Cold Weather Hacks to Stay Warm Inside All Winter Long

iStock-518457299

When it’s cold outside, you want to stay warm inside. Here are a few hacks to make your home warmer and cozier as we settle into whatever winter brings.

Add a rug or two. Got cold hard floors? A rug will provide some warming insulation. Even better, layering several will create a cozy barrier to keep your feet warm. Put a plush rug on a tile floor, and you’ll gladly stand up for winter.

Make your sofa snuggle-worthy. Put pillows and throw blankets on your sofa to make it a place you’re happy to snuggle on and snuggle into. Then burrow in with some tea and a good book or a good movie.

Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades. When you do this, the fan blades will push the hot air downwards (instead of drawing air upwards) and help keep the heat lower. This is especially important in rooms with high ceilings. How do you know your fan is spinning in reverse? When you look up your blades should be moving in a clockwise fashion.

Block a drafty window with a towel. Roll up a towel and place along the bottom of a door to stop drafts and heat leaks. Feeling crafty? Make some homemade door snakes.

Let the light shine in when it’s sunny. Open the curtains on sunny days; close them in the evenings. You want the sun to heat your home but you don’t want the cold nights to make your home drafty.

Warm your bed. Use flannel sheets and a warm down comforter to stay warm on frosty nights.

Wear your favorite warm clothes – the oversized sweater, the loose lounge pants – and don’t forget your socks. According to the Univesity of San Diego if your feet are cold, you’ll be cold. And wear slippers – in addition to wearing warm socks, keep your feet extra toasty when doing chores by wearing slippers.

Keep your oven door open after baking. Let the warm air circulate in your kitchen. This works especially well in a smaller home or kitchen, but it’s good to try no matter what size your home is.

Home alone? Keep your bathroom door open when you shower. The warm, humid air will seep out into your home.

Finally, close off rooms you’re not using. If you have an empty guest room or storage space, close the door and seal it with a draftstopper. You won’t waste money heating a room you don’t use.

Make Your Holiday Home, Holiday Guest-Ready

christmas dog with teddy bear sleeping

Welcome your holiday visitors with a home that is guest-ready. It’s easy to feel ready for anything when the doorbell rings by taking a few simple steps today.

Clear the clutter. For a lot of us our guest room was once our “spare room” or it is still our office. Clear the clutter from the guest room when you know you are going to have visitors. If the guest room doubles your office, put away your files and move your laptop. If you store items in the guest closet, buy some storage bins and put things in the bins to keep the closet organized and welcoming. Clear out at least half of the closet, and leave plenty of open hangers so your guests can hang their clothes and jackets right away. Make sure some of the dresser drawers are available, too. Guests are more comfortable when they have a place to store their clothes and other items so they aren’t tossed around in their room or stacked on top of their suitcase.

Have a luggage rack ready. If you simply cannot empty any drawers or make room in the closet, get a couple of inexpensive luggage racks so your guests can put their luggage on those and pull their clothes from there, without having to work from a suitcase on the floor. Put an inexpensive hook on the outside of the closet and dangle a few coat hangers on that, so your guests have a place to hang up jackets and nice clothes.

Make a guest basket. Fill up a basket with everything from travel-sized soaps to snacks to munch on after you’ve gone to bed. Include a few travel essentials: lip balm, lotion, sunscreen, a lint roller and little essentials they may not have remembered or thought to bring. If you are feeling extra welcoming, put in some fun snacks, such as granola, bite-sized candy bars or fig newtons. Include some bottles of water or a reusable water bottle or glasses in the basket or next to the basket so your guests can get water during the night without having to fumble around in the dark kitchen.

Create an online cheat sheet. Make their stay easy by creating a packet ahead of time with all of the information they’ll need, like your WiFi network name and password, so they can log on whenever they want.

  • Add soft, low-key lighting. Make sure your guest room has a lamp with soft lighting or a 3-way bulb so they can adjust the lighting. Soft lighting makes it easier to read before dozing off and makes the room feel more cozy.Use good sheets. Put nice sheets on your bed. Splurge a little on sheets and a soft blanket. If the mattress is your old one from your youth, it may be time to buy an inexpensive but new mattress that is a little less used. Make the bed look lovely with a throw blanket or pillows, but don’t go overboard on the decorations. Too many throw pillows and guests get flustered trying to make the bed the way you like it.

    Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet or on a small table or chair in the corner so your guests can be as comfy as they want.

    Provide a fan if the room gets warm, or make sure your guests know how to work the ceiling fan if there is one.

    Clear some space on top of the dresser. Don’t clutter the space with family photos or knick-knacks. Leave the space clear so your guests can put their jewelry, books, phone, etc. in a place that’s easy to see. If you do want to put something on the dresser, nothing says “welcome” more than some fresh flowers.

    Prep the bathroom, too!

  • Put out fresh towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, cotton balls, cotton swabs. If your guests forget something, they’ll be glad you thought of it.
  • Make sure you leave extra toilet paper where they can see it or in the obvious cabinet. No one wants to ask for toilet paper.
  • Put out a box of tissues, as well, if you did not put one in the guest bedroom.

Early Risers?

  • Put coffee by the coffee maker or prep the coffee maker and set the timer so your guests can start their day early (or late if you’re up and out before them). Put out some fruit and muffins so guests aren’t forced to root through your cabinets if they are hungry.

It’s all about your guests. Make them feel welcome and comfortable. By following a few simple tips, you’ll be able to make sure your guest and you have the visit of a lifetime.

What Can You Do with a Pumpkin Besides Carve It?

pumpkin-2868748_640

Have you ever wondered what you can do with your pumpkin besides carve it, paint it or leave it on your porch until after Thanksgiving? Here are some fun uses for pumpkins that don’t require a lot of money or effort but do provide some unique fall decorations, healthy snacking choices and even beauty and wellness options.

Create clever fall decorations.

Carve the perfect fall vase. Cut off the top of your pumpkin, carve out the center and then place a container filled with water inside. You can choose a short pumpkin, tall pumpkin or something in between, based on the size of your glass container. Add your favorite bouquet. Or float fall candles.

Make pumpkin fries. Use a potato peeler to remove the pumpkin’s skin, then cut the squash into fry-like strips. Coat them with the spice of your choice, arrange on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes. Serve with a spicy aioli or another dipping sauce.

Create a fall candle holder. Take a small or miniature pumpkin and remove the stem. You can snap it off or cut it off, but make sure that the top is smooth or evenly indented. Place a votive candle where the stem used to be. You can leave the display as is, or add a glass hurricane shade over it. Try grouping several together or spreading them across the center of your table to create the illusion of a glowing runner.

Let your pumpkin pack a punch by doubling as a punch bowl. Get a short, round/fat pumpkin. Cut off the top and remove the pumpkin pulp from the inside. Place a short glass bowl into the pumpkin and pour in your favorite punch. Add a ladle and you’re good to go with this fall party table decoration.

Make a pumpkin drink dispenser. This item may be used during Halloween, or for other fall-themed events, such as Thanksgiving. This project may be of interest to those who enjoy arts and crafts, entertaining, or even those who want to undertake a fun project with other family members. Click here for easy instructions for this family craft.

Get spicy and creative with the seeds.

Stay classic and bake the seeds. Bake the seeds with your favorite spices at 350 F until they are toasted, about 20-30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. Make sure you rinse the seeds and let them dry before bake them. Or use them in granola. Add the seeds to oats, dried cranberries or other favorite snacks for a great granola blend.

Spice up your guacamole. Use pumpkin seeds to liven up your favorite guacamole. Bake the seeds with chili powder and mix them into your
traditional snack for a little healthy fall fun.

Add pumpkin to your health and beauty regime.

Scrub away with your pumpkin with a pumpkin exfoliant. For a full body treatment, you can use purée pumpkin and brown sugar (oatmeal is another great exfoliant). Put the exfoliant on a damp loofah or cloth and scrub onto skin in circular motions. This helps to drain toxins from the body. Finish with a nice warm shower.

Add shine to your hair. Restore shine and moisture to dry and damaged strands with a homemade pumpkin hair mask. Combine one cup of pumpkin (you can purée chunks in a food processor or use the canned version), a half cup of plain yogurt and two tablespoons of honey into a bowl. Mix well, and then apply to hair from root to tip. Cover head with a plastic shower cap and sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash treatment out and
follow up with a thorough cleansing using a shampoo and conditioner.

We’ve answered some questions about pumpkins. We’d be glad to answer questions about home mortgages, too.

Home Improvement Jobs that May Add Value to Your Home

Presentation1

Renovating and remodeling can help you gain space in your home or make your home more enjoyable to live in, but do they always add resale value? Not every project does. Sometimes the best reason to tackle a big project is to make your house your home. But if you are looking to add resale value, read on to see what projects may add value and which may not.

Projects that May Add Resale Value

Kitchens: Modern conveniences in a kitchen are a big plus to home buyers, especially when they are found in older homes. Notice how many real estate ads talk about the modern kitchen? That is not a coincidence. If you’re not ready to invest in a full remodel, sand and paint existing cabinets. New appliances can also add appeal.

Bathrooms: These come in second to kitchen renovations. Modern styles and appliances in bathrooms are a plus. Remove dated wall coverings and apply a fresh coat of paint for an easy fix. A bigger ROI comes with a new tub, sink and toilet, and tile in the tub and on the floor.

Outdoor improvements: Curb appeal is important to home buyers. Sprucing up the outdoor appearance is a smart investment. This included sprucing up the siding and landscaping. A splash of color in the front of the house will catch the eye of potential buyers. For a bigger impact, use one color and a variety of plant heights. If your shrubbery is overgrown, sheer it up!

Roofs and windows: Roofs and windows are expensive and home buyers like them to be in good condition. Though replacing them is costly and may not increase the value of your home, not replacing them could significantly decrease the value of a home.

Are there projects that could negatively affect your home’s value?

Adding a swimming pool, putting in a luxury upgrade, or converting a garage may cost you if the only reason you are doing this is to add value to your home. But if you’re planning to stay in your home and enjoy yourself, these projects may make you feel like you are living at a resort.

Whether you plan to stay in your home or you plan to move. Make the most out of your home improvement projects.

Universal Lending is Pleased to Announce that We Now Offer HELOCs

Couple relaxing in their home at night.
Universal Lending is pleased to announce that we now offer HELOCs (Home Equity Lines of Credit) through a new partner relationship. 
The equity in your home is the difference between the value of the property and the amount you owe your mortgage lender. A HELOC is an open line of credit that lets you borrow against the equity in your home.
HELOCs can be a “piggyback” or “stand-alone.” A piggyback HELOC closes simultaneously with a new purchase or refinance 1st mortgage. A stand-alone HELOC closes independently of an existing 1st mortgage.
Below are some potential benefits and uses for a HELOC.
A piggyback HELOC is a great way to:
  • Potentially avoid less favorable, higher balance loan programs
  • Potentially avoid mortgage insurance
  • Lower monthly payments on 1st mortgage
  • Eliminate stress of dropping mortgage insurance based on future property values
  • Put equity back in your pocket as you pay down the line of credit.
A stand-alone HELOC can be used for:
  • Debt consolidation
  • Home improvements
  • Recapturing funds used for down payment
  • Emergencies such as job loss or large, unanticipated expenses.
If you have any questions about HELOCs or if one can benefit you, please contact us today..

Quick and Easy Ways to Make Any Room in Your House Go from Drab to Fab!

Concept : happy young family in  new apartment dream

It really doesn’t cost much or take much time to spruce up any room in your home. Here are a few ways that a trip to your local home store can help you give your home the sprucing up it needs to make everything feel fresh and new again.

Treat the windows to something new. Home good stores are full of ready to hang window treatments that are easy to install. A new curtain or blinds can add as splash of color or ambiance to a kitchen, living room or bedroom.

Roll out the red carpet. A throw rug or area rug can make all the difference you need in your living room, entrance, bedroom or bath.

Get warm and cozy with a fireplace. You don’t need to have a wood burning fireplace or fancy fireplace unit. Today’s faux fireplaces look nice and can be functional, too, serving as a TV stand or bookshelf, while adding warmth and a comfortable glow to a living room or bedroom.

Shed new light on the subject. A new lamp, a new lampshade or even some new candles will shed new light in your room. This may be just what you need to brighten up a room that has lost its luster.

Everyone loves a new coat – especially when it’s a new coat of paint. A fresh coat of paint may be what you’re looking for to bring an old room back to life. Try something bright and cheery or go for an accent color you never thought you’d try. You may surprise yourself with the difference something as simple as a splash of color makes.

Tell a story. A children’s bedroom or bathroom may be the perfect place to play out a theme – a jungle, an underwater adventure or a fairy garden. The dollar store may be your best friend for finding inexpensive decorations to make a kid’s room an adventure!

Make a simple move. Move the furniture around and see what you get. You may find that moving the furniture around is just what you need to breathe new life into all the rooms of your home!

No matter what you decide to do to redecorate,  you’re sure to fall in love with your home again with just a few simple changes.

Ready for Fall Cleaning? Here are Some Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Fall and Winter

Dog in window

Summer is coming to a brisk end, and fall is almost here. Yes – Fall means crisp days, long walks, the changing leaves and the best autumn vegetables. But it also means we’ll be closing up our homes and spending more time inside. Now is the time to clean your home and make it cozy for family time inside. Here are some fall chores to make your home the space you want it to be. You don’t have to do all of these. Pick a couple to get started. Check them off the list as you go, and you’ll see that getting ready for a new season is not so hard.

Wash all your windows. All you need is a bottle of glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Do this on a cloudy day so you can see any streaks.

Clean your window treatments. Dust wooden blinds and use a damp cloth or your microfiber cloth. You can vacuum canvas, cotton or fabric treatments. Use a low setting and an attachment. If your cloth treatments are really dirty, check the cleaning instructions and go from there.

Wash your walls and dust the trim along the walls and the windowsills. Dust, wash, rinse and dry painted or paneled walls. Start in the kitchen and bathroom and go from there.

Dust ceiling lights and ceiling fans. These collect a lot of dust and are often forgotten.

Dust your air vents or vacuum them with an attachment.

Clean your refrigerator coil. Click here for more refrigerator cleaning tips, if you’re really ambitious.

Vacuum and shampoo your carpets or treat yourself to a professional cleaning.

Clean out those closets. What didn’t you wear this past season? Do you need to keep it or can you donate it?

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries.

Replace your furnace filters.

Clean the chimney or have it professionally cleaned.

This may seem like a lot to do, but you will be glad you did when winter is here and you’re cozy, warm and safe inside!