Five Steps to Fabulously Frugal Spring Cleaning! Sunday, Apr 7 2013 

Hey everybody! Enjoy the sneak preview look of next week’s Daily Local News Column! K
Five Steps to Fabulously Frugal Spring Cleaning!
What a great week! In the last seven days, I’m thrilled to report that my daffodils sprung into bloom, I’ve firmly retired my snow shovel back to the shed and my winter coat is back where it belongs – way in the back of the closet. Way back – as in “not seeing the light of day until at least October” way back. We made it folks, it’s Springtime! What better way to celebrate than with a wonderfully freshened up house – it’s (trumpet blare) Spring Cleaning time! Yeah, yeah, okay – I’d prefer a round trip ticket to Hawaii too, but hey, let’s get our kicks where we can, shall we? Trust me, a sparkling clean house goes a long way towards ushering in the warmer weather perfectly, and with a few – incredibly inexpensive – tricks, you’ll love how fast your house gets into spic and span mode!
Step One – Forget about the expensive household cleaners. Not only are they filled with chemicals I can’t even pronounce (once you get to 14+ syllables, you know you’re in trouble), but they’re ridiculously priced to boot! Make your cleaners effortlessly at home from ingredients that are highly effective and safe for kids and pets to be around as well. Best bet – mix equal parts of white vinegar and warm tap water into a spray bottle and use everywhere. Sinks, windows, vinyl floors, mirrors, fixtures – you’ll love the shine and you’ll adore the price.
Step Two – Declutter. There’s nothing like the feeling of a de-cluttered closet. Start a donation pile with the shoes that you haven’t worn in three years, add to it the suits that haven’t fit in ten years, and top it off with the sweaters that went out of style long before you even bought your suits. Get the picture? Don’t forget to write it all off on your tax return!
Step Three – Throw open the windows! Even the cleanest, dust-free homes could use a massive blast of fresh air after a long (emphasis on long) winter of closed windows. On the next balmy (say, higher than 60-degree) day, throw open the windows for at least 30 minutes, and get a box fan or two running for good measure, to speed things up.
Step Four – Change your Filters! Start with the filters bringing air into the house. While you’re at it, change (and/or clean) the filters in your vacuum cleaner. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your vacuum filters, brace yourself. If your vacuum filter is off-the-charts gross (I’m not speaking from experience or anything), placate yourself with the knowledge that all of that dust and gunk are far better in your vacuum filter than embedded in your carpets.
Step Five – Don’t forget the cars! If you think it’s a fabulous feeling coming home to a sparkling clean house, imagine the feeling of driving back to Home-Sweet-Home in a car that looks like it’s right off the showroom floor! Get rid of every speck of trash and ancient grocery receipts, haul your (newly-filtered) vacuum out there with the extension cord and get rid of the pulverized Cheerio and cracker crumbs embedded under the seats, then take your vinegar cleaner spray bottle and go to town getting everything to sparkle.
Above all else, pat yourself on the back for getting through another winter intact. Happy Springtime, everybody!

Celebrate Easter for Less! Sunday, Apr 7 2013 

Hey everybody – Sorry for getting this Column posted so late on my blog! It came out in plenty of time for the Daily Local & GalTime, but took me forever to blog it! Consider it fabulously earlier for NEXT Easter. Hugs to all! K
Happy Easter, everybody! Despite January-esque weather and frequent snow squalls – Easter is finally upon us, and I’m thrilled. I love this holiday – it’s a fabulous day for so many reasons. We’re *this* close to Springtime, it’s a wonderful day to get together with family and friends and it’s the one day of the year where I can wear a big, obnoxious pastel hat to church without getting (too many) weird looks. What’s not to love?
One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday is with a table full of family and friends. For those who hold back on a full house for fear the costs will spin out of control, read on for fabulous tips on creating a magnificent Easter for easily half the cost of last year!

The Feast: The most highly-effective tactic to slash costs on your Easter Meal is to delegate! I would suggest the host or hostess be in charge of any ham or turkey, but when it comes to the side dishes, it’s time to let your beloved guests show off their best recipes! In my family tree, I’ve got relatives coming in from all directions that are specialists in everything from dips to side dishes to desserts. Everyone coming to your house is going to want to bring something – let them put their special mark on the day with a recipe that they’re famous for! Before you know it, your only culinary task for the day – your turkey and/or ham – will be sitting in your dining room surrounded by gourmet parmesan potatoes, a bottle or two of wine, herbed rolls and a side table filled with desserts, none of which you had anything to do with creating. Score!

Decorations: I’ll be honest, I’m not much for sophisticated decorations on Easter. I pretty much pat myself on the back for setting the table with a pastel green tablecloth & bright pink napkins. However, I know people who take the flowers & placecards to a level worthy of a visit from Queen Elizabeth. Most people are somewhere in between. My advice – if you have any kind of nearby flowering bushes (forsythia, etc.) that are blooming, cut a few dramatic branches for some tall arrangements in vases, or simply line them down the center of the table in and amongst the candles. It looks fantastic, and fits in beautifully with the color scheme. If you want to kick it up a notch and you’re expecting a guest who adores flowers, have them be in charge of the arrangements. Boom, it’s off your list.

The Candy: If you’ve got young kids at your house (like me) you know that the candy costs can rapidly spiral out of control faster than you can say “nuclear sugar rush”. That being said, we all want the kids to have a great time, we just don’t want to break the bank to do it. No doubt you already have last year’s Easter Baskets upstairs in the attic, so all you have to do is hit the nearest dollar store where fabulously fresh Easter candy can be had for a fraction of what you might pay retail. Do yourself a favor and bring your basket with you to measure the amount of candy you’re getting. You’ll be surprised just how little you really need.

Above all else, remember that the idea here is to appreciate this special holiday in ways that won’t wreck your budget – surrounded by loving family and friends, hopefully some Springtime weather, and if you’re really lucky, an obnoxious pastel hat. Happy Easter, everybody!