These Are the Best Dogs for an Apartment

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The best dogs for an apartment are ones that are content in small spaces and don’t need a lot of exercise outdoors. If your apartment seems to be missing something—like an adorable furry friend to meet you at the door at night—then maybe a dog is in your future.

But is your home really the right place for a pooch? If your quarters are tight (hey, we’re still talking about your apartment), and you have no yard where your canine could stretch its legs, might you be setting up your pet—and yourself—for a miserable relationship? Not necessarily. Whether you’re dreaming of a greyhound, pug, French bulldog, shiba inu, or any other breed, read on.

Best dogs for apartment living

Many apartment dogs are born and bred homebodies, happy to lounge around at home, says Cyndy Bolte, senior scientist at Nestlé Purina PetCare. Certain breeds are also known for not being big barkers—a godsend for your neighbors. So before you give up on your dream of owning a dog, check out this list of (hot) dog breeds that are perfectly suited for urban living.

Note: We’re focusing on purebreds, because they display reliable personality traits, but it’s worth noting that mixed-breed mutts often display the best qualities of their various lines and that far more are available for adoption. Go, mutts! Without further ado, here are some of the best dog breeds for apartment living. All together now: Awwwwww!

Toy poodle4X-image/iStock

Toy poodle

At 10 inches or less in height, this is about as small as you can get without downsizing to a gerbil or, God forbid, an anxiety-ridden Chihuahua (don’t hate us, please).

With toy dogs, you get a dog’s big personality in a small package that gets pretty much all the exercise it needs running around your little place. Bonus: Poodles don’t shed (the downside, though, is they need to be bathed regularly and have their coat clipped every six to eight weeks). And while there are some wild and rather disturbing poodle cuts out there, the easiest is the “lamb clip,” an all-over short cut. Live on the 35th floor? No problem.

It’s no big deal to litter-train these apartment dogs or use potty pads, so you don’t need to take them outside for the required three to six times a day to answer nature’s call. That’s great for someone who lives in a high-rise or walk-up, has no urge to exercise, or prefers a pet that fits in a purse. You know who you are.

MastiffxposureNZ/iStock

Mastiff

Love large dogs but worried they’ll run you ragged with their need for open spaces? Then the mellow mastiff is an unexpected choice for an apartment list.

Despite its gargantuan size, it doesn’t require much exercise. Its size, in fact, is the cause of its low energy. Being a mastiff is tiring!

“A simple walk daily” should do it, Bolte suggests.

Shih Tzuelenasendler/iStock

Shih Tzu

Anyone who follows Marnie the Dog, a 13-year-old rescue and Instagram sensation, may be craving one of these mop-headed cuties. But here’s what you may not know: The Shih Tzu was bred to be a companion—it has no hunting genes! It is compact in size and quite happy staying indoors, which makes it an ideal apartment dog.

One caveat: All that long, silky fur requires daily brushing to prevent knots, and bathing as often as once a week. Also, much like humans, it needs regular hair-cutting every six to eight weeks. It’s a bit high-maintenance, but just think of how chic your companion will look strutting down the street by your side.

English bulldogClarkandCompany/iStock

English bulldog

Sure, these droopy-jowled charmers are a robust size. But once they’ve outgrown their puppy stage, they become big, wrinkly couch potatoes, making them some of the very best apartment dogs. In fact, you may have to drag this breed out and about—so if you love regular trips to the park, you may be in trouble. For human homebodies, though, this is the perfect companion.

Great DaneKuderM/iStock

Great Dane

Yes, the Great Dane can make a great dog for an apartment. On its hind legs, it can tower over humans; but indoors, it’s relatively inactive, thanks in large part to its large size (like the mastiff).

Known as a gentle giant, this affectionate, short-haired breed is relatively graceful, considering—so don’t worry too much about it knocking over your home decor.

Bonus: “They’re on the quiet side,” Bolte says. So odds are slim that this apartment dog will bark and annoy (or terrify) your neighbors.

Cavalier King Charles spanielCarmelka/iStock

Cavalier King Charles spaniel

If you prefer your dog to be seen and not heard, this brown-eyed beauty is for you.

“Spaniels such as Cavalier King Charles are small and known to be relatively quiet in demeanor and with barking,” Bolte says.

Made famous as the pet of Charlotte in “Sex and the City,” this serene spaniel is a surprisingly low-maintenance apartment dog. Its coat is no muss, no fuss, requiring just weekly brushing. Its energy level depends on you—it can go for a hike, or hike on to your lap, and requires just one walk daily.

Borkiearenacreative/iStock

Borkie

A borkie is a combination of two great apartment breeds: a bichon and a Yorkie. You get the fluffy white fur of a bichon and the even-tempered personality of a Yorkie all in one.

Borkies don’t require much grooming or exercise, making them a good option if you’re away from your apartment most of the day.

Article by Claudine Zap

6 DIY Fire Pits That’ll Make You Feel Oh-So-Warm

Not to mention, get you a nice ROI on your home’s value.

Image: SolStock/Getty

Don’t spend the whole summer planning your dream fire pit or there could be frost on the ground before it’s ready to roar. Start your DIY now and you won’t miss a single day of prime bonfire season.

Plus, there’s this: A pro-built fire pit costs about $4,500 with a return of about $3,500, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Now think of your return if you DIY it instead. (Here’s how to do it the money-saving way.)

Some ideas to motivate you:

#1 Old-Timey Rock Fire Pit

Image: Greco Design Company

If you live near rocky terrain, you can forage for rocks and stack them into a pit that looks like it came from the 19th century, instead of from a big-box store kit.

#2 Koi Pond Turned Fire Pit

Image: Lucy’s Lampshade

If you’ve decided the koi are more trouble than they’re worth, re-home them and turn the fish pond into a fire pit. Drain it, fill it with sand, and top with a layer of lava rock (or azure fire glass if you want to keep the look of water).

Use the money you save on fish food, algae killer, and chlorine remover to buy firewood and marshmallows.

#3 Easy-Peasy Tree Ring Pit

Image: By permission of Dewey Lindstrom

Want to DIY a fire pit, but would rather read software user agreements than spend a weekend stacking and mortaring?

Pick up some concrete tree rings, and you can make a fire pit in about an hour.

Stack the rings into an inner and outer wall. Use rings with a scalloped top so you can turn the top rings upside down and lock them with the bottom ones, Lego-stylePut landscaping rocks between them to make the fire pit sturdier.

And the genius hack: Use a small, round charcoal grill as a liner. Let the bonfire begin.

#4 A Great Big Seat By the Fire

Image: DIY fire pit sofa bench made by Keeping It Simple

If you’ve got a gaggle of friends, build modular wooden seating so there’s room for everybody around the fire. You’ll need to be handy with math and power tools to build this bench, but the fire pit’s a cinch: It’s made of dry-stack retaining wall blocks. That’s it.

If building benches with angled edges is above your pay grade, just buy some regular benches and arrange in a circle. You made the fire pit. That’s plenty.

#5 A Room with a View

Image: Monika Davis

Why stop at a fire pit? Go for a full-on outdoor room in a cozy corner of the yard, with a gravel patio flagstone path, comfy chairs, and side tables.

This fire pit is super simple: a hole lined with sand and ringed with dry stack pavers.

#6 New Fire Pit, Old Materials

Image: Project done by Lehman Lane

Why buy new stuff when you may be able to scavenge perfectly good ones from your yard?

Got a paved path you don’t want? A patio that’s too big or in the wrong place? Pick up the stones and use them to make the fire pit you’re craving.

Nearly all of the materials in this fire pit and patio came from other hardscape features in the yard. Those benches? Salvaged wood beams from a razed building.

Scour Craigslist and other marketplaces for used pavers, flagstone, or salvaged wood you can use for a fire pit. Other people’s old stuff works, too.

Article by LEANNE POTTS

SWEET POTATO SHEPHERD’S PIE

Cooking up a hardy dish this time of year makes my heart (and tummy) happy. It’s hard to beat savory flavors that meld and cook all day. They warm you up from the inside out. While this recipe for Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie doesn’t take all day to cook, it’s perfect for cooler autumn weather.

 

serves about 8 people

Here’s what you will need:
2 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into thirds
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound ground meat (I used a combination of pork sausage and ground beef.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
Grated Parmesan and fresh rosemary for garnish (optional)

In a pot of cold salted water, bring the sweet potatoes to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes or until tender; then drain. When cool enough to handle. remove and discard the skins.

In a large bowl, mash the sweet potatoes with butter, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat six to eight individual casserole pans (or one large pan) with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large skillet, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook until no longer pink. Transfer the meat to a colander and drain well. Wipe out your skillet with a paper towel.

In the same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook until tender (4-5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in the broth, crushed tomatoes, rosemary, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened. Then stir in the cooked meat, corn, peas and carrots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook 2 minutes.

Divide this mixture among the prepare baking dishes. Spread the top with the mashed sweet potatoes. Place dishes onto a large baking sheet.

Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Top with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Buying a House After Bankruptcy? How Long to Wait and What to Do

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Securing a home loan and buying a house after bankruptcy may sound like an impossible feat. Blame it on all those Monopoly games, but bankruptcy has a very bad rap, painting the filer as someone who should never be loaned money.

The reality is that of the 800,000 Americans who file for bankruptcy every year, most are well-intentioned, responsible people. Life has thrown them a curveball, however, that has left them struggling to pay off their past debts.

Sometimes, filing for bankruptcy is the only way out of a crushing financial situation, and taking this step can really help cash-strapped individuals get back on their feet.

And yes, many go on to buy a home eventually, despite the challenging credit score that results from bankruptcy. But how? Being aware of what a lender expects after a bankruptcy will help you navigate the mortgage application process efficiently and effectively.

Here are the steps on buying a house after bankruptcy, and the top things you need to know.

Types of bankruptcy: The best and the worst

There are two ways to file: Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, filers are typically released from their obligation to pay back unsecured debt—think credit cards, medical bills, or loans extended without collateral.

With Chapter 13 bankruptcy, filers have to pay back their debt. However, the debt is reorganized and a new repayment schedule established that makes monthly payments more affordable.

Since Chapter 13 filers are still paying back their debts, mortgage lenders generally look more favorably on these consumers than those who file for Chapter 7, says David Carey, vice president and residential lending manager at New York’s Tompkins Mahopac Bank.

A bankruptcy attorney can help determine if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 makes the most sense for your specific situation. Unfortunately, both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies will adversely affect credit scores. But don’t give up, hopeful home buyer.

How long after bankruptcy should you wait before buying a house?

Most people applying for a loan will need to wait two years after bankruptcy before lenders will consider their loan application. That said, it could be up to a four-year ban, depending on the individual and type of loan. This is because lenders have different “seasoning” requirements, which is a specified amount of time that needs to pass.

Fannie Mae, for example, has a minimum two-year ban on borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy, says David Reiss, professor of law and academic programs director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.

The FHA loan, on the other hand, has a minimum one-year ban in place after a bankruptcy. These bans, or seasoning periods, are typically shorter with government-backed loans (such as FHA or VA loans) than with conventional loans.

The time is measured starting from the date of discharge or dismissal of the bankruptcy action. Generally, the more time between debt discharge and the loan application, the less risky a once-bankrupt borrower looks in the eyes of a mortgage lender.

How to reestablish credit after bankruptcy

Once the bankruptcy process is over, reestablishing and maintaining creditworthiness is key to your financial health. Lenders will be looking for zero delinquencies postbankruptcy.

While you work to build new credit, don’t go overboard opening an extensive number of accounts, as this will work against you, advises Carey. Usually, opening just a couple of revolving credit lines and paying them in a timely manner over the course of 12 months helps to increase credit scores back to an acceptable level.

What to do before you apply for a mortgage

Before you apply for a mortgage loan, check your credit score by getting copies of your three main credit reports, which detail the financial transactions (and transgressions) from your past. You will want to check these credit reports for errors, such as a credit issue that you resolved but that is not reflected in your report.

“In some postbankruptcy cases, errors continue to report negatively on credit reports,” says Carey.

These mistakes will drag down your overall credit score and reduce your chances of getting approved for the mortgage. So if you spot mistakes on your credit reports, work with the credit bureaus to correct the information they include. This can boost your credit score significantly, and may even tip the scales on your home loan approval. Mortgage lenders want to see any movement from bad credit to good credit, so don’t leave any of your hard-earned progress on the table.

Buying a house after bankruptcy: Ways to woo a lender

To start the mortgage process, lenders require a detailed letter explaining why you needed to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 in the first place. Ideally, the bankruptcy would have been caused by an extenuating circumstance beyond your control—such as the death of an income-contributing spouse, the loss of employment, or a serious illness.

In other words: A lender likes to see that you were hit with hard times that had a significant negative impact on your expenses or income, and made it impossible to meet your financial obligations.

What a lender won’t want to see is someone with a die-hard shopping habit or a lackadaisical attitude toward paying credit cards on time. If that’s you, you’ll have to prove you’ve changed.

Whatever the reason you filed for bankruptcy, lenders will need to properly document your extenuating circumstances, so be prepared to provide proof detailing your life event.

Medical bills, a doctor’s note, a death certificate, or severance paperwork are all acceptable evidence that prove to lenders that you are a safe bet worthy of a home loan.

Article by Margaret Heidenry

3 Must vs. Lust Buying Tips to Avoid Overspending

 

The super-simple (and fun) way to separate needs from nice-to-haves.

Image: Julia Marcum / Chris Loves Julia

When you embark on the home-buying process, your heart is filled with all the dreams in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the “I have to have ___________,  so I’ll cut back somewhere else ” game, even when you don’t actually know where that somewhere else is or if you can realistically cut back there.

This post will show you how to pare down the excess and make sure to get the things you really NEED.

Make a List of Wants

Start by making a list of everything you want in your house. If you love it, jot it down. Have your spouse or partner do the same thing in a separate document.

Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

Once you and your partner have everything down, start sorting your wants by order of importance. What’s your No. 1? Do you need large windows? How about a sunroom? Double sinks in the master? You get the idea.

Come up with your top 10, and then compare your list to your partner’s top 10. What things appear on both lists? Those items should carry more weight because you both want them in your home.

Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

Highlight the Important Stuff

Next, look at your list and consider:

  • The things that can’t be changed without a massive investment. I’m talking things like square footage, window size, and number of bedrooms. This is your heavyweight list. These things should take priority in your home-buying decision.
  • Features that are purely cosmetic, especially things that can be DIYed. These items should be moved waaay down the list or taken off entirely. Backsplash tile, paint color, and lighting can all be changed inexpensively and after you’re living in your house. You don’t want to pass up a fantastic house because you can’t see past a red accent wall.
Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

At this point, you should have a combined list of 10 or so items.

My last tip is to figure out the priority of each one of the items. Ask yourself, would you be willing to give up item number 4, say, to have item number 5? Would you be willing to give up hardwood floors for a home theater room? This is the hardest question to answer, but it’ll put your must-haves in the right order.

I always picture this activity like an eye appointment when the doctor says, “1 or 2? OK, now 2 or 3?” Do that with your list! Pool or flooring? Flooring or yard size? Yard size or square footage? Make sense?

Bring Your List When You Look at a Home

As you’re out looking at houses, keep your list handy. Maybe you’re not willing to give up hardwood floors for a jetted tub, but would you be willing to compromise for a jetted tub and extra square footage? Refer back to your must-haves list often. It’s easy to get distracted.

Image: Mandi Gubler / Vintage Revivals

Here’s a quick checklist that I use when searching for a home. If you answer “yes” to all of these, then a “want” may be worth the splurge — that is, if you can be sure that you’ll be able to afford the feature (in terms of your monthly mortgage payments and living expenses).

  1. Is it on both of your lists?
  2. Is it something that’ll be extremely expensive and difficult to change or add?
  3. Would you be willing to sacrifice something else to have it?
  4. Would you feel like your house would be incomplete without it?

Happy house hunting!

Article by MANDI GUBLER

Does My Roof Need to Be Repaired or Replaced? Telltale Signs You Need to Act

BanksPhotos/iStock

If it’s been a while since you gave much thought to the literal roof over your head, now’s the time to make sure all is well. Determining whether your roof needs to be repaired or replaced is a critical step in the upkeep of your home, and you can easily figure out the work it might need—and the costs involved—long before calling up the pros.

So get out your ladder and block off a sunny afternoon to take a closer look. But first check out these handy inspection tips from the experts.

How to know when your roof needs repair

Roofs, like most things in life, come with an expiration date. And although this date can vary based on factors such as the materials used (e.g., composite versus asphalt shingles) and the extent of everyday wear and tear, the basic rule of thumb is that most roofs need to be replaced every 15 to 30 years.

Since that’s a fairly big range, there are a few ways you can go about determining the state of your roof and what, if any, TLC it requires.

There are two schools of thought on the best way to inspect your roof, and the first of these is much simpler than you may imagine.

What to look for in the attic

“The easiest way to start evaluating your roof’s condition is to grab a flashlight and head up to your attic, or the top floor of your home along with a broomstick, a tape measure, and a notebook,” says Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy.

The four main things you’ll want to look for, he explains, are dark stains; water damage; roof sagging; and the presence of any holes or cracks (which are usually best spotted on bright, sunny days).

While sunlight creeping in through cracks and holes is certainly never a good sign, any ceiling with dark stains or visible water damage is something that should be taken seriously—and addressed immediately.

“If you see dark stains or dark streaks on the underside of your roof or running down the walls from the base of your roof, then your roof is likely leaking,” DeBono says. “Moisture can damage both your roof, as well as your home’s interior structure, so it’s important to get this addressed immediately.”

Similarly, a sagging roof can also indicate water damage.

“If you identify sagging areas in your roof, use your hand or a broom to lightly prod at the sagging spot,” advises DeBono. “If the spot feels soft and wet or bends easily with the prod of your broom, you know you have moisture damage.”

What to look for on the roof

The second way to check the state of your roof is probably closer to what you originally envisioned: climbing a ladder and taking a closer look from the outside. This should be done only if you can safely walk around your roof and easily manage a tall ladder. If you have a fear of heights or aren’t feeling so spunky about a climb up on the roof, call in a professional to have a look for you.

If you’re feeling fairly confident about a DIY inspection, then you’ll want to pay attention to the conditions of your roof materials once you get up there.

“Take notes on the condition of the roof shingles, the nails, the chimney, sealant, and the gutters,” says Melanie Johnson, marketing manager for Fantastic Services Group. “All these elements are important and need to be in good condition, and clean of rust. If any of these elements is damaged, you’ll need to make repairs.”

Weather plays a factor

Another thing to keep in mind when assessing the state of your roof is what kind of conditions it has to withstand. If you were debating whether or not to stretch the roof one more season—but live in a place with heavy snowfall—you might want to reconsider putting off needed repairs.

It’s important to note that the more vigilant you are with repairs, the less likely you are to need a premature roof replacement.

For example, if you can inspect your roof and provide it with the minimal upkeep on a regular basis—this might end up saving you the cost of premature replacement.

“It’s good to unclog and clean the gutters at least twice a year—early spring and late fall,” Johnson says. “It’s also good to inspect the roof at least once a year or so, to make sure there’s no rust and all the shingles are in place. If there are any loose shingles or rust, take care of it right away, to avoid even more damage.”

When should you replace a roof—and how much does it cost?

Least surprising news of the day: Replacing a roof is undeniably more expensive than repairing it. While repairs might start as low as several hundred dollars (depending on the materials involved), the average low-end cost to replace a roof starts at $5,000 to $8,000, with more high-end roofs costing as much as $15,000.

That’s nothing to scoff at, which is why staying on top of minimal repairs is so important. At some point, though, you might need to dish out the cash for a full replacement.

“When damage is too extensive, and around 40% to 50% of your roof is affected by the needed repairs, then it’s a good idea to consider a full replacement,” Johnson says.

Article by Larissa Runkle

Study: Burning Sage Kills 94% of Airborne Bacteria, Disease-Causing Strains Stay Gone for 30 Days

The ancient ritual of burning sage to purify the air turns out to be more than a superstition!

The Native American ritual of “smudging” or burning sage to clear the air of “bad energy” turns out to ward away more than just “negative vibes.”

A recent study showed burning the herb in a room for an hour reduced the number of airborne bacteria by a whopping 94%.

The room remained almost entirely disinfected for over 24 hours, and seven strains of disease-causing bacteria previously present in the room still could not be detected 30 days later.

”We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space,” wrote the study’s authors, from the National Botanical Research Institute in India.

Sage is also used in herbal medicine internally as a powerful antiseptic and anti-inflammatory.

The smoke created by burning the plant is also used as an insect repellent.

So instead of an expensive air purifier, you might try sage instead! Also, open the curtains. Another study has shown sunlight to be another excellent disinfectant.

Author: Sara Burrows

Health benefits and risks of drinking coffee

When people think of coffee, they usually think of its ability to provide an energy boost. However, according to some research, it can also offer some other important health benefits, such as a lower risk of liver cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart failure.

Worldwide, experts estimate that people consume around 2.25 billion cups of coffee per day.

Researchers have looked at the benefits of drinking coffee for conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease. There is evidence to support some, but not all, of these claims.

Coffee contains a number of useful nutrients, including riboflavin (vitamin B-2), niacin (vitamin B-3), magnesium, potassium, and various phenolic compounds, or antioxidants. Some experts suggest that these and other ingredients in coffee can benefit the human body in various ways.

This article looks at the health benefits of drinking coffee, the evidence supporting those benefits, and the risks of drinking coffee.

5 benefits of drinking coffee

The potential health benefits associated with drinking coffee include:

  • protection against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, and liver cancer
  • the promotion of a healthy heart

In the sections below, we cover these benefits in more detail.

1. Coffee and diabetes

Coffee may help protect against type 2 diabetes.

In 2014, researchers who gathered data on over 48,000 people found that those who increased their coffee consumption by at least one cup per day over 4 years had an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who did not increase their intake.

A meta-analysis from 2017 concluded that people who drank four to six cups of either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee each day appeared to have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes.

2. Coffee and Parkinson’s disease

Various studies have shown that caffeine, which is present in coffee and many other beverages, may help protect against Parkinson’s disease.

One team concluded that men who drink over four cups of coffee per day might have a fivefold lower risk of Parkinson’s than those who do not.

In addition, the caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people with Parkinson’s, according to one 2012 study.

The findings of a 2017 meta-analysis suggested a link between coffee consumption and a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, even among people who smoke. This team also found that people who drink coffee may be less likely to experience depression and cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

There was not enough evidence to prove that drinking decaffeinated coffee would help prevent Parkinson’s disease, however.

3. Coffee and liver cancer

Italian researchers found that coffee consumption lowers the risk of liver cancer by around 40%. Some of the results suggest that people who drink three cups per day might have a 50% lower risk.

Also, a 2019 literature review concluded that “coffee intake probably reduce the risk of liver cancer.”

4. Coffee and other liver diseases

A meta-analysis from 2017 concluded that consuming any type of coffee appeared to reduce the risk of liver cancer, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis.

People who consume coffee may also have a lower risk of gallstone disease.

In 2014, researchers looked at coffee consumption among people withprimary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). These are autoimmune conditions that affect the bile ducts in the liver.

They found that people with PSC were more likely to have a lower coffee intake than those without the condition. There was no evidence to suggest that coffee intake was different among people with or without PBC.

Also, one 2014 study suggested a link between coffee consumption and a lower risk of dying from nonviral hepatitis-related cirrhosis. The researchers suggested that drinking two or more cups of coffee every day might reduce the risk by 66%.

5. Coffee and heart health

One 2012 study concluded that drinking coffee in moderation, or consuming around two 8-ounce servings per day, may protect against heart failure.

People who drank moderate amounts of coffee each day had an 11% lower risk of heart failure than those who did not.

One 2017 meta-analysis found that caffeine consumption may have at least a small benefit for cardiovascular health, including blood pressure.

Some studies, however, found higher levels of blood lipids (fat) and cholesterol in people who consumed more coffee.

Does decaf coffee have benefits or risks? Learn more here.

Nutritional value

Regular black coffee (without milk or cream) is low in calories. In fact, a typical cup of black coffee only contains around 2 calories. However, adding cream or sugar will increase the calorific value.

Coffee beans also contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant.

Antioxidants can help rid the body of free radicals, a type of waste product that the body naturally produces as a result of certain processes.

Free radicals are toxic and may cause inflammation. Scientists have found links between inflammation and various aspects of metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

In 2018, some researchers suggested that the antioxidant content of coffee may offer protection from metabolic syndrome.

The author of one article from 2017 note that although scientists can prove that certain compounds are present in coffee beans, it remains unclear what happens to them once they enter the human body.

Risks

Drinking too much coffee can also have some adverse effects. In the sections below, we cover some of these risks.

Bone fractures

Some studies have found that women who drink a lot of coffee may have a higher risk of bone fractures.

Men with a higher coffee intake, on the other hand, appear to have a slightly lower risk.

Pregnancy

The researchers added that coffee consumption may not be safe during pregnancy. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest a link between high coffee consumption and pregnancy loss, a low birth weight, and preterm birth.

Endometriosis

There may be a higher risk of endometriosis among women who drink coffee, but there is not enough evidence to confirm such a link.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

People who drink a lot of coffee may have a slightly higher risk of this condition.

Anxiety

Consuming high amounts of caffeine may increase the risk of anxiety, especially among people with panic disorder or social anxiety disorder. Less commonly, it may trigger mania and psychosis in those who are susceptible.

Mental health

One study from 2016 concluded that a high intake of caffeine during adolescence can lead to permanent changes in the brain.

The scientists behind the study expressed concern that this could increase the risk of anxiety-related conditions in adulthood.

Presence of toxic ingredients

In 2015, researchers found relatively high levels of mycotoxins in commercial coffee. Mycotoxins are toxic substances that can contaminate coffee as a natural product.

Summary

One meta-analysis from 2017 concluded that it is “generally safe” for most people to consume three to four cups of coffee per day, and that doing so may actually reduce the risk of certain health conditions.

The study authors warned, however, that smoking may cancel out any benefits of drinking coffee.

Caffeine is an important feature of coffee, but coffee contains many compounds, and there are different ways of drinking it. This makes it difficult to determine exactly how coffee affects a person and which components have which benefits and risks.

A person who wishes to derive health benefits from coffee should avoid exceeding the daily recommended intake and try to monitor the ingredients they add, such as sugar, cream, or flavorings, as these may not be healthful.

Pregnant women and those at risk of bone fractures may wish to avoid coffee.

Article by By Joseph Nordqvist

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

Kerkez/iStock

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?

cnythzl/iStock

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.