Gadget of the Month: Oral-B SmartSeries Bluetooth Smart Toothbrush

smart toothbrush

Talk about the Internet of Clean! The Oral-B SmartSeries Bluetooth Smart Toothbrush uses Bluetooth technology to help keep your brushing in check. Photo Courtesy of Oral-B.

By Patricia L. Garcia

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with my teeth. I wanted to brush my teeth all the time — it helped that my toothpaste had glitter in it and when you pushed it out of the tube, it was shaped like a star.

That obsession hasn’t left me, though, sadly, there are no adult toothpastes that inspire the same kind of glittery excitement. These days I tend to be more excited by “advanced” toothbrushes: at first there were those with the tongue scrapers on the back, then there were the spin brushes and electric brushes. Now we have smart toothbrushes.

Yes, the toothbrush has joined the Internet of Things with Oral-B’s SmartSeries Bluetooth Smart Toothbrush ($160; available in the United States this fall) and I couldn’t be happier about it. I am not the type of person who spends a quick minute brushing their teeth. Oh, no, I’ve been accused of exceeding brushing time (the recommended brushing time is at least two minutes — for me, that’s the amount of time each section of the mouth should take, for a grand total of at least six minutes, plus extra time for the tongue, gums and cheeks). Just so that we all get it right, Oral-B’s SmartSeries toothbrush can help.

Simply connect the toothbrush to your smartphone and launch the Oral-B app and it’s like you’ve got a dentist in the bathroom with you, advising you on your brushing habits:

  • Every 30 seconds, the app will prompt you to move to another part of your mouth;
  • If you’re brushing too hard, the app will let you know to take it easy;
  • You can take the app in to your dentist to program your dental needs: Need to dedicate more time, say, to your front teeth? You can program the app to give you more brushing time before it alerts you to move on;
  • Don’t forget the floss, because the app will prompt you to floss once you’re done brushing; and
  • If you’re not ready for smart tech to invade your mouth, you can still download the app to use a manual timer.

While this gadget won’t exactly make your home a better place to live, it will make you happier. And, with your chompers being at their healthiest (and likely brightest!), you won’t want to hide your smile when guests compliment you on your new home. Happy brushing!

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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Five Tips to Decorate Your Home for Fall

Fall Entryway Decor Ideas

Pieces that celebrate the season — like pumpkins, foliage and gold and orange tones — help bring the fall indoors, without inviting in the brisk weather. Photo courtesy of Zhibocc.

By Julia West

Because the autumn season consists of fewer hours of daylight and chilly temperatures, a cozy home is much needed.

Not only is a cozy home necessary for the fall, but a festive one as well! Changing your interior décor along with the seasons keeps things fresh and fun. Why not get in the mood for the season by simply throwing in some festive details? Here are five tips to decorate your home for fall and bring the beauty of autumn into your new home:

Dress Up Your Front Door

front door with fall decorTo decorate your home for fall, start with your front door. Autumn wreaths are a simple, yet elegant, way to jazz up any door for the season. Also, having warm-toned flowers near the front door will enhance your home’s entryway.

Mums are a common fall flower that come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Try planting some mums either in your front yard’s landscape or simply in pots by the door. If your entryway is still feeling bare after the wreath and flowers, a few scattered pumpkins near the door and a “welcome” mat should do the trick. Photo courtesy of Six Sisters’ Stuff.

Festive Foliage

orange leaves in vaseNot only do colorful leaves look beautiful sprinkled on a street, but they look great within a home as well. Using leaves is a good way to bring fall-inspired décor into your living space. You can get nice leaves to use by simply taking a stroll through town, picking up your favorite fallen leaves and pressing them in a book for about an hour or two to flatten and dry them out. The possibilities as to how to use your leaf collection are endless. Even just laying them out as part of a table setting gives a space a very festive feel.

Other natural elements like pumpkins, gourds, acorns, etc., can also be used within your home to boost the fall feels. Photo c courtesy of Architecture Art Designs.

Comfy Fabrics

fall fabricsA cozy environment isn’t complete without fabrics — whether it’s on furniture or accent pieces. Give your space some seasonal style by draping blankets across the backs of chairs and sofas with complementing pillows.

Find throws and pillows with different textures and warm-toned colors to bring in an autumnal look. These accent pieces will not only make your home look inviting, but they will also be very functional. Who could resist a snuggly blanket and pillow duo on a brisk fall night? Photo courtesy of Alamai.

 

Bring In The Warmth

candles as decorNothing says festive like the glow of candlelight in a home. Candles are the perfect way to enhance a seasonal feel within a space. Not only does it give off some light and warmth, but it also appeals to your sense of smell. That’s right, the smell! What’s better than the smell of pumpkin pie or apples lingering in the air during the fall season? Another way to turn up the warmth in your space is with a decorated fireplace — a decorated mantel and wood smells are definitely a fall staple. Photo courtesy of The Budget Decorator.

Fall Centerpieces

fall centerpieceMany autumn activities consist of eating at a table. Because of this, a great table setup will give your space the ultimate fall look. A pretty centerpiece is the perfect thing to center around your fall gatherings. Great fall centerpieces typically incorporate natural elements with other materials like glass and fabrics. Practically anything can make for a good centerpiece — a cornucopia filled with edibles or a floral arrangement will definitely make for a bright and festive fall table. For extra zing, you can finish off the décor by scattering things like leaves, mini pumpkins and acorns down the table runner to extend the fall happiness to each end of the table. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lynn.

Using warm colors, fabrics and natural elements of the season within your décor makes your home the ultimate cozy hangout spot. Regardless of the chill in the air during the fall, bringing in warmth and a festive look into your home is easy with these five tips.

Julia West is a contributor to NewHomeSource. You can find her on Google+.

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Design Inspiration Gallery: Kitchens That Sizzle

The Alexandria Plan by Standard Pacific Homes


The Alexandria plan by Standard Pacific Homes at Arden Park. Ocoee, Fla.

By Julia West

The kitchen is often said to be the heart of the home. Where meals and memories are made, today the kitchen has become an important hub for entertainers. With central islands, large cooking surfaces and as part of a larger, open floor plan, the kitchen is where the party is at.

From color schemes to flooring, cabinetry to counters, today we’re talking up kitchens everywhere. If you’ve been looking to cook up some inspiration for your own home, these six dream kitchens are a great place to start!

Alexandra Plan by Standard Pacific Home (shown above): This kitchen simply says elegance. By having a variety of light sources and a warm color scheme, this space also has a cozy feel. Extra lighting is brought into the room with the lighted tile backsplash and hanging fixtures above the island. The yellow accents and cream-colored floors contrast nicely with the dark cabinets giving this kitchen more visual depth. Pops of bright color are brought into the space with potted plants, while texture is woven through simple patterns in the tiles and fabrics.

Melia Homes in Live Oak Estates

This plan was built by Melia Homes in the Live Oak Estates community. La Verne, Calif.

The blend of textures and hues in this kitchen give off a classy sense of nature. The cool color scheme and use of rock-like tiles create the mental image of a river within a mountainous terrain. The green and blue details of this kitchen give off an earthy feel, while the dark brown wood cabinets accent them perfectly. To add to this nature-chic look, the sleek edges of the island and stainless steel appliances look as crisp as a stream of fresh water.

The Roma 2173 plan by Century Communities

The Roma 2173 plan built by Century Communities, at Tuscany Residential Village. Henderson, Nevada.

The warm tones of this kitchen and adjoining dining area create the ultimate cozy space. The yellow and red accents bring out extra warmth along with the dark-colored woods in this space, giving it an inviting feel. Touches of greenery are brought into this room to contrast the rich color scheme and to give it a greater sense of openness. Along with the vibrant colors, life is brought into this kitchen by having multiple sources of light, including natural light from the windows and a variety of overhead lamps. The light-colored countertops and stainless steel appliances give this charming space a sleek and modern look.

The Treanna plan by Toll Brothers

The Treanna plan built by Toll Brothers at The Preserve at Juno Beach. North Palm Beach, Fla.

This kitchen is the epitome of style. With a color scheme of creams, off-whites and blues, this space has an airy feel. The smooth texture of the countertops and floors add to the room’s shiny appeal. Lots of light is brought into this kitchen from the lighted upper row of cabinets and distinctive round overhead lights. Details such as the texture in the cabinetry resemble a more traditional style, while details such as the stainless steel appliances give the room a modern twist.

The Starlight Plan by Neal Communities

Four cabinets with glass doors display blue and white accent pieces. The Starlight plan built by Neal Communities. The Sugar Mill Lakes community. Palmetto, Fla.

The smart color scheme of blues and whites makes this kitchen a dream staycation destination. Whether this room resembles a summer holiday to the Mediterranean or simply clear water meeting the sky at the horizon line, it certainly has a calming feel. This kitchen has cabinets with glass doors that allow for more room to display accent pieces. The patterns in the backsplash and wall give the room texture, contrasting with the sleek edges of the counters and cabinetry.

The Perspective Series by Ryland Homes

This sleek contemporary kitchen and great room makes a great place to entertain. The Perspectives Series. New homes by Ryland Homes, near Denver.

This contemporary kitchen and adjoining great room make a great place to entertain guests. Having lots of room to spread out, this space is ideal for those who like to have company and host guests while cooking too. The contrasting color scheme of teals, whites and dark browns give the room a rich, yet light, feeling. Simple flooring and countertops complement the patterns in the backsplash and walls, which results in more visual depth.

Julia West is a contributor to NewHomeSource. You can find her on Google+.

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Tis the Season for Fire Safety Tips

Coffee mug sitting atop stack of books sitting on table with lit fireplace in the background.

Winter calls for snuggling up in a blanket next to the fire. But, wait. Winter is also a common time for house fires. Photo via RentersInsurance.com.

By Dan Chapman

With the cold weather moving in, it’s time for to break out the winter jacket, dust off the copy of A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot you’re eye out kid!”) and hang some Christmas lights outside.

Winter is the season when most stay indoors and enjoy their new home by bundling up or turning on the heat. There are some important safety precautions to keep in mind to ensure your new home is protected from the winter chill (and the heat that comes with it).

House fires are more common in winter than in any other season, according to the U.S. Fire Administration and, although your new home sports high-end amenities and state-of-the-art HVAC systems, there are still some practical ways you can further ensure the safety of your home. Check out these helpful fire safety tips to protect both your family and your home this winter:

Space Heater Do’s and Don’ts

Although space heaters are a handy and affordable option for warming up a small space, they must be handled with caution. Space heaters cause about one-third of all heating equipment fires in the United States annually, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

To help prevent fires caused by space heaters, be sure to keep your space heater three feet from anything that is flammable, such as fabrics, wood and walls. Placing flammable items close to a heater is the leading cause of fatalities in home heating-related fires, according to the NFPA.

You should place space heaters in the center of the room, advises the NFPA. It’s also advised to plug the heater directly into an outlet, but if that’s not possible, use a heavy duty extension cord (the shorter the better).

Time For a Chimney Sweep

If you’re a homeowner with a fireplace, first of all, pat your self on the back for picking an awesome option for your home. Fireplace maintenance will go a long way in keeping your family and home protected from fires. Have your chimney cleaned and swept before you use it each season. This will help prevent creosote and soot build-up, which can block your chimney, sending smoke and gases into your home, or worse, it can cause a house fire.

Before Firing Up the Furnace

Depending on where you live, your new home might have come with a modern-style furnace. Since your new home and new HVAC is probably in amazing condition, chances are you won’t have any major issues come winter.

But Will Hawkins, an HVAC specialist in San Antonio, Texas, still suggests “regularly (cleaning) the duct registers to clean out any dust from the system to reduce fumes and odors that can come into the home.”

Moreover, the NFPA suggests getting your furnace inspected and serviced every 12 months.

Take Care of Your Alarms

Finally, make sure your smoke alarms work properly. If they’ve been low on battery power in recent days, you’ve probably noticed the unsettling shrill of an alarm crying out for attention. Put in a fresh set of batteries.

Don’t forget a carbon monoxide detector too. Carbon monoxide is toxic, flammable and odorless, so it’s important to make sure you have a working detector handy.

House fires throughout the winter are very common. By following the directions on each heating product your bring into your home, maintaining heating units and fireplaces and ensuring fire alarms are ready for any emergency, you’ll greatly decrease the risk of a house fire this winter.

Dan Chapman is a content intern for NewHomeSource. You can find him on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home | 2 Comments

Last-Minute Halloween Party Planning

Halloween bar with spooky white cloth, two fake hands, spiders spilling from green glass cup and drinks labeled "truth serum" and "red blood"

Not much time left to go all out for a last-minute Halloween party? Give specialty drinks a spooky name. Photo via DIY Network.

By Ashley Steel

As much as I wish my house was party city, procrastination city is a much more apt descriptor. With Halloween just around the corner and a last-minute party on my hands, I’m finding myself in a bit of a jam. Constrained by time, budget and picking through the last of the Halloween goods at the store, I turned to some expert party planners to help me scrape together for this shindig.

Eat, Drink and Be Scary

The crux of any party — food and drink — are the first items to consider and, when under a time crunch, it’s necessary to flex your creative muscles. Take traditional food items you can buy at the store or throw together quickly and give them Halloween-themed names, says Bill Parkinson, owner of event planning company William Parkinson Events in Stratford, Conn. “For example, you can name a specialty drink ‘Poison Punch’ or ‘Vampire’s Essence.’ Scallops wrapped in bacon can be ‘Enticing Eyeballs,’ salad can be ‘Gruesome Greens,’ etc. Let your imagination run wild.”

For beverages, an easy trick is to serve drinks that are already the right color for a fall party, says Denise Blasevick, CEO of ad agency S3 Agency in Boontown, N.J. Apple cider, cola and Bloody Marys are rich in fall colors that help capture the spooky essence of this holiday.

Another great option for adult parties, “infusing bourbon is a fun way to make a signature home cocktail without spending the evening playing bartender,” says Alicia Rutherford, founder of event consulting firm Untangled Events. “At least four days before the party, combine 750 ml of bourbon, 2 packets of dried cherries and five strips of orange peel. Shake occasionally and then strain through cheesecloth and enjoy.”

When it comes to desserts, Blasevick says, “save yourself the time and trouble of baking by buying good-quality cookies at the store and decorating them with icing. Make fun, easy to draw pictures like spiders, ghosts and pumpkins.”

And don’t underestimate the power of food coloring on ordinary, traditional foods, says Sunny Ravanbach, event planner with White Lilac Inc. Take a traditional fall treat like caramel apples and color the caramel black to create “poison” apples. “It’s a creepy take on the classic, sweet treat,” he says.

Spooktacular Décor

Moving on to the décor, think minimal shopping for maximum impact, says Rutherford. For example, you can use acrylic paint to douse pumpkins in a bold and colorful hue that matches your existing décor.

Since food and drink are a central part of your party, you’ll want to emphasize any eating and serving tables. “Run to your local fabric store and browse the Halloween-themed fabric options for a new tablecloth or runner,” says Parkinson. “There are also a plethora of sheer fabric options available that can easily be trimmed and thrown over your everyday tablecloth to create a festive overlay for a fraction of the cost of a new tablecloth.” Best of all, there’s no sewing required for this quick and easy DIY fix.

To outfit your table, try placing candles in glass containers and anchoring them with candy corn for a spirited look, says Andrea Correale, celebrity caterer and founder of Elegant Affairs. “Another idea is to cut the top off of a pumpkin, empty the seeds, and fill it with ice and bottled drinks. And if you don’t have time to cut open a pumpkin, try tying old stockings around the pumpkin or wrapping the pumpkin with gauze and adding googly eyes to create a unique display.” In your haste and excitement, don’t forget the individual place settings — plastic vampire teeth make great napkin rings!

As for the rest of the house, Parkinson suggests hitting up your local party supply store. “Drape cheesecloth from chandeliers, mirrors and tall furniture,” to contribute to a spooky, cobwebbed look. To adorn tables and surprise guests, sprinkle plastic skulls, bones and spiders around. Old books, unpolished vases, dusty bottles and apothecary jars also make a nice touch, says Parkinson.

And last but not least, don’t forget the materials you can find in your back yard. Twigs, leaves and acorns all contribute to festive fall décor and can be used to create items like a witches broom, wand or mask.

Party prep doesn’t require months of careful planning. You can throw together this polished party look on a dime — and in a snap.

Ashley Steel is staff writer/editor for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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Gadget of the Month: The Andrea Plant-based Air Purifier

aloe plant inside Andrea plant-based air filter

The Andrea Air Purifier uses plants to filter toxins from the air.

By Dan Chapman

Do you deal with severe allergies and know the pain of bad indoor air quality?

If you’re like the approximately 50 million people in the United States who the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says suffer from nasal allergies, you’ve probably invested in an air purifier or two at some point.

Generally, these do a good enough job of filtering out harmful air pollutants in a room while keeping your allergies at bay. You don’t need to have allergies, however, to want a cleaner atmosphere in your home, as toxins emitted from household objects can be harmful to everyone’s health.

Or perhaps you’ve gone the natural route by using a houseplant such as aloe or English Ivy, which are natural air purifiers and can absorb chemical pollutants emitted from household items. Sure, both man-made and organic air purifiers do their part in keeping your space pollutant free, but what if there was a more effective gadget that combined both?

Enter the Andrea Air Purification System, which blends the power of an indoor plant and the efficiency of an air purification system for an ingenious process that filters cleaner air into your home. You could call it the Superman of air purifiers. Mathieu Lehannuer and Harvard professor David Edwards spent two years developing the product, which they claim filters air 1,000 percent better than a normal houseplant and outperforms many other air purifiers.

The process of how the Andrea works is really cool. Inside is a fan that circulates air into the apparatus that contains the houseplant of your choosing. The air is channeled through the plant’s leaves, down toward the soil and roots and finally out of the apparatus through an opening where a tray of water absorbs toxins. The fan essentially pushes the unclean air through the plant’s filtration system at a much faster rate than a normal houseplant, which is what makes the system more effective than a houseplant alone.

It’s important to note that there’s dozens of plants that you could use with the Andrea, but a few are ideal: gerbera, philodendron, spathiphyllum, pathos and chlorophytum are the most effective (prices range from $5-$50). Don’t skimp on this part of the process, as you want to maximize the filtration power of the system as best you can.

If you’re looking for a powerful air purifier with less upkeep, the Andrea is the perfect gadget for you. Unlike most others air purifying systems, the Andrea doesn’t need replacement filters — just turn it on and watch it go! Head on over to Bed Bath & Beyond ($99.99) or Amazon and give it a try for a fresher home and a healthier you.

Suggest Our Next Gadget of the Month

Do you have a favorite household gizmo? Tell us why you love it in the comment section below and we may feature it as our October Gadget of the Month!

Dan Chapman is a content intern for NewHomeSource. You can find him on Google+.

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Stylish Halloween Décor Ideas

Black wingback chair and red orchid sit in front of teal wallpaper with white Day of the Dead skulls.

Halloween decor need not be tacky nor have an expiration date. This Day of the Dead wallpaper from Street Anatomy is festive enough for Halloween, yet stylish enough for use all year round. Photo via Curbly and Street Anatomy.

By Patricia L. Garcia

There’s no better time of year for me than Halloween. What’s not to like? There are spooky times, family gatherings and candy!

To celebrate, I enjoy decorating my home with Halloween décor. I’ve built up quite a collection of Halloween décor and noticed that my design style has become a little more sophisticated over the years. If, like me, you’d rather not put the “gore” in gorgeous this Halloween, here are some stylish Halloween décor ideas to make your home delightfully frightful.

Black Walls

Black WallsThough it may not sound elegant, blacks walls done right can make for an elegantly spooky atmosphere. This room takes advantage of contrasting colors with black walls and white accessories.

Add a few fake spider webs or distressed white cloths for a Victorian gothic look that’s spooky without being tacky. The best part is the versatility of this design, since you can rock these walls all year round. Photo via Panda’s House.

 

Poison, Anyone?

Apothecary JarsApothecary jars are a stylish way to serve up innocent scares. What’s creepier than a set of jars labeled “poison,” “eye of newt” or “witches’ brew”? Should you take a drink or bite or what’s inside?

It’s fun to serve a Halloween candy buffet in these kind of jars or simply place water that’s been tinted with food coloring for a “mad scientist” look. Photo via CrowsFeetChic.

 

Day of the Dead

white pillow with black Day of the Dead skullWith sugar skulls and bright colors, this Mexican holiday is not as grim as it sounds. A celebration of loved ones who have passed away, the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) includes altars with loved ones’ favorite items.

If an altar is too much for you, try incorporating elements of the holiday, liked sugar skull wallpaper that, much like the aforementioned black walls, can be used all year long for a stylish look. For something more subtle, try a black and white sugar skull pillow. Photo via The Paper Source.

 

Nevermore!

fake ravens sitting in branches on desk with lit candlesWhether it’s that they are extremely intelligent creatures or that they scream “nevermore,” ravens are a classy way to spook up a place. (Hey, they don’t call a group of ravens an unkindness for nothing!)

Add one to your apothecary setup and that’ll up its boo factor, but five or more crows will be something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” giving even bird enthusiasts the heebie jeebies. Photo via Wanda Hoffs.

 

It’s easy to get a spooky look that’s elegant and fun. Take inspiration from décor that’s functional and stylish the rest of the year. Happy haunting!

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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