Spring Clean Stafford Springs

As you may have noticed, when the record breaking snows melted they revealed an excess of litter on many of the area roads.

We spotted a post in the Stafford Springs Community Bulletin Board on Facebook showing three year old twins, Aiden and Ian with the bags they had filled with trash picked up from the side of the road in their neighborhood here in town. After recovering from cuteness overload, we knew we had to get in touch with them to get the story behind the picture.

The picture was taken by the twins’ Grandma, local resident Kathy Cooley, who accompanies the boys on regular walks. “We go on frequent walks in my neighborhood, and have always picked up the garbage we see on the side of the road”, she says, “They always seem surprised that people would throw things out of car windows!” The twins, as well as their 18 month old younger brother (Who offers moral support from his stroller) have been helping clean up their neighborhood for awhile, but after seeing repeated posts online about the trash issue in town, Kathy decided it was time to post the picture looking to encourage other citizens to do their part to keep the area clean. “My hope is more people will get involved.”

So has seeing their hard word inspired you? Great, because it’s inspired us too! We’re holding a contest for the next month where everyone who posts a picture of themselves with trash they’ve picked up or in the act of cleaning up the town will be entered in a raffle to win a $50 gift card to a local restaurant of your choice! There are so many great places around here, we think you should choose one you love, or maybe try something altogether new.

Please post your pictures to our facebook page Penny Hanley and Howley and tag yourself in the photo to enter. Entries must be posted by June 16th 2015 at midnight EST to be eligible. Winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries.

Stafford Pride


Spring Home Maintenance for Savings

copyright: premier roofing

We’ve already seen how some basic cleaning can save you money in efficiency dollars, and in this post we’re going to expand that to include exterior maintenance and prevention.

It’s a good idea to give your house an annual whole house physical to catch issues before they get out of hand, and do routine maintenance that will extend the life of your home. In the case of home ownership, a penny of maintenance can be worth tens of thousands in repairs. Catching issues before they get out of hand will save time, money, and frustration in the long run.

Outdoor Inspections-
Roof–  Checking out your roof might seem like a daunting, ladder requiring task, but if you know what you are looking for, a simple pair of binoculars should do the trick. Below are some of the basic things to look for. If you see any of these,  call a roofer to come out and inspect further (or contact your homeowners insurance carrier if the damage is following a storm).
Cracked or Missing Shingles
– Shingles That Have Shifted

copyright 2002 Guardian

 –Nail Pops-                                                              copyright frisby construction

Chimney Check-Up

Even if you don’t use your fireplace or chimney, it is important to look it over regularly from the outside. Look carefully for anything missing or gaps between the bricks. Also beware of any greenery growing on chimney, as it is a signal that water is getting in between the bricks, which can ultimately lead to the chimney becoming unstable, dangerous, and expensive to fix.  Another indicator of water is something called “efflorescence”, which appears as an almost chalky white  layer on the outside of the chimney (see picture)In some cases, a special sealer can be applied to stop or repair the water damage, but in other cases an actual chimney repairman will have to be called.

Exterior Inspection

Take some time to walk all around the house and look over the exterior walls and foundation, paying special attention to trouble prone areas like under eaves and near gutter downspouts. Check to see that everything, including siding, looks in tact, as holes and misaligned siding can make way for carpenter ants and wookpeckers.

It’s a good idea to do a similar mini-inspection after any storms, especially those with really high winds, hail or if any trees fall. If you notice anything, take a picture and call your homeowners insurance and they can tell you what to do.

Top to Bottom In the House

Attic– Head to the attic and look for signs of insects or critters colonizing up there like animal droppings or bee/wasp nests. Also look carefully for mold, which can appear as gray or black blotches that look like staining. Good insulation, and proper ventilation will help deter mold growth.

Basement– Down here the things you want to look for are insects (again!),  and mold. As you probably know,  basements can be prone to dampness, which can lead to mold growth. Just like in attics, mold appears as a gray or black staining on wood. Installing a dehumidifier in the basement can help keep it dry.

Be sure check the interior foundation for any cracks in the masonry. If you see anything, call a qualified repairman to take a look at it. Avoid putting caulk into the crack or trying other DIY solutions. Foundation issues can be serious and ultimately affect the structural integrity of the house and should be handled by a professional.

If you live in an older area or historical house: While you are down there, keep your eyes peeled for areas that may have been built to cover up hidden passageways or uneven basement flooring that may be hiding buried treasure.



Hot Water Heater

During your whole house physical, be sure to take time to inspect your hot water heater.  Check it for signs of leaks or corrosion.

Spring Home Maintenance Checklist
Money Saving Home Maintenance


Spring Cleaning for Savings!

By Elizabeth Caddy
When the weather finally warms up and the days are longer, we almost instinctively open the windows, and freshen up the house. Did you know that adding a few more things to your Spring Cleaning regimen can actually save you money whether you are a renter or a homeowner?

Switch Your Fans–  Make sure your ceiling fans are going counter clockwise in the warmer weather.  This will help rooms feel cooler than they are, helping you get the best mileage out of your AC.

Vacuum the Coils Behind the Refrigerator– As dust, dirt, and pet hair build up on the coils behind the fridge, it runs in a less efficient (read: more expensive) way. Vacuuming away this stuff annually is a good way to increase the efficiency of an appliance that one of the biggest energy draws in the kitchen!

Dryer Vent Clean Out– It is important to clean out the dryer exhaust (the robot arm looking, flexi-pipe thing that comes out of the back of the dryer) twice a year. Dryer lint and a surprising assortment of dryer stuff ends up in there and it impedes air flow, which causes that dryer to work harder. Clearing this away allows the dryer to work better, saving you money, and maybe even more importantly can help prevent a dryer fire.
Clearing this vent is a little more complex than vacuuming the back of the fridge so here is a wikihow Cleaning a Dryer Exhaust  as well as a youtube video How to Clean a Dryer Vent 

Dust- I cast thee out! Take some time to clear dust off of electronic devices and any household vents. You may need to break out the vacuum for this task, but it’s worth it.
Many electronic devices have a fan inside keeping them cool, which means they have an air intake, which means there is a little area probably caked with dust on there somewhere. Clearing this away allows the machines to run cooler and, you guessed it, more efficiently. Taking the time to do this may also prolong the life of your devices!

Program Your Thermostat Many thermostats allow for programming based on the time of day and the day of the week. Consider setting your thermostat a little higher when you know people will be away or at night. Experts recommend setting the temperature to 78 degrees F during the summer months, allowing for comfort while preventing your AC from running excessively. This combined with your counter clockwise ceiling fans may even feel cooler than that.

Change Your Filters (no, not your Instagram Filters) If you’re an average person with a busy life, it’s probably time to change your whole house filter. The often forgotten, rarely changed (is that just in my house??) HVAC filter plays an important role in the air quality in the house and the efficiency of the HVAC system. Regular changing of the filter allows for unimpeded air flow and can cut down on the amount of pollen and other allergens in the air. Spring, with it’s rush of pollen, is a good time to change the filters and give everyone a breath of fresh air.

Check out this graphic made by AMBITENERGY that covers the above and more.

Health is Wealth– Cleaning a house is a big job and we are taught to reach for harsh cleaners that are often filled with chemicals, fragrances and other toxins. This year consider cleaning with some very effective, non-toxic cleaners that you can make yourself for MUCH cheaper than the cleaners you have already been using.

Wellness Mama is a great blog for information about homemade cleaners. Here is a link to her blog post on Natural Cleaning

Her blog has suggestions, recipes,  and tips for cleaning everything from the staples like floor and glass cleaner to things like laundry stain treaters and ways to clean urine (parents and pet owners!)

STAY TUNED FOR THE PARTNER POST TO THIS: Spring Home Maintenance for Savings!

Well, that playtime in the snow was nice, Now What?

Hopefully our last blog post Snow Day Fun led to a magical day of playing in the snow!

photo: istockphoto







It seems another round of snow is upon us. Break out the last post, enjoy the snow and then when they’re too cold, and someone gets snow up their sleeve, or a snow-covered ice ball to the face, bring them inside, wipe away the frozen boogers and check out our new post about spending the rest of the day inside (where it is WARM!).
Here are some great tips for keeping busy and keeping sane while avoiding……

Child Painting his Baby Brother's Face






Make Valentines for the Grandparents (or other loved ones)

You know who loves a handmade gift? Grandma and Grandpa, Nana, Gramps, Poppy, Mia, Grammy or whatever you call them. They all LOVE handmade items from the kids with positively no regard for the workmanship (as it should be with grandparents). What a great opportunity to burn off some creative energy with the kids and make a lovely gift for the upcoming holiday.

photo: woohome

Here is a blog that has 30, count ’em 30 ideas! Some of my favorites were the make-your-own crayons and the heart garland.

Make Bird Feeders

When it’s cold outside, birds have to work extra hard to find food and stay warm.
Here are some blogs with clever ideas and clear pictures for making them.  Kids can build something and feel good about helping the birds.

1) Soda Bottle Bird Feeder
This is a great way to recycle some old items. I bet it would work well with clean paint stirrers instead of wooden spoons as well.

Click here for directions on how to make it

2) Recycled Materials Feeders
This blog focuses on using recycled materials like empty milk cartons to make the feeders. Change those pumpkins to snowflake stickers and you’re in business!

photo: sustainablog

Click here for directions on this and 4 other plans!

3) Heart Shaped Valentine Feeders 
Here is an early Valentine you can make for loved ones while you are cooped up in the house! These are so sweet and can be made into any shape depending on what you have in the kitchen.

photo: wineandglue

Click here for the blog post. This was one of the more informative blogs I have come across about this!

Sing a Song


This blog has a long list of adorable songs to sing and dance to set to tunes we all already know. Click here for the full list.

Some indoor ideas are tried and true for a reason and Legos are a great go- to in bad weather. Here are some links that have free printable plans for legos, which can give new life to a tired old Lego set. I even included an educational one (maybe you can sneak them in somewhere).

Balloon Powered Lego Car

photo: thecraftymummy

Make a Lego Maze

photo: science-sparks.com






Lego Free Instructions– Lego’s website has free plans for most if not all of their sets!

photo: lego

Indoor Scavenger Hunt


 Click here for the list! This blog gives some good starter ideas as well as suggestions for coming up with your own custom lists.


Fun with Everyday Items

This blog has some great ideas for use with stuff you truly do have lying around the house. I am pretty crafty and there were a few projects even I had never heard of! Check out the Sandpaper and Yarn or the Indoor Ice Skating. Click here for the full post.

photo: innerchildfun.com


 Watch a Movie

Ok, you’ve done lets of fun activities together, now it might be time to put on a movie for the kids so you can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine (hey, it’s been a long day cooped up with the kids- need I say more?)

Here is a list from Scholastic Books of the 100 best kids movies. This was really helpful as it was arranged by age, making choosing an appropriate one easier.  Some of my favorites include


Snow Day Fun


istock photo

Winter is in full swing and snow is everywhere lately! While we might want to cuddle up inside where it is warm until spring, as parents, we know that being cooped up in the house with the kids can get…..out of hand!

We’ve scoured Pinterest and the internet to come up with some great ideas to keep the kids busy in the snow, and then hopefully very tired when they come back in!

Snow Obstacle Course

There’s nothing like a competition to get kids moving! This blog shows some great tips for setting up a fun, challenging course  http://theinspiredtreehouse.com/snowy-obstacle-course-kids/#_a5y_p=2974398

As an added bonus you could make a throne out of snow for the winner to sit in!


photo: Kindra Clineff

Parents Magazine (http://www.parents.com/fun/activities/outdoor/snow-activities-kids/?viewAll=true&page=4#page=4 ) Has some great ideas in this article from Tic Tac Snow, to some really cute “Snow Creatures”. There are also directions for making a bird feeder out of an orange and some sticks!

photo: Heather Weston

Snow Sensory Bin


If there’s snow on the ground, and you really can’t get out, consider making a sensory bin with the snow. This blog http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2012/01/warm-way-to-play-with-sonw.html gives lots of great ideas for keeping kids entertained with the snow while YOU stay warm.

Some of my favorites include the Snow Mr and Mrs Potato Head. There is even a science experiment!

This is also nice for younger children who can’t play for very long outside in the cold.

Enjoy the snow day!
Be sure to follow our blog, and stay tuned for a complimentary post with fun activities for when you can’t go out and play.

Resources for Getting Kids Involved with Building

pulling nails

Ella B removes some old nails. Great job remembering your safety gear!

Way to Go, Girls!
We are so excited to see what you’ve been up to. From raking leaves and tearing down drywall to laying tile and doing fantastically on our Tools Quiz !

You have 3 weeks left to participate and we thought you could use a little inspiration!
Here is a collection of links that outline some great skills to learn, and examples of age-appropriate projects.

Workshop Safety for Kids

5 Do-It-Yourself Skills That Every Child Should Have

DIY for Kids

It’s never too early to build the skills of future DIYers!



Mya L. helps to lay some tile. Nice work, Mya!