Cold Weather Hacks to Stay Warm Inside All Winter Long

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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.

Top Tips for Keeping Produce Fresh Longer

Family Outing to the Grocery Store

No one likes to throw food away. Groceries are expensive and when you can keep your food fresh longer, you can save a lot of cash. Here are some tips for keeping your fresh food fresher longer.

Keep your refrigerator clean. Leftover residue or mold spores can increase the spoilage of all your food in the refrigerator.

Click here for some tips to easily clean your refrigerator and keep it clean longer.

Don’t store fruits and vegetables near a gas stove. Natural gas has been shown to increase ripening. In addition, don’t store fruits or vegetable in areas that have smoke or heat, like the stove or toaster oven. The exhaust and heat from these can increase the amount of Ethylene gas that is produced and speed up the ripening process.

Store produce in special storage bags that you can buy from your grocer.

Don’t cut your fruits and vegetables until you will be using them. Cut fruit will spoil faster.

If you do cut your fruit or veggies sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to keep them fresh and cover them with plastic wrap.

Place fresh herbs and leafy greens in a jar or vase of water, just like you would a bouquet of flowers. They’ll last longer and you’ll have a beautiful, green arrangement.

Store dried green onions or chives after you chop them up in a plastic water bottle in the freezer. When you’re ready to use some, just pull this out and sprinkle.

Store potatoes with apples to keep the potatoes from sprouting, and keep them away from your onions. Onions will make apples go bad faster.

Keep your greens in the refrigerator in a bowl with a paper towel, and cover with plastic wrap. The paper towel will absorb the excess moisture and keep them fresh.

Clean berries, fruits, and greens in a mixture of 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. This will remove dirt and even pesticides, and help them last longer by preventing mold.

Bad apple in the bunch? Remove it immediately. The old saying “One bad apple will spoil the bunch,” is true.

Store fruit in the middle of the refrigerator or in the drawers to keep temperatures consistent.

Keep bananas away from your other produce, as they produce some of the highest amounts of Ethylene gas. Place plastic wrap around the crown of your banana bunch to keep them lasting longer. If you want them to ripen super fast, place them in a closed plastic bag. Since they emit so much Ethylene gas, they’ll ripen quickly when the gas is trapped by the bag.

Keep tomatoes at room temperature and away from sunlight. If you grow your own tomatoes, pick them as soon as they are ripe. Do not to store your tomatoes in plastic; this will trap moisture and increase the likelihood of spoilage.

Store nuts in the freezer or in a food safe jar to protect them from moisture and air.

It’s no fun to throw food away, and it’s always fun to eat fresh! Try a few of these tips and see if you’re not saving and using more food than you ever have before! 

Button Up Your House for Early Winter Prep: Cold Weather Hacks

Kids enjoy the snowfall

October is a good time to button up your house for winter. We still have days that are nice enough to get outside and take care of business, but we know that Old Man Winter will be knocking on our doors soon enough. Here are a few hacks to make winter-proofing your house easier. 

Find all the places that cold air can leak in and warm air can leak out.
And then caulk these cracks so no more air can whisper through them. Check baseboards, windows and doors, ceiling light fixtures, electrical outlets… anywhere that the outside can meet the inside. When you block drafts, you have the potential to save between 5 and 30 percent in utility bills, according to the US Department of Energy.

Here’s your hack: At night, have a friend walk outside after you turn off your lights. Have your friend shine a flashlight along doors and windows. The light will illuminate large cracks. Those are your leaks. Here’s another hack, let your neighbors know you are doing this so they don’t call the police.

Check your heating system. You’ll save money on energy bills if your heater is running efficiently. Even if you have to call in a pro on this one, it’s a good idea to have your heater looked at. If you have gas fireplaces, get someone in to check those, too. Better safe than sorry when it comes to potential carbon monoxide leaks or other dangers.

Here’s your hack: Remove all of the vent covers and wash them in sudsy water and dust the heating returns. Let the covers dry all the way before putting them back on. This is one simple way to cut down on dust in your home.

Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. You and your family are at greater risk when batteries aren’t working in your alarms. You should check these batteries twice a year, so now is a good time.

Here’s your hack: Make it a habit to check your batteries when we move our clocks forward or backward. This weekend’s your big day, and you’ll have time as we fall back on Saturday and gain in hour!

Clean your patio furniture. Rats! It’s that time of the year. You’re not going to be lounging lawn-side for a few months. When it’s clean, find a good place in the garage or basement to store it to keep it clean.

Here’s your hack: You can scrub your plastic furniture to a pristine clean with a Brillo pad and then give it a final rinse. Not up for that? You also can power wash your furniture.

Get your home ready now so you’re not scrambling in the cold to get ready later.

Make Fall Yard Work Easy and Pain-Free

 

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Autumn yard work can be both time consuming and hand-blistering. But what if it doesn’t have to be? We want to share some tips with you to help you make a full weekend of yard work turn into just a couple of hours, so you can spend your time hiking in the autumn colors or being the armchair quarterback you are meant to be.

Use Your Lawnmower: Cut your grass a little shorter in the fall. Short grass gives leaves less to get caught on as they drift around the neighborhood. It also means the mower will destroy a light coating of leaves that has fallen so you don’t even have to rake. If you have a mulching lawn mower, that’s even better, but not necessary.

Use Work Gloves: Don’t delay in putting on a pair of work gloves to get started. These will keep you from getting blisters. If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t put them on until the blisters start to form. That’s too late! Start with them and end with them. And remember a long sleeve shirt, as well, to keep the leaves and pine needles from pricking your arms.

Use Your Leaf Blower: If you aren’t looking for a tranquil, quiet afternoon, a leaf blower is your friend. Let the power of the blower pile up your leaves for you. But be smart and wear earplugs to protect your hearing, and be a good neighbor. Don’t start the blower too early or run it too late.

Use Your Rake and Your Snow Shovel: You’re not going get away from raking all together. Use a hearty, sturdy rake to get the leaves into piles that you can push onto snow shovel and dump into your leaf bags. You’re going to save yourself a lot of bending if you use the shovel method, rather than trying to pick up piles and piles of leaves by hand and arm.

Use Your Kids: Leaf pickup is an ideal chore for the young kids and teenagers alike. Start them with rakes — and quality, good work gloves — and let them learn the old fashioned way. There is no age that is too young. They love playing in the leaves. And if you make it a game early enough on in their lives, they may be more willing to get out of bed and help out when they are older!

Autumn really is a beautiful season. Don’t let raking leaves be a chore that takes all of the fun out of your season.

Home Improvement Jobs that May Add Value to Your Home

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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.

A New Season Means It’s Time to Edit Your Closet

Woman looking at wardrobe, home interior, desperate housewife, cleaning home, rear view sitting, toned vintage style.

Fall is here so it’s time to “edit your closet” With this handy six-step guide you can get it done in just about 30 minutes – give or take a few minutes! 

STEP 1 – Get ready (2 minutes): Prepare a few separate trash bags, boxes or bins for sorting into four piles: things to store, things to donate, hand-me-down items, or items to sell or consign. Resist the temptation to buy extra hangers or bins until after you complete the editing process. You may also need some cleaning supplies for dusting, wiping down and vacuuming.

STEP 2 – Get going (4 minutes): Gather all the clothes from your closet and lay everything on your bed according to garment type: shirts/blouses, jackets, pants, dresses, etc. Pull organizers and bins, too, so the closet is entirely empty.

STEP 3 – Get cleaning (3 minutes): Wipe the shelves, closet rod, walls and baseboards, then vacuum the floor.

STEP 4 – Get thinking (2 minutes): Before you put anything back, consider the space to determine how you can make your closet work more efficiently. Do you struggle to locate and frequently use items? Would certain items be better hung up than folded? Now is a great time to adjust the flow, if needed.

STEP 5 – Get realistic (15 minutes): The first time you edit may take a little longer, but if you make it a seasonal habit it can go faster. Working by pile, look at each item and decide if it goes back into the closet by asking yourself four questions:

  1. Does it fit?
  2. Have I worn it in the last 12 months?
  3. Will I repair it or alter it?
  4. Do I feel confident in it?

Place storage items, donations and hand-me-downs in their respective containers as you go.

STEP 6 – Get organizing (4 minutes): Organize your keep pile by garment type first, color second. A popular color organization tactic among retailers, designers and organizers is to follow the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

This method can help keep you organized all year long if you start today!

Sources: Real Simple, Huffington Post

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..