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March 8, 2023


How To Figure Out When To Start Seeds: A Guide For What To Plant When


When should you start seeds indoors? This is one of the most common questions new gardeners ask.


There are lots of different planting charts out there, and they can be helpful to use as a guide for starting seeds. But, there are so many factors involved, that it’s best to create your own personal timetable.


Don’t worry, it’s not difficult to do, once you learn exactly when to start planting seeds indoors, the timing will become second nature to you!




Timing is very important when it comes to starting seeds indoors. That’s because if you do it too early, you could end up with weak, leggy seedlings that won’t survive the transition to the garden.


But if you start too late, they won’t be mature enough for transplanting into the garden by spring.

It takes a little practice, but in time you will be able to create your own seed planting schedule so you know exactly when to start each variety. Let’s walk through the steps together…


Getting my trays ready for planting seeds indoors

Getting my trays ready for planting seeds indoors




The biggest problem with figuring out what to plant when is that every seed is different.


  • Some are fast growers, and it will only take a few weeks for them to get large enough to be planted into the garden. But others are very slow to germinate, and it takes much longer for them to mature.


Plus, every growing zone has different planting dates. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” seed starting chart.


So how can you figure out the best planting dates for YOUR seeds?




Since every seed is different, and some have special planting instructions, we need to rely on the packets for help.


Unfortunately, many companies give us very vague details (or no instructions at all), which is super annoying.


But don’t worry, if you’re just starting out, you can follow these simple guidelines to figure out a basic timetable…


Figuring out when to start seeds indoors

Figuring out when to start seeds indoors


Step 1: Find the dates on the packet – First, read the instructions on each of the packets. Most will give you recommended planting dates for when to start seeds indoors.


Generally, it will be something like “4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost”, or “6 to 8 weeks…” etc.


Finding the best planting dates for seeds

Finding the best planting dates for seeds


Step 2: Sort your packets by best planting dates – Take all of the ones you plan to start indoors, and sort them by the recommended planting dates shown on the packet.


Step 3: Store them by date – Once you have everything sorted into piles, store them like that. That way, you’ll always know which ones to plant at the same time.


But wait… what if your seed packets don’t have any recommended planting dates on them?


Sorting seed packets by best planting days

Sorting seed packets by best planting days




Unfortunately, not all companies include seed starting dates on the packets for you (maybe they like to keep us guessing?).


So if yours doesn’t have the recommended planting dates, then here are a few basic guidelines you can follow to figure it out.


In general, you should start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date in your area.


For example, our average last frost date here in growing zone 6 (Council Bluffs, IA) is April 23rd.



So, count backwards 6 to 8 weeks (which would be Feb. 26th – March 12th), and that’s when you should start planting seeds indoors.


March 7, 2023

Getting Your Clean On

spring cleaningPreparing for the Spring Clean

1. Get in the mood!

In order for your spring cleaning endeavors to be effective and at least a tiny bit fun, you need to prepare yourself mentally. Focus on how wonderful it will feel to transition into spring with a fresh, clean, welcoming home and set a date that you can keep with your cleaning. Mark it on the calendar, and commit to keeping that date.

2. Make a list of all of the things you want to tackle                                                   As you ponder how to prepare your home for spring cleaning, the priorities will dictate what gets moved where, what supplies you need to purchase, and what you take on first.

3. Purchase necessary supplies                                                                              Fresh rubber gloves, plenty of cleaners, trash bags, and other supplies that you may need. Stock up on lightbulbs, drain clog remover, door hinge grease, and other small things you may find require fixing along the way!

4. Declutter                                                                                                                      In the days leading up to the Big Clean, make little steps toward decluttering. Take out all of the recycling, put away all of your clothes, get rid of old food from the refrigerator, and so on – one of the simplest ways to get your home ready for spring.

On Cleaning Day

5. Save vacuuming and mopping for last                                                                Start with dusting all of those hard-to-reach places. Clean ceiling fans, the top of your refrigerator, the top of the TV stand, and light fixtures – whatever places you don’t typically clean on your average house cleaning day. Since you haven’t vacuumed yet you don’t have to worry about getting dust on the floor.

6. Clean out furniture                                                                                           Similarly, clean out cabinets and the refrigerator early on. Don’t forget to clean underneath and around the coils, where dust and grime can have an impact on your appliance’s efficiency.

7. Wipe down your walls                                                                                                 A winter of being closed in will likely mean your walls have accumulated more grime and dust than you think they would, being vertical surfaces. As long as your paint can handle a washing, you can use a sponge mop to do the dirtiest work and dry your walls with a soft, clean cloth. If you aren’t sure whether your paint can withstand washing, spot test it somewhere out of sight.

8. Wash carpets and upholstery                                                                        Especially if you have pets! Fabrics may not show the grime yet, but over time it will set in and stain. Use a carpet cleaner and you will be amazed at just how dirty the water becomes. Similarly, a small upholstery cleaner can be rented for a decent price and will do wonders for your sofa seat. You won’t regret it – just be sure you arrange your schedule to leave enough time for it to dry.

9. Vacuum & Mop                                                                                                      Lastly, vacuum, mop, and vigorously sweep your entry stairway and walkway. Voila!


March 7, 2023

Be in Charge!

It's always essential to ensure that your cell phone is fully charged or charging, but it's especially important to do so during the cold winter days. This is because, during the winter, the temperature drops and the low temperature can drain the phone battery faster than normal. Imagine being out in the cold, lost or in an emergency situation and your phone is dead, it could put you in great danger. So, it's best to take the precautionary measure of keeping your phone charged at all times. Make it a habit to check your phone's battery level before heading out, and plug it in if necessary. This will give you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on the task at hand, whether it's work, leisure or an emergency. A little bit of preparation can go a long way in preventing a stressful situation.

Posted in Safety
March 2, 2023

8 Easy Mistakes Homeowners Make on Their Taxes

As you prepare your tax returns, be careful not to make any of these eight common tax mistakes, especially when it comes to the property tax deduction or the mortgage interest deductionTax pros say these home-related tax mistakes can cost you money or draw the IRS to your doorstep.

#1 Deducting the Wrong Year for Property Taxes

Unless you are one of the relatively few taxpayers who are on the accrual instead of the cash basis, you take a tax deduction for property tax in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind. That is, you’re not billed this year's property taxes until next year. But that’s irrelevant to the feds.

Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in that tax year, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, a tax manager with HG CPA, LLC, in Cincinnati, has seen homeowners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Tip: Taking this deduction requires you to itemize. 

#2 Confusing Escrow Amount for Actual Taxes Paid

Here's another property tax issue that results in common tax mistakes. If your lender escrows funds to pay your property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your actual property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.

For example, your tax bill might be $1,200, but your lender may have collected $1,100 or $1,300 in escrow over the year. Deduct only $1,200 or the actual amount of property taxes paid that is noted on the Form 1098 that your lender sends. If you don’t receive Form 1098, contact the agency that collects property tax to find out how much you paid.

#3 Deducting Points Paid to Refinance

In many cases, you can deduct in full the points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage for the year you bought your home, if you itemize. However, if you pay points in connection with a refinance, you must deduct the points over the life of your new loan.

For example, if you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $2,000 divided by 15 years, or $133 per year.

Related: How to Deduct Mortgage Points When You Buy a Home

#4 Misjudging the Home Office Tax Deduction

There are two ways to calculate the home office deduction. One is more complicated, has to be partially recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your home, and can pique the IRS’ interest in your return. But it also can give you a larger deduction than the simpler method.

If you don't care to claim actual costs, which you do under the more complicated method, you can use the simplified home office deduction.  If you’re eligible, you can deduct $5 per square foot up to 300 feet of office space, or up to $1,500 per year.

Related: Is YOUR Home Office Eligible for a Deduction?

#5 Failing to Repay the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

If you used the original homebuyer tax credit in 2008, you must repay 1/15th of the credit over 15 years.

If you used the tax credit in 2009 or 2010 and then within 36 months you sold your house or stopped using it as your primary residence, you also have to pay back the credit.

The IRS has a tool you can use to help figure out what you owe.

#6 Failing to Track Home-Related Expenditures

Common tax mistakes are often made by omission: not keeping records. If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. File or scan and store home office and home improvement receipts and other home-related documents as you go.

#7 Forgetting to Report Trackable Capital Gains

If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to report capital gains on any profit above the excluded amounts. You can typically exclude up to $250,000 of any profits from your income (or up to $500,000 if you’re married filing jointly).

So, if the cost basis for your home is $100,000 (what you paid for it plus any improvements) and you sold it for $400,000 (net of selling expenses), your capital gain is $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains.

However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523. And some higher-income earners could get hit with an additional tax if the gain exceeds the exclusion.

#8 Claiming Too Much for the Mortgage Interest Deduction

If you're eligible to itemize, the MID loan limit is $750,000. For loans taken out before Dec. 16, 2017, the limit was $1 million.  Make sure your loan is grandfathered before claiming the old limit. 

Interest paid on home equity loans and second mortgages is deductible, but only if the proceeds of such loans were used to buy, build, or substantially improve the home that secures the loan. You can’t deduct interest on home equity loans that were used for things like student loans or cars.  

For all the interest to be deductible, the amount of all mortgage loans (first, second, home equity, and loans for a second home) can’t exceed the $750,000 or $1 million limits.  


This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, but shouldn't be relied upon as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax professional for such advice.

Posted in 2023
Feb. 14, 2023

Happy Valentines Day

Posted in 2023
Feb. 12, 2023

Just for Fun!

The debate over whether people prefer pie or cake is a contentious one. Some people have a strong preference for one over the other, while others enjoy both equally. In 2012, PBS conducted a poll among its readers and found that 59% of people preferred pie while 41% preferred cake. However, just three years later, a Buzzfeed poll revealed that 52% of people preferred pie and 48% of people preferred cake.It's hard to predict what the outcome would be if the poll was conducted today. Both cakes and pies have a wide variety of flavors and varieties, which means that people's preferences may change depending on the type of dessert. For example, some people may prefer fruit pies over creamy pies or chocolate cakes over traditional cakes. Additionally, people's tastes and preferences can change over time, and so a poll conducted today may yield different results.

Ultimately, whether someone prefers pie or cake is a matter of personal preference and can be influenced by a variety of factors such as cultural and family traditions, dietary restrictions, and personal taste.

In a nutshell, one can say that, both cake and pie are beloved desserts and has its own set of fans. It is a classic debate, where opinions are divided and people tend to lean towards one more than the other, but that does not mean that one is better than the other, it depends on personal taste and what you are in the mood for.

Posted in This or That
Feb. 11, 2023

Chocolate Covered Strawberries



  1. Prepare the strawberries. Wash and dry the strawberries very well. The strawberries have to be really dry or else the chocolate will not stick on. They have to be SUPER dry.

  2. Melt the chocolate. You can melt the chocolate either on the stove or in the microwave.

    • On the stove: Bring 2 inches of water to a low simmer in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Then turn the heat to low and place a large heatproof bowl of chocolate chips on the mouth of the pot. Make sure that there is a gap of a few inches in between the bottom of the bowl and the water (You can also place a bowl on a steamer attachment on top of your pot). Stir the chocolate constantly as it melts. Stir until the chocolate is completely smooth and melted. This should take a few minutes.

    • In the microwave: The second way to melt chocolate (and an easier way) is in the microwave. Place the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals. Remove the bowl at each interval and stir well. Repeat until the chocolate has completely melted. Stir until completely smooth.

  3. Coat the strawberries. Dip half the strawberries into melted semi-sweet chocolate and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Dip the remaining half into melted white chocolate. (Tip: You can make the chocolate pink for Valentine's Day by adding a drop of red food coloring to the white chocolate first).Add toppings. Use a piping bag and round tip to drizzle the remaining chocolate on top. You can also add sprinkles or coat the chocolate with crushed nuts.

  4. Add toppings. Use a piping bag and round tip to drizzle the remaining chocolate on top. You can also add sprinkles or coat the chocolate with crushed nuts.

  5. Chill. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes until the chocolate is set.

Posted in Recipes
Feb. 9, 2023


Inspiration can be found everywhere you look—even during the middle of winter.

Here are five pieces of motivational advice to help you stay on track and achieve your goals when working on home improvement projects:

  1. Focus on one task at a time and set realistic goals for the time you have available. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by trying to do too much at once.

  2. Share your progress with others. If you're working on a specific project, talk it through with your partner and show them what you're doing. This will help you feel appreciated and more motivated to get even more done.

  3. Keep in mind that by maintaining your home, you're also teaching your kids good habits.

  4. Create a comfortable and inviting space for yourself. Having a positive environment will help you stay motivated.

  5. Break tasks down into smaller parts and make a list to keep track of your progress. This will make the project feel more manageable.

To help you stay on track, we've provided a monthly home improvement checklist to use as a guide. By completing these tasks each month, you can keep your maintenance schedule on track and save both time and money. This comprehensive home maintenance checklist includes:

  • *Inspecting and cleaning the furnace filter to remove dust build-up, regulate temperature, decrease energy bills.
  • *Checking the water softener and replenishing salt as needed.
  • *Cleaning faucet aerators and shower heads to remove mineral deposits.
  • *Inspecting tub and sink drains for debris and unclogging if necessary.
  • *Testing smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and ground-fault circuit interrupters.
  • *Inspecting electrical cords for wear.
  • *Vacuuming heat registers and vents.
  • *Checking that indoor and outdoor air vents are not blocked.
  • *Flushing out hot water from the water heater to remove accumulated sediment.
  • *Cleaning the garbage disposal by grinding ice cubes, then flushing with hot water and baking soda.



Posted in Inspiration
Feb. 9, 2023

Stuck Inside?

Tips to help you and the kids avoid going Stir Crazy!

It’s that time of the year when we may not be able to or even want to leave the house. Below are some tips to help beat the at home Ho Hums.


  1. Involve your kids in the kitchen. They can get ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator to help prepare a meal or snack. Or maybe even make cookies together. Don’t forget to have them help with the clean-up too.

  2. Play cards or board games.

  3. Enlist the kids to help tackle projects that you have been putting off.

  4. Have available crafts to work on.

  5. Establish reading time.

  6. Play outside. When the weather is above freezing, bundle up and go outside to play or even go for a walk to help burn off pent up energy.

Posted in Inspiration
Jan. 30, 2023


The US job market is currently thriving, with record numbers of Americans employed due to net new jobs created in the past month, year, and two years. The unemployment rate is also at a historic low of 3.5%. However, this job growth will be critical in generating fresh housing demand, as mortgage rates have stabilized and housing affordability remains a challenge for renters looking to buy a home.

To ease the upward pressure on home prices and apartment rents, more homes need to be built to ensure an increase in supply. This would also help tame overall consumer price inflation and permit the Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates and potentially lower its short-term rate by the end of the year.

In December, the construction industry added 9,500 workers in the home-building sector, mostly towards apartment buildings. However, unlike the federal and state governments, where employment levels are back up to pre-covid days, local governments are having difficulty competing with other sectors in hiring people, including positions such as substitute teachers, school bus drivers, and police officers. There are 400,000 fewer local government employees now than pre-pandemic.



Posted in 2023