Winter is coming
Any Game of Thrones fans out there? If so, you’ll understand the serious sense of foreboding behind the phrase Winter is Coming. Lucky for you, and the rest of Kansas City, there are no White Walkers on the distant horizon. However, there are some seriously cold temps sure to hit the metro area in the coming months. And that could spell disaster for sprinkler systems and gardens that have not been properly winterized.
No, we’re not just talking about bleeding the hoses or throwing an old blanket over the shrubs. But a complete, professional, all-boxes checked, full winterization of your entire outdoor garden space. Not quite sure what that means? Well, Patrick Vogt can definitely help you understand.
Patrick owns By the Blade Outdoor Services and specializes in high-end landscape design, installation and maintenance. That includes lawn care, irrigation, gardens, fountains and even pools. And of course, Patrick has the perfect system for winterizing your favorite outdoor space. You know, the one where you don’t have to do anything at all. Think of Patrick and his team like your own personal Night’s Watch, protecting you from the icy cold grip of winter. (Sorry, another GOT reference).
DIY Tips from a Landscaping Expert
Tom Dubbert runs a landscaping business on Zaarly. Ask anyone who’s worked with him; after exhaustive praise, they’ll all tell you the same thing: Tom is an educator.
He doesn’t just do a good job, he explains why it’s good – sharing his deep knowledge and impeccable taste with interested clients. I sat down with Tom to see if I could glean any tips and get to know this living legend.
Before we talk about your business, are you doing any projects at home?
He laughed. “I always say I’m like the cobbler whose kids have no shrubs. I recently tried my hand at putting in a flagstone patio and a stone firepit. I put in a raised garden bed too – nothing outlandish. I generally just keep my landscaping tidy & well maintained.”
"A lot of people don’t realize that consistent light maintenance goes a long, long way" he said. "Occassionaly I’ll talk to someone who wants something they saw in a magazine. They get sticker shock once they realize that landscapes like those often cost tens of thousands of dollars."
"But there are lots of things you can do yourself," he said, "easy things that really go a long way."
- Mow weekly – just mowing regularly is one of the very best things you can do for your lawn. Grass likes to be mowed, weeds don’t. If you mow weekly (not too short, grass likes to be long – and never mow when it’s wet), you’ll see a lot of weeds disappear.
- Leave the clippings – If you’re keeping your grass a nice length and mowing every week, just let the clippings fall. They return a lot of nitrogen and good stuff to the soil.
- Freshen up what you already have – Spend a few hundred bucks on some new mulch and you’ll really add some pop to your flower beds for a season. A little color can make a big impact too. If you don’t have a big budget, maybe add a colorful urn with a few flowers near your entry way to make a single focal point.
Is the maintenance aspect what you enjoy most?
"I do like mowing, but I like it beacuse it feels like the icing on the cake" he said. "I was in the service industry for many years. I learned a lot about people and I was good at it, but I just love being outside and working in nature."
"I love the first couple of months of spring – everything is starting to thrive. You get that real aesthetic satisfaction. Not like August, when you’re fighting to keep the grass green. Or the fall, when you’re raking leaves."
Is there anything you don’t like about landscaping?
He sipped his tea.
"I hate raking leaves” he said. “I don’t enjoy tasks that seem like they never end. Sure, grass always grows back, but not before your eyes. Leaves—ugh—you’re still doing the job and they keep falling. That’s another reasons I didn’t like the restaurant business – there was always clutter around. Luckily I don’t personally have to do much raking any more.”
How did you start your landscaping business?
"I started really small. I took some landscape design classes through a community college" he said. "Out of the gate, my main goal wasn’t profit. I wanted to do great work."
"My friend’s brother had a landscaping business and I modeled a lot of what I did after how he ran things. Instead of going after a breadth of clients, he maintained a short list he could work deeply with."
Jon McGraw, one of Tom’s clients, had this to say about him:
"Tom and his crew have been making our Brookside home look great for the last couple of years! From weekly mowing to annual mulch, shrub trimming, fertilizing and leaf cleanup they take care of it all. We used to have to coordinate different people for various yard projects but no more: Tom takes care of it all. Couldn’t be happier and would highly recommend Tom!"
"Oh, Jon’s great" Tom said. "He’s always clear on what he wants, but also understands there are variables that can’t be controlled - like weather and droughts. Jon’s a great example of the perfect client. He knows enough to articulate what he wants and trusts me enough to just let me do whatever’s needed."
It’s clear Tom prides himself on being a trusted adviser. He’s currently managing a growing list of clients and maintaining the ability to go deep with them. It’s good for the soul to see such a reputable business flourish under the leadership of such a genuine human being.
Tom Dubbert owns and operates The Yard Barber of KC. He currently serves the Brookside, Plaza, Waldo, Mission Hills, Prairie Village, North Leawood, Fairway, and Westwood neighborhoods of KC. You can request a free consultation from him through Zaarly.
Managing your home is hard work. Zaarly helps you find the best local housecleaners, lawncare experts and handymen so you can spend more time doing the things you love.
Mothers come in many forms. Some gave birth to us. Some adopted us. Some found us in a time of need and invited us into their lives.
Mothers Day is at once a celebration and a day of remembrance. So, whether you’re sitting next to your mama or just wishing you still could, join us at Zaarly and raise a glass to her.
Here’s to mothers. Cheers.
Secrets of a Professional Housecleaner
Laura Estes cleaned her first home 28 years ago on the side to support her four children. She joined Zaarly last year and, since joining, has finally been able to clean homes full time, and start her own business. She now has a partner—her daughter Amy—and hired a small crew to manage the growing business.
When I was in Kansas City last month, Laura was able to squeak some time in for an interview between cleaning appointments. We sat down at Starbucks in the Plaza. Among other things, we talked about her business, what she does to clean her own home, and about the dignity in cleaning other people’s messes.
"People are always saying it’s not personal, it’s business… And what’s so wrong about being personal anyway? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal." –Kathleen Kennedy in You’ve Got Mail
I’ve wanted to interview Laura for a while. She has over 100 positive reviews on Zaarly, some of which are from repeat customers who keep coming back to say nice things about her.
Tell me about one of your favorite customers.
"I love Kelly Aaron" Laura said. "She’s got a storefront on Zaarly too. She makes these beautiful little mosaics."
She told me Kelly had a previous housecleaner who did good work, but wasn’t very reliable. I reached out to Kelly to ask why she chose Laura.
"I found Laura on Zaarly (online) and then met her in person at a Zaarly event. I was able to talk with her about her business and could tell she was really passionate about it. That was probably about a year ago and her business has grown exponentially. She has a real "take charge" attitude toward her business and when something’s not right, I can call it to her attention and she goes out of her way to fix it."
"Kelly gives a lot of feedback" Laura said. "That’s one of the things that makes her such a great customer. She’s also just a blast!"
She laughed. It’s like they’ve become friends.
Laura told me her son really likes Kelly’s husband. “He’s a writer for Marvel. My son met him at a comic book convention and he gave him a whole bunch of signed comics. I think he does Xmen and Thor.”
Other than enjoying your children, what do you do in your spare time?
"I love to garden" she said. "I like to say that when I’m not cleaning dirt I like to play in it." We both laugh.
"Isn’t that funny?" she said. "I have a flower garden and a vegetable garden. I’ve been gardening since I was in fifth grade."
Laura grew up moving around a little bit. Her family was poor and in the fifth grade she spent a year with her aunt and uncle. Her aunt taught her to garden and she’s never stopped. She even spent five years in Hawaii cutting flowers.
How’d you get started cleaning homes?
"At first I just did it on the side - for extra income to provide for my kids. It wasn’t until I came on to Zaarly that I was able to do this full time."
In the past year, Laura’s business has grown to over seventy customers. She recently printed some new business cards and couldn’t wait to show them to me.
"Last year we projected we’d only be doing small homes" she said. "But that was wrong. Now I have a year’s worth of numbers to look back on and we’re branching out to take on some commercial accounts."
She told me her house is getting taken over by the business, so she’s looking to move into a small office.
"Okay, so your business is booming" I said. "Clearly you’re doing something right. When you walk into a home, what are you looking for?"
"I’m not just looking, but listening" she said. "I’m listening for what the client isn’t saying – listening between their words."
I asked her to elaborate. She said, “there are things we want done that we don’t realize. Someone might walk into their kitchen and tell me they want the floors mopped and the cupboards wiped down, but then they look at the cobwebs on the window sill. They see them but they don’t notice them.”
"There’s a reason my business is called _Laura’s Cleaning 4U_" she said. "I listen - to what my clients say and pay attention to what they didn’t say. It’s just how I see the world."
She referenced an ornate wooden chair in the cafe. “See that chair? Of course you do, it’s right there. You also see the dust in the creases of the decoration on it. You see it, but you don’t notice it. I notice it.”
There are simple things you can do to stay on top of your own cleaning routine.
You just need to learn to notice things. “Cleaning is mostly just maintenance” she said.
- Simply changing your sheets once a week can make a big difference.
- The same goes for dusting blinds.
- Even cleaning your storm door can make your entry way feel brighter and fresher.
"Most people just weren’t taught to maintain those kinds of things" she said. "If you pick one of those tasks and just build it into your routine, you’ll start to notice it. When you notice things you’re a lot more likely to stay on top of them."
"And then there are those things that really aren’t a big deal - they take five or ten minutes, but we just ignore them and they begin to feel overwhelming."
"What do you mean?" I said.
"Dishes, picking up toys – stuff like that. Just set a timer for five or ten minutes and get it done. Most of the time you’ll finish before the timer even goes off. They’re easy tasks, but we build them up in our head."
What about the cleaning regimen in your own home?
She laughed. “Well right now, my business has taken over my home - it’s chaotic!”
"I’m just like anyone" she said. "I get busy and get behind, but I guess for me - keeping my bedroom clean is the main thing. You know? For some people, it might be the kitchen or the bathroom – just cleaning that one room gives you the momentum you need.”
It’s easy to see why her clients love her. Laura is clearly a pro and full of helpful tips.
Does house cleaning ever feel undignified?
She didn’t bat an eyelash. “Not usually – but it depends on the client.”
She told me about a client she used to clean for who owned some student housing. “It drives me crazy when people don’t flush the toilet before I come” she said.
"Little kids are one thing – they leave messes. But when grown-ups don’t show me some common courtesy, I get irritated."
"Here I am, working my tail off to improve their quality of life, and they treat me like a second class citizen. That’s undignified” she said.
I paused for a minute to take some notes.
What part of your business are you most proud of?
"You know, I’d have to say it’s creating jobs." She started getting choked up. "I recently hired these three girls – refugees from Burma and Nepal. I hired them through Catholic charities so they’re background checked and everything, but they just work so hard and it feels so good to employ people who need something to feel empowered by."
"How long have they been working for you?"
"Only a couple of weeks" she said. "It’s not without it’s challenges!" She laughed.
"Communication is sometimes an issue and none of them can drive. But we’re overcoming those things together. I love many of my clients and I think I do pretty good work, but creating jobs is what I’m most proud of."
Laura Estes owns and operates Laura’s Cleaning 4 U. She serves the KC metro area. You can request a free consultation from her through Zaarly.
Managing your home is hard work. Zaarly helps you find the best local housecleaners, lawncare experts and handymen so you can spend more time doing the things you love.
A Homeowner’s Guide to Super Bowl XLVII
You’ve worked hard redecorating your living room and installing the surround-sound system in your basement.
You’ve painted the hallway seafoam green and just need an audience to appreciate your handiwork.
Super Bowl XLVIII is right around the corner and you are determined to throw an amazing party!
Alas, along with great parties comes great disorder.
But you don’t want to be that host; overly concerned that guests might muddy up the entryway or spill their drinks on the carpet.
Thankfully, with a little forethought, you can circumvent these messy problems with a few simple tricks:
Rule #1: Be Coordinated
Like a prize-winning football coach, you need a plan of attack.
Have guests place their coats and shoes in well marked areas to the side of the door. This will eliminate clutter and should help you avoid guests tripping over loose shoes.
Additionally, set up seating in your viewing area with a clear lane down the middle to minimize guests having to step over one another when coming back from the food line.
Rule #2: Consider the Snacks
There are expectations when it comes to Super Bowl food: chips and dip, chicken wings, meatballs…but not all of your snacks need to be messy.
Throw in a cheese platter and some veggies. Avoid food that needs to be cut, since guests could have their plate sitting on the carpet or in their lap, and uneven surfaces makes for messy cutting.
Rule #3: Equip the Right Equipment
While having the food in the kitchen is ideal due to the tiled/wood floors, you may want your food to migrate closer to the television for easy snacking access.
Don’t rely on flimsy card tables to hold the bulk of your food. Not only are they weak, but guests can easily kick in one of the thin, metal legs. Try dragging over that solid wood table you have in your dining room.
Rule #4: TVs…..TVs Everywhere!
Head on out to the garage and bring in that dusty tube TV.
Have it going in the kitchen so that guests aren’t tripping over each other to get back to the big screen during a commercial break.
A rushed guest is a messy guest!
Rule #5: Expect the….Expected
Someone, maybe even several someones, will spill their drink. If you decide to have the party in a carpeted area, have a few rags and some soapy water or bleach/water mixture ready to go.
This way, you can get to the mess before it has time to deeply stain the floor. Remember: blot, don’t rub.
Whichever team you are rooting for, we here at Zaarly hope we can make your Super Bowl party a success.
If you need help with the post-game cleanup, we have an amazing group of handpicked home cleaners who are ready for you!
You can contact the author through his Twitter handle @Menzelman
9 Ways To Get Funky In The Kitchen
If you made a list of all the fun things you were planning on doing this weekend, cleaning your kitchen probably didn’t make the cut.
Lucky for you, our team used fancy mathematical formulas to create playlists that match the mood of every room in your home.
This week: our goal is to bring some funk to one of our favorite rooms ever, the kitchen.
Try this at home and turn the volume up loud. If your neighbors or family ask you to quiet down, we get full credit!
1) "Prisoner" Har Mar Superstar feat. Juliette Lewis
You wouldn’t know just by looking at him, but Har Mar Superstar can really groove. Now grab that mop and get to work!
2) "A Fifth of Beethoven" Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band
A fusion of classical and funk. Put on your platforms and get ready to stop around the bathroom with a sponge in hand.
3) "Q.U.E.E.N." Janelle Monae feat Erykah Badu
You thought that the last song was funky? Check out this futuristic ballad from a new-age soul singer.
4) "Superstition" Stevie Wonder
This list wouldn’t be complete without The Duke. Even better, he is performing on Sesame Street. How funky is that?!?!
5) "Sweet Inspiration" King Curtis
Short, sweet, and to the point. King Curtis knows how to play and his clean cuts will inspire your scrubbing!
6) "Word Up" Cameo
One of the best examples of “ElectroFunk,” and yes, that is LeVar Burton at the beginning of the video.
7)"I’m Your Boogie Man" KC and the Sunshine Band
Throw some disinfectant on the sink and some soap in the floor—it’s time to boogie with KC and the Sunshine Band!
8) "Canned Heat" Jamiroquai
You might have to take a break from cleaning to dance to this one.
9) "(Not Just) Knee Deep" Funkadelic
Boasting the best, with George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Michael Hampton to name a few. This is the perfect song to help wrap up your cleaning.
From throwing a party to cleaning it up, we here at Zaarly want to make every bit of owning a home enjoyable. Happy Cleaning and check back for more specialized playlists!
You can contact the writer through his Twitter handle @Menzelman
Jogging In The Snow: A Survival Guide
Old Man Winter has officially arrived.
Grandparents talk about their knees acting up, hardware stores make a killing on cheap plastic shovels, and college kids continue on like nothing has changed.
While some thrive in the winter, the rest of us struggle ever onwards, occasionally backwards, and often downwards towards the icy cement. This holds especially true for runners like me.
Once kings and queens of the outdoors, dominating pristine forest trails and smog-filled cities, most runners have now retreated into sweaty 24-hour gyms.
By viewing the following tips, I hope that perhaps, just perhaps, you can once again safely journey outside to fill your lungs with that sweet, frosty air!
1. Choose the Proper Footwear
I know, I know. This is about as helpful as your mom telling you to wear a raincoat during a storm, but when it comes to shoes you are looking for two things: traction and warmth.
While your Nike Frees were great at ventilating your feet in the summer, a little more material (and a lot fewer holes) is essential.
Flip the shoe over and look at the tread. If the bottom is worn smooth, good luck on ice. You want the bottom of the shoe to bite into the ground. I’ve had some success with add-ons like Yaktraxs.
2. Rock the Skintights!
We understand this old man - nothing beats shorts. But upgrading to leggings is a smart move. I feel silly running around the neighborhood looking like I just got done with the final dress rehearsal for Swan Lake, but rockin’ the skintight clothing is better than being cold!
3. Get Some Winter Headphones
I love me a good ol’ fashioned summer-running playlist, but in the winter it helps to ditch the iPod. Your hearing will be destroyed by plastic headphones jostling around inside of your frozen ears, plus your dainty little iBud cords will freeze and break.
If you truly feel compelled to run with music, invest in a set of insulated headphones that double as earmuffs. Now that’s two birds with one snowball! Or just do what I do and sing Broadway show tunes as you run (I highly recommend The Winner Takes It All for those big hills).
4. Grab a Hat and a Face Guard
While the picture above might seem a bit excessive, it’s a scientific fact that you lose 110% of your body’s heat through your noggin…..ok, well, maybe not a scientific fact per se, but covering up as much exposed skin as possible is a great way to keep your skin from drying out…and really, who doesn’t want soft, supple skin?
5. Know When To Stay Indoors
It’s easy to overdress when you’re trying to be a winter hero. But your body will start to sweat and chafe like a madman if you pile on the hoodies and the long underwear. If it really is that cold (20-15 degrees and under) grab the keys, hit the gym, and forget about everything you just read. Arnold would support this move!
- written by Aaron Menzel, who runs… on occasion.
You follow him on Twitter: @Menzelman
"Jogging In The Snow" is the first part of a new series called "What To Love" which will we be running every week.
In this series, our favorite authors write about the adventures they love to pursue when they have free time.
We hope their stories inspire you to spend more time doing what you love, even if it’s something simple like jogging in the snow.
If you love to write and want to share your story, feel free to email email@example.com