Between planning Halloween costumes and buying candy for trick-or-treaters, it can be tough to squeeze the creation of super crafty Halloween décor into your schedule, too. Don’t be scared of winding up with the least decorated house on the block – we’ve got you covered! Here are five no-hassle Halloween decorations you can make in […]
Grill masters know that the process is much more than simply putting a piece of meat over some charcoal – it’s an art. And once you’ve perfected it, you can transform any backyard BBQ into a memorable experience. Take your grilling game up a notch by incorporating these seven tried-and-true tips into your cookout repertoire:
1 CLEAN THE KETTLE.
Bacteria on the outside of your grill can eventually affect the taste of things inside your grill. Every few weeks, sprinkle baking soda on a wet sponge or brush and give the outside of your grill a thorough clean.
2 ALWAYS USE PROTECTION.
After every use, protect your grill with a cover. This is especially important if you store your grill outside – it will help prevent hardware failures, rusting and dirt buildup.
3 EMBRACE COOKING SPRAY.
Before placing any burger patties, coat the cooking grid with oil or cooking spray. This minimizes stuck-on food and helps your meal stay moist as it cooks.
4 CLEAN WITH HEAT.
For the best tasting grilled treats, clean your grate before and after each use. Heat the grill for 5 to 10 minutes, then use the back end of a wire brush to scrape off any remains.
5 MAKE A PYRAMID.
For optimal airflow, stack your coals in a pyramid shape in the middle of the grill. This shape creates maximum heat efficiency and the least amount of smoke.
6 COVER THE GROUND.
To make clean up easier, place a tarp or grill mat underneath the grill. It will catch debris, grease and any fallen food.
7 DUMP IT OUT.
To prevent excess smoke and bad flavors, dump your charcoal and ash after each use (don’t forget about the ash catcher!). Once the grill is empty, clean it out thoroughly with a wire brush.
Going into the 2016 spring market, the biggest challenge the real estate industry has is the lack of available housing inventory for sale. Here are a few experts and their thoughts on the subject:
David Crowe, Chief Economist for the National Association of Home Builders:
“Many sellers may not have an absolute decision as to whether to buy an existing home or a new home. So the low inventory of existing homes is locking them in place.”
Ralph McLaughlin, Chief Economist with Trulia:
“We are in a time of short supply, which is great news for sellers because they will likely be faced with multiple offers due to the little inventory out there…Buyers will be up against a lot of other people and against a short supply of existing homes.”
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist with NAR:
“First-time buyers in high demand areas continue to encounter instances where their offer is trumped by cash buyers and investors. Without a much-needed boost in new and existing-homes for sale in their price range, their path to homeownership will remain an uphill climb.”
“One important issue that has restrained sales and starts is inventory. On an absolute basis, inventory has not expanded as much as in past recoveries, leading to less selection for buyers. This is especially true for existing home sales but is evident for new home construction as well. When it comes to U.S. housing inventory, more is better.”
Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist for Realtor.com:
“The increase in sales is resulting in continued tighter-than-tight supply—measured by NAR to be four months in January. For you non-economists out there, that metric measures the number of months it would take to sell the current inventory of available homes, at the current pace. Got it? Six to seven months’ worth of homes on the market is considered normal; four months is cray-cray.”
1. Welcome the Wastebasket
If trash tends to accumulate in the family room, adding a wastebasket might cut down on clutter. Few family rooms actually have a wastebasket in them; they’re not attractive and they can smell. Counteract this by choosing a can that fits your room’s decor. If you know food will be thrown away here, get one with a lid and some deodorizing trash bags.
2. Keep Flat Surfaces Clutter-free
Papers, books, brochures and magazines tend to accumulate on flat surfaces all around the house, and the family room is no different. “You need a household information center, and the family room may be where that happens,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out. In fact, the family room is often more cluttered because it’s a central gathering place in the house. A two drawer lateral file is Morgenstern’s ideal recommendation – on average she says that’s really how much paper it takes to run a home. If you don’t have the floor space, a stackable file cart will do.
Make a quick sweep of all flat surfaces by piling papers in a bin, then sorting and purging as necessary. Take a vow, and get your family to follow it, to put papers in files rather than on the coffee table
3. Control Out-of-Control Cords
Until the world goes wireless, we’ll forever be stuck with tangled cables behind our entertainment centers. Fortunately, there are several options for taming cords in the family room. The most attractive is the slim Cableyoyo. It neatly coils up to six feet of cord and comes with an adhesive backing that sticks onto nearly any surface. A cable caddy usually sticks onto a desktop (or behind the TV console) and has a space for several cables to clamp into. Your cords will still dangle freely, however, so a cable zipper, which encloses all the cables in a tube, might be the best bet.
4. Create a Play Zone
If toys are taking over your family room, it’s time to put them in timeout. Unused corners of a family room transform into great play areas because the walls serve to block encroaching clutter. Corners are also good areas to put a small bookcase or children’s table. Add rolling bins for toy storage so your child doesn’t have to feel confined, but is encouraged to pick up after he or she is done playing.
5. Coffee Table Functionality
If you have a coffee table (or forgot you had one due to the clutter) it’s time to reassess its organizational capacity. Coffee tables that look great but don’t have any storage for magazines, remote controls or even drink coasters, are probably making life more difficult. If you don’t have the budget for a new one, consider adding low storage cubes, rolling baskets or bins to stick under the table.
6. Designate a Game Area
For a family that likes to play together, a game cabinet for board games and cards is both functional and fun. Games usually end up in a TV armoire, but it’s helpful to designate a separate space for them, whether in another shelving unit, a bookcase or in plastic containers below the sofa (if the sofa has a skirt). Creating a single game space will free up other areas of the room for storage. If a computer is part of your gaming area, Julie Morgenstern recommends against a computer armoire. She’s rarely seen them work well and recommends instead a desk that has a separate work surface, paper storage and a surface for the monitor.
7. Creatively Display Photos
If you have a lot of small, photo frames that tend to clutter your family room it’s time to take control by displaying them in new ways. Photo albums and collage frames are great options for storing lots of photos at once, and a digital photo frame is especially handy for those who don’t use film. Don’t just use the mantel or side tables; use vertical space on the wall. Organizing your photos by date or occasion in photo boxes is especially helpful for scrapbookers, who can keep these in one central location on a bookshelf.
8. Take Advantage of Space Behind the Sofa
Organize extra blankets, pillows, candles in an accessible place – behind the sofa. It’s a great place to put a trunk, cabinet or low bookcase. Plus, it gives you another surface to put a lamp or show off some treasured objects.
9. Sort Your Movie Collection
Multimedia like DVDs, videotapes and CDs are staples of the family room. Take 30 minutes to begin sorting your entire collection, making two piles: one for keeping and one for selling back or donating. If you no longer listen to the music or haven’t seen the movie in ages (and don’t plan on seeing it again), it’s time to let go. There are plenty of options for storing your sorted collection: DVD towers, in a bookcase, ottoman or the drawers of a coffee table. Find a system that works for you.
10. Grow Your Houseplants
It can be a jungle in the family room if you have a green thumb. Organize your plants with a cute plant stand or several decorative pots. The type of houseplants you have will determine where you’ll place them in the room, so keep that in mind when looking for a stand. Stands typically come in corner, pedestal and tiered configurations and some even have drawers so you can keep your fertilizer and watering can nearby.
11. Curb Your Collectible Enthusiasm
Collections, if you’re not careful, can take over valuable storage space in a family room and can be even harder to organize. Large collections display best when bits and pieces are shown at a time (think shadow boxes) and rotated to keep the decor fresh. Cut your displayed collection in half by putting half of the pieces into an appropriately sized container and storing it in a hall closet. For added value, personal or otherwise, keep an inventory of each piece (date acquired, date of piece, description/significance) in the storage bin.
If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interest at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market.
Answering the following 3 questions will help you determine if now is actually a good time for you to buy in today’s market.
1. Why am I buying a home in the first place?
This truly is the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money.
A study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University reveals that the four major reasons people buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:
- A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
- A place where you and your family feel safe
- More space for you and your family
- Control of that space
What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.
2. Where are home values headed?
According to the latest Home Price Index from CoreLogic, home values are projected to increase by 5.3% over the next 12 months.
What does that mean to you?
Simply put, if you are planning on buying a home that costs $250,000 today, that same home will cost you an additional $13,250 if you wait till next year. Your down payment will need to be higher as well to account for the higher home price.
3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?
A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by even a small increase in mortgage rates.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Realtors and Freddie Mac have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase by approximately three-quarters of a percent over the next twelve months as you can see in the chart below:
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The holiday seasons means a flurry of activities and family time. Here are some easy ways to make sure you and your guests are comfortable through it all.
1. Sticky-roll the furniture. Have your pets been sneaking a nap on the couch when you’re not looking? Make sure to de-fur the furniture before anyone has to sleep on it.
2. Test your air mattresses for holes. There’s nothing worse than falling asleep on an air mattress and waking up on a deflated tarp on the floor.
3. Pile kids into one room. They’ll love feeling like they’re at a sleepover.
4. Gather all of your old phone chargers. It’s one of the easiest things for travelers to forget to pack. Have your old chargers on hand, and you may save a guest a trip to the store.
5. Make the Wi-Fi password readily accessible. An easy way to do this is to print out the internet information on a notecard for each guest room.
6. Designate a snack and beverage hub. To avoid people tripping over each other at the fridge and during crucial food-prep times, set up a station away from the kitchen – maybe in the study – where guests can grab coffee and a bagel (or the like!) at their leisure.
7. Stock all the bathrooms. Everyone will feel better having all the bathroom essentials on-hand, including towels and washcloths, common toiletries, toilet paper, and, of course, a toilet brush and plunger. No one wants to announce they need a plunger!
8. Let them pitch in. Most guests want to help out somehow. Have everyone pick a regular task they’re willing to be responsible for, like walking the dogs, taking out the trash, making breakfast or doing the dinner dishes.
9. Relax and enjoy yourself! Set the tone for your guests. Do your best to look past the chaos and make the most of the time with family and friends.
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