Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part II

Beautiful girl at Christmas eve

With so many things to do before you leave home during the holidays – whether you’ll be gone for a few hours, a whole day or a whole week – it’s easy to forget something. Here are some simple tips for staying safe in your home and while you are away this holiday season.

Watch your plugs when you decorate. Don’t plug too many things in a single outlet and never connect multiple extension cords. Use power strips where you need them and longer extension cords to reach long distances.

Watch those candles and fireplaces. Lit candles look lovely, but make sure you keep them far away from curtains and drapes and other things that can easily catch on fire. If you have kids or pets playing around the candles, be extra careful and use the flameless kinds. If you are burning wood in the fireplace, make sure the fire is out after each use. And now may be a good time to have someone come out and clean your chimney and make sure it’s in working order.

Keep your thermostat turned on and maybe even up a little higher when it’s cold outside, especially at night or if you go out of town. A little extra warmth will prevent your pipes from freezing. Some people even keep their faucets dripping just a little in the winter when they travel.

Keep dry plants, real trees and other plant décor wet. Wreaths made of dry plants may look lovely but they present unexpected fire hazards. Keep your tree well watered and your wreaths and dry plants moist with a little mist for an extra safety step.

And speaking of tree, put breakable ornaments out of reach of small children and pets. Bells, lights and other twinkling ornaments easily attract attention of kids. Keep them safe by keeping your breakables out of reach.

Welcome your guests – whether they are expected or unexpected – with a shoveled walk way and a little salt. You may see more foot traffic at your house during the holidays. A shoveled walk with a little salt sprinkled on it, keeps friends, neighbors, family and delivery people safe from slipping.

Use your ladder. Do you have to fix a burned out bulb or jiggle a jangle to make it work right? Use a ladder. Now is not the time to stand on a chair or a crate because it’s easier. Stay safe with a sturdy ladder.

Before you leave home, clean out all the stinky spots — the garbage disposal, dishwasher, refrigerator and coffee pot can all welcome you home with unpleasant surprises if you don’t empty them and wipe them out before you leave.

Set timers on your lights to give the appearance of being home, even when you’re not. You can set timers to turn lights on when it starts to get dark and go off either at bedtime or in the morning. Always leave a couple of lights on when you’re gone to make it look like your home and to keep burglars away. It’s easier to rob a home that is dark than one that is well lit.

Do one final walk around to make sure all the windows and doors are locked and your blinds are curtains are closed.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

Protect your pets, too. Click here for pet safety tips for the holidays.

Click here to read more holiday home safety tips from Universal Lending.

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. 

Holiday Etiquette the Whole Neighborhood Will Agree On

House with Many Colorful Christmas Lights

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. 

Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part I

Holiday_Surprise

Now is not the time to take a holiday from home safety, but a lot of us do when we light our trees and put spotlights on our homes. Here are some simple tips for keeping your home and yourself safe from burglars and others who want to take the ho ho ho out of your holidays. 

Make smart choices when you decorate. Don’t put expensive gifts in front of windows or doors where they can be seen from people outside. Gifts under a tree are begging for burglars to come on in and open the packages. Keep them hidden.

Don’t take shortcuts on locking up. ‘Tis the season to set the home alarm. Of course you want to be smart about locking doors and windows all year long, but don’t forget to this step when the holidays are in full swing.

Be anti-social on social media if you’re heading out of town. Don’t let would-be burglars know you’re going to be in Michigan for Christmas. Let them think you’re going to be at home. It’s never a good idea to post travel plans on Facebook.

Did you treat yourself to a new 70-inch, state-of-the-art television for Christmas? Take a little extra time when disposing of the boxes and packaging. Break up the box and bring pieces of it to the trash over time. If you toss a box to the curb, you are letting would-be burglars that you have a new toy that they might like.

Light up the outside and the inside of your home. Make it difficult for burglars to sneak around your windows and doors by shining a light on the outside and on the inside. A spotlight or motion sensor may be a smart investment.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

If you live in a place where snow is common, make sure you have someone on standby to shovel your driveway and walkway. A driveway with no tire tracks in it a day or two after it snows tells burglars that no one is home there.

Be smart and stay safe this holiday season and year ’round. Click here for more holiday home safety tips.  

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!