How To Keep Pets Safe In An Emergency

With all the fires we are having in BC make sure you have a plan and a checklist ready in case you ever need to evacuate with your pets. Whether for a wildfire, flood or other disaster, pets are a top priority when it comes to evacuating. But if you’re not prepared, it can make a difficult situation much harder. In an ideal world, our pets would be forever by our side. But for situations where this isn’t possible or safe, or when you and your pet need to leave home in a hurry, what should you do to be pet-ready in an emergency.

Of course, the key to any emergency is to be prepared. We’ve all heard the message about the importance of having a plan for floods and fires. And those plans need to include pets. So, what can you do to be ready in case you need to get your pets out in a hurry?

Wildfires and floods might be top of mind right now, but there are other reasons you should have an emergency plan for your pet. What if you’re taken away in an ambulance, or you have to travel suddenly for work or a family crisis?

And what will happen to little Maks or Waffles if you’re delayed in getting home because your car broke down in the middle of nowhere and it’ll take days to get the parts and the pet-sitter?

More often than not, pet-sitting services get very short-notice from people in a panic. Someone’s ended up in hospital and they’ve got a dog and a cat at home and a budgie and they think, ‘Oh my goodness, who’s going to feed my pets?’”

The good news is that there’s plenty you can do in advance to make sure your pet will be OK.

The most important thing is to sort out a pet-friendly emergency contact — a neighbor, friend or family member or, failing that, a pet-sitting service. If your pet can’t stay home, it’s much easier to have an accommodation option worked out for them in advance.

The other important task that you can do right now is to jot down a packing list for your pet. In an emergency, you or someone else can pull it all together in flash. When you’re worried and trying to think of what to pack for yourself and your kids and whatever else, there’s just a basic list of necessities that your pet would need if it’s going with you or going somewhere else to stay.

If your pet hasn’t left your house before, you may not have a carrier in which to transport them safely and conveniently. If that’s the case, get one.

For example, if you have birds in an aviary, you should have a smaller cage for them. Keep it in the shed. Or if you have free-roaming rabbits, they’ll need a carrier.

And because you may be on the road for a while, or doing a lot of waiting, you’re going to need a large container to store enough water for an indeterminate length of time, as well as a smaller one that your pet can drink from.

Finally, even if your pet doesn’t normally wear a collar, it’s very helpful if they have one with a tag and your phone number, in case they run away in fright. This, increases the chances that you’ll be reunited sooner. Even if they are microchipped, it’s really easy if you look at their collar and you can see the number and call it rather than having to take them to a vet.

When it comes to floods and wildfires, there’s often a bit of time between the initial warning and the final order to evacuate. If you can, get your pet out as early as possible.

Ask a friend or family member if they are able to take care of your pet until the all clear has been given. This means that you have nothing to worry about to start with.

Here is a list of items to put together in a pet evacuation kit. A pet evacuation kit has all the critical items and information that is required for you to take care of your pet if you are temporarily displaced. Place all the following items in a large tub and have it in or near the car.

Transportation equipment: leads and harnesses, car harness, cat or dog carriers.

Food and water for at least a week: water bowl and several gallons of water, pet food that can be stored without refrigeration.

Current medications and a pet first-aid kit: Place these along with instructions in a small box.

Miscellaneous items: waste bags, blankets and toys.

Other items in the kit are not so obvious. Emergencies are stressful for pets, and when they’re afraid, they sometimes run away. Include things in your evacuation kit that will make it easier to find them, like a recent photo, phone numbers for local shelters, the local phone number for lost pets and contact details of after-hours vets.

And don’t forget to pack your pet’s medical records. If they can’t stay with you or a friend, they may have to board at a kennel and they’ll need proof of vaccination.

Keeping stress to a minimum is easier said than done, but anything you do to keep your pet as calm as possible in an emergency will go a long way to making the situation easier for everybody and reduce the chance of them fleeing in a panic.

Here are a few tips for keeping your animals as calm as possible.

  • Don’t punish your pet for being afraid. It can lead to worse behavior. Offer comfort and use distraction as a method to calm them down.
  • While still at home, create a quiet space for them to go to. If they have a place they like to hide, let them go there. Follow their lead. 
  • You can use music to mitigate stressful new environments and unfamiliar noises. 
  • Distract your pet with their favorite toys and treats on the way.

Homework Zone

New teachers, shifting schedules and sudden onslaught of paper, the back-to-school transition can be challenging for parents and kids. Manage the chaos by putting an action plan in place to handle some of your home’s hot spots — including a spot to study — and you (and your kids) can step into the new school year feeling prepared. Here’s how to set up a homework zone for your scholars, whether they’re entering kindergarten or applying to college.

Supporting Your Scholar

The needs of a kindergartener and those of a tween may seem miles apart when it comes to study space, but there are a few things that hold true for all kids:

Pick a place where your child feels comfortable to set up a homework zone. If he or she loves being in the heart of things, this may be the kitchen table.

Keep supplies close at hand. If children have to hunt for that glue stick or report cover, the whole process will feel more frustrating.

Feel free to create a separate zone for reading. No matter your child’s age, it’s often more comfortable to read in an upholstered chair than in a stiff desk chair.

Younger Children

What To Expect 

The focus for preschoolers and kindergarteners should be on cultivating a love of learning. A cozy nook for reading or being read to and a project table for practicing cutting, drawing and writing are all that’s needed. A clean, inviting space encourages children to explore good books without offering an overwhelming number of choices.


Using child-height tables and chairs helps preschoolers and kindergarteners feel ownership over their work area.

Younger kids sometimes have a hard time if there’s too much on the table at once. Keeping extras stocked on shelves above the table or on a portable cart will help avoid spills and make it easier to focus on the task at hand.

Keep an eye on the clock: If your kindergartener gets homework, be sure to ask the teacher how long it’s expected to take, and don’t force your child to work past that amount of time. At this age, it’s better to keep the homework routine short and positive!

School-Age Kids

What To Expect

As kids progress through elementary school, they’ll gradually be asked to take on more responsibility and likely more homework too. This is when organization and time management begin to come into play — and having a well-organized homework space can help.


Homework in elementary school can involve a mix of reading and writing with creative projects, so be sure to store some art supplies along with the No. 2 pencils.

Decide on a system for keeping track of homework papers, and stick with it: A simple inbox and outbox or labeled “in” and “out” clipboards fastened to the wall should do the trick.

Designate a roomy document box or bin where you can store completed schoolwork and projects. Aim to sort through it with your child once a month, choosing a few special pieces to keep and recycling the rest.

Let your child add photos, artwork and special treasures to personalize their study space.

Tweens And Teens

What To Expect 

With a heavier workload at school, more responsibilities at home and after-school commitments, middle school and high school kids have a lot on their plates. Even though they may be taller than you now, tweens and teens can still need your support — and setting up a comfy spot to work is a good first step.


Using a laptop or the family computer likely will be a necessity for doing schoolwork in the tween and teen years, so consider where you want this to happen. Especially for younger tweens, you may want to have the family computer in a main living space for greater supervision.

With teens’ increased workload, the system that has worked until now for keeping track of homework and schedules may no longer cut it. Help them experiment until they find a system they like to use: This could be a paper planner, an app or lots of Post-its — whatever works!

Working At The Dining Table? 

Kids in elementary school often feel more at home doing homework at the kitchen counter or dining table, where they can chat with you and sprawl out as they work. If that’s the case for your child, there are just a few things to keep in mind:

Ideally, your child shouldn’t have to clear away work in progress when it’s time for dinner. If that’s impossible, try to find a nearby surface that can be kept clear so there’s a place to hold your child’s supplies.

Consider using a cart on wheels to hold homework supplies. That way, your child can pull it up while working and tuck it away at mealtime.

f your child just wants to be in the same room, see if you can find a nook to put a desk in the kitchen or dining room, to avoid the cleanup issue.

Stay On Top Of Paper Clutter 

Once teens have multiple subjects to manage, paper clutter seems to expand exponentially. Built-in storage can help keep lots of paper neatly organized, making this a good choice for pack rats and organization junkies alike. Here are a few more ideas:

Use stacking paper trays to keep track of to-dos and finished work

Assign a hanging file to each subject and keep important papers inside.

Reduce paper and keep track of things digitally with an online system like Google Drive.

More Than One Kid Sharing A Space? 

Consider study partitions. Make sharing a study space easier on all involved by providing a desk with a partition between work areas. Consider building the desk unit into a closet, so when the kids are done working, the doors can hide it all away.


Family Activities For Summer Fun

Check out these outdoor projects the whole family can enjoy, ranging from easy projects like starting seeds or creating a mini fairy garden, to more involved ones such as turning a stock tank into a raised bed.

Grow An Herb Box

It’s not too late in the season to start a pot of kitchen and have kids help pick leaves to add to your favorite dishes. Young children can help with all steps of the process: scooping potting soil into an empty pot, patting down soil to settle it, spacing plant starts (with some help from an adult) and then watering them in. A few easy-to-grow herbs to consider are basil, parsley, thyme, tarragon, sage, oregano, and chives. All thrive with full sun and consistent water.

You could consider tucking a few ever-bearing strawberries, which generally produce spring, summer and fall crops, around the edges to give little ones a treat to discover later.

Start Seeds

There’s nothing quite like the magic of seeing little leaves pop up from the ground as if by magic. Big seeds — like those of squash, melons, peas and beans — are the easiest to handle and can be a good place to start for your youngest or most beginner gardeners. Now is a good time in most climates to sow seeds for pumpkins to have them ready by Halloween. You can begin to sow crops like snow peas and fava beans now in cool-summer climates. In other climates, wait until fall for these cool-season crops.

Make Handprint Stepping Stones

Creating stepping stones with family handprints or footprints can be a fun afternoon project, and it’s a way to make your garden feel more personal. It’s easiest to use a handprint stepping stone kit, but you can also make them without a kit using fast-setting concrete and a mold. Have children or any family member whose handprint you want to commemorate imprint their hands or feet and arrange any treasures they wish — like polished stones, marbles or shells — into the concrete. Adults can help sign the names of young children with a stick or wooden pencil. Once the concrete sets, find a spot to display them in your garden.

Pick Your Own

If there’s one garden “chore” that kids of any age can get behind, it’s harvesting — particularly if it’s something sweet like berries, tomatoes, sugar snap peas or tree fruits like cherries, peaches and plums. Picking fruit from your garden or a nearby pick-your-own farm makes for a fun family activity and is a good way to teach small ones where their favorite fruit come from.

For slightly older children, you can make harvesting from the garden a daily or weekly responsibility. Asking children to pick tomatoes for the family meal can give them a sense of accomplishment and lend you a hand.

Open a Bug Hotel

The concept is as simple as hanging a bird house, except bug hotels resemble collections of items such as hollow bamboo canes and seedpods that aim to mimic habitats like tree cavities that are increasingly rare in urban and suburban environments. The little holes and bug-size crevices are designed to attract insects, such as solitary native bees, that look for such spaces to rest for the night.

You can purchase kits for DIY bug hotels or build your own. Just be sure to include some type of roof or cover to keep the gathered materials dry. Family members of all ages can help collect materials to use, such as dried seedpods, twigs, small pine cones and bark. Older kids and teens can help with building the frame for the hotel. Everyone can learn or be reminded of the vital role beneficial insects play in ecosystems and the challenges they face.

Create A Fairy Garden

Little kids, teens or really anyone with a whimsical side may enjoy creating a miniature fairy garden in a pot. Start with an empty vessel of your choosing and fill it with potting soil. Then have children choose small plants at the nursery, such as succulents, creeping wire vine or mossy-looking ground covers like baby’s tears or woolly thyme. Use indoor plants if you’d like to keep the garden inside.

Encourage children to arrange a scene from their imagination on the surface of smooth potting soil, tucking in plants as they go. Fine gravel can become fairy pathways or streams, rocks can be seats or stepping stones. You can purchase or make, if you’re feeling extra crafty accents such as miniature houses, benches, gates, animal or fairy figurines and toadstools. 

Plant Up Recycled And Repurposed Containers

You can repurpose almost any vessel as a container for plants, and kids can have fun scouting for unused vessels around the house or yard to repurpose into planters. Some vessels to consider: old teapots and cups, small wooden boxes, old hiking boots, helmets, urns and more.

For containers that don’t have drainage holes, either plan on drilling a few at the bottom or keeping plants in their plastic nursery pots set inside the vessel. Or, if you decide to plant directly in the vessel without drainage holes, be sure to water plants very lightly, as excess water will have nowhere to go.

Propagate Succulents

Succulents are a great place to start with plant propagation, as most of them root easily from cuttings or offshoots. Kids can help with all steps of the process, from splitting off baby succulent “pups” from rosette-forming types, to laying them out on a gravel bed or a paper plate to harden or potting up the new little succulent plants once rooted. Teens can own the whole process and, if they’re hooked, quickly multiply your succulent collection or create one of their own.

Turn A Stock Tank Into A Raised Planter

Turning a galvanized-metal livestock tank into a planter is easier than building a raised bed — and it’s a pretty stylish container too. Choose a stock tank based on how much space you have, what you’d like to grow and how much you’d like to spend.

Stock tanks range from $30 for a small, shallow one that could be used to grow herbs, succulents or strawberries to $300 and up for a large model where you could grow anything from tomatoes to dwarf fruit trees. They will all need drainage holes drilled at the bottom and enough potting soil to fill them to the brim before planting.

Plant A Living Wall

While professional living wall systems are fairly complicated projects best left to professionals, simpler models that use felt planting pockets are no more effort than planting a container and mounting it to the wall. Young kids will need help along the way with this project, but teens could do it nearly start to finish on their own but may need help attaching it to the wall.

Living walls made from kits generally look best with plenty of billowing and trailing plants that, once they fill in, can help cover the felt pockets holding the soil. A few to consider for hanging gardens that receive four to six hours of sun: bacopa, trailing fuchsia, sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), lobelia and nasturtium. For shadier gardens, check out ajuga, variegated ivy, campanula, heuchera and ferns.

Remember that living walls, particularly those in sun, dry out very quickly; stay on top of the watering or set up a drip irrigation system.


Make Your Living Room More Sociable

Living rooms are sometimes overlooked, but nothing beats being able to sit comfortably with friends and family, to talk, enjoy a drink or watch a movie.

Comfort is key to creating a relaxed, sociable living space, so concentrate on getting the style and position of the seating right, then build up from there, adding fun touches, handy side tables and just the right lighting.

Different Types of Seating

If sociable means entertaining friends and family of all ages, work in more than one seating type. While squishy sofas may suit those who want to kick off their shoes and snuggle down, older visitors may prefer the support of an upright chair. Children may prefer floor cushions. 

Light a Fire

Humans have gathered around fires for millennia, to eat, talk, warm up and feel safe. Lighting one in your living room produces the same sense of sociability and comfort. 

Face Each Other

Sofas that face each other, rather than the TV, promote conversation. Make sure they’re positioned close enough together that you and your guest aren’t shouting at each other across the divide. Just because you’re squeezing in two sofas doesn’t mean you need to scrimp on size.

Provide Several Surfaces

Tables on which you can pop a mug, glass or bowl of snacks are essential to a sociable living space. Choose small tables rather than a larger central surface, helps to maintain a light, airy feel to a room and are easy to move around.

Consider a Corner Sofa

Nothing says sociable like a corner couch. This flexible, space-efficient form of seating works particularly well for big families with modest living rooms. It provides a large expanse of comfy seating, which encourages teens to lounge and toddlers to get cozy.

To make this type of seating even more functional, consider a coffee table that doubles as a footstool. The extra surface will provide even more opportunities for everyone to stretch out.

Get the Lighting Right

A sociable living room needs lighting that creates a warm atmosphere, but without being too dim. You want to be able to see your guests. Weave in a flexible mix of lamps and ceiling lights to create a soft, layered look.

If you like a calm, uncluttered aesthetic, go for wall lights, as they give a more diffused light than a central pendant without the need to add lamps to other surfaces in the room.

Install Sliding Doors

If you’re considering completely remodeling your home, how about this for an idea. Sliding doors between the kitchen and living space. When closed, the living room feels cozy and intimate. When the doors are open, the living room flows into the kitchen, making it part of a larger, flexible and super-sociable space.


Planning a Kitchen Island

I once heard a story about a homeowner who had a major design regret. During a previous renovation, she elected to put all four counter stools on the same side of her kitchen island, a frequent spot for her family meals. This left her with a beautiful look but turned out to be an unfortunate mistake from a functional perspective. Now everyone in the family face in one direction, like strangers in a diner.

Don’t let a good visual get in the way of functionality. Before you renovate or give your island an update, consider these options for how to choose the best dining arrangement to save your household — and your knees — a lot of bumps down the road.

One-Side Seating

An island with seating on just one side is a common arrangement for a reason, and it can work well for some situations. However, if you’re looking to use the island as a frequent spot for family meals, it’s usually not ideal. Placing all seats on one side means everyone who is seated will be facing forward in a line, which doesn’t facilitate conversation.

This works fine when just one or a few guests will be perched, chatting with the chef, or for a small household where most meals involve just one or two people. If the island isn’t expected to be used for larger groups than that, it makes sense not to dedicate any more space to seating.

If you don’t have room or a need for seats on more than one side, go the simple one-side route — just keep in mind that some factors will affect how comfortably guests can sit.

If your island has sides or legs that the seats sit between, they might cut into the legroom.

Choosing an island without sides will give a bit more space for legs and knees, and more flexibility to scoot the stools to the side a little so diners can face toward each other more easily.

Two-Side Seating: Adjacent Sides

Adding seats to even just one adjacent side can go a long way to making your island a much more inviting spot to dine. By extending the island overhang to two sides instead of just one, you allow guests to sit facing each other.

You can keep seats on both sides at all times, or save space by keeping seats on just one side most of the time and pulling a seat over to the available shorter side when needed.

This can be a great compromise where the floor plan doesn’t leave a lot of room for seating. By extending the overhang a few inches on the short side, you allow it to be used as a dining spot in a pinch, without losing too much storage or circulation space.

If you use a rounded corner, you can effectively get three directions of seats from just two sides of the island, for a dining experience that’s even closer to sitting at a regular table.

Two-Side Seating: Opposite Sides

If your kitchen is long and skinny, it may make more sense to have a long, thin island, with seating on two opposite sides. This means guests can face each other, although if the island is quite narrow, you may not have much room to fit place settings as well as serving dishes.

If you don’t mind the more eclectic look, mixing bar stools that have backs with backless bar stools will give you the best of both worlds, with comfier seats for everyday use and more compact seats to pull out for bigger get-togethers.

Three-Side Seating

Generally, fitting seats on three sides of the island requires a large kitchen. However, there are multiple configurations that can work for different layouts.

One option is to extend a dining area out from the island to create a T shape. This essentially butts a full table up against the island, for plenty of seating for six or even more.

Compared with having a stand-alone table away from the island, this takes up less floor area because you don’t have circulation space between the island and table. Of course, the trade-off is the table has only three useable sides.

In an average-size kitchen, the decision often comes down to whether you want a more casual or more formal experience. For casual dining, this is a great solution that keeps the chef in on the action.

Four-Side Seating

Lastly, there is the option of skipping the proper island all together and using a dining table as an island instead. This gives up the storage space of an island cabinet but still provides an extra surface for prep work while cooking and obviously a dining space once the meal is ready.

If you use a bar height table, it can easily double as a workspace. However, it will be extra important to use seats that tuck up against or under the table so the surface is easy to reach.

Selecting the Number of Seats

Islands are often staged for photos with the maximum number and size of plush seats that can fit on each side. However, in real life, people don’t always take up just a seat’s width of space, with knees and elbows needing some room of their own.

An island can look just as stylish with some breathing room around the seats, and anyone who dines there will be glad to have enough personal space to feel comfortable.

Plan for each guest to have 24 to 30 inches of counter width. But be as generous as you realistically can. If you’re planning out the configuration of your island, try drawing or taping out different scenarios to see which allows for the most seats of this size in your space.

Backless Stools

Once you add seats to any side of the island that is in the potential flow of traffic or the chef’s workspace, you may want to consider using backless bar stools for your seating, or a style that otherwise can tuck fully under the counter and out of the way.

Seating With Arms

If you have a narrow island, seats with arms will provide a more comfortable dining experience. At the same time, arms generally take up more space and often won’t tuck under as easily. If you hope to use stools with arms, plan for each guest to have 28 to 32 inches of width instead.

Carefully consider whether you have the space for roomy stools with arms. If you do, consider it an investment in many comfortable meals at your wonderful dining island.

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