Keep Your Home Clean and Fresh and Save Money with Homemade Cleaning Products

lemon-1203562_640 (1)

Are you in a pinch for some glass cleaner or sink scrub and you’re in a hurry to make the house presentable for some unexpected guests. Chances are good that you already have what you need to make your home sparkle and smell fresh. Here are some quick home cleaning remedies.

Make your own all purpose cleaner and deodorizer: Mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 quart warm water. Pour it onto a clean sponge and wipe.

Clean your glass. Combine 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup white vinegar or cider vinegar, 1/4 rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Add a few drops of lemon juice for a fresh scent. Spray on paper towel or soft cloth and wipe. Don’t use this to clean windows on a hot, sunny day as you risk the solution drying quickly and leaving streaks.

Make lemonade with your lemons:

Combine lemon and salt to shine your chrome faucets.

Rub lemon juice on your cutting boards to help stains fade. Let it sit overnight to really work and then rinse in the morning. As a bonus – this kills some germs, too.

Scrub grout with lemon juice and an old toothbrush.

Put a half a lemon on a small plate in your refrigerator to remove odors; change weekly.

Do more with your dryer sheets. Dryer sheets can help you remove baked on food from pots and pans. Place a dryer sheet in the pot, fill with water and let it sit overnight. Then sponge off in the morning. The antistatic agent weakens the bond between the stuck-on food and the surface of the pan, while the fabric softener works to loosen the food.

Does your toilet need a quick cleaning? Drop two antacid tablets in the bowl. Let them soak for 20 minutes and scrub with a brush and flush. A can of cola works also, if you pour it in and let it soak for an hour before scrubbing.

Combat mold and mildew on tiles and shower curtains. Make a paste of lemon juice and baking powder. Spread it on, leave it for two hours and rinse.

Dust with a paintbrush. A dry paintbrush with bristles that are at least 3 inches long can be used to dust the surface and grooves of your knickknacks. You can use a pastry brush for framed photos and to reach places that are difficult as it’s softer.

Clean your bud vases with rice. To wash a narrow vase, pour in 2 tablespoons of dry rice and 1/2 cup water. Cover with your hand, shake vigorously and rinse.

Spray some hairspray. Spray hairspray on painted walls and wipe immediately to remove marker from walls. eed to remove crayon? Scrub with a toothpaste covered toothbrush or massage baking soda on it with a damp mircofiber cloth.

A little lemon, some baking soda, a hint of vinegar….you’re good to go with your clean home!  Happy home making!

Make More Room in Your Kitchen

Family Life in the Kitchen

There are some ways to make even the smallest kitchen seem bigger and gain some awesome storage space you weren’t expecting. Try these tips as you start thinking about ways to make the kitchen you have the dream kitchen you want.

Before doing anything else….PURGE!

Grab a garbage bag and start throwing things away. Clean out your pantry, cabinets, freezer and refrigerator. Anything outdated including cereals, spices, canned goods and more can go. Old sponges, storage containers with no lids, expired meats, freezer burned soups and vegetables, and old leftovers all can be discarded. You’ll feel good about starting from scratch, and you will know what you have and what you need when you go to the store.

When you do go to the store, only buy what you need. If you’re a bulk shopper, store extra items in the garage or basement, but keep them out of the kitchen.

Hide your chairs. If you have an island or counter seating in your kitchen, buy a couple of low stools that you can push underneath and out of the way.

Put small appliances away. Toasters, mixers and other kitchen appliances are tools, not decorations. Put them in one of the larger cabinets until they are used again for meal prep.

Buy some cabinet shelving and dividers. You can purchase some inexpensive cabinet shelving for stackable pots and pans, serving dishes, vases and pitchers. It’s an easy fix to get some quick storage space back.

Get a smaller table. If you have a small dining nook, then you need a small table. You may even find one with folding parts so you can make it larger and smaller as needed.

Attach a sanitation rack to cabinet below the sink. These are inexpensive and easy to affix to the wall of the cabinet. Put your dish soap, sponges, and other frequently used cleaning products in it. They are easy to get to and off the sink.

Hang your plants. Get your houseplants off the counter by hanging them up or putting them on upper shelves.

A lot of families spend more time in their kitchens than any other rooms in their home. Make it a room you want to be in!

Hosting New Year’s Eve in Your Own Home!

 

iStock_000022352249_Large

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.

Avoid Plumbing Problems at the Holidays and All Year Long!

DIY plumber

The day after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days for plumbers. Why? We put a lot more down our kitchen sink… That, coupled with holiday guests who flush, bathe and do laundry, adds extra stress to the usually quiet plumbing. Here are tips to keep your home’s drain clog free.

Do a drain check before the holidays. Houses often have partially clogged drains that you may have ignored because they are no big deal. But when a house full of guests becomes part of the picture, partially clogged turn into fully clogged quickly. Unclog all drains ahead of time.


And then, after every drain is free of debris, follow some simple tips to keep them that way throughout the season.

In the Kitchen

Don’t pour fats or cooking oil down the drain. They can solidify even if you are running water and the disposal. Save a can and pour grease, fat, oil in the can and then let it harden in the refrigerator before you throw it away.

Watch out for items that should not go in the disposal at any time of the year, but especially when it’s extra busy. Stringy and fibrous items do more harm than good. Turkey or chicken skin, celery, and fruit and potato peels are examples of items that cannot be broken down well and are no match for the garbage disposal.

Make sure you have the disposal running when you add food. Don’t wait until it is full to turn it on.

In the Bathroom

Unless it’s septic system safe toilet paper or a spider, it has no business being flushed down the toilet. Don’t put cotton, tissues, hair, makeup remover pads or anything else down the toilet. They will not dissolve and they will cause problems.

Let a few minutes pass between showers so drains can drain. This may also give the hot water heater a chance to heat up.

Before the Holidays

Fix any problems you know you have bubbling up before the holidays, if you can. If you’re hot water heater isn’t doing its job the way it should, you’d rather be safe than sorry. But if you do get in hot water with a plumbing issue, find out BEFORE you hire a plumber what their holiday fees are. There are plumbers who don’t charge extra but you will have to do some research.

There’s enough going on that the holidays; plumbing problems don’t need to be a part of the activity! With a few precautions, you won’t have to worry about draining your bank account! 

 

Hosting Your First Thanksgiving

fun thanksgiving

It’s your turn to have your family and friends join you for Thanksgiving. As a first-time or fifth-time Thanksgiving host, you may appreciate some tips to make the day a little less stressful and a little more fun.

Plan ahead: Create your grocery list and do your shopping well ahead of time. Double check your purchases against your recipes when you get home and make sure you have everything you need. There’s nothing worse than realizing you are missing a key ingredient on Thanksgiving Day. Some stores aren’t open and those that are can be crowded.

Ask for RSVPs: When you send out your invitations, include an RSVP by date. You need to know how much food to have, how many places to set, and even how many chairs to have. If you don’t get a reply from someone, contact them to confirm that they are or are not coming.

Keep the menu simple and traditional: This is another time that keeping a menu simple is a bonus. Stick with recipes you know and that are favorites.

Cook your turkey upside down: This keeps the turkey moister. Best tip ever!

Accept help: Guests are often happier if they have something to do or feel useful. Let them help! Have some tasks they can do — fill water glasses, serve beverages or appetizers, cut veggies, stir gravy. If they ask to bring a dish, let them! It’ll save you time and money in the end.

Set your table ahead of time: When guests arrive and the table is set, the home not only looks nice and prepared, but you are less rushed. Setting the table also ensures that you have everything you need for your big day.

It’s your new home and your first Thanksgiving. Celebrate all you have to be thankful for. And remember — everything may not be perfect, but if you act like it is, your guests will believe it. 

All About Cranberries

Christmas Candles and Fireplace

Cranberries – The holiday fruit of all holiday fruits. As the holidays get closer, cranberries go on sale. And who can resist buying four bags when they are buy-one-get-one free? But after you make the traditional cranberry sauce, what are you supposed to do with the other three bags? Here are some non-food uses for cranberries and some fun cranberry facts to share.

Create a festive holiday mantel.
Cranberries add the perfect hint of deep red to a classy and classic holiday mantel. Lay out some evergreen garlands and vases with floating cranberries and candles to really make a special holiday mantel.

Light up the room.
Add cranberries to your glass cylinders and top with candles. If your cylinders are all one size, you can add different amounts of cranberries to raise candles to different heights for this beautiful look.

Hang topiary balls.
Cover foam balls, which you can purchase at any craft store, with leaves and cranberries. Simply use pushpins to stick the cranberry on the balls. The silver head of the pin will sparkle, too. Add a red ribbon and hang small topiaries on your tree or larger ones anywhere you’d like to add a special touch.

Make a super easy, super festive centerpiece.
Even if you have not got a single crafty bone in your body, it does not get easier than this. Fill a ceramic dish with cranberries and lay some evergreens over the middle. Voila. The holidays come to your dining room table.

Hide the stems in a floral arrangement.
Do you like holiday flowers but wish you couldn’t see the stems? Use cranberries as camouflage. Fill a vase half full of cranberries and fresh water and drop in your floral arrangement, perhaps roses and holly for a holiday treat. Add more water and cranberries to hide the stems of this beautiful mantel decoration. Or pair cranberries with a bouquet of white flowers for a beautiful holiday contrast. Keep in mind when using cranberries in a vase that they will float. If you don’t want to hide the stems, toss in fewer so they mix in with the stems.

Keep kids crafty.
You can even get kids in the cranberry game with this “oldie but goodie.” String cranberries for garland for your tree. It’s a lovely tradition and a lot of fun. You can mix with popcorn or other small decorations of your choosing. Choose a heavy thread and eliminate bad cranberries before you get started. Then tie a knot at the end of your thread, thread the needle and start stringing. It’s a fun craft for a cold night.

Fun Facts about Cranberries

  • Native Americans and Pilgrims used cranberries as a red dye.
  • Wild cranberries were probably part of the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
  • The first recorded use of the word “cranberries” appeared in 1647 in a letter written by missionary John Eliot.
  • New England sailors ate cranberries, a good source of vitamin C, to fight off scurvy.
  • The first commercial canned cranberry sauce was put on the market by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company in 1912.
  • Wisconsin in the nation’s #1 cranberry producer. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington also produce millions of pounds of cranberries every year.
  • One cup of fresh cranberries contains about 50 calories.
  • One cup of cranberry sauce contains about 400 calories.

We’ve answered your questions about cranberries; now let us answer your questions about home loans! 

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!