Managing Holidays with the Family

holidays-1Most of us end up getting together with either all or part of our extended families for the holiday season. Our families are wonderful and loving, and the time we spend with them is something to look forward to….or not. A lot of us have a family member (or two) that we absolutely dread seeing. They turn a happy occasion into something that is filled with drama and very tiring. We can end up feeling guilty that we view these people with dislike: they are family, we should love them! No, you can dislike the personality/actions of a person and still love them. We also end up spending all this time and effort planning how the holidays SHOULD go, instead of enjoying the time we have with each other. We need to remember two simple things that can make our holidays with family memorable in a good way.

  • It’s Not About You. You need to realize that their actions and words are not meant for you personally. These people may have bad things going on in their own lives, and their harsh ways are a result of those things. Have you ever been having a bad day, and you snapped at someone or reacted overly harsh to someone that didn’t have anything to do with the reason you were in a foul mood? Same thing here, don’t take things personally. Even if they say “Bob, I cannot stand the way you do your hair”, chances are they aren’t really upset with Bob. Their words are reflecting their inner unhappiness. Take everything said with a grain of salt, don’t overreact or respond in kind. You don’t want to later regret something you said out of anger.
  • You Don’t HAVE To. The large dinner, the magazine-worthy decorations…it doesn’t holidays-2all have to be PERFECT. This is your family; you need to suppress the urge to impress. The most important part of spending time with family at the holidays is just that – spending time with family. When it comes down to it, the thing you want your family to come away with is the absolutely wonderful time they spent with each other. This time should be spent laughing, telling stories, sharing memories, and filling the time with love. All your stress about whether the napkins are spotless and the turkey is just so, that is all unimportant. You are CREATING stress for yourself. Take it easy and focus on the important things in life.
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Must-Have Small Appliances for Tiny Apartment Kitchens

Red Blender
Tiny apartment kitchens are really a tough problem for would-be gourmets. When you don’t have space on the counter for your Vita-Mix, your Kitchen Aid, your Fry Daddy, your Cuisinart, your Crock-Pot, and your cutting board, you have to cut corners somewhere. But cut the wrong corners, and your culinary opportunities will plummet. Fortunately, many appliances common to larger kitchens can be compensated for – for example, doing your deep-frying in a wok over the stove instead of in a dedicated fryer.

Here are the small appliances your tiny apartment kitchen simply shouldn’t do without:

A Hand Mixer: A stand mixer like the $350 Kitchenaids might be nice, but the simple truth is that there’s very little you’re going to want to cook at home that requires that kind of power (or expense!) A $15 hand mixer will handle cookie dough, mashing potatoes, whipping cream, and pretty much anything else you need mixed. Continue reading

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Prepare Your Home for Thanksgiving

happythanksgivingBefore you race down to the neighborhood market to buy more decorative items for the Thanksgiving holiday, remember to engage in some no cost items for this festival party.

First, we should always remember to be thankful for what we have. Sure, it is nice to always want more.  We will always want to make more money, have a bigger home or a nicer car or to be an actual homeowner, but these are ephemeral things that will get old and always need replacement throughout our lives.  These temporary material items only provide a short transparent happiness with your self and to find true peace within, rearm yourself with a new Thanksgiving reminder that focuses on being thankful in all areas of your life.

If you focus your attitude on just being thankful for what you have, this helps to enjoy this holiday and does not cost you a penny.  This new attitude will ensure you have a happier holiday. Remember to set aside time to clean your house and ensure that you request,
in an early time frame, for any parking approval passes from your landlord.  Some apartments require pre-approved parking permits or any overnight passes for potential guests.  Further, some apartments allow cooking on a barbeque grill on your patios, while others require you to cook food on their outside community grounds area.

Do not forget to ensure that you inquire with your management’s staff whether you need to reserve certain areas if you plan to have guests and family on this special holiday so there are no potential arguments with other tenants on the space you wanted reserved for this event. Also, ensure that any decorations that are used in and around the outside shutterstock_11487733community grounds area are approved before you purchase potential unnecessary items.

Do not forget to inquire whether your apartment community offers a lounge area for rent and also ensure the pool area is not a problem with the number of people you are inviting.  Lastly, do not forget to bring plenty of film to take pictures to reminiscence this
Thanksgiving day.

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Deli Cordon Bleu

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

Deli Cordon Bleu

This recipe rivals the French versions of the typical Cordon Bleu, eliminating prep steps but definitely not sacrificing flavor! It is equally appealing as an entrée accompanied by Au Gratin Potatoes or rice pilaf and steamed asparagus with Lemon Butter or cut into bite size portions for a delicious appetizer.



1/2 Lb Deli Ham

1/2 Lb Deli Turkey

2 – 6 oz pkgs Shredded Swiss Cheese

Bread Crumbs

1 Stick Butter

1 Egg

1/2 c Half and Half (or Milk)

1/2 c All Purpose Flour


Assemble the Cordon Bleu by layering a slice of ham topped by a slice of turkey. Top with shredded Swiss Cheese down the middle of the slices. Roll the slices carefully and secure with a toothpick. Repeat for remaining Ham and Turkey slices.

Place flour in a shallow bowl. Whisk egg and half and half together in another shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl. Coat each roll in flour, followed by dipping in egg and half and half and lastly rolling in breadcrumbs.

Melt half of the stick of butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Brown rolls on each side

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

adding additional butter if needed.

Serve whole rolls as entrees or remove toothpicks and cut rolls in bite size portions for appetizers. Mustard makes a flavor enhancing dipping sauce.

Recipe yields 8 – 10 entrée portions or 32 – 40 appetizer portions.

Make enough Cordon Bleu servings to share and enjoy!

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How to Host Thanksgiving Dinner in an Apartment

Thanksgiving dinner in a small space — particularly with a small kitchen — can be a difficult event to pull off well. It doesn’t matter how little space, how few exotic kitchen appliances, or how much your landlord hates parties — any apartment can host a modest thanksgiving. Incidentally, if you’re still looking but you expect to be moved by Thanksgiving, you might want to check local apartment ratings to see if anyone has mentioned the apartments’ policy on holiday parties before you decide to host.

Cooking: Preparation Is the Key

The wRenters_Voice_thanksgiving-familyonderful thing about Thanksgiving is that quite a bit of the food will hold for quite some time. Use that to your advantage:

  • Salads can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge, as long as the wettest ingredients (tomatoes, dressing, and other veggies that tend to get soggy) are kept in a separate container and mixed in at the last minute.
  • Cranberry sauce, if you’re making your own, can also be made days early and kept in the fridge.
  • The turkey is generally the first thing you’ll start on the day of the party, but it can rest for up to half an hour (tented under foil) before carving, so you’ll have time for your pie(s) to bake as you eat.
  • Stuffing, if you’re not going to put it in the turkey (or you need more than fits!), can be separated into wet and dry ingredients and mixed minutes before serving, and it keeps easily overnight in the fridge when separated.

Renters_Voice_family-playing-gamesMake Space by Making Space

That might sound a bit trite, but one of the easiest mistakes you can make is to try to use your apartment ‘as-is’ for a dinner party. Instead, take the largest room and move all of the furniture that isn’t being used for sitting and eating either off to the side, or even into the bedroom for the afternoon. If your dining furniture is not already in that room, move it in and use it there. Every little bit of additional elbow room helps!

Contrariwise, put the ‘comfy’ game-playing and hanging-out furniture in the smaller of your ‘public rooms.’ Elbow room is great when you’re eating, but when the point is to be close to your friends and family and you’re gathered around for a game or similar activity, it’s less necessary.

Attend to the Guest List

Finally, two words about the guest list; first of all, do not exceed your apartment’s capacity. If you have seating for a total of seven, keep the guests down to seven. Second, if your guests have kids, make space for them to eat in the game room while the adults chat at the table, and position yourself near both tables so you can easily attend to their needs as well.

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10 Easy Ways to Prepare for Houseguests

prepare for houseguestsWe all want to make houseguests feel right at home this holiday season. Here are 10 easy ways to prepare for houseguests.

  1. Stock the guest room with books and magazines.
  2. Offer storage space.  There is nothing worse than having to schlep your toiletries back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom!  Offer your guests a shelf or counter space.
  3. Do you have enough room for drinks?  I know it sounds silly, but you might not even realize there isn’t a convenient place to place your drinks.  Add a small side table to your living room if needed in order to prepare for houseguests.
  4. Keep flowers on the dining table and the guest room.  There is something about flowers that just make you feel special!
  5. Provide a place to put the suitcase.  This one might be a bit selfish, because if you are like me, the idea of a suitcase being placed on the bed is almost too much.  Provide a small stand or a bench.
  6. 10 easy ways to prepare for houseguestsHave plenty of snacks and nibbles on hand.  Same goes for cocktails and beverages.
  7. Provide a key.  This is really nice for your guests that might be staying longer than just a night.
  8. Leave the password for your wireless internet in a handy spot.  This is nice so that your guests can check email and stay connected.
  9. Create a list of possible activities.  This is so much better than jam packing schedules as you prepare for houseguests.
  10. Finally, give the guest room a test run.  Is anything missing?  Does it get chilly?

How do you prepare for houseguests? Find Renter’s Voice on Twitter and Facebook and share your tips.

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Fall Brings Leaves and Changes

Autumn2About this time of year, Fall brings the beautiful changes of colored leaves from green to brown, orange and yellow.  The season starts to get cooler and this includes preparation for a new season.  This is a good time to sort through the children’s and significant other’s clothing for their warmer clothes for this cooler season.

Hopefully, your management takes care of the raking and cleaning of leaves.  If not, ensure you allow an extra weekend to clean your yard areas so you keep your place immaculate and your neighbors and owners enjoy your temporary stay.  Also, do not forget to take time out for yourself and think about you accomplished for the year and what new ideas you may want for the following year.

When you finally have a free moment, pour yourself a nice warm cup of tea, hot chocolate, or favorite drink, relax and contemplate what was not accomplished this year and began thinking of possible innovative ideas for the New Year.  Maybe you didn’t save the money shutterstock_110741063you wanted to for that higher cost television or car.  Or maybe you want to save more money next year to plan for a larger place, a new car, or go on that special family trip.

Whatever the possibilities include, you may want to resolve to spend a certain amount of money for the upcoming holidays and stick to a budget. You always want to think of ways to improve your quality in life and see if your current home will accomplish this goal or if a different place is necessary.

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Space Heater Safety Tips

Renters-Voice_Space-HeaterLast year was so insanely cold that a new phrase — ‘polar vortex’ — became common lingo. This year, according to the seasonal predictions issued by the Weather Channel, the National Weather Service, and AccuWeather, is projected to be as cold or colder, particularly in the northern Midwest. This is why we’re getting ahead of the ball and advising that everyone get familiar with a space heater in their best-rated apartments.
Space heaters have long had a reputation for being inefficient. But ask yourself this; is it more efficient to heat your whole apartment to 72 degrees, or to heat your whole apartment to 65 degrees and then add a space heater just in the room you’re spending most of your time in? If you decide you want to put in a space heater, it is important to make sure you are staying safe, because they have been known to be fire hazards.

Warm and Safe

Here is some great advice from FEMA and the National Fire Prevention Association regarding space heaters:

  • Renters-Voice_Thermostat-Heater• Keep your space heater at least three feet away from the nearest flammable object. This includes drapes, bed sheets, upholstered furniture, newspapers, and your hair.
  • • Tell your guests and children not to move the space heater once it has been safely placed. If you have pets (cats, mostly) that are prone to knocking things off of tables, consider some form of anchor.
  • • Never put a space heater on an extension cord unless you know that cord is rated to carry a heavy load. (Please note: just because an extension cord is thick and heavy does not mean it can take a large current!) The draw that a space heater pulls can melt cords and cause fires.
  • • Keep your space heater well away from splashing water. Avoid the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room altogether if possible, and don’t put it anywhere near an open window, (even if there’s a screen in place) unless it is absolutely certain not to rain.
  • • Always turn your space heater off when you leave the room.
  • • Purchase a space heater that has an auto-off feature that will deactivate it if it is tipped over or if it overheats.
  • • Finally, never ever use just a space heater to keep your apartment warm. If your apartment is uncomfortably cold (below about 65 degrees), contact your landlord. Many states and municipalities have ‘heat laws’ that require your landlord to ensure that you are able to use your heat. (You still have to pay for the electricity or gas, but they have to make sure that your heating system works.) Use your apartment’s system to maintain a ‘base heat’, and use your space heater to target a specific area from there.

Used properly, space heaters are a decent way to trim your heating costs by only warming the air you are sitting in. Used improperly, they can pose a major risk to your safety and your pocketbook. Follow these tips and you should get the best use from your space heater this winter.

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Tips for Moving Into a Tiny Apartment

shutterstock_28275935Moving day can be stressful. It’s extremely stressful if you’re downsizing. What are you going to do with your stuff? How can it all possibly fit? Before you get yourself all worked up here are a few tips to give you peace of mind on the big day.

Don’t bring everything into your apartment at once.

Okay, this may sound crazy, especially if you’ve spent days packing and hours loading a vehicle with your belongings. Bringing everything into your space at once starts you off on a cluttered journey. You’re already overwhelmed with thoughts run amuck of “where-to-put-what” and how you’ll possibly fit all of your clothes into your tiny closet. Instead, only bring the essentials in first and give yourself a few days to feel them out in the space. In terms of furniture, the essentials would be your bed and other seating like a sofa or a chair. If you are moving into a studio apartment, just existing with your bed for a few days will allow you to adjust to a life with less furniture. You’ll appreciate getting out of bed every morning and not bumping into something. Everything else you bring in should be a deliberate choice made out of necessity.

Adopt a Mantra.

Here’s a simple mantra to repeat as you begin to unpack:

Everything has a home. If it doesn’t have a home, I’ll give it a home. If I can’t shutterstock_55124425find it a home, I’ll throw it away.

Mantras are very effective as they provide a verbal reinforcement to an action we want to complete. Your desire is to live in a peaceful, clutter-free home. Finding a “home” for your belongings helps you to address storage issues and finally let go of the things you don’t need. If in fact you come across a great item that you simply no longer need or just don’t have the space for while moving, by all means donate it or give it to a friend instead of throwing it away.Act quickly or you’ll just have another pile of things taking up space.

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Does Your Data Reside On A Cloud?

shutterstock_132771947Clouds are no longer just part of the weather forecast or a soft, cozy place to take a nap. In fact Clouds were rockin’ when Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones topped the charts with “Get Off of My Cloud. Move over rain clouds, these clouds are invisible savers of data housed on a remote base.

If you’re not careful, your private information could be all over the Internet; recently some celebs saw their pictures being compromised and distributed without their knowledge or consent. A simple solution followed with an Apple spokesperson demonstrating how to make sure your data isn’t saved and stored, at least on Apple smart phones.

shutterstock_114408466There are pros, cons and what ifs to cloud storage just like everything else. If one of the mammoth Internet sites that sell music online had cloud storage at the time I purchased tracks, it would have saved me time and money. I noticed just days after my tracks were downloaded and paid for, many of them would not play with the explanation of “file not found.” When I reported it to the provider I was told they would replace a few and explained that it was a problem with my computer, and they were sorry. Needless to say, I didn’t buy from that Internet site for a long time after that. Just about all sites selling music online now back your purchases up high on a cloud somewhere.

Of course, you have other choices for storing your data. Among them are internal and external hard drives, writable DVDs/CDs and portable USB flash drives. If you save your data on a cloud, be careful what you store!

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