TEXAS OVEN-ROASTED BEEF BRISKET

If you do not own a smoker but want an excellent recipe for cooking indoors, this is it!

Ingredients

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make a dry rub by combining chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub. Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add beef stock and enough water to yield about 1/2 inch of liquid in the roasting pan. Lower oven to 300 degrees F, cover pan tightly and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork-tender.

Trim the fat and slice meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan.

Recipe courtesy of Tom Perini

Is an All-Cash Offer on a House Always a Good Idea? The True Risks and Rewards

Ah, the all-cash offer. If you’re a home buyer with this ace up your sleeve, you probably have a swagger in your step as you tour homes, looking for the perfect property. Home sellers swoon over all-cash offers for one simple reason: It means there’s no doubt that you’ve got the coin to close the deal.

All-cash home buyers have a distinct advantage over those who need a mortgage, because there’s no guarantee that lenders will fork over the money. A lot can get in the way of that happening, from a subpar credit score to a poor home appraisal and beyond. All these what-ifs are eliminated with an all-cash offer; it’s a no-strings-attached deal at its finest!

Although you might assume that only millionaires have enough money lying around to make an offer in all cash, such deals are surprisingly common. According to a recent report from ATTOM Data Solutions, all-cash offers made up 29% of single-family home and condo sales in 2017. And they’re not necessarily filthy rich: Some buyers are retirees, while others are just savvy home sellers who’ve gained enough equity in their homes (and other investments) that they can swing an all-cash offer.

It turns out that in spite of its many benefits, an all-cash offer isn’t always the best move for every home buyer. Here’s how to determine whether an all-cash purchase makes sense for you—and how to do it right.

Should you make an all-cash offer?

Just because you have the money to purchase property doesn’t mean you should definitely do it. Making an all-cash offer comes with both advantages and some lost opportunities. This explains why even extremely wealthy people (such as Mark Zuckerberg!) buy homes with mortgages when they clearly don’t need to.

Here’s a look at what you gain with an all-cash offer, and what you give up.

Advantages of an all-cash offer:

  • You’re in a tough seller’s market. If bidding wars are erupting over homes, an all-cash offer can help you cut through the competition and catapult your offer to the top of the list. All-cash can be an advantage when it comes to shorter escrow periods and eliminating some contingencies,” says Annapolis, MD, real estate agent Greg Beckman.
  • Depending on your market, an all-cash offer can strengthen your negotiation stance and persuade sellers to accept less than their full asking price. However, in today’s low-inventory seller’s market, don’t expect to get a crazy-good deal because you’re paying cash,” says Beckman. “But if youre not in a bidding war, you should be able to get the home for a little less.”
  • If you’re in a rush, an all-cash purchase can streamline the home-buying process for you, too, since there’s less paperwork and no delays for mortgage approval.
  • Without a mortgage, you can actually save money on closing coststitle insurance, and other mortgage-related fees. No loan also equals no money wasted on mortgage interest for the next 15 or 30 years.
  • This may seem obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: Owning a home free and clear means no mortgage payments! You’ll never have to worry about foreclosure (where the lender takes over your home) because you didn’t pay your mortgage.

Disadvantages of an all-cash offer:

  • Youll be tying up a lot of money in one asset, rather than diversifying your financial portfolio.
  • Your purchase could drastically limit your liquidity.
  • Youll miss out on sizeable tax deductions. (For instance, homeowners with a mortgage receive a tax break on mortgage interest.)
  • Your money may be better invested elsewhere (depending on how aggressive you want to be with your investments).

How to make an all-cash offer without getting screwed

While an all-cash offer has many positive qualities, there are still some pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. Here’s how to do it right.

Put the money in one place. You can use cash from a variety of sources to buy a house—including personal savings, cash gifts, and inheritance—but having your home-buying funds in one account can make it easier for you to keep track of the money you’re going to need. Also, because bank transfers can have delays, you don’t want to be moving money around shortly before closing.

Provide proof of funds. You’ll have to provide the home seller with a copy of your bank statement as proof of funds when you submit your offer.

Don’t forget your other home-buying expenses. Even if you plan on buying a house in cash, you still have to budget for the costs that come with any home purchase, including the following:

  • Property taxes: They depend not only on the homes assessed value but also where you live. (See how to calculate property taxes.)
  • Homeowners insurance: The average annual premium runs about $952, but a number of factors can go into calculating the cost. (See how to calculate your homeowners insurance.)
  • Homeowners or condo association fees: For a typical single-family home, HOA fees cost around $200 to $300 a month.
  • Home inspection: A typical home inspection costs $300 to $500, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but costs can vary. (See our home inspection checklist.)

Don’t completely drain your savings. Paying for a house in all cash should not leave you scraping the bottom of your bank account!

Staci Titsworth, regional manager of PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh, recommends building an emergency fund that will cover living expenses for at least six months. And if you have extra cash after that, you’d be smart to funnel it into a retirement account, since a home alone should not constitute your entire nest egg.

Article by Daniel Bortz

5 Bathroom Trends You Miiiiight Want to Reconsider

Not saying you can’t do these cool things, just be sure to go in Eyes.Wide.Open.

Woohoo!!! Your bathroom makeover is totally happening! You’re having Pinterest-fueled fever dreams. It’s going to be so stunningly fan-tab-u-lous!!!

Or is it?

If you have any of these #trending bathroom design elements in mind, you should know what you’re really signing up for:

#1 Intricately Patterned Tiny Tiles

So bohemian, so fresh-looking — and, yet, retro. Every time you see a shower, vanity, or entire bath with those (gorgeous!) mosaics of tiny colored tiles, you get giddy with anticipation for your remodel.

Why you should reconsider: There’s a reason tiny tiles disappeared over the past few decades in favor of larger ones. They’re a friggin’ pain.

Those tiny tiles mean there’s more grout to clean and maintain.

If you can think of 24,305 other things you’d rather do with your time than clean and replace grout, it might not be for you.

Still gotta have tiny tiles? Use them as an accent, maybe on the wall around your vanity, or anywhere they won’t get as wet as they would on the floor, or in your tub, shower, or sink.

#2 Vintage Storage Furniture

Nothing says you like skipping the big-box vanity options in favor of a thrift-store find you refinished yourself.

Character and charm that’s practically free! What’s not to love?!

Why you should reconsider: It’s a real commitment — on your (personal) time.

Huh? Yep. Since wood and water don’t mix well, you’ll need to keep doing upkeep, sealing it on a regular basis, just like you do a deck or a butcher block. Tanya Campbell, a designer for Denver’s Viridis Design Studio, recommends a fresh coat of urethane every year.

Still gotta have that vintage piece? Give it better odds of beating its natural enemy, water, by replacing the top with marble or quartz.

#3 Hardwood Floors

Wood’s so warm and inviting. Not as slippery or grout dependent as tile. Plus, you love the look of dark-wood floors with white fixtures. (You did that in your kitchen, and it looks amazing!)

Why you should reconsider: “It will warp next to a shower or tub if not dried after each use,” says Campbell.

“Also, tile is more sanitary.”

Still want the warmth of wood? Check out “wood-look” tile, a ceramic that looks like wood, but performs like porcelain.

#4 Exposed Plumbing

It looks so Parisian! And so easy to fix if there’s a leak!

Why you should reconsider: Could be a turn-off to future buyers, especially ones who are toting toddlers. Picture this nightmare a future buyer might have: adorable Olivia climbing the pipes … the pipes come crashing down … water everywhere … and a trip to the ER. You get the (wet and $$$$) picture.

Still gotta have the exposed-pipe look? Go for it. It’s your home, and that’s the point. You should enjoy it. Especially if you’re going to be around for the foreseeable future.

#5 Anything-But-White Tubs and Sinks

You’re screaming for COLOR! No plain white bathtub for you. No, sir-reeee.

Color has slowly been creeping back into bathrooms since it retreated after the pastel-infused ‘50s (think pink and aqua sinks). There’s no denying that’s what makes color cool again — that mid-modern-century groove.

Why you should reconsider: Color can also make bathrooms — typically the smallest rooms in the house — seem even smaller. And if you bake color in with tile and porcelain built-ins, that’s a commitment you might regret when you’re ready to sell.

“The bathroom is one of the most expensive rooms in the house to do, and so I try to be very safe because the parts are going to be expensive to change out — like a tub,” says Dallas designer Suzanne Felber.

And potential buyers may not want your color, nor the expense of replacing it. (Or they could ask you to do it, and wouldn’t that just bite?)

Still determined to go wildly colorful? Paint the walls, or go for a colored linoleum floor that can be changed easily and cheaply.

Article by SCOTT SOWERS

Attic Pest Removal: How to Get Rid of Overhead Guests

Attic pests like mice, rats, bats, and squirrels are a homeowner’s nightmare. But you can’t let them set up house in your attic. Here’s how to remove the freeloaders.

Attic pest removal can seem like Groundhog Day — the movie, not the holiday. No sooner do you shoo away pests that make your attic their home sweet home, than the little buggers sneak back inside.

But attic pest removal doesn’t have to be a revolving door. If you understand how pests enter your attic and the options for removing them, you can rest pest-free. Here’s how.

Know thy Enemy

Wild animals living in your attic can cause damage — chew through electrical wires, shred insulation — and spread diseases, such as hantavirus and salmonella. To rid your attic of these pests, you must know exactly which critter has become your housemate. To identify — then kill or trap — the animal, you must learn to identify the shape, size, and pattern of its scat.

Nick Petti, of the Enviro-Tech pest management franchise, provides a little cheat sheet on pest poo.

  • Mouse: 1/8 inch long, pellet-shaped
  • Rat: ¼ inch long, sausage-shaped
  • Squirrel: ½ to 1 inch long, sausage-shaped
  • Raccoon: Up to ¾ of an inch wide, 2-3 inches long; sausage-shaped
  • Bat: ½ inch, pellet-shaped, found in piles

Once you identify the scat, follow the Centers for Disease Control’s advice on how to clean it up. Here are a few tips:

  • Open windows to air out the infested area for at least 30 minutes before cleanup. Don’t hang around during this part.
  • Wear protective gloves and masks so you don’t touch or breathe the urine- and feces-contaminated dust.
  • To disinfect, spray the area with a bleach solution (1 part bleach; 10 parts water).
  • Use paper towels to clean up the area, and then dispose of trash in a sealed plastic bag.

Here are some tips on getting rid of attic pests.

Mice

Because mice multiply rapidly, a small problem can become a huge problem within a few weeks. As soon as you know mice have entered your attic — they crawl up drainpipes or follow electrical wires within walls — set those mousetraps.

Plan to lay several mousetraps ($1 each) because as soon as you hear scurrying overhead, you probably have more than one mouse living in the attic. Don’t bait the traps with cheese, which rodents don’t particularly like; they do like peanut butter, says Petti.

Also, remove traps as soon as the deed is done. A bunch of dead mice will discourage other mice from taking the bait.

Professional fee for mice removal: $500 for trapping, removal, and follow-up.

Rats

Never send a small mousetrap to do a bigger and stronger rattrap’s job. Take a look at this video to see the size and strength difference between the two.

“A mousetrap will only irritate a rat,” Petti says. And make it unwilling to take the bait from a trap of any size.

Unlike mice, which are curious critters, rats shy away from new items in their environment. So scatter traps around the attic for a week before you bait and engage them.

If you find traps are disappearing — larger rats are known to take off with traps clamped around their bodies — screw the next traps into floor boards, or place them in rattrap covers (around $15), which will block escape.

Professional fee: $600 to $700 for trapping, removal, and follow-up.

Squirrels

Before you attempt to remove a squirrel or raccoon from your attic, contact your state extension service or wildlife agency to determine what laws and permits apply to trapping and relocating these pests. A professional trapper may have to do the deed.

If you may trap and remove the squirrel yourself, use a one- or two-door metal cage that traps and allows you to set the pest free outdoors ($27-$47).

Professional fee: Starts at $250.

Raccoons and Bats

Don’t attempt to get rid of raccoons or bats yourself. Raccoons can be aggressive when cornered or separated from their young; bats are difficult to roundup and escort out.

Professional fee: $300 to $500 per raccoon; $600 to $2,000 for bat infestations.

Humane Attic Pest Removal

The most humane way to cope with attic pests is to make sure they don’t come into your house in the first place, says John Griffin of the Humane Society of the United States. That means inspecting the outside of your home and repairing holes even as small as a dime, which are frequently found in roof flashing, behind gutters, in rotting fascia, foundation cracks, and tears in vent screens.

Trim tree and shrub limbs 8 to 10 feet away from your house, which will make it harder for squirrels to jump onto the roof.

Once the animals are in your attic, terms such as “humane removal” no longer apply, and the conversation turns to “least inhumane” ways of getting them out, Griffin says. Spring traps, for instance, are preferable because they cause a quick death, whereas glue traps torture struggling rodents that eventually die from stress and dehydration.

Article by LISA KAPLAN GORDON

You’ll Want to Steal These Amazing DIY Ideas for Your Front Yard

Because they’ll put money in your pocket.

Landscaping done right can put as much as $4 in your pocket for every $1 you spend, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS®. So what are you waiting for?

Grab a shovel, and let’s go.

#1 Mix Rocks with Bark Mulch

Surrounding bark mulch with a rock moat makes for a tidy, everything-in-its-place yard. It also makes maintenance easier because mulch smothers weeds and keeps plant roots cool and moist. And the rock mulch next to your home’s foundation is smart, because it keeps water away.

Best of all, this is a simple landscaping idea to DIY: Put rubber garden edging along your beds. Put down weed guard. Pour bags of mulch and gravel in the beds. Done.

#2 DIY Window Flower Boxes

Window boxes are like jewelry for house, adding bling to the blah. If you’re handy with tools, make your own, but you can also buy prefab ones and mount them yourself. Fill with plants, and your curb appeal improves at point five past light-speed.

TIP: Leave an inch of space between the window flower box and the house to prevent moisture from destroying your siding.

#3 Build a Dry Stream

Here’s why we love dry rock streams: They add a touch of mountain-y rugged to your yard. They drain water away from the foundation of your house. They don’t need to be mowed, watered, or fertilized. Oh, and it’s a simple two-step install: 1. Dig a trench. (It’ll replace your cardio and strength workouts for the week, so prepare accordingly.) 2. Place the rocks.

#4 Build a Paver Path

Creating a path from the curb to your door to adds a civilized touch and makes your front yard feel designed. It also means less lawn to mow and weed. You can do this one yourself with pavers or bricks.

TIP: Choose a brick pattern with staggered edges to handle curves without the drag of cutting bricks.

#5 Light Your Walkways

The only thing better for your curb appeal than making a walkway is making a walkway and lighting it. LED lighting adds the most value, but you can DIY it with a solar lighting kit. Lighted walkways look very Architectural Digest, and they’ll keep you from taking a header when you’re bringing in the groceries.

#6. Plant Flowers and Trees

“I want a yard devoid of trees, shrubs, and flowers.” Said no one, ever. Adding plants (a.k.a. softscape) to your yard adds to your home value.

You’ll get every penny you spend on plantings back when you sell your house. So apparently money does grow on trees. Plants get more valuable as they get older, so take care of the tree saplings and azaleas you planted. You’re getting ROI as well as flowers and shade.

#7 Grow Grass

f you do nothing else to your yard, plant a lawn or reseed a patchy one. Americans love lawns, so for every dollar you spend planting a lawn from seed, you’ll get more than $4 back when you sell your home. It’s hard to beat a 400% return on an investment.

Article by LEANNE POTTS

THE BEST MACARONI & CHEESE RECIPE EVER

This recipe for classic baked macaroni and cheese is one of the most popular on Kitchen Treaty. It’s super creamy – not dry like some homemade mac and cheese can get. It’s cheesy. Oh yes. Very cheesy. It’s rich, ooey, gooey, and, yeah – in my humble opinion – the best macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Seriously.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz. (1/2 pound or about 1 3/4 cups) macaroni or other medium tubular pasta (like penne or conchiglie)*
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 3 cups (approx. 12 ounces) grated medium cheddar cheese**

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside. (Mix in a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking if it’s going to be awhile before you make the sauce)
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika. With a wooden spoon or whisk, stir constantly for three minutes.
  4. Add the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Continue to stir constantly until the sauce thickens, about 10-12 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until all of the pasta is coated.
  6. Add half the pasta to a two-quart casserole dish (I like a tall 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish). Sprinkle on half the cheese. Add the rest of the pasta. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, then dust lightly with the smoked paprika.
  7. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the mac and cheese starts getting a slightly dry and a tiny bit brown on top. Serve, topping individual servings with cooked, chopped bacon if desired.

MEAT OPTION

Add cooked and crumbled bacon to the top of individual servings (or the whole thing if your whole clan is carnivorous).

GLUTEN-FREE OPTION

Sub in your favorite gluten-free pasta. I’m partial to brown rice pasta – so good!

PLEASE RESIST ADDING MORE PASTA AND CHEESE!

*Please resist the urge to add more pasta to stretch the recipe. You need a lot of sauce with that pasta because the pasta soaks so much and it otherwise cooks down. Over-dry mac and cheese is such a disappointment – don’t do it!

**Also resist the urge to add more cheese to the sauce. This can do weird things. Sprinkle more in between and on top if you must have more cheese.

DOUBLING THIS RECIPE

I (and many others) have doubled this recipe with success – no changes needed other than a bigger pan!

MAKE-AHEAD NOTES

When you make this recipe ahead of time, please know the result may be a tad more dry. Still delicious! But a little less saucy. I recommend assembling it up to the point of baking, refrigerating, then, before baking, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then proceed with baking.

NUTRITION INFORMATION

Yield: Serves about 6, Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 438 Calories
  • Total Fat: 25g
  • Saturated Fat: 16g
  • Cholesterol: 77mg
  • Sodium: 596mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Protein: 20g
Recipe shared by KARE

What to Know About Your Credit Before Buying a Home

It’s not just whether you pay your bills on time that matters.

Like it or not, your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life, ranking up there with your Social Security number, date of birth, and wedding anniversary. This three-digit number is your financial report card, except there’s no getting rid of it after college.

Your credit score shows lenders just how trustworthy you are when it comes to managing your finances, and it can either save or cost you thousands of dollars throughout your life.

If you’re in the dark about just how significantly this number can impact you and the details behind your personal score, here’s an overview of what you need to know before hitting the mortgage application process.

How Your Score is Calculated

Your FICO credit score is comprised of five elements, according to the Fair, Isaac Corp.

  1. 35% of your score is attributed to how you pay your bills. Points are added for paying on time and deducted for late or missing payments. Note: This is a big portion of your score, so if you’re not paying bills on time, it’s best to get that under control pronto.
  2. 30% of your score is based on your credit utilization ratio. Translation: How much money do you owe as a portion of the amount of credit available to you? The lower this ratio, the better.
  3. 15% is based on the length of your credit history. When did you open your first account (and is it still open)?
  4. 10% of your score goes to the type of credit you have. Think revolving credit (such as credit cards) and installment credit (such as car loans and mortgages).
  5. The last 10% is impacted by new credit applications. How often and for what types of credit are you applying?

Where to Find Your Score and Report

To access your credit report, use a website such as annualcreditreport.com, which will give you one free report a year, or creditkarma.com, which will provide you with free access to your score upon signing up for an account.

Once you have copies of your report and score, immediately look for fraudulent or erroneous information. If you find anything, immediately contact both the credit reporting agency and the company that is portraying inaccurate information to determine next steps.

How Your Score Can Cost You

Your score can range from about 300 to 850. You’ll find a variety of breakdowns on what’s considered “good” compared to “excellent” versus “poor,” but in general you’ll want to aim for a score of 720 and higher, which is the “excellent” range.

The higher your credit score, the more creditworthy you appear to lenders (meaning they can rely on you to pay your debts and pay them on time), which translates into lower interest rates and more money saved when taking out a loan.

Not sure how this can play out financially? Consider this:

Meet Claire: She’s 35, pays her credit card off in full each month, has all her bills on auto-draft, and never misses a payment. She’s had a positive credit history for 10 years and wants to buy a home. Claire was approved for a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 3.75%.

Meet Steve: He’s 32, obtained his first credit card at age 18, ran up some debt in college that he’s still working on paying down, and has no system for keeping track of bills. He has consistent late and bounced check fees. Steve wants to buy a home and was approved for a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan at 5.5%.

What’s all the fuss about if they were both approved? Over the life of her loan, Claire will pay $133,443.23 in interest. Over the life of his loan, Steve will pay $208,808.08 in interest. A small interest rate difference of 1.75% translates into $75,364.85 more paid by Steve! $75,000 is a pretty significant sum of money that could be used toward other goals.

Having a solid credit score is one of the most financially savvy tools for you to have on hand when it comes to buying a home. When managed wisely, your credit score will bring you confidence, peace of mind, and more money saved via low interest rates.

When mismanaged or not cared for at all, your credit score can delay your success in meeting financial goals and result in additional funds and resources spent correcting past mistakes.

Article by MARY BETH STORJOHANN

5 Easy Tips for Choosing Your Exterior Paint Palette

Because I live in an older neighborhood with no homeowners association or bylaws, there are no rules and regulations that dictate exterior paint colors. Most of the time, that’s a very good thing. Recently, however, our neighbors painted their home a shade of green that … well, let’s just say it’s gotten a lot of stares, and not the flattering kind.

Unlike interior colors, exterior hues can affect the entire street — and that puts a lot of pressure on homeowners when it comes to choosing a palette. In addition, a number of factors come into play that you don’t have to deal with on the inside of a house: landscaping, hardscaping, roofing and more.

Follow these tips to choose a color scheme that works both for your style and for your home’s surroundings.

Plan around the elements that are hardest to change. Unless you’re doing a complete renovation, surfaces such as roof shingles or tiles, stonework, pathways and driveways will remain in place. Take these into consideration as you select exterior colors.

Look for undertones between them that might inform your palette. Are they warm (beige, khaki, brown and rust) or cool (gray, blue and black)? Consider paint colors that will tie these fixed elements together in a harmonious way.

Consider your home’s architectural style and era.Whether you have a Queen Anne Victorian, a Craftsmanbungalow or a midcentury modern ranch, your exterior paint scheme should feel appropriate to the style. Imagine a classic federal-style home painted burnt orange, or a New England saltbox in pale mint green. Jarring, right?

Many paint manufacturers offer collections of historically accurate colors, which can be an excellent springboard for your palette, and you can also consult a professional who specializes in this area. You don’t have to adhere strictly to historical guidelines unless codes for your home and neighborhood specify otherwise, but for the most pleasing effect, don’t stray too far from them.

Think about the visual effect you want. Mull over your home’s relationship to the street and the landscape. Does it sit back from the road or amid a cluster of large, towering trees? You might choose a slightly lighter or brighter color so that it stands out. Conversely, a darker hue can make it appear to recede.

Choose three or more different paint shades. Essentially, an exterior scheme has three major parts: field color, which dominates; accent color, which brings doors, shutters and other smaller areas to life; and trim color, used for window and door casings, roof edging, railings and other trimwork.

Ideally, the trim color should contrast strongly with the field color. If your main hue is dark, consider classic white trim or another pale shade. A light field color can look stunning with darker trim — like eyeliner for your home, it produces a crisp, dramatic effect. Feel free to go bold with accent colors, but don’t go overboard. A door painted bright red or lemon yellow lends just the right hit of punch. Extending that same shade to the shutters and gables … not so much.

Stuck for inspiration? Most major paint brands offer preselected color palettes that take the guesswork out of coordinating an exterior scheme. An architect or a color consultantalso can help you come up with a combination that’s unusual but still attractive.

Never rely on paint chips alone. Just like interior colors, exterior shades can vary significantly from the way they appear on the chip. And because painting an exterior is a bigger undertaking than simply painting a room, you’ll want to get them right the first time.

Buy a quart of paint and test it on an inconspicuous area of your home. Study it at various times of day and under different weather conditions. How does it change with the light? Road testing it is the only way to determine for sure if you’ll be happy with it for years to come.

Article by 

Moving with Pets

HOW DO I MOVE WITH PETS?

When you go new places® every member of your family should be at ease. Cats, dogs and other animals are especially sensitive to moving. The secret to pet relocation is planning. Follow these pointers.

PET REGULATIONS CHECKLIST:

Check the rules and regulations before moving your pets. Typically when moving, you need to bring certificates with you showing that your pet has had the proper inspections and vaccines. These requirements may differ in your new home, especially when moving to a new state.

  • State rules. Each state has their own laws and regulations for pet owners. Find your state’s Veterinary Office or Department of Agriculture here.
  • Local ordinances. Check with the City Clerk’s office in your new town to find out about local ordinances. You can learn about any leash laws, licensing rules, limits on the number of pets per household, and zoning laws that may prohibit specific animals in residential areas.
  • Apartments & Condos. Many communities do not permit cats and dogs, let alone exotic pets like iguanas, snakes, tarantulas, and ferrets. Make sure that you know the policies for your furry (and scaly) friends and any extra costs they charge for pets.
  • Health certificates. Many states require a health certificate for dogs and some require it for cats and other pets as well. Find out your new state’s requirements here.
  • Rabies tags. Most states require a rabies tag for cats, dogs, and some exotic animals.
  • Permits. You may need to purchase a permit before your exotic pet can enter your new home state. Ask your veterinarian for help with the application process.

HOW DO I KEEP PETS SAFE WHILE MOVING?

The devices below will help ensure your pets’ safety while moving. They include items that will help you find your pets if they get lost, tools to keep with you while traveling, and papers for helping your pets if they get hurt.

  • ID tags. If your pet can wear a collar, put one on and attach an ID tag. (For birds, put the tag on a leg band.) The tag should include the pet’s name, your name, and the destination address and your number.
  • Microchips. Pets with microchips are entered into a pet recovery system so if your pet gets loose, you’ll be contacted once it’s found. If your pet was purchased from a breeder, pet store, or shelter it likely already has a microchip.
  • Pictures. Keep a photograph of your pet so you can show your new neighbors what your pet looks like if it gets lost.
  • Collars. Make sure you have collars on your pets while they’re traveling in the car or on a plane. For animals that get fidgety, you probably want to get a harness they can’t wiggle out of.
  • Leashes. Keep a chain and leash for your dog to keep them in your new yard if you have to wait for a fence to be built. Pack a spare in case your pet breaks the leash.
  • Pet carriers. If you’re traveling by airplane, any pet in the cabin must be in a pet carrier. In a car, some pets are less stressed in a carrier rather than on the loose. To find out more about pet carriers click here.
  • Records. Getting your pet’s health records from your veterinarian will help a new vet provide the best care for your pet.

Take water from your home during your journey. It will help keep your pet calm and prevent them from getting sick.

PET TRANSPORTATION METHODS:

Do you hire a pet-moving service, or do it yourself? Many moving companies, like Atlas, are not allowed to move your pets. Buses and trains cannot transport pets unless they are medical service animals. If your pet requires special handling and you cannot move him or her yourself, consider a professional pet service. Ask your Atlas Agent for their recommendation.

American Flag Etiquette: Here’s How to Properly Display the American Flag

Get our ultimate guide to displaying the American flag, plus dos and don’ts for folding, cleaning, and more.

There’s nothing like a flag to show off your pride in your country. But do you know all the right ways to handle the patriotic emblem? Whether you’re putting one up for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or another holiday, we put together an ultimate guide to proper flag etiquette. Here, learn how to display the American flag respectfully, plus dos and don’ts for hoisting and folding it and more.

How to Display the American Flag

  • When displayed with another flag cross-staff, place above the other on the flag’s own right (the viewer’s left).
  • When displayed on an angled staff from a window or the front a building, the union should be placed at the peak of the staff.
  • When hung horizontally or vertically against a wall or in a window, the flag must be flat and the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s own right (the viewer’s left).
  • No state or city flag may be placed above or to the right (the viewer’s left) of the United States flag. Flags of other nations are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height.
  • If displayed after dark, the flag must be lit.
  • On vehicles, the flag should be fixed to the front, right fender.

American Flag Don’ts

  • Don’t use the flag as clothing or drapery.
  • Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
  • Don’t place any mark, letter, number, or drawing on the flag.
  • Don’t display a faded, torn or tattered flag. Synthetic flags can be washed in cold water with mild detergent, while older flags can be hand-washed with Woolite. Flags damaged beyond repair should be disposed of in a dignified manner, such as burning.
  • Don’t put your flag away unfolded.
  • Note: You’ll need two people.

    1. Holding the flag waist-level and parallel to the ground, fold the lower half of the flag upward in half lengthwise so that the stripes cover the blue field of stars, then again so that the blue field is on the outside.
    2. Fold the striped corner of the folded edge up to meet the open edge.
    3. Turn the outer pointed edge inward to form a new triangle and repeat until the entire flag is folded into a neat triangle.

    How to Hoist the Flag

  • Raise the flag briskly, but lower it slowly and ceremoniously.
  • On Memorial Day, fly the flag at half-staff until noon, then raise it.
  • When flying at half-staff, hoist the flag to the peak for an instant then lower it to a position halfway between the top and bottom.

20-Minute Shrimp & Sausage Skillet Paleo Meal Recipe

Think healthy and hearty paleo cooking takes forever? Got 20 minutes?

Here’s a unique surf and turf kind of paleo meal that’s quick and easy. And it’s loaded with wholesome, nutritious stuff which makes it even better.

This paleo dish takes more time to chop the fresh veggies than it does to cook. And with its super-easy spices and a pre-cooked sausage of your choice, it’ll be on your plate in a snap!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Old Bay Seasoning, it’s awesome! Your mom and grandma probably had this in their cupboard. Smart ladies! And for good reason. It’s a 70-year-old secret mix of herbs and spices that includes celery salt, red pepper, mustard, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, paprika and some other ingredients they don’t list. I love it. It adds an awesome zip to seafood and poultry. And it’s really inexpensive compared to most pre-mixed spices. Be sure and add this classic to your spice rack!

Ingredients

    • 1 lb of medium or large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
    • 6 oz of pre-cooked smoked sausage, chopped (choose your favorite)
    • 3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
    • 3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
    • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced
    • 1/4 cup chicken stock
    • 1 zucchini, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, diced
    • Salt & pepper to taste
    • Pinch of red pepper flakes
    • 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
    • Olive oil or coconut oil
    • Optional garnish: chopped parsley

Servings

  • Serves about 4

Instructions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with some olive oil or coconut oil
  2. Season shrimp with Old Bay Seasoning
  3. Cook shrimp about 3-4 minutes until opaque – remove and set aside
  4. Cook onions and bell peppers in skillet with 2 Tbsp of olive oil or coconut oil for about 2 minutes
  5. Add sausage and zucchini to the skillet, cook another 2 minutes
  6. Put cooked shrimp back into skillet along with the garlic, and cook everything for about 1 minute
  7. Pour chicken stock into pan and mix through to moisten everything
  8. Add salt, ground pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
  9. Remove from heat, garnish with parsley and serve hot

Can a Non-U.S. Citizen Get a Mortgage in the U.S.? It Depends on Your Immigration Status

Can a non-U.S. citizen get a mortgage in the U.S.? The short answer is yes. “You do not have to be a citizen of the United States to purchase real estate here,” says Ines Hegedus-Garcia, a real estate agent in Miami, FL.

However, the kind of loan you are eligible for—and the documentation required to get that loan—will depend on your immigration status. Here are three different situations, and how people in those situations can qualify for loans.

Permanent residents with a green card

If you are a permanent resident with a green card, you can qualify for the same standard Fannie Mae or FHA loan that U.S. citizens are eligible for. Your loan application process should be exactly the same as the one for any naturalized citizen, except that the lender will probably require more documentation to prove your residency.

The Renovations That Will Pay Off the Most for Your Home in 2018

Whether you’re dying to update your kitchen, add a half-bath, or kick back on a brand-new deck, it pays off big-time knowing just what kind of return on investment your dream renovation might deliver. And you’re in luck, because Remodeling magazine has just released its annual Cost vs. Value report, which analyzes what you’ll pay for various upgrades—and how much you’ll recoup on that investment when you sell your home.

For this much-read report (which, by the way, is celebrating its 30th anniversary), researchers scrutinized 29 popular home improvements in 99 markets nationwide, polling contractors on how much they charge for these jobs as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features boost a home’s market price. From there, they divided each project’s upfront cost by the home’s resale value; the resulting percentage gives you a sense of how well each particular reno “investment” pays off.

What is noteworthy is that the value of pricier projects rose significantly over last year, says Craig Webb, editor of Remodeling. He believes this indicates that the housing market is healthier and more bullish than ever.

“When the market is hot, Realtors® are more likely to give value to more expensive renovation projects, because they expect that the market will stay hot and people will pay the price,” he explains. “When the market is cool, Realtors tend to put less value on those big-dollar projects, because they have concerns about whether the house will get sold in any state.”

Still, the perennial chart toppers for ROI are the cheapest to pull off. This year (as last), the No.1 finisher was installing loose-fill fiberglass insulation in the attic. Not exactly sexy, but boy, is it cost-effective! In fact, this is the only project that regularly pays back more than you invest, with an average 107.7% ROI.

Next up is replacing a run-of-the-mill entry door with an attractive yet tough steel replacement at 90.7%, followed by manufactured stone veneer at 89.4%. Glamorous, no. Valuable, very.

Yet homeowners all need to come to grips with the fact that most renovations won’t pay them back in full. On average, in 2017, you can expect to get back 64% on every dollar you plow into home improvements (same as last year).

Plus, your returns will vary widely by project—and sorry to bring your expectations down another notch, but the payoff on big, alluring, “HGTV-ready” renovations isn’t so great. Adding a bathroom, for instance, will bring only a 53.9% ROI when you sell; a master suite, 64.8%.

Top renovation trends nationwide

Remodeling’s report also points to broader renovation trends that seem to be catching on nationwide. One definitely worth watching is energy efficiency—including simple jobs like adding insulation.

“We added [the category of] attic insulation only last year, and we were surprised at how well it did,” Webb says. Similar projects are installingbetter-insulated windows and doors.

One new category this year speaks to another hot trend: universal design, which ensures that a home’s features can be used just as easily by the elderly and disabled as anyone else. That means things like grip bars in showers, lever-style doorknobs, and wider, wheelchair-friendly doors. A universally designed bathroom, for instance, reaps a respectable 68.4% ROI.

“This is the first year we’ve included universal design, and it’s truly a rising category,” says Webb. “It’s based on a growing desire to age in place and a greater awareness of people with disabilities.”

Last but not least, the 2017 data suggest that “curb appeal” projects (such as new doors and exterior siding) generate higher returns than improvements done on a home’s interior. In other words, it really isn’twhat’s on the inside that counts. If you’re trying to sell, pretty up the outside and it’ll pay off in spades.

How to decide if you need to renovate

So if you’re now sitting there scratching your head wondering which upgrades to make, take a step back and ask yourself this question first: How long do you plan to live in your home?

“If you see yourself keeping the house for at least five years, you shouldn’t worry about value at all,” Webb says. The reason: Housing trends and fads can change dramatically in this amount of time, so what’s hot today could be passé all too soon. So if you plan to stay put, renovate however will make you happy, period.

If, on the other hand, you’re planning to sell in less than five years, “then looking at the return makes sense,” says Webb. Just keep in mind that tastes vary widely by location, so it’s important to pinpoint what’s hot in your area (which is why Remodeling breaks down its data into nine U.S. regions). For instance, composite decks may be big in the Midwest, whereas the South is gaga over new garage doors. As Webb points out, “Every one of the 29 projects had at least one market where the payback was over 100%. So every project got love somewhere.”

Check out this chart below to get a sense of how much various midlevel renovations will cost, and pay you back down the road.

 

How to Deal With Springtime Dog Shedding

Tips for Minimizing Dog Shedding in Spring

When you’re a pet parent, the first signs of spring are hundreds of strands of fur clinging to your clothes and fuzzy tumbleweeds drifting across the floor. You may have already started to dread dog shedding season, which means endless vacuuming, sweeping and lint brushing. It can seem like your pets are shedding faster than you can possibly clean. Try these tips from Dara Forleo, owner of Dara’s Paw Spaw in Peterborough, NH, to get ahead of springtime dog shedding and break that cycle of constantly cleaning up loose fur.

If you adopted a shorthaired pet in hopes that he was one of the non-shedding dogs, you may have been surprised to find that they actually shed more than animals with long fur, and that they, too, need regular grooming.  Excessive shedding in dogs is commonly seen in Labs, Pugs, Beagles, German Shepherds and Boston Terriers, says Forleo. “The only true non-shedding breeds are Maltese, Shih-Tzu, Poodles, Bichon Frises, the ‘hair type breeds’ usually in the Toy group of AKC breeds.”

Dogs with coats that have a fur-like texture typically have a topcoat and an undercoat. The undercoat is shed in the spring and summer. Non-shedding dogs have a single coat with a hair-like texture that does not shed. Cats, similarly, shed less if they have a single coat, which is seen on Rex breeds. Designer breed mixes typically have a coat that is hair-like, but they are not guaranteed to not shed. “In -doodle and -poo mixes, it takes multiple generations before the hypoallergenic, non-shedding gene is dominant,” says Forleo.

The best way to manage excessive shedding in dogs is to groom your pets frequently during shedding season, so you remove loose fur before it drops off. You can talk to your groomer to find a shedding management grooming routine that works best for your pet’s coat type. For shorthaired dogs, you can use the FURminator Short Hair deShedding Edge to gently loosen the undercoat. You’ll need a tool like the FURminator Long Hair deShedding Edge For Dogs to push through the topcoat.

“Coats typically have new growth every 2 weeks,” says Forleo. “Grooming schedules are typically on 4-, 6- or 8-week rotation. You should be keeping up with brushing between appointments to keep up with new fur growth. The more grooming, the less shedding.”

You do not need a full wash and cut every time you go to the groomer during dog shedding season. A quick deshedding session can eliminate trapped, shed fur that you may not be able to fully loosen at home. “Deshedding is to blow out the undercoat with a high-velocity dryer. As long as it’s not matted, it can be blown out. Then we go through it with a rake, a really fine slicker, and brush out the whole coat.”

If you own a dog with a long, thick double coat, like a Husky, you may be tempted to have their coat shaved to help reduce shedding. A short-clipped double coat will not actually shed any less, though the shed hairs will be shorter and less noticeable.

You can support healthy shedding by feeding a nutrient-rich dog food diet that is low in fillers and supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids that keep the skin and coat smooth and shiny. Nutri-Vet Shed Defense Max Dog Chewables conveniently add more omega-3s to your dog’s diet.

Pets that do shed typically shed year-round. The shedding tends to increase in the fall and spring, especially as the weather gets warmer.

“When the undercoat is trapped under the topcoat, no oxygen is reaching to the skin. The coat may start to develop mats,” says Forleo. “You do need to keep up a grooming schedule year-round to keep the coat healthy.” Your pet will also better tolerate prolonged grooming during dog shedding season if they are used to being groomed year-round. Brushing can be relaxing for your pet, especially when their coat is healthy and free of mats and tangles afterwards.

Article by Lindsay Pevny

How to Create the Garage Workshop of Your Dreams

A weekend and a few hundred bucks can unleash your inner craftsman.

Garages often harbor a not-so-secret second life: heroic home workshop. They’re well-suited to the task, with a tolerance for the noise and dust of do-it-yourself projects.

But if a garage workshop isn’t comfortable and convenient to use, you’ll avoid projects rather than enjoy them. Here are the essentials:

  • Adequate work space. Ideally, you’ll need room to work even when your cars are parked inside. Figure a minimum area of 10 ft. long and 6 ft. deep.
  • Appropriate storage. Places for tools and supplies are mandatory — the top of your work surface doesn’t count!
  • Excellent lighting. Both task and ambient lighting help keep you safe and projects mistake-free.
  • Durable surfaces. Pound away on your work surface — it can take it.
  • Easy-to-clean environment.

You can assemble a basic workbench, cabinets, shelving, and add simple overhead lighting for less than $500. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s no end; you can spend tens of thousands of dollars creating an ultimate garage shop showplace.

Your Workbench — Heart and Soul of DIY

Your primary work surface should be a rock-solid bench with a hard and heavy top. Buy or build the best you can manage. (Then vow to keep the top clear — tools and materials have a way of eating up workbench space).

Premade workbenches run $100 to $500 and come in many lengths; they’re usually 24 inches deep. A 38-inch height is typical, but you might be more comfortable with a work surface as low as 36 or as high as 42 inches. Some benches include vises, drawers, and shelves.

Build one yourself using readily available plans. A simple, sturdy workbench takes less than a day to build and materials cost less than $100. The Family Handyman magazine offers detailed instructions for several, including an inexpensive, simple bench. A more complex bench with a miter saw stand and drawers costs $300-$500 to build and takes a weekend.

Spring Vegetable Lasagna

No-boil noodles help get this crowd-pleasing vegetarian lasagna in the oven fast. Using a mandoline isn’t essential, but will make quick work of producing thin, uniform slices of roots that cook super-evenly and look stunning. Serve with a mixed green salad with red-wine vinaigrette and crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 2½ cups low-sodium vegetable or no-chicken broth
  • 1½ cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 cups tightly packed fresh spinach leaves (about 10 ounces)
  • 9 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 3 cups thinly sliced carrots, turnips and/or radishes
  • 8 ounces crumbled farmer’s cheese

Preparation

  • Prep 40 m

  • Ready In 1 h 25 m

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. Whisk broth and mascarpone in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, oregano and salt; remove from heat.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Arrange 4 noodles in the prepared baking dish, slightly overlapping. Top with ¼ cup of the spinach and ¾ cup vegetables. Pour on 1 cup of the mascarpone mixture and top with ⅓ cup farmer’s cheese. Repeat to make 4 layers. Cover with a piece of foil coated with cooking spray.
  5. Bake the lasagna for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake until the edges start to crisp, about 15 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

An apple tart recipe with no added sugars

Instead of refined sugar, this recipe uses apple sauce, spices, and lemon juice to give this apple tart a simple, sweet flavor. If you’re feeling fancy, you can layer the apple slices in a beautiful pattern like a french tart.

Ingredients
  • 1 9-inch premade pastry crust*
  • 4 cups thinly sliced sweet apples (like Honeycrisp), skins removed (about 4 to 5 medium apples)
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 9.5-inch round tart pan with oil.
  2. Press the pastry crust into the pan, folding down the edges and pressing into the sides of the pan to create the crust. Place in refrigerator while you’re preparing the apples.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the sliced apples, cinnamon, lemon juice, apple sauce, and cornstarch. Toss gently to coat the apples evenly.
  4. Add the apple mixture to the prepared crust. For a more refined look, layer the slices in a pattern.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are golden brown.
  6. Cool completely, then serve.
Notes
*Choose a crust with only three ingredients: flour, butter, salt
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 8 servings Calories: 200 cal Fat: 9g Sugar: 11g Sodium: 0mg Fiber: 3g

Is an All-Cash Offer on a House Always a Good Idea? The True Risks and Rewards

Ah, the all-cash offer. If you’re a home buyer with this ace up your sleeve, you probably have a swagger in your step as you tour homes, looking for the perfect property. Home sellers swoon over all-cash offers for one simple reason: It means there’s no doubt that you’ve got the coin to close the deal.

All-cash home buyers have a distinct advantage over those who need a mortgage, because there’s no guarantee that lenders will fork over the money. A lot can get in the way of that happening, from a subpar credit score to a poor home appraisal and beyond. All these what-ifs are eliminated with an all-cash offer; it’s a no-strings-attached deal at its finest!

Although you might assume that only millionaires have enough money lying around to make an offer in all cash, such deals are surprisingly common. According to a recent report from ATTOM Data Solutions, all-cash offers made up 29% of single-family home and condo sales in 2017. And they’re not necessarily filthy rich: Some buyers are retirees, while others are just savvy home sellers who’ve gained enough equity in their homes (and other investments) that they can swing an all-cash offer.

But should you always make an all-cash offer if you can?

It turns out that in spite of its many benefits, an all-cash offer isn’t always the best move for every home buyer. Here’s how to determine whether an all-cash purchase makes sense for you—and how to do it right.

Should you make an all-cash offer?

Just because you have the money to purchase property doesn’t mean you should definitely do it. Making an all-cash offer comes with both advantages and some lost opportunities. This explains why even extremely wealthy people (such as Mark Zuckerberg!) buy homes with mortgages when they clearly don’t need to.

Here’s a look at what you gain with an all-cash offer, and what you give up.

Advantages of an all-cash offer:

  • You’re in a tough seller’s market. If bidding wars are erupting over homes, an all-cash offer can help you cut through the competition and catapult your offer to the top of the list. All-cash can be an advantage when it comes to shorter escrow periods and eliminating some contingencies,” says Annapolis, MD, real estate agent Greg Beckman.
  • Depending on your market, an all-cash offer can strengthen your negotiation stance and persuade sellers to accept less than their full asking price. However, in today’s low-inventory seller’s market, don’t expect to get a crazy-good deal because you’re paying cash,” says Beckman. “But if youre not in a bidding war, you should be able to get the home for a little less.”
  • If you’re in a rush, an all-cash purchase can streamline the home-buying process for you, too, since there’s less paperwork and no delays for mortgage approval.
  • Without a mortgage, you can actually save money on closing coststitle insurance, and other mortgage-related fees. No loan also equals no money wasted on mortgage interest for the next 15 or 30 years.
  • This may seem obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: Owning a home free and clear means no mortgage payments! You’ll never have to worry about foreclosure (where the lender takes over your home) because you didn’t pay your mortgage.

Disadvantages of an all-cash offer:

  • Youll be tying up a lot of money in one asset, rather than diversifying your financial portfolio.
  • Your purchase could drastically limit your liquidity.
  • Youll miss out on sizeable tax deductions. (For instance, homeowners with a mortgage receive a tax break on mortgage interest.)
  • Your money may be better invested elsewhere (depending on how aggressive you want to be with your investments).

How to make an all-cash offer without getting screwed

While an all-cash offer has many positive qualities, there are still some pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. Here’s how to do it right.

Put the money in one place. You can use cash from a variety of sources to buy a house—including personal savings, cash gifts, and inheritance—but having your home-buying funds in one account can make it easier for you to keep track of the money you’re going to need. Also, because bank transfers can have delays, you don’t want to be moving money around shortly before closing.

Provide proof of funds. You’ll have to provide the home seller with a copy of your bank statement as proof of funds when you submit your offer.

Don’t forget your other home-buying expenses. Even if you plan on buying a house in cash, you still have to budget for the costs that come with any home purchase, including the following:

  • Property taxes: They depend not only on the homes assessed value but also where you live. (See how to calculate property taxes.)
  • Homeowners insurance: The average annual premium runs about $952, but a number of factors can go into calculating the cost. (See how to calculate your homeowners insurance.)
  • Homeowners or condo association fees: For a typical single-family home, HOA fees cost around $200 to $300 a month.
  • Home inspection: A typical home inspection costs $300 to $500, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but costs can vary. (See our home inspection checklist.)

Don’t completely drain your savings. Paying for a house in all cash should not leave you scraping the bottom of your bank account!

Staci Titsworth, regional manager of PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh, recommends building an emergency fund that will cover living expenses for at least six months. And if you have extra cash after that, you’d be smart to funnel it into a retirement account, since a home alone should not constitute your entire nest egg.

Article by Daniel Bortz

4 Spring Cleaning Must-Dos for Home Chefs

When’s the last time you washed the knobs on your stove?

Tasty magic happens in your kitchen. And sometimes, a little of that magic is left behind. Only it’s not so tasty. More like stinky. And sticky. Yuck.

Even if you’re not into the spring ritual of deep cleaning your entire house, tackling some tough spots in your kitchen can make it feel like you did.

Especially if that’s where you spend most of your fun time. Here are four things all home chefs should focus on for a cleaner, more organized kitchen:

#1 Cleaning the Cracks and Crevices of Appliances

Even with regular wipe-downs, your appliances can get a little funky in the nooks and crannies. We’re talking about the grills, knobs, and exhaust filter on the range; the door crevices and rubber linings on the dishwasher and fridge; and the individual parts of small appliances.

Range grills and filters can usually go in the dishwasher. But if not — or if the crud is really bad — some elbow grease with a cleaning brush, baking soda, and soap do the trick. For a really grimy range hood filter, try boiling in water with 1/2 cup baking soda.

Appliance knobs do well with a good soapy soak, then scrubbing with a brush and baking soda.

Cleaning the rubber seals on your fridge and dishwasher with simple soap and water will help them last longer and keep tight seals.

#2 Organizing by Zones

Reorganize your kitchen to create zones for all your kitchen tasks, recommends Alyssa Trosclair, a professional organizer with Centsibly Organized.

Think about everything you do in your kitchen from food prep to washing pots to brewing coffee.

Then unload, wipe down, and reload your cabinets, placing items that are used for a similar purpose together (French press and coffee mugs; knives and cutting boards, etc.) in the area where they will be needed.

#3 Eliminating Outdated Staples

Clear out flour, oils, vinegars, and sauces that are past their expiration date — they lose their optimal flavor and can go rancid.

Also toss dried spices that have been open longer than a year (hello there, turmeric from your first apartment). Fresh spices will bring a bigger bang to your recipes, and getting rid of ones you never use will clear out storage space.

To avoid waste in the future, buy small amounts where bulk spices are sold.

#4 Washing Grocery Totes

Speaking of rancid, when was the last time you cleaned your reusable grocery bags? Studies have found bacteria easily transports from bag-to-food-to-refrigerator, increasing the chances of food poisoning and cross-contamination.

Throw them in the washer or wash by hand with hot soapy water.

Article by: AMY HOWELL HIRT

How To Remove Ticks From Your Dog: Dos and Don’ts

Ticks – ugh! They’re creepy and they can transmit disease. Experts are warning us that this year’s going to be an especially bad year for ticks, with disease incidence expanding and becoming endemic in new areas.

Whatever you use to repel ticks (even the toxic, carcinogenic pharmaceutical products) … if your dog plays in wooded areas, once in a while he’ll probably pick up a tick or two.

Most tick-borne diseases aren’t transmitted immediately, so if you get ticks off your dog within 24 to 36 hours of a tick bite, he’s unlikely to get infected.

But that means it’s really important to check your dog for ticks and remove them promptly. Keep reading to learn the dos and don’ts of tick removal …

… but first, find out which tick diseases your dog might be exposed to.

Tick Diseases In Dogs

Are ticks common where you live? Here’s some information about:

  • the most common diseases ticks can transmit to dogs
  • which ticks carry those diseases
  • geographic areas where they’re usually found

 

 

 

 

 

This is an emerging disease that’s quite rare but worth mentioning because it’s not spread by a tick bite, but by dogs ingesting infected ticks …

American canine hepatozoonosis (ACH)

(Hepatozoon canis, Hepatozoon americanum)

  • This can happen when a dog removes ticks off his own body, or if he eats prey that has ticks
  • It can be a highly debilitating disease … so it’s especially important to remove ticks from your dog before he does it himself!
  • ACH is found in the south central and southeastern US

Is There Tick Disease Where You Live?

If you want to check your area for the incidence of tick disease, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has nice interactive maps for the US and Canada on their website.

Removing Ticks From Your Dog

Getting any ticks off your dog quickly is an essential part of tick-borne disease prevention.  So let’s take a look at some DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind.

DOs

DO … remove ticks within 24 to 36 hours of a bite …

If your dog’s out every day in areas where he can pick up ticks, then you need to check him every day. Otherwise, check him when he’s been in the woods or any tick-infested area.

TIP: Some dogs may “show” you where they have a tick, so keep an eye out for your dog scratching himself or biting at himself repeatedly in one place.

DO … check him thoroughly all over. Ticks especially like to hang out in places like his groin, between his toes, in or around his ears, around the anal area, his tail and eyelids.

TIP: If you have a long-haired or double-coated dog, use a dog hair dryer (or your own dryer on a very cool setting) to check for ticks. As you move the dryer over your dog, the hairs will part and you’ll be able to see the skin and catch sight of any ticks lurking there.

If You Find A Tick On Your Dog

DO …use tweezers:

  • Part your dog’s hair around the tick with your fingers
  • Place the tweezers around the tick, as close as you can, possibly get to the skin
  • Don’t twist or jerk the tick
  • Just pull gently upwards with steady hands, adding pressure until the tick lets you pull it away from the skin
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine or soap and water
  • Dispose of the tick by killing it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet
  • If you’re concerned your dog may have contracted tick disease, save the tick in alcohol for testing

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Or…

DO … use a tick removal gadget. There are several on the market. I like the Tick Key and I keep one in several rooms of my house so it’s close at hand when I find a tick on my dog. You can also keep it on your key ring.

  • Place the large opening of the Tick Key over the tick
  • Slide the Tick Key until the tick is in the narrow slot at the end
  • Keep sliding the tick key in the same direction, along the skin
  • The tick will come out, head and all
  • Clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, iodine or soap and water
  • Dispose of the tick by killing it in alcohol or flush it down the toilet
  • If you’re concerned your dog may have contracted tick disease, save the tick in alcohol for testing

DON’Ts

  • DON’T … remove ticks with your fingers (though I must admit I do sometimes). If you do use your fingers, it’s best to protect them with a tissue or paper towel, and disinfect your hands afterwards (as well as the bite area on your dog). You don’t really want tick saliva or blood on your fingers as it may contain pathogens
  • DON’T … squish or crush a tick. This can force infected body fluids through the tick’s mouth and increase the risk of infection for you and your dog
  • DON’T … worry if the mouthpart of the tick stays in your dog’s skin. It can happen sometimes when they’re really well embedded. It’s a bit like having a splinter and it will fall out in a few days
  • DON’T … put substances like nail polish, vaseline or repellents on the tick to try to suffocate or kill it while it’s on your dog. This can cause the tick to vomit into your dog, increasing the possibility of infection
  • DON’T  … burn the tick with a lighted cigarette or hot match as these things can also cause vomiting
  • DON’T … dispose of the tick in your trashcan or sink as they can easily crawl back out

How Long Can Ticks Survive Without A Host?

I’ve often wondered about this (because I’ve sometimes dropped a tick after removing it) … so I looked it up. (Now I’ll be a lot less worried that there’s a tick wandering around my house looking for someone to bite).

  • Deer ticks as well as most other hard ticks (which are the ones that usually transmit disease) can dry out and die very quickly in an environment where humidity is less than 90%. Most will die within about 8 hours and won’t survive even 24 hours.
  • On moist clothing in a laundry hamper they might survive 2 or 3 days, or longer if they’ve recently had a blood meal.

If you bring ticks home on your clothes, a study by University of Vermont concluded that putting your clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes on high heat will kill ticks. If you wash your clothes first, the water temperature needs to be over 115°F to kill them. If any survive the wash cycle, you’ll need to dry them for 70 minutes on low heat, or 50 minutes on high heat. Blacklegged (deer) ticks were used for this study so other ticks may respond differently.

Of course, keeping ticks off your dog in the first place is the best strategy, but it’s worthwhile taking the time to check him regularly for ticks. If you remove them promptly, the likelihood of him getting a tick-borne disease is very low.

But before I go …

Here are some quick tips to help keep the ticks off your dog

What to Avoid …

There are many chemical tick preventives that can harm your dog. These range from spot-ons and sprays or collars that repel insects (including brands your vet may prescribe, like Frontline, Advantix, Advantage, Seresto and more).  These pesticides are toxic and can all cause risky side effects in your dog.

There are also some new oral flea and tick preventives, which are given monthly or every three months … the brand names are  Nexgard, Bravecto and Simparica. You might think it sounds very convenient to just give your dog a tasty chew every month or so … but there are risks involved. These drugs circulate in your dog’s bloodstream and they work by attacking the nervous system of the insect to kill it. This means they can also be dangerous for your dog. A number of side effects have been reported, like vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, and seizures … and once these drugs are in your dog’s bloodstream, they will stay there for several weeks or even months. So if your dog has an adverse reaction, you can’t get it out of his system!  Learn more about these drugs that harm both the ticks and your dog!

Avoid these side effects by using organic and natural tick repellents.

3 Natural Solutions

1. Dietary Tick Preventatives

  • Garlic – Garlic helps repel fleas and ticks when it’s excreted through your dog’s skin. You may think garlic is toxic to your dog but it’s a healthy addition to your dog’s diet as long as you feed the right dose – about 1/3 tsp of fresh chopped garlic for per 10 lbs of your dog’s body weight. Here’s a more detailed dosage chart along with information about garlic’s health benefits.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Give your dog 1/2 tsp per day per 25 lbs of body weight.  Add it to your dog’s food or water bowl. The apple cider vinegar adds acidity to your dog’s blood which makes him less appealing to ticks and also fleas.

2. Topical Tick Preventives

  • Herbal flea and tick powder – Many herbal flea and tick powders and sprays are on the market, with various herbal combinations to prevent ticks. Or, learn how to make your own tick powder. 
  • Herbal flea and tick collars – You can make your own herbal flea and tick collar by mixing 2 tablespoons of almond oil with two drops of rose geranium essential oil or palo santo essential oil. Take the ingredients and dab a few drops on your dog’s neck area or place the essential oil directly on your dog’s collar or a bandana. Reapply the essential oil to the collar or neck weekly. There are also several herbal or essential oil tick collars on the market you can purchase.  Avoid any products containing essential oils of wintergreen, pennyroyal and clove. These oils are dangerous for your dog and should not be used for any reason.
  • Tick shampoo – You can make your own tick shampoo by mixing several drops of palo santo essential oil with your favorite organic lavender shampoo. Let the suds sit on your dog for twenty minutes before rinsing. Doing this will kill any existing ticks and prevent new ones.
  • Citrus repellent – You can make your own citrus repellent by cutting a lemon into quarters and putting them into a pint jar. Cover with boiling water and allow the fluid to steep overnight. In the morning, pour the liquid into a spray bottle and mist your dog (use caution around his eyes and nose). For best results, pay attention to the areas behind your dog’s ears, around his head, the base of his tail and the armpits.
  • Diatomaceous earth – DE is a fine white powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic creatures called diatoms.  Buy food grade diatomaceous earth and sprinkle a small amount on your dog: start at the tail, and hold back the coat so you get the powder on his skin. The powder will pierce the protective structures of insects like ticks, causing them to dehydrate and die. It’s safe for your dog but can be drying to his skin so don’t over-use it, and be careful not to get it in his eyes, nose or mouth.

3. For Your Yard

  • Nematodes – Nematodes feed on tick larvae which breaks their life cycle and kills off the parasite. The beneficial nematodes are microscopic, worm-like organisms that live in soil.  They eat many kinds of garden pests as well as fleas and ticks. You can buy them online at places like Arbico Organics as well as several sellers on Amazon. They come ready to use … you just add water as directed on the package. Spray them throughout your yard using a hose sprayer or a watering can.
  • Diatomaceous earth – Use food grade DE and sprinkle it around your yard.  The powder is lethal to ticks and fleas but safe for pets and humans – and it won’t hurt beneficial earthworms either.  It also contains minerals that are good for your garden.

There are many ways to prevent ticks and protect your dog. Ticks don’t always have to be scary … but the best way to avoid all ticks, diseases, and health concerns is to check your dog for ticks – and don’t forget to check yourself as well!