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The Newtown Bee’s


home& garden 2019


2 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019


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April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

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4 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Are You Financially Prepared To Purchase A Home? By Eliza Hallabeck Planning to purchase a new home can feel tricky, but Newtown Savings Bank Mortgage Banker Sean Reilly (NMLS# 1078186) says there are things prospective home buyers can do to better prepare for the endeavor. “Before starting the new home search, the first step should be talking to a mortgage lender to fully understand your mortgage potential,” Mr Reilly said. “The mortgage loan officer will ask you to collect various supporting documents — tax returns, W-2’s, paystubs, bank statements. After reviewing these and pulling a credit report, we can identify which loan products are ideal for the situation.” Buying a house is not a daily occurrence, and not everyone knows the ins and outs of preparing to purchase a home. “This stuff is not common knowledge, so when you begin to start your search and the process of buying a house, there’s a lot of moving pieces and a lot of questions,” said Mr Reilly while sitting in his office in Newtown Savings Bank’s Sand Hill Plaza location. “The Newtown Savings Bank Mortgage Banker Sean Reilly recently offered advice for number one step is, I think, meeting with a prospective home buyers on how to prepare financially to purchase a home. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck mortgage loan officer.” He said “building a team” is important: The team should include a loan officer, a real estate agent, and an attorney. “Everyone works together to get to the finish line, but even if you speak to the realtor or attorney, they will say you want to meet with a loan officer so you can fully understand your mortgage potential,” said Mr Reilly. The loan officer will request the documents mentioned above prior to meeting, and they will then review the borrower’s credit report. “By reviewing a credit report it shows the score, the minimum monthly payments, but it also shows us where you can improve,” said Mr Reilly. “... Even if you don’t plan on buying a house in the really near future, it’s a good idea to do a financial checkup, have your credit report pulled, and then you can try to correct any hiccups.” Reviewing a credit report with a loan officer helps better locate areas that can use improve-

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ment for the potential borrower. The loan officer helps borrowers understand the “full scenario,” according to Mr Reilly. There are also myths around buying a home that people can dispel when their team is built. “Many people still believe the myth that you need a 20 percent down payment to purchase a home: You have more options than you think,” Mr Reilly pointed out. “While it’s ideal to put down 20 percent to avoid paying mortgage insurance, there are many common financial hurdles such as student loans, rent, daycare, etc. that make saving difficult.” How much you should put down is a personal decision that depends on your finances, he said. “Some loan programs allow you to put down as low as 3 percent and in special cases [nothing.] There are closing costs to budget too,” Mr Reilly added. “When you put down more money, your monthly payment and loan-to-value (LTV) will be lower. The LTV plays a key role in the mortgage approval.” Finding the right real estate agent is “key,” he said. “Find the right real estate agent who knows the market in which you are interested in. They can provide you with helpful information on homes and neighborhoods that isn’t easily accessible to the public,” said Mr Reilly. “Their expertise in the home buying process and negotiating skills are invaluable. It’s important to realize that when making an offer on a home, you have the opportunity to request a seller credit, which is money that can go towards your pre-paids and closing costs. This is a great strategy for a buyer who does not want to pay these completely out of pocket.” Mr Reilly said “it still is a really good time to buy.” “Rates are historically very low. Last week, the Federal Reserve signaled it was done hiking the prime rate for the year,” he said. Later he added, “It is a difficult time to buy only because the inventory is very low.” The number of homes to buy in the area typically increases in the spring, so for those interested in buying a home, it is time to prepare.

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Home & Garden - 5

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

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6 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Raise Plants And A Love Of Home Growing With A Children’s Garden

A raised bed planted along a fence offers one fertile location to build a children’s garden. —Photos Courtesy of OG Gardens By Kendra Bobowick Little fingers and young minds are fertile ground for learning about gardening and being part of the home grown movement. So why not compliment the landscape of your own family’s yard by creating or installing a garden young children can call their own? Garden Specialist Michaela Wales of OG Gardening — a company she runs with husband, Tyler Buckley — specializes in designing and, if needed, installing gardening beds, raised-beds, organic vegetable gardens, and organic landscape accents, along with advising homeowners about garden maintenance and indoor plant arrangements. OG Gardening is based in Old Weston, a large concentration of clients in Old Greenwich. On their website, Ms Wales relates that she has had a connection to the environment, gardening, and nature from a young age. She earned a BS in Environmental Studies from The University of Vermont and also holds a Masters in Education. She has been working in gardens for 15 years and has been a garden specialist for more than five. Her husband, on the other hand, got his start working in the fine art world. After getting his BFA from Savannah College of Arts and Design, he worked for a contemporary fine art gallery hanging art and creating frames. In addition to his experience making fine art frames, Mr Buckley has more than 20 years of experience in building and construction. Many Benefits As an children’s educator as well as a gardening consultant, Ms Wales can offer families a wealth of advice on creating a children’s starter garden. “The why? There are so many benefits,� she

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told The Newtown Bee’s Home & Garden. She explained that the experience helps children “understand the cycle of life, understand patience and time, and how a vegetable grows. For example, she said, kids can learn that potatoes grow underground, and corn grows on a gigantic stalk, which is not something children could learn from buying these vegetables at the grocery store. Children also can learn “an appreciation for life.� “I guess when you watch something grow, you have a different attachment to it and appreciation for what it took to get it to grow,� Ms Wales said. Tending plants in a garden also “helps kids understand things later in life, like environmentalism, eating organic food, and seeing the importance of an animal’s place in the environment, she said. “When children appreciate their natural space, their garden, they begin to understand the value and wealth in preserving and supporting the environment and its inhabitants.� She also added that, “Many studies show that exposure to soil and its elements leads to a lower likelihood of allergies.� Getting Started So how does one begin to plan building a children’s garden? “First, think about the space you have, then decide how big a garden you want,� Ms Wales said. “Then think about what you like to eat. Pick some things to start with and [decide on] five things to plant — five of your favorite things that the children like, too.� Another significant factor to consider is time. “How much time will you have to put into it?� she asked. “Once that’s figured out, you can buy your seed packets or actual plants.�

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Some raised beds can be fenced in to protect plants, and so children can watch their plantings thrive, attract insects, and produce tomatoes, squash, and other items they can proudly serve at their own dinner table.

Garlic harvested from an organic bed. Think about safety too, she said. “You have to be comfortable� with the plant selection. Plants, such as those in the nightshade family, like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant, have leaves, for example, that cannot be eaten. “Children will put things in their mouths,� so Ms Wales said even flower selections should be made carefully. “If have young children, it’s something to think about,� she said. She offers beginners free information about building 4-foot-by-10-foot garden beds, building fenced and raised garden beds, decorative planting, and advice on produce selection and what works well in a shady yard. “We predominantly build raised bed gardens and maintain what we do,� Ms Wales said her company has designed “many children’s gardens. And welcome families to be involved in that.�

Why Gardening? As a preschool teacher at St Saviors Nursery School in Old Greenwich, she built and maintains the school garden. And in completing her degree in environmental studies, she created her thesis on children’s connections with the environment. “Through life experience, I began to understand that the way to meet my goal of helping the environment and working towards its betterment was educating and helping children learn how nature works and make connections to nature and gardening.� She believes as they mature, children who garden will “have a greater appreciation for making good life choices.� Gardening “becomes a place for children to find insects,� and “starts to attract things you want to see like butterflies or toads and things,� she said. Children will begin to see benefits of the garden “and learn its benefits by just being there.� “Have children be as much a part of it as they can be, picking seeds, care, using tools — it all leads to a richer life experience,� she said. “Having a strong sense of ownership leads children to desire a bigger role in the garden care and its wellbeing.� Not ready to take the plunge and create a child’s garden? There are still ways to make a green difference on your own property, Ms Wales said. “At the very least, most people need to purchase good organic soil and organic plants,� she said. “If you can up-cycle the garden bed or vessels for vegetables, you can keep your cost under $75.� Ms Wales said she is also available to come and give talks and workshops at other schools, childcare and community centers, or for parent groups. Connect to Ms Wales via her Facebook site,

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Home & Garden - 7

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Five Issues You Face When Inheriting A Home The bad news is, you have recently lost a loved one or relative that is near and dear to your heart. The good news is, they cared enough about you to bequest you their home. Unfortunately, situations like these could result in family feuds and other problems — especially when an executor finds themselves suddenly in over their head. Many newfound executors can face uncertainty and feel stress when inheriting a property after the death of a loved one. “Inheriting a property can come as a shock and may feel like an insurmountable obstacle,” says Alex Lehr (, a real estate broker and author of The Unexpected Sale: Guidance For The Executor/Administrator Of An Estate. “Especially in the wake of a family tragedy or death, being the executor of an estate can be challenging. And usually the biggest asset in an estate — and the most difficult to resolve — is a house.” Mr Lehr provides a list of the five important decisions the executor might face when a house is part of an inheritance: 1. To keep, rent, or sell. Competing interests among siblings can make the right decision difficult. “Caught in the middle, the executor has to ask the heirs to keep their emotions under control and put the rational facts on the table,” Mr Lehr says. “Selling is often the best decision if medical bills, tax issues, or other reasons require cashing out. And it produces a specific amount that can be divided equally.” 2. Can you manage a property investment? When considering keeping the property in the family, the executor needs to be objective about the beneficiaries’ dependability. “Would you choose the other beneficiaries to be your partners in

any long-term investment?” asks Mr Lehr. “Could they get divorced, go bankrupt, or bring other entanglements?” And if you decide to rent the property, Mr Lehr says there are issues to consider, such as the local market for rentals and your ability to maintain the property. 3. Establishing value of the property. If one heir or beneficiary wants to buy the house, the estate must determine the market value and get a fair price for the heirs and beneficiaries. “One way is to get two appraisals, and to look at estimates from a real estate website such as Zillow,” Mr Lehr says. “Alternatively, the executor can put the property on the market with the expressed provision that one of the heirs has the right of first refusal to match the highest offer.” 4. Repair and renovate? The executor must make sure the house is maintained in good condition, necessary repairs are carried out, and that it’s kept insured. “An executor can be personally liable for failure to maintain a property that results in losses for the heirs,” Mr Lehr says. “But how much work is worthwhile before putting a home on the market? That’s a big question that depends on the property and circumstances.” 5. Furnished or unfurnished? It’s not unusual for an inherited home to be filled with a 30-year accumulation of stuff. “In most cases, when the property goes on the market, thinning out the furnishings will help it show better,” Mr Lehr says. “Nine out of ten buyers first see the home in online photographs.” “Being an executor is a high-responsibility, time-consuming, and often thankless job that people often take on while grieving,” Mr Lehr says. “It’s up to the executor to assess not only the physical assets of an estate, but also the people and emotions involved.

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8 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Spring Into Cleaning, Part One—

Newtown’s ‘Organized Hive’ Streamlines Spaces For Busy Bees

Thanks to The Organized Hive, a cluttered junk drawer in the kitchen can become a tidy space with easy access to coffee and tea, as pictured here.

By Alissa Silber Sue Duval, owner of The Organized Hive, never considered herself a neatnik. She grew up with organized parents but was not one to obsess about being overly tidy. When she began her corporate career managing grand-scale events, though, she realized just how crucial having attention to detail, people skills, and organization was to creating project efficiency. What she also discovered from the job was that when she came home — late, stressed, and tired — seeing clutter around the house would instantly make her feel overwhelmed. “When I could take a couple minutes to regroup my space and get things put away so that things were tidy, I just felt calmer and in control,” Ms Duval said. After more than 20 years honing her organizational skills in a corporate setting, she was ready for a change in professions— one that would be rewarding and combine her joy of streamlining spaces and simplifying processes. She joined the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and became the group’s director of marketing for its Connecticut chapter. She has also gained specialist certificates in residential organizing and workplace productivity. “Once I found them, it was like I found my people,” Ms Duval said with a smile. NAPO conducts annual conferences and trains its members in tools of the trade as well as how to work with different types of people to allow them to manage and maintain their spaces practically. “I think all that education helps me serve my clients better, [because] there are lots of organized people, but that doesn’t mean you can organize someone else in a way that’s meaningful,” she explained.

“Storing like-with-like pantry items in clear bins helps you to see what you have and what you need to add to the shopping list,” Newtown organizing expert Sue Duval recommends.

Newtown resident Sue Duval is a professional organizer and owner of The Organized Hive. She is certified through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and is the group’s director of marketing for the Connecticut chapter. —photos courtesy of Sue Duval ‘Bring Your Magic Wand’

Four years ago, Ms Duval launched The Organized Hive and has been working with a variety of clients in the area to declutter their homes and offices. Whether it is helping people prepare to put their house on the market, families looking to downsize, or busy parents in need of a more sustainable system, she is able to offer assistance tackling any task. “I’m super flexible because I really understand busy people and families,” Ms Duval said. She typically works with clients three different ways: “For some people that have the time, our sleeves are rolled up, and we are working side-by-side pulling up a space,” she said. For others, she can meet with clients at the beginning of the appointment to discuss what the goals are for the space, then work independently to sort everything into categories. At the end of the appointment, she reconnects with the clients to


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make final decisions together. “Then I have some clients that are like, ‘Here’s the code to the garage, something’s happened to the pantry — bring your magic wand and make it go away,’” Ms Duval said. “Everyone’s different.” No matter what the process is, she strives to help families and individuals realize which items add value to their lives and which ones no longer do, then help them part with that item. When You Are Overwhelmed

“When people have finally reached the point of them feeling overwhelmed, that’s when my phone rings and they say, ‘I need help,’” Ms Duval said. Since it is common for people with clutter to feel embarrassed or that they do not know where to start, she strives to provide a judgement-free outlook for people. “A lot of the clutter that we have is emotional,” Ms Duval explained. “A lot of it is baggage — it’s literally and figuratively baggage.” The best way to start organizing is to just start and commit to the process. She recommends scheduling a time and respecting it as one would a doctor’s appointment. “If it’s hard for you, I often say to set a time and say, ‘I’m going to work on this for 45 minutes, and then I’ll take a break — then do another 45 minutes,’” Ms Duval suggested. Starting small and picking a specific area — like a table top, drawer, or shelf — to focus on can be a manageable goal to start with. Even though there is no one right place to begin, Ms Duval does advise not selecting an office space to tackle first for the fact that organizing paper can feel very unrewarding. “You can take a stack of paper, and every single piece of paper is a decision you have to make,” she explained. “At the end, you’ve made 2,000 decisions, but only covered a [small] territory.”

Rewarding areas to start with can be in the kitchen, because of how much time is spent there; the bedroom closest, to ensure everyday is starting out on the right foot; or the basement, to work from the ground up. Decluttering Methods

When organizing items, Ms Duval says the key is grouping “like-with-like” together. It is also helpful to have designated bags or boxes on hand for donation, garbage, recycling, and “belongs elsewhere” items. “I always tell people, ‘don’t leave the room you’re organizing.’ Stay put and have a box by the door, so it’s headed out the door — that’s the ‘belong elsewhere’ — so that as you come across items that don’t belong in the space you’re trying to organize, it has a place,” Ms Duval said. If not, chances are, on the way to taking that specific item to its intended spot in the house, there will be distractions, like laundry or making a quick bite to eat, that will get in the way and make it easy to forget what was being done in the first place. Upcoming Classes

Ms Duval will be teaching her “Organize Your Kitchen Like A Pro” class offered through the Newtown Parks & Recreation on Tuesday, May 7, from 9:30 to 11:30 am, at the Newtown Teen Center, for ages 18 and older. “I try to keep it light and entertaining,” Ms Duval said. “I think clutter is fun and exciting, but I know everyone else doesn’t.” She will also be leading her “Eliminate Clutter and Restore Calm” class on Saturday, April 27, from 1 to 3 pm, at Journey Yoga and Wellness in Newtown. Ms Duval hopes that through The Organized Hive, she can help people understand that they have nothing to be embarrassed about with their clutter and that they are not alone. “Clutter takes a long time to build. It comes in gradually and sneakily. You don’t really realize that you’re overwhelmed until you are overwhelmed,” she said. “You have to be forgiving to yourself and be patient. Work on progress, not perfection.” To sign up for a free consultation, visit to fill out the web-form. For more information on The Organized Hive, call 203-628-2322, e-mail, or follow on Facebook and Instagram @theorganizedhive.

Home & Garden - 9

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Disaster Recovery Pro Reminds Residents About Spring Storms With spring upon us, Gregory Geaski, a disaster recovery specialist with Servpro of Newtown And Southern Litchfield County, is encouraging local homeowners to be prepared for potentially severe weather events. According to a release from Geaski, spring weather can be unpredictable, with wide temperature swings and extreme weather changes — sometimes within a 24-hour period or less. Thunderstorms, along with the lightning, tornadoes, and flooding they can bring, cause most of this severe spring weather. Thunderstorms can occur anywhere in the US, even in spots that don’t experience them often. “Home and business owners need to be aware that severe weather conditions can develop rapidly and hit unexpectedly, so it’s important to plan ahead,” says Mr Geaski. “By the time you hear about an approaching storm, you may have little or no time to prepare for it. The time to prepare is now, before severe weather occurs.” The National Weather Service (NWS) also stresses the importance of individual and community preparedness for extreme weather events. Their National Seasonal Safety Campaign seeks to inform the public about seasonal weather hazards during the time they are most common. For the NWS Spring Safety Campaign, that means the period from March 1 to June 1, encompassing Hurricane Preparedness Week from May 5-11. For each season and its related threats, the NWS provides no-fee Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to a user’s WEA-capable phone when severe weath-

Thunderstorms along with the lightning, tornadoes and flooding they can bring, cause the kind of severe spring weather Newtown experienced during an intense macroburst in May of 2018. With spring upon us, Gregory Geaski, a disaster recovery specialist with Servpro of Newtown And Southern Litchfield County, is encouraging local homeowners to be prepared for potentially severe weather events.

er is expected (Warning) or possible (Watch) at or near the phone’s location. For the spring season, these alerts include thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods, and excessive heat along with tsunami warnings and rip-current statements for coastal residents and visitors. “As disaster remediation specialists, we know how important advance planning and preparation can be not only for surviving an unexpected event, but also for recovering from it once the threat has passed,” says Mr Geaski.

He recommends homeowners follow the advice of the experts: prepare an emergency kit that includes an emergency evacuation or shelter plan, a first aid kit, a three-to-five day supply of water and food, personal hygiene items, medications, blankets, and pet supplies, if you have pets. “Be sure to include important contact, insurance, utility, and medical information stored in a reliable and accessible place like the Servpro Ready Plan App or other readily available spot,” he added.

“Having these critical items available to grab and go in both your home and car allows you to quickly move to safety and then take immediate steps toward recovery once the emergency is over.” While it’s important for families and individuals to heed the safety advice of the NWS as the spring severe weather season approaches, it is also important for businesses to prepare for the threats of the new season. “For businesses, advance planning for severe weather and other unexpected events can mean the difference between surviving or closing their doors forever,” according to Mr Geaski. “As many as 50 percent of businesses close down following a disaster, unable to survive long periods of business interruption caused by a disaster and its aftermath. To help address this problem, Servpro developed their Emergency Ready Profile (ERP).” Business owners can work with their local Servpro franchise professional to implement their ERP, beginning with a no-cost facility assessment and employing online tools to document critical facility, contact, and line-of-command information. Having this information in a central, easily accessible location helps facilitate the prompt, appropriate, and efficient response that Mr Geaski knows is critical to getting a business back in business as quickly as possible. For more information on Servpro of Newtown And Southern Litchfield County, contact Mr Geaski at 203-7435362 or For more information on Servpro and the Servpro Emergency Ready Program, visit

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10 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Preventing Falls Could Lead To A Longer, Happier Life At Home

By Shannon Hicks Kitchens are often the center of a home, especially when it comes time for family gatherings. But as people age, kitchens can become a very dangerous place to be unless the right steps are taken to keep that space safe. Safe and usable kitchens for the elderly need to accommodate both the current needs of a home’s residents, along with future expectations. Will someone be using a cane to walk? A wheelchair? Is their balance already a little bit wonky? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in four older adults report a fall each year. In 2017, it was reported that 31,190 adults aged 65 and older died from preventable falls, and more than 3 million were treated in emergency departments. Over the past ten years, the number of older adult fall deaths has increased 58 percent, while emergency department visits have increased 40 percent. At the same time, the number of fall deaths among individuals younger than 65 increased 20 percent but the emergency department visits have decreased 13 percent. According to AARP, nearly nine out of every ten (87 percent) Americans age 65 and over wish to age in place — preferring to stay in their homes rather than move into a retirement community, assisted living facility, or a nursing home. The National Safety Council (nsc. org) recognizes that falls can happen anywhere. When it comes to the safety of one’s home, however, there are some very easy steps that can be taken: *Remove clutter, small furniture, pet gear, electric cords, throw rugs, and anything else that might cause someone to trip or fall. *Arrange or remove furniture so that there is plenty of room for walking. *Install grab bars inside and outside of any bathtub and/or shower stall and next to each toilet. *Install railings on both sides of stairs and make sure stairs and hallways have

good lighting. *Make sure outdoor areas are well lit and walkways are smooth and free of puddles and ice. In addition to these changes to the home, NSC also suggests being proactive with one’s health and body. *The National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes it easy with its Go4Life program. Go4Life has specialized exercises in four categories: Tai Chi, Balance Walk, Heel-To-Toe Walk, and Stand on One Foot. Visit for details. Finally, check your balance for risk through The CDC’s self-assessment test. Answer 12 simple Yes-No questions, available at (under the purple banner that says Resources, click on Materials for Patients, then Stay Independent Brochure). Then visit your doctor to discuss your answers. Kitchen Specifics The CDC defines “aging in place” as “the ability to live in one’s home and

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Reorganizing A Kitchen For Aging In Place The kitchen is one of the rooms in every home where many people spend the largest amount of time. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more dangerous rooms in the home. is an online resource with a goal to help more seniors do just that: age in place. The following statistics from that online resource offer a few of the reasons to prioritize a reorganization of the kitchen specifically for an older person: *90 percent of kitchen cloths failed cleanliness tests. *Foodborne disease causes 76 million cases of illness in the United States alone, according to the centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” Home Instead Senior Care, one of the largest agencies to offer home elderly care services around the world, has published a booklet filled with checklists for each room of the home. Among its suggestions are the following: Move items in cabinets to the shelves closest to the counter that are the easiest for a senior to reach. Install hooks in the walls for pots and pans a senior frequently uses. Using a Lazy Susan can help organize items on a countertop. Move the kitchen table closer to a counter for additional workspace, or use an island for additional workspace. If there is not adequate light for cooking, increase light wattage to allowable levels. Many options exist, including under counter lighting and batteryoperated offerings. An electrician can also install under counter or overhead lighting fixtures. Slippery floors are treacherous. All

*More than 150,000 kitchen fires every year are caused by cooking equipment — with 460 fatalities. *Lacerations from kitchen tools account for 42 percent of hand injuries that are seen by ER professionals. *A home without a fire alarm is twice as likely to have a fire, according to the US Fire Administration. *Unattended cooking equipment accounted for 45 percent of home fatalities from 2002 to 2005. *34 fatal burn injuries occur each year from scald burns out of the kitchen. *After age 65, falling becomes the leading cause of death in the home, with many slip-and-fall accidents occurring on wet kitchen floors.

spills should be cleaned up immediately, and wet floors should never be walked on. Comfortable shoes that fit well or socks with non-skid soles can help. Flooring can also be updated to something with a less slippery surface. Spoiled food should never be left in the refrigerator. Eating outdated or spoiled food can lead to food poisoning and worse. Refrigerators should be cleaned out weekly. Check expiration dates on food such as meat, eggs, and milk. Throw out unsafe items. The pantry should also be checked regularly. Outdated dry food can also create unnecessary health issues. Keep emergency contact information handy and updated. A refrigerator is a good place to post such information, as well as in a wallet, billfold, or purse. Make sure the kitchen has a working fire extinguisher. Review the Home Instead checklists for all rooms in a home by visiting home-safety-checklist_instore_booklet(2).pdf.

Home & Garden - 11

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Worried Efficiency Upgrades Will Downgrade Your Classic Home?

HARTFORD — Some homeowners think they have to sacrifice comfort and energy savings to preserve the historical or classic integrity of their New England home. Fortunately, there are a variety of upgrades that can save money and provide modern comforts without impacting the classic charm. Eversource is helping Connecticut residents learn and implement these easy upgrades in their New England homes. Eversource energy efficiency expert Enoch Lenge recently discussed how homeowners and renters could enhance their home’s comfort and reduce energy usage while preserving their home’s vintage look and feel in his monthly blog, EE With Enoch: “Caring For Your Classic New England Home.” According to Enoch, if you’re a classic or vintage homeowner or renter looking to make updates, some common problems and solutions to keep in mind include: Increasing natural light — by increasing natural light in your home, everyone who lives and visits there can enjoy actual health benefits such as boosting your mood, aiding in healthy eye development, giving you more energy, and making you feel well-rested. Natural light can also save energy and make a room feel spacious. Upgrading your windows — If your home was built before the late 1970s, your single-pane windows may be costing you money. If you are considering a window upgrade, get the most out of your investment by pairing it with insulation and air sealing to make it part of a more comprehensive energy efficiency upgrade. According to, installing Energy Star qualified windows lowers energy bills and helps homeowners save $126-$465 a year over single-pane windows or $27$111 a year over double-pane, clear glass replacement windows. Drafty solutions — Windows, doors, exterior walls, attics, electrical outlets, and chimneys are all common areas for drafts. One way to improve your home’s heat loss and efficiency is to enhance its insulation. Just like a home’s foundation, insulation settles over time and becomes compromised, causing air leaks. This can account for up to 30 percent of a home’s heating and cooling costs — which is like having a window open to the outside all year round! Air sealing is another way to eliminate drafts. According

Do you have a classic or vintage home? If you do, Eversource blogger and energy expert Enoch Lenge says replacing old appliances will not only enhance your home’s interior living space, but increase your home’s resale value, improve your family’s quality of life, and decrease your environmental impact as well.

to, you should caulk and weather strip for simple, effective air-sealing that will often return your investment in less than a year. Enhance old fixtures with LED lighting — Think all light bulbs are the same? LED lightbulbs use 80 to 90 percent less energy, and each incandescent bulb you replace with an Energy Star-certified light bulb will save you about $10 in energy costs each year. These bulbs are also dimmable, can last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, and some now have Wi-Fi capabilities for automatic control. Replace old, clunky appliances — Did you know that refrigerators more than ten years old could cost you more than $100 extra per year? By replacing old appliances, you’ll not only enhance your home’s interior living space, but increase your home’s resale value, improve your fami-

ly’s quality of life, and decrease your environmental impact. For a list of Energy Star-certified appliances and products, go to So, how do you get started? Eversource, through Home Energy Solutions (HES) offers in-home energy assessments with our authorized contractors. Additionally, HES program contractors can help identify rebates and incentives. In Connecticut, residents can take advantage of financing opportunities like the HES Payment Plan, a zero percent interest loan that provides up to $3,000 toward qualified energy efficient home improvements. For more information on how you can get started on your home energy efficiency projects, call 877-WISE-USE or visit the Save Money & Energy pages on

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12 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Residential Greenhouses—

Fancy To Functional — Companies Can Create

Plants are grown in the soil inside the plastic-sheeted greenhouses assembled by the Connecticut Greenhouse Company. —Connecticut Greenhouse Company photo

By Andrew Gorosko Living in the Northeast presents some challenges for residential gardeners in terms of the relatively short growing season for raising many flowers and vegetables. To create atmospheric conditions conducive to plant growth and to start a growing season earlier, an avid gardener might opt to invest in a greenhouse. Also known as glasshouses when constructed of glass panels and as hothouses when enclosures are heated, greenhouses allow gardeners to create an artificial “microclimate” to stimulate plant growth. Besides clear glass panels set in frames, greenhouses may be constructed with clear plastic panels or be fabricated of thick translucent plastic sheeting stretched across a framework of metallic ribbing or tubing. Locally, residential or commercial greenhouse clients have a somewhat limited num-

ber of installation experts to choose from. A cursory web search turned up a trio of companies serving the western/central Connecticut area — and representatives of each spoke with The Newtown Bee’s Home & Garden. Toby Fischer and Aaron Taylor, who do business in Middlefield under the name Connecticut Greenhouse Company LLC, handle mostly commercial work, but they also contract occasional residential projects. The firm can either install a greenhouse for a client or have a kit shipped to a DIY-er with all the components needed to assemble the structure at their site, Mr Fischer said. The company sells basic greenhouses, which have no foundations and create sheltered space for crops grown in the ground. Mr Fischer explained that the firm’s business is based on customization. Clients can get a greenhouse the size that they want that is furnished with only the features that they need. Thus, the price of various projects varies widely, he said. A basic option is whether the structure is heated, he added. Because the greenhouse is made of plastic sheeting, it is necessary to replace that sheeting every four years to ensure that the plants grown within the structure have suitable ultraviolet light protection, Mr Fischer said. Factors to consider when planning for a residential greenhouse include whether the growing will be a hobby or be a business, Mr Fischer commented. The crops to be grown and their growing season and whether heating and irrigation systems will be used in the structure should be considered. The Connecticut Greenhouse Company does work in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, plus southern sections of New Hampshire and Vermont. The company can be reached via its web page at Auburn Landing

Auburn Landing found an old greenhouse that fit an existing greenhouse foundation, refurbished it, and then installed it for the Greenwich Land Trust in conjunction with Auburn Landing’s renovation of a 1910 farmhouse for land trust offices. —Auburn Landing Inc photo

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Auburn Landing Inc, a general contracting firm based in Georgetown, has constructed many upscale residential projects in southern Fairfield County towns, including Greenwich, New Canaan, and Ridgefield, according to proprietor Jeff Andrews. The firm’s work has included the architectdesigned construction of new houses, outbuildings, additions, and restorations. The firm has worked on about ten glass-walled structures over the past decade, Mr Andrews said. The glass-paned permanent greenhouses that the firm has constructed are built upon concrete foundations that extend below the soil’s frost line, he said.

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Home & Garden - 13

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Enclosed Microclimates For Avid Gardeners

Glass Garden Builders specializes in restoring greenhouses whose components were made by Lord & Burnham, a noted greenhouse manufacturer. —Glass Garden Builders photo

Clients seeking a residential greenhouse at their property typically will have a preference for growing flowers or vegetables. “Every person’s needs are different,” Mr Andrews said. Orchids often are favored by those who grow flowers. The types of glass panels used in a greenhouse vary, Mr Andrews explained, adding that simple, single-paned glass may be used, or doubled-paned panels may be employed, which provide a higher heat insulation value. To provide suitable ventilation for the plants grown within, greenhouses typically have some panels that open to allow for air flow, he said. Some greenhouses have automation that includes self-opening panels. While a firm like Connecticut Greenhouse Company might build a commercial plasticsheet greenhouse as large as 30 feet wide by 300 feet long, Auburn Landing might build a custom residential glass-paned structure that is 10 feet wide by 15 feet long. Mr Andrews said that residential greenhouses his firm constructs may be freestanding buildings or may be attached to an existing structure, such as a barn. The greenhouses have gravel floors and wooden walkways. The structures contain benches upon which plants are grown within containers. In the past, the glass-paned structures that his firm built often were solariums, functioning as glass-walled additions to houses. Freestanding greenhouses for plant growing have increased in popularity, he said.

An interior view of the greenhouse that Auburn Landing refurbished for the Greenwich Land Trust. —Auburn Landing Inc photo

Watering the plants may involve simply bringing a garden hose into the greenhouse or installing an irrigation system within the structure, Mr Andrews said. Using natural gas to heat a greenhouse is likely the best method, but in the absence of a natural gas supply, propane may be used a heat source, he added. “They’re complicated structures,” Mr Andrews said of the many aspects of greenhouse design. Clients interested in a greenhouse project for their property may approach Mr Andrews directly for such work or hire an architect to draw plans for a project which Auburn Landing would then implement. Auburn Landing can be reached via its web page at Glass Garden Builders

Richard Diesl heads the firm known as Glass Garden Builders, which has constructed many permanent greenhouses in the Lord & Burnham style. Glass Garden, with roots in Old Lyme, is now based in southern New Hampshire. According to Glass Garden’s web page, Glass Garden Builders is a former Lord & Burnham contractor that specializes in restoring greenhouses that were assembled from parts made by that well-known firm. Glass Garden thus keeps a large stock of original Lord & Burnham greenhouse parts. Lord & Burnham, a noted greenhouse manufacturer, traces its history back 170 years. In 1989, Under Glass Manufacturing

Shown are some examples of greenhouses that the Connecticut Greenhouse Company assembles out of steel framing and plastic sheeting. —Connecticut Greenhouse Company photo

Company acquired the Lord & Burnham name and product line and then manufactured greenhouses under the Lord & Burnham name. Mr Diesl said the smallest greenhouse that his firm would construct for a residential client measures 15 feet wide by 25 feet long. Besides greenhouses, the company has built solariums and conservatories. Some clients hire architects for their greenhouse projects, while others let Glass Garden handle the design work, he said. The firm does its greenhouse work in the continental US, Mr Diesl said.

Mr Diesl noted, “Every greenhouse is different,” depending upon a client’s requirements. The company’s work involves the construction of both freestanding greenhouses and greenhouses that are attached to buildings, he said. Glass Garden restores antique greenhouses, including repair work to heating and air conditioning equipment, ventilation motors, plumbing, electrical, and sandblasting, plus structural work and foundation repairs. Contact Glass Garden via its website at

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14 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Spring Into Cleaning, Part Two —

KonMari Method Sparks Joy In Newtown After Netflix Debut By Alissa Silber

When the Netflix-original series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo was released in January, viewers were introduced to a new way of decluttering. The season’s eight episodes chronicled world-renowned Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo as she visited the homes of people in the United States and showed them how her KonMari Method could change their lives. Ms Kondo had gained a dedicated following prior to the release of her show through publishing a variety of international books, including her bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing in 2016 and its companion book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up in 2017. The KonMari Method differs from traditional forms of organizing because it focuses on sorting based on category as opposed to location. Categories include clothing, books, papers, Komono (miscellaneous), and sentimental items, which are to be followed in that order. Each category gets broken down into a two-step process of sorting items, then organizing. Ms Kondo has also implemented a special rule to her KonMari Method, and that is to ask yourself if the item sparks joy. The concept of something sparking joy — or having it make your heart leap, like its original Japanese translation suggests — comes down to seeing if the item adds value to your life. While it might be easy to identify a sentimental memento or a beautiful dress as sparking joy, some may wonder how, perhaps, a kitchen appliance can elicit a jubilant reaction. The key is to acknowledge if an item is doing its job efficiently. If it is, the item is therefore beneficial, has a purpose for future use, and joy-inducing enough to keep. KonMari Consultant In 2016, after the KonMari brand exclusively trained consultants in Japan, it expanded to training specialists in the United States on how to implement Marie Kondo’s techniques with clients. Karin Socci was among the very first group of people to be trained. “I have always considered myself an organized person, and I come from a long line of organized people,” Ms Socci said. Having read Ms Kondo’s books, she had used the KonMari Method in her personal life to help her move out of an apartment

Pictured, from left, is Karin Socci, Certified Master KonMari Consultant and owner of The Serene Home, with expert tidier Marie Kondo, who stars in the Netflix original series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. —KonMari Media Inc photo

she had been living in for nearly a decade. “I did KonMari, and it was amazing,” Ms Socci said. “I got rid of probably half of everything I owned, if not more, and was sold on the concept.” She was able to use her experience to be accepted into the training program, which requires students to demonstrate that they have done KonMari in their own home. Ms Socci then underwent an intensive certification process that involved a three-day seminar, ten practice clients who submit feedback on their experience, and an exam to prove she understands the process and can share it accordingly with clients. She says after passing the test, consultants become Green-Level Certified and go on to achieve different statuses based on their experience. Ms Socci is one of just two Certified Master KonMari consultants in the United States — the highest level to achieve — having done at least 500 tidying sessions with 50 clients. She has since gone on to help far more individuals and families with her company, The Serene Home, that she launched in 2016 after becoming a KonMari Method consultant. She has also become an active member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). The Serene Home provides phone call consultations and organizing services in Connecticut and New York. Ms Socci pri-

Earlier this year, Rae and Michael Suba of Sandy Hook followed the KonMari Method that requires all clothes to be put into a large pile before being sorted and organized. —photo courtesy of Rae Suba

Declutter Like Kondo! Are you ready for spring decluttering? Follow these six basic rules of tidying, courtesy of the KonMari Method: 1. Commit yourself to tidying up. 2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle. 3. Finish discarding first. 4. Tidy by category, not by location. 5. Follow the right order. 6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy. marily works with residential clients onsite, in addition to providing virtual consulting and organizing for businesses. “Every family and every person that I’ve ever worked with is very concerned about the state of their home when they call me,” Ms Socci said. “One of the first things people say when I come into their home is, ‘Is this the biggest mess you’ve ever seen?’” She assures that this is a universal concern and to not be discouraged. She is there to help. KonMari In Town Sandy Hook resident Rae Suba first heard about the KonMari Method through friends on Facebook earlier this year and decided to binge-watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix to see what every-

one was talking about. The show’s message spoke to her in such a way that the wife, mother of three, and business owner was inspired to add even more to her plate and begin implementing the organizing method — for her entire multi-story house. “Typically speaking, I’m very organized to begin with…” Ms Suba explained. “We’ve cleaned up before and organized before, but what’s interesting about this method is that it basically is an evaluation about what you are getting rid of and what you are keeping.” This concept of thinking critically about each item and the value it has helped when she considered how the family plans to move in the next few years. “If I don’t see it coming to California with us, then why are we keeping it?” Ms Suba said. As a practicing Buddhist and self-proclaimed hippy, she appreciated the KonMari Method’s emphasis on feeling a sense of thankfulness for the item being in her life. “The thing about [Marie Kondo’s] method that I really take away is that gratitude piece — to appreciate an item then get rid of it,” Ms Suba said. She also enjoyed the element of ownership the process creates when having to take everything in a category out at once, like dumping out entire drawers of items or emptying closets and dressers from top to bottom. “When you pull everything out at the same time, you are overwhelmed with the amount of stuff. It almost is anxiety producing,” Ms Suba admits. However, once the task is completed both she and her family members have found it is much easier to maintain the organization. Ms Suba enlisted her husband, Michael, to help with the spaces they share jointly, and her children have also used the KonMari Method to declutter their rooms. “I feel like if you don’t do it, you won’t have any investment in it,” she explained of her decision to have her family participate. Already, the majority of the Suba household is completed, with the exception of the last category of sentimental items and Ms Suba’s professional/personal papers that she tackles little-by-little between tidying other areas. Ms Suba is happy with the results of using the KonMari Method, despite the initial stress it may have caused, and calls the family’s kitchen a “utopia” now. Those interested in learning more about implementing the KonMari Method in their lives can contact Karin Socci of The Serene Home at or 646-8721345. Tidying sessions can be booked online.

Sandy Hook resident Rae Suba has implemented the KonMari Method throughout her home, including its folding technique for clothes, as seen here in a bedroom drawer. —Bee Photo, Silber

Home & Garden - 15

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Eight Questions to Ask Before Going Solar (StatePoint) With a growing number of homeowners looking to save money on power bills and help the environment, rooftops across America are taking on a new look, as more homes are dotted with solar panels. But it’s important to ask the right questions before installing them on your home. “While there are tremendous benefits to solar energy, consumers should be sure they are working with a qualified provider, getting a quality product that’s customizable and right for their home and situation,” says Doug Robinson, CEO of LGCY Power, a solar provider. “There are great resources out there, such as, that will walk you through the process of determining what solar is right for you.” To help make the right decision, Robinson suggests asking your energy consultant the following questions: • What are your credentials? Learn whether you’re working with a company with expertise in the field — how long has it been in business, and how many solar installations has the company performed to-date? You should also do your research about the company’s track record in satisfying customers. • Do you have a national presence? Local operations don’t necessarily have the resources or partnerships with solar panel manufacturers to be successful long-term. Sticking with national companies can be a safer bet. • What financing options are available? One size does not fit all, so there should always be multiple options when it comes to financing. In some cases, you can even get solar systems for free. The key is researching options to find what’s best for you and your situation. If there aren’t financing options, that is a sign that you should walk away and

find another solar provider. • How long will it take to begin realizing savings on my energy bill? It depends on your market and the size and type of system you get. Some consumers see an immediate savings and some see more long-term savings. On average, people can save about 30 percent on their energy bill. There are ways to customize a system that will accommodate the individual needs of most consumers, and in some cases, you can even get a solar system installed at no cost to you. • Are there tax incentives available? Your energy consultant can help you identify what federal and state tax incentives are available to you. Taking advantage of tax breaks can help make the upfront cost of solar installation more manageable. • Which manufacturers do you use? Ensure the equipment manufacturer will be around long enough to honor its warranties. Find out what brand of panels, inverter, and batteries you’ll receive and if there are third-party reviews or tests of them to verify their quality. • How does maintenance work? Find out how often your system requires maintenance and if it is covered by a warranty. • What are the next steps? What is the process from signing the agreement to installation? How long does this take? To learn more about going solar at home, visit or call 844439-2717. Solar energy is not only a smart move for the planet, it’s a smart move for your wallet, with the potential to save your household considerable money over the long run. But making an informed decision is crucial. Ask the right questions for the greatest benefits.

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16 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Mold, The Uninvited Guest — And How To Get Rid Of It

Attics are one area where mold can frequently be found.

Restoration 1 of Southern Connecticut owner Tom O’Hara offered examples of different mold. This mold is growing near the bottom of a wall.

By Eliza Hallabeck

Mold tends to grow in the dark places infrequently visited, and it can stay, like an uninvited guest, for seasons if unchecked. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors.” Resident and Restoration 1 of Southern Connecticut owner Tom O’Hara began working in the area last summer, and since then, he has seen different kinds of mold. Mr O’Hara entered the financial industry after college, and he eventually decided he wanted a change. “I always wanted to own my own business, and I figured this was the time to do it,” he said, adding that he did a “ton of research” before deciding what to pursue. He reached out to a franchise consultant: He knew he wanted support and a “proven process” to follow. After looking at four different business and four different industries, he started his new endeavor last year. “I saw a need for the restoration industry. We are water damage experts, so we handle everything with water damage,” Mr O’Hara said. He also became certified with the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification), and he has all of his technicians become certified too. He recommends all of those seeking a contractor to remediate mold look into whether the contractor is IICRC-certified. Restoration 1 is based in Newtown. The company offers services related to water damage, like storm recovery, flood dam-

Mold can be seen dotting this piece of wood.

age, fire and smoke damage, and mold remediation, along with other services, throughout Fairfield County. It works in both residential and commercial buildings. All buildings, residential and commercial, can have leaks or breaks that may lead to mold. Last summer, Mr O’Hara said the area was “swamped with mold” following rains. Flooding also occurred. “Now the people who didn’t properly mitigate the flooding from the rains are going to start seeing mold,” he said. Mold can begin to grow within 24 to 48 hours of water damage, but it can be hidden behind walls. “It comes out when someone begins to smell it or they do renovation, and they find it behind walls,” he said. Restoration 1 of Southern Connecticut

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is frequently called to work in homes where mold has started to grow in an attic. Mold in attics can be frequent, with bathrooms sometimes vented to the attic rather than outside, he pointed out. “This always comes up during inspection when people go to sell their house. The inspector is constantly finding mold within the attic,” he said. Mold in an attic can affect health, but not as much as it would if it was in a living area of the home, he explained. “Spores tend not to travel down; they go up,” he said. “The good thing is it does tend to stay up there.” For homeowners, Mr O’Hara recommends “taking proper precautions at the source.” Check bathroom ventilation, check that soffits have proper air flow, and make sure the ridge vent in the roof is working properly. Roofs can also leak and

go unnoticed for a long time. “It’s all about ventilation in an attic. If there is no proper ventilation in an attic, mold will grow there,” said Mr O’Hara. Later he said, “Mold takes three things in order to have microbial growth.” He listed mold spores, an organic food source, and moisture as mold’s three needed things. “There are over 100,000 different spore species,” said Mr O’Hara, adding that they are everywhere. Keeping a home clean can deplete one form of an organic food source: dust. He also recommends maintaining moisture levels in a home between 35 percent and 50 percent humidity levels. “Mold growth can happen above 60 percent [humidity],” said Mr O’Hara. Dark, damp, and humid basements are another area mold “loves,” according to Mr O’Hara. The easiest way to find mold is to smell it, but that can be tough with other odors in an area, Mr O’Hara explained. Mold can also be spotted. Visible mold growth should be tested by a lab. Mr O’Hara recommends proactive approaches like cleaning and looking at windows for early morning condensation on the inside, which would show a problem that could otherwise go unnoticed. “Focus on any moisture and dust,” said Mr O’Hara. With summer returning, Mr O’Hara recommended “setting up your dehumidifier,” checking gutters, and making sure everything is draining away from the house. More information about Restoration 1 of Southern Connecticut is available on its website,

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Home & Garden - 17

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Connecticut Builder Elected 2019 NAHB Chairman

TORRINGTON — Greg Ugalde, a Connecticut-based builder and developer with more than 25 years of experience in the home building industry, was elected as the 2019 chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) during the association’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. Mr Ugalde is president and chief legal officer of Torrington-based T&M Building Co Inc, one of the state’s largest home builders. Since its founding in 1962, T&M has built more than 4,000 new homes in more than 45 Connecticut communities for trade-up and first-time buyers. He is also the founder and owner of GFU Investments LLC, a builder/developer minority-owned business that focuses on urban development and workforce housing. “Easing the growing housing affordability crisis is the most important issue facing our industry in 2019,” said Mr Ugalde. “This year, we will work with policymakers to reduce burdensome regulations that are needlessly raising the cost of housing, exacerbating affordability concerns and holding back a more robust recovery in the residential construction sector. We will also urge Congress to reform the nation’s housing

finance system and to adopt practical workforce development and immigration policy that will help address chronic labor shortages in the housing sector.” Mr Ugalde has been active in the NAHB leadership structure at the local, state, and national levels throughout his career. A life director, he has served on the NAHB Board of Directors for nearly 20 years and has been a member of the NAHB Executive Board for the past decade. He has also served on numerous NAHB committees, was a member of several NAHB task force groups, served as the vice chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee and was chairman of BUILD-PAC and three other committees. From 2006-10, he served as the NAHB State Representative from Connecticut. He was the Moderator of the State Representatives in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, he was elected as the National Area Chairman for his region. From 2003-05, Ugalde was the president of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut (HBRA). He was named the local and state Builder of the Year in 2000, has served on the HBRA board since 1999, and has been a member

Greg Ugalde

of its executive committee since 2000. He is a three-time HBRA Distinguished Service Awards recipient and served as chairman of the Connecticut Developers Coun-

cil from 1997-2004. Mr Ugalde received the state home building industry’s highest honor, the Charles J. LoDolce Award, in 2011. An effective advocate and spokesperson on a broad range of housing issues, Mr Ugalde has served on the HOMEConnecticut Steering Committee, the National Land Use Attorneys Network, the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing, and the Town of Burlington’s IWWC and Parks & Recreation Commission. In 1998, he received the Hartford Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Award. Community involvement is important to Mr Ugalde. He has served on the AvonCanton-Farmington Youth Hockey Association Board for more than 15 years, including as its president. A certified coach in hockey and little league, he has coached more than 20 teams. He also served on the Westminster School Board of Trustees, including as its Audit Committee chairman. An accomplished member of the American, Connecticut, and Massachusetts bar associations, Mr Ugalde continues to serve on the Planning & Zoning Section Executive Committee of the Connecticut Bar Association.

Property Improvements That Will Benefit Wildlife

(StatePoint) When it comes to changing the world, your own backyard is a great place to start. As you make home improvements, consider their potential to benefit local wildlife that travels in and around your property. Here are a few important steps you can take. Plant Native Species — By planting native species in your garden and yard, you will be promoting a healthy local ecosystem while providing proper nourishment and a natural habitat for visiting wildlife, whether that be insects, birds, or furry creatures. Because native plant species are meant to thrive in your local climate, they will require less maintenance, which means a beautiful yard with less stress. Prevent Bird Strikes — You may not realize it, but your home poses a risk to birds. Window strikes are common among many species of migrating birds, and millions of wild birds are killed annually flying into windows. However, a simple home improvement project can make your home safer for birds. Birds can see certain light frequencies that humans can’t, so by applying UV decals and UV liquid to your home’s windows and sliding glass doors, you can make windows visible

to birds in a way that won’t obstruct your own view. “Protecting birds adds beauty to your garden, is good for the environment, and most importantly, saves lives,” says Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert, a company that offers UV decals and UV Liquid. The UV decals and liquid from WindowAlert have been proven to effectively alter the flight path of birds to prevent window strikes. The coating will look like etched glass to the human eye but be very visible to a bird. As UV reflectivity may fade over time, it’s important to replace the decals and liquid every four months. Application techniques can be found by visiting Build a Bird house — Add beauty to your yard with a wooden bird house. Find a design you love or get creative and craft your own using your own home’s architecture for inspiration. A strategically placed bird house — either within three feet of a window or more than 30 feet away — will help avoid bird strikes. Be a good neighbor — not just to the other humans. Make improvements to your home that will help protect both local and migratory wildlife.

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18 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Today’s Electric Landscaping Gear Can Help You

Electric Mower Buyers Guide

In recent years, the development of gasoline-free and super quiet battery-powered landscaping equipment has escalated. Today, professionals and consumers can affordably access electric-powered blowers, edgers, trimmers, chain saws, and even snow throwing equipment, like the products pictured from Illinois-based Ego. — Photos Courtesy Ego

By John Voket Did you know that your gasoline-fueled lawn and landscaping gear puts enough emissions into the air that it equals the rough equivalent of having an extra car on the road every year? That is typically one of the first questions you would hear from Dan Delventhal, a Fairfield County entrepreneur and environmental activist who founded MowGreen more than 15 years ago. And he is one to know. Since he founded his company on the principle of reducing carbon emissions while maintaining the aesthetic and environmental benefits of a beautiful lawn and landscape, Delventhal and his gasoline-free MowGreen minions have mowed more than 4,800 acres without gas, avoiding nine

million auto-mile equivalent emissions. By his calculation, that single company effort alone has prevented more than 500 metric tons of carbon emission pollution spewing into the air annually. (One gas-mowed lawn = 12,000 auto miles — over four metric tons of carbon emissions per year = one car on road). In the early years of his company, Mr Delventhal was a proponent of push-type reel mowers, and he developed a fabricated framework that permitted two, and later three, reel mower configurations all propelled by the power of one person’s push. But that was in part because there were few, if any, non-gasoline mowers or other landscaping devices on the market. And the early generation models could be more frustrating than what they were worth — because they either required

Christian Rogers at recently created a Buyers Guide to help consumers plug into the emission-free options in electric mowers, and he recommends consumers consider these factors: Battery Voltage & Run Time — Cordless mower battery voltage can run from 40V to 84V. Rogers says you get more run time from a larger voltage battery, similar to engine horsepower. Blade Cut Width — Rogers says get the widest cut you can afford, but don’t sacrifice battery voltage or other convenience features just for the larger cutting width. Mower Weight — Most cordless mowers weigh 40 to 90 pounds — powerful, yet light enough for just about anyone to use without problem, Rogers says. Single Vs Dual Blades — Rogers doesn’t think dual blades are a “must have” — but whatever type or size blade, he says it’s more important to keep those blades sharp. Yard Size — Rogers says if your lawn is larger than 1/3 acre, consider a model where you can swap out the battery when the first one has run down to increase range.


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Home & Garden - 19

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Mow, Blow — Even Snow Throw Greener operators to be tethered to an electric power cord or struggle with heavy, clunky batteries that held relatively short charges and provided inferior power to get the job done. These days, Mr Delventhal and his crews have transitioned from almost exclusively using old-school push mowers to using the latest battery-powered and 100 percent renewable solar-charged landscaping equipment. He recently told The Newtown Bee’s Home & Garden that over the past couple of years, he has seen huge improvements in gas-free lawn maintenance equipment. Today, he and his clients benefit from using and promoting mowers from a company called Mean Green Products. “The Mean Green mowers are charged with HQ solar or 100 percent green-sourced power, which are fast, wide, quiet — run all day on a single charge, are made in the USA,” he says on his website, We also use battery-powered Mean Green trimmers/ hedgers/pruners, some old Worx trimmers/edgers, and Ego trimmers, saws, hedgers & blowers,” he added. “We still use rakes and brooms when feasible, but we found the Ego blowers were the first available systems that are powerful enough to help move leaves, yet quiet and low emissions to fit our mission.” But today, a number of recognized brands are getting on the green bandwagon, developing non-emission producing landscaping equipment — from chainsaws and trimmers to backpack blowers and even snow throwers. Christian Rogers at recently tested and reviewed five top electric mowers: the Poulan Pro, Black & Decker CM2640, GreenWorks 25223, EGO Power+, and Snapper XD. He also aimed to help consumers by developing a “Buyers Guide” for electric mowers (see pullout box). Consumers looking to mow and grow gasoline-free should be prepared for the sticker shock that might come with the investment in the type of large property equipment that MowGreen uses, however. The Mean Green electric mowers Mr Delventhal owns retail for around $19,000 for the 52-inch deck (CXR— 52), and about $500 more for their 60-inch deck model (CXR-60). With available horsepower exceeding most commercial gas mowers in its class and maximum torque from the start, Mean Green claims their CXR line proves that cordless electric mowers can be very powerful and very quiet. These zero fuel, zero oil, zero hydrostatic systems require minimal routine maintenance, which the manufacturer

Soon after Dan Delventhal founded MowGreen in Fairfield in the early 2000s, he devised a fabricated metal connection system that permitted him to connect three push reel mowers together to create a maximum sweep for the gasoline-free lawn cutting devices. —Photo Courtesy MowGreen

says will save owners around $7-8 per hour compared to a similar gas engine mower. The CXR line boasts a three-blade side discharge deck, 36hp equivalent power, and up to seven hours continuous operation, LEM Life — that means up to 8,000 mowing hours from its rechargeable battery with half the noise at 78db (CXR-52) or 82db (CXR-60). For a smaller property, perhaps the Mean Green WBX33HD, which is priced at about $8,500. It’s 33-inch mower fits through any three-foot gate or doorway. The WBX33HD operates up to seven hours continuous, provides a battery life of 9,000 hours, and is powered by a 25A (110V) or 35A (220V) battery juiced by a four-hour charger. It takes the place of a push mower in a lot of yards and creates a relatively quiet 78db with enough power to handle any type of grass, the manufacturer says. By comparison, the consumer class Ego 21-inch selfpropelled mower with its two-battery Peak Power system retails for around $750 and provides 90 minutes of run time. The company’s manually propelled Ego 21-inch Power + Mower with its 56V Lithium-Ion battery offers a 21-inch deck and up to 45 minutes running time with 5.0Ah battery for around $399 Already have an electric mower?

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20 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

Make A Style Statement in Every Room of Your House

(StatePoint) Want to elevate your home décor? Whether you’re going for farmhouse style or Midcentury Modern décor, make a statement in every room, even the most neglected spaces. From the laundry room to the garage to your home gym and game room, these easy and simple ideas from the design experts at Hunter Fan Company will add comfort and beauty to your home. The Laundry Room — While this space is one of the most used on a weekly basis, it’s often forgotten in terms of décor and style. Simple touches, like matching laundry bins, wall art, and coordinated shelving can really change the ambiance and help organize laundry day chaos. While this space has a ton of potential, it also comes with its share of challenges. Many laundry rooms tend to be cramped and get steamy easily. Adding a circulating element, like a ceiling fan, can remedy this woe and make chores more pleasant. Smaller options like the Loki from Hunter Fan Company come in options as small as 36-inches and can seamlessly coordinate with your updated space. The Game Room — Game rooms are often the most aesthetically neglected rooms of the home. Often a culmination of mismatched and hand-me-down furniture, the game room is most likely in need of some tender love and care. Some new pillow covers for the couch and an added cowhide rug can provide a refreshing update to this room. Consider adding an accent wall in a bold Bethel Handyman Hardware is Now

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color and replacing those outdated band posters for a grown-up look. The Garage — For many people, the garage is the first interior space they encounter after a long day. Unfortunately, it’s also often the dumping ground for old tools, children’s toys, and items with no place to call home. Built-in storage can help with organization, and adding a layer of colored floor protectant will make your garage seem more polished and presentable. If you use the garage as a workshop, the introduction of a cool breeze can revitalize strenuous home projects and ensure proper ventilation. Check out ceiling fan design options that can stand up to the elements, such as the Brunswick or Cedar Key from Hunter Fan Company. The Home Gym — When it comes to getting in shape, motivation is key, and having a beautiful, enjoyable space while working towards your goals can make all the difference. Get a better workout by updating your home gym with new mats, colorful dumbbells and a brand-new sound system. Avoid overheating with the latest smart tech, such as the SIMPLEconnect Symphony, a fan that can be controlled from your mobile device or an automated virtual assistant, such as Siri, Google, or Alexa, so you can be comfortable without interrupting your treadmill session. For greater comfort, health, and use of your home, consider how you can incorporate beautiful and easy interior design elements into every room.

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Home & Garden - 21

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

Tips to Protect Your Jewelry And Valuables (StatePoint) From engagement rings to family heirlooms, your jewelry and other valuables are timeless and important. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help keep these items safe. Insurance experts from Travelers have put together the following tips to help you protect your most treasured possessions: 1. Insure Your Engagement Ring Immediately: Engagement rings hold great sentimental and monetary value, but many individuals don’t think to cover them under an insurance policy. Valuable items policies, such as a personal articles floater (PAF), insure individual pieces that have a value that may exceed the limits of your homeowners policy. Travelers also offers the option to insure the ring at the same time you insure your wedding. You can learn more by visiting 2. Store Your Jewelry in Unlikely Places: Burglars often know exactly where to look for jewelry and other valuables. Storing your most prized pieces in uncommon spaces, such as a bookshelf or your bathroom, can add an extra layer of protection.

3. Use Safe Cleaning Methods: Many people are surprised to hear that warm water and dish soap are among the best

methods for keeping jewelry clean. Harsher methods, such as ultrasonic cleaners, can damage certain stones.

4. Monitor Extreme Temperature and Light Exposure: Light and heat can affect the color of gemstones and metals. Extreme temperatures can also damage clasps, making it easier for stones to fall out of beloved pieces. 5. Know Your Homeowners Insurance Policy: While homeowners insurance covers your home and its contents, typical policies only cover up to $1,500 of jewelry. If your jewelry has a higher value than that, it’s worth considering an additional policy, such as a PAF or the Valuable Items Plus program from Travelers, both of which provide coverage for items of higher value. You can ask your insurance agent or carrier about other policy options, including what their limits are and how to add them to your overall insurance program. It may be hard to imagine the theft or loss of your most valuable possessions, but these things happen, and that’s why it’s important to take steps to protect your jewelry. With customizable insurance options and care, you can help make sure your jewelry survives each day.

Is It Time To Upgrade Your Tech? (StatePoint) New technology has the power to make your home safer, more comfortable, and better-suited to your family’s needs. So, if you’re planning to make some home updates, consider these great ideas for incorporating the latest technologies. 1. Smart lock. Give your neighborhood watch group a deserved break and consider investing in smart lock technology. You’ll be able to control your home’s entry points from anywhere through a compatible app,

which will also notify you of possible breakins and tampering. Whether you have guests staying at your place and need to let them in before you get home or you forgot to lock your front door before leaving the house, a smart lock can offer you convenience and peace of mind. 2. Full sound. No matter the size of your home, you can create the ambiance of a concert hall with the latest technology. Even the slimmest electronic pianos today have the

Add Some Excitement To Outdoor Entertaining (StatePoint) It’s time to take the party outdoors. Here are some fun ideas for entertaining on the balmy days and nights ahead: *Cool Spread: Host a potluck in your backyard, setting up a long picnic table for guests to display their dishes. You can make things more interesting by adding a theme or challenge. Whether it’s to incorporate a specific seasonal ingredient into every dish or to only bring dips, the possibilities are endless. Use online tools to help you organize, such as, which gives guests an opportunity to sign up for a specific item ahead of time so there are no duplicates. *Outdoor Movie Night: It’s easy to turn the backyard into an outdoor cinema. Grab some lawn chairs and blankets and host a movie night outdoors under the stars. You can be sure you get a clear, crisp picture with a projector designed to automatically adjust its brightness relative to ambient light. For example, the XJF210WN, part of Casio’s Advanced Series line of projectors, combines a laser and LED light source and uses an Intelligent

Light Control feature to ensure viewers get great visuals. Powered on and off in as fast as five seconds, this mercury-free, energy efficient choice is right for hosts who don’t like to make their guests wait. *Decorate: Your decorations should evoke the spirit of the season. Think garlands, fresh flower centerpieces, paper lanterns, and vibrant colors. *Make Music: No party is complete without music. Whether you’re hosting a jam session or karaoke night, take advantage of the season by taking the musical fun outdoors. A versatile portable keyboard such as the CT-X700 can help you get the party started. It comes with the AiX Sound Source, which faithfully reproduces the sound of acoustic instruments such as guitars, wind instruments, and more, as well as 100 built-in songs, 600 tones, and 195 rhythms. It also includes a class-compliant USB-MIDI port that connects to most devices with no drivers or installation needed, making it a good choice for an outdoor set-up. This season, be the host with the most by taking the party outdoors.

potential to retain a sophisticated keyboard touch and authentic timbre of a grand piano. For example, the new design of the Casio Privia PX-S1000 keyboard reproduces the individual response characteristics of each of the 88 keys on a grand piano and its Bluetooth audio playback feature allows you to connect to your device and play along with your favorite songs. 3. Greater climate control. Heading to the airport but forgot to adjust your thermostat? Want your home to be a comfortable temperature when you arrive home from work? Next-generation, smart thermostats offer you the ability to get a better handle on climate control while potentially lowering your utility bills.

4. The right light. You can set the right mood for the right occasion in every room of your house by creating programmed scenarios through a smart lighting system. A smart lighting app can also improve home security, making your home looked lived in while you are away. 5. Beefed up entertainment. You can go beyond a standard home theater and gaming area with the installation of a projector that offers a great quality picture, long lastingbrightness and a fully connectable interface. The SLIM Seris of LampFree Projectors from Casio, for example, require little to no setup time and provide projection at maximum brightness in as few as five seconds, for a truly immersive home theater experience.

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22 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

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Home & Garden - 23

April 12, 2019 - The Newtown Bee

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24 - Home & Garden

The Newtown Bee - April 12, 2019

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“A Gift Certificate from Hollandia is always appreciated” Complete Gardening supplies • Nursery Stock • Trees Shrubs • Top Soil • Sod • Grass Seed weed Grub Control • Perennials • Annuals Hanging Baskets • Vegetables • Bird Feeders • Houses Bird Seed Statuary • Pottery • Gifts & so much more! Nursery 103 Old Hawleyville Road Bethel, CT


Gift, Garden and Home 95 Stony Hill Road Bethel, CT


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Home & Garden Spring 2019  

Home & Garden Spring 2019