We have reached that time of the year again that is all about getting together with family and sitting down to big, elaborate meals. And while we are supposed to be happy and celebrating, many people are simply thankful to get through the holidays in one piece. Why must the holidays be so stressful? Good news, they don’t have to be! Want to know the easiest way to bypass the stress: have a plan. Simple right? Not exactly, but it’s amazing how much a thorough plan can transform your holiday season. With Thanksgiving being only a week away, let’s go through the next week; breaking up preparation tasks to make it all feel less daunting.
The Week Before
Collect your recipes and create a shopping list.
Still don’t know exactly what you’re making for the big feast? Time to get that sorted. Go through as many recipes as it takes, but remember, not every dish needs to be fancy and complicated. Sometimes the simplest option is the best.
Clean out your refrigerator.
Figure out what needs to get eaten over the next week to create as much storage in your fridge as possible. Are there items that can get used in some of your recipes? Are there things that simply need to get tossed? Keep in mind that you will want to maximize the amount of storage containers you have on hand. This will make life much easier as you move the through the week.
Dedicate this last weekend to preparations.
This is your time to do the shopping. Hit the market early, and give yourself plenty of time to shop. Chances are you have a big list, and it’s no fun trying to get everything in your basket while racing the clock. And while you are out, consider picking up extra storage containers that you can fill with leftovers and send home with guests.
Clean the house.
If you are hosting, you will want your home to sparkle and shine for guests coming to visit. Take the time to do a thorough clean this weekend, and prepare spare rooms with clean linens and supplies. It’s easy to do some touch up cleaning right before everyone shows up, but doing most of the chores now will save on time and stress later in the week. Even if you are going away for the holidays, having a clean house to come home to is a nice treat after a busy weekend.
Make the big stuff.
There is plenty of food that can be cooked and assembled ahead of time, and the weekend is perfect for scratching the most time consuming of these off your list. For starters, make your pie crusts. Even if you make the filling later, having a crust ready to go is a huge relief. Pre-cook it and put it in the freezer until the night before. And if you want, cook the whole pie on Wednesday night so all you have to do is reheat on Thursday. Other great options for making ahead are the cranberry sauce, toasted nuts, stock for stuffing and casseroles. Also, if you are making your own bread for the stuffing, doing that over the weekend gives it plenty of time to dry out over the coming days.
The Final Week
Less is more.
The less you have to take care of on the last few days before Thanksgiving the happier you will be on the day itself. For those of us with full time jobs, this is especially true. Still, taking care of a few small things will allow you more time to relax and visit with family on the big day. So, on the days leading up, after dinner of course, go ahead and pre-chop those vegetables that you will need for your side dishes. Take your turkey out of the freezer and get the brine on it a couple of days. Do a little extra tidying around the house and put some extra seasonal décor. Find a clear, designated area for drinks and appetizers, then set the dining room table for your guests (eating on the couch for a night or two is perfectly acceptable).
All of this may seem like a lot to accomplish in the last week, but if you do it, you will thank yourself later. Thanksgiving is not about spending your whole day slaving away in the kitchen; it’s about having time to spend with the people you love. So plan ahead, stop stressing, and be thankful to have so many people who want to spend the day with you.
WINTER PREPARATION FOR YOUR HOME
With the early onset of winter weather, it seems an appropriate time revisit some home maintenance tasks. Though we go through these changes every year, sometimes it is nice to have a reminder of what needs to be examined before the temperatures changes too dramatically.
First off, since our heating systems are about to get a lot more use (if they are not already), let’s be sure everything is in good working order. If you have a gas or oil furnace system, have someone come out to inspect it to be sure everything is in good working order. And don’t forget to check those air filters. If you use electric heaters, keep the area around these clear, thus avoiding potential fire hazards. For those with a wood stove, have a chimney sweep come out and do a thorough clean. It is recommended to do this annually, before the cold season if possible.
Other areas of note: examine your insulation, particularly if you have an attic, and feel for spots where cold air may be leaking through. Changing out insulation now will help you heat your home more efficiently all winter long. Weather stripping may also need to be replaced to keep cold air from seeping in around doors and windows.
Outside your home, make sure that hose bibs are covered up and hoses stored away for the season. Gutters should also be cleaned out, especially after all the leaves that have been falling off trees recently. And speaking of trees, take a look around the house and note any branches that could cause problems under heavy snow or wind conditions. Better to take preventative measures than have problems later on down the road.
Finally, stock up on emergency supplies such as first aid, flashlights, batteries, blankets, water and extra food. For those of you living in the higher elevations, such as Buck Mountain, this is extremely important. We have already had our first winter warning on Orcas, so don’t delay in checking these items off your To-Do-List. A prepared home is a happy home.
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner
The Windermere Foundation was started in 1989 by the owners of Windermere Real Estate, which is based in Seattle. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised more than $33 million to support it’s mission: helping low income and homeless families.
The Foundation began in Washington, but now has grown to serve the 10 western states. Currently, there are more than 40 major organizations that receive significant funding from the Foundation. These organizations provide emergency assistance, and youth and children’s programs.
As part of the Windermere organization, each of our brokers donates a portion of their commission from every transaction to the Windermere Foundation. Each of us is proud to support the Foundation. A portion of the funds that we donate comes back to our office to enable us to donate directly to local organizations within our community that support the same cause as the Windermere Foundation: helping local families right here on Orcas.
We have a local Foundation Representative, Elyse Van den Bosch, who works directly with the local non-profits to assist in their applications for funding. We have supported organizations such as the Funhouse, Orcas Family Connections, OPAL immediate housing needs, the Food Bank, and each of the various early childhood programs, to name just a few.
In addition to our broker commission donations, our office has also coordinated various fundraising and volunteer activities to raise additional money for our local non-profits that assist families and children in need.
Being a part of this community is very important to all of us. We take great pride in the fact that our office has put thousands of dollars back into our local community, and we look forward to continuing to do so. If you have questions about the Windermere Foundation, or whether your organization may be a candidate to receive funding from the Foundation, please contact Elyse for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner
There is nothing like stepping outside, taking a deep breath, and pulling your jacket just a little closer around yourself. I haven’t worn a jacket in months – oh the joys of summer. But I can’t resist the smile that emerges on my face as the goose bumps rise. Maybe it has to do with how fresh the air feels, maybe it’s because the island has made it through the summer rush, or maybe it simply has to do with the fact that I love getting to put on my beloved boots and sweaters again.
Don’t get me wrong, I love summer as much as the next person. Sun and heat are two of my favorite things, but this summer was particularly dry for the San Juan Islands and I for one am tired of the color brown. For the last few months everything has just felt dusty and dirty – not something those of us from the great ‘north-wet’ are used to. I miss the green. And so, the return of the rain is something I welcome with open arms.
There is also this miraculous slowdown that happens post-Labor Day. September is still a busy month on the islands, but nothing compared to July and August. It just has an entirely different feel. Now, not only is it easier to get on a ferry last minute, but going to Island Market is no longer a hassle, and everyone is so much more laid back. It’s as if the islands have been holding their breath for two months and are finally able to exhale. Locals stop and chat on the street again, without that wild look in their eyes that says, “I am going to lose it on the next person that asks what times the whales go by”. Yes, that is a common question, and no, the whales do not share their schedule with us bipeds, so please stop asking.
After the breath of September, the islands start churning again, with all kinds of activities suited to the shift of seasons. Savor the San Juans runs from the first day of fall through the first week of November and brings with it many events and opportunities to enjoy the flavors of island life. The Orcas Island Film Festival runs the first weekend in October and has become quite the affair over the last few years, bringing in award winning films from around the world. There are also a slew of lectures, classes, and farm tours that happen through the end of the year. And the holidays out here, truly magical.
As the days begin to cool and the darkness stretches longer than the day, all I can think about is being curled up on my couch with my dog; a fire burning in my woodstove; mouthwatering smells emanating from the slow cooker; hot apple cider warming on the stove. Fresh pressed cider is everywhere on the islands right now and will be the majority of what I drink for the next couple of months, interspersed with some hot chocolate and homemade hot buttered rum. Oh yes, the season of coziness is upon us. Welcome back autumn.
Alysha Sherburne | Office Manager
We made it past July 5th and summer is in full swing here in the Pacific Northwest! For many of us, this is the time when we not only get out of the house, but get out of the town where we live to enjoy a summer vacation. While I am a big proponent of hitting the road and leaving my troubles behind me, there are a few things that need to be done in advance of any travels in order for me to be able to truly relax and let go. Before I can put myself in vacation mode, I must first put my house in vacation mode. So, here is my pre-departure checklist which allows that laissez-faire feeling to remain long after my return home.
Clean, clean, and yes, clean
I know, there is already tons to do before you leave; how are you also supposed to find time to clean the house? You’re stressed about getting packed on time, making sure all your travel arrangements are made, reservations are set – but trust me, there is nothing like coming back to a shiny, fresh home. Your future self will thank you for this gift.
- Clean out the fridge/freezer – no one likes coming home to the smell of rotting food.
- Take out the garbage & recycling – again, no smell is a good smell.
- Leave cleaner in the toilets – do I have to repeat myself about smells?
- Do all the laundry – clothes from the trip can go right in the basket when you get back. And since it will not be full, you can put off throwing a load in the wash for a while.
- Put fresh sheets on the bed – after sleeping in strange places it’s nice to not have to worry about what’s under the covers.
Give yourself (and your insurance company) peace of mind
Whether you are taking off for a week or a month, it is worth eliminating all need for worry about the state of your home. If no one is going to be there, then no one is going to need to use anything that is plumbed or wired. And let’s face it, there is nothing worse than coming home to an unnatural home disaster.
- Unplug the small things – you’re cleaning your house anyway right? So why don’t you put that curling iron back in the bathroom drawer and wind that cord around the toaster. It’s tidy and safety all in one go!
- Lower your bills – turn the water heater to “vacation mode” and turn off your thermostat. No need to have these running while you are away; plus, that’s a few more dollars allotted to the travel funds.
- No pools in the house – turn off water valves to major appliances like your washing machine, dish washer, etc. Better yet, if you can, turn the water off completely via the main shut off valve.
- Check the weather – if extreme weather is forecast for the time you are away, make sure your house and yard are ready to endure it.
Don’t worry, be happy
We all know there are people in this world who feel the need to make giant messes and take things that don’t belong to them. And where better to partake in these activities then in a house that is currently unoccupied? Oh wait, maybe someone is home. Never mind, let’s try somewhere else.
- Lights on, lights off? – I’m the kind of person that turns a light off every time I leave a room, but in this case, it may be worth leaving a couple on. Flood lights and interior lights on timers help your home maintain that lived in feel.
- Business as usual – don’t make it obvious that no one is home. People do not normally leave all the curtains closed up tight (unless you a serious recluse… or a vampire).
- Mail call – check in with your local post office before you leave and have them hold your deliveries until you return. Or have someone you trust pick it up for you. Don’t forget the paper.
- Landscaping matters – if you are planning an extended trip, hire someone to come mow your lawn and water your plants. A neglected yard is a sure sign that no one is around.
- What spare key? – if you are in the habit of leaving a key hidden around the outside of your home, please remove it and give it to a friend or neighbor in case of emergency.
All in all, common sense will go a long way in helping you prepare your home for vacancy. If there is something that could be a potential hazard, take care of it before you leave. The less you have to worry about, the more you get to enjoy your time away from the every day.
Orcas may not be a big island, but it sure celebrates like one. Although July 4th falls on a Tuesday this year, this island will be rocking all weekend long leading up to the big day. Whether you are into shopping, eating, or just enjoying the festivities, there is plenty to keep everyone busy. Here’s what to see and do on the rock over the next four days:
Eastsound Fire Station Pancake Breakfast @ 7am-11am
This is a great annual fundraiser to support the Eastsound Volunteer Firefighters and EMT’s. They will be serving up their special recipe pancakes, sausage, eggs, and beverages. Cost is $8 per adult and $5 per child with kids under 5 years eating for free.
Farmer’s Market @ 10am-3pm
Happening every Saturday, all summer long on the Village Green. This is a great place to grab produce and flowers from island farms, check out local artists, and grab some lunch.
Independence Day Celebration @ 10am
This celebration of island history, sponsored by the Orcas Island Historical Museum, takes place on the Village Green in conjunction with the Farmers Market. There will be a pie booth, hot dog stand, and beer garden. Then at 1:30 the local Harvey Family will put on a logging show.
Community Parade – “Celebrating Island Creatures” @ 12 noon
Islanders from local businesses and organizations will be dressing up as all manner of animals and parading through Eastsound Village. Parades on this island are a one-of-a-kind experience, so you will not want to miss this.
Lions Club 42nd Annual Salmon BBQ @ 1pm-7pm
The Lion’s Club is involved in many projects across the island, and this event raises funds so they can continue with their great community service. Served alongside the salmon is a baked potato, coleslaw, roll, beverages, and the option of adding on apple crisp. Cost is $18 per adult and $12 for children up to 12 years.
Deer Harbor Fireworks and Music @ 9pm
Gather down on the docks at the Deer Harbor Marina to hear some music and enjoy the light show. This is a very popular event, so be sure and get there extra early.
6th Annual Funhouse Commons 5K Run @ 9am
Work off some of those calories from the weekend with a race around the Eastsound area. All ages and abilities are welcome with the kids 1K race beginning at 10am. Registration is $35 per adult and $10 per child. All proceeds benefit the Funhouse Commons, who provides many programs for island kids.
4th of July “inter-Dependence Day” Celebration @ 3pm-10pm
Hosted at Orcasong Farm, this is an evening of music, education, food, and fun. From 3-6pm there is a workshop titled “Music as Medicine” and from 6-10pm there will be a potluck dinner and live music provided by The Living Arrows. Cost is $10-$40.
Eastsound Fireworks @ 9pm
Head on into town in the early evening to hear the Community Band play before the big show. Then find a spot on the beach to kick back and enjoy the fireworks.