE AHEAD: Crust can be made  1 day ahead. Cover and keep frozen.
  • PREPARE AHEAD: Pears and filling can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover separately; let stand at room temperature. Whisk filling before using.



Caramelized Onion Dip


Celebrate with some tasty Caramelized Onion Dip. This flavorful concoction is topped with fresh chives and paired with veggie chips for an appealing presentation to impress all your friends.


  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions
  • Thinly sliced kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1  8­-oz. bar cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
  • Thick­cut vegetable chips, for serving


  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium­-low heat.
  2. Add the onions and 1⁄2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the onions, cream cheese, sour cream, chives, 1⁄4 tsp. salt, and 1⁄8 tsp. pepper.
  5. Serve with the chips.­­

TIP:  The dip can be made up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate covered.

Divine Vegan Brownies


Heat things up with irresistible Divine Vegan Brownies. This rich chocolate baked goodie with a healthy flair is sure to win hearts.


  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (consider using apple sauce for a tasty alternative)
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup organic unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp. ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix wet ingredients in large bowl, then dump in all the dry and mix
  3. Bake for about 20-25 minutes

TIP:  If you really LOVE CHOCOLATE like most of us… enhance this with extra chocolate chips.

Cinnamon Cookie Cocktail and Cinnamon Cookies


Spice things up by dipping a flavorsome Cinnamon Cookie in a creamy smooth Cinnamon Cookie Cocktail. This duo has an adult twist that puts the standard cookies and milk to shame.




  • 1 oz. Cinnamon Whiskey (such as Fireball)
  • 1 oz. Irish cream liqueur (such as Baileys or Carolans)


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup softened coconut oil (coconut oil is normally solid at room temperature)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Cinnamon sugar mix: 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon mixed thoroughly



  1. Coat the rim of a tumbler with decorative sugar (optional).
  2. Fill a tumbler with ice.
  3. Add Cinnamon Whiskey and Cream Liqueur then mix well.


  1. In a mixer bowl, cream together sugar, butter, and coconut oil.
  2. Beat egg and vanilla together, add to the mixture then blend well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or until dough is firm enough to roll into balls.
  4. Roll dough into 3/4-inch diameter balls.
  5. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mix then place on lightly greased cookie sheet 1-inch apart
  6. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned
  7. Let cool on baking sheet until firm enough to move to a cooling rack.
  8. Coat the rim of a tumbler with decorative sugar (optional).
  9. Fill a tumbler with ice.
  10. Add Cinnamon Whiskey and Cream Liqueur then mix well.

Rolled Sugar Cookies



  • Prep: 20 m

  • Cook: 8 m

  • Ready In: 3 h

  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

Cinnamon Stars



  1. Stir together the almonds, cinnamon, and lemon zest until combined.
  2. Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Slowly sift in the confectioner’s sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture is stiff. Set aside 1/3 cup of the egg white mixture for the glaze. Fold in the almond mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C). Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a surface that has been sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. Using a 2 1/2-inch star cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheets.
  5. To make the glaze, add the lemon juice to the reserved egg white mixture, stirring until smooth. Brush the tops of the cookies lightly with the glaze. (If the glaze starts to thicken, add a few more drops of lemon juice.)
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When done, they will be light brown and soft in the center. Remove and cool on wire racks.

Gingerbread Men



  • Prep: 25 m

  • Cook: 12 m

  • Ready In: 1 h 37 m

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon; stir into the pudding mixture. Cover, and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease baking sheets. On a floured board, roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness, and cut into man shapes using a cookie cutter. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks.