Jessica Yonker

"Now you're just some flokati that I used to know."

Jessica Yonker is a writer for HGTV.com and a professional glitter handler in training. She loves decorating her friends' homes without their permission and practicing for her inevitable appearance on Chopped. Like her mother, she's obsessed with lamps, mirrors and microfiber throws. Unlike her mother, she has an unexplained aversion to chalkboard paint.

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POSTS BY Jessica Yonker

  • Tell Your Friends

Happy November, everyone! We’re only a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, so you know what that means – time to clean the house from top to bottom before the guests arrive. And you better start now rather than later, especially before that extra hour feeling wears off.

With fall in full swing and winter approaching, you may notice your floors may need a little TLC.

You’ll never regret having a good vacuum around. Sucking up all that dirt and grime not only keeps your home spotless and clean, but also clears away harmful allergens built-up in your floors. But with so many brands, options, filter-types, and other factors, choosing the right vacuum can be a daunting task. To make the decision easier, we’ve narrowed down some of the most important factors to keep in mind while picking out a vacuum.

See the Guide

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Halloween is finally here. It’s only a short time before trick-or-treaters will fill the streets on a never-ending candy quest. Well, at least until bedtime.

Whether you’re planning on passing out candy or not, you should take some precautions to make sure any kids wandering your neighborhood have a safe Halloween. No one wants to be the house on the block responsible for mini-Effie Trinket’s tears when your over-friendly dog gets loose or baby-Incredible Hulk’s scraped knee (you won’t like him when he’s angry).

Clear a path. The morning or afternoon of Halloween, take a walk around the outside of your home. Put away hoses, bikes and garden equipment and clear away rocks, sticks and debris to prevent tripping.  Make sure Halloween decor on the ground is either brightly lit or out of the way.

Watch out for your pumpkins. Keep lit jack-o’-lanterns in a high place or consider getting a battery-powered candle instead of the real thing. Loose-fitting or flowing Halloween costumes can easily catch fire.

Put away your animals. Yes, you did a lot of work getting Spot into that Batman costume, but all the excitement Halloween brings can rile up your pet for better or worse. Hours of shrieking children can stress out even the best-behaved dog. Do your four-legged friends a favor and keep them in a quiet place until the party’s over.

Leave the lights on (or off). Whether to leave the lights on or off if you’re not handing out treats is a common question. If you live in a high-traffic area where your neighbors are all expecting trick-or-treaters, it’s a good idea to leave a porch light on. Kids running between houses might trip or fall in front of your dark home. Try putting up a sign that says “No candy here, sorry!”

Think carefully about candy. Individually-wrapped candies are best. If you are thinking about passing out homemade treats, consider adding a tag with your name and phone number on it to give parents some reassurance.

If you’re taking the kids out, remember to let them eat a big meal so they don’t get hungry before the night is over. This will also prevent hungry children from tearing into their treats right before bedtime.  Don’t forget to inspect all sweets – be on the lookout for unwrapped items and candy your child might be allergic to.

Make sure to travel in groups. Parents usually don’t mind people joining their group – parents will feel safer with a big group and trick-or-treaters will enjoy the company of other children.

Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!  Check out the links below for last-minute Halloween ideas:
Our Favorite Costume Ideas From HGTV Fans
Halloween Party Favor and Treat Bag Ideas
Last-Minute Halloween Costume Ideas for the Entire Family
13 To-Die-For Halloween Cocktails
Spooky Halloween Table Settings and Decorations
FREE DOWNLOAD: Easy Pumpkin Carving Templates
More Halloween Inspiration From Design Happens

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The powerful superstorm known as Hurricane Sandy is expected to make landfall tonight and last well into Tuesday, but many areas are already experiencing damaging winds and severe flooding. Several cities have mandated emergency evacuations, shutdown transit systems, canceled flights and closed schools until later this week. Many spent the weekend evacuating or rushing to stores to gather provisions for an inevitable power outage.

Hurricane Katrina Cleanup aftermath

Five years after Hurricane Katrina and a year after Hurricane Irene, many homeowners are still trying to rebuild their lives. Hurricane Sandy, though a lower level category, is nearly twice the size of its predecessors. It has already left many without power and caused major flooding in the Northeastern United States.

If you’re a little confused on what makes this storm so dangerous, here’s the breakdown: Hurricane Sandy is only a Category 1 hurricane, but the wind speeds are expected to grow to over 90 miles per hour, meaning it could easily turn into Category 2 territory. Sandy is also setting records for its size – the storm’s wind field is 900 miles long. Thanks to an ill-timed full moon, the tide levels are high, making it easy for Sandy to transport even more water to the coast. Finally, Sandy is combining with an early winter storm system from the west and cold air from Canada, bringing snow as far south as the Carolinas and East Tennessee.

A storm like this naturally raises a lot of issues, so we’ve answered some tough questions and gathered advice for those of you in the path of the storm.

READ MORE

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Every time the smoke detector goes off in my house, it’s always a mad dash to see who can get the alarm to stop beeping. It’s usually caused by something trivial – heavy shower steam from at-home “spa days,” a hair straightener making a little too much smoke, my dad pan-frying steak in a cast-iron skillet (all you meat-lovers and cast-iron skillet owners know where I’m going with that one). To make matters worse, we have 10-foot ceilings, leaving us poking at the smoke detector with a broom. As annoying as it can be, my family’s just thrilled that it works.

9 fire safety tips

While you’re changing your clocks November 2, take a second to change the batteries in your smoke detector so you can prevent a nasty fire from taking over your home.

October is National Fire Prevention month. It’s fitting, because we’ve had quite a few chilly nights here lately. It’s almost time to crank up the heat, dust off the fireplace, and finally build that fire pit you’ve been talking about so you can make s’mores any time you want.

Before you rush off to buy firewood in bulk, it’s a good idea to change the smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. According to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), 38 percent of all fatal fire injuries occur in homes without working smoke detectors. Yikes. That’s why the IAFC paired up with Energizer this month to encourage people to test their detectors and change out the batteries when the time changes on Nov. 2. While you’re wandering through your home changing the clocks, it’s also the perfect time to put a new battery in your smoke detector. It only takes a second, and you’ll sleep better knowing your family’s protected.

Check out these other fire-safety tips:
9 Fire-Safety Tips
Outdoor Fire Pits and Safety
Fireplace Maintenance and Safety
Lazy Homeowners Rejoice! Home Maintenance Made Easy

And after your home is protected, take a look at these inspiring fireplace and fire pit designs:
10 Fall-Inspired Fireplaces
Hot Fireplace Design Ideas
Beautiful Outdoor Fireplaces and Fire Pits

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I’ve noticed three things over the last week or so: it’s been getting darker a lot quicker; it’s starting to get permanently chilly; and to my delight, the leaves are finally starting to change. However, if you’re a homeowner, you may not be so elated to see your front yard, backyard and everything else newly covered in leaves.

Clean and care for your gutters at least twice a year, especially during the fall. Taking precautions now can help you avoid a big problem down the road.

People often don’t know they have a problem until their roof starts leaking or until one of their gutters comes crashing down. Taking measures early — like checking your gutters for leaks and cleaning out debris that has built-up over the seasons — will ensure you spend less time outside scooping up piles of wet leaves and more time inside sipping on apple cider.

Take a look at these easy tutorials for getting those gutters clean: 
-How to Clean and Repair Gutters
-Video: Gutter Cleaning

Once your gutters are squeaky clean, check out these fun fall projects:
5 Apple Crafts That Are Cool to the Core
Easy Halloween Pumpkin Crafts
5 Easy Fall Crafts You’ll Fall For
Make a Fall Felt Leaf Wreath
Travel Channel: Take a Fall Foliage Road Trip

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Perhaps I’ve been influenced by my very Southern mother, or maybe it’s just from spending too much time glued to Pinterest, but I use vinegar for everything. Ev-er-y-thing.  I keep all types of vinegar – white, apple cider, red wine, tarragon – stocked in my cabinets. It’s handy for cooking, cleaning, and what most of my friends refer to as “weird voodoo home remedies” (a spoonful of vinegar a day keeps the doctor away!).

Vinegar is not just for salads.

One of the best things about keeping vinegar in your home is that it’s so cheap. You can usually get a big bottle of white vinegar for under a dollar, and not too much more for apple cider vinegar. On top of that, it’s edible – no harsh toxins, no lingering chemical smell – making it the perfect cleaning solution if you have children or pets.

Read the List

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By now, most college students have either started school or are slowly coasting toward midterms (this trusty intern certainly is). The group projects have been assigned, people have unofficially designated “their spot” in the library, and if you’re a parent at home you may be lamenting (or celebrating) your now-empty nest.

No matter what time of year, you can still find plenty of ways to spruce up your dorm or first apartment. Image courtesy of Dormify.com

There is however, one last bit of advice I’d like to bestow on college students looking to make the most out of their dorm room or first apartment….

Find Out What

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This weekend I whispered, “I love you,” and kissed my shorts goodbye, replacing their spot in my closet with scarves and cardigans.

Always think outside the box (er, closet). Kristen Grove repurposed empty paint cans to hang scarves and hats.

It was only a small victory for the long and often chaotic process that is cleaning, organizing and reorganizing your closet to prepare for fall and winter. Start October off on the right foot with a few tips for making the closet swap less painful:

Clean the closet first. It will be tempting to immediately pull out your entire winter collection from storage just to see what’s in there, but if you do this without creating space for any of it, you’re just making a bigger mess. Take some time before your heavy holiday cleaning starts and give your closet a makeover. If you’ve been meaning to install new shelves or create the shoe storage space of your dreams, now’s the time to do it.

Throw things away. Trash those stockings with runs. Get rid of those rain boots with the hole in them that you kept, “just in case it’s not raining that hard.” Over the weekend, I threw away four pairs of leggings and a pair of shoes that were all ripped beyond repair and just sitting in my closet taking up space. I also got rid of some things that I never wear. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t worn something in over a year, you probably never will. Donate them or give them away to friends and family.

Don’t do it all at once. Unless you have a lot of time to dedicate, you’re just going to get overwhelmed. And even if you have a whole weekend, set realistic goals – maybe you can’t clean out your closet, sort through your winter clothes and switch out your summer clothes all in one day, but you can spend an hour or two picking out the items you won’t need for cold weather.

Make a list. Do you swear you bought extra-long socks for each of your children last winter and now they’re nowhere to be found? Move to a cooler climate over the summer and know you’ll freak the first time it snows? Make a list of the items you need, then buy each article slowly – think of it as early Christmas presents for all your hard effort!

How are you making the fall transition? Find more organizing and cleaning advice, crafty closet storage solutions and browse beautiful walk-ins here:

Daily Delight: Celebrity Closets
Storage 101: A Closet Makeover
Repurposing Household Items For Your Closet
25 Ways to Store Shoes in Your Closet
Maximizing Closet Storage
Kids Closet Ideas
10 Stylish Walk-In Closets
VIDEO: Making Closet Space Count

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I love to cook, but after 4 years in college, two things have become very clear to me:

  1. There is a certain amount of functional counter space you need to cook a good meal.
  2. The provided counter space in your dorm room or first apartment will always be less than that amount.

Combine that inevitable lack of space with an incomplete set of kitchen tools, minimal cooking experience, and the chaotic schedule a college student often has, and cooking can quickly turn into an ordeal (pizza, anyone?).

But it doesn’t have to be this way. A little time management can go a long way, and starting off with the right items can make a big difference.

Buy Ingredients

The other day I escorted a friend to the grocery store. We put away all her groceries only to find that when I opened her refrigerator, it was still empty. Baffled, I ransacked her cabinets, trying to see what went wrong. The problem? She had only bought snacks. Snack foods are good to have around, but if you don’t continually buy staple ingredients like eggs, bread and milk, you limit the variety of meals you can make. I try to make an effort to always buy a box of pasta noodles, a jar of sauce, and a couple of canned vegetables every time I grocery shop – they’re good for a quick meal and I know I’ll always need them.

Read the Rest

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Fall has finally arrived, and here in Knoxville we’ve already had some pretty cool, crisp nights. It’s only a matter of time until the cool weather really sets in and it’s time to curl up in front of the fireplace.

If your home feels fine during the day but you find yourself reaching for an extra blanket at night, it may be time to reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades. During colder months, making the blades rotate clockwise will push down warm air and distribute it throughout the room. Just make sure you’re running the fan on a low speed, otherwise the fan will create a “wind-chill effect” and make your room too cold.

To flip your blades’ rotation, just turn the fan off, grab a ladder and toggle the directional switch. Don’t forget to test and make sure it’s turning in the right direction for the season. Doing this can reduce your energy costs by nearly 10 percent in the winter and a whopping 40 percent during the summer – not bad for a task that only takes a few minutes to do!

How do you stay warm during the cooler months? Get a head start on preparing your home for fall and winter by visiting:

How to Install a Ceiling Fan

10 Easy Decorating Ideas for Fall

Protect Your Deck This Winter

DIY Network: Prepare the House for Winter

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