8 Tips to Avoid Snafus With the Movers

Make your move less stressful by taking these steps to protect yourself and your belongings

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of Houzz.com

From horror stories of lost, stolen and broken items to surprise charges tacked on to an already high bill, moving is not for the faint of heart. And after recently pitching in to help my mom through a downsizing and a big move, I’ve learned a few things about working with professional movers. If you have a move coming up, read on for eight tips to help your move go smoothly.

1. Take the time to research movers thoroughly. We’ve all heard horror stories about movers stealing, losing or recklessly damaging belongings, but with a bit of diligence on your part you can make sure you’re choosing a reputable, licensed company with ample experience. Check reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and references before committing to hire. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

2. Don’t wait till the last minute to book your movers. Moving companies do book up, especially during the busy summer months, so don’t leave this decision until the last moment. Start looking for a company early and get on its schedule.

3. Honestly assess your belongings before getting a quote. If you end up bringing more items than discussed with your movers, the best-case scenario is that you get a higher bill — but the worst-case scenario is that there isn’t room on the truck for everything you plan to bring. The reverse can also be problematic: If you pare down your belongings a great deal between the time of your quote and moving day, you may find yourself paying more than you needed to. 

If you do require flexibility in truck space for your move, be upfront about it. Some companies allow you to pay by the foot, which means you pay only for the space you end up using. Usually this involves sharing space with another customer, in which case your belongings will be divided with a locked partition inside the truck.

4. Don’t assume that professional packers are also pros at labeling. If you’re planning to hire professional packers, it’s smart to ask about their policy for labeling boxes. If they don’t label (surprisingly common), plan to be present while the packers work (a good idea anyway) and make it your job to label each box as it’s completed.

Packing tip: Label your boxes with your last name as well as the name of the room in your new home where you want the box to end up. When labeling rooms, use language that will make sense to the movers: Instead of “Katie’s room,” you could label a box “Upstairs small bedroom.”

5. Block out close parking in advance to avoid long-carry fees. If your movers can’t park the truck close to your home, you’ll probably get stuck with what’s known as a long-carry fee — and the farther the movers have to walk to bring each item, the longer it will take. To avoid this, do whatever you can to ensure there’s a close place to park the truck at both your old home and new. You may want to notify neighbors in advance, park your cars in the closest spaces to hold them, or put cones and signs in the space in front of your house on the day of the move.

6. Remember to measure openings at your new home. After one harrowing experience attempting to get a giant sofa through a narrow stairway (our movers eventually gave up), I now know the value of measuring doorways and stairwells in advance. If bulky furniture doesn’t fit, you may be forced to leave treasured pieces behind, or — if you simply can’t do without an item — you may need to ask for hoisting services, which aren’t cheap and may not be available right away.

7. Take the time to read the fine print. Before the movers leave at the end of the day, you’ll be asked to sign off on the inventory sheet and bill — and you’ll be exhausted when this happens. It’s easy to breeze through these last steps and just sign whatever papers they thrust in front of you, but it’s important that you take the time to actually read what you’re signing. 

Double check that everything that went into the truck has actually arrived. Look over the bill carefully and be sure there are no extra charges. Especially if you were sharing space, belongings can get missed quite easily, so it’s a good idea to take a look inside the truck before it pulls away. And look close: Tiny (but necessary) items like drawer knobs and shelf brackets can easily get overlooked on the floor of a big truck.

8. Just get the big stuff into position; the rest can wait. Think rugs and major (read: heavy) furniture pieces — anything you can’t easily move on your own — are the things that should be put into position by the movers. Ideally, you’ll already be armed with a floor plan of the new space with furniture positions marked out. But if you didn’t get anything that elaborate organized, no worries. Just station yourself in the new place as early as possible before the movers arrive and make some decisions about where things will go. 

Then locate the box with your bedding, because you’re going to be ready for a good night’s sleep!

5 Ways to Create the Perfect Summer Bedroom

Think linen, bedding accents and natural light when preparing your bedroom for the warm-weather months

By Joanna Goodman | Courtesy of Houzz.com

Most of us swap out our clothing every season to accommodate the changing weather, so why not give our bedrooms the same treatment? This summer, when you put away your jackets and heavy wool sweaters, go ahead and add your flannel sheets and heavy goose down duvet to the storage closet.

Not only is your bedroom your sanctuary, it’s probably the space where you spend the most time. All the more reason to give it a summer makeover — both aesthetic and practical. Warm days are on the horizon, so here are five ways to create your perfect summer bedroom.

1. Try linen sheets. Linen, made from the fibers of the flax plant, is known for its exceptional coolness and is absolutely irreplaceable in hot weather. The loose weave of this natural fabric makes it more breathable and capable of absorbing moisture, which allows air to flow through the sheet easily and prevent it from clinging to your skin while you sleep. (Read: less perspiration!) All this translates into cooler nights. 

And nowadays you can buy pre-washed linen, which gives a naturally rumpled look and embodies the casual relaxation of summer. Who wants to break out the iron in the dog days of summer anyway? 

Bonus points for the strength and durability of the material itself. A quality pure linen or linen-cotton blend is built to stand the test of time, only softening with use and ensuring a trusty summer bedding staple ready for action year after year.

2. Lighten up your duvet. Your puffy goose down down duvet may be a sweet, cloudy savior when you can see your breath in the air, but the summer months call for a “lighter jacket.” 

If you like sleeping with a duvet year-round, investing in a lighter-weight one for when temperatures soar is a must. Summer-weight duvets have significantly less down fill than year-round models, which will minimize heat retention while maximizing comfort. They’re thinner and lighter to be sure, but they retain all the glorious benefits of sleeping under goose down. 

If the idea of a traditional duvet still seems too toasty, a down blanket is an excellent alternative, providing the luxury of down in an even lighter package. Look for a 100 percent cotton shell and 100 percent down fill. (Down is advantageous over feathers because there are no quills to poke through and no odor.)

3. Go old-school. Back in the day before down duvets and comforters became common, people slept with flat sheets and cotton blankets. It’s still a winning combination for those unbearably muggy summer nights and a simple way to stay cool. Forget the heavy wool knits and rich furs of winter — look for 100 percent cotton in a looser weave to achieve ideal summer comfort and a light and breezy look. 

Cotton blankets are as beautiful as they are useful, coming in all sorts of waves like waffle and matelassé, as well as classic knits. That means you can keep yours at the foot of the bed all year as a decorative accent.

4. Make a statement with seasonal accents. There’s no easier way to update your bedroom decor than with bold statement pieces like toss pillows and throw blankets that scream summer. A bright floral pillow, for example, will help transition a space from one season to the next at little cost. 

Do away with dark colors and heavy textures and pivot the aesthetic to bright hues or soft pastels. Look for pillows featuring summery floral prints or iconic cabana stripes. A soft pastel throw in cotton or linen will complete your bedroom’s summerscape.

5. Let in the light. When giving your bedroom a seasonal makeover, take advantage of the best summer has to offer by introducing sheer, gauzy curtains to create a bright and airy atmosphere, allowing the sunlight to pour in. Adorn your bedroom with plants and flowers to bring the life of summer indoors.
 

Downsizing: Moving Your Parents to a Smaller Space

When the child is the one charged with helping the parents downsize, these guidelines can smooth the process

By Patricia Lee  | Courtesy of Houzz.com 

Many seniors eventually need to downsize to a smaller space, whether to a retirement community, a nursing facility or a room in a family member’s home. Often, the task of decluttering and packing falls to their children. 

If you’re the person faced with going through an aging parent’s belongings, it may be tempting to rent a storage unit and just pack it all away. However, that can be an expensive way to merely delay the inevitable. Instead, I recommend you start the decluttering process as soon as possible. Here are some tips to help you through it.

1. Acknowledge the true magnitude of the task. Moving from a home filled with years of memories can be a very emotional process for your parents. Not only do they have to downsize the physical memories of perhaps as long as a lifetime, but moving may also summon unwanted reminders of their mortality. 

For both parent and child, decluttering takes patience. And for the child especially, it can be difficult to stay motivated, since you won’t directly reap the rewards of a tidier space. Further, your decluttering standards may be different than those of your parents. What you consider trash may be your parents’ treasures, and this can sometimes lead to friction. It’s important, though, to involve your parents in the decision-making process rather than taking over completely. Soliciting their input and accommodating their desires is a way to show them you value their decisions and respect their belongings. 

So before you get started, mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. Know that some items may be easy to declutter, such as clothing that doesn’t fit. Others will take more time, patience and thought.

2. Schedule bite-sized work sessions. Decluttering is time-consuming, and it can be tiring for aging parents. If time permits before the move, space out your sessions so you and your parents can maintain the energy to complete the entire house. I recommend no more than four hours at a time, and perhaps just two to three times per week. This schedule allows for a balance between making efficient use of your time and not exhausting your parents.

3. Understand your parents’ lifestyle. Getting a snapshot of how your parents plan to live in their new home will help you narrow down what they keep — with the goal of retaining only what they actually love or need. Even if you think you understand their lifestyle already, it can be helpful to sit down together and sketch out a few details that can serve as guidance as you sort. 

For example, if your parents typically launder their clothes once a week, then 10 to 14 sets of clothing for each season would be more than enough to last between washes. If they won’t be entertaining at their new location, they may feel confident donating their punch bowls and tablecloths. If formal events are few and far between, then three to four comfortable formal outfits may suffice.

Below are some questions you could use as a starting point for your discussion with your parents. You could even use their answers to guide a first pass at eliminating irrelevant items on your own — leaving fewer decisions for your parents to make.
 

  • What type of clothing do you need? (Daily comfort wear? Weekly church outfits? Occasional formal outfits?)
  • What is your current range of clothing sizes? Is it OK to donate all clothing outside of this range?
  • To what extent will you be cooking and baking?
  • Will you be entertaining? If so, what would be the maximum number of guests?
  • Which suitcases and bags are no longer practical for travel (too large to manage, lacking wheels)?
  • Will you want to decorate seasonally?
  • Which books do you still read and which music do you still listen to?

4. Start with the least sentimental items. As with most things, practice makes perfect. My clients have found that the decision to keep, toss, sell or donate becomes easier the more you practice. Starting your decluttering process with the least sentimental items, such as linens and clothing, and working your way toward the most sentimental, such as photos and letters, can be a helpful way to ease into harder decision-making territory.

5. Declutter by category rather than room. Separating your decluttering into categories is helpful in terms of keeping your parents — and yourself — motivated and focused. It’s easier to make decisions when items are grouped, as this helps you see all at once how many belongings you’re dealing with. Also, you can all feel a sense of accomplishment with the completion of each category. I recommend separating items into the smallest categories possible. For example, instead of creating a category of tops, separate the items further into short sleeves, long sleeves, sweaters. Accessories can be separated into belts, hats, scarves and handbags.

6. Keep only sentimental items that will be displayed. Many of my clients have a hard time parting with sentimental memorabilia. But the truth is, some of these items have been buried in their houses for decades. I usually encourage them to keep only the items they’ll have out. After all, memorabilia can’t be enjoyed while hidden away, and disposing of the items doesn’t diminish the memories associated with them. 

One possible way to ease the permanence of losing sentimental items is to take photographs of them. However, I don’t recommend this in cases where the photograph can’t be filed away immediately, whether in a digital album or a physical scrapbook. If there is no defined location for the photograph, whether digital or physical, then it becomes clutter. Also, if it’s likely that looking at these photographs will bring on feelings of regret for your parents, I also don’t recommend this method. 

7. Take charge of your childhood items. If your parents have saved all of your childhood memorabilia, they may be willing to turn those items over to you for sorting through. This can be quite helpful for parents who are overwhelmed with culling their own possessions. Now is also the time to remove any of your adult possessions that have been stored in their house.

8. Remove unwanted items from the property. You haven’t truly finished decluttering until all the unwanted items are no longer in your parents’ house. Consider ordering a dumpster for trash, scheduling a charitable organization to pick up donations and selling items at a consignment store or online. Although it would be wonderful to earn money by selling some items, if you don’t have time to list them or your items don’t sell quickly, permit yourself to donate instead. It’s important to keep unwanted possessions moving as you continue the decluttering process, as storing them in the house may hinder progress.

9. Treasure this quality time with your parents. Decluttering is undoubtedly hard work, and tensions often arise amid differing viewpoints. So try to adjust your perspective when these moments inevitably come. Instead of viewing the task as a chore, consider it a special time spent with your parents. You may even hear some priceless stories about their youth and your childhood — especially if you maintain a patient attitude, and if you take the time to ask. 

How to Pack for a Move in a Weekend

These 12 packing tips can make your weekend move quick, organized and doable

By Aly Finkelstein  |  Courtesy of Houzz.com

Packing for a big move does not have to take months. This may come as a shock, but in many homes, it can be done in a weekend or less. I’m speaking from experience on this one. The last time my family of four moved, we did it in a weekend. I’ve also helped many clients tackle the same challenge. 

Here are my top 12 tips on how to make the packing process quick and a little less painful.

1. Do not panic! Your nerves can get the best of you if you let them, so take a deep breath and make a list. This list should include what needs to be packed, what supplies should be purchased (such as moving boxes and tape) and in what room order you are going to pack.

This giant list will be your guide as you make quick work of packing the house. Having everything on the list can help you keep your brain focused on the job at hand, and it will feel good to check each task off.

2. Purge your belongings. On your giant to-do list, the first order of business is to purge. Get rid of all the things you can before you begin to pack. 

Take a garbage bag and walk through the entire house. It is truly freeing to get rid of things you don’t need. Throw away expired medicine, broken toys, puzzles with missing pieces and other things you’ll never use again. Make sure everything that remains is a full set or in great condition. 

3. Pack kitchen breakables. Your glasses and dishes in the kitchen require some additional attention, so start the packing process with these items. When you are packing away these breakables, save time and money by using soft materials you already own as packing supplies. 

Grab your beach towels and large bathroom towels first. Put them at the bottom of your boxes to absorb any shock or shifting that may take place during the move. 

Next, grab other towels, linens, dishrags and even T-shirts. You can wrap the fragile items in these pieces, which means packing that section of the house will take less time later. 

Tip: Now that you have moving boxes getting full, take a minute to label each box with a number using a permanent marker. Then, start a list of the numbered boxes and their contents. This is essential and will save you precious time later in your new home when you need to quickly find something.

4. Leave dresser drawers full. Save yourself some time and leave your clothes in the drawers. You or your professional haulers can remove the drawers from the dresser and move the drawers with their contents that way. An individual drawer stuffed with clothes stays organized and is easier to move than a filled dresser.

5. Clear out the closet. Clothes from your closet can easily be moved into wardrobe boxes, which come with rods for hanging things up. You just put the clothes in, seal up the box and then unpack and hang the clothes in your new closet after the move. 

If you have shelves with sweaters, sweatpants and shoes, pack them into medium-sized boxes. Make sure you label the boxes and add them to your ongoing list. 

Tip: Use an extra shoe box or a clear container for the odds and ends — such as buttons, safety pins and old letters — you’ll come across while you pack the closet. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

6. Take care of valuables. Pack jewelry and other valuables carefully. These items are fragile and sentimental. The last thing you want to do is tangle necklaces or lose earrings. I love using pill stackers or snack bags to sort jewelry and keep everything safe.

Tip: Do not put these items in the moving truck. Instead, keep them with you in your vehicle as you go to your new home.

7. Stack the toys. Toys tend to be made from tough materials that don’t break easily. You can pack them into bins or boxes and then stack them into one larger wardrobe box. I’ve found that having the toys packed always brings a huge sense of relief for parents.

This method also will keep all the toys together, and the kids will be happy to pull them all out again in their new home. 

8. Box up bedrooms. Now you can concentrate on accessories and personal items. Similar items should go in the same box: shoes in one box, books in another and so on until everything has a box.

Tip: If any of these items are fragile, grab clothes out of the dresser and use them as packing material.

9. Remove everything from the walls. The best way to pack wall art is with towels and flat pieces of cardboard. Wrap each photograph or piece of art in towels and tape the towel around the piece so that the towel stays in place. Then you can place wrapped items in a box and put a piece of flat cardboard between them for added protection. Cut-up wardrobe boxes are a great source for large, flat pieces of cardboard. 

If your large wall art doesn’t fit in a box, you can carefully stack the pieces in the moving truck or your vehicle and use flat pieces of cardboard as dividers.

Tip: Small art and wall decor can be packed similarly to your fragile kitchen items.

10. Keep boxing until you’re done. If you are at this step, you’ve already accomplished a lot. Now you just need to finish. Keep motivated with good music, good food and good friends, if they are willing to help.

The trickier parts of the home have been addressed, so now you just need to keep going into each room and putting the contents in boxes. Keep in mind any previous tricks, such as wrapping breakables in clothing.

11. Do a final check. When you’re done packing, congratulate yourself and call in friends. Order pizza for everyone, and then ask your friends to walk around and see whether you’ve missed anything. Sometimes another set of eyes can be invaluable. 

If you find anything, put it in a box. It’s totally OK to have miscellaneous boxes as long as their contents are labeled on your box list. You may find that the items that are last to be packed are the things that didn’t fit into other categories. Ask yourself whether you really want these items before packing them away.

Make sure each box is taped shut, has a number and is listed on your master move list. 

If all the loose items are packed and the boxes are closed, you’re officially done.

12. Hire help, if needed. While you can pack in a weekend, it might not work for you every time. 

If you are truly in a time pinch and feel that the cost would be worth it, consider hiring the movers to pack you. 
 

To-Dos: Your June Home Checklist

Get your house organized and ready for summer with a mix of maintenance and decluttering musts and breezy room refreshes

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of Houzz.com 

Summer officially begins June 20 this year, but why wait until then to get into the summer spirit? Get a jump-start by prepping your home and garden for warm weather, setting up the perfect drip-dry spot for beach towels, reorganizing the kitchen (hello, smoothie bar), and more. These 18 to-dos cover all the bases, so you can enjoy the season to the fullest.

1. Keep an eye on irrigation systems. A faulty sprinkler or irrigation hose that goes unnoticed can quickly cause big problems for your lawn and garden. Make a habit of checking each component once a week, especially in summer.

2. Install screen doors. If you use them, now is the time to take down the storm doors and put up screen doors to let the summer breezes pour in. Be sure to inspect screens carefully, patching holes as needed — even a tiny hole can be enough to let in a mosquito.

3. Empty standing water regularly. Speaking of mosquitoes, the best way to keep populations down is by regularly checking your property for standing water and emptying it. Even a saucer of water can become a mosquito nursery, so leave no pot unturned!

4. Reorganize your kitchen. The change in seasons is a good time to rethink how you have things arranged in the kitchen. If there are small appliances you use more in the warmer months (a blender for smoothies, perhaps, or an ice cream maker), move them to a more accessible spot, and you will be more likely to use them. Stations devoted to a certain purpose can also do wonders. If you have children on summer vacation, create a self-help station stocked with healthy snacks. Or create an iced-coffee bar or smoothie-making station for yourself with all needed supplies within reach.

5. Update first-aid kits and emergency supplies. Be prepared for everything from minor snafus to natural disasters with well-stocked first-aid kits in the house and car, plus emergency supplies for your family and pets. Not sure what to include? The American Red Cross has a helpful checklist.

6. Make space for summer crafts. A dedicated space for arts and crafts can provide screen-free entertainment and a creative outlet — and it’s not just for kids! Even if you must work all summer, having a space to devote to a hobby can re-energize and inspire you.

7. Organize and put away school papers. If you do have kids, at the end of the school year, it can be tempting to jump right into summer. But taking the time to sort through each child’s school things will help prevent clutter from piling up, and you can start the summer fresh. Sort through the papers, artwork and projects from the year, and choose the best representative pieces (and those that most pull at your heartstrings) to save in a portfolio or document box, then recycle the rest. If you want to preserve more than you can keep, consider scanning the artwork into your computer and creating a photo book with the pictures. 
 

8. Set up a spot to dry beach towels and bathing suits. Soggy, sandy beach towels getting dragged through the house is a mess waiting to happen — but you can easily prevent this with a bit of planning. Choose a dedicated spot, either just outside the door (a covered porch works well) or in the mudroom, as shown here, and hang a row of sturdy hooks for wet towels and bathing suits. Once dry, sand can be easily shaken off outdoors, so it doesn’t end up in your washing machine!

9. Lighten up decor. Roll up heavy rugs, put crisp percale or cooling linen sheets on the beds, and bring in accents in lighter hues for the warmer months ahead. Breezy white curtains look delightfully cool in summer, but if the weather gets quite hot where you live, you may want to leave heavy window coverings in place. Closing the shades during the heat of the day can actually help keep your house cooler.

10. Keep cooling systems running smoothly. Take the time before hot weather sets in to dust ceiling fans, install window air-conditioning units, and schedule maintenance for a whole-house cooling system.

11. Refresh your bathroom. Shower curtain liner looking a little dingy? Bath towels seen better days? Give your bathroom a mini spa makeover, and swap out your tired old bath linens for fresh, fluffy new towels and a new curtain liner. Use a woven basket to corral rolled towels. And contain toiletries on a tray or in zippered containers.

12. Schedule major outdoor projects. Whether you are dreaming of a new patio or need to replace a deck, don’t delay booking a pro for your projects. Their schedules tend to fill up quickly in the summer. 

13. Clean gutters and downspouts. If you did not get your gutters cleaned in spring, be sure to get this essential task checked off your list as soon as possible. Leaf- and debris-clogged gutters can lead to leaks and siding damage with summer storms.

14. Plant bee-friendly flowers. Help give pollinators a place to thrive by adding bee-friendly native plants to your garden now for fall blooms. Which flower species you choose will depend on your region; ask for assistance at a local nursery specializing in native plants if you are unsure.

15. Give your garage or shed a clean-out. Since you’ll likely be spending more time in your outdoor spaces during the summer, it’s a good idea to take some time at the start of the season to clear out space in your storage area. Take old paint cans to a hazardous waste drop-off point, sell or give away items you no longer want, and organize what’s left into zones of use: garden tools and supplies, outdoor adventures and sports gear, and household tools.

16. Catch up on projects and maintenance. No one is perfect, and chances are there are a few home-maintenance projects you’ve been meaning tackle. Why not make June the month to get caught up?

17. Get seasonal gear ready. What with camping and beach trips, summertime activities come with a lot of gear. Get it cleaned up and ready now, so you’re not surprised by a leaky tent or blown-out beach umbrella when it’s too late to replace them. And if you plan to waterproof anything (tents or outdoor tablecloths, for example), now is the time.

18. Make your summer must-do list. Beach days, lemonade on the porch, pick-your-own fruit farms — with so much to look forward to in summer, don’t let it zip by in the blink of an eye! Be sure you are making the most of your season by creating a list of your personal must-dos and posting it where you can see it. A big chalkboard or family bulletin board would be ideal. 

Get Out of Seattle for These 11 Memorial Day Weekend 2017 Festivals

May 26-29 Festivals from Portland to Port Angeles to Vancouver

by Stranger Things To Do Staff | Courtesy of thestranger.com 

Head to the gorgeous Hood Canal for the Brinnon Shrimpfest. WILLIAM C BUNCE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Head to the gorgeous Hood Canal for the Brinnon Shrimpfest. WILLIAM C BUNCE/SHUTTERSTOCK

There are plenty of events happening in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend (May 26-29), including the 2017 Chittenden Locks Summer Concert SeriesNorthwest Folklife, and the Seattle International Film Festival 2017. But if you want to get out of town for your three-day weekend, we've compiled this list of festivals happening in cities ranging from Portland to Vancouver for inspiration. From art to music to shrimp eating to seagull calling, there's probably something for you here—and if not, you can always check out our complete Things To Do calendar.

MAY 25-28

Moses Lake
Moses Lake Spring Festival

The 37th annual Moses Lake Spring Festival features a three-on-three basketball tournament (sign up in advance), a music stage, a moonlit parade, a farmers market and beer garden, a 5k, and more.
(177 miles east)

Vancouver, B.C.
Art! Vancouver 2017

Vancouver, B.C. hosts this international fine arts fair on its beautiful waterfront. Canadian gallerists and exhibitors from all over the world will make a temporary home for works of arts plastiques—sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and more. Many guest speakers will attend, and on Thursday night, they'll hold a party with a special arts catwalk showcase. See live painting for the entire weekend as well.
($18.50-$109 CAD admission, 143 miles north)

MAY 26-28

George
Sasquatch! Music Festival

Lose yourself in Central Washington for three straight days of sweat, chili fries, and enough live music to last you the summer. The announced headliners include LCD Soundsystem, Twenty One Pilots, and Chance The Rapper, with support acts from Sleigh Bells, Benjamin Clementine, Kaytranada, The Head & The Heart, and more. Tickets are still available for the festival and for camping.
($99.50-$295 admission, 150 miles east)

MAY 26-29

Port Angeles
Juan de Fuca Festival

Poets, thespians, yoga teachers, and international musicians will fill this lovely waterfront town with melodies and festivities. Special guests include the BC World Music Collective, Divinity Roxx (a Beyoncé collaborator), and blues artist Jesse Roper. 
($25-$75 admission, 82 miles northwest)

Portland, OR
CityFair: Portland Rose Festival

Portland will live up to its botanic nickname during three weekends of fried food, music, and carnival games, including a human catapult known as the Big Sling. Plus: a live exotic mammal showcase with everything from tigers to spiders. Opening night activities on Friday, May 26, include a fireworks display and a dance party in the "RoZone."
($8 admission, 174 miles south)

MAY 27-28

Bremerton
Kitsap Harbor Festival

Soon the boats will be launching, and the Port of Bremerton will kick off the season with concerts and performances plus barbecue and more boardwalk fun. Plus, head over to Port Orchard for the truly strange Seagull Calling Festival and Wing Cook-Off.
(65 miles west)

Brinnon
Brinnon Shrimpfest

Strike out for the gorgeous Hood Canal, where vendors, musicians, artists, and harvesters of sea delectables will gather to kick up their heels. There will be local music, belt sander racers, cool stuff to buy, and seafood.
($5 admission, 58 miles northwest)

Burnaby, B.C. (Outside of Vancouver)
European Festival

For the 20th year, the British Columbian city of Burnaby (just outside of Vancouver) will throw a big party of European culture. Hear artists, buy street fair goods, see cultural exhibitions, eat traditional food, hang out in the beer garden, and fling yourself into a massive Eurodance party (Saturday) as you celebrate countries from Albania to Ukraine. This year's featured country is Finland, so shout "Hurraa Suomi!"
($8/$10 CAD admission, 136 miles north)

Long Beach
SummerFest Long Beach 2017

Every weekend this summer, the "world's longest beach" will throw a family-friendly boardwalk party with live music and chalk art.
(171 miles southwest)

MAY 27-29

Willamette Valley, OR
Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country

Drop in on some of the 150-odd wineries that will open their doors for Oregon Wine Month. Tour vineyards, sip new vintages, and picnic on the grass as you discover vintners who rarely welcome the public and learn about the region that was named 2016 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast.
(222 miles south)

MAY 28-29

Vancouver, B.C.
Vancouver International Children's Festival

On Memorial Day weekend (you have the Monday off, but Canadians don't!), take your kids to an island full of activities and performances for this 40th annual festival. Events include Pajama Nights, the Birthday Party with cake, song, and dancing, the amazing Afrique en Cirque circus company, The Canada Show recounting 50,000 years of Canada, eh, and much more.
($25.10/$15.13 CAD admission, 142 miles north)

Your Grill Season Checklist

Get your barbecue in top shape and round up essential grilling tools to make your backyard cookouts sizzle

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of Houzz.com 

Whether you enjoy slow-cooked barbecue on a Sunday afternoon or firing up the grill for quick weeknight dinners, having a properly equipped space and well-maintained grill makes backyard cooking more of a joy. These tools, cleaning tasks and tips will help make grilling more convenient and fun this year.

Everyday Grill Maintenance

  • Before cooking, preheat grill and use grill brush to scrape grates.
  • Wipe up spills as soon as they happen.
  • If you have a charcoal grill, wait until grill is completely cool before disposing of ashes.
  • Once grill is cool, cover with a grill cover between uses.

Cleaning and Grill Maintenance Tools

  • Grill cover
  • Grill brush
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Ashcan and scoop for charcoal grills

Tip: Get the right grill brush. Choose a grill brush with brass bristles if you have a grill with stainless steel grates, but choose one with stainless steel bristles if your grill has cast iron grates. And be sure to check your grill brush regularly for loose bristles. If bristles begin to loosen, it’s time for a new brush; you don’t want any bristles ending up in your next dinner.

Essential Tools for Cooking on the Grill

  • Fuel
  • Chimney starter for charcoal grills
  • Heavy-duty oven mitts
  • Tongs
  • Grilling spatula
  • Instant-read meat thermometer
  • Foil and paper towels
  • Outdoor garbage can
  • Fire extinguisher, just in case

Tip: Add night lighting. Cooking in the dark is bound to result in over- or underdone food and is no fun for the grillmaster. Instead of relying on a headlamp or flashlight, why not splurge on grill-zone lighting? Choose overhead lighting, a grill-side task light or a combination of the two.

How to Deep Clean a Gas Grill

  1. Make sure gas is turned off and disconnect propane tank.
  2. Scrape the grates using grill brush.
  3. Remove the grates and scrape underside using grill brush.
  4. Remove burner protectors (also called barrier or flame tamer) and wash in a bucket of soapy water.
  5. Using grill brush, scrape off all visible buildup from inside grill box, including burners.
  6. Examine burners; if any holes are clogged with grease, poke them clear using a paper clip.
  7. Slide out removable bottom tray and empty contents.
  8. Replace bottom tray, burner protectors and grates.
  9. Wash exterior with warm, soapy water and dry with a clean cloth.
  10. Inspect fuel line for holes and cracks. If you find any, you will need to purchase a replacement part.

How to Deep Clean a Charcoal Grill

  1. Remove old (cool) ashes to a noncombustible container, like a galvanized steel garbage can earmarked for this purpose.
  2. Remove grates and scrub interior of grill well with grill brush.
  3. Wash exterior of grill with warm, soapy water. Rinse with clean water and dry with a clean cloth.
  4. Light a charcoal fire, replace grill grates and allow to heat, then scrape grates with grill brush.

Tip: Allow ample time for ashes to cool. Ashes that collect in the bottom of the grill can stay hot after a fire for up to two days, so be sure to allow plenty of time for cooling before you clean them out. And when you do tackle the chore, use a metal scoop.

Tip: Don’t use water to clean your ceramic grill. Ceramic grills (such as the Big Green Egg pictured here) must be kept dry inside, so never clean the interior with water. These grills are designed to be “self-cleaning,” according to the manufacturer, so all you need to do is close the lid and vents after cooking, and the residual heat will burn off any residue. Then scrub the cooking grid with a grill brush, and you’re good to go.

Nice Extras for the Outdoor Chef

  • Basting brush
  • Grill basket for small veggies
  • Reusable metal skewers
  • Pizza stone
  • Grill apron
  • Lightweight platters to hold food as it comes off the grill
  • Salt and pepper grinders
  • Bottle opener

Tell us: Where will you be grilling this summer? Share a photo of your grill setup in the Comments.

10 Tips for Beginning Gardeners

With a sketch, basic tools and the right mix of plants, you’ll be on your way to growing your first flowers or edibles

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of Houzz.com

The rewards of gardening are great — fresh air, exercise, beauty and relaxation, to name a few. But designing and planting your very first garden can feel like an overwhelming task. Luckily, gardens are surprisingly forgiving creations, and the best way to learn is by simply diving in. Here are 10 tips to help get a new garden off on the right foot.

1. Get to know your site. Take your time to get familiar with your property before beginning a new garden. Here are a few things you may like to try while you’re getting to know your landscape:

  • Take a leisurely stroll around your property with a notebook and make a rough sketch of the existing planting areas.
  • Add notes to your garden “map” about which areas get the most sun and which are shaded.
  • A simple soil test from your local garden center will tell you whether your soil is well-balanced in nutrients and pH.
  • If you’re thinking of growing edibles (vegetables, fruit or herbs), it’s a good idea to have your soil tested for lead. Most at-home kits aren’t reliable indicators of lead in the soil, but you can send your soil samples to the Lead Safe America Foundation for a free lead test. If you find that your soil has an unsafe level of lead, you can still grow edibles in raised beds or pots with new soil.
  • List which existing plants and features (such as fences or paths) you’d like to keep and which need to be replaced or removed.
  • Spend time just hanging out in your garden. Let yourself daydream and see if any creative ideas present themselves.

Monthly guides to U.S. gardening regions

2. Determine your style and goals. Gather a few images that inspire you and look for a theme. Are you drawn to lush flower-filled gardens or more crisply defined modern outdoor spaces? It helps to pair a few words with the pictures you’ve chosen, so try to come up with something that evokes the sort of garden you want, even if it’s not an “official” style term. 

For instance, maybe you’ll decide your style is Industrial Zen or Playful Modern or Simplified Cottage. While you’re figuring this out, it helps to keep a photo of the exterior of your home at hand — whatever style you choose should be able to work well with the architectural style of your home as well as your personal preferences.

Once you’ve named your style, take a moment to jot down the activities and features you imagine enjoying in your landscape. If you have children, you may need a lot of open space for running around. Or perhaps you dream of relaxing in the middle of a big wildflower meadow — whatever it is, write it down.
 

3. Start small. Dreaming is wonderful, but when it comes time to begin digging in the earth, it’s equally important to stay grounded in reality. The bigger the garden, the more time and energy it will require to maintain. Examine what you want (say, a vegetable garden) and then scale it down (for example, plant one raised bed rather than six). You can always expand next year! 

This holds true for purchasing plants too: It’s easy to get seduced by the bountiful plants at the nursery and come home with far too many. Remember, planting takes time, so buy only what you can comfortably get into the ground within the next day or two.

4. Make a plan. Even if you’re planting only a single raised vegetable bed or cluster of potted flowers on the patio, having a plan is key. If you’re not sure which plants to buy, take a “research” trip to a local nursery (without buying anything!) and snap photos of plants you’d like to consider adding to your garden. Look at the tags and note down when they bloom, as well as sun and water requirements. 

Pulling this information together into a sketched-out plan (no artistic skills required) takes extra time initially but will make for a more successful garden in the end. Choose plants that bloom in different seasons for year-round color, and be sure to pick plants with similar sun and water requirements to plant together.

How to Buy Healthy Trees and Shrubs

5. Pick the right tools for the job (without going overboard). Having the proper tools makes garden chores more pleasant — but don’t think you need to buy out the store on day one. Just a few tools and supplies should keep your garden running smoothly. The basics include:

  • Gardening gloves. Choose a pair that feels comfortable and protects against thorns.
  • Shovel. This is essential for preparing sizable garden beds and for digging holes for trees, shrubs and large plants. A shovel with a pointed tip is more versatile than a flat spade.
  • Trowel and weeding tool (or a Japanese gardener’s knife). Use these tools to dig holes for planting and pull weeds out at the root.
  • Long garden hose and spray nozzle. Select a hose long enough to comfortably reach each of the main areas of your garden.
  • Hand pruner. Sharp clippers can trim branches and cut back woody plants like rosemary.
  • Metal rake. Use this to spread mulch and prepare beds for planting.
  • Leaf rake. Use a flexible plastic or bamboo rake to gather leaves.

6. Mix up perennials and annuals. A common newbie mistake is to grab too many plants from the “annuals” section at the nursery, making for a garden that dies back within a single year. For longevity and color, go for a mix of perennials (plants that come back year after year) and annuals (plants that bloom and die within a single season).

7. Repeat, repeat, repeat. One great way to give your garden a professionally designed look (with little effort) is to repeat the same plants and hardscaping materials in different places throughout the landscape. Avoid picking one plant of each type, as this tends to appear jumbled — even in a wild English cottage-style garden, plants look best when repeated or planted in clusters. The same goes for other materials: Choose just a few hardscaping materials for paths, pots, planters and outdoor furniture, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

8. Combine seeds and starts for an affordable mix. Starting an entire garden from seed can save money, but it can also be incredibly frustrating. Purchasing only started plants is not only expensive, but it also may limit your choice of what to grow. The best option is usually a combination of the two: Pick up some started seedlings at your local nursery and start some of your own from seed. Good plants to start from seed yourself include lettuceradishesbeanssunflowers, marigolds, cosmos and zinnias. 

9. Grow what you like. This sounds utterly simple, but it’s something even the most experienced gardeners sometimes seem to forget. Why grow squash if it’s not really your favorite? Over the years, we’ve stopped bothering to grow beans and zucchini, instead devoting extra garden space to family favorites like snap peas, radishes, Tuscan kale and mini pumpkins for Halloween.

How to Grow Cool-Season Crops | How to Grow Summer Fruits and Vegetables

10. Further your garden education. Seeking out local workshops is a wonderful way to learn more about gardening and connect with other gardeners in your community. Check plant nurseries, community gardens and botanical gardens in your area for free or low-cost workshops on a wide range of topics like container gardening, using native plants, attracting pollinators, creating a water-wise garden and composting.

Gardening is a lifelong learning experience, and even the most seasoned gardeners are learning all the time — so don’t beat yourself up if it seems that there’s too much to know. Just begin somewhere and take it one season at a time. The wonderful thing about gardening is that there’s usually room for do-overs.

The Nine Best Mother's Day 2017 Brunches in Seattle

Tilth, Goldfinch Tavern, And Other Picks From Our Food Critic For May 14

by Stranger Things To Do Staff / Courtesy of thestranger.com

Tilth's $30 three-course prix fixe brunch menu will include their delicious sourdough waffle, complete with rhubarb butter and maple compote. TILTH

Tilth's $30 three-course prix fixe brunch menu will include their delicious sourdough waffle, complete with rhubarb butter and maple compote. TILTH

Mother's Day is May 14, and there are plenty of options for celebrating on our Mother's Day calendar, including a chance to learn about ocean mothers at the Seattle Aquarium, the 9th Annual Flower Festival, and a Mother's Day improv show at Unexpected Productions. But, if you want to go the traditional Mother's Day brunch route—which, be forewarned, has the reputation of being one of the worst holidays on which to get brunch due to crowds and screaming children—here are recommendations from our food critic, Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, where you'll find the best food and, hopefully, the least amount of Hallmark cliches.

1. Bar del Corso
Chef Melissa Miranda's popular Filipino pop-up is back at Bar del Corso, this time for Mother's Day brunch. Celebrate with the women in your life and enjoy traditional Filipino breakfast dishes with a twist.

2. Cafe Flora
If your mom happens to be vegetarian, or if she just happens to appreciate vegetarian food done right, consider taking her to Cafe Flora for Mother's Day. They'll be offering a three-course brunch for $45 per person and a kid's menu for $15. Go for the house pastry basket to start (includes petite croissants, blueberry almond poppy seed scones, Meyer lemon curd and midnight berry jam), then continue with the jackfruit sopes and end with the chocolate rhubarb rose trifle.

3. Goldfinch Tavern
For a truly decadent Mother's Day, take your mom to Goldfinch Tavern for its Moët-happy brunch buffet and complimentary photo booth. The brunch includes an appetizer section featuring yummy little things like crab-avocado parfait and goat cheese pastry puffs. Choose from numerous entrées (the morel mushroom scramble, for example) and then finish with dessert—the peach melba panna cotta sounds especially tantalizing.

4. The Georgian
For a truly ritzy experience, treat your mom to an Afternoon High Tea at the Georgian in the Fairmont Olympic Hotel downtown. The price includes a selection of loose-leaf teas, tea sandwiches, savory dishes, and house-made scones, plus a special dessert buffet.

5. Lecosho
Join Lecosho, Madres Kitchen and The Congolese Integration Network (CIN) for a Mother's Day brunch and benefit. The event will include a traditional Congolese lunch buffet, drinks, live music and raffle prizes, and all proceeds will go towards the CIN, a new organization aimed at facilitating the inclusion and integration of Congolese immigrants and refugees into local community and society. The mission for the event "is to honor and show support to Congolese refugee mothers who have experienced systematic rape and abuse. For the past two decades, Congolese women have been used as tools during war, to destroy communities in their entirety." Show up and enjoy delicious food while supporting an emerging local organization committed to urgent, crucial work.

6. Ray's Boathouse
Spoil your mom this Mother's Day with brunch dinner at Ray's, in both the boathouse and the café. During brunch, the cafe will have a buffet with items including eggs Benedict, French toast, oysters on the half shell, and prime rib; the boathouse will have a la carte brunch items and other appetizers, salads, and seasonal entrees. During dinner in the boathouse, options include roasted sablefish in sake kasu, grilled wild King Salmon, and house-made tagliatelle. The café dinner menu includes pan-seared scallops, filet mignon, and the restaurant's beloved Alaskan King Crab legs.

7. RN74
It's a shame that RN74 doesn't serve brunch on a regular basis, but then again it makes it all the more special when they do. For Mother's Day this year, the restaurant will open its doors for an à la carte brunch, complete with a $22 bottomless bubbles feature if you're looking to get extra merry. Dishes include warm French crullers (with orange cardamon, sugar and Meyer lemon curd), grilled asparagus, steak tartare, and boudin noir. At the end of your meal, they promise a "special chocolate gift just for Mom."

8. Seattle Hebrew Academy
Join Chabad of Capitol Hill for a festive Lag BaOmer Brunch, complete with activities and cookie decorating for Mother's Day. Lag BaOmer is a festive day on the Jewish calendar, known for its emphasis on mysticism and the Kabbalah. Lag BaOmer (sometimes spelled Baomer or B'omer) also celebrates the life of the legendary Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who was said to be incredibly wise. The holiday is also known for bonfires, haircuts and weddings, all of which represent happiness and rebirth.

9. Tilth
Celebrate Mother's Day at Tilth with its special three-course prix fixe brunch menu. Start with the house-made carrot muffin, then move on to cheddar biscuits and Skagit River Ranch sausage gravy breakfast sausage with fried eggs and preserved lemon. Wrap up the meal with Tilth's sourdough waffle, complete with rhubarb butter and maple compote.

Should It Come With You When You Move?

Ask these 4 essential questions about every one of your belongings before you move into a new space

By Aly Finkelstein / Courtesy of Houzz.com

Envision your new home after the move. I’m sure the image that comes to mind is serene and clutter-free. You can achieve this goal by putting your stuff into perspective and questioning every item before it’s packed up and hauled to its next home. 

To decide which belongings will come with you, ask yourself these four essential questions. Start with the first question and continue down the questions until you have a yes or no answer for every one of your belongings.

1. Will this fit in my new place? When I am working with clients who are getting ready to move, I ask them to show me around their entire home. While we walk, I take detailed notes about the things right off the bat that aren’t going to be moved into the new home. I recommend grabbing a pen and paper and doing the same. 

Start with the master bedroom, then the kids’ rooms or extra bedrooms, and then the kitchen, family room, office, basement and so on. It is easier to start with furniture — as the new home tends to dictate which large pieces will come and which will be sold or donated.

2. Do I use it? Think about the use and enjoyment you get from each item. You should be able to very easily say, “Yes, I use it!” about the items you use the most.

  • Daily? Typically these include the coffeepot, dishes and clothing. These daily items are essential and will definitely move with you.
  • Weekly? Serving pieces and the slow cooker, while not used all the time, see frequent use. If you plan to continue using them on this basis, they can stay.
  • Annually? This includes holiday decor and outdoor dishes. I recommend taking this opportunity to get rid of the things you haven’t used in years. If you can’t remember the last time you decorated with the jack-o’-lantern for Halloween, ditch it.

3. Do I love it? Does it have special meaning? Was it from a special friend or relative? Does it evoke a positive memory or hold significant value? If the answer is yes, assemble a moving box, wrap up your items and place them carefully in the box. 

Tip: Make sure to label the outside of the box and keep a list of the items inside each box. This will help you locate everything more easily later.

4. Will I miss it? If you didn’t bring it to your new home, would you miss having it in your life? If the answer is yes, pack it. 

If the answer is no to this or any of the other questions, don’t take it with you to your new home. Make a box of items that you don’t want and donate it or arrange for a local charity to pick it up. 

In my work with my clients, I often find that the act of getting rid of a thing is the most emotional part of the process, and when our work is all said and done, they don’t miss or remember the specific items that were discarded.

Where to start asking questions. I recommend starting in the kitchen, because the decisions for kitchen items tend to be less emotional and easier to make. For example, do you use your small portable appliances? If the answer is, “Yes, daily,” you don’t have to ask any more questions. Pack it. If you are deciding on a platter that you never use, make your way to the next question until you get your final answer on whether you should keep it or not. 

Once you have decided what to bring with you from the kitchen, move on to the bedrooms. I recommend leaving the basement until last. It can be a more difficult space.

Repeatedly ask yourself the questions above about the belongings in each area of your home. Remember, the goal is to move into a serene, clutter-free home!