Keep Your Fresh Cut Flowers Fresh Longer

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We are smack dab in the middle of winter. That means you have to bring some spring and summer freshness into your home to feel a little warmer inside. Fresh cut flowers may be what you need to feel warm, cozy and spring, when it’s cold outside. Want to keep your blooms fresher longer? Try some of these tips.

Start by Snipping the Stems.
Flowers have a vascular system in their stems that draws up water and nutrients to feed the blooms. If you don’t cut them, air that has been drawn into the stems while they were out of water can block water absorption. Use sharp scissors or pruning shears, and snip 1/2 inch off the bottom of the stems at a 45-degree angle. Every three days trim about 1 inch. Why do you cut the stems at an angle? It allows the flower stem to take in more water.

Trim the Foliage.
Before putting the flowers in water, trim as much foliage as you can off the flowers, if the foliage will rest under the water line. This will decrease the bacteria in the water and keep your vase clear and prevent odors. It also will redistribute the flowers’ resources to the main blooms. There will probably be some foliage in the water, but try to remove some.

Select the Right Vase.
Make sure the opening of the vase is the right size: Not so narrow that it crowds the flowers; not so wide that the arrangement loses its shape. You can even choose a short vase and really cut the stems. Fill the vase about two thirds full with fresh, cool water. Don’t use warm water. Warm water may make the flowers open faster.

Place the Flowers in Water Quickly.
Don’t waste time getting your bouquets back into water. You can even cut the stems while holding the stems in water. No matter what, don’t let the flowers lay on the counter for long!

Get the Temperature Right.
Keep fresh flowers from direct sun and other heat sources, including heat vents. To take it one step further put the arrangement in the fridge overnight. According to FTD, this strategy is the best way to preserve a bouquet.

Change the Water.
Fresh flowers need to drink fresh, clean water, every one to three days. Dump all the water out, swirl hot water in the vase to kill any bacteria and add fresh, cool water back to the vase. If the stems are ready to be cut, trim them. If there’s more foliage you can remove, remove that.

Remove Wilting Flowers.
Remove wilting flowers from the arrangement. They can get moldy and contaminate other flowers.

Place the Flowers in the Right Spot.
Flowers and fruit are not friends. Fruit and vegetables gives off ethylene gas, which causes flowers to wilt. One apple won’t make a difference, but keeping your flowers away from a large bowl of produce is a good idea.

It may not spring, but it can feel like spring in your house with some fresh blooms that stay fresh just a little longer.

Hosting New Year’s Eve in Your Own Home!

 

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Are you hosting your first New Year’s Eve party? Hosting your fifth? Whether it’s your first New Year’s Eve at home or you’re a seasoned couch potato during the holidays, trying something new may be the resolution you made for this New Year’s Eve. Here are some ideas for kids and adults to make ringing in 2019 at home a blast!

MAKE THE FOOD FABULOUS
People love to nosh on fun food for New Year’s. After all, the next day they start their new diet! You’ll want to have snacks and dinner for the early birds and for the late nighters. Here are some easy ways to make sure you have enough food for everyone, no matter when they come or when they plan to leave.

Make the Party BYOA: Bring Your Own Appetizer
Ask your guest to bring an appetizer. You’ll supply the beverages! Almost every party-goer has a favorite appetizer they like to make. And if someone isn’t sure what to bring, invite them to bring raw vegetables and humus or a fruit and nut platter. These will make an excellent complement to the other foods, which most likely will not be as healthful.

Host a Midnight Dinner (Or Keep the Spread Out All Night Long)
A midnight dinner is a great way to keep the party going after you ring in the New Year. It’s only once a year, so no one will complain that they “ate too late.” Try something like a salad and baked potato bar. It’s just enough and doesn’t take a lot of effort to set up. And, people can eat as much or as little as they like. This meal is fast and easy.

Prepare a big salad ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. Make sure you have different choices for dressing. The salad is your vegetable option. The main attraction is the potato bar.

Before the guests arrive, prepare different potato toppings: a bowl of sour cream, bacon pieces, chopped scallions, salsa, shredded cheese, butter, steamed brocolli, chili….anything you can think of that you may want to put on a potato will work. Remember that baked potatoes take a long time to cook so get them in the oven early.

If you use paper plates and bowls, clean up is easy, and you’ll be in bed before you know it.

DECORATE WITH STYLE
Of course you know you need party hats and noise makers, but you also have lots of choices for decorations. However, you may be ready to wrap up the holiday décor not get crazy by putting out more. Here are some easy decorations that don’t cost a lot of money that add a little New Year’s spice to your party.

Hang Paper Snowflakes from the Ceiling
Let your kids and their friends get in on the decorating fun. Before the party, have them cut paper snowflakes of all different sizes out of white paper. If you’re not worried about a little mess, let them sprinkle glitter on the snowflakes to add some sparkle. Then put a little ribbon of different lengths on the snowflakes and tape them to the ceiling. Test your tape first to make sure it won’t pull off your ceiling paint.

Scatter Curly Ribbon
Curl some ribbon with scissors and then scatter the ribbons in different places. Get the wider kind of ribbons – about 1/2 inch thick. Curl with scissors and put them on tables, light fixtures, mantles and even mirrors. You can hang some ribbons from the ceiling with the snowflakes and sprinkle on your tables and bar.

Add a Touch of Class with Shiny Christmas Ornaments
Add some sparkle and some class. Glittery Christmas ornaments look wonderful in a bowl as a centerpiece. You can also hang plain ornament balls from a light fixture over a table using varying lengths of ribbon in festive colors.

MAKE MINGLING EASY
Once your ready for your party, you need to have something to do! Here are a few ice breakers to get adults and kids mixing and mingling. You probably won’t want to play these games all night, but they can be good to get your party started.

Write Predictions for the New Year
Have your guests sign their predictions and place them into a bowl or a box. Then take turns reading the predictions while everyone guesses who wrote them. It can be surprising how difficult it is to guess your friends’ predictions – and it’s a great way to kick off the night or to wrap up the night!

Play “Guess the Resolution”
Before the party starts, write general New Year’s resolution ideas, such as “lose weight” or “eat better” on notecards. Place them in a bowl, and then to start the game have guests pick one. They are not allowed to look at their card. They can either hold it to their forehead or have someone tape it to their back. Then, only asking yes or no questions, and only asking one question per person, they must figure out what their resolution is. Say they ask one person, “Does my resolution involve physical exercise?” That person would say yes, and then they’d move on to the next person. The first three people to guess their own resolution correctly, win a prize.

Play “Fact or Fiction”
Give guests a tally sheet with all the players names and a fill-in-the-blank line. Gather the players for a round of introductions. When it’s their turn to talk, each guest will share three “facts” about the best New Year’s Eve Party they ever attended. Two of these things should be true and one should be fiction. Players keep score by writing down which story they think is fake. The player who identifies the most fake facts wins.

Or Play “Two Resolutions and One Lie”
Have everyone tell the group two of their real resolutions and one fake resolution. Everyone has to guess which is the fake resolution.

Remember, these games just get the party started! Don’t make people play all night long.

ARE KIDS INVITED?
Do you have kids coming to the party? If it’s not enough that they get to stay up past their bedtime, here are some ways to make the party more fun for them, too. They also can play the adult party games above or be paired with a grown up partner, if the games are a little to “old” for them.

Encourage kids to dress up
Gussy up your kids. Your night will feel special and fun if they dress for it — plus it will make for excellent pictures. Let kids be over the top: White gloves, pearls, bow ties and tiaras are easily found in your local party store, in your kids’ dress-up trunk or in grandma’s closet. Paint everyone’s nails. Wear hats. Break out the glitter and get fancy!

Dance
Make a playlist that includes favorite grown-up and kids’ songs. Roll up the rug and dance with wild abandon. When you get tired, sit down and check out your kids’ moves. Have a dance contest and be sure to take pictures.

Make it Glow
Kids like their lights! Light up your house with kids and glow sticks and glow necklaces. You can even stick glow sticks in balloons for awesome lighted balloons!

No matter what you choose to do this New Year’s Eve, we hope your 2019 is all you dream of! And if your dream for 2019 includes a new home, let us help with your mortgage questions.

A Little Strategy Goes a Long Way When Storing Holiday Decorations

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Don’t toss the holiday decorations in boxes and crates and shove them to the back of the closet. By planning ahead when you put them away, you’ll save hours of time and even money next year when you’re not checking for the bulb that has burned out or running to the store to replace something that got crushed.

Before you get started putting things in boxes for next year, make sure you want to keep everything. Now is the time to get rid of decorations you don’t like, have no sentimental value or are broken. Even with the best intentions, are you really going to look for the burned out bulb in the strand of lights next year? Perhaps you can find a new strand on sale this year. (Click here for tips on de-cluttering after the holidays.)

Storing the Christmas Tree: Storing an artificial tree in the box it came in is not a good idea. The box deteriorates, making the tree prone to bugs crawling in during the year. You can buy a tree bag or a tree box inexpensively. Other ideas:

Wrap the tree in old belts to cinch it up and make it easier to store and more manageable to handle.

If the artificial tree is getting older, before you put the tree away, label the layers by number so you can see what piece goes where.

Storing Christmas Ornaments: Take the opposite approach to storing your tree for your ornaments and keep them in the boxes they came in. These boxes are designed to protect your ornaments.

Other storage ideas:

Ornaments can be stored in egg cartons and apple containers and you can put a layer of tissue paper for extra protection. Non-fragile ornaments can be stored in sandwich bags. Of course, be sure to wrap anything fragile in tissue paper and line the boxes with paper if you’re not storing in the original packaging.

You can also store your ornaments in plastic cups in a box or container. If you do this, glue the cups to the bottom of the box to keep them from moving around and to protect the ornaments.

Storing the lights: Wrap strands of lights around old coffee cans to keep them from tangling. Put a hole in the top or bottom of the can and put the ends of the lights strand through the holes. If you don’t use coffee cans, use something bold to wrap your lights around, or you can be guaranteed they will come out of storage tangled.

Labeling Your Boxes: You can make unpacking and setting up even easier by labeling your boxes. Number them by how many you have, e.g., 1 of 12, 2 of 12, etc. And label the first box you need as number 1. If the tree goes up first, then label the box(es) with tree stand, decorations and lights for the tree with the earliest numbers. The last thing you want is the tree stand in box number 7.

Storing Wreaths: You can purchase special boxes that your wreaths fit in to protect them or you can store them in plastic dry cleaning bags. Hang your wreath on a coat hanger and then slip it into the bag. If you’re careful when you put it in, it’ll come out ready to hang next year.

It may take a little extra time when you put the decorations away, but you’ll be ready to go next year, with time and money savings in mind.

Countdown to Christmas!

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Are your kids anxious for Christmas to get here? Are you looking for some fun ways to count down to the big day? Here are some fun activities for kids and grownup kids alike to make the time until Santa arrives go a little faster.

Red and green meal – Make a healthy pre-holiday Christmas dinner out of green and red foods. Some ideas: A tossed salad with cherry tomatoes and snow peas; another helping of cranberries; pizza with peppers, tomatoes and broccoli, spinach lasagna in marinara sauce; spinach enchiladas. Let the adults pick a healthy red and green entree and then let the kids be creative with the side dishes.

Christmas lights drive – You can do this more than one time, for sure! Load everyone in the car and check out the holiday lights. You can go to new neighborhoods or see what’s new in your own. Make a game out of it by seeing how many Rudolphs you can find on house roofs, count blowup Santa Clauses or listen for houses that are piping music outside. This driving game makes for limitless fun!

Gingerbread houses – Make your own gingerbread house. You can actually build your own out of gingerbread or buy a starter kit. Decorate with gum drops, cinnamon candies, frosting, marshmallows, or really, anything you can dream of and imagine. Gingerbread houses aren’t just fun for one night; they are great decorations for the entire holiday season.

Christmas movie night – This activity is an oldie but a goodie. Pick out your favorite holiday movie and plug it in. Are you a fan of White Christmas? Or is Christmas Vacation more your style? No matter what your taste, a movie night with popcorn and family is sure to put you into the holiday spirit.

Balloon volleyball – Want an activity that is only as holiday-themed as you make it? Blow off some of the Christmas energy by playing balloon volleyball. Put out some ribbon on the floor for a makeshift volleyball net and blow up a few balloons. Indoor balloon volleyball is a great way to burn some holiday calories and get out a burst of family energy.

Bake cookies (and then deliver them to others) – You may be baking cookies already, so fire up the oven for a few more and deliver them to fire houses, police stations, hospitals, assisted living facilities. If you can think of people who serve others or may be lonely during the holidays, then bring them a batch of cookies to show you care and to say thank you.

Make holiday decorations – Break out the scissors because there are few things more fun than making holiday decorations. What do you have in your house already? Construction paper? Ribbon? Glitter? Sequins and Beads? Glue? Styrofoam balls? If you have these things, you have the makings for a fun craft table. If you are a really festive elf, you can leave the craft table up all season and you can make ornaments whenever the spirit moves you.

Start planning now so you can make the lead up to the holidays part of the holidays!

The Gift of Giving Back – Teach Your Children Early

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‘Tis the season of gift giving. But perhaps there is no greater gift that you can give to a child than the gift of “giving back.” Children who are involved in giving at an early age make it a practice and a habit that continues into adulthood. They also behave better in the classroom and reach higher academic achievement.

How can you start kids down the path to being young philanthropists and volunteers?

Start small. Host a bake sale, gather school supplies, play games with elderly residents in a or work at a food bank or other event as a family.

Talk about local needs and global needs, but hold these conversations at a child’s level. By talking with them about homelessness, hunger, etc., you can teach them about compassion and about how they can make a difference in people’s lives.

Match your efforts with your family’s time and resources. Giving should feel pleasurable, not overwhelming. Even small efforts, such as shoveling a neighbor’s walk or taking a meal to a sick friend teach children valuable lessons in giving.

Talk about giving. Tell stories about what you do to show generosity with a single kind act, with a day of volunteering or with donations of goods or money. Encourage questions and think of ways you can all donate together.

Provide a “giving allowance” to encourage both saving and giving – an allowance with three equal parts set aside for spending, saving and giving to charity. This is a great opportunity for parents to help their kids understand the value of making the right purchases, saving money and choosing the right charities.

As kids grow older, you can up your discussions to help teach about financial values and setting and achieving short-term and long-term financial goals, saving for college, getting part-time jobs and more.

If you have a larger pool of donation funds, let kids select where some of the money goes. Teaching about discretionary giving is another step toward creating stronger philanthropic ideals for older children and young adults. You can also  give your kids a budget for some of your charitable dollars and let them decide how they grant these them. Do they give it all to a single organization? Divide it among charities? This will help them consider how to have the greatest impact.

Kids mirror what they see. Teaching them how they can give back with their resources of time and money when they are younger will be one of the best life-long gifts you can share with them.

Universal Lending gives back.

At Universal Lending, we believe in giving back all year long. Our foundation’s Mortgage Bridge Program provides up to three months of mortgage and HOA payments to patients and caregivers at Craig Hospital after a traumatic brain injury or spinal injury, so they can focus on their recovery rather than their bills. We are honored to support others when they need us most.

Look No Further for the Perfect Gift for the New Home Owner

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Are you looking for the perfect gift for friends or family who have just purchased a first home or are moving to a new home? Welcome them to their new neighborhood with one of these gift suggestions for new home owners.

Welcome Mat: Help them welcome guests and give them a place to wipe their feet before coming inside with a new welcome mat. You can find these at any home goods store or have a special mat customized with their name or initials. In either case, you’ll be welcome to their home any time.

Tool Gift Basket or Toolbox: Who isn’t looking for the right sized screw or nail when the move into a new home? And who really remembers where they put the picture hooks? Help the new homeowner get started on some household chores with a hammer, screw driver set, nails, screws, picture hanging kits, painters tape and other odds and ends. And if you know it’s a person’s first home, a new toolbox with the basic tools is even better.

Video Doorbell: If your budget is a bit bigger, new homeowners may like an extra layer of home protection with a video doorbell. These gadgets often have several options with different add-ons and price points.

Home Repair Book: Of course YouTube is filled with how-to videos for home repairs. But how are you supposed to remember exactly what to do when you’re under the kitchen sink? A book of basic how-to fixes is perfect for the new home owner to make quick references.

A Day of Childcare: How much can parents get done in a home when their kids are being entertained by a friend? How about taking the kids out for a day of play at the zoo, museum or park, so Mom and Dad can use the day to the fullest.

Houseplants: A houseplant brightens any room and breathes a little life into a new space. Even if your gift recipient doesn’t have a green thumb, there are some plants that are easy-to-grow with little maintenance. If your homeowner has pets, make sure you pick out a plant that is safe if ingested.

Room Humidifier: A lot of homes don’t come with built-in humidifiers and in dryer climates and in the winter when the heat is running, it’s nice to have the option to pump in a little humidity.

Gift Certificates: A gift certificate to a home improvement store is always welcome by any home owner whether this is their first home or their fifth home. Gift certificates for a restaurant or grocery store make great gifts, too, as they look for a night of relaxation or start stocking the refrigerator.

No matter your budget, big or small, there’s always a little room for a housewarming gift. 

 

 

Keep Your Kids and their Friends Entertained All Winter!

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Winter can be a snowy blast for kids, but when it’s too cold to play outside, kids need something that entertains them inside. Here are some winter games and activities for kids and the kid inside every adult. 

Indoor Snowball Fight

Whether there is snow on the ground or not, you can still have a snowball fight inside! Ball up some white paper or some white socks, give each kid a basket with their snowballs and let loose. Clear away furniture or anything that could be fallen over, tripped on or broken, but this is a great way to burn off some energy during the coldest days.

Pass the Antlers

Get a pair of inexpensive antlers and have them ready for a fun game of Pass the Antlers. It’s like Hot Potato, with a winter twist. Sit in a circle and start the music. Pass the antlers around the room as the music plays. Each player must put the antlers on their head when they receive them. When the music stops, the person with the antlers on their head or whose holding them is out.

Pin the Nose on the Snowman

This is a winter spin on Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Cut out a large snowman from some white paper and add some eyes and mouth, and even a hat if you’re creative. Cut several “carrots” from orange construction paper, add some tape, cover the kids’ eyes with a scarf, and let them try to get the nose where it goes on the snowman.

Reindeer Word Search

Write the word reindeer on a pieces of paper. Pass these out to the kids. They have three minutes to find and write down as many words that they find in “reindeer.”

Mitten Pictionary

Get out your classic Pictionary game and add a little winter fun. Put mittens and snow goggles on the child whose turn it is to draw the picture. This puts a fun, childlike spin on this classic game. Kids love it and cannot stop laughing while they play.

Hello to the Relatives

Grab your craft supplies and spread them out. Let the kids decorate cards with glitter, glue, paint, sequins, beads, whatever you have available. Then have them write thank you notes and messages inside the cards for all their relatives – grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and even friends. They’ll have fun creating these and the recipients will have fun opening them.

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the fun has to stop inside!