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Affordable home improvement


This spring, it should come as no surprise that the number one home improvement technique that can be easily and affordably used to upgrade and beautify your home is your spring cleaning.
Thoroughly clean your home, and in doing so, you will come across plenty of things you don’t want, don’t need, or that are just taking up space.
To remedy this, have a yard sale. It’s doubly beneficial because you make space by getting rid of the clutter in your home, and you make a little extra money you can put towards truly improving the look of your home.
As you clean, remember the sentimental things that you just can’t seem to part with can be put into storage.
After the clutter has been taken care of, the real cleaning can begin and what better way to do it than by simultaneously protecting your family and the environment from harsh chemicals. Seventh Generation has a new line of completely green cleaning supplies that accomplish just that. Their products can be found at your local grocery store.
After the cleaning, some people might want to take home improvement to the next step and try some simple repairs or additions. If that’s the case, let’s start at the front.
First impressions are everything. So you want the front of your home, the first thing people see, to be attractive and eye-catching.
One inexpensive way to make a great first impression is to spruce up the front yard. Home improvement venues such as Home Depot and Lowes have good-looking flower arrangements that you can purchase and plant yourself for about $8.
The addition of beautiful budding flowers, in conjunction with a well-maintained lawn, adds striking color and a fresh spring feeling immediately beautifying the front of your home.
A fresh coat of paint always adds a bright, new feel to your home, and it isn’t necessarily a need to paint the entire house. The new trend, according to international Feng Shui expert Fay Chappel, is to only paint the front door in a nice, eye-popping accent color. It changes the look of the entire house, and paint is relatively inexpensive.
With these easy-to-accomplish, affordable additions you’ve essentially revamped the entire look of the exterior of your home.
As you move to the interior of your home, another helpful tip is to give the heavy curtains and drapes a break and put up some blinds, shades, or sheer curtains. They allow the sunlight to shine in and give the home a nice airy feeling.
Blinds and other similar window treatments can be found at a number of different retailers such as Bed Bath and Beyond or Anna’s Linen for as low as $17. They are usually very easy to install and therefore can be done yourself.
Refashioning the bathrooms in the house can also be inexpensive, and the small changes you make can drastically change the look and feel of the room.
If space permits, shelves are always good additions to a bathroom because they add a contemporary look and keep the bathroom neat and organized.
New linens, especially in soft colors like turquoise, purple, or even darker greens can transform the look of your bathroom entirely. Retailers like Kohls and Ikea have reasonably priced towel sets, rugs and bath mats, which can also be accented with an array of bath coordinates like soap dispensers and toothbrush holders. Once you top it all off with a few candles, you’ve turned a boring bathroom into a haven of elegance and relaxation.
The dining room could also use a change for the season. With all of the new foods coming into season, you should enjoy being in your dining room just as much as you enjoy devouring all of that delicious food.
New décor in the dining room can be emphasized by adding a new lighting fixture, which can significantly change the atmosphere of a room. A cost-effective way to do this is to install a ceiling fan. Home Depot has a vast selection of fans that range from $50-100, and you can install yourself; but it wouldn’t hurt to have a spotter around just in case.
Aside from their aesthetic value, ceiling fans use less energy than air conditioning. Environmental expert Jon Baime believes cutting off the air conditioning and using the ceiling fan instead can cut your bill by up to 40 percent.
Changing the table decor is another simple way to modify the look of your home. Walmart and Target are good choices for relatively inexpensive table décor. Both retailers house a wide selection of dinnerware, flatware, table cloths and napkins to match any décor.

Interior designer James Gantt Elcock touches a client’s spirit before redesigning their home

By Kianna Shann
OW Contributor
Many of our talents are God given, and everyday we walk this earth displaying them and maximizing their usage. Many also strongly hope  and desire that, while we are utilizing our talent, we are also doing a greater good and changing someone’s  life.
That is exactly what James Gantt Elcock does. Not only does this Los Angeles-area interior designer transform the space in which his clients reside but also the place in which their spirit  resides within their bodies.
In a little more than three years, Elcock has creatively redesigned and restructured 186 homes and countless hearts.
“Generally, my clients do not chose me; I chose them,” said Elcock, who explains that he sits down with a homeowner and has a conversation with them to find out what is going in their lives. During these “consultations,” he often helps people work through issues they may have in their lives, which they might not even recognize.
Elcock connects with his clients, be it over a color pallet, fabric swatch or the exchange of a heartfelt story. He reaches into their soul, learns their story and understands what they need to change about their environment to recreate a happy living space, while adding a dash of color or new window panels.
His ultimate goal is to not only design a glamorous and beautiful living space, but also to coach and assists clients with creating a better home and lifestyle.  
The defining moment in his career, that second when Elcock knew what he was doing was more than crown molding and paint swatches occurred,  when he was introduced to a woman who had lost her husband, whom she was madly in love with. She had began to fall into a depression and needed renovation.
Within moments of meeting her, the interior designer knew it was his responsibility to create a balance for the widow. He needed to design a home for her that allowed her to hold on to the memory of her husband and their life together but that would also set her free to happily move on. Before his eyes, this client transformed from a women who kept to herself and was almost a recluse into a social butterfly, who was now inviting girlfriends over for lavish dinner parties and enjoying her home.
For James, what he does is more of a spiritual process, or a ministry as he calls it. He believes there is a cleansing that has to occur, and that “many times people are holding on to things for sentimental reasons, and sometimes these are things that they need to let go of.”

Working the land(scaping)
Flowers, shrubs and rocks help update a home’s exterior

By C. Alexander Haywood
OW Contributor

Home owners. Does your front and/or backyard need a makeover? Do overgrown weeds, patches of dirt and hazardously dry grass dominate what could be your very own garden paradise? Those of you who answered yes, the time to beautify your dreadful landscape is now. And if these things aren’t on your to-do-list because of the economy, then at least welcome the summer by adding a little color to your home’s exterior with cost-effective items like: flowers, shrubs, bushes, trees, and artificial rocks. To help you get started, here are a few tips from that are sure to help make your lawns “pop.”

1. Start small
The surest way to become frustrated with gardening is to bite off more than you can chew,  says master gardener Paul James of the Home and Garden Television (HGTV) network. Even if you only have 100 square feet of space, you can plant a lot more than you think. Small gardens are easy to maintain, and by starting on a small scale you’ll quickly learn gardening basics such as weed control, pest and disease control and watering requirements without being overwhelmed. As you develop more confidence and gardening skills, you can extend the area or create a new garden bed elsewhere.

2. Choose a theme
Themes set the scenery for the landscape and can either make or break your landscape designs. However, do-it-yourselfers are often unsure of which theme to build their landscaping designs on, and with good reason. In short, before you attempt to make a choice, thoroughly reflect on your reason for improving your home’s landscape. Ultimately, the purpose of improvements is what will guide you to the appropriate theme.

3. Celebrate the seasons
Landscaping designs should be crafted to make plants and trees look their best during a certain time of the year. Generally, the garden is where the seasonal theme is most prominent in landscaping designs. Because of its association with bloom, hope, and renewal, spring is easily one of the popular themes for landscape designs. Summer is another favorite season for landscaping designers. Perennial and annual flowers provide every color necessary to satisfy summer-themed landscaping designs.

4. Evoke a mood
Some landscape designs can highlight the bond between nature and emotion. In landscaping designs, a beautiful rose garden may inspire a viewer to entertain notions of romance, while a tranquil Zen rock garden may cause someone to lose him or herself in thought. Color in landscape designs can also influence the viewer’s mood, and designs should never focus on one color alone. For example, green is believed to have a healing effect, red and orange rouse excitement and energy, and blue relaxes and refreshes. Lines in landscape designs also affect the viewer’s state of mind. Straight lines in landscape designs may suggest formality and structure, while curved lines are perceived as natural, relaxing, and even playful.

5. Foster activity

Color sets the mood
Who and what must be considered, when deciding your interior theme

By Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Contributing Editor

The color is turquoise–“an inviting, luminous hue that combines the serene qualities of blue and the invigorating aspects of green”–to create a shade that is cooooool, languorous, and oh so reminiscent of the tropics.
Annually the granddaddy of hues, Pantone, selects a color of the year, and for 2010, turquoise was the pick.
People who are looking to change the interior of their homes may want to consider incorporating these annual color pronouncements but David Rice, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Organization of Black Designers, cautions that unless you intend to change your decor annually, it’s better to take another more deliberate approach.
“We have visceral reactions with and response to color,” explained Rice, who noted that color evokes emotions in people that must be considered in interior design.
In fact, according to the Color and Emotion Association, “Color has always been a part of our life. Our home decor, the color of your car, your favorite color, your favorite color clothes or shoes. Color is more that an accent to you; it can actually expose who we are.”
The association goes on to say that color therapy has been used for many years, and from the color used for your baby’s room to the color of the inside walls of prisons, hospitals, schools and even your website, it can make a statement that people will unconsciously yet clearly understand.
Taking all of this into consideration is why it is best to develop a plan for your interior design, added Rice, an industrial designer, who at one time had his own furniture line.
The plan must begin with what you intend to do with a particular space, added Rice. Also consider who will use the space and why. If you have children, think grubby little hand prints. If there is a dog or cat, think bodies rubbing against your newly completed walls.
All of these considerations will influence wall treatment, furnishing, colors and accessories are utilized, Rice noted.
“Some of that comes down to your own personal preferences. People have some idea of what they want to do, so you get a designer to help guide you, depending on the schematic,” Rice said.

It’s BBQ time!
Chef Jeff says healthy food is summer food

By Brittney M. Walker
OW Staff Writer

Summer time is just about here and everyone is ready to fire up those grills. This year could be a little different for some folks, however, as the country is turning into a more health-conscious society. Chef Jeff Henderson, a South Central Los Angeles native, world famous chef and the first African American “Chef de Cuisine” at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, shared some pointers for healthy summer eating.
“There’s a food revolution going on in the country right now,” Henderson said. “There’s definitely a movement especially in the African American and Hispanic communities with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease being one of the major killers in our community.”
African Americans tend to eat heavy year round, choosing starch rich, high in fat, and thick, slow digesting meaty foods. Instead, Henderson suggests eating in season.
“In the Black community and Hispanic community, there are no four seasons. We eat the same stuff year round,” Henderson laughed, explaining some foods are not meant to be eaten regularly. “Eating what is in the spring and summer is a lot of fruits and a lot of vegetables for summer and eating lighter.”
Achieving the “itis,” as Black folks call it, is not an ideal state of being during the summer. Henderson says non-dairy substitutes in the potato salad or macaroni and cheese can help picnic goers avoid that bloated, sloth feeling. He also suggests skipping out on the mayo or using a soy substitute.
Grilling veggies like corn (in the husk to preserve taste and moisture) and asparagus provide healthy ways to fill a plate. Spring and summer are the seasons for sweet stone fruits like white peaches, nectarines, apricots, and cherries. Heirloom tomatoes are also sweet during the season.
Pork and beef ribs, though mouth watering, are not the only meat options this summer. Grilled or pan seared fish, turkey or vegetarian burgers taste great on the grills. Henderson also suggests organic free range chicken is a healthy alternative. It can be expensive, but the flavor is worth it.
If red meat is more your speed, thin cut steaks, like flank or skirt marinated are light choices.
Stovetop cooking is also a popular summer cooking method.
“I love to cook sautéd veggies in olive oil, quick sautéd items that cook maybe 6 to 12 minutes; back to vegetables, back to searing, stovetop fish like a striped bass, black bass. You don’t have to put that in the oven,” the chef said. He also suggests using a slow cooker to create some tasty summer stews.
Henderson is also concerned with the lack of resources to healthy food choices in urban areas, explaining that low-income areas have little to no access to fresh foods.
He says more people are deciding to choose healthier options such as organic foods, home-grown vegetables, and local raised foods.
However, residents in areas like urban Los Angeles do not have the same access to healthy choices; as a result, people in the city and underserved areas commonly have poor health and lack food education.
“This is a big challenge. We need healthy-type grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. They don’t come into the community because they feel that there’s not a market to move their product,” Henderson said. “Why? Because many people who live in the city are not educated on healthy eating.”
In an effort to bring better grocery stores to urban areas, Henderson has partnered with an East Coast food movement with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), a union that represents food industry workers. As part of the Food Desert Initiative, entrepreneurs in New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia have brought organic and healthy food grocery stores to underrepresented communities. A food desert is a location in which access to fresh, organic and healthy foods is minimal.
Al Vincent, a representative of UFCW, says though corporate grocery store owners lack faith in urban city markets, since the beginning of the movement, communities have improved dramatically and profit margins are up.
“There are a couple of subsidies and financial breaks for employers who want to build in a food desert,” Vincent explained. “So we link the employer up to cut the cost that it would normally take to build a store.”
Through the program, independent health food stores also hire within the community and provide great benefits to workers.
Brown Grocery Stores in Philadelphia has been deemed the model grocer in the movement. For two years, Jeff Brown, owner of the store, has helped transform the high crime community at 52nd Street and Jefferson by not only providing jobs, but establishing relationships with his customers.
Vincent says the key success component of the model is giving the community “ownership” of the store.
“The owner goes to the community saying, ‘I’m going to bring my store here, I want you to work for my store, I want you to bring your family recipes.’ So they have ownership and feel good about the store,” he said.
Chef Jeff’s role in this whole mix is providing health food education, teaching urban folk how to eat right.
Henderson is excited to take his tasty message across the country and back home to Los Angeles. Food Desert Initiative partners are planning to bring their movement to the West Coast soon, but until then, Henderson wants to prepare us with healthy tips. He says our communities need to begin transitioning to better eating habits for better, longer lives. Summer is a great time to start.
“We are comfortable eating what we are comfortable eating,” Henderson said. “We have to educate our young people. Over several decades healthy eating will become trendy in the urban community.”

Great summer recipes
Chilean Sea Bass with grilled mango salsa –
Serving size – 6

1 3/4 pounds MSC-Certified Chilean Sea Bass, cut into 6 fillets
Olive oil for brushing the fish
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

4 firm mangoes
2 red peppers, diced
4 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Preheat grill. Slice each mango on either side of the pit to yield 2 thick slices. With a large spoon, scoop mango flesh in one piece from mango skin. Repeat with all slices. Season with salt and pepper. Place mango slices cut side down on grill and cook until lightly charred for about 2 minutes. Flip mango slices and grill 2 minutes longer. Set mango aside to cool.
Combine red pepper, green onion, jalapeño pepper and olive oil in a large bowl. When mango slices have cooled, dice them. Add diced mango to the mixing bowl with lime juice, cilantro and salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
Brush fish on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill fish about 5 minutes per side, until just opaque in the center. Garnish fish with mango salsa and serve immediately.

Roasted peaches with mascarpone ice cream
Serves 4

Ice Cream –
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup mascarpone (7 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Peaches –
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 rosemary sprig
4 large, ripe but firm peaches-peeled, halved and pitted
Make the ice cream. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. In a saucepan, combine the milk with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the sugar and bring to a simmer. Slowly beat the warm milk into the egg yolks at low speed. Scrape the custard into the saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes; don’t let the custard boil.
Pour the custard into a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water and whisk in the mascarpone, lemon juice and salt. Let stand until chilled, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the mascarpone ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the peaches: In a large saucepan, combine the white wine, honey, water and sugar and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Add the rosemary sprig and let stand for 10 minutes; discard the rosemary.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees . Arrange the peaches in an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. Pour the rosemary syrup on top and roast the peaches until tender, 40 minutes, basting and turning the peaches occasionally.
Scoop the mascarpone ice cream into bowls and top with the peach halves. Spoon the warm poaching liquid over the fruit and serve right away.
Make ahead –

Interior designers turn houses into
Home, Sweet, Home

By Kiana Shann
OW Contributor

The interior space in our home is similar to that of our soul. It often reflects our current mood and state of being. It is an expression of our personalities and a direct reflection of our lifestyle. It is where we entertain our guest, raise our families and relax our spirits. Because of this, it is essential that where we live is comfortable, inviting and functional.

Often we get so completely in grossed in the things that are going on outside of our homes that we are distracted from the importance of maintaining a comfortable living space.
We are all familiar with the situation, the mustard yellow couch with florescent pink flowers your sister gave you is beginning to look, well, a little awkward. Perhaps entertaining guest has become more of a chore, than a pleasurable past time, because your seating arrangement is limited. Or maybe, you have grown out  of the Bob Marley poster from your college days, and it just doesn’t feel the same hanging over your couch.
Either way, there are several steps to take to revive and refresh your living quarters.
The first option is to do it yourself. Interior design consultant Mischalay Williams suggests that if you are working with a smaller budget, this is a great way to explore your creative self.
“To recreate an area, one of the most important steps is to declutter and optimize the space you are working with.”
She noted that over the years, we begin to collect memorable items, souvenirs and artwork. As time progresses, our collection of memorables also begins to collect dust. Williams suggests increasing the functionality of things so that they serve a purpose. The African figurine your purchased on your last trip can be both a decorative representation of your heritage as well as a book end for your small library.
Many people struggle with making a room fluid. It is very important that all walkways, and paths are clear.
If you entertain guest regularly, allotting space and a comfortable area for them to converse and interact with each other is a key element.
“The last thing a guest should have to do is turn around to have a conversation, the area should be open and inviting,” Williams said.
Below are a few tips from Williams on decorating your interior space:
1)Pay attention to scale. Do not buy something that is too big or too small. Measure.
2)Start with a monochromatic color scheme, if this is your first time out. Any color.  Just make sure the shades you choose are all in the same color family. Expect great results.
Afraid of color? Add small amounts of pizzazz by using the opposite of your chosen color palette. Color can add life, which in turn recreates a new space.
3)Take window coverings up to the ceiling; they make the room look taller.
4)Do not be so matchy matchy. Allow things like end tables to match, but choose a different material for your coffee table. Choose two matching chairs that are unlike the couch. Do not buy the accessory set; make your own with things you love.
Mix patterns on fabric and the type of fabric.
In this case start with three at most, until you are comfortable. Make sure they are all within the same color family. Mix a large print with a subtle weave like linen. Then, go for a bold stripe.
If you have tried to do it all yourself, and you are still unsatisfied, or if your schedule is to hectic for this type of dedication, there is an alternative– you can  hire an interior designer. While this is more glamorous than doing it yourself,  the knowledge and creativity of a trained professional may be exactly what you need. There are several ways to find an interior designer in your area. You can contact your local furniture retail outlets for contacts or you can receive referrals from friends.
Prior to selecting an interior designer, it is important that you are prepared and have a conceptual piece of what you are looking for in order to properly relay this to your designer. Have a clear perspective of how you would like to decorate your space. Take a moment and sort through magazines; selecting images that you would like to emulate. Then, when you chose an interior designer, you can make sure the person understands your vision.
James Gantt Elcock of Sabello International suggests when selecting an interior designer to have a short, 20-minute conversation with them. In that time you will be able to discern whether if this person is capable of achieving your vision, and if they can address the issues you are experiencing. It is important that the two of you connect. You will also want to ask for references and a portfolio of their previous work. If your design process requires structural changes, check that the designer is working with licensed contractors.
A home is a comforting place and should remain that way throughout the years you reside there. Just as you evolve in your life, career and with your family, keep in mind that your home too should evolve. Your interior should always reflect your spirit, and your home should remain your safe haven from the world.