Let the Barbecues Begin

Despite what the school calendars say, Pacific Northwest summers actually start in late July and continue into September. It’s an excellent time for outdoor entertaining, picnics, and grilling. Barbecues have been the foundation of many good parties and meals at home. While grilling is easy and adds delicious flavor to meats and vegetables, there are safety measures to remember. Here are a few to keep in mind the next time you start the flames.

Location, location, location, and other grill safety measures.

Keep the barbecue at least 10’ away from nearby houses or structures and clear from low
hanging branches. Make sure that the barbecue is stable and won’t tip to one side or topple
over.

Set up somewhere where children and pets can’t get to the grill. Besides the concerns with an open flame, the grill will stay hot for an hour after it’s turned off. Never leave the barbecue unattended – enough said. Keep a fire extinguisher, a pail of sand or a bucket of water nearby in case of fire. Do not turn on a gas grill with the top closed. Gases can build up inside and cause a fire when opened.

Clean the grill regularly, preferably after each use. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning, and remove charred food and debris before using. Coals can take up to 48 hours to burn out and can be added to compost as long as they are made from wood, free from chemicals or additives.

Keep it clean and avoid cross-contamination. Wash hands and utensils with warm soapy water regularly. It’s an easy step to forget, but bacteria can grow on uncooked meats and fish and you don’t want them to spread. This includes serving dishes, cutting boards, and dish towels.

Keep raw meats, chicken, and fish on separate and clean surfaces. Raw food and cooked foods should be kept on different plates/platters. Make sure all surfaces are clean, particularly if you plan on re-using them. Marinate food in the refrigerator and not on the counter. Don’t reuse the sauce – if using some marinade on the cooked food, reserve some uncontaminated sauce for later use.

Make sure to cook food thoroughly. Here are some interior temperature guidelines:
– Hamburgers should have no pink and be 160°
– Chicken, also no pink, 165°
– Salmon, 125° to 130° for a medium finish
– Steak is considered medium-rare at 135°

Let meats sit after taking them off the grill:
– Salmon for 5 minutes
– Steak and other meat for 15 minutes.

Food should not sit out for long, 90 minutes to 2 hours is the maximum time. Better to follow these guidelines:
– Hot food should stay hot. Wrap hot food in foil or put in an insulated container.
– Cold food can be kept on a shallow container on top of ice in a cooler, or stored in the
refrigerator.

When possible, keep beverages in one cooler and food in a different one. The beverage cooler will be opened more regularly, reducing it’s cooling ability faster than one that stays closed.

Environmentally conscientious – every bit helps.

Reduce waste and save money with reusable containers for storage and leftovers. Consider using re-useable plates and silverware.
Eco-friendly plates and utensils are available and can be tossed into compost containers after the meal. Buy local. Our local farmers offer great grilling vegetables, meats, and fruits. These products are fresh and full of flavor. Besides reducing the plastic packaging and mileage that comes with store-bought food, you are supporting our farmers and local economy.

Barbecuing is fun and a great way to enjoy summer. Grilling safety is important to avoid accidents and illness. At your next outdoor event, remember to keep hands, dishes, the grill clean and cook foods thoroughly. Enjoy!

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

New Flooring

Summer can be a good time for home renovations and a great time to replace old flooring, as doors can be kept open to keep dust and odors down to a minimum.

Kitchens and bathrooms are the high traffic areas in our homes. Replacing the flooring can make a room look fresh and contemporary. Here are some helpful considerations to keep in mind when shopping for new flooring. Overall, your new floors should be easy to clean, durable, comfortable to stand on and fit your price point. Slip resistance is an important component to keep in mind, particularly in these rooms where spills and overflows can happen.

Wood floors are good-looking and can be cleaned with a broom, vacuum or light mopping. They are soft and can be scratched or dented. Generally, refinishing wood floors requires a professional. When dry, wood offers good slip resistance and is not recommended for bathrooms. Depending on the variety, wood will be the most expensive choice for flooring.

Porcelain tile floors are easily cleaned with a broom and mop and have a hard protective surface that makes them impervious to water and stain resistant. They are durable, won’t scuff or scratch, and can be texturized for slip resistance. Tile comes in many colors, patterns and easily worked into any decor. On the flip side, tile floors can be cold to walk on, and noisy if walking in heels or hard soled shoes. There are tile products made specifically with slip-resistant materials. Smaller tiles, 2” x 2” are recommended for showers and bathrooms. Tile is in the mid-range price point of flooring materials.

People like to use small rugs and runners on tile and wood to make them more comfortable to stand on. Unfortunately, both of these can be tripping hazards and not recommended in these areas.

Vinyl floors are easy to clean, durable and the most water resistant flooring choice. Vinyl flooring can be damaged by sharp objects, but there are repair systems that work well. It’s economical and there are slip-resistant options available. The drawback to vinyl is that it is made of synthetic material and can not be recycled. A similar product, linoleum, is made from natural materials which makes it a more sustainable product. It is, however, more expensive and less water-resistant than vinyl.

These are the most popular choices of flooring, but this is not a comprehensive list. I recommend consulting with a flooring expert to determine what will work best for you. If your priority is traction and safety, I recommend non-slip vinyl flooring. There are many choices at every price point that will be easy to clean, long-lasting and lovely to look at.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

Are you getting enough sleep?

We are increasingly aware of how good sleep affects our well being. It’s not just the hours spent in bed, it’s also the quality of sleep that is critical for good health. Here are some of the benefits of consistent good nights rest:

  • Helps maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves memory
  • Lowers risk for serious health issues
  • Reduces inflammation

There are several things to do that will help you get a good night’s sleep.

Get ready for bed.

  • Finish eating 2 hours before you go to sleep.
  • Exercise daily (at least 3 hours before bed).
  • Turn off the screens, including phones, tablets, computers, and the t.v.
  • Go to sleep close to the same time every night.
  • Make a rest ritual before bed. Try reading, stretching or taking a leisurely stroll to relax from the day’s stress.

Create a sanctuary.
Your bedroom’s environment can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. Design your surroundings for peace and calm.

  • Make sure you have a good bed. If your mattress is over 8 years old, you might want to consider getting a new one. They lose their integrity over time.
  • Color your room calm. Muted shades of blues, grays, and greens create a restful tone. If you love color, use accents like colorful pillows and throws that can be removed at bedtime.
  • Keep it dark. Light can make it hard to fall asleep, or stay asleep. Look for culprits like digital clocks, cable boxes, computers, and phones. Put them away or cover them up to prevent getting disturbed by them. Dark out shades are great for keeping all of the natural, neighbors and street lights out of your bedroom at night.
  • Keep it quiet. Noises can interrupt your rest. Try closing the windows to keep outside noise belongs. There are lots of options for white noise machines that provide soothing sound and block out annoying sounds.
  • Cool rooms are the best for a good night’s sleep. 67° to 70° is optimal.

Bedroom safety is important.
With the lights turned off, it’s easy to bump into dressers and chairs or trip over rugs and clutter. Keeping a tidy room is a good start to safety and adds to the peaceful zone you’ve created in your sanctuary.

  • Stacked books, baskets or anything else left on the floor should be picked up and stored away.
  • Make sure there are clear paths to doors, the closet, and bathroom.
  • Remove small rugs in the bedroom, bathroom, and halls.
  • dd sensor lights low on the walls and halls, 18” high or so, to light your way to the bathroom.
  • Organize cords and keep them out of walking paths. When possible, it’s best to tack cords down along the base of walls so they are out of the way.

Getting enough quality sleep is important to good health. Improving your nightly rituals, and creating a calm and safe atmosphere in the bedroom will help you get the rest you need. Wake up bright and re-charged to enjoy your day.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

5 Simple Steps to Safety on Your Deck and Porch

May is my favorite month of the year. Besides the excellent celebrations of Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and my birthday, May brings some of the best weather we have in the Pacific Northwest. That means spending time outside on our decks and porches. We want to make sure that both are safe. Here are 5 steps towards your deck safety:

Check the Deck
Winter weather can do damage to decks by snow and rain causing cracks and loosening connections. Look all the way around your deck, including underneath if possible, checking for loose or rotting boards, rusty connections, and screws in the structure. These things need to be fixed right away.

If you don’t have the skill or experience to do this kind of work, find a handyman. The BIAWC website and Angie’s List are great referral sites for qualified contractors.

Test the Railings and Stair Treads
Just like the deck, stairs and handrails can get cracked or loosened over the winter. Make sure that treads are sturdy, with no wiggles. Handrails should be tightly fastened. Harsh weather can make paint blister, causing cracks and splinters on the handrail. Sand these down until they’re smooth and repaint as necessary.

Handrails for Safety
Consider adding handrails to stairs that don’t have any, even short sections of stairs. They’re good for everyone using the stairs and particularly helpful for older people who have less mobility.

Clean the Deck
A winter’s worth of weather will add debris and dirt to the deck. In some cases, mold and mildew can develop, making the deck slippery and dangerous. Sweep the deck first, getting rid leaves and dirt. Some people like to pressure wash at this point. Be sure to read the warning labels about the recommended pressure to use on wood or composite deck before starting. It’s easy to take off paint and even crack the wood if you are too enthusiastic.

Once the surface is clear, it’s time to use a deck cleaner for the wash cycle. Cleaning agents TSP and bleach have been used for years, but they are toxic both to the user and the environment. Consider using a homemade mixture of vinegar and water or baking soda and water, or an environmentally approved cleaner like Simple Green. Look for the Green Seal to know a product has been certified for environmental and health excellence.

Add the Finishing Touch
After cleaning, your deck may need to be repainted, stained or sealed now that it’s been cleaned. Consider using a paint that has non-slip texture in it for added safety. Anti-slip stair tread tape is easy to install. Add lighting to avoid tripping accidents and a nice glow in the evening. Solar powered sensor lights are great for this purpose.

Clear the Clutter
Most decks and porches don’t have built-in storage, but there is lots of stuff that accumulates on them. Chairs, cushions, barbeque tools, planters, and hoses are some of the items that may end up on your deck, causing tripping hazards. Attractive weather resistant storage boxes provide a way to stow the stuff and additional seating.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 33,000 people are injured because of structural failure of a deck, porch, railing or staircase. Now is the time to make sure your deck is a safe place to enjoy the sun. A little maintenance will go a long way towards your summer enjoyment and safety.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

11 Tips to get your garden ready for Spring

woman planting flowers in backyard garden flowerbed

It’s been a cold February, but hopefully, now we’ve seen the end of the snow. It’s time to get the garden ready for early blooms and a summer of beauty. Here are some quick tips to get your garden growing.

– Check your tools. It’s a good time to clean and sharpen your tools if needed. Store them in an organized and safe place.

– Clean up the garden. Weeds and bugs have been waiting for Spring just as much as you have. Clear them out of the garden now before they have a chance to spread their seeds.

– Get rid of leaves and debris. Rake up Winter’s leftover leaves and mulch.

– Improve the soil. Your dirt will benefit from some added nutrients. If you’re not sure what’s best, reach out to any of our local garden stores for information.

– Prune bushes and shrubs. It’s a good time to cut back new growth before it starts to bloom. If you wait too long, the deer will do it for you.

– Add som e quick and easy color. Once the soil is ready, plant bulbs and perennials to brighten the yard.

– Raise the beds. Bending over while working can wreak havoc on your back and muscles. Consider raised beds this year. You can find them already built, or ready to build kits in local stores.

– Pay it forward. Do you have a neighbor or loved one who isn’t able to tend to their garden this year? They will appreciate the help. (Hint: They might like a raised bed, too).

– Find some help. Whatcom County has a lot of skilled landscapers. Get someone out to help with the heavy stuff or to get rid of everything you just pruned and raked.

– Be mindful. We work hard to stay in shape all year long to stay flexible, strong and healthy. It’s easy to be eager in your clean-up and underestimate your garden’s challenges. Be mindful of your body position when lifting, digging and stretching. Ask a trainer at one of the Clubs for the right ways to lift before you start, or you may be getting similar advice from your chiropractor or physical therapist.

– Take a break. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your garden doesn’t have to get ready in one either. Remember to take regular breaks, drink lots of water and stretch your muscles periodically through the day. Your body will thank you.

March is a great time to enjoy the longer days, a little more sunshine and the Spring colors from the garden. Spending some time cleaning up your garden today will give you months of pleasure during the summer. 

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

Kitchen Mishaps

We had a little set-back in the kitchen the other day – a clogged drain. What a nuisance, particularly for my husband who took it upon himself to clean it (thank you, Doug). Hot water didn’t work and the sink started backing up with more water. He put a bucket under the drain pipe and opened it up to clear the clog. Just going to say, it was not a pleasant sight. After he put it back together again, the drain ran smoothly. Yea for my handyman.

This experience got me to thinking on ways to avoid this issue again. Here are some ideas for sink maintenance and clog prevention in the kitchen and bathroom.

Avoid the problem in the first place

1) Make sure grease and oil don’t go down the drain. Wipe out any grease or fats from your pans before cleaning them in the sink.

2) Use a strainer to stop bits of food and debris from going down the drain. This goes for bathroom drains, too, catching hair and soap before they go down the drain. Clean the strainer regularly.

3) Don’t put anything fibrous down the disposal. Things like banana and citrus fruit peels, celery, potato peels are examples of food that the disposal can’t handle. My Plumber said to avoid egg shells and coffee grounds, too.                       

4) Always run water while using the disposal.

When clogs happen, avoid harsh chemicals and products.

1)  Pour boiling hot water down the drain. A few pots may break down the clog. If you have pvc pipes, this is not a good strategy. The pipes are plastic and the boiling hot water may cause the connections to loosen.

2) Baking soda and vinegar can work as effective solvents. Pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain. If you have a double sink, plug one of the drains. Then put ½ cup of vinegar down over the baking soda. There will be bubbles, like your school volcano experiment. Cover the drain and let sit for ½ hour to dissolve the clog. Run hot water to rinse and hopefully this will clear the clog.

3) Remove the pea trap in the drain. This is a more complicated process and certainly doable by someone who’s handy around the house. Turn off the water, place a bucket under the drain, and unscrew the pipe. The drain should be clear and the backed up water in the sink will clear into the bucket. Clear the plug, wash the pipe thoroughly and put the drain back together. It’s a good idea to run hot water through the pipes again to clear any remaining residue.

If these steps haven’t worked, more options are to use a plunger made for sinks, a plumber’s snake or call a plumber.

Prevention and regular maintenance are the best tactics to take, and what we’ll be doing in the future!

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

Embracing January: Beat the Blues!

Here we are, January 2019. The holidays have been wrapped up and put away, thank you cards written. The days are short, the weather is dreary and it’s easy to get a little down. Here are a few ways to beat the post-holiday blues.

– Plan for something fun. Plan a party or short get-away. Looking forward to an event is a proactive way to stay focused on a bright future.
– Add something positive to your day. Make a date with your friends or try a new healthy recipe with spices or vegetables you haven’t used.
– Be realistic with goals. January is often the beginning of ambitious goals like losing weight, going to the gym more, cutting out sugar. While these are great targets, taking small steps is often the most successful way to achieving them. Add one or two workouts to your regular weekly gym schedule. Skip sweets after dinner. Set up a realistic weight loss plan and celebrate the small wins.
– Change it up. Mix up the day by trying something different from the “usual”. Order a new coffee drink, take a different route to work or sign up for a new class. Learning something new forces your brain to engage and stimulates your creativity for adapting to the new situation.
– Stay in touch with your friends. Did you miss seeing some of your friends over the holidays? Give them a call and schedule a meet-up or invite them to your home.
– Find some humor. Laughing is fun and it’s good for you. There are lots of stand-up comedy shows on the internet and premium streaming channels.

Having an especially blue day? Here’?s one scenario; call a friend and make plans to go on a walk that ends up at the Upfront Theater for a comedy show. It won’t take too long for you to start feeling cheerier.

It’s normal to feel let down after the busy holidays. Embrace the downtime and February will be
here before you know it.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

Will Everyone Be Home This Year?

Staying in touch with family and friends that live far away can be tough. It’s more noticeable during the holidays. Here are some ideas for you and your family to stay connected even when miles separate you.

Video Schedule video calls using Facetime and Skype. While you’re “together” online, share a family tradition like stringing popcorn or hanging lights. This can be a good time to start a long distance tradition.
Phone Make time for a phone call. Put the call on speaker so everyone can talk together.
Pictures

Sharing pictures is a great way to keep up to date. Here are a few ways to do this;

  • Make a private Facebook group where members can upload their photos and messages for sharing to the group.
  • Use Google photos to create shared albums for friends can upload their favorite pictures into one album.
  • Pastbook and Mixbook are online photo album sites that have the option of making photo books collaboratively.
Books

Hallmark makes recordable storybooks with voice capture technology. The book records the voice of the person who is reading the story. It’s an ideal way for Grandparents to “read” stories to their grandchildren when they can’t be together.

Did you just read a great book? Send it to a friend, or share an e-book online. Then you can discuss it over Skype.

Snail Mail

Everyone loves getting letters in the mail; make them even more special with real handwriting.

Send care packages with pictures, notes, and a few treats. It will make anyone who is separated from their family feel loved.

Our armed forces who spend holidays away from their families deserve connection, too. Think about sending books, treats, and letters to those who are protecting our freedom. There are several organizations who help. The USO is a good place to start.

Do you have more time and energy to share? Food banks can always use an extra pair of hands. The Volunteer Center of Whatcom County has many opportunities for helpers.

I hope you can stay in touch with the ones you love, and have a wonderful holiday season.

Susie Landsem
contact@aginginplacebydesign.com
Susie provides design and building solutions for people who want stay in their homes safe and independent.

Fall into Safety

The beautiful colors of October have passed into the windy month of November. Here are some winter safety recommendations for you and your family living in homes and apartments.

Everyday Life

Are you an evening or morning walker? Wear something reflective or carry a flashlight. This goes for bike riders, skateboarders and strollers. My husband and I wear headlamps because we have a dog and need to see where he’s left his packages. Stay on sidewalks whenever possible.

Morning drivers – clear your windows (all of them) before pulling out into traffic. I know it can take a few more minutes but it will also save you from accidents. Buy a window scraper to make it easy. However, if you find yourself in a pinch, using the edge of an old debit/credit card can be an effective way to scrape frost off of your windshield.

Keep the front entry of your home clear. Rain, leaves and the dark can make entries hazardous. Be sure potential obstacles are removed or easily seen. While you’re at it, check the outdoor lights to make sure they’re working and powerful enough to be useful.

Consider a landline. November is infamous for power outages and you don’t want to be caught without a phone in case of emergencies. Generally, landlines work even if the power is out. Contact your service provider to confirm that this is true for you. Extra battery packs for your cell phones are good to have on hand. External battery packs can charge a phone up to 2 – 4 times, depending on the battery and your particular phone.

Visiting Family and Friends for the Holidays

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, especially the event hosts. Keep your home safe for all ages with these tips:
Look for tripping hazards. Here’s what to look for:

  • Newspapers, books and toys might be left at the end of a favorite couch and can be dangerous.
  • Small rugs in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are opportunities for slipping and falling. Remove them if possible. If not, use grip tape which can be found at any hardware store.
  • Make sure there is plenty of light in hallways and bathrooms. Plug-in night lights are easy solutions.
  • Provide a stool at the sink and toilet for little ones so they don’t have to reach too far.

Daylight savings time is my reminder to prepare our home for winter. Use these to improve the safety of your home. Remember, safety is no accident.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

Sleep

Every year, there are 40 million people in the U.S. who suffer from chronic sleep disorders and another 20 million who suffer from occasional sleep issues. A good night’s sleep is important for overall health. Studies have shown that people who get enough quality sleep have stronger immune systems, lowering the risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease than those who aren’t managing 7 – 8 hours a night. There are lifestyle strategies to implement and design solutions to improve the sleep environment.

Lifestyle Strategies:

Exercise – Exercise has so many benefits for good health, including good sleep. Physical activity helps relieve stress. It increases time spent in deep sleep, the phase when the body boosts cell regeneration, increases blood supplies to muscles and strengthens the immune system.

Bedtime – Keep a regular bedtime, including waking up. The body likes consistent rhythms.

Food and Drink – Avoid eating and drinking close to bedtime, preferably a couple of hours before.

Temperature – Regulate temperature bedroom between 60 and 70 degrees.

Turn off the lights – Keep the bedroom dark. This includes ambient light from alarm clocks, cable boxes, lit light switches, cell phones, and other sources.

Relax – A warm bath can help relax the body. Warm, not hot, and no more than 30 minutes before bedtime to give your body a chance to cool down.

Design and Building Solutions – Create quiet and peaceful surroundings to promote quality sleep. Design strategies will help prepare the bedroom for relaxation and sleep.

Heating – If you have separate heat zones in your home, use a timer to regulate the optimal temperature before getting into bed. If the house has a central heating or cooling system, use the same strategy. Some space heaters have timers and can be used to heat up a small room.

Light – Light, even ambient light, can be disruptive to a good sleep. Blackout drapes and blinds are helpful to cut light and can add an attractive look to the room. Dimming overhead lights and using a softer light for reading will reduce stress.

Noise – Sound dampening materials and techniques reduce outside noise. When building or remodeling, consider using sound dampening windows. Architects and builders often suggest sound walls in residential and condo projects. Sound walls are a construction process using a staggered wall framing that creates a barrier between rooms, reducing the amount of sound vibration transferring from one room to the next. This is very successful and doesn’t cost a lot of extra money during new construction or a remodel.

Colors – Colors have an impact on the ambiance of the room. Nature is a good resource for soothing colors. Soft blues and greens are peaceful. If painting isn’t an option, materials and furniture in quiet tones will help relax the mind.

Technology – Home controls have proven to be beneficial for creating restful surroundings. Automatic heating and lighting controls will prepare your bedroom for a restful night. Program cell phones, computers, and TVs to sleep 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime.
A good night’s sleep helps the body rejuvenate and promotes good health. Adding peace and comfort helps to reduce stress. Try these lifestyle and design strategies to improve the quality of your sleep.

Susie Landsem
<a href=”https://aginginplacebydesign.com” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Aging in Place by Design</a>
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.