Monday, October 26, 2015

Designing your child’s room: toddler to teen

Designing a child’s room can seem like a daunting task that comes with a hefty price tag. Add in the belief that a child’s room needs to re-done every few years as they grow and their tastes change, and this task goes from daunting to discouraging. But it doesn’t have to be!

First and foremost, think long term.

The design should incorporate elements and furniture that can grow with your child through their years, carrying them from childhood to tweens to their teen years. Don’t get carried away with a character themed room; think more generic with colour choices and include small, replaceable (read: economical) objects to incorporate their latest character or trend obsessions.

In each of the tween rooms that I recently worked on I created reading zones. A chair and pink puff will be ideal for entertaining friends when that time comes; but for now, we’ve added a faux sheep skin to make it the ideal spot for her curl up with a favourite book and drift off into fantasy land. I also added in a great reading light. 

In the boy’s room, I wanted to add a zone where he could read, play games, hang out with friends, and act as an extra sleeping spot for guests (pending their age and size). This lounge chair was the perfect fit and durability for a child. It provides a relaxing spot to kick back with his feet up, for reading alone, or for curling up with a parent. This chair’s purpose can be transformed as he grows up, and might even move out with him.

Storage for kids is key. They have so many little toys, gadgets and books that it’s great to be able to stow them away so the floor doesn’t become a clutter zone. In the girl’s room I chose chest storage with pull out bins and doors. This is another piece that is really timeless. You can fancy it up in the early years to be a dress-up station, while in later years it can be used for clothing storage, art supplies and more.

The bed I selected for the boy’s room has a desk under it and tons of storage. There is open shelving where we added in bins for toys and books – and a side closet that can be used for clothing or more toys.

Play with textures and colours – don’t get stuck on the traditional child’s room. Allow smaller accessories to be the themed items so they can easily be changed and updated as your child grows. Patterned baskets allow for quick clean-ups and add some fashionable elements to the space. Fun pillows and throws are budget friendly and can transform the design and mood within seconds. For instance, in the girl’s room I chose bedding from an adult line, feminine by not childish. Also, going with the double size instead of twin means the bedding doesn’t have to be changed when she’s ready for a bigger bed.

For the boy’s room, I chose to work with a light grey paint , knowing that this room will need to age well and be cool for many years to come. The natural grey is a colour that allows the room to feel warm but is not the focal point in the room. Using a lighter colour on the walls allows the pieces within to standout. As he grows and refines his tastes, these grey walls will coordinate with future room modifications.

I love to bring colour and life into a child’s room through artwork; it’s an easy way to update and refresh any space. It also adds a personal touch by including drawings and artwork created by the room owner. For kids who love to draw or paint, having a home for their masterpieces, and one that can be updated at whim, adds a touch of their own personality to their room.

Have fun shopping and creating the ideal child’s room for now and the future. This is the space where your child will dream, read, dress and grow, so go ahead and enjoy designing this space for them.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

5 Revolutionary Bike-Storage Tips

bike art

Riding a bike is arguably one of life’s most pleasurable activities. Storing a bike, on the other hand, can be a royal pain. Not only do you need to find and prepare an adequate storage space, you also need to ensure that your bike is kept in tip-top shape.

Chad Burma, an experienced sales associate at Freewheel Bike, a 40-year-old bike shop in Minneapolis, can offer plenty of sage advice on the topic. Given that Minneapolis is one of the world’s top-rated bike-friendly cities, Burma has seen it all. We’re sure his tips will revolutionize your bike-storage practices, leaving you with more energy to ride the bike path or road.

1. Protect Against Temperature Fluctuations

If you’re planning to store your bike for an extended period of time, Burma says to consider keeping it in a climate-controlled space. This is because extreme temperature fluctuations—such as those in the harsh climates of northern locales—can damage your bike. “When the temperature swings, it can age and ultimately degrade the rubber of your bike tires,” Burma explains. “And if you rode your bike in wet conditions before storing it and neglected to properly drain the frame of water, a deep freeze could cause it to crack.”

2. Choose an Ideal Storage Space

When thinking about where to store your bike indoors, Burma advises selecting a room or space that can handle a little dirt. That’s because your bike’s chain and gears are likely encased in grease, and its tires can track in road grime. For this reason, porches (enclosed and secure, of course) and basements may be your best bet. If you’re worried about getting bike grease on your furniture, Burma says to consider getting a cover for your bike’s drivetrain (aka, the oily bits).

3. Consider Hanging Your Bike

Getting your bike (or bikes) up off the floor is an especially good idea if you’re storing it in a high-traffic area of your home. Burma recommends using a simple bike hook—make sure it’s coated in rubber so it doesn’t damage your frame’s finish—or looking into a ceiling lift system, depending on the limitations of your space. If you’re hanging multiple bikes on a wall using hooks, Burma says to consider staggering each one to save space (hang one bike by its front wheel and the next by its rear wheel). And while you’re at it, why not stagger your bikes with some cool bicycle art?

4. Make Security Your Priority

Nothing makes storing your bike more painful than the threat of not finding it in its dedicated spot when you return. To prevent this stomach-churning sensation, Burma says to be certain your storage space is secure—and yes, this means locking up your bike if it’s in a garage. To lock your bike, Burma recommends using a high-security lock and making sure the frame and wheels are secure.

5. Perform Regular Maintenance

Just because your bike is sitting pretty in storage doesn’t mean you can neglect it. To preserve your bike’s ready-to-roll status, Burma says to keep your chain oiled and your tires inflated to the proper pressure (look on the side of the tire for the recommended pounds per square inch). “Because bicycle tire tubes are fairly small, even a tiny leak can cause the air pressure to drop quickly,” he explains. “For this reason, be sure to check your tire pressure at a minimum of every other week to avoid getting stuck with a flat.”

And, as any bike enthusiast knows, being stuck indoors is never fun. So be sure to keep up the regular maintenance while putting Burma’s other tips into practice. After all, a properly stored and maintained bike is your ticket to many more two-wheeled adventures.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Stargazing 101: Fall Is Perfect Time to Look to the Sky

star gazing

Fall is the perfect time for stargazing. With the convenience of early sunsets (you don’t have to stay up so late) and cool-but-not-bone-chilling evenings (you won’t need a parka), you can easily explore the splendor of the nighttime sky from home. And it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

Ready to get started with backyard astronomy? Here’s how:

You Don’t Actually Have to Buy Anything

Try exploring the sky using just your eyes. Certain events, like meteor showers or the Northern Lights, don’t require optical aid at all (in fact, it’s a detriment). You can also observe the gradual motion of the planets (those closer to the sun, like Venus, move more quickly than those farther away, like Mars) and learn the basic constellations by using only your eyes.

A great family project is to learn how to use the Big Dipper as a pointer to help you find the North Star (Polaris) and get a little feel for how centuries of explorers have navigated at night. If the glare of city lights interferes with your view (a common problem known as light pollution), track down a more rural viewing site.

The Farmers’ Almanac website regularly posts articles suggesting what you can look for. You can also try the helpful sky charts that can be found in the Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines.

If You Do Buy Something, It Doesn’t Have To Be Fancy

To go farther than your own eyes can see, you will need to obtain some kind of optical aid. A simple pair of binoculars can open up a surprising number of options, including surface details on the moon, such as ray craters (look for those during a full moon), and the flat, darker-colored “mares” (Latin for “seas” but completely dry, like all of the moon).

A not-so-simple pair of binoculars, like this Space Navigator™ Satellite Finding model, can actually help you to locate and track satellites, the space station, and constellations via an app you install on your cell phone.

Whichever binoculars you choose, you’ll be able to see far more faint stars than what are visible to your naked eye, and you can look for “fuzzy” objects like nebula and comets. With binoculars, you can also observe double or “binary” stars (there’s one in the Big Dipper … can you find it?).

A Telescope: Your Gateway to the Skies

To truly experience the night sky and feel like a real astronomer, invest in a telescope. Start out with a small, refracting (uses lenses to magnify light) or reflecting (uses mirrors) telescope with a main lens or mirror less than 80mm wide. By starting small, you can keep the cost and weight of the telescope more reasonable, and it may be all you will ever need.

A small telescope can give you a spectacular view of the moon and allow you to explore other planets as well. Jupiter is a very popular target for small telescopes. Depending on conditions, you may be able to see bands of clouds and Jupiter’s four major moons. Saturn, though a bit smaller and farther away from Earth, is also always a hit with its fantastic rings. Mars is much more of a challenge to view with a small telescope, and it will likely look like just a tiny red dot. Venus is interesting because it goes through phases sort of like the moon’s.

What You Can’t See

For all of the exciting objects available to the beginner using simple equipment, some things will be out of reach, so be sure to go into this adventure with realistic expectations:

  • Don’t expect Hubble-quality views.Your telescope’s images are going to appear smaller, dimmer, less colorful (expect to see a lot of gray), and fuzzier than the space images you see in the news.
  • No, you can’t see Neil Armstrong’s footprints!Even when you’re observing something impressive like the moon, it’s still very far away.
  • Some things just can’t be seen.You won’t be able to see extremely faint objects like Pluto—or black holes, which aren’t called “black” for nothing.

Still, there’s something about observing space with your own eyes that a photograph can’t quite capture. And that is what keeps people coming back to the night sky year after year.

Good luck, and may you have clear skies!

— Daniel Johnson

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