Inexpensive Holiday Gift Guide

Funny pancakes for Christmas

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 Safety for Your Pets

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Celebrate with your pets – after all, they are part of the family, too, but make sure you keep them safe this holiday season. Dogs and cats don’t know what they can and cannot eat, and if it’s shiny, they think it must be a toy. Here are some simple holiday pet safety tips so you can safely spend the holidays with your furry friends and not with your vet.

Watch what they eat. We all know that chocolate is a poison to your dog, but what else should they avoid? Grapes and raisins, onions, avocados, macadamia nuts and alcohol are all bad for Fido. Keep him safe by feeding him his food and dog treats but not people food. Even if the food isn’t poisonous to dogs, too many table treats can lead to indigestion and one ill pooch. And never give your dog the bone from your meat. These treats can cause your dog to choke or cause stomach and digestive issues.

Keep them away from candles and breakables. With all the excitement of the holidays, your dog or cat may be extra playful or a more nervous than usual. Make sure lit candles and breakables are away from their paths, so they don’t knock them off of the table and break them or start a fire.

Plants can be poisonous. Mistletoe is poisonous when eaten and can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. None of this spells joy this holiday season. And the verdict is still out on the dangers of poinsettias, but better safe than sorry.

Go garland-free if you have a cat. Anyone with a feline has seen the joy in its eyes when it sees something shiny. Tinsel and garland are begging to be eaten by a cat. At best, eating this will cause vomiting. At worst, it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract. Ribbons and yarns can cause the same problems. Entertain your furry friend with safe toys and discard the rest.

Provide your pets with a safe and people-free zone. A bedroom or study with a nice bed and some fresh water gives your pet a place to go to get away from guests and chaos. Dogs and cats like their routines. Keep them relaxed and safe with a room of their own.

By following a few simple “rules,” you and your furry friends will have a much happier holiday season. 

How to Live with Pets AND Keep Your Home Smelling Fresh

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Whether your new dog or cat is your first pet or your 50th pet, we can all use some reminders about how to clean up after our pets and keep our homes are clean even with our furry friends living with us. Here are a few pointers for new pet owners and seasoned pet owners, alike.

All pet owners need to have these items in their homes (and in their cars).

Lint Roller: Keep one in the closet, in the bathroom and in your car so you are always ready to roll out the door with fur-free clothes. If you’re in a pinch and have pulled the last piece of sticky goodness off the roller, scotch tape, masking tape or even blue painter’s tape will work. These work like magic on furniture, too.

Dishwashing Gloves: In a hurry to clean some pet hair off furniture, tables or chairs? Put on a pair of dishwashing gloves and sweep your hand over the area your need to remove fur from. It’s quick, inexpensive and works well for small clean ups.

Throw Blankets: You don’t need the fancy, dry clean-only throws. You need the old-fashioned, can-take-a-good-spin-in-the- washer-and-dryer throw blankets. You can put these on Fido’s favorite place on the couch, chair or bed, and quickly toss them aside when company comes. Your furniture is fresh and fur-free, so you can relax with your visitors. When you’re ready to give the house a good cleaning, just take these outside and shake off the loose fur before you put them in the washing machine. And if you’re ready to freshen them up, but you don’t have the time or desire to put them through a full wash, simply pop them in the dryer on “air.”

Throw Rugs: Get some cheap, washable throw rugs for your pets’ favorite places to sleep on the floor, too! Put one where your dogs go in and out to catch some of the paw prints from the floor.

A Shallow Bowl of Water: Keep a towel and shallow container filled one-third of the way with room-temperature water by your door prior to walking out the door. Once the walk is over, dip each of your dog’s paws into the water and dry them off when he comes in the house. This is especially useful during the winter when sidewalks and driveways are often covered with ice-melt.

Place Mats: Place mats slide easily under your pets’ food and water bowls and can be easily removed and wiped down with ease after each mealtime.

Some tips for washing machine washable items

If a pet has an accident on a machine washable item, machine wash as usual, adding a cup of baking soda to your regular detergent. When possible, air dry these items rather than putting them in the dryer. If you can still see the stain or smell the urine, machine wash the item again and add an enzymatic cleaner (available at pet supply stores) that breaks down pet-waste odors. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully.

Clean any stains as soon as you see them – the sooner the better! Blot fresh stains with a clean, white cloth. After absorbing as much moisture as possible, apply a solution of 1/4 teaspoon clear dish washing liquid mixed with one cup tepid water; blot with another clean, dry towel. Rinse by blotting with a towel dampened with tepid water. Continue alternating with a soapy towel and a clean, damp towel until the stain is gone. For stale stains or persistent odor, call a professional carpet cleaner. Keep enzyme-based pet odor neutralizer on hand to help neutralize odor.

Final tips

Dust and vacuum at least once a week. Pet hair and dirty litter that get tracked around your home all hold odors. The sooner you get rid of it and the more often you clean it up, the less likely your house will absorb any of these odors, and the less of it you’ll see!

Brush your pets on a regular basis. Veterinarians recommend brushing and grooming your pets regularly in order to reduce the amount of hair in the air and on the ground. Perhaps brush your pets a few times a week. If the hair is on the brush, then it’s not on the floor. Always check with your vet to see how often you should groom your dog or cat.

We can all live together harmoniously and relatively free of pet odors by following just a few tips. 

Summer Vacation Means Summer Jobs for Kids

girl watering the flowers

It’s summer vacation. Don’t let your kids spend the summer on the couch watching TV. Encourage them to earn their own money and start saving today for things they want tomorrow. Here are six jobs that kids as young as age 10 can cut their teeth on and become young entrepreneurs. Some of them may require a little help and coaching from adults, but that’s part of the experience. Help kids get started with marketing – make and hang signs, go door-to-door, put flyers in mailboxes, post on neighborhood websites, or create ads for neighborhood newsletters.

Do Yard Work
If your kids are old enough to use a lawn mower, then mowing lawns is a great job from spring through fall. The beauty of lawn mowing is that kids can push the mower from house to house! If kids aren’t ready for lawn mowing yet there are lots of other jobs: rake leaves, plant seeds, pull weeds, water flowers, etc.

Open a Lemonade Stand 
Younger kids may enjoy setting up a lemonade stand. If the weather is right (hot!) a lot of passersby on their way home from work or out walking the family dog may be ready for a refreshing beverage. Make sure the table is set up on a safe corner that has some foot and car traffic and they can be in business. If you really want to make some money, sell dog treats for the pups that go by with their owners.

The next three jobs may require some adult supervision when kids first begin them.

Walk Dogs
Be a dog walker. Dogs love going for walks and people who work all day love knowing their four-legged friends are getting outside. This job may be easier to get if the kids have pets of their own that neighbors see them taking care of and tending to. Dogs need to be walked all year round, no matter the weather or the time of year, so this job can grown into a continuous business. And good dog walkers never forget to clean up after their pooches!

Watch Someone’s House
When neighbors go away on a vacation, they often need someone to either feed their pet, water their flowers or pick up their mail while they’re away. A good house sitter is hard to find! It has to be someone trusted. But when your child becomes a favored house sitter, like dog walking, this job can become year-round business.

Be a Mother’s Helper
When kids are too young to babysit, they can get some training and earn some money by being a “mother’s helper.” A mother’s helper makes life easier for moms when they are at home. out a mom with her young kids while she’s also at home. They may play with the kids and keep them entertained while their mom does other chores around the house. They may even be asked to help with simple chores themselves.

The earlier kids start working, the faster their savings and their work ethic will grow. And the good things about these jobs? They are close to home and if your kids get one or two good clients, they will keep getting more business!

Is Your Home Ready for Your New Pet? It Can Be with Some Simple Steps

High Five

A lot of homeowners plan to bring a furry friend into their lives. Whether your home is brand new to you or you’ve lived there for years, you need to prepare yourself and your home for a pet. Here are some tips to keep your home tidy and your new friend safe.

Avoid vertical blinds, pooling drapery, ornate tassels and long cords that can become strangulation hazards. If a dog gets caught in any of these, he could panic and bring objects around him crashing down. Choose curtains or draperies instead.

Provide comfy beds in each room or designate one piece of furniture as your pet’s place. Cover this piece with a washable throw and teach your pet that this is the only piece of furniture he is allowed to frequent. Use machine washable slipcovers on furniture your pets sleep on.

Avoid leather and vinyl furniture that can be easily damaged by claws, or trim your pets’ nails regularly.

Use washable paint in areas where your pet may get drool on the walls. Pets drool, slobber and dribble. It’s part of their charm.

Make sure any houseplants you have are not poisonous to pets.

Machine-washable area rugs are easier to keep clean than wall-to-wall carpeting. Put away the fine and antique rugs.

Tile, linoleum and Pergo® are pet-friendly floorings that allow you to easily wipe away accidental droppings.

Use spill-proof water bowls help prevent spills and drips from droolers; put a large, absorbent placemat under food and water bowls will make for easier clean-up after messy eaters.

Don’t use products that contain ammonia to clean pet urine. Ammonia-based cleaners can attract pets and encourage them to urinate where you’ve cleaned.

Brush your pet regularly to keep her from shedding all over your house.

Fenced-in yards should have a buried, inward-facing section to prevent dogs from digging and tunneling.

This is just a snapshot of a few ways to prepare for your pet. Pets add charm, personality and a lot of love to your home. Keep the love growing strong by getting your home ready before you bring your new furry friend in. 

Bringing home a new puppy? Here are some tips to get ready a baby best friend!

10 Dog Hikes that Coloradans and their Best Friends Love

 


Hiker and Dog Sitting on a Rock at Ice LakeAre you and your 4-legged best friend ready to get into gear and get out into the great Colorado outdoors? Grab his leash, grab his water bottle (and yours, too), grab some plastic bags, and get going. Here are 10 of great Colorado hikes that will give you and your hiking companion a taste of what this great state has to offer. Some of these are easy, some are moderate and others strenuous, so make sure you pick the one that is right for you.

Dome Mountain Trail: A strenuous hike near Loveland that climbs to the summit of Sheep Mountain, high above the Big Thompson River and Canyon. The trail is well marked with informative signs that guide you through the plant life, erosions and interesting geology.

Rainbow Lakes Trail: A 2.5 miles out and back trail near Nederland. This hike features a lake and is recommended for hiking from June – October, and is accessible for all skill levels.

Forsythe Canyon to Waterfall and Gross Reservoir: This 2.2 mile out and back trail near Nederland features a lake and waterfall and is accessible for all skill levels. It’s shady, if you’re looking to escape the sun.

North Cheyenne Canon Park: This state park is near Colorado Springs and offers 56 miles of trails, from easy to moderate. Check out the website for a trail guide that can help you decide where to start.

Elk Meadow Park: In Evergreen, Elk Meadow Park is meets the expectations set by its name, providing a likely space to see elk. Your dogs must be leashed at all times for the safety of you, your dog, the elk and other park visitors. This park offers myriad options from easy to difficult.

Alderfer/Three Sister Park: Near Evergreen, you can hike through old stands of Ponderosa Pines, check out landmark rock formations, and view stunning vistas. This park boasts the most trails per acre of any foothills park, with over 15 miles on 1,127 acres.

Red Rocks Trail: The Red Rocks Trail outside Denver is great for a sunrise hike, if you and your dog are early risers. The park includes a cave carved into the sandstone and an interesting geological overlook.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park: Over 35 miles of trails provide something for everyone. Whether you want to spend just an hour or two or make a weekend out of it, you’re going to find stunning views and opportunities for much exercise.

Mount Falcon Park: Hike to an old castle, a lookout tower, and to a site that was intended to be the “Summer White House.” While you’re there, check out gorgeous views of Denver, Red Rocks and the mountains. Close to Denver, in Morrison, Mount Falcon offers this and more.

Three Mile Creek Trail: Be prepared to spend the day with your best friend. This hike, outside of Bailey, is 14-mile trail through a dense deciduous and conifer forest. You’ll cross over a shallow stream several times.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for all Colorado has to offer for hiking. This dog-friendly state makes it easy for you and your best friend to spend time together in the great outdoors. Check out more hikes here and read how to keep you and your dog safe. And have a favorite hike that you and your best friend take? Let us know!

Is Your Home Ready for Your New Pet?

Little Girl Hugging Her Dog Near Window, Sepia Toned

A lot of homeowners plan to bring a furry friend into their lives. Whether your home is brand new to you or you’ve lived there for years, you need to prepare yourself and your home for a pet. Here are some tips to keep your home tidy and your new friend safe.

Avoid vertical blinds, pooling drapery, ornate tassels and long cords that can become strangulation hazards. If a dog gets caught in any of these, he could panic and bring objects around him crashing down. Choose curtains or draperies instead.

Provide comfy beds in each room or designate one piece of furniture as your pet’s place. Cover this piece with a washable throw and teach your pet that this is the only piece of furniture he is allowed to frequent. Use machine washable slipcovers on furniture your pets sleep on.

Avoid leather and vinyl furniture that can be easily damaged by claws, or trim your pets’ nails regularly.

Pets drool, slobber and dribble. Use washable paint in areas where your pet may get drool on the walls.

Make sure any houseplants you have are not poisonous to pets.

Machine-washable area rugs are easier to keep clean than wall-to-wall carpeting. Put away the fine and antique rugs. Tile, linoleum and Pergo® are pet-friendly floorings that allow you to easily wipe away accidental droppings.

Use spill-proof water bowls to help prevent spills and drips from droolers; put a large, absorbent placemat under food and water bowls will make for easier clean-up after messy eaters.

Don’t use products that contain ammonia to clean pet urine. Ammonia-based cleaners can attract pets and encourage them to urinate where you’ve cleaned.

Brush your pet regularly to keep her from shedding all over your house.

Fenced-in yards should have a buried, inward-facing section to prevent dogs from digging and tunneling.

Bringing home a new puppy? Here are some tips to get ready!

This is just a snapshot of a few ways to prepare for your pet. Read more here. And may you have many years with your 4-legged best friend.