Five easy Halloween decorating ideas

It’s that time of the year again. Pumpkin patches have sprung up around the city, party invitations are crowding your email and stores are overflowing with fake vampire teeth and candy corn.  Halloween is right around the corner! Check out our super easy Halloween decorating ideas and take advantage of the most awesome time of the year! But before you buy or craft any decorations, look over your property’s guidelines or check with the manager. Some communities, especially if they’re family friendly, might object to overtly gory or scary decorations on your door or porch (so basically anything from The Walking Dead is out).

  • Pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns are a must, of course. If you want to break the mold, wrap your pumpkins in burlap or fabric or dye them black. If you like your spook with a dash of glitz and glam, coat your pumpkins in glue and sprinkle glitter on them.
  • Liberally strew candles, especially tall black, red and white ones around your home. To score some extra gore points, light a red one and let red wax flow on the sides of your other candles to imitate dripping blood. But make sure you never leave burning candles unattended, no matter how cool your jack-o-lanterns burning in the middle of the night would look. A gust of wind or a prankster could knock them over.  Although your renter’s insurance has your back in case of a fire, you really don’t want to deal with the ordeal. Also remember to place them in stable holders, away from flammables and out of the reach of small children and pets. Or just switch to flameless candles or glow in the dark sticks.
  • If you’re someone who regularly buys flowers, don’t throw your bouquets out when they start wilting. Dry them out, cover with fake webbing and you’ve got yourself a touch of a haunted house. If creepy crawler don’t freak you out too much, pick some up dollar store toy bugs, spray paint them black and add them on top of your creepy bouquets.
  • Haunted props like smoke, fog and lightning and thunder machines can really set the mood for a night of fright, especially if you’re planning on having people over.  However, make sure you buy the equipment from a reputable retailer. And save the receipt. Should they inexplicably vanish into the night, receipts will help you when filing a renter’s insurance claim. The last thing you want to deal with is a short-circuit plunging your party into darkness, or worse, cause a fire.
  • For some easy to make ghost companions, blow up a few white balloons and tie them off with long bits of fishing twine. Turn them upside down, draw some big black eyes on them, cover them with long ragged pieces of cheesecloth or some other flimsy white material and secure the loose end of the fishing twine to ceiling with some sticky tape.

Now that we’ve inspired you with design, go pick out a cool costume and stock up on candy corn, before hordes of zombie shoppers swarm the mall.

Healthy at home this flu season

The beginning of autumn, besides the colorful landscapes and carved pumpkins, mean winds and frost and Flu. Flu season generally runs from October to May and it is impossible to predict how bad this year will be. One thing is certain: the influenza virus, present with us throughout the year, is waiting to strike.

Nobody is exempt from catching the virus. However, there are a few tips that can help you get through the season without too much trouble.

1. Wash your hands (with soap, often and well) – many viruses are spread this way: you pick them up on your fingers and then get them in your mouth or eye.

2. Prepare for the cold season – before you start the battle with cold and flu germs, supply your medicine cabinet with needed medicines (pain relievers and decongestants), tissues, soap, and hand sanitizer. Check that your thermometer still works and make sure that you have plenty of fluids (for me, herbal tea is a must) in the house; don’t forget the canned for homemade, frozen chicken soup.

3. Symptomology – cold or flu? Not easy to tell, but usually colds are milder involving runny or stuffy nose. The flu is more severe and hits you suddenly, probably knocking you off your feet for a few days. Fever, body aches, and exhaustion are common with flu.

4. Say no to antibiotics – both colds and flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won’t help. They can actually become dangerous by increasing the risk of breeding germs that are resistant to drugs. Keep in mind that antibiotics work with bacterial infections.

5. When sick, stay at home – even though it might not be easy to take a sick day off, when catching a cold or down with flu, you should. Not giving your body time to pause and heal it may have a harder time fighting off the virus and it could take longer to heal. Moreover, you can also spread the virus to other people. When sick, stay home, rest, and recover.

6. Use disposable products – if you or someone in your family is sick. It’s a simple way to stop the germs from spreading among those you live with.

7. Natural Cure – honey ginger tea are great for sore throats and warm teas made from herbs fight fever and cough. Vitamin C works wonders, regardless if you choose pills or plenty of fruits like lemons.

8. Drink extra fluids – they’ll help thin mucus, drain your sinuses and help relieve a stuffy nose. Water, warm teas and sports drinks are all good. Stay away from alcohol.

Before treatment comes prevention (Click on the graphic to enlarge.)

A healthy, strong body is hit by sickness less often. Enhancing your body’s natural resistance mechanisms helps get a stronger immune system, thus less prone to colds or the flu. Nutritionists advise that the right diet can help prevent colds and the flu; essential is to revamp your diet and lifestyle before the bugs get to you. Foods are unmeasurably better than supplements because they bring the whole nutritional package. Fruits and vegetables are not only excellent sources of Vitamin C, but also other vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids that together boost or maintain your immune system healthy.  Natural juices and green shakes are a tasty way of increasing your daily intake of crucial nutrients.

Exercise is an evident differentiator between people who get sick often and those who don’t. Exercise is important all year round and if you’re worried about how to keep active during the cold winter days, remember gym and yoga.

A good thing to remember is that the way you take precautions to keep yourself away from colds and flu, so should you keep your home safe by purchasing renters insurance. Better safe than sorry.

It’s still hurricane season: protecting yourself and your possessions

For another two months or so, hurricanes are still a threat to homes in many of the United States, bringing powerful winds and heavy storms. Their power of destruction can be incredible: 2012’s Superstorm Sandy caused more than $68 billion in insurance claims across 24 states.warning sign of bad weather ahead

Homeowners know very well what steps they need to take to keep their homes on the safe side, but renters seem to be lagging behind. Do you know how to keep your possessions and house safe in case of tropical storm or hurricane?

1. Get renter’s insurance

No, your landlord’s homeowners insurance will not cover your belongings. Even if you’re just renting a room in a shared house, the coverage only protects your landlord’s furnishings, while your property is specifically excluded.

If you are renting the entire house, your possessions still won’t be covered without renter’s insurance. However, the additions and alterations made by the tenant to the property may be covered up to 10 percent of the home’s coverage limits for contents. Storm screens or carpeting are examples of addition and alterations. Make sure the policy you are purchasing specifically includes hurricane coverage as renter’s insurance policies provide coverage only for the types of situations that are explicitly names on it.

2. Create a home inventory

The next step, following the renter’s insurance purchase, is to make a home inventory of all your belongings to have it in case you need to file a claim in case of loss or destruction during a hurricane. The inventory should include photos of the items, estimated purchase dates and values, the brand name and model, and, if possible, copies of the receipts. Also, taking a photo of the receipt is another valid option to keep these records.

It’s important to keep your inventory safe from fire; a modern way, and a very secure one, is to create a digital file of the inventory that you can save online and can be accessed from anywhere.

3. Discuss with your landlord about measures to protect the home in case of a hurricane

As a renter, you have no responsibility to protect the property, unless your lease agreement states otherwise. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make sure the place you live in is not as wind- and storm-resistant as possible; talk to your landlord about precautionary measures to protect the dwelling.

FEMA recommends securing the roof with wooden planks running along the underside of the roof in the attic, known as truss bracing. Doors can be strengthened with reinforcing bolt kits and windows and glass doors can have added storm shutters. Perhaps some of them you can add yourself, but others might require professional skills in which case hiring a contractor is the best option.

Some local governments require homeowners to assure some or all of these measures, so you might want to look into seeing if the dwelling you’re renting meets the requirements of the region you live in. if you discover that they don’t, it’s your legal right to demand them from your landlord.

4. After hurricane damage, you might receive some help to recover from the loss

If you disregarded the first tip on this list and didn’t get renter’s insurance to protect your valuables, or perhaps lost items that weren’t in your renter’s policy, you may be eligible for a low-interest disaster assistance loan of up to $40,000 to repair or replace articles including clothing, furniture, appliances, and cars destroyed or lost during the super storm. You can apply for a disaster assistance loan here.

Have yourself a safe, stylish autumn

Colorful autumn is in the backyard, rolling in the grass and playing with the trees; leaves are turning rich and the days will soon become crisp. You can already smell cinnamon and baked apples, and the fireplaces are heating the homes with stories. Fall is an amazing season that can bring a lot of joy; however, for a carefree autumn, some preparations are needed.

Cleaning

Although it’s not as popular as the spring cleaning, it is as important. During summer vacations and easy sunny days we tend to accumulate things; now it is high time to find their place as well as their seasonal utility, because remember, you need more space for those extra blankets and the bulky clothes to keep you warm. Selecting and putting away all the summer clothes and reorganizing the closets will help you prepare for fall; the stars of the next two seasons are blankets and sweaters.

Lazy days ahead

Yes, exactly those days, when you wake up and see outside the windows a thick, milky mist that smells of hot chocolate, that you’ll prepare for yourself while curling up by the fire. As temperature chills, you tend to spend more time indoors. Throw pillows and fluffy blankets delimit your preferred areas, and the rugs on the floor give the coziest feeling. Add some velvet fabrics in deep shades (reds, yellows, oranges, and browns) and autumn can start its rains.

TIP: Consider investing in two sets of home goods: spring/summer and fall/winter goods, this way they need longer before getting that “used and abused” look.

Image via Pinterest

Seasonal decoration

Over ten years in rentals taught me that lights are pivotal in designing interiors without spending too much (plus, once you leave, you can take them with you). Designers recommend at least five sources of lights in a room, in different locations, on different levels, and if possible, with dimmers. Lights can really add depth and layers to a room; just some yellow-tinted bulbs will change dramatically the air in the room casting their warm light. Add a reading lamp by a sofa and your evenings will be too few for your growing bookshelves.

Probably during summer you covered your windows with opaque curtains to block the heat. Now is the time to replace them with light, sheer curtains to optimize sunlight. And if you own a terrace or balcony, clean it and do a little outdoor decorating. A scarecrow or pumpkin outside your door or on the terrace will put a smile on your face as you return from work.

Stylish means `worry free’, so go through your documents and check your renters insurance. And go make yourself a cup of chocolate with just a hint of cinnamon, or pour yourself a glass of Cabernet to celebrate this second spring of the year.

Three reasons why every football fan should have renter’s insurance

One of the many joys of the arrival of fall is the NFL fall football season. If you’re a true football fanatic, ‘tis the season to be jolly. Whether you’re pumped for the Patriots or cheering for the Chargers, you’ll surely have friends over for some beer and football. Although renter’s insurance might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re planning your next football viewing party, we’re here to show you why it’s as essential as the perfect salsa dip and high-def flatscreen.

  1. Speaking of that flatscreen, it cost a small fortune, right? I mean, if you can’t see your favorite team crush the competition on a stadium, you should at least watch it on a high definition TV set with a diagonal that would give some theatre screens a run for their money. We know you take good care of it, but the nature of accidents is that they’re unpredictable. What if lightning hits and fries your precious connection to the world of football? Well, if you have renter’s insurance, it will help pay for the repairs or a replacement.
  2. Beer. Yes, beer is one of the main reasons you should have a renter’s insurance policy as a football fan. Just think about it. You have a couple of friends over, your favorite team is winning, your popping brewskis and before you know it, everybody’s had one too many. Now we all know how even a bit of alcohol can make you accident-prone. Suddenly someone loses their balance, falls down and sprains an ankle or breaks an arm. And they’re blaming you and your supposedly slippery floors. That could get you into trouble, especially if your friend needs a visit to the ER and the medical bills pile up. Resident Shield covers accidental injuries of guests while at your residence and does it for as little as 50 cents a day. A bargain!
  3. Now let’s be honest and admit that some football fans can get a bit out hand. Like Jim from 12D, who can’t get over the fact that the Falcons just got crushed by the Vikings. And every time he sees that Vikings sticker on your door he inches closer to the edge. One day you come home to find your door ajar and every bit of Vikings memorabilia smashed, ripped or spray-painted. After going through the necessary motions with the authorities of course, you’re still left with a disaster.  If you have renter’s insurance however, you’re covered in case of vandalism. Even though nobody can replace the memories tied to all that was destroyed, renter’s insurance will cover the damage, helping you buy new reminders of mind-blowing touchdowns and last-minute wins.

Now go get renter’s insurance before the next big game, and host the most epic football viewing party ever! Geaux New Orleans Saints!

Only you can prevent apartment fires

Fall is now upon us and heating systems are turned on, fireplaces crackle and candles are lit to chase away the dark and cold hours. But the comfort of warmth and light can come with a price. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2012 97,000 fires were reported in apartment buildings alone, claiming the lives of 380 civilians, injuring 4,050 and causing $1.9 billion in property damage.

While renter’s insurance provides you with a safety net should the worst happen, it’s still safer to prevent. In observation of National Fire Prevention Week, running Oct. 5 through 11, here are a few tips to keep yourself, your loved ones and your property safe.

fire in apartment complex

  • Did you know that “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives” is this year’s National Fire Prevention Week theme? Check if your fire and carbon monoxide alarms are functional and operating. Be on the lookout and replace batteries in time.
  • If your apartment has a sprinkler system, ask your property manager when they were last inspected.
  • Check if your heating system works properly. If it makes weird sounds or you smell something out of place, shut it down (if it’s no danger to you) and contact your landlord and the appropriate authorities.
  • If you use alternative heating sources, such as space heaters, make sure they are always three feet away from anything that can burn. Always turn them off when you leave the room or go to bed. Always plug them directly into an outlet, never use an extension cord.
  • Make sure the insulation is intact on all your chords, appliances, light fixtures and any other gadget that runs on electricity. Short circuits are one of the most common fire sources.
  • Always use light bulbs with the correct wattage.
  • Never use extension cords for large appliances such as refrigerators or washing machines.
  • If your apartment has a real fireplace, make sure the chimney has been recently cleaned.
  • Always place candles in stable holders, far from flammables and never leave them unsupervised. If you have pets, be especially careful or simply switch to flameless candles.
  • Did you know that pets start around 1,000 fires every year? According to the Chicago Metropolitan Veterinary Center, it’s true. Put candles and chords out of their reach and remove or lock stove knobs. Although Pet Damage Coverage can help you pay for the damage, prevention is still easier.
  • Fall is also the time to celebrate one of America’s favorite holidays: Thanksgiving.  It is also the day with the highest number of residential fires in the entire year.
  • In fact, according to the Unites States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of cooking fires triples on Thanksgiving Day. So remember your basics: don’t cook when you are tired or distracted, never wear loose-fitting or flammable clothing (i.e. high in polyesters), keep your cooking surface clean and uncluttered,  never leave cooking unattended and always make sure all sources of fire and heat have been turned off and put out before sitting down for dinner.

Welcome fall into your apartment

Fall has officially arrived with its many unique joys: pumpkin patches, football, Halloween candy, scarves, Thanksgiving and burning fireplaces.  Here are a few tips on how to welcome fall in your apartment.

Whether you bought that giant flat screen to enjoy football season or to be thoroughly scared by all the goriness of the new season of The Walking Dead, be sure to update your renter’s insurance.  Should anything happen to your home theater system, renter’s insurance will help replacing it so you don’t miss one moment of Darryl and his awesome crossbow skills.

Take a few hours to thoroughly inspect your apartment. Do you have a window that doesn’t close properly? You could be providing an unwanted visitor with easy access to your belongings. Has the insulation around it worn away? Rain could get in and before you know it, cause damage not only to the apartment but your personal property as well. Put in a maintenance request with your community and have it fixed before anything happens. You should also check if the heating system works properly, whether you have any leaking pipes and in what shape your fireplace is. While renter’s insurance has your back in case of misfortune, prevention is still safer. If you own any extra sources of heat, i.e. space heaters, check if they’re compliant with your community’s regulations and if they work properly and safely. Never, ever improvise when it comes to heating.

With the decreasing hours of light comes the temptation to light up all the candles you own. By all means, go for it, just be sure to place them in stable holders, far from flammable materials, never leave them unattended and never fall asleep with them still burning. Be extra careful if you own pets, especially cats. They might accidentally knock them over, while investigating the mysterious source of light. Consider buying flameless candles.

If you’re a true fall fanatic, you’ll be doing some redecorating to bring the most awesome season into your apartment. Acorns, dried leaves, flowers and plants, pine cones, pumpkins and even a smaller hay bale (hello rustic new couch!) could find their way into your apartment.  Before bringing anything home though, be sure they’re not poisonous for your pet or small enough to be swallowed and cause internal damage. Be careful how you decorate with them as well. While those bright red maple leaves you strung from your chandelier look extra stylish, Captain Meowington might be tempted to pull them down. Along with your chandelier.  And even though you have Pet Damage Coverage, you really don’t need the hassle of getting them replaced.

Now go throw some marshmallows into a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the smell of your pumpkin spice candles while you cheer for your favorite football team – go New Orleans Saints!

Fire safety for college living

As a freshly-minted college student living, there are plenty of things you are now responsible for for the first time in your life, such doing laundry often enough to have clean socks and fire safety. Fire safety may sound a bit gloomy, but according to the U.S. Fire Administration since 2000, 86 fatal fires claiming 123 lives have occurred in Greek, on- and off-campus housing, with over 80 percent of incidents occurring in off-campus housing.  In order to ensure a safe college experience, here are a few fire safety tips:

  • Only cook where it’s allowed, such as the kitchen or the special BBQ area set up by your community.
  • Make sure your cooking area is clean and clear of flammables. Don’t leave oven mitts or kitchen towels on top of lids that are still on the fire.
  • Check that appliances work properly and don’t have damaged cords or plugs that can short circuit. Don’t leave them plugged in when you’re not using them.
  • Don’t wander off when you’re cooking. You risk losing track of time. If you’re nearby, even if something lights up, you can put it out immediately
  • Educate yourself on the proper way of dealing with fires, especially small, common kitchen fires. For example if oil lights up, do not pour water over it. Turn off your stove and cover the pot with a lid. The lack of oxygen will starve the fire. If something blazes up in the microwave, unplug the unit and keep the door closed.
  • Keep candles in stable holders and away from flammables (ie. polyester curtains, paper, etc.).
  • Never leave candles unattended. Consider using flameless candles, especially since many student housing communities prohibit traditional candles.
  • Although college life relies heavily on improvisation at times, always be safe. Do not overload outlets, and avoid using extension cords as much as possible. Avoid them altogether with large appliances such as refrigerators.
  • Keep all light fixtures away from flammables. Make sure lamp shades are not made from flammable materials and don’t try improvise one by putting colored scarves on light bulbs.
  • Make sure cigarettes have always been properly put out in deep, wide ashtrays. Avoid smoking inside and when you’re tired or have had alcohol.
  • You never know who shows up at college party and what they do. When guests leave, check that all cigarettes and butts have been properly disposed of. Check under cushions and furniture, inside trashcans.
  • Post fire prevention tips/rules in visible and high traffic areas of your apartment, dorm room and in community areas, especially before social gatherings, so people know what rules to adhere to
  • Familiarize yourself with the building’s layout and at least two exits, as well as the proper way to report a fire to emergency units
  • While prevention is the safest way to go, always have a back-up plan. Renter’s insurance is a great way to give yourself that extra peace of mind. Accidents do happen, and the last thing you need to worry about in case of a fire, is how you’ll be able to pay for all your lost electronics and books.

Tips for new renters

As a renter, it can be hard to know what to expect from the experience before move-in. You may pick a home based on location, unit condition, size and other tangibles, but the day-to-day routine of life in your new home won’t be full established until you’ve been on the premises for at least a month. Neighbors, a landlord living on site, diligent property management, even next door pets or birds outside can have an impact on your new life.  Make your rental experience a great one by planning it with care.

1. Research the neighborhood you’re about to move into, even before you look at the property. Find out how safe it is to live in the area or in the apartment complex and go as far as to research the laws of the area to find out what safety measures the landlords must provide. At the meeting with the landlord bring up the safety subject and assure that the measures and obligations are included in the lease.

2. Read the lease carefully before you sign it. Regardless of how much in a hurry you are or how incredibly good the offer sounds verbally, read the fine print details – how much you have to pay and when, how repairs are being handled, the terms of the security deposit, what may be deducted from it and when it will be returned to you post your tenancy.

3. Get it in writing. Every promise, every approval, has value only when you have it under the form or a written agreement – if your landlord allows your pet in the building and later denies it, having a written agreement will come in handy.

4. Mind your privacy. Check to see how and when your landlord and the maintenance staff may enter your rental. If they show up unannounced, you’ll know what your rights are.

5. Understand which repairs are your responsibility and which are your landlord’s. The landlord typically has to provide a habitable environment – adequate heat, water and electricity, safe structure, as well as replacement or repairs the items that are damaged through normal wear and tear.

6. Get renter’s insurance. Not only it is the smart thing to do, but it might also be required by your lease. Remember, if your apartment is broken into or if someone is injured while on your property, your landlord’s insurance won’t cover the damages.

 

Chalk it up with back to school decor

With back-to-school in full force, what better way to relive the nostalgia of school, without actually having to go back? By doing some swift and easy décor upgrades in your apartment with chalkboards. There’s three ways to go about this: with actual chalkboards, with chalkboard paint or chalkboard contact paper. Decide what works best for you and unleash your creativity.

  • Set up small chalkboards throughout your home to write inspirational messages on and use as decoration. Chalkboards come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. And so do chalks, which are not only available in a myriad of colors, but also forms: from classic chalks to liquid chalk and chalk pens, you can pick and choose according to your preference and crafty project.
  • Smaller chalkboards are an easy way to keep track of things in your home. For example, a small chalkboard artfully set up on the kitchen counter can list the week’s menu. A slightly larger one, hung on a wall can list the day’s or week’s chores assigned to different family members. Once the chore is completed it can be wiped off.
  • If the refrigerator is your own purchase or on the off chance your landlord will allow you to do so, consider painting the refrigerator door with chalk paint. Other than then gaining a super stylish black fridge, you now have the added bonus of directly writing reminders and running a grocery list on it.
  • If you’re into canning or simply keep spices and dry goods in mason jars, paint strips of chalkboard on them. You’ll save mountains of sticky tags and be able to update the contents in a jiffy.
  • A fun, multipurpose project for families with kids is converting a table to a chalkboard art space. Pick up an old table from your nearest thrift store and stick some chalkboard contact paper on the tabletop. This can become extremely useful in areas with extended periods of inclement weather or during sleepovers. Kids can play battleships directly on the table or design their own toy care racecourse. Bonus point: chalkboard paper is easy to install and replace.
  • You can give the chalkboard paper treatment to cheap placemats as well. Not only is it fun for kids to draw on them after dinner, but it makes seating arrangements so easy when you have company over
  • Painting strips on planters or pots takes care of remembering what flowers or herbs are growing on your balcony.
  • A large chalkboard in a high-traffic area, say near the entry is also a great way to make visitors feel welcome. Just ask them to sign or write a message on the board when arriving to your party (after you bought or updated your renter’s insurance of course).