Friday, November 10, 2023

Choosing the right HVAC system

ENERGY EFFICIENCY MATTERS Energy efficiency is not only beneficial for the environment but also for your wallet. Look for HVAC systems with high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio ratings for cooling and Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency ratings for heating. These ratings indicate the system's efficiency, with higher numbers representing better energy savings. Additionally, consider systems with features like programmable thermostats and zoning capabilities to optimize energy usage.

ASSESS YOUR HOME'S HEATING AND COOLING NEEDS Before diving into the world of HVAC systems, it's important to assess your home's heating and cooling needs. Factors such as square footage, insulation, number of windows, and climate should be considered. By understanding your specific requirements, you can choose a system that is appropriately sized and efficient for your home.

EVALUATE NOISE LEVELS Nobody wants a noisy HVAC system disrupting their peace and quiet. When choosing an HVAC system, consider its noise levels. Look for units with lower decibel ratings to ensure a quieter operation. This is particularly important if you have bedrooms or living areas close to the HVAC system's location.

CONSIDER AIR QUALITY FEATURES Indoor air quality plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy and comfortable home environment. Look for HVAC systems that offer advanced air filtration, humidity control, and ventilation options. These features can help remove allergens, control moisture levels, and ensure fresh air circulation, improving the overall air quality within your home.

SEEK PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE While it's beneficial to educate yourself about HVAC systems, seeking professional guidance is crucial. An experienced HVAC technician can assess your home's unique requirements, recommend suitable options, and provide expert installation services. They will ensure that your HVAC system is properly sized, installed, and optimized for maximum efficiency and performance.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Saturday, November 4, 2023

bouncing back after daylight saving ends

I'm not sure how you feel about Daylight Saving Time? I'm a big fan when it's 9:00 pm in the summer, but when fall hits and it's pitch black before dinner, I'm not so thrilled. 

That Monday following the end of Daylight Saving Time is pretty much the worst. You feel disoriented and groggy and your sleep schedule is bonkers. There's just no question that DST messes with your internal clock. Here are some tips to help you transition that first+ week following the time change.


Getting quality sleep while your body adjusts the first week or so is key! Avoid drinking coffee 4-6 hours before bedtime as caffeine interferes with your sleep schedule. A big cuppa joe first thing in the am is however highly recommended. Alcohol can also affect your sleep schedule, so skip the booze that first week while your body is adjusting. 


Your first instinct might be to take naps to get some energy back during the day. A power nap fo 20 minutes is perfectly acceptable 'they' say - it's enough time to give you an energy boost without throwing off your internal clock even more. Anything longer than that will make it harder for you to get a full night of quality sleep. Best to just power through the day and hit the sack at a reasonable hour (note to self - that's not 6 pm). 


Don't shift your schedule an hour back or forward to compensate for the time difference. If you have a specific routine, try to stick with it the best you can. And try not to hit the snooze on your alarm each morning. When you stick to your schedule it will make it easier to transition to the new season. Plus, if you wake up early enough to catch the sunlight (ok, maybe not an option in the PNW), it will invigorate you and help you jump-start your day. 


Probably something that could/should be done 24/7/365! They say avoiding electronics an hour before bedtime is key to falling asleep as the blue light that electronics emit stimulates your brain the same way the sun does and makes it harder to get to sleep. Reading before bed is still the run away winner for lulling you into a restful state. I personally find the Calm app very helpful to drift off when my mind won't turn off. I believe they offer a 7 day free trial. 


The most important thing to do when daylight saving time ends is to expose yourself to as much sunlight as possible to keep your internal clock running. Short walks throughout the day, opening your window coverings, and sitting for a few minutes in the sun (remember your spf) are all good ways to make sure your body is feeling and seeing the light. If you're not exposed to enough light, it can affect your serotonin levels. Make sure you are getting as much sunlight as possible during this shift. 

I hope these tips help - I'm off to take a nap, er read a book!

Until next time,


Creating a Cozy Home

Fall is all about creating a warm and inviting home. Think about what comforts you during these chilly and dark months. By adding those items into your interiors you will feel warmer, and so will your guests. Adding layers of throws, blankets and soft pillows with different textures and patterns is a wonderful start. I have a habit of buying up vintage blankets - some have pedigree, like my vintage Hudson Bay and a few of my Pendletons, but most are just tattered, vintage throws I've collected because I simply love the pattern or the color. I confess that my throw fetish is so bad that I had to buy another suitcase in Ireland just to bring back all the blankets I picked up there. Oh my!

At the end of this post you will find links to a few
of my favorite woolen mills and manufacturers. 

A blazing fire goes a long way to make you feel warm and snug. For fire safety, be sure to have your chimney looked at every few years by a local chimney sweep and burn a creosote log every few fires to reduce and treat creosote buildup. Pine Mountain makes a good one. 

Now’s the time to bring in natural elements. A simple wreath on the front door is the perfect way to welcome guests. This is the time of year when I forgo the floral shop and head outside with my shears. I gather branches from our flaming maple, vines from our grape arbor, and fallen leaves, pinecones, acorns and chestnuts. 

The colors of fall weave beautifully into my interiors. So adding in more autumnal hues of amber, ochre and copper is fairly easy. To heighten these gorgeous fall colors, add the warm flicker of candles (please, never leave a candle burning unattended). 

However you choose to warm up your home, I wish you all the bounty and blessing this beautiful season offers. 

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Nothing cozies up a home like a soft throw - whether tossed over a chair, piled high in a basket, used as a tablecloth, or placed at the foot of a bed. My fetish for woolens dates back to 1966 when my mother gave me her tan plaid Pendleton car blanket - I've been collecting them ever since (and that blanket can be found in my car to this day). Here are my favorite manufacturers -

Be sure to check local vintage shops as they, quite often, have vintage woolens that, once washed, look marvelous in a collection. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

keep cool and carry on

Summer’s upon us. That means more ice cream, fewer snowball fights and, of course, the battle to keep your house cool as the heat bears down. As it turns out, you don’t have to build your own ice cave to keep cool until fall. There are plenty of easy changes you can put into action to get a lot more out of your air conditioning budget this year.

How Air Conditioners Work
To really get to the heart of the matter, it’s important that you understand how an air conditioner works. This way, you can strategically plan ways to help it work better, rather than doing things that are counter to its function.

Room air is cooled by an air conditioning unit (or heat pump) in three basic steps:

1. The fan located inside your indoor air handler or furnace kicks on, sucking room air in through your cold air returns. The air passes through your filter, so make sure it’s clean!
2. The warm room air then moves over a set of coils that contain a refrigerant, which cools the indoor air and causes it to release water. The water drops into a pan and is removed via the condensation line. At the same time, the liquid refrigerant inside the coils absorbs the heat, changing into a warm vapor, which is then pushed outside to the condenser coil in your outdoor unit, where it releases the heat from your home.
3. Since the fan is still running on your air handler, cold air comes out the vents and more warm air is sucked across the evaporator coil (also known as the a-coil because of the inverted v shape). Meanwhile, the fan in the outdoor unit is cooling the refrigerant down until it turns back into a liquid and moves back into your home toward the evaporator coil where this whole cycle started.

It’s the cycle of life for refrigerant. That sounds more epic than it is, but hey, air conditioning is pretty great when it’s hot enough to cook an egg in your hammock.

Help Your Air Conditioner Out
Though your A/C unit is absolutely doing the best it can, it could probably do a lot better if you’d lend it a hand. As a homeowner, this benefits you in two ways: first, your house is cheaper to cool and secondly, not pushing your condenser unit as hard as it possibly can go can help prolong its life. Some of the things that can make a big impact should really be performed by a pro, but there are lots of little ways you can contribute to the health and happiness of your entire household. Try these out:

Start with the outside unit. Your condenser unit should always be free of weeds and debris, no matter what time of year it is, but it’s doubly important in the summer. The more garbage that’s plugging up the fins on the coil, the less air movement — and more effort required — for cooling the refrigerant down.

You can also help your unit by giving it a bath at least once a month. Just take a regular garden hose with a trigger sprayer and go all the way around the unit, spraying between the fins, until the water runs clear. Lots of dirt and sand could be hiding up in there, reducing your unit’s efficiency. A fin comb can also help straighten bent fins.

While you’re at it, make sure that unit has plenty of shade. Plant a tree, erect a sunshade, build a little roof over it (but allow at least two feet all around and on top for adequate air flow). The heat from the sun is yet another enemy of the refrigerant in the coil. Keep it as cool as you can with what you have to work with.

If you don't have whole-house air conditioning, try one of the many hard working portable unit - they work wonders in cooling down a room.

Or, try a portable mechanical fan. These hardworking devices move hot air around the room, providing a slight break from even the hottest days and nights. Bonus - they come in a million different styles to match your decor.

Take advantage of those ceiling fans. As the days get warmer, make it a point to set your ceiling fans to rotate in a counter-clockwise direction, pushing air down. You do double duty with this one. The proper rotation creates a chilling effect that allows the average homeowner to keep their thermostat as much as four degrees Fahrenheit higher than they would without the fans blowing. It also helps keep the cold air more evenly distributed, assuming you have ceiling fans in all or most of your rooms.

Cover the windows. Seriously. It doesn’t matter how good your windows are when the worst of the summer’s heat is beating down on them, there’s going to be a noticeable warming coming from that direction. This is when having heavy curtains, thick blinds or other heavy-duty window coverings comes in handy. During the part of the day when the sun hits your windows the hardest, cover them up to reduce heat radiating into your cool spaces. Another option for places where it stays hot a lot of the year is to add awnings over windows that are chronic sources of radiant heat.

Do hot stuff at night. Meaning cooking, drying, extra hot baths — whatever produces heat that’s not really tied to any specific point in the day could be moved to the night shift. If you absolutely need to do these things during the day, keep the cooking limited to the small appliances, dry your laundry outside in the smoldering heat and maybe try a warmish shower. Remember, the more heat you add to the house, the more heat your air conditioner has to move out of your house.

Happy summer, everyone!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Sunday, June 4, 2023

So you have a low offer

What's the next move?

I look at buying and selling real estate as a fine dance, with either party leading and following through carefully orchestrated steps. The problem is, if you don't know the moves then chances are good your feet will be stepped on.

In a market that finds buyers and sellers so far apart, negotiating a sale can be challenging. There's no question every market is different. Take the east coast. A seller doesn't have to be anywhere near market value to get an offer. Buyers have no problem offering 20, 30, or even 50% below the listed price.

But here in the mellow Pacific Northwest it is much different. Homes need to be priced within 5-8% of market value in order to receive an offer. For over twenty-two years I  have been helping clients buy and sell real estate and I still can't explain it....not completely. I do think it has something to do with how nice we all are here. When I ask buyers why they just won't make an offer when they think the property is worth significantly less they say, "I just don't want to offend anyone".  In my experience, most sellers and their agents would rather have an offer to work with, than nothing at all. Why? Because the start to any completed transaction is receiving an offer.

What do you do if the offer is so far below list price as to be unacceptable? What is the best way to respond?

Here's my advice:

Before you ignore any low offer consider that a proper counteroffer and solid negotiations could turn that low offer into a sale. And that is the goal, right?

We know the name of the dance is 'Sell this house' - so, what are the moves?

Check your emotions
A low purchase offer is not a personal affront - it means that someone wants to purchase your home. Unless the offer is ridiculously low, it deserves a response. Remain calm, do not take it personally, and discuss with your agent the many ways you can respond that will keep the other party engaged in the process.

Counter the offer
Unless you have multiple offers, the best response is to counter the low offer with the price and terms you are willing to accept. I encourage sellers to think about it this way - "what is the very lowest price you will accept to walk away from this home?" I call it the 'walk away price'.  Counter in the best faith and lay it all on the line. With a buyer who brings you such a low offer, there is a good chance they won't be going back and forth too many times. Buyers often offer a low price because they're nervous about overpaying or they simply want to test your limits. Push back, but push back at the lowest price you are willing to sell.

Know that a counteroffer signals that you're willing to negotiate. One strategy for your counteroffer is to lower your price, but remove any concessions such as seller assistance with closing costs, or features such as kitchen appliances that make more sense for you to take with you, like a new washer and dryer, or perhaps those custom drapes in the living room.

Consider the terms
Price is paramount for most buyers and sellers, but it's not the only deal point. A low purchase offer might make sense if the contingencies are reasonable, the closing date meets your needs, and the buyer is pre-approved for a mortgage. Consider what terms you might change in a counteroffer to make the deal work for both parties. Sometimes shortening closing saves you a mortgage payment. Or perhaps you need to stay longer? Changing the closing date may make the sale much smoother on you.

Review your comps
Ask your agent to prepare a list of recent comps. If these new comps are at lower prices, you may need to lower your list price to match them if you want to sell.

Consider the buyer's comps
Buyers sometimes attach comps to a low offer to showcase their position. Take a look at these comps. Are the homes similar to yours? If so, then you're asking price might be unrealistic. If not, then ask your agent to attach 'your' comps to the counteroffer. This goes a long way in keeping the negotiations data driven, not personal.

Listen to your agent
That's right! Chances are this is not their first rodeo (a phrase used by a client when describing me). Most experienced agents have negotiated their fair share of transactions and have seen all kinds of offers come together. Most agents worth their salt are deal makers. I have been told that I have put together some deals that seemed doomed at the start. Listen to what your agent is saying. If you need more concrete data than ask for it. But whatever you do, take some time to mull it all over, take your emotions out of the deal, and respond from an informed position.

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Let's face it, AC units are not cool

More and more homeowners are turning to whole house air conditioning to beat the heat. But let's face it, as lovely as indoor cool air is, your air conditioning unit (the workhorse) isn't something you want front and center. Hiding them however can be tricky as you don't want to compromise their efficiency?


When considering how to hide your AC unit, keep in mind the manufacturer's requirements and restrictions - understanding how your air conditioner works and what keeps it efficient is key. If you skip this step, you risk reduced efficiency or even cause unintentional damage to the system itself.

Ensuring proper air flow should be your top priority. Your AC unit works hard to cool the inside of your home and needs to vent a lot of heat. Check the manufacturer’s recommended distances before installing any sort of enclosure or cover. You can also consult with an HVAC professional to ensure that hiding your AC does not cause damage to the system or limit access necessary for regular system repair and maintenance.


AC systems, while they provide much needed relief from the heat, can be an eye sore. No one wants to have their AC unit front and center in their garden - it doesn't add to a home's curb appeal and can detract from an otherwise stellar landscaping! The good news is that hiding your outdoor AC unit can be easy. There are many options! Consider one of these three:

1) DECORATIVE FENCE, BOX OR SCREEN There are a variety of decorative and creative ways of hiding your AC unit. For example, you could build a wall or fence in front of or around the unit to hide it. You may also consider building a trellis and growing vines such as clematis or roses around the unit. With any of these options, make sure your decorative solution does not block air flow or limit a technicians ability to access and service the unit.

Ready made screens

These are easy to find. Stores like Home Depot and Lowes offer lots of options. I even found some great screens on Amazon (of course, what don't they have?). Online shopping sites like Wayfair also offer some easy and attractive options. 

Build your own

Looking for an easy DIY project? Creating your own can be a simple weekend project due to the size and accessibility of the AC units. As an added bonus, you can design one that blends seamlessly with your homes aesthetic - modern, traditional, colonial, cottage, etc. 

2) HIDE WITH PLANTS A natural way to hide your AC unit is to use landscaping. The best thing about this is that you can be entirely creative. You can select colorful flowers or plants, planting them to block your view of the unit. Be sure to pick plants that are ever green - shedding leaves can lead to problems. If you need more frequent access, plant in portable planters. Whatever you plant, be sure to keep plants trimmed and make sure they are no closer than 2 to 3 feet from the unit to allow for access.

3) MOVE THE UNIT ENTIRELY This is perhaps the most expensive method of hiding your AC unit. To save on costs, it is best to move the unit when you are ready to replace the HVAC system. However, it is important to note that moving the equipment does not necessarily help you in hiding the AC unit. It simply means that you are able to take it to a place that you feel does not interfere with your landscaping and entertaining needs. There will be limitations on where your system can be placed, so make sure to consult a professional.

I hope these tips help.

Until next time,
la chasse au bonheur

Friday, May 12, 2023

the bees knees

More and more people are starting to dabble in a food-focused lifestyle of self-sufficiency — whether that’s growing their own veggies, raising chickens in a backyard coop, or for some, beekeeping.

While it's easy to wrap your head around growing vegetables and raising chicks, beekeeping can be a bit more mysterious. From essential beekeeping supplies to the perfect apiary location, here’s what any aspiring beekeeper needs to know.

The Colony

If you ever had the unfortunate experience of discovering a beehive, you probably learned that bees love living together in a colony. While colonies can have upwards of 60,000 bees, there is only one queen bee, with the rest being primarily female worker bees and some male drones.

The queen is larger and longer than the others and has a pointed abdomen. She is responsible for laying 1,500 eggs a day for two to five years in order to maintain a thriving colony. She also must stay strong and healthy or she’s at risk for being killed and replaced. A special pheromone lets the worker bees know whether she is alive and well or if she’s getting weaker.

Once they sense she’s getting weaker, they focus on feeding royal nectar to a small number of larvae until the first one hatches and becomes the new queen.

Gathering pollen, making wax, cleaning the hive and building honeycombs are just some of the other daily tasks worker bees are required to do. Tasks are “assigned” based on age with the younger bees doing duties within the hive and the older bees taking on the more dangerous jobs on the outside.

Drone bees make up a small percentage of a colony and only have one duty: to mate with the queen. Mating takes place mid-flight and the successful male immediately falls to his death (egads, a bit harsh).

Mind Your Own Beeswax

Beeswax is known as the miracle of the beehive. Without it, there’d be no beekeeping. Producing beeswax is quite an impressive process. Using special glands on their abdomens, worker bees secrete wax that is then formed into hexagon shapes which are used for all aspects of daily bee life, including storing honey. Another layer of wax goes over the combs with honey to lock in the moisture.

A hot knife is used to scrape the wax caps off the frames of honey. The caps then need to be separated from the honey before the wax is filtered or cleaned.

Beekeeping Equipment

Woodenware - this creates the beehive itself, including the hive bottom, body and top cover. Durable, well-built woodenware gives the bees a safe place to live and thrive.

Smoker - smoke prevents bees from sensing pheromones that signify danger, which helps to keep them calm.

Hive tool - a multipurpose tool used to open and inspect beehives.

Protective gear - hat/veil combination with ventilated jackets or full-body bee suits provide a protective barrier against stings.

Bees - a beehive requires bees, of course! Make sure you order enough for one to two colonies to start.

Location of the Hive

After compiling all your beekeeping equipment, it’s time to decide where to put it. While it’s important to be strategic with placement, remember that people today have thriving hives anywhere and everywhere. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind when placing hives.

Pick a spot where you will have easy access to the bees. If they are hard to get to, you might go there less frequently, and they won’t get the proper attention. The hive should get at least a half-day of sun. Additionally, if the sun hits the hive first thing in the morning, it will get the bees out and working.

Make sure there is a water source nearby. If there isn’t, you can always provide them with one. A pan filled with water and pebbles above the surface will suffice. Keep in mind: bees can’t swim, so the pebbles will help with the landing.

Try to avoid placing the hives near a neighbor’s yard. If you have a smaller outdoor space, you can mask the hive with hedges or bushes. That way your neighbors aren’t constantly reminded of your buzzing bees.

Hives and Colonies

A basic hive needs a few boxes for brood and a few boxes for honey. First-time hives require at least four boxes total to make it through the season. You can stack up the boxes to make the hive taller.

Once your hives are set up, you’re ready for the bees. You can order a bee package, which is a wooden frame with screen sides containing bees that aren’t related, or nucleus hives which is a mini beehive with a laying queen and bees that are related. Packages are less expensive, easier to find and allow you to learn the whole process, but a lot more work is involved. Nucleus hives on the other hand are well established and tend to be less stressful on the bees.

Now That You're a Beekeeper

Once your hive is up and running, your beekeeping responsibilities really begin. You will need to manage and care for these little buzzers. You’ll need to inspect the hive regularly to ensure the queen is alive and healthy. It’s also important to check whether the bees have enough space and resources to live.

Remember that bees need enough to get through the winter. As a beekeeper, you should only take what’s considered extra honey after the bees have prepared enough to survive the colder months.

Other Ways to Support Bees

You don’t need to be a beekeeper to do your part in helping bees thrive. Here are some other ways you can support them:

Plant more wildflowers - the easiest and prettiest way to help the bees is by creating pollinator habitats on your land. Even a small, square space filled with native wildflowers is enough to help a bee community. Talk to your local nursery about the best native flowers to plant.

Go organic - use organic products and natural solutions when treating your garden and yard. Insects like ladybugs and praying mantises can also help keep pests away.

Support your local beekeepers - visit a nearby farmers market or check your grocery store for local honey and beeswax products. You may even be able to purchase straight from the farm. Remember, supporting local is always the way to go!

Until next time, la chasse au bonheur