Splurge Vs. Save: Kitchen Edition

Cooking is a great way to connect with loved ones and save a little money while you’re at it. But home food prep can become less affordable when you consider all the kitchen tools you need to put a meal together. While we always prefer quality over quantity every time, there are a few shortcuts you can take to save cash when it comes to kitchen tools. Take a look at five items where you can save and five where you should splurge– you’ll have a chef-worthy kitchen in no time!

Our Surf Rider apartment community in Metairie offers spacious kitchens perfect for foodies.

Our Surf Rider apartment community in Metairie offers spacious kitchens perfect for foodies.

SAVE: Affordable Kitchen Tools

Mixing Bowls: No need for fancy ceramic bowls here. A set of simple, stainless steel bowls will provide you with the mixing space you need and also resist bacteria buildup. Bonus? They also perfect for a lunchtime salad or gigantic bowl of cereal.

Baking Sheets: Baking sheets are prone to food buildup, so no need to purchase expensive ones that will lose their luster quickly anyway. Pro tip: use a topper like aluminum foil or a Silpat sheet to preserve the smooth surface.

Spatula: Even the most expensive spatulas are still relatively affordable, but since these don’t get much wear and tear, an inexpensive model will last!

Colander: Whether for draining pasta or rinsing fruit and vegetables, this smart tool doesn’t have to be a splurge. Any model will do, although we recommend stainless steel over plastic for its antibacterial properties.

Nonstick pan: This is a kitchen workhorse, meaning that it’ll accumulate wear and tear quickly. It’s best to replace the pan as it wears (evidence suggests the nonstick coating can have carcinogenic properties as the coating breaks down).

SPLURGE: High-Quality Necessities

Stainless Steel Skillet: Unlike a nonstick pan, this is a kitchen necessity where you can (and should) spend a little extra. These pans are good for everything from pancakes and eggs to steaks and chicken – and since they don’t have a coating, it’s better to get a high-quality pan that will last and last.

Cutting Board: A teak wood cutting board is an incredible kitchen tool. Instead of a cheap plastic board, teak wood boards are easier on your knives and also limit bacteria – even if any sinks into the wood, it can’t survive inside (unlike a plastic board where bacteria can hang out on top).

Food processor: The right food processor will make you a whiz in the kitchen. The key here is to opt for a quality processor that actually does the job. Cheaper models often don’t process the food properly and are prone to breaking quickly.

Storage containers: Hear us out – it might be tempting to buy cheap, plastic storage containers, but consider spending a little extra on quality containers that won’t crack, are BPA free, and are microwave safe. Brands like Tupperware and Pyrex are a good place to start.

Olive Oil: Did you know that a high percentage of olive oils available for purchase are actually fraudulent? Oils of inferior quality are being passed off as extra virgin olive oil. Instead, reach for real, high-end oils or go for a happy medium with Whole Foods California 365 – it’s “real” olive oil at a more digestible price point.

Realistic Rental Redo: How To Organize A Closet And Maximize Space

Closets inevitably become disorganized, messy and cluttered if there’s no rhyme or reason to them, so to keep your closet in order, we have a few simple but necessary closet organization tips to follow. Usually closets never feel big enough, but with these space management tricks, you can maximize the size of your closet.

organized closet

Yes, a clutter-free closet is possible. (Photo courtesy Rubbermaid Products on Flickr)

How to Organize a Closet

Storage Compartments

Closet organizers like shelves and bins can do wonders for utilizing space. Storage units should be used for anything that isn’t on hangers in a closet, like shoes, accessories, delicates or foldable clothing. These kinds of dividers and containers can be placed below hung clothing to use that open space to make room for more items so they don’t all wind up on the floor, under the bed, or bulging out of dresser drawers. Bigger, clunky items like sporting equipment can be put on top of shelving.

closet before 1st lake

We used a real 1st Lake Properties closet to put our tips to the test. Here’s the “before closet.” It’s still pretty neat, but it can definitely be more organized.

To maximize space, store any items you aren’t actively using in boxes or baskets. Aim to place these at the very top of your shelving, along with sporting equipment and other large, infrequently used items. You can color code these boxes or baskets to help you know what’s inside without having to reach for them. Here at 1st Lake, we use blue baskets for bedding and brown baskets for books and other miscellaneous items. This creates harmony and peace in the closet and helps us maintain a clean, organized look.

closet after 1st lake

Storage boxes and shelving units make a huge difference!

As a general rule, you’ll want to store things in the following order:

  • Place most-used items at eye level
  • Place less-used items below
  • Place least-used items up higher

    bike closet bella ridge

    This closet at our Bella Ridge property is spacious to hold all your clothes… plus sporting equipment!

Sort by Season

A simple way to organize your closet seasonally is to place your most-used items of the current season in a visible, accessible location. If it’s winter, place your summer clothes and bathing suits in storage bins so they won’t take up the needed space for jackets, pants and sweaters. If it’s spring time (or even if it’s not) spring cleaning is always a good idea. Take a closet inventory, and separate unwanted clothes to make room for what’s really needed. Then, donate those unwanted items and pat yourself on the back for doing something good.

Once you’re in good shape for a particular season, here are a few more simple tips on sorting your clothes:

  • Face all hangers the same way. A small tip that makes a big impact!
  • Consider color coding your wardrobe to help you see what pieces you have and how you can mix and match them.
  • If you have a shared closet space, use a divider (like a shoe hanger) to designate your own space. Speaking of shoes…

Organizing Your Shoes

Though a very famous character from a glamorous NYC show dismissed closet shoe organizers as unthinkably tasteless, real ladies should think twice before thumbing their noses at these handy space savers. Amazon.com, Kmart, Target, and other such retailers sell a variety of types of shoe organizers. Certain varieties are meant to be suspended from a hanging rod, like the kind in your average closet, while others are designed to hang from a door or sit on the floor. For maximum space saving, the shoe organizers that hang from a door are best. These contraptions hold anywhere from 10 to 30 pairs of shoes and most cost around $20, though there are many overly fancy varieties that cost upwards of $50.

Organizing Your Clothes

Vacuum storage is an excellent way to save valuable closet space. While it’s tough to separate winter and summer wardrobes in a place like New Orleans where “summer” and “not summer” are considered seasons, vacuum packing winter clothes and blankets can save a surprising amount of space. Stores like those mentioned in the previous section sell fancy bags with vacuum nozzles and zippers and such; but, you can achieve almost the same reduction in volume by storing items in a regular plastic bag, vacuuming the air out of the bag, and sealing the bag quickly. However, some styles of the store bought bags are made to be hung in a closet, which is a feature that is not so easy to duplicate at home. For items such as ties and scarves, you can but a multi-item hanger for about $10. On average, one such hanger holds between 10 and 20 ties or scarves.

One last thing to keep in mind is to make sure you devote enough time to organizing your closet. You may not be able to do it in 30 minutes, and you won’t want to leave the project half completed to come back to. It’s definitely worth the time it takes to organize, and should be done according to season. Happy cleaning!

1st Lake Properties has a large selection of New Orleans area apartments communities with ample closet space to make organizing a closet much easier!

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How to Keep Your Home Clean with Dogs

Dogs are family. It’s just that they shed a whole lot more than our human family. Dogs bring us so much love and light in our lives, but they also require a little extra cleaning at home. Read on for tips on how to maintain a picture-perfect apartment, even when you’ve got a four-legged friend or two.

puppy

This puppy is an adorable, mess-making machine. (Photo via Flickr user Pal-Kristian Hamre)

7 Helpful Habits

In addition to basic care for your dog — flea control, regular vet visits — there are a few habits you can implement at home to help keep your apartment clean. Here are 7 helpful habits to work into your routine:

Keep washable mats at each door: You might have a welcome mat outside the front door, but consider placing one just inside the door as well. This simple addition can help tamp down dirt and mud that dogs might track in. Remember to add mats both inside and outside any additional doors, as well. And remember to choose a washable mat!

Groom and bathe your dog regularly: Frequent bathing and grooming is one of the best ways to limit dog hair and dander inside your home. Try to brush your dog every day (preferably outside) to loosen and remove any dirt or shedding fur. Another great habit is to wipe your dog’s paws after a walk or trip to the dog park. Keep scrolling for one of our favorite products to tackle the job!

Clean up accidents ASAP: Accidents happen, and even though it can be frustrating and you might just want to ignore it for a little bit, you’ll be a lot better off to stop what you’re doing and clean things up. The longer dog urine sits, the more likely it is to permanently stain (and stink!). If it’s a, um, solid situation, remove any residue with a dull knife. Then, blot fresh stains with a cloth and apply lukewarm water mixed with a drop of dish soap. Keep alternating dry blotting with the soapy water solution until the stain is gone. You can also try ingredients like baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to help lift stains — just do a small test first for colorfastness.

Wash all bedding regularly: This means human bedding and pet bedding! Regular washing helps mitigate any lingering odors and accidents you may have missed.

Keep your dog active – before he comes in the house: This one is simple — a tired dog simply doesn’t get into as much trouble inside. Some of our properties like Bella Ridge have on-site dog parks to make it easy on you!

Have old towels handy for rainy days: New Orleans weather can be unpredictable, but you can pretty much count on rain. Keep old towels in a bin in the pantry so they’re at arm’s reach to quickly dry off a wet dog. You can also use the towels to cover up rugs or carpet so your wet dog can get from A to B without ruining anything!

Mud? What mud? Always have old towels handy for a rainy day, when dirt quickly becomes mud. (Photo via Flickr user Donna Sutton)

Always have old towels handy for a rainy day, when dirt quickly becomes mud. (Photo via Flickr user Donna Sutton)

Avoid micro-suede and micro-fiber furniture: This furniture is more affordable, but it’s also a magnet for pet hair. If you’re able to afford a leather couch or chair, you’ll be rewarded with an easy-to-wipe-down surface that will last for years. Of course, you could also try (key word: try!) to not let your dog up on the furniture.

Paw-some Products

A lot of helpful cleaning products are probably already inside your kitchen. Take a look at a few of our favorite products for a clean and happy home for you and your dog.

Baking Soda: This grocery store staple is an affordable and effective way to remove odors. Sprinkle it on carpets before vacuuming, or add it to a spray bottle with water and a drop of essential oil, then spray in the air or on curtains and upholstery.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Try pouring it on pet accidents (remember to test for colorfastness first) to help eliminate tough stains.

Grooming Wipes: You can buy special wipes just for dogs, but good ol’ baby wipes will work, too. Keep a box by the front door, and wipe down your dog’s paws after every outing.

Stain-resistant dog beds: Invest in a high-quality dog bed from brands like Crypton. Not only are the beds extremely durable and easy to wash, they also feature anti-microbial stain protection and a resistant fabric barrier that prevents germs from penetrating into the cushion.

Roomba: These are expensive vacuums, no doubt. But they’re one of the most effective ways to win the war against dog fur. The vacuums run automatically, taking the burden completely off you. They also learn to get to know every nook and cranny of your home over time for a deeper clean than you ever thought possible.

For even more pet tips, check out our Living With Pets section on the blog. 

Bella Bark: Dog Park Etiquette and Safety

In addition to outlining the best dog parks in New Orleans, we’re also pleased to have our own dedicated park for the pups: Bella Bark at Bella Ridge. Whether you choose to let your dog run and play at Bella Bark or one of the city’s other great dog parks, there are definitely a few rules to keep in mind! Keep scrolling to review dog park etiquette and safety information.

The exclusive Bella Bark dog park at Bella Ridge.

The exclusive Bella Bark dog park at Bella Ridge.

Dog Park Etiquette and Safety

First, ask yourself: Is your dog a good fit for the dog park?

All dogs love to run and play, but not all dogs are good candidates for a dog park full of other dogs with different personalities. Here are a few ways to determine whether or not your dog should be at the park:

  • Does your dog have an anxious personality? If so, the hubbub of a dog park might put him on edge. Try taking him at quiet times during the day (for example, mid-morning) for a happy medium.
  • Is your dog new? Make sure you get to know your dog one-on-one before you introduce her to other pets and social situations. This is especially true of rescue dogs, who may have had previous traumatic experiences. And remember, puppies younger than 6 months old are not suitable for dog parks!
  • Does your dog have alpha tendencies? If your dog just loves being top dog — to the point that he might pick fights with other dogs — it’s probably better to limit his time at the park! If you do choose to take him, make sure to keep a sharp eye on his behavior.

OK, so your dog is a good candidate for a dog park. But does she meet these requirements?

Our dog park — like most dog parks — has general rules and requirements. Familiarize yourself with them below!

  • Dogs must be spayed or neutered
  • Dogs must be vaccinated (the state of Louisiana mandates vaccination against rabies, distemper, and bordatella)
  • Owners must clean up and properly dispose of his or her dog’s waste
  • Dogs must be leashed outside of the dog park and off-leash once they’re inside
  • No dog treats, human food, or glass are allowed within the dog park

Good Dog: The importance of being courteous!

Rules are just one half of the dog park experience. The other half is courtesy and etiquette. Here are a few ways you can maximize dog park enjoyment, both for the humans and their four-legged friends.

  • Do not allow a dog to bully another dog. Play nice!
  • Discourage dogs from forming packs.
  • Supervise your dog while he or she is playing at the park. This means limiting cell-phone time and socializing to make sure you’re being vigilant!
  • Keep the gates closed to prevent dogs from running in and out.
  • Discourage your dog from digging.

Know Your Dog’s Behaviors

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has several helpful tips on behaviors to watch for while you’re supervising your dog’s park playtime. Note: if you see signs of aggression, you will need to intervene. Try a non-physical intervention first, such as clapping or whistling. Remember, physically separating dogs is a last resort! Instead, plan on prevention wherever possible.

Signs of Anxiety:

  • A low tail with fast wagging
  • Whining
  • Ears pinned back

Signs of Fear:

  • Tucked tail
  • Tense
  • Head down
  • Hunched position

Signs of Aggression:

  • Pinning another dog
  • Bullying
  • Snarling or raised lips
  • Baring teeth
  • Raised hackles

Quick Road Trips: Where to Go for a Getaway Outside New Orleans

Quick Road Trips: Where to Go for a Getaway Outside New Orleans

New Orleans has so much to offer, you could never leave and still find something to do every single day of the week. But sometimes, you need a change of pace without spending very much.

Sure, we’d love to hop on a flight to some exotic island, but with our wallets in mind, we’ve created a list of “staycations” – places outside the city that feel like a whole new world but are just a short drive away. Whether you head to the shores of Dauphin Island or the stately guest rooms of Nottoway Plantation, bookmark this list for a weekend getaway or a quick day trip… you deserve it!

Road Trips from New Orleans

Day trips from New Orleans.

Day trips from New Orleans.

Celebrate a Noted Ceramicist

Take the hour-and-a-half drive to Biloxi and visit the Ohr-O’Keefe museum, a non-profit museum that highlights the work of ceramicist George E. Ohr. While the O’Keefe component may conjure up images of desert flowers, it isn’t named for Georgia O’Keefe: instead, the O’Keefe portion of the museum’s name comes from Annette O’Keefe, the late wife of the former Biloxi mayor whose donation dollars were instrumental in bringing the museum to life.

ohr okeefe

Photo courtesy Ohr O’Keefe Museum of Art on Facebook

Famed architect Frank Gehry designed the museum, which is a work of art in and of itself. Comprised of five separate buildings, the museum includes dedicated spaces for special exhibitions, African American art, and ceramics.

Where to Stay: If you decide to extend your stay beyond a day trip, there are a variety of hotels within the area. Many even give you the option to test your luck at an included casino!

What Else to Do in Biloxi: Go on a fishing charter, visit the outlet malls in nearby Gulfport, or simply hit the beaches. With that in mind… 

Stay at a Gulf Coast Beach

The Gulf Coast is full of gorgeous beaches perfect for a getaway from New Orleans. Our recommendations? Bay St. Louis for its charming downtown, Dauphin Island near Mobile for a more rustic and nature-immersed feel, and Grand Isle to stay in state and experience a beautiful state park. All of these beaches are fewer than three hours away (Bay St. Louis is only an hour drive), but if you’re willing to drive even farther, we have two additional recommendations:

Destin, FL: The four-hour drive is worth every minute for sparkling blue waters and a charming town.

Photo courtesy The Pearl RB on Facebook

Photo courtesy The Pearl RB on Facebook

Rosemary Beach, FL: Just a bit farther from Destin, you’ll find Rosemary Beach, which has the same charming feel and beautiful waters. If you can spring for the Pearl Hotel, we say go for it – their high-style décor, incredible pool, and proximity to both downtown and the beach makes for a memorable vacation.

Holly Beach, LA: This coastal community in Cameron Parish is about a four-hour drive from New Orleans. You won’t get the same crystal-clear waters as Florida beaches, but the abundance of shells and serene, peaceful feel will keep you intrigued and in awe.

Experience the Past at Plantations

Plantations pepper the region just outside of New Orleans, serving as architectural reminders of the Antebellum South. While there are several to choose from, like Houma House, Oak Alley, and Destrehan Plantation, our top picks are as follows:

Laura Plantation: This plantation about an hour outside New Orleans is a little different than the vast and sprawling plantations elsewhere in the state. Because it was a Creole plantation where mixed cultures lived and work, Laura Plantation has a completely different architecture. You can also connect to the past more closely and realistically at Laura, where examples of slave homes and banana tree farms abound. If you crave the classic plantation style, Oak Alley Plantation is right next door.

nottoway

Photo courtesy Nottoway Plantation on Facebook

Nottoway Plantation: Nottoway isn’t just a plantation – it’s a resort. Drive about an hour and a half outside New Orleans, and you’ll have access to beautiful architecture and elegant furnishings, plus vacation-worthy amenities like tennis courts, a spa, an on-site restaurant, and live entertainment. Stay in the main mansion or choose from guest houses and cottages, some of which even have a private pool.

Visit a Museum that Honors Two Louisiana Pastimes

At first glance, aviation and lumber seem like an odd combination to appear in the same museum. But the Wedell-Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum in Patterson is actually a fitting combination. The dual focus is a nod to two components of Louisiana history: Jimmie Wedell and Harry P. Williams formed an air service together in Patterson during the golden age of aviation in the 1920s, and Patterson – about an hour and a half drive from New Orleans – was once home to the largest cypress sawmill in the world.

Top 5 Road Trip Tips

Even a short road trip benefits from a little bit of planning and a little bit of packing. Here are 5 tips to help make your next road trip even better:

1. Plan for high-traffic areas. Are you planning on leaving New Orleans at 5 p.m. on a Friday? Probably not a great idea if you can help it. Instead, try avoiding peak rush hour times if possible, and always remember to plan ahead for the next town — for example, even if you leave New Orleans a little early at 3, you’ll be hitting Biloxi just as traffic starts to peak.

2. Consider joining AAA or another roadside assistance group. Louisiana roads have a real knack for banging up cars, from rock chips to flat tires. Joining a roadside assistance group like AAA ensures you’ll get free help and free towing in the event of anything that brings your car to a halt. These programs are typically pretty affordable — usually about $100 annually — and also include great member discounts on hotels.

3. Have cash and change handy. Don’t forget about toll money! Carry small bills and plenty of quarters in your car so that you can easily pay tolls on the way to your destination and on the way back. Spare change is also helpful in case you can’t get cell phone service: believe it or not, pay phones still exist — but you’ll need coins to get them to work.

4. Have your documents in order. License? Check. Registration? Check. Proof of insurance? Check. If you’ve decided to rent a car, make sure to keep any documents and receipts with you in the front glove compartment.

5. Bring a spare key. This simple little hack can help you avoid a major headache.

 

 

 

 

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