Entertain Kids During the Super Bowl

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When you’re a football fan, and your team (or any team for that matter!) is in the Big Game, it’s hard to believe that there may be people at your party who are not as into the game as you are. Those people are most likely kids! Here are some tips for keep kids happy during the game.

Bring in a Babysitter for the Day
Hire a babysitter to watch and play with your kids and any guests’ kids. Make sure you are clear on your expectations – can kids hang out with adults? What games do you have for the kids? What snacks can they have?

Set Up a Craft Table – Football Themed, Valentine’s Day Themed, Just for Fun!
Kids of all ages have fun working with their hands. Bring out the construction paper, glue, child scissors, glitter, crepe paper and more. Whatever you can think of, kids can craft with. Invite them to make pom-poms, football helmets to wear and more. Or let them get a head start on their homemade Valentine’s for grandparents or siblings or friends. And if none of that inspires them, let them make anything they’d like.

Set Up a Jigsaw Puzzle and Coloring Table or a Board Game Table
Maybe you have kids who aren’t crafty at your party. A coloring book and crayon table and a jigsaw puzzle table may be just what they need to stay entertained. Or let them play board games. Sorry, Life, Chutes and Ladders – these are all great games for kids.

Remember, the more you put out for them to do, the more easily entertained they will be.

When Making the Food, Remember the Kids
Super Bowl parties are not usually the example of healthy food choices. Junk food often rules the menu. However, you want to make sure you have healthy snack options for your adult and child guests.

Popcorn is a healthy choice. Have a popcorn bar where they can add fun candy, raisins, granola or other snacks to their popcorn. Pop up a big bowl of plain popcorn and offer a variety of flavor shakers, such as cheddar cheese, barbecue, etc. You can find these at most grocery stores with the popcorn. Put out some plastic cups to put their popcorn and let them snack. Provide red plastic “keg” cups, a stack of small paper bags or small baskets lined with paper towels for guests to serve themselves.

Make sure to have enough cups for your adult guests who are sure to snack at the popcorn bar, too.

Host Your Own Super Bowl
If Super Bowl Sunday is a nice day, set up a miniature football field outside. Have two different colored flags and let the kids play touch football in the backyard. An opportunity to run around provides a great energy burn before the game and during half time.

Play Hot Football
This twist on the classic Hot Potato can be an energy burning alternative if you can’t get outside. Have the kids stand in a circle, turn on music, and have the kids start passing a miniature football. The kid who is holding the football when the music stops has to do a funny dance and have the others in the group copy it. Keep the game going until the game starts or half time is over.

Do Touchdown Dances
If the kids are watching the game, have them do a Touchdown Dance every time either of the teams scores a touchdown. You can also make it a Field Goal Dance, too. Even the adults who are most into the game will dance when their team scores a touchdown! It’s another way to keep moving.

You know Super Bowl Sunday is a blast for fans. Make sure it’s fun for the little ones, too,
by making having Super Bowl fun Super easy!

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.

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!

A Holiday Gift for Seniors: Help Them Stay Safely in Their Homes Longer

Lonely man's hands on a stave in front of the fireplace with christmas tree.

As seniors age, the risks of living at home grow.  If you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for a senior family member, friend or neighbor, helping them stay safe at home may be the perfect gift. Here are some ways you can adapt their homes for their holiday gift! 

Lighten and Brighten the Home. Ensure areas around entryways, hallways and stairs are well lit, and add brighter or extra lights if needed. You can also install glow-in-the-dark light switches or motion-sensor lighting throughout your home so seniors don’t struggle to find the light switch in the dark.

Make Doors Easy for Seniors with Arthritis to Open. Turning door knobs may be difficult, especially if a senior has arthritis. Lever-style door handle may be easier for them to use than a round one.

Make it Easy for Seniors to Move Around Safely. It’s important to make it easy for your senior loved one to move around the home. Remove tripping hazards like rugs, children’s toys, pet toys, etc. Make sure cords aren’t dragged across the floor. And watch for furniture that may be placed near hallways or doors. Seniors may be at risk of bumping into these.

Provide Safe Places to Sit. A chair or bench at the front door or whatever door they enter regularly is helpful. Seniors can sit down while taking off shoes or putting on shoes or boots. They can also place bags or other packages there when they come in from outside.

A tall counter stool is also a great addition to the kitchen. It can allow seniors to remain independent and cook while sitting down, which is great for seniors who can’t stand for long stretches of time.

Do a Double Check on the Bathroom. A walk-in shower is much easier for seniors so they don’t have to step into a tub. Adding hand rails and grab bars will help them with balance.

You can also purchase a stool that is made for showers or tubs so they can sit in the shower. And special shower heads can be installed with hoses so they don’t have to stand up and reach above them.

If room allows, consider putting stool or small chair in front of the mirror so they can sit when shaving or participating in on other grooming routines.

Make It Easy to Call for Help. Consider using a call-assist service or personal emergency response system that the senior can wear on their neck or wrist and push a button if they need help. If this isn’t an option make it easy for seniors to have their cell phone with them or near them at all times.

Seniors may need a little extra help and a little extra love as they age. But many can stay in their homes safely with a few changes around the house. 

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.

Inexpensive Holiday Gift Guide

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Looking for the perfect holiday gift but don’t have a lot of money to spend? Here are some great gifts for anyone on your list that won’t blow your bank account!

A potted plant

Some indoor plant life can bring some much needed green into the long, dark January and February months. A potted plant is a great gift for anyone who has recently purchased a home or has lived in their home for years or even decades and needs a change. You can think big or small, depending on the size of their home. But if they have pets, make sure you pick a plant that is non-poisonous to animals.

Kitchen gadgets

It takes a long time to stock your first kitchen, especially with stuff that’s going to last. For that friend who needs basics, think a can opener, potato peeler or corkscrew. If you want to get fancier, you could go for a garlic press, a potato masher or a pastry cutter. Maybe throw in a pretty tea towel or place mats for a splash of color.

Small gardening tools

These are great for new homeowners suddenly faced with caring and tending to their own garden. Think some basic pruning shears or some tools for planting fresh flowers. Want to make the gift even more fun? Put these items in a flower pot and get them started on decorating their deck when spring comes.

A cookbook

A great way to save money is to make meals at home, but there are a lot of cookbooks out there. Choose something simple with a lot of basic recipes that can be adapted or modified. Or choose a cookbook that has an online blog associated with it. Then they will have a built-in community, where they can seek out further recipes as well as tips and tricks.

A few months of Netflix (or the recipient’s channel of choice) and some popcorn.

Cable TV is expensive, and a lot of people are looking for ways to cut their bills. A gift fo a few months of Netflix or Hulu is great for someone who wants to try something new but doesn’t know where to start.

Pancake mix and maple syrup

Pancakes are a favorite weekend treat, light and fluffy and a warm reminder that you have nowhere to be on a cold snowy morning. But making homemade pancakes isn’t always a top priority. A special pancake mix from a specialty food store can make this the perfect gift. Top it off with some maple syrup or homemade fruit compote. If they are new to the kitchen, you may even throw in a small griddle and a spatula!

A deck of cards

A deck or two of playing cards and you can create your own family fun and holiday memories. Old Maid and Go Fish for the kids, Gin Rummy, Poker and Black Jack for the adults. Get a classic deck or go for the recipient’s favorite theme. Whatever you decide you’re sure to bring family fun to your family’s holiday.

Board games

Go old school and get family games like Parcheesi, Monopoly, Trouble, Sorry or Yahtzee. Those games are around today still because of the fun they bring for the whole family. Or you can go with strategy games like Settlers of Catan or Risk. Those will bring a challenge, for sure. Friends like word games? How about Scrabble or Boggle? A walk down the game aisle of any toy store wil spur more fun board game ideas. Check out puzzles while you are in this aisle. Some of the best conversations and comfortable silences happen over the bonding of puzzle building.

Winter skin care kit

Frigid temperatures, bitter winds and dry, radiator air will give anyone’s skin a scare. But you can take the bite out of this pain with some nice lip balm, a good hand lotion, some cuticle oil and maybe a facial moisturizer or shaving lotion.

For pet lovers: A box of pet treats and a pet toy

Pamper your friends by pampering their pets. Get some squeaky toys and some treats. Or maybe Fido moved to a new home but his favorite bed didn’t make the trip. Check out all the options for pets online or in your local pet store. After all, nothing says you like your friend than loving their pet!

Whatever gift you give, at Universal Lending we want to wish you a  warm and happy winter holiday season and a happy new year!

Holiday Etiquette the Whole Neighborhood Will Agree On

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You just moved into a new neighborhood and now you need to know the “rules.” Let there be peace on earth and in your neighborhood this holiday season by following some special seasonal etiquette.

Turn down the noise. A lot of holiday decorations play music today. If your snowmen and Santas are singing, consider turning them off by 9 p.m. No one wants to Jingle All the Way all night long.  In addition, guests come and go more often and at different times during the holidays. Voices carry at night and in the morning so keep your voice down when coming and going.

If your holiday lights are extra bright, turn them off at a reasonable hour (10 p.m.) so they aren’t shining in your neighbors’ windows all night long.

Kids are extra excited and excitable during the holidays. They can swing from happy to sad on a dime. Don’t let them scream from the top of their lungs with delight or dismay.

Keep a few extra inexpensive gifts in your home. If a neighbor pops by with a treat for you, you’ll be ready to reciprocate.

Don’t welcome yourself home by honking in your driveway. You’ll be inside to say hello in no time. Same goes for saying goodbye – no need to honk.

Are you hosting a party? Invite your neighbors. It’s a great way to spur some neighborhood camaraderie. It also gets you off the hook for a little bit when music or voices get loud.

Offer to pick up mail and packages for neighbors who are traveling or working late. Porch pirates are becoming more popular these days so if you can help by keeping packages in your house, you’re doing a great service for a friend.

If you have an issue with a neighbor, discuss it with him in person, politely and calmly. Don’t put anonymous notes in mailboxes or post anonymously in online forums.

Garbage cans overflow at the holidays. Make sure paper and trash from your overflowing can doesn’t blow into a neighbor’s yard. Find ways to neatly toss your trash.

Shovel and de-ice your sidewalks and other pathways. This not only makes your home appear well taken care of, but it can keep people from slipping and sliding as they walk by on their way to school or on their walks with Fido.

Give a helping hand. Have an elderly neighbor a neighbor who could use some help? Shovel their driveway and walk as well.

And make sure you clear a path for your mail carrier as well. Life is easier when you’re not stepping a pile of slush.

Remember your manners and you’ll be the jolliest holiday homeowner of all time.