What Are Mortgage Points? Upfront Fees That Could Save You Money

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What are mortgage points? The interest rate your mortgage lender offers you when you buy or refinance a house is not necessarily the rate you have to stick with. In fact, you can lower your mortgage rate by shelling out at closing for something called mortgage points. But what are mortgage points and how can they save you some serious cash (like, thousands of dollars over the years you make monthly payments)? Read on for the answers from loan experts.

What are mortgage points?

There are two types of mortgage points:

  • Discount points: These points, also known as prepaid points, lower your interest rate but increase your closing costs, because payment for them is due at closing. Discount points are a kind of prepaid interest you “buy” from your lender, based on your loan amount, for a lower mortgage rate.
  • Origination points: These points are charged to recover some costs of the mortgage origination process. This would include compensating your loan officer, notary fees, preparation costs, and inspection fees.

One mortgage origination or discount point typically costs 1% of the loan amount. For example, 1 point on a $250,000 mortgage would equal $2,500.

How do mortgage points lower your interest rate?

The primary purpose of buying discount points from the lender is to reduce your interest rate on your mortgage, and thus lower your monthly payment.

You can pay points during the home-buying process, or when you refinance your home. One point usually reduces the borrower’s interest rate between 0.125% to 0.25%, depending on the lender’s terms, although 0.25% is typical.

For example, if you took out a 30-year, $400,000 loan at an interest rate of 5%, you would pay $2,147 in mortgage payments a month (not including taxes, insurance, or anything else). Paying 2 mortgage points to the lender at 0.25% per point would lower the interest rate to 4.5% and drop the monthly payment to $2,027. You would also need to foot the upfront cost of $8,000 to buy discount points at closing.

Should you buy mortgage points?

Buying points from a lender makes the most sense for borrowers who plan on living in their house and making monthly mortgage payments for many years, either for the life of the loan or close to it.

Consider how long you think you’ll stay in your house and keep your home loan. Generally, if you buy points, you want to stay longer to break even and recoup the money it took to buy the points on the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan too soon, you won’t reach the break-even point, and you can lose money.

Let’s go back to the above example of the 30-year, $400,000 loan. The 2 mortgage discount points for $8,000 at closing saves you $120 in monthly payments. It would take about 5.5 years to reach the break-even point of $8,000, before you could start to save money.

However, it would also save you $43,394 in interest over the life of the loan. Deduct that $8,000 in point-buying costs from money saved in interest and you will have actually saved a total of $35,394. Of course, that’s if you see out the life of the loan. If you sell after six or seven years and pay off your mortgage, buying those points from the mortgage lender wasn’t worth it. Know your future plans and move forward accordingly.

You should also consider how much money you have to use for a down payment at the time of closing. If you are looking to pay the least amount possible in mortgage closing costs, and you can’t afford out-of-pocket points on your loan, you may need to opt for a zero-point loan program.

Tax breaks and mortgage points

Because discount points are a form of interest you pay on your loan, they’re usually tax-deductible as mortgage interest for the year you buy your home. However, origination points that are basically document fees for your mortgage are not deductible.

If you’re considering buying discount points, consult your tax adviser to determine if you qualify for these mortgage deductions.

When you refinance your home and pay for mortgage discount points, you amortize the cost of the points over the years you have the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan, you can deduct any remaining points in the last year you have the mortgage.

Generally, the bigger the mortgage, interest rate, and mortgage length, the more money discount points will save you. Buying points on mortgages with only a few years left, or on those with already very low mortgage rates, could yield monthly savings of only a few bucks and never reach a break-even point for your closing costs, so be sure to do the math before you finalize any mortgage decision.

Article by Craig Donofrio

We’re Blushing! ‘Romance’ Is the New Color of the Year We’d Actually Use at Home

HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams

Move over, Millennial Pink! One of the hottest shades for the upcoming year is your much more laid-back cousin, Romance. Paint company HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams just announced that the color—which is described as “a soft blush tone with a slight apricot influence”—has been chosen as its 2020 Color of the Year.

Lately, it seems that an increasing number of design-adjacent companies have taken the opportunity to promote an official color of the year. And while the field might be saturated, we actually feel that HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ choice stands out—but not in the ways that you’d think. It’s not bold, but it acts as a wonderful base for other pops of color in your home.

“It is a great backdrop to jewel tones and gold accents that are being brought in with accessories and artwork,” says Ashley Banbury, senior color designer at HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams, who is involved in predicting the shades that will be trending for the upcoming year.

Romance, a shade of blush pink and apricot, is HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Color of the Year.HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams

How to use Romance in your home

Although Romance is technically a neutral shade (albeit more colorful than, say, eggshell white) it’s not the easiest color to work with. Like many pastel shades, this pinky-beige can read very feminine and may seem better suited to a young child’s bedroom. However, Banbury assures us that Romance can be used in a variety of ways.

“It’s a great all-over wall color, and an amazing backdrop to your personal artwork and accessories,” she says. However, if an all-pink room makes you blush, try using it more sparingly, on the inside of a built-in bookshelf or on a door.

Feeling inspired yet? Let’s take an even closer look at the ways this trendy color can be used in specific rooms in your home.

Freshen up your dining room

Color palette for the dining roomHGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams

Pink and green is a classic color combination, but choose the wrong shades, and your place could end up looking like a preppy nightmare. Instead, try blush pink on the walls and a deep jade green on your dining room chairs. The contrast with the dreamy wall color will add a level of sophistication that’ll please you—and anyone who ends up coming over for a dinner party.

Bedroom

Calming shades of blue and beige lend tranquility to a bedroom.HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams

Because of its calming properties, blue is one of the best colors for a bedroom. Romance complements any number of blue hues, from Finian Blue—a shade that Banbury says is reminiscent of the perfect blue sky—to Blue Endeavor, our new favorite version of navy blue. Try a crisp blue paint color on the walls or a cozy dark blue duvet. Then, bring in shades of blush pink with side tables, pillows, and throw blankets.

Home office/guest bedroom

Home office color paletteHGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams

A home office should inspire you to be creative, so why not go for a bold color on the walls? Mint feels appropriately fresh and can be paired with warmer pink tones (see the bedding and desk chair above).

“Mint to Be is a beautiful shade of blue that is vibrant but also allows you to unwind and relax,” Banbury says. This creative color combination can be balanced out with natural accessories, like a leather ottoman, a rattan pendant light, a wooden desk, and plenty of indoor plants.

Add sophistication to your kitchen

Try a chic navy blue like Blue Endeavor on your kitchen cabinets.HGTV HOME by Sherwin-Williams

We love the idea of pairing blush pink Romance with a navy blue. A great way to bring this one-two punch into your kitchen? Try navy blue on the cabinets and soft pink on your dishware, towels, or other cooking accessories and appliances, like this posh pink stand mixer (Williams Sonoma, $429.95).

The color used on the cabinets above is Blue Endeavor, one of the new colors in HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams’ Simply Blissful 2020 Color Collection.

Article by Terri Williams

These Are the Most Profitable Home Remodeling Projects

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Should you modernize your outdated kitchen—or install that beautiful, new hardwood flooring? Is it wiser to convert the basement or the attic into an additional living area? Or should you forgo the more glamorous jobs in favor of replacing the boring—but temperamental—heating and cooling system?

Homeowners want to ensure they’ll enjoy the finished product—and it will add to the resale value—before undergoing a costly and time-consuming remodel. Hey, waking up to the sound of buzz saws and workers tramping through your home for months on end isn’t fun.

Those who are looking for a two-in-one should probably do a full remodel or at least upgrade the kitchen, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors®. A sleek kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances is most likely of any interior home improvement project to appeal to buyers and increase the value of a home, according to the report.

“Homeowners were both happy and satisfied with the outcome of their” kitchen renovations, says Brandi Snowden, director of consumer research at NAR. “A kitchen renovation is a great way for new owners to customize their home and incorporate their personal tastes into a room that they will use every day.”

The report is based on three surveys. The first is a survey of nearly 2,200 consumers in June and July done by homeownership site HouseLogic. NAR did the second and third surveys. The second survey garnered nearly 400 responses and was conducted in March and June. The third had nearly 2,500 responses and was held in July.

To simply upgrade or do a full kitchen remodel?

When it comes to kitchens, homeowners who replaced worn-out surfaces and installed new finishes and materials were the happiest of the remodelers. About 93% of those who did complete remodels and 85% of folks who upgraded just the room wanted to spend more time in their home once the work was finished.

But a new kitchen won’t come cheap. NAR estimates folks will shell out an estimated $68,000 on a full remodel. But they should expect to recoup only $40,000, or 59%, of their investment. Meanwhile, those who simply upgrade a space spend an estimated $38,300 on the job—and get back only about $20,000, or 52%, in the resale value.

Meanwhile, renovating that other home staple, the bathroom, sets homeowners back an estimated $35,000. Of that they’re typically able to recover about 57% of their investment. But those adding a new bathroom to the tune of $60,000 can expect to get only half that amount back.

Master suite renovations were the costliest of the renovations, totaling an estimated $150,000, but still were popular. About two-thirds of homeowners said they enjoyed their home more and had a greater desire to spend more time there after it was finished. But folks can expect to recoup only about half of what they sunk into the project, $75,000, at resale.

And when it comes to the debate over whether to finish an attic or basement, it’s cheaper and more profitable to go underground. Converting a basement to a living area cost an estimated $46,900 and upped a home’s value by 64%. Attic work was much pricier, at $80,000, and added only a 56% bump.

The most unglamorous work was the most lucrative

The most lucrative improvement homeowners can make is putting in a new roof, according to the report. Those who spent an estimated $7,500 on that essential upgrade got back $8,000, or 107%, in resale value.

New wood flooring, which was a bit more exciting, also led to profits. It was estimated to cost about $4,700 but added $5,000 to the price of a home. That’s a 103% return. Those who refinished hardwood floors, at the cost of $2,600, broke even.

“While installing new roofing, hardwood flooring, or refinishing hard wood floors are large projects to tackle, we found that these were the top projects for recovering costs,” says Snowden, who adds that they’re durable and long-lasting.

Homeowners shouldn’t overlook the smaller, cheaper jobs either.

Upgrading a home’s insulation cost only an estimated $2,400. But homeowners were able to recoup about $2,000, or 83%, of what they laid out. Meanwhile, installing a new garage door cost an estimated $2,100—of which the homeowners got back about 95% in a sale.

“Homeowners are able to recoup the majority of the project cost, create a more comfortable interior living space,” says Snowden. And it “improves the energy efficiency of their home.”

Article by Clare Trapasso

You Only Think It’s True: 10 Myths Costing You Time and Money

Save your cash for more important things, like, you know, your mortgage.

Image: Patric Sandri/Offset

You can’t swing a tool belt without hitting a website or TV network offering tips on taking care of your digs. Save money by watering your lawn at night! No, water it in the morning! No, dig it up and replace it with a drought-hardy meadow!

Throw in the info you pick up from well-meaning friends and there’s a sea of home care truisms out there, some of which can sink your budget.

Myth 1: Stone Countertops Are Indestructible

Image: Marble Lite Inc.

Fact: Even rock can be damaged.

Marble, quartz, travertine, soapstone, and limestone can all be stained. Regular household cleaners can dull their surfaces over time. And marble is maddeningly fragile — it’s the prima donna of stone.

It’s easy to scratch. It’s easy to stain. Here’s the worst part: Mildly acidic substances like soda, coffee, lemon juice, even hard water will eat into marble, creating a cloudy, dull spot in a process known as etching.

“Spill a glass of wine on a marble counter and go to bed without cleaning it, the next morning you’ll have a problem,” says Louwrens Mulder, owner of Superior Stone in Knoxville, Tenn.

And while stone counters won’t crack under a hot pot, such direct heat can discolor quartz or marble, says Mulder. So be nice to your counters, no matter what they’re made of. And note that the best rock for your buck is granite. “It doesn’t stain or scratch. It’s tough because it’s volcanic rock,” Mulder says. Which means it can stand up to all the merlot and barbecue sauce you can spill on it.

Myth 2: Your Smoke Detector’s Test Button Is Foolproof

Fact: The test button doesn’t tell you what you really need to know.

Yes, check your smoke detector twice a year. But all that test button will tell you is whether the alarm sound is working, not if the sensor that detects smoke is working. Pretty key difference there.

The best way to check your device is with real smoke. Light a long, wooden kitchen match, blow it out, and hold it near the unit. If the smoke sets off the alarm, it’s working. If not, replace the batteries. If it still doesn’t work, you need a new smoke detector. And replace those batteries once a year anyway, because dead batteries are the No. 1 reason smoke detectors fail.

Myth 3: Gutter Guards Are Maintenance-Free

Fact: You gotta clean gutter guards, too.

Gutter guards keep out leaves, but small debris like seeds, pine straw, and flower buds will still get through.

Gutter guards can lessen your work, though — sometimes a lot. Instead of shoveling out wheelbarrow loads of leaves and other crap twice a year, you might just need to clean them every two years. But if there are lots of trees in your yard, once a year might be necessary.

Myth 4: A Lemon Is a Great Way to Clean a Disposal

Image: Anne Arntson for HouseLogic

Fact: While wanting to use natural cleaners is admirable, all of them will damage your disposal and pipes over time.

The lemon’s acidic juice will corrode the metal parts of your disposal. The mixture of salt and ice contains metal-eating acid, too. The coffee grounds are abrasive enough to clean the gunk off the blades and make it smell like a cup of americano, but they’ll accumulate in pipes and clog them.

The best natural cleaner for your disposal is good old baking soda. It’s mildly abrasive so it will clean the blades, but it’s a base, not an acid, and won’t damage the metal. Best of all, a box with enough baking soda big enough to clean your disposal twice costs less than a buck.

Myth 5: Mowing Your Lawn Super Short Means You’ll Mow Less Often

Fact: You might not have to mow as often, but your lawn will look like awful.

Cut that grass under an inch high, and you’ll never have to mow again because your grass will die. Mowing a lawn down to the root — a screw-up known as scalping — is like cutting all the leaves off a plant.

Grass blades make and store your lawn’s energy. Removing more than 1/3 of the length of the blade will leave your grass too weak to withstand weeds and pests. It also exposes the roots to the sun, causing the lawn to dry out quickly. Leave 1 to 3 inches of grass above the roots to keep your lawn lush.

Myth 6: CFLs Cost Too Much, and Are Dangerous

Fact: CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) have come down in price since they first hit the market and don’t contain enough mercury to cause any harm.

You can buy one now for as low as $3. And replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL will save nearly $60 a year for the lifetime of the bulb, says Consumer Reports. CFLs last an average of 5 years, so one bulb can save $300. A houseful of them, say 20, will save $600 each year.

And CFLs are a safe option. They actually lower your exposure to mercury indirectly, because they use 70 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs. That means the coal-fired power plants that spew 340 million pounds of mercury into the air each year won’t have to run as long to keep our houses lit. Fewer toxins, lower power bills. What’s not to love?

Myth 7: A Trendy Kitchen Re-Do Will Increase My Home’s Value

Image: Tate Gunnerson

Fact: Décor trends come and go as fast as viral videos.

Remember those Tuscan-style kitchens with mustard gold walls, ornate cabinets, and medieval-looking light fixtures that were the must-have of the late ’90s and early aughts?

Today, they’re as dated as flip phones. Instead of remodeling in the latest look, which costs $22,000 on average, try repainting in on-trend colors, which costs $1,700 on average. If you do opt for a full remodel, choose elements like Shaker cabinets, wood floors, and subway tile, a timeless style you’ll love 10 years from now.

Myth 8: A Contractor Recommendation From a Friend Is Good Enough

Fact: Good contractors have more than just your buddy to vouch for them.

Your neighbor’s rec is a good start, but talk to a couple of sources before you hire anyone. Check the contractor’s reviews on Angie’s List or other online rating sites.

Ask a local building inspector which contractors meet code on the properties they inspect. Ask the contractor for the names of past clients you can talk to, how many other projects they have going, how long they’ve worked with their subcontractors, and if they routinely do projects the size of yours.

Look at this as a job interview where the contractor is an applicant and you’re the hiring manager. Make them show you they’re the guy or gal for the work.

Myth 9: Turning Off Your AC When You Leave Saves Energy

Fact: Turning off the air conditioner when you leave could actually cost you money.

That’s because when you turn it back on, all your savings will be lost as the unit works overtime to cool your hot house. A better way to save on utilities is to turn the thermostat up or down (depending on the season) 5 to 10 degrees when you leave, says home improvement expert Danny Lipford of todayshomeowner.com.

And the best option? “Install a programmable thermostat,” he says. Even better, buy one you can control remotely with your smartphone and adjust the temperature before you get home. Because thermostats you have to touch are so 1998.

Myth 10: Permits? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Permits

Fact: You do.

Let’s say your neighbor’s brother-in-law, Cecil, is an electrician. Cecil can rewire your kitchen in a weekend because he won’t inconvenience you with a permit. Should you hire Cecil? No. Building codes protect you. From Cecil. Getting a permit means an inspector will check his work to make sure he didn’t screw up.

Plus, if your house burns down in an electrical fire and your insurance company finds out the work was done without a permit, they won’t cover your loss. Check with your local planning or building department to find out if your project needs a permit. If it does, get one.

Article by LEANNE POTTS

Where to Get a Mortgage: Bank, Broker, or Online?

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Wondering where to get a mortgage? More than three-quarters of home-buying consumers need a loan to purchase property. As borrowers, we know that shopping around is the key to getting the best deal on most items. Plenty of us, however, somehow miss that message when it comes to mortgages.

According to a report last year from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, less than half of home buyers shop around for a mortgage lender. This mistake can cost borrowers thousands of dollars over the course of their home loans. Wake up, people! These days, borrowers can get a mortgage loan in lots of different ways. So you may be wondering where you should get yours.

Back in the day, banks were the only option for getting a mortgage, but then credit unions and brokers came on the scene. These days, borrowers can get a home loan online, much as you’d order up dinner from Seamless. But should you?

Where to get a mortgage

Each of these mortgage lenders has pros and cons for borrowers, so it pays to know what they are before you commit.

Bank

Most local and national banks have mortgage lending programs, some of them aggressive and highly developed.

Pros: If you already have a relationship with a bank (through a checking account, for example), you may be able to obtain a discounted interest rate if you also use them as a mortgage lender.

“If you’re a customer with good credit, you can get a competitive interest rate from your bank,” says Ginger Wilcox, chief industry officer for mortgage startup Sindeo.

Cons: Banks typically have a limited variety of mortgage products and more rigid credit standards than other types of lenders. They expect you to have a good credit score, a down payment, and an acceptable debt-to-income balance. The biggest banks may have a certain amount of bureaucracy for you to wade through, which can slow down the process.

Credit union

Credit unions are nonprofit organizations that offer financial services directly (and often exclusively) to their members. You may already belong to a credit union if you have a checking account or credit card account through them.

Pros: Credit unions typically have lower overhead than banks, so they may be able to offer a mortgage with lower interest rates or fees. In the first quarter of 2016, for example, rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage at credit unions averaged 3.84%, compared with 4.02% on the same loans at banks.

Cons: Like banks, credit unions have a limited variety of loan products. You have to pay a membership fee (typically $5 to $25) and meet certain membership criteria in order to join, usually based on things such as your geographic area or employer. Use this tool to research a credit union and see whether you qualify for membership. Credit unions also look at your ratio of debt-to-income and your credit score, although they may be more willing to work with you if necessary.

Mortgage broker

A mortgage broker has relationships with multiple lenders and works on your behalf to find you the right loan with the best mortgage rate and lowest closing costs for your situation. The key factors would include the amount of down payment you have, your credit score, and other factors. Your real estate agent may recommend a local mortgage broker.

Pros: If you have a unique situation, for example if you are self-employed or have poor credit, a broker will know all of the options that are open to you—and which lender might offer the most appropriate product.

Cons: Brokers receive fees, paid either by the borrower, the lender, or a combination of the two. These are generally 1% to 2% of the value of the loan. There is no guarantee that you’ll get a better interest rate than you would have if you’d shopped around on your own, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of the mortgage site HSH.com.

Online lender

Like nearly everything else these days, it’s now possible to apply for and receive approval for a mortgage entirely online, from lenders such as Quicken Loans or loanDepot.

Pros: Streamlined document uploading and the ability to apply on your schedule can make the process less stressful. Plus, online lenders may be able to close your loan more quickly. Sindeo, for example, claims it can close loans in as quickly as 15 days, while the average lender takes about a month and a half.

Cons: There’s little human interaction, which could be tough for first-time home buyers or others looking for an adviser to guide them through the process. Online lenders also don’t have the long-term relationships with local Realtors®.

“If you’re in a strong seller’s market, where there are multiple offers on properties, having a lender with credibility in the local real estate community can help your offer rise to the top of the pile,” says Richard Redmond, author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”

Keep in mind, however, that whichever route you go, you should always shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal, not only on your mortgage rate, but with the lowest loan origination fees and other closing costs.

You should also make sure you are ready to buy or refinance a home before you make a mortgage application. Check your credit report on the credit bureaus, and see if your credit history needs work.

If your credit score shows that you have bad credit, you may need to work on it for several months or even a year before you qualify for the loan amount you want, with a good mortgage rate.

Understand the requirements for a down payment, and save up an additional down payment if you need one. You may qualify for first-time home buyer or other down payment assistance in your state.

Pay down your credit card debt and other consumer debt as much as possible, to improve your debt-to-income ratio. The more you prepare before you apply for a loan, the easier it will be, and the better terms you can expect to receive.

It’s also becoming more common to get a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender before you make an offer on a home. Getting pre-qualified shows the potential seller that a lender thinks you can afford the monthly payment, and the lender expects to be able to give you a loan.

“Even if you’re getting a conforming loan and the rates don’t vary much, loan fees can vary lender by lender, and you can end up paying more than is necessary,” says Benjamin Beaver, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Patterson Properties in San Angelo, TX.

Article by Beth Braverman

5 Ways to Design a Bedroom That Will Actually Help You Sleep

Start by controlling light, sound, and temperature.

Image: Wokandapix/Pixabay

When it comes to redecorating, our energy and budget often get funneled into “public” parts of the home, such as the kitchen and bathrooms. Private spaces like the master bedroom rarely get as much love or money. After all, it’s better to spend on rooms guests will actually see, right?

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than one-third of adults in the U.S. aren’t getting enough sleep, which can impact our moods, mental clarity, and overall health. With our days so full of demands and external stressors, it’s time we turn our attention to the room where we rejuvenate and recover.

Here are five simple ways to add charm and comfort to the coziest room of the house — and improve your chances for a restful start to the day.

#1 Choose a Soothing Paint Color

Image: Songbird Blog

While it may seem like a good idea to paint the bedroom your favorite sunny yellow, color experts don’t agree. Warmer tones such as yellow, orange, and red are said to be energizing and may even irritate the eye. That doesn’t exactly bode well for those of us trying to keep our eyes closed. 

Consider colors with a cooler tone, such as whites, taupes, grays, blues, and soft greens. Remember to use a low-VOC paint to reduce toxins in your indoor environment. VOCs — or volatile organic compounds — are in vapors emitted from many everyday household products, like paint and cleaning chemicals.

#2 Hang Blackout Curtains or Layered Window Treatments

Having a bright and airy bedroom is often the picture we have in our minds, but the reality of light pouring into our windows is less than ideal for actually getting rest (or getting up in the morning without being blinded by sunlight).

Blackout curtains not only help block light when you hit the snooze button, but many also offer a thermal panel on the back, which helps prevent temperature fluctuations in the middle of the night.

If blackout curtains aren’t your thing, you can also add multiple forms of window treatments, such as shades and curtains, to help control the amount of light.

Image: Craftivity Designs

#3 Eliminate Clutter and Electronics

Have you ever decluttered a space and felt instantly lighter, as though a weight had been lifted off your shoulders? If you’ve never felt the peace that comes along with a tidy and organized room, focus on having only the essentials you need in your bedroom for a good night’s sleep.

Remove distractions, including electronics (their blue light is known to ward off sleep), and anything that’s simply taking up space in the room.

#4 Install a Stylish Ceiling Fan

Image: Love Create Celebrate

When designing a stylish master bedroom, your first instinct might be to splurge on a luxe-looking light fixture. However, unlike a light, a ceiling fan (with or without a light) enhances restfulness.

They boast a soft white noise and help control your body temperature during sleep, both by cooling you in the summer and helping push down warm air in the winter. (Just be sure to switch the fan’s direction between seasons.)

Plus, there are more stylish designs on the market than ever before!

#5 Layer Your Bedding

Image: Cherished Bliss

Layered bedding adds dimension and texture to the room, turning a flat, bland bed into a multi-dimensional piece of art. It also gives you lots of options during the night in case there’s a sudden chill or your partner steals some of the covers. 

Also consider switching out your comforter between seasons if you have a lot of temperature fluctuations. This habit not only allows you to freshen up your style, but it also provides more comfort when the winter temps dip or the summer heat intensifies.

While there are multiple ways to help with a better night’s sleep, in the end, the most restful room is the one you can call your own. Keep these suggestions in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to a master bedroom that’s both beautiful and functional.

Article by SARAH FOGLE

Vegetables Dogs Can Eat – Rev Up Your Dog’s Diet

Your four-legged friend needs to have a good dietary intake. Vegetables are a tremendous plus to your dog’s diet, yet, not all vegetables are safe for dogs. It’s important to add every now and then some safe-to-eat vegetables to your dog’s diet and handout the right amount.

You can share many of the vegetables you eat with your dog. Introducing vegetables will help you re-create your dog’s normal food or snacks in an easy-to-make and low-cost way.

Let’s delve into the veggie world and get to know which vegetables your dog can eat.

Can Dogs Eat Vegetables?

Yes. Dogs are omnivores. Simply put, they eat both meat and plants. The digestive system of dogs is well-equipped to handle mixed dietary input.

Omnivores are different from carnivores and herbivores.

A carnivore’s digestive system is built to consume only meat; they have a very simple straightforward digestive section.

Herbivores only consume plants. Their digestive system is very complex with multiple sockets for regurgitating, and plants require effort to be digested.

Omnivores, your dog included, have a digestive system complexity that’s somewhere in between carnivores and herbivores. They consume meat and are equipped to digest particular plant elements and get rid of the harder-to-digest material.

Vegetables aren’t created equal. Once they enter your dog’s digestive system, each vegetable type needs a specific time and effort to be digested. Some are harder to digest than others. Some can be easily digested by humans, but for dogs, they can cause trouble. That’s why some vegetables are suitable to be part of your dog’s dietary plan, while others shouldn’t be included in the first place.

Knowing which to include and which to avoid is crucial to maintain your dog’s health.

Are Vegetables Good for Dogs?

Yes. You’ll be giving your dog a healthy dose of nutrients. Vegetables are good for your dog’s teeth, coat, vision, bones, blood circulation, and overall well being.

Fresh vegetables provide necessary vitamins and minerals in a natural way. They contain a myriad of vitamins like A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K, and others.  Such vitamins can fight disease, improve fat burning, boost the immune system, and many more health benefits.

Minerals found in vegetables, like iron and potassium, are required to maintain a healthy blood-stream and heart condition.

Vegetables act as antioxidants, which provide protection to your dog’s body by slowing down cellular damage to important organs. They strengthen the overall immune system of your dog, leading to a longer and much healthier life.

Vegetables also provide fiber. The nutritional value of fiber to dogs is low. However, it has other important value to a dog’s health. Fiber works as a helping factor in the digestive process. It absorbs moisture and acts as a lubricant, and both are important to help smoothen the food’s journey through the intestines.

The proper vegetable intake you’ll provide to your lovely dog will evidently benefit his health in a positive way.

In short, incorporating vegetables to your dog’s diet will:

  • Add protein, vitamins, minerals, carbs, and fiber
  • Help your dog to lose excess weight
  • Help to deter cancer and other ailments
  • Make use of any vegetable leftovers
  • Lower your dog’s dietary cost

Tips for Adding Vegetables to Your Dog’s Diet

Make sure all vegetables used are thoroughly rinsed; food hygiene is paramount to prevent any bacterial infection.

Fresh vegetables should be your first choice when adding veggies to your dog’s diet. Save vegetable trimmings that are safe for dogs from your cooking activity. Every now and then, give him some as a treat.

In today’s hectic lifestyle, using packed, frozen vegetables is convenient. Mix small portions with the dry food gradually to get your dog hooked little by little. Blend them, arrange them into snack-size bites, freeze them, and just grab them whenever you think your dog deserves one.

Always have some freshly minced vegetables ready in the refrigerator for a quick healthy treat for your dog. Large leaf vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, and cauliflower, are better served steamed or boiled to your dog for easier digestion.

You can feed your dog fresh raw vegetables, or you can opt for steamed vegetables. Don’t add any oil or seasoning. Your dog will most likely gulp down the whole portion, so it’s better to have the vegetables thinly sliced. Sometimes it’s even better to have them pureed.

As with humans, avoid giving your dog any moldy old vegetables.

To avoid allergies caused by vegetables, always introduce one type of vegetable at a time and in gradual quantities. That’ll help you observe any adverse symptoms and identify the source of allergies if any.

Vegetables Dogs Can Eat

Don’t assume that the vegetables you normally eat are safe for your dog.

Vegetables come in different shapes and sizes. The main types are green leaves, root vegetables, legumes, stalks, and squash. Any will do.

Following is a list of vegetables suitable for your dog.

Carrots

Carrots are a great low-calorie snack for dogs. They’re high in beta carotene, which works as an antioxidant, rich with vitamins A, C, and K.  They provide potassium and fiber which is good for vision, coat, teeth, and general health.

Broccoli

If you properly minced it and served small portions as a treat, broccoli will provide a low-fat intake that delivers vitamin C and fiber. Make sure there are no chunky broccoli stalks, as they might choke the dog while swallowing.

Bok Choy

This is a leafy low-calorie vegetable loaded with calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C, and K. It’ll help maintain strong bones and teeth, and it’s good for your dog’s heart. The leaves are filled with water, and they’ll help provide much-needed hydration on hot summer days.

Sweet Potatoes

Full of nutrients, sweet potatoes are good for the heart, they’re high in fiber. Thus they break down easily when digested. They also provide vitamins A, C, E, and B, which makes them helpful in lowering blood pressure and weight management.

Brussels Sprouts

These bite-sized veggies are exceptional treats for dogs. They release high doses of nutrients and antioxidants, which are great for a dog’s health. Point of caution though, the excessive intake of brussels sprouts will cause gas, so if you don’t want awful smells, give them sparingly.

Green Beans

These elongated green veggies are low in calories, yet, they’re very fulfilling. Once chopped into small pieces, your dog will chew them easily, and benefit from the natural fiber and healthy dose of vitamins A, C and K, and the mineral manganese.

Peas

Most types of peas are good for dogs. Either fresh or frozen, they’ll add value to your dog’s diet by providing protein, minerals, fiber, and an assortment of vitamins. Don’t opt for canned peas; they’re full of unhealthy food preservatives.

Celery

A natural breath freshener, that alone makes celery worthy to be in your dog’s diet. Celery is full of nutrients needed for a healthy heart. It releases vitamins A, B, and C, and provides important minerals like iron, potassium, sodium, and phosphorus. Celery lowers blood pressure and is believed to help fight cancer.

Cucumbers

Your dog will love them! Cucumbers are basically low-calorie and low-sodium water reservoirs. On hot days, your dog will savor small chunks of cold, watery cucumbers. Mix a sliced cucumber with yogurt and see how fast your dog will chow down!

Cucumber should be chopped into manageable chunks to prevent choking. It can be an excellent element in a weight loss plan for your beloved dog.

Spinach

Spinach leaves provide fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins. Just make sure that you only give your dog a handful every month or so. Excessive spinach intake can be harmful to your dog’s kidneys.

Pumpkin

Loaded with beta carotene, fiber, and with its sweet flavor, your dog won’t be able to get enough of pumpkin! Present it raw or a bit steamed in bite-sized chunks, and it’ll help with your dog’s constipation, if any, and will improve the dog’s overall digestive system.

Bell Pepper

Any color will do. Remove the seeds and the stem, cut into manageable chunks, and give your dog a treat. Rich in fiber and antioxidants, bell pepper will boost your dog’s immune system.

Lettuce

To keep your dog hydrated and full, thinly slice the lettuce and spread it over his normal food. Its low calorie, high fiber structure helps the digestion of your dog.

Zucchini

Zucchini is a good source of minerals like magnesium and potassium, accompanied by vitamin C. Adding zucchini in thinly shredded strips to your dog’s usual food intake prevents heart issues, cancer, and infections.

Turnips

Turnips contain folic acid and magnesium. They provide vitamins B6 and C. Turnips will increase your dog’s metabolism, vitalize kidney functions, and help maintain a healthy nervous system. Take care though, if your dog has thyroid issues, you shouldn’t add turnips to his diet, as they tend to interfere with thyroid gland functions.

Beets

You can serve your dog beets in moderation. You can serve the beets cooked, steamed, mashed, or even in raw small chunks. Your dog’s digestion and immune systems will benefit from the potassium, manganese, folate, fiber, and vitamin C, all present in beets. Beets will also add to the beauty of your dog’s skin and coat.

Cabbage

Cabbage leaves are considered effective in fighting cancer They also help the digestion process, and improve the health of your dog’s skin and fur.

Cabbage is loaded with beneficial elements such as protein, iron, folate, manganese, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, B6, C, K, and other micronutrients. It has high fiber content, so it’s recommended to cook it prior to serving for easier digestion. Add it in moderation, as excessive portions can negatively affect your dog’s thyroid gland.

Vegetables Dogs Shouldn’t Eat

The wrong veggies for your dog might cause health problems in the long run, such as allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, and in some cases, death.

If you think your dog ate any of the following items, even in small portions, and you notice issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and/or skin problems, you should take him to the vet at once.

Asparagus

Raw asparagus is difficult for dogs to digest, and when cooked, iit loses most of the beneficial nutrients. Asparagus adds no value to your dog’s diet.

Mushrooms

There are countless mushroom species, many of which are poisonous, and dogs don’t digest them very well. To eliminate the risk altogether, don’t give your dog mushrooms, even those you do eat by yourself.

The Onion Family

All members of the onion family are classified under the name Allium. They have an element called thiosulfate, which if eaten by dogs destroys red and white cells, causing many health issues, one of which is anemia. You need to avoid any form of onion be it raw, cooked, dehydrated, trimmings, and any remains within leftover dishes. Leeks, chives, and garlic are also included in the allium family.

Tomatoes

Dogs don’t digest tomatoes well. If your dog eats a tomato, it’ll cause him harsh stomach pain.

Summary

If you’re looking to add healthy food elements to your dog, if you want to get him slimmer, or you just want to add a supplement to his regular food, vegetables are the answer. With their low-calorie, low-fat, rich antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, they can be your dog’s healthy boosters. However, you need to know your veggies for the sake of your dog. Pick the beneficial ones, and avoid the dangerous ones, gradually adding vegetables to your dog’s food intake in small quantities. You may also use vegetables as snacks.

Serve the vegetables chopped, minced or shredded, and clean. You can steam, boil, and bake the vegetables as per the liking of your dog. If serving raw vegetables, always make sure that they’re a manageable size for your dog.

If you’re about to change the dietary plan of your beloved dog, I do recommend that you check with your vet, don’t push your dog, go slow and easy, and pay attention once you do the change.

Give it a go, and add vegetables to your dog’s dietary plan. Keep your four-legged friend happy and healthy.

Article by by ash.babariya

Don’t Fall Short! 6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle This Autumn

Ildar Abulkhanov/iStock

Autumn brings pumpkins and—love ’em or hate ’em—pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather, and spooky skeletons. But most importantly, fall brings an end to a summer of outdoor adventures—and tedious yard tasks like weeding, mowing, and watering the lawn.

But just because the weather’s cooling off doesn’t mean your to-do list will, too. Before busting out the cinnamon spice and mulled wine, take on a few home maintenance tasks that will put you in good standing once temperatures dip.

“It’s easier to prepare for a winter emergency in the fall,” says Jericho McClellan, who works in construction management.

1. Properly store your yard equipment

Storage shedBjörn Forenius/iStock

One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.

But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will suck if you don’t prep your equipment this fall. That’s because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.

And it’s not just gas-powered equipment that needs a fall refresh.

Lester Poole, Lowe’s live-nursery specialist, recommends running pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.

If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you’ll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.

DIY: This project is easy to do yourself—just get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.

2. Protect your pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.

If you haven’t tracked down your home’s water shut-offs yet, now’s the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you’ve found them, give them a test.

“The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst,” McClellan says. (More on that, too, in a minute.)

Now’s also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.

DIY: If your pipes do freeze, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe’s Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point by feeling the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it by wrapping the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

Call in the pros: If you can’t locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run $150 to $600 on average(depending on the severity of the leak).

3. Clear out your crawl space

While you’re winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly?

DIY: While it’s still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter’s worst happens.

Call in the pros: Creeped out by the idea of crawling around under your house? Professional crawl space cleaners charge about $500 to $4,500, depending on the size of your house and the state of the space.

4. Close your crawl space vents

During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home’s perimeter.

“The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics,” says real estate agent, broker, and construction expert Ron Humes. “The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there.”

Here’s why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.

DIY: “When the temperatures drop, slide those crawl space vents closed,” Humes says. “Just remember to open them again in the spring.”

If one of your vents is broken, replacements range from $20 to $50.

Call in the pros: If your crawl space stays damp through the fall and winter, you might want to consider waterproofing, dehumidifying, and sealing off your crawl space to prevent wet air. This can cost $1,500 to $15,000.

5. Kick-start your composting efforts

Compost bin in the gardenfotomem/iStock

Now’s the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don’t even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.

“Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden,” Poole says. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.

“Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer,” Poole says.

Next year’s tomatoes will thank you.

DIY: If your yard lacks space for a compost corner—or you have no interest in regular pitchforking—consider a tumbling composter. This well-reviewed model from Amazon costs about $100.

6. Protect your trees

Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, “sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split,” Poole says.

He recommends wrapping your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.

DIY: You can find 150 feet of paper tree wrap on Amazon for $18, although you may need a few rolls depending on how many trees need winter protection.

Call in the pros: Are your trees already looking the worse for wear? A tree service can help you sort out what’s wrong. Pruning costs anywhere from $75 to $1,000.

Article by Jamie Wiebe
Holly Amaya contributed to this article. 

fall harvest honeycrisp apple and kale salad

Fall Harvest Honeycrisp Apple and Kale Salad. All the best produce that fall has to offer combined into one big beautiful salad. I could not love this combo of shredded kale, sweet honeycrisp apples, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, and crispy prosciutto more. Tossed with a caramelized shallot vinaigrette, this salad is sure to become a new fall staple. Healthy, simple, delicious, and perfectly fitting for cool, crisp fall evenings.

All the best produce that fall has to offer combined into one big beautiful salad. Shredded kale, sweet honeycrisp apples, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, and crispy prosciutto. All tossed with a caramelized shallot vinaigrette. Healthy, simple and delicious, this salad is sure to become a new fall staple!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon real maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup raw pepitas
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 2 heads kale, shredded
  • 2 honey crisp apples, thinly sliced
  • arils from 1 pomegranate
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

CIDER VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fig preserves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    2. On the prepared baking sheet, toss together the pepitas, olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Arrange in a single layer. Lay the prosciutto flat around the pepitas. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the pepitas are toasted and the prosciutto is crisp.

    3. Meanwhile, in a large salad bowl, combine the kale, apples, and pomegranates.

    4. To make the vinaigrette. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the shallots, cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly. Add the apple cider vinegar, fig preserves, and thyme. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

    5. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, tossing to combine. Top the salad with toasted pepitas, prosciutto, and feta. Eat and enjoy!

The 9 Super Useful Tools Every DIYer Needs

Image: Eatcute/Shutterstock

That tape measure you have? It’s probably all wrong.

Those spare Allen wrenches and $1 tape measure from Ikea aren’t going to cut it if you’re making real home improvements.

Here are the nine essential tools you need to start hammering out great projects:

#1 Two Hammers

You know you need a hammer. Duh.

But Beth Allen, a licensed contractor and DIY instructor, is about to blow your mind: You don’t need a hammer. You need two.

A lightweight hammer is important for more delicate projects, like adding trim to a bookcase (without the fear of splitting said trim) or putting a nail into drywall.

“Heck, I’ve used a shoe for that kind of hammering,” says Allen, which gives you an idea of how lightweight we’re talking. “You can even use the floral hammer that comes in those ‘lady’ toolsets.”

But don’t let that be your only one: You’ll need a heavy-duty hammer for nailing into studs or putting a big anchor in the wall.

She recommends fiberglass over wood for avoiding intense vibrations in your hand while crushing your first project (figuratively, we hope).

#2 A Long, Sturdy Tape Measure

What’s wrong with your trusty Ikea measuring tape? “It must be at least 25 feet!” Allen says.

“That move where you measure partway, run out of tape, and have to use your toe as a placeholder? Nope, nope, nope.”

Take it from a pro: That measurement-fudging dance causes miscalculations that can run you big bucks in mistakes — we’re talking, like, realizing those freshly delivered kitchen appliances don’t actually fit in their designated spots. Whoops.

A grown-up measuring tape that’s long, wide, sturdy, and equipped with a solid locking mechanism.

You want one made of steel, which conveniently is the most widely available option. And make sure to invest in one with red rectangles every 16 inches, which is the standard width between wall studs.

#3 Your Dream Drill

Allen gets downright giddy when she talks about her cordless drill.

Not crushing on yours in the same way? Then you haven’t found the right one.

“To start, don’t even look at something smaller than 12 volts,” she says. “You’re not going to have enough power to even drill into wall studs without hearing the motor grind. You do not want to hear that thud thud thud of stripping a screw.”

Allen also recommends a rechargeable model with a pair of lithium batteries on the side so you’ll never be without a charge — and never have to fight with a cord while squeezing in a tight or awkward place, like closets.

Plug-in drills do have more power, but most home DIYers don’t need that extra power for two reasons:

1. You’re not exactly building a house from scratch (right?)

2. A cordless model allows for a steady flow of torque, meaning you don’t have to worry about how hard or gently you pull the trigger.

Best way to find the perfect drill: Find one you can hold above your head comfortably for about 30 to 45 seconds.

And don’t bother fussing over the brand. Store-brand drills can be just as quality as the major labels. “You can find a great drill, especially during sale season, for $70 to $100.”

#4 A Jigsaw

When most DIY newbies think of saws, they think of the rotating blade attached to a table. Not your best starter saw. “A table saw will take your fingers off,” Allen warns.

For the sake of your digits, a simple, cordless jigsaw is a better choice. A jigsaw also is lightweight enough to carry and cut wherever you need, and versatile enough to cut delicate pieces like trim or molding — it can even cut curves when needed.

A jigsaw has a slower pace, and the blade does downward strokes, which means it’s safer because the debris falls down, not out.

Most stores will have options suited for smaller hands, lefties, and those who prefer an ergonomic tool.

To get the most out of your jigsaw, add on an assortment of blades that will let you cut metal and PVC. A $10 combo-blade package should do it.

#5 A Tile Saw

Got tiles? Want tiles? If you have even a single tile project coming up, let us assure you, you want to own your own tile saw.

Tile projects can be tedious and time consuming, and if you’re rushing to return it on time, you could end up with sloppy work.

Look for something in the $100 to $150 range, keeping in mind that rentals will run you about $50 per day for the most simple one.

Plus, it’ll see you through future tile projects, from fireplace surrounds to bathroom backsplashes, even patio pavers. Ooo! The starter diamond-cut blade your saw comes with should last you through a few hundred square feet, so no need to pick up extras right away.

The tile saw is a good reminder for buying versus renting for all tools: Consider how many times you’re likely to use it, get prices on buying and renting, and do the math. You might be surprised how often treating yourself is the more economical option.

#6 Two Pairs of Safety Glasses

When you’re DIYing, the weather is always cloudy with a chance of wood chips. Or drywall dust. Or tile flakes. Not things you want in your eyes.

Look for a pair of safety glasses that fit comfortably (“like sunglasses!” says Allen), and wrap around on the side to protect you from all angles.

“Try them on and look down — that’s the way your face will be angled while working,” Allen recommends. “They shouldn’t slide off or feel too snug, otherwise they’ll drive you crazy and you’ll want to pull them off.”

Don’t feel shy about shaking your head around in the store to make sure they feel good when you’re moving, and if you live somewhere especially hot or cold, look into options with anti-fog coating.

And this is one piece of equipment you don’t want to skimp on. “I’d avoid the dollar store options,” says Allen. “Your vision is your life, and anytime there’s the possibility of projectile anything, you’d be a fool not to wear a quality pair.”

Why two pairs? Because there’s often someone holding up the shelf while you drill, or keeping the wood steady as you saw — and they’ll probably want their eyesight later too.

#7 Shop-Vac

When you’re in the midst of any sort of project (especially if you do any demo in older homes), you may have no idea what gross or potentially dangerous stuff is inside the construction dust you’re generating, so getting rid of it as quickly as possible is just smart.

Don’t be tempted to use your house vacuum — it’s not made for home-project debris, and could clog your motor.

To handle your DIY successes (and fails), you’ll want one that has at least a gallon capacity and 5.0 “peak,” which is the power and speed at which it sucks stuff up.

Keep in mind it has to be light enough for you to comfortably carry both empty and when it’s filled with a gallon of water-soaked sawdust or sand.

#8 An Outdoor Extension Cord

You’ll need that for the shop-vac and other tools!

And like the measuring tape, go with quality and length.

“At least 50 feet,” says Allen.

Your shop-vac will require a cord with 12-amp power and a three-prong plug on both ends — a more expensive option than your typical two-prong, 14-amp cord, but a worthy upgrade.

(And yes, you read that right: 12 amps powers more than 14 amps. Lower amps equals higher power capacity. Weird, we know.)

#9 Something To Put It All In

Your dad might make a big fuss about handing down his first toolbox to you, but maybe use that as a decorative planter (Pinterest it! It’s cute!).

The truth is, there are way better options today.

“Look for one on wheels, like your favorite carry-on suitcase,” says Allen. Your biggest priority is to choose something you’re going to be able to move around easily. Why haul every tool to the project site individually?

Look for deep drawers and shallow trays so you can easily organize the itty-bitty things like bits and store the bulky stuff, too.

Article by AMY PREISER

Why Does My Dog Eat Grass?

The fact is that even if your dog has a well-balanced diet, she may still go for the green stuff on a regular basis. And studies have shown that most types of grasses will not make dogs throw up. So the idea that dogs eat grass because they are missing something in their diet does not stand up to scrutiny. (Though grass does contain essential nutrients that a dog might crave anyway.) There has also been no hard science proving that eating grass is linked to vomiting. That said, the ingestion of grass does make some dogs vomit, but it’s unclear if it was the grass that gave the dog the upset stomach to begin with.

So Why Do They Eat It?

Whether they scarf it up by the mouthful or daintily nibble just a few blades, the answer may be simple: They just like the way it tastes. Remember, dogs enjoy all sorts of things that disgust the human palate—dirty socks and gristle from the trash can, anyone?

Writing for the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, Andrea Rediger says, “another theory states that undomesticated dogs are naturally omnivores (meat and plant-eaters), therefore domesticated dogs instinctively include plant material in their diet. Alternatively, some speculate that undomesticated dogs would ingest plant material in the stomachs of their prey, and therefore the species developed a taste for it.”

Petmd.com points out that “for tens of thousands of years, these opportunistic scavengers have devoured anything and everything, as long as it fulfilled their basic dietary requirements.”

It has been documented that there are several species of wild canids that also commonly eat grass.

Despite the lack of solid evidence that grass-eating is directly related to a dog self-curing, Petmd.com says that it does seem like dogs will seek out a natural remedy for a gassy or upset stomach, and grass may do the trick: “When ingested, the grass blade tickles the throat and stomach lining; this sensation, in turn, may cause the dog to vomit, especially if the grass is gulped down rather than chewed.”

The Purdue article also cautions that even if our dogs aren’t eating grass because they’re trying to vomit, care should be taken to make sure they’re not sick: “Your veterinarian can determine whether your dog has an underlying gastrointestinal disease with a physical exam, fecal exam, and blood tests including a blood count and chemistry panel. The blood count tells us if there is inflammation or blood loss that could indicate bleeding into the GI tract; the chemistry panel assesses the health and function of body systems including the pancreas and liver, which are intricately associated with the gastrointestinal tract. If your veterinarian diagnoses GI disease, proper treatment can be prescribed. So when should you call your veterinarian? If your pet experiences lethargy, diarrhea, weight loss concurrent with grass-induced vomiting, she should see the vet. If not, you can probably rest easy knowing that your dog is just doing what dogs do.”

Is Eating Grass Dangerous For Dogs?

Most experts say that letting your dog eat grass poses no real risk. But do keep an eye on it, especially if there is a sudden increase in grass eating; it could be a sign of an underlying illness. And always monitor a teething puppy, because ingesting a lot leaves, grass, and sticks can lead to a blockage.

If you notice that your dog has been munching away on grass or houseplants, you may want to introduce natural herbs or cooked vegetables into his diet.

You may also want to buy a small tray of grass just for your dog, or start an herbal home garden. This will give your pooch an alternative to eating the outdoor grass and landscaping, which could lead to accidental ingestion of pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals that have been used to treat your yard.

Article by Erika Mansourian

Burning Sage, Buying Crystals: Your Guide to Restoring Good Vibes in the Home

Stefan Malloch/iStock

There are so many ways to keep the good vibes going strong in your home. You can fill every room with bright colors and vibrant plants, perpetually bake cookies, or light up vanilla-scented candles. Candles everywhere!

Or you could just fill up the place with rocks and smoke. Yup, that’s right: If crystals, sage, and palo santo aren’t on your radar, they’re about to be.

Whether or not you believe in good juju, 2019 seems to be the yearpeople are dishing out the big bucks to clear the bad vibes from their houses. So if you’ve recently fought with your partner, spilled red wine on your white couch, or generally feel some bad energy, it might be time to tap into this New Age trend.

“You might notice a feeling of unease or discomfort in your space—and that’s when you know it might be time to throw open the windows and get all those bad vibes out,” says Erica Feldmann, whose book “HausMagick” aims to serve as a trendy New Age manual on how to transform your home into a “spirit-filled sanctuary.”

Here are three very popular techniques you can try out at home to restore your formerly chill vibes.

Smudge your home

Burning sage sticks and pebblesGSPictures/iStock

“Smudging is a practice used by many cultures as part of a practice of cleansing and clearing energy,” says Suzie Kerr Wright, astrologer and psychic medium.

Despite its misleading name, smudging doesn’t involve wiping anything on your walls; instead it’s the act of burning an herb or plant to create smoke. In theory, the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and takes that bad juju with it when it clears.

While there are a few different herbs you can burn, the most common is sage. But before running off to the kitchen pantry and lighting up a spice jar, keep reading.

Yes, you’ll need a small bundle of sage, but some other stuff too: a feather, and some sort of bowl or shell to hold the burning herb. You can actually buy the whole lot of these things in a smudge kit from online metaphysical stores like Energy Muse or even Walmart.

Once you have the goods, here’s how to get started.

“Light the sage with a wooden match, and then blow out the flame,” says Marci Baron, energy healing therapist. “Allow the smoke to rise up out of the container as the sage smolders, and set the intention of the clearing by saying, ‘May all negative energy be released. I invite only positive energy to remain.'”

You’ll then want to start spreading the smoke throughout your home using the feather, and opening windows as you go to release the smoke (unless you’d like to invite the fire department to join your smudging session).

“Make sure you keep the sage burning over the shell as you move around the entire house, getting into every corner,” Baron says. “Cleanse closets, showers, and behind doors, then safely extinguish the embers of the burning sage or allow it to burn itself out.”

We should note that there’s been some controversy over this ancient practice, which has roots in Native American tradition. As smudging has become increasingly commercialized, there have been protests of cultural misappropriation. So if you’re going to smudge, we encourage you to be respectful and treat the practice with gravity.

Get some crystals

Healing crystalswacomka/iStock

If smudging is like that freshman lecture everyone’s required to take, crystals can feel like a master’s thesis. The sheer variety of crystalsavailable for mindfulness practices can be overwhelming,

“There are thousands of crystals, and each one has a unique energy and purpose. Amethyst, for example, can be used in the bedroom to help you sleep,” Baron explains.

“You can make crystal grids in and around your home, around your bed—wherever you need or want the energy of a particular stone, you can create crystal ‘energy centers,'” Kerr Wright adds.

So where to start? These three crystals are fit for beginner and experienced energy-cleansers alike.

  • Selenite: This crystal is “like liquid light,” Baron says, and can clear spaces, people, and even other crystals. “Many people will place selenite at the corners of a room to keep the energy flow strong and clear,” Feldmann adds. “It’s an effective aura cleanser and can lift your awareness to higher planes.”
  • Black tourmaline: This crystal, which keeps negative energy at bay, is mainly used for purification and protection. “Many people put black tourmaline in their front windows to ward off bad energies and protect their home,” Feldmann says. “It’s a very grounding stone and can keep whoever carries it feeling more positive by dispelling negative emotions.”
  • Labradorite: “If you’re looking for a stone to help you tap into your own inner magic, labradorite awakens mental and intuitive abilities in the carrier or wearer,” Feldmann says.

But you can’t just put your crystals out and forget about them. In order to properly work, they’ll need to be maintained.

“You can clear your crystals on a full moon by putting them out to bathe in the moonlight,” Kerr Wright explains, “or you can also literally wash them.”

Burn palo santo

Palo santoLuis Echeverri Urrea/iStock

Palo santo is a tree native to South America whose wood has been used by shamans and in sacred rituals. Much like sage, palo santo is burned or smudged and is said to have both medicinal and therapeutic healing powers.

“Both palo santo and sage give you a lighter feeling when you use them to smudge yourself or your space,” Kerr Wright says.

So which one should you use in your space? Kerr Wright breaks it down: “Sage smells like, well, sage. But after you’ve burned it, it kind of smells like you’ve been smoking pot,” she says. “Palo santo has a sweeter, woodsy smell to it, and no after-smell other than a slight burned odor.”

We’ll leave the choice up to you—you’re in charge of your own good vibes, after all.

Article by Larissa Runkle
Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson contributed to this report.

Pinwheel Apple Cobbler

This apple cobbler extraordinaire is made cinnamon-roll style.

By Betty Crocker Kitchens

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups Gold Medal™ self-rising flour
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup milk
2 cups finely chopped peeled baking apples (2 medium)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Steps

  • 1
    Heat oven to 350°F. Place butter in 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish; place in oven to melt. In 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar and water. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Set aside.
  • 2
    Place flour in medium bowl. With pastry blender or fork, cut in shortening until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add milk; stir with fork just until mixture begins to pull away from side of bowl.
  • 3
    On lightly floured surface, knead dough just until smooth. Roll out dough to 12x10x1/4-inch rectangle.
  • 4
    In medium bowl, gently stir apples and cinnamon until coated. Sprinkle apples evenly over dough. Beginning with long side, roll up jelly-roll fashion. Cut into 16 slices, each about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange slices in baking dish over melted butter. Pour sugar syrup carefully around and over rolls. (This looks like too much liquid, but crust will absorb it.)
  • 5
    Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

Expert Tips

  • For a cranberry-apple version, use 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries and 1 cup finely chopped peeled apple.
  • To make Apple-Raisin-Pecan Cobbler, sprinkle 1/2 cup raisins over melted butter in baking dish and arrange dough slices over raisins. Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup chopped pecans before baking.

5 Questions to Ask Your Mortgage Lender Before Refinancing Your Home

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Many homeowners with mortgages have considered refinancing at some point or another. Refinancing a mortgage essentially replaces your current mortgage with a new loan. It’s an especially enticing choice for people who want to decrease their interest rate, lower their monthly payments, pay off the loan faster, tap into home equity, or turn an adjustable-rate into a fixed-rate loan.

But hold on. Sherry Graziano, SVP, mortgage transformation officer at SunTrust in Orlando, FL, says that just because rates are at historic lows doesn’t mean that refinancing is the right decision for everyone. “Before beginning conversations with lenders, the homeowner should have a clear financial objective and see refinancing as way to achieve that objective.” 

Once you’ve decided that refinancing is worth exploring, find a mortgage representative who can clarify all the financials and explain all your options. While you’re discussing this, it’s important to ask the right questions—and lots of them.

Ready to refinance your home? Before you jump in and start the refinancing process, here are some questions you should plan to ask your mortgage lender.

1. ‘Does my quote include taxes and insurance?’

When applying for a loan, a lender will provide an estimate that gives a breakdown of all closing costs, the rate, and all other related costs with the loan.

Jeremy Engle, a mortgage lender with Vero Mortgage in Visalia, CA, says the lender’s quote usually includes taxes and insurance. “I ask clients for a current copy of their mortgage statement, and I can pull the figures from that,” he says.

Lenders will typically provide a detailed quote that will break down the new monthly payment, and it should highlight taxes and insurance, according to Graziano. She says homeowners may also want to ask about the associated fees—both the lender’s and other third parties’. “Typical costs may include an appraisal fee, credit report, title insurance, and closing or attorney’s fees,” Graziano says.

2. ‘How much money do I need to bring to closing?’

On average, homeowners can anticipate paying 2% to 3% of the loan amount to refinance a mortgage. So refinancing a $300,000 home loan, for example, could cost $6,000 to $9,000 and would be due at or before closing. Just as with your current home mortgage, the refinancing process will also include closing fees.

Communicate with your lender and ask what you need to bring to the closing table. Closing costs can include a variety of fees—bank, appraisal and attorney fees—for the services and expenses needed to finalize a mortgage.

When it comes to how much to bring to closing, it depends on the loan the borrower is looking to acquire and is unique to each borrower’s financial situation, according to Tarek Hassieb, a licensed real estate broker for Liberty Realty in Hoboken, NJ.

“If they want a lower payment, they’ll bring the appropriate funds to satisfy the payment they feel comfortable with. A borrower can essentially bring zero dollars to closing and add the closing costs to the loan, and bring nothing to the closing table,” says Hassieb.

Graziano says lenders offer different terms and promotions, and it is worth reading through all the documents. 

3. ‘What are my out-of-pocket costs?’

Discuss with your loan officer any additional fees you may be responsible for that are not included in your closing fee estimate. These may be included as separate costs, such as insurance and a property survey. Out-of-pocket costs vary, depending on each buyer’s situation.

“While some homeowners may opt to pay out of pocket for some expenses, many will choose to roll their refinancing costs into the loan,” says Graziano. “Homeowners should be clear about whether or not the lender offers them that option.” 

4. ‘Do I have room to cash out any equity?’

Most lenders prefer to see some equity if you are to qualify for a loan. Usually, the more equity there is in a home, the easier it is to refinance. Experts say at least 20% equity is needed if you don’t want to pay private mortgage insurance. However, even with less, you can still refinance, but the terms may not be as favorable. Hassieb says that since each buyer’s loan may be different, this would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

5. ‘How long is the term of the loan that you are quoting me?’

When you refinance, you will have a new term and amortization schedule. Each time you refinance your property, the clock is reset for the term length. “The loan would restart to Day One. So consider it a new loan. A borrower can choose a term from 10 years up to 30 years,” says Hassieb.

The cost to refinance a mortgage can vary based on such factors as interest rate, credit score, loan amount, and lender. As a homeowner, if you want to get a better mortgage refinance deal, you should shop around and make lenders compete for your business.

Hassieb says most lenders have an online link to a refinance pre-approval that can help the lender understand the borrowers’ financial situation and help them achieve their financial goals.

Article by Anayat Durrani

10 Home Upgrades That Attract Millennial Buyers

onurdongel/iStock

Think millennials aren’t in the market to buy a home? On the contrary, by early 2019, millennials represented 42% of all new home loans. What does this mean for home sellers? It means it’s time to start revamping your house to attract these buyers!

Luckily, there are plenty of simple and relatively affordable upgrades homeowners can make that appeal to millennial buyers. We asked the experts to share some of their top tips for attracting these young buyers, so your home can sell in a jiffy.

1. A home office space

Photo by Elms Interior Design

The remote work trend is on the rise for all groups, but especially among millennials. As a result, Kerron Stokes, a real estate agent with Re/Max Leaders in Colorado, suggests showcasing a home’s live-work versatility by carving out space for a home office.

“More than 13 million Americans work from home, according to the most current U.S. Census data. And all signs point to that trend continuing,” Stokes explains. “It doesn’t have to be big, but millennial buyers are looking for somewhere to go for a last-minute conference call or to get additional work done during the day.”

Luckily, this is an easy fix for sellers. If you’re looking to make your property more attractive to millennial buyers, consider staging one of the smaller bedrooms (or even a bonus space like a nook or alcove) as a home office. It’s a small touch, but it will help your potential millennial buyers picture the space working with their lifestyle.

2. Smart tech

Photo by Clipsal by Schneider Electric

Yes, this one seems obvious: Of course millennials are drawn to smart home tech—but what type?

“Appliances such as smart thermostats, smart doorbells, and more that can be controlled from an app are all the rage,” Stokes explains. “Connectivity is king when putting a house on the market these days.”

Yuri Blanco, owner of Re/Max Executives in Idaho, adds that millennials also crave low-cost tech.

“They crave smart security systems that don’t require a monthly subscription,” says Blanco. “Any new technology that comes at a low cost is a major bonus to this age group.”

3. Energy-efficient appliances

Photo by Kaufman Homes, Inc.

Energy-efficient products are also hugely important (and a huge selling point) for millennial buyers.

“Millennials are choosing eco-friendly materials such as nontoxic paint, Energy Star appliances in and around the home,” Blanco says.

4. A game room/gathering space

Photo by Soucie Horner, Ltd.

When it comes to staging, Blanco suggests highlighting how a space could be used as a gathering place for friends—something millennials actively consider when viewing homes.

“Millennials think about friends’ needs, so they want big areas where everyone can gather for entertainment, whether this be a TV or a game room,” Blanco explains.

5. USB outlets

According to Stokes, it’s particularly important to install USB outlets in bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens if you want to catch millennial buyers’ eyes. Smartphones are a fact of life today, and showing that your home is ready to make life easier with accessible charging ports will impress younger buyers.

“I recommend sellers swap out standard outlets for the outlets that include USBs for charging,” Stokes says. “Constantly being on a smartphone drains a lot of power. When your home offers a charging hub or outlet for people, especially in unconventional rooms like the kitchen, they are more likely to stop and take a second look.”

6. Neutral colors

Photo by Shannon Crain

When it comes time to paint a property, opt for soft, light neutrals to appeal to millennials.

“Millennials favor neutral colors,” Blanco says. “Particularly grays have gained wide appeal, along with more whitewashed gray variations, soft neutrals, and creams.”

7. Modern design

Photo by At Home Design LLC

When it comes to upgrading cabinets and other built-in features, experts say to opt for modern design elements if you’re hoping to woo millennial shoppers.

“In recent years, we are seeing millennials prefer modern, sleek designs with clean lines and minimalist aesthetics,” Blanco says. “To them, less is more. Homes that have new, stainless-steel kitchens, and simple cabinetry draw millennials in.”

8. Outdoor living space

Photo by Aleck Wilson Architects

In addition to upgrades inside the home, Stokes recommends making sure that the backyard feels like an extension of the living space—something that’s proving important to millennial buyers.

“Millennials have demonstrated a desire to personalize their homes, and large yards provide that opportunity,” Stokes says. “Spaces designed to spend time with friends around fire pits, room for a garden, and room for pets to roam is desired. However, sellers should keep in mind that these areas shouldn’t require a lot of time and maintenance, as this is something that repels millennial buyers.”

Amy Bonitatibus, chief marketing officer with Chase Home Lending, reiterates this point and adds that it’s important to not forget the front yard as well.

“According to the recent Chase Housing Confidence Index, a survey which used data from the U.S. Housing Confidence Survey, millennial homeowners ranked landscaping first on their renovation wish list, ahead of bathroom and kitchen remodels,” she says. “Everyone wants that Instagram-worthy curb appeal. Over 40% of young homeowners are looking to install new landscaping in the next few years.”

9. Garage outlets

Photo by Monley Cronin Construction

Millennials are also more likely than older buyers to extend that smart tech to the garage and try electric vehicles, which makes power outlets in the garage increasingly important to them.

“Having the option to power, from smart cars to toy batteries to an outdoor fridge, will instantly up your home’s appeal to millennials,” Stokes says.

10. Storage space

Photo by Closets by Design Louisville

Millennials aren’t all about fashion over function, despite what some may (wrongly) assume. Blanco says that millennials are drawn to homes that have a lot of practical storage space.

“Millennials have a desire for storage,” Blanco says. “If a home contains a multifunctional piece of furniture with storage options, even better. A home with plenty of built-in closets and drawers is more likely to be sold to buyers in this age group. Garages are also a notable place for increased storage.”

Article by Kayleigh Roberts

Old House Smell: What Is It, and How Do You Get Rid of It?

cegli/iStock

Old house smell: Those three dreaded words evoke something rather frightening and repellent to most homeowners. You know what we’re talking about, right? It’s that musty odor that creeps up and greets you the instant you set foot inside an older home. What is this mysterious stench, anyway? And, most importantly, is there a way to get rid of it?

To find out, we turned to science.

What causes that old home smell

“Three things that musty, old houses have in common: little ventilation, high humidity, and darkness,” says Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University.

These three things make the setting of old houses the perfect petri dish for mold to flourish. That said, that musty smell isn’t mold per se.

“What you’re smelling are called MVOCs: mold volatile organic compounds,” explains Carroll. “These are chemicals associated with a certain stage in the mold life cycle that are volatile enough to evaporate, but also have a strong enough inherent odor to be detected.”

The good news is that this funky smell isn’t a health issue, says Carroll. It’s just annoying—and probably more than a little embarrassing—particularly if you’re trying to sell your house to people who wrinkle their nose as soon as they enter your home. Luckily, though, there are ways to get rid of the odor.

How to remove old house smell: Dry the place out

“Opening up the windows and airing the place out—like your mother did when spring came—can help,” says Carroll.

If your house tends to be humid and you’re sure you don’t have any leaks, “keep your air conditioner or a dehumidifier running,” suggests Carroll.

Oh, and if you do have a leak of some kind—even if it’s just a leaky faucet? “That needs to be fixed before any progress can be made,” notes Carroll. (Progress meaning a fresh-smelling house.)

Let the sunshine in

“Light, especially sunlight with its ultraviolet component, is a good disinfectant,” Carroll notes. After all, UV is used to disinfect water in some pool systems.

Letting a little more light into an old house can do wonders for the musty odor and can help protect against mildew and mold.

Clean your couch

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if that old house smell is coming from your couch, it may be more of an “old couch smell” instead. In fact, all upholstered furniture and your carpets could be culprits.

“Soft stuff absorbs ambient moisture,” says Carroll, and that can lead to mold growth.

If you work hard to reduce the humidity in your house, over time, the soft stuff may relinquish some of its ambient moisture as well, dry out, and start resisting mold growth.

“But that takes time, because it takes a while for the moisture deep inside the furniture to migrate out,” Carroll says. And that may not be good enough.

“Worst case, all the soft stuff has to go or be professionally deep-cleaned,” says Carroll. “And a good cleaning of the hard surfaces with a disinfectant doesn’t hurt either.”

If the smell is, in fact, coming from your furniture or carpet, cleaning and reupholstering is an option. But, sometimes it might be easiest to simply get rid of those musty items.

If the carpet is starting to smell or that old couch is emitting an odor, it can be easiest to just remove the item and get rid of an odor quickly. This is especially important if you have buyers planning to look at the house soon, if you’ve got an open house scheduled—you don’t want the smell to linger.

Deep-clean the guts of your house

“Furnaces and air ducts can have a tremendous amount of mold that can grow in them when they’re not being used,” says Leslie Reichert, cleaning expert and author of “The Joy of Green Cleaning.”

Air conditioners can also trap mold and mildew in their filtering systems. If you think these little tunnels are the source of the odor in your home, hire an HVAC professional, who can actually use a tiny camera to make sure all of the gunk is located—and removed.

Declutter under every sink

“Nope,” you may be thinking. “I don’t have any leaks.” But if you have a gazillion cleaning supplies and sponges under your kitchen sink and two gazillion beauty products, would you really know? So clean it out.

Leaks under a sink can definitely cause an unpleasant smell, and if you haven’t inspected the area in a while, the musty smell may have gotten worse and worse until the whole house has an odor.

“Getting things out from under the sink lets you see if anything is dripping or molding,” says Reichert. “Also, you can check for dampness or leaking in the piping.”

Wash your walls

If you’ve tried everything and still haven’t found the source of the odor in your old house, the musty smell may very well be coming from the walls.

Reichert advises dissolving a half-cup borax in a bucket of hot water (32 ounces), then adding 2 cups distilled white vinegar and 16 ounces of hydrogen peroxide. Right away, wipe down your walls and let them air-dry.

“This will remove grease, dust, and mildew, and also remove smells that have embedded into wall surfaces or wallpaper,” Reichert says. Repeat whenever you catch a whiff of a stale smell.

Neutralize the air

An open container of baking soda or white vinegar, kept in an unobtrusive place (for example, on top of your kitchen cupboards), can help absorb musty smells and clear the air.

Experts also recommend FreshWave or DampRid, two all-natural substances that absorb smells and trap excess moisture in the air. These can help you get the musty smells out of your house—and get your place ready for company!

Article by Stephanie Booth

HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA TEA

Kombucha – it’s that effervescent, tangy fermented drink that seems to be ever-growing in popularity.

But keeping up with the latest fermented foods trends and probiotic benefits can come at a hefty price.

Why shell out $3 to $4 a bottle when can learn how to make kombucha from the comfort of your home? We’ll show you how to make up to a gallon of kombucha (that’s 8 bottles) for a fraction of the cost of commercial brands.

Whether you’re new to making kombucha or a seasoned fermenting expert, now you can brew delicious kombucha tea at home with our easy-to-follow kombucha recipe.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN BREWING KOMBUCHA

For Beginners

  • To get started brewing at home, you will need a Kombucha Tea Starter Culture (also known as a SCOBY, mother, or mushroom) plus some ingredients and equipment listed below. Visit our tutorial to learn more about How to Make or Obtain a Kombucha SCOBY.
  • If you are just doing some research, browse this page along with our expert advice on making kombucha tea at home and feel free to reach out with any questions. We’re here to help!

If You’ve Purchased a Dehydrated SCOBY

  • If you have purchased a dehydrated Kombucha Tea Starter Culture, please visit our video on Activating a Dehydrated Kombucha SCOBY to get started.
  • If you have just activated our dehydrated SCOBY, please follow the enclosed instructions for making the first 3 batches of kombucha. The instructions in this video and article are for making kombucha regularly, using a fully activated kombucha SCOBY.

HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA TEA

1. Gather Equipment for Making Kombucha Tea

Making kombucha tea at home is easy, and it only requires a few pieces of equipment to get started. You can learn more about choosing the best equipment for making kombucha in this article, but in short you will need:

  • Quart-Size Glass Jar
  • Plastic or Wooden Stirring Utensil
  • Tight-Weave Cloth or Paper Coffee Filter
  • Something to secure the cover to the jar (rubber band or canning jar rings work well)

Most of the supplies you need can also be found in one of our DIY Kombucha Kits. These kits make getting started easy. All you supply is a glass jar and a few kitchen staples. Everything else from a SCOBY and tea to bottles, and flavorings are included.

 

2. Gather Ingredients for Making Kombucha

Below is a list of ingredients needed for making kombucha, most of which can be found in the Kombucha Tea Starter Kit. To explore more options for each, check out our tutorial: Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha.

  • Unfluoridated, Unchlorinated Water
  • White Sugar
  • Tea Bags or Loose Tea
  • Starter Tea or Distilled White Vinegar
  • Active Kombucha SCOBY


4. Follow Instructions for Making Kombucha Tea

  1. Combine hot water and sugar in a glass jar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. The water should be hot enough to steep the tea but does not have to be boiling.   
  2. Place the tea or tea bags in the sugar water to steep.
NOTE: Using a metal tea ball to contain loose tea for making kombucha is acceptable. The tea ball should be removed before adding the SCOBY and starter tea, so the tea ball will not come into contact with the SCOBY.
  1. Cool the mixture to 68-85ºF. The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools or removed after the first 10-15 minutes. The longer the tea is left in the liquid, the stronger the tea will be. 
  2. Remove the tea bags or completely strain the loose tea leaves from the liquid.
  3. Add starter tea from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have starter tea, distilled white vinegar may be substituted.
  4. Add an active kombucha SCOBY.
  5. Cover the jar with a tight-weave towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
  6. Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste. The longer the kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste.
  7. Pour kombucha off the top of the jar for consuming. Retain the SCOBY and enough liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch.
  8. The finished kombucha can be flavored and bottled, if desired, or enjoyed plain.

5. Flavor and Bottle to Make Your Kombucha Fizzy!

Once the kombucha has finished culturing, remove the SCOBY and enjoy it plain or add flavoring. There is no limit to the flavoring possibilities. For a fizzy finished kombucha, try bottling it in a Grolsch-style bottle or other tightly-sealed container.

Check out our video and article on Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha for more information or one of our kombucha flavor kits for flavoring ideas.

KOMBUCHA TROUBLESHOOTING?

Starting a new project can be tricky at times, but with our tips and resources, we are confident that you’ll be successful.

Maybe you’re wondering what a healthy SCOBY looks like or perhaps you’re not sure if your SCOBY was properly activated.

Whatever the case, browse our troubleshooting FAQ and you’ll be in good shape to make the best homemade kombucha possible!

CONTINUOUS BREW KOMBUCHA

Once you’ve been brewing kombucha for a while, you may find it more convenient to set up a kombucha continuous brewing system.

Rather than changing brewing containers for every batch, this method allows you to make larger batches, one after the other in the same container.

Not only does this create a nice little fermentation ecosystem, a kombucha continuous brew system is low maintenance and provides a healthy environment for your SCOBY.

The Kombucha Brewing Jar by Mortier Pilon is specially designed to make it easy to make and store kombucha all in the same container. The lid even features a re-writable label you can use to mark your brewing dates.

MORE WAYS TO USE KOMBUCHA

Don’t forget, kombucha is good for more than just drinking!  Check out more ideas for using kombucha as well as our collection of kombucha recipes. If you get overrun with kombucha SCOBY’s there are lots of creative ways to use extras! (You can even use leftover SCOBYs to make Jun tea!)

STORING YOUR KOMBUCHA SCOBY

Working with live cultures like a SCOBY means they need the proper care and attention. While SCOBYs can give you an endless supply of kombucha tea, there may be times when you need to take a break from brewing kombucha. Learn more about how to do this in our tutorial: How to Take a Break from Making Kombucha.

 

How To Get a Mortgage With Bad Credit (Yes, You Can)

Julia_Sudnitskaya/iStock

Finding home loans with bad credit isn’t for the faint of heart—or at least not something you should do without some serious homework. But there’s good news if you’re wondering how to buy a house with bad credit: It can be done!

A good credit score typically means you’ll get a great mortgage. A bad credit score means you’re in trouble, but you shouldn’t just throw in the towel. From low credit score mortgages to cash options to down payment strategies, this crash course explains how to buy a home with bad credit. Yes, it can be done.

What is a bad credit score?

First things first: While you may have a vague sense your credit score is bad, that’s not enough. How bad is it, really?

Ideally, you should check your credit report long before meeting with a mortgage lender. Your credit score is based on the information that appears on this report, and you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Credit scores, also called FICO scores, range from 300 (awful) to 850 (perfection).

If your credit score is 750 or higher, “you’re in the top tier” and positioned for the best interest rates and the most attractive loan terms for home buying, says Todd Sheinin, mortgage lender and chief operating officer at New America Financial in Gaithersburg, MD.

A good credit score is from 700 to 749. If you fall below that range, lenders will start to question whether you’re a risky investment as a potential borrower.

“If your credit stinks, you’re at an immediate disadvantage and may have trouble qualifying for a home loan,” says Richard Redmond, a mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”

So, what next?

Check for errors

If your credit rating is subpar, that’s no reason to beat yourself up (at least not immediately), because you may not even be to blame for all of those blemishes.

Creditors frequently make mistakes when reporting consumer slip-ups. In fact, 1 in 4 Americans finds errors on credit reports, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission survey. So make sure to scour your credit report for slip-ups that aren’t your own. From there, you’ll need to contact the organizations that provided the erroneous info (e.g., a bank or medical provider) and have them update it. Once that’s done, your credit score will rise accordingly on your credit report.

As for any mistakes that are your fault? If they’re one-time mistakes, it never hurts to call and ask that they get removed from your record.

The only fix for major mistakes (darn chronic credit card debt), however, is time. Banish bad credit by making payments by their due date (late payments truly are the devil for hopeful home buyers), and you will gradually see your credit score rise. Just don’t expect to rewrite your credit history overnight. You have to prove to lenders that you’re up to the task of making those mortgage payments on time—all while saving for a down payment, of course. Nobody said this would be easy!

Pay up for a home loan for bad credit

Depending on your credit score, you might still qualify for low credit score mortgage options—but you should expect to pay a higher interest rate, says Sheinin. Getting a mortgage with a higher rate means you’ll pay your lender more money in interest over time, of course, but it at least enables you to join the home-buying club.

With interest rates still historically low (check yours here), it could make sense to buy now and take the higher rate.

Get a low credit score home loan

A Federal Housing Administration loan is one option for prospective home buyers with poor credit, as the FHA typically offers these mortgages for less-than-perfect credit scores and first-time home buyers. The FHA requires a minimum 580 credit score (and other requirements) to qualify, but FHA loans also enable you to make a down payment as low as 3.5%.

The big drawback? Because the federal government insures these low credit score home loans, you’ll pay a mortgage insurance premium, which is currently assessed at 1.75% of the base FHA loan amount. However, depending on your actual credit score, certain conventional loans may still be available to home buyers with low credit, and these loans may require a slightly smaller down payment than the FHA loan minimum. Be sure to do your homework when exploring the FHA option.

Increase your down payment

If you have poor credit but a lot of cash saved up, some mortgage lenders might be willing to approve you for a home loan if you make a larger down payment.

“The more you put down, the more you minimize the risk to the lender,” says Sheinin.

So, by increasing your down payment to 25% or 30% on a conventional loan—instead of the standard 20%—you’ll strengthen your mortgage application, making yourself far more attractive to a lender. Just remember that your bad credit score can still negatively affect your mortgage loan’s interest rate.

Still, though, the chance to own your own home may outweigh those downsides any day. So if you’re convinced your credit history is sure to dash your home-buying dreams, chin up! Put in the work to overcome your bad credit—develop a healthier relationship with credit cards, work with a knowledgeable lender, and explore all of your mortgage options.

Article by Daniel Bortz

5 Home Upgrades Millennials Couldn’t Care Less About

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Despite being called out for their ineptitude at saving money and their overwhelming fondness for spending it on experiences instead of things, millennials actually do desire financial stability—especially if it means they can buy a house.

So what kind of homes do they want? According to real estate professionals, a large majority of millennials seeks out properties that are move-in ready—with plenty of room for customization.

“They care more about the home being clean and in good condition,” says Mary Katherine Spalding, a Realtor® associate with Helen Painter Group in Fort Worth, TX. “Cosmetic changes are much easier to make, and millennials are a generation of DIYers.”

But home sellers are also becoming well-versed in what they don’t want. If you’re looking to attract millennial buyers, be forewarned: These home upgrades will turn them away from your home faster than you can say, “What’s your Wi-Fi password?”

1. Over-the-top landscaping

A spacious, well-manicured yard was the pride and joy of earlier generations that didn’t mind working up a sweat mowing and fertilizing their lawns. But that’s not the case with busy millennials. They prefer cultivating indoor plants—and the convenience of an outdoor space that’s easy to maintain.

Jason Duff, founder and CEO of Small Nation, a real estate development company in Bellefontaine, OH, says millennials prefer to have landscaping beds (for growing a vegetable garden?) and other green-filled areas that look nice, are easy to maintain, and can be set up for quality time with pets.

2. A formal dining room

Mom and Grandma may have cherished dinner time in their fancy dining room with matching plates, sterling silver flatware, and gold-plated tea sets. But younger buyers tend to consider that dedicated room a stuffy waste of space.

Duff says young buyers enjoy cooking in their kitchen and want to eat in or near their kitchen, too.

“Most millennials don’t care about formal dining rooms,” says Duff. “It was a fixture for many homes in previous decades, but today dining tends to happen close to the kitchen—from the convenience of a meal home delivery box like Blue Apron—or on the go.”

When it comes to gathering for a meal, millennials appreciate the laid-back simplicity of breakfast nooks and bar stools.

3. A designated floor plan

Older generations may be satisfied with a mapped-out floor plan that designates a living room, kitchen, and dining room, but millennials seek multifunctional rooms. Think wide-open spaces that make the home feel like one flowing space.

“Where homes traditionally would have separate rooms, millennials are gravitating toward having large, open rooms that bring these all together like kitchens with breakfast bars or islands that open to the living space,” says John Steele, a real estate agent with Team Steele San Diego Homes in California.

4. Brand-new carpeting

If you’re considering sprucing up your home before you sell, think twice before spending money on installing new carpets. Millennials are moving away from carpeting in favor of bare floors with statement rugs.

“There are some buyers that like it in the bedrooms, but in the living spaces, laminates, tile, hardwood, and engineered hardwood are much more popular,” says Steele.

Another reason to stick with noncarpeted flooring is that it’s more pet-friendly—and millennials love their pets. Carpeting can absorb and retain odors, stains, and hair, and pet cleanup is easier on a hardwood floor.

5. Memorabilia and game rooms

Millennials aren’t defined by their possessions—and they definitely don’t want to showcase them in a room. So if you’re thinking about staging a room where the owners can show off their stuff, think again.

“Millennials may be a little different than previous generations in wanting to keep, collect, and show off all that they have accumulated,” says Duff. “Put away the pool table and think digital,” says Duff.

Millennials live a more digital existence, so Duff recommends staging your game area in a media room with a large TV or projector and maybe even surround sound.

Article by Anayat Durrani

The Best Pets for Apartments: Low-Maintenance Companionship for Close Quarters

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It’s a sad fact of apartment life that not all landlords love tenants with pets. However, even if your dwelling doesn’t allow cats, dogs, or capybaras, that doesn’t mean that you (or your kids) are doomed to a pet-less existence. It turns out, plenty of animals are well-suited to apartment living whether it’s based on their size, limited upkeep, or otherwise, according to Rena Lafaille, the administrative manager of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Adoption Center. So if you’re looking for more out-of-the-box ideas, check out this list revealing the best pets for apartments. Dogs aren’t the only animals capable of best friend status!

Parakeet

ParakeetLee Ingram/iStock

Do you love the idea of a cheerful songbird in your apartment? Look no further than the original tweeter breed, the parakeet.

Around 8 inches long, this independent—and adorable—bird can be taught to whistle tunes and talk, but it won’t squawk so loud as to annoy your apartment or condo neighbors like its larger-feathered friends might. It also doesn’t need much space, making it an ideal apartment pet.

While larger parrots need four-plus hours of playtime outside of their cage every day, parakeets can fly easily within a cage 3 feet wide and tall and just 2 feet deep—so it doesn’t get more apartment-friendly than that.

Parakeets don’t need a ton of stuff either (a few toys and activities are fine), making their upkeep relatively inexpensive to boot. Sure, that prattling on can be a bit annoying. But you probably won’t mind.

Betta fish

This easily managed betta fish (aka Siamese fighting fish) doesn’t require a complicated tank setup, making this small pet another wise choice for apartment living. The brilliantly hued beauty’s bowl simply needs clean, warm water (forget the aquarium filters or heaters). The bowl doesn’t even have to be huge, because this breed’s average length is just a couple of inches. This finned friend couldn’t be more perfect for your apartment.

Hedgehog

HedgehogIRYNA KAZLOVA/iStock

Night owls, meet your match. The sweet, spiky African pygmy hedgehog comes alive at night. But its best attribute, as far as apartment living goes, is how low-maintenance it is. This palm-size cutie patootie needs merely a cage, wheel, wood chips, water bottle, and cat food (or minced beef, chicken, or turkey).

The pet owner’s only added responsibility is to give it about a half-hour of human touch, and a bath now and then—it’s almost like a dog but with considerably less effort. But you’ll have to brace yourself for disappointment if you live in Maine, California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania: The critter is considered a wild animal in each of those states, and it is illegal to keep it as a pet in your home—apartment or otherwise.

Snake

This slithery animal may seem a little creepy (OK, a lot creepy), but it also has cool factor to spare. Unlike many other pets, it has a long life span and can be left alone for long stretches without you, dear owner, having to worry about it getting lonely in your apartment (because it won’t).

The best beginner pet snake breeds, according to Reptiles Magazine, include the corn snake, California kingsnake, rosy boa, gopher snake, and ball python. Just prepare to feed them their favorite on the menu: frozen mice and rats that have been thawed! Don’t judge. A dog or cat probably wouldn’t turn down that entrée either!

Hamster

Happy to hang out on their own, in a solid-bottom wire cage or in an aquarium, hamsters are not only adorable, they also love to interact with people, making them a nice option if you’re pining for a cat or dog. The rodents keep busy, too, tunneling in shredded paper or tissue bedding and exercising on their wheels at night.

Hamsters’ food is low-maintenance as well: pellets, water, cheese, and the occasional piece of fresh fruit or veggies. And unlike noisy guinea pigs, which communicate in clicks and whines, these small pets are silent sorts unlikely to irritate anyone within earshot—which is typically everyone in an apartment space. So if you’re debating between a hamster or a guinea pig, that detail might help to break the tie.

Gecko

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If the best roommate is a quiet one, then a gecko is the best darn roomie ever! Naturally shy, this lizard chills out happily in a heated terrarium and sleeps all day. At night this small animal eats (worms and crickets, yum!), pokes around, and hides under the rocks or wood placed in its playground-like terrarium, which is easy to find at any pet store.

Thankfully, this indoor reptile isn’t as chatty or irritating as the insurance rep it plays on TV.

Rabbit

Hop to it and get a rabbit if you want a very cute, apartment-friendly pet that can be trained to, wait for it, use a litter box!

That’s right, renters: A rabbit can learn to handle its business like felines do—as well as exercise outdoors with a collar and leash. In fact, it just might be a great pet alternative for cat lovers.

The bonus for working families: Rabbits are most active in the early mornings and evenings, similar to the rush hours at home. A quiet pet, rabbits are nevertheless social critters. They love a good cuddle, but watch out for their teeth. A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing throughout the pet’s lifetime (rabbits constantly chew things like wires and houseplants)!

Article by Jennifer O’Neill