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Archive for the ‘Home Owners Insurance Tips’ Category.

How to Re-do Your Home Pantry

Imagine this: you have a serious snack craving that must be satisfied. You wander aimlessly through the kitchen opening cupboard after cupboard with no luck. You turn to the pantry and are greeted with a mess.  You can’t find anything through the bags of half-used pasta, a dozen or so half-used cereal boxes and a mishmash of spices.

Sound familiar?

If not, how about this one: you make a list of grocery items for dinner the following week. After spending an hour or so at the store, you come home to put away your groceries and realize that you already have half of the items already shoved in your pantry.

We all can relate to either one or both of those stories. Who hasn’t purchased something they already own or fail at satisfying a snack hankering because our pantry is so out of whack? You don’t have to live this way. Having an organized pantry will eliminate unnecessary stress and save you money (see purchasing the same item you already own). With these simple steps, you can whip your home pantry into shape with little stress and on a dime.

Clean house

First, clean out your pantry. Bring everything out and take inventory of what you have. Toss anything that is expired, stale or unwanted. Be realistic- if you will not use something anymore donate and it is not expired, donate it to a local food bank.

Once everything is removed, clean the pantry shelves and walls thoroughly. Take it one step further and paint. If you are taking the step to clean out the pantry, go all the way with a fresh coat of paint. Get creative and cover the wall behind the shelves with decorative paper. A fancier pantry will entice you to keep it clean.

Be smart about storage

Sitting items on a shelf is just a mess waiting to happen. Invest in glass jars for baking items like flour, brown and powdered sugar, pancake mix, etc. The clear glass will allow you to visually see when you are running out of an item, plus it is visually attractive. Baskets and other clear jars can hold items like fruit snacks, breakfast bars, etc. These are ideal for individual packaged items that often get jumbled once opened.

However you decide to store things is up to you but make sure that every item has a home. Take it one step further and get fancy with labels so everyone in the family will know where each item should go.

Storage bins will actually increase the space in your pantry by eliminating bulky (and usually ugly) packaging. For cans and other similar items, invest in a can storage rack for easy and economical storage.

Make it user friendly

Put frequently used items at eye level, and lesser used out of the way. Put kid’s items like fruit snacks, crackers, etc. at their level for easy access and less frustration. Heavy items should be near the bottom or on the floor to avoid injury.

How to Keep Your Home Cool in the Summer

Summer temperatures have hit. As the mercury steadily rises throughout the day, I begin to sweat. Sweating while working or playing outside is no problem; it is expected and not bothersome. But sweating while sitting in my home or car is a problem that is borderline miserable.

You and I do not have to suffer through the heat in misery. There are ways to beat the heat, or at least lessen the negative effects of the hot sun.

If you are dreading the hot heat in your home, follow these simple tips to stay cooler throughout the summer months.

  • Use air conditioning. Duh. Of course using air conditioning will keep your home cooler, but not everyone has a central air conditioning unit to keep the whole house at a perfect temperature. But just because you do not, does not mean that you have to suffer in heat. The best option, in my opinion, is a window air conditioning unit. These electrical devices sit in your window (or have a tube with an attachment to sit in the window). Plug into the wall, turn the temperature to desired coolness and, voila, cold air. These units vary in price which also means it can vary in how much it can do. Pay more for a digital one that can cool a room quicker, or go cheaper without any of the frills. The downsides to air conditioning window units is a higher electric bill and a bulky unit that will cramp your interior design. But at least you won’t be melting to death.
  • Open windows at night. For most, opening windows during the day will only let the hot air in. But a cool, summer night can be the perfect way to bring down the temps in your home naturally. The key is to focus on cross winds. Open up windows in more than one room and keep the doors open between those rooms. This will create a cross wind that is essential for cooling down a home quicker. It gives  the air somewhere to go, while giving you a nice breeze. Make sure to only open windows with attached screens to keep out any unwanted bugs and/or critters.
  • Change how/where you cook. An instant way to cook up (pun intended) the temperature in your home is to turn on the oven or the stove. To eliminate that extra heating source, cook in a different way. My favorite summer cooking method is grilling. With an outside grill, you keep any unnecessary heat outdoors. If a grill isn’t an option for you, consider cooking in a crockpot. A slow cooker will use minimal, centralized heat to cook a meal without steaming up your home.
  • Limit the used rooms in your home. Generally, the hottest rooms are in relation to where the sun is. For example, my kitchen is west facing, which means right about four o’clock it becomes a unintentional sauna. Figure out what rooms are hottest at which times of the day and avoid those rooms at all costs.

At Home: How to Find A New Babysitter

A night out is one of the most illusive things to a parent. New and old parents dream of the fabled evening, often unable to find a way to make it happen. Busy parents, I am talking to you. For the sake of your sanity and your marriage, get a night out! A break from life, reality and your duties as a parent is vital to maintain any sort of order and mental capacity.

But taking the night off and getting out of the house is easier said than done. There is a lot of prep that goes into a night out and that is even before the actual date part. Two things are generally holding parents back from a night away: money and a sitter.

Thankfully, we live in a day and age where there are plenty of free events so you can easily squeeze by with a cheap date. (Cheap dates can be very romantic.) So the real issue is finding a sitter.

A good babysitter is one of the best things a parent can have in his or her arsenal. A good babysitter can play with the kids, clean up after them and put them to bed, all within a few hours. A good babysitter is responsible, reliable and good natured. There are plenty of teenage kids that fit this bill, right? Unfortunately, finding a good babysitter is not always easy. Here are some tips on finding a good sitter.

Where to Find A Good Babysitter

The best kind of babysitters are the built in kind. If one or more of your children is old enough to watch the younger ones, you are set to go. This built in babysitting system can free up many nights for you with very little cost. You do not have to pay your own child to watch his or her own brothers, but you can sweeten the deal with a movie or a treat if the sitter does a good job.

The next place to find a sitter is family. Grandparents are wonderful babysitters and often are anxious to spend more time with their grandkids. Aunts, cousins, etc are another great place to look. If your kids already know the babysitter well, it will make their whole evening go much smoother.

If family is an option, ask around. The best babysitters are found by word of mouth. Be careful, though. Some parents are not willing to share their regular sitter. If that is the case, ask if their sitter has a friend who might work for you.

How to Know If the Sitter Is Good

You need more than a warm body to watch your children. If you are asking family to help, consider if the person interacts well with your children and likes kids in general. Before you hire a sitter you do not know,  sit down for an interview to see if the potential sitter would do well with your children. If not, get back on the hunt.

 

Fly Away From Home: How To Get Cheap Plane Tickets

With the unpredictable spring weather a far away destination begins to call your name. A friend of mine recently scored $200 roundtrip tickets to Mexico. For those who do not travel often, that is a steal of a price.

Often times the transportation portion of the trip is the priciest. And the more money you spend getting there, the less money you have to spend while on your trip.

Finding cheap plane tickets is often considered an art. Some are lucky enough to stumble on to cheap prices, but others have developed quite the technique to find good deals. If you do not consider yourself lucky, try these tips to score the best deals.

  • Check often. Whether you have a specific location you want to visit or wanting to travel wherever, you need to check flight prices often. This will give you a good idea of what the going rate is for your intended destination, which will let you know if a low price is good enough to pounce. Plus, flight costs are very fluid, bouncing up and down with just a day’s notice. Check consistently to score rock bottom prices.
  • Use travel websites. Often times, travel websites get a bad name for themselves, which is disheartening because travel websites can do a lot of the leg work for you. It is time consuming to visit each independent airline for specific prices. Travel websites like Expedia or Hotwire can do the legwork for you. My personal favorite flight website is Kayak. The easy to use site gives you a variety of options and, in my opinion, the cheapest fare on the same flights.
  • Sign up for a price alert. One of Kayak’s greatest attributes is its handy price alert system. You enter in your intended destination and it can send you an alert if the prices drops or gets below a price that you indicate. This will save you time and will update you constantly on what you need to know.
  • Use your rewards. Loyalty to one airline can benefit you. Big airline companies often have a rewards system in place. If you accrue so many miles, you can often get free flights and other insider swag. Many airlines offer reward credit cards that can be used to gain points for future flights. Be careful of any type of credit card you sign up for, however. Sometimes rewards flight cards have high interest rates and may not yield as great of reward as promised.
  • Get deals sent straight to your inbox. If you have an open intinerary and don’t have a specific destination in mind, sign up for weekly (or daily, if you prefer) newsletters from travel websites sent to your email inbox. These emails often boast deeply discounted flights, hotels, cruises and excursions. Most have an impending deadline, but you can get great deals if you have the flexibility.
  • Check out Bing. The new search engine has a great price indicator that will show the history of flight prices, giving you a good idea on when to purchase.

How to Keep Your Home Safe From the Internet

The internet is becoming more and more prevalent in our homes. Just 20 years ago, it was very uncommon for anyone to have a computer in their homes (remember that one guy who said no one would ever have a personal computer in their homes?). Nowadays, computers are everywhere: in laptops, desk tops, smart phones and even certain iPods. Getting on the internet has never been easier.

Being able to access information at the touch of the button has made life wonderful. You can quickly look up a quick fact to settle a bet, find cheap flights and scan barcodes to find the best deal. You can instantly update your whereabouts on Facebook and send a quick email to a friend. The possibilities are endless.

However, all good things have bad qualities. Is it really that great to have such immediate access to the internet?

It is so easy for kids to access anything on the internet, and that includes sites that parents would rather their kids avoid such as pornography and other suggestive sites. But how can your child safe when there is a good chance he or she is accessing internet on a small portable device like an iPod touch.

There is no one way to determine what will work for your family, but here are some tips on how to stop the internet from invading your home.

  • Get involved. As a parent, you need to know what sites your kids are spending time on and how long. This will keep you in the loop which will help you keep tabs. If your child is on Facebook, get on their too. No, you shouldn’t constantly write ‘i love yous’ on your kids wall for many obvious reasons, but connecting on Facebook will give you an inside look into your kids real life. This is a really easy and non-invasive way to get involved. Monitor how much time is spent on the internet. Just like other sedentary activities like watching TV or playing video games, too much sitting and staring at a screen is bad for your kid.
  • Get smart. Keeping your kids away from troubling sites on the internet needs to be calculated. First, keep any technological devices in a public area or make a rule that any electronics can be used if the bedroom door is open. Next, add on filtering software to all devices that can access the internet. This software can block any site that you choose, or any type of site in general. There is another great software that will limit the time that can be site on any particular site. This will limit the total screen time your kid can have without you constantly nagging.
  • Get talking. The fact is your kids will find a way to access things on the internet. But you can nip it in the bud with an open dialogue about things that are OK and things that are not OK to look at on the internet. Be very clear and specific about what is acceptable and what is not.

Landscaping Tips for Your Home

I spent the evening weeding my yard, plotting what beautiful ideas I should implement this spring. The landscaping for your home sets the tone for the entire yard and house. The wonderful thing is that landscaping can be seen in many different shapes, forms and budgets. The styles are endless as you create your own oasis right in your backyard. Plus, good landscaping can add up to 15 percent to the overall value of your home.

While yards and styles are different for each home, home owner and location, there are a few tips that are universal for the sake of your landscaping. Read on for tips to make your yard the envy of the neighborhood.

Pick up your yard right.

  • If you see a weed, do not hesitate to pull it at any time. Honestly, weeds do nothing positive for your yard or garden and letting them grow can actual take over the other plants in your garden. Weeding can be a year long affair in warmer climates or just in the warm months for those locations that have a generous frost.
  • The next step to landscaping is mowing your lawn. Mowing your lawn is really the manicure of your yard. It keeps it looking kept and is actually good for the grass. That being said, do not get too excited with the lawn mower and give your yard a buzz cut. Grass should be cut about two to two and a half inches in length. Cutting it too short can actually dry out the grass. The longer blades will shade the roots making you have to water less.
  • Ditch the mower bag. Your grass is a haven for bugs and other living organisms. When you mow the lawn, ditch your mower bag (the little attachment that catches all of the grass clippings. Those clippings will become the ultimate food for any living creatures in your grass which will leave your lawn healthier AND greener.
  • Leave the fallen leaves. I hate raking and bagging leaves in the fall. The tedious task is bemoaned by many. If you only have a light layer of leaves just simply mow over them. The ground up leaves are actually good for your grass and will help keep pesky weeds at bay. That being said, a grundle of leaves will be very difficult for a lawn mower to go over.

Plant correctly.

  • Plant the right plants. Certain flowers or plants are meant to live in specific climates and sunlight. Planting the wrong plant will ruin the overall look of your garden when that one plant is dead.
  • Amp up your soil. Soil is not just any old dirt. Plants get all of their nutrients from the dirt and the sun. Dirt that does not have the correct nutrients will result in small or sad little plants. Test your soil with a local nursery or botany school to determine what types of nutrients you should add to your soil. And don’t be stingy with your fertilizer.

Cooking at Home: How to Plan a Monthly Menu

Cooking at home is my favorite way to eat. The satisfying feeling of making and eating something that I created cannot be replicated. I have long been a proponent of eating at home. I grew up eating at home almost exclusively. Eating out at a restaurant was a rare affair. Part of it was probably the burden of paying for five hungry mouths at restaurant prices and because my mother was a wonderful cook.

As an adult, I have continued on the theme of cooking at home. When I first married and lived on my own, we cooked at home for financial reasons. Eating out was ridiculously expensive, even if it was convenient. However, many nights in a row of Ramen noodles and Hamburger Helper got old fast. And I quickly learned that boxed meals were not the least bit healthy.

Enter in monthly menu planning. This craze has taken over the mommy world by storm. The premise is that you plan out your menu a month in advance and purchase the bulk of your food at the beginning of the month. Some monthly menu planners only shop at the grocery store once a month but I find that hard to follow for my favorite items: produce.

Planning your menu gives you the ease of not panicking at 5 p.m. wondering what to serve your brood. You will have a clear sense of what will happen, plus you will have already purchased everything you need for the meal.

To start, make a list of your family’s favorite meals. Find a mixture between tried and true family favorites and intersperse new recipes to keep the menu from getting stale. Many mommy blogs will post their monthly menus as inspiration. Take into account what your little ones will eat and adjust to your needs. For new recipes, peruse Pinterest, food blogs or food magazines. And know that it is OK to repeat certain meals that your family loves. Worried about the variety? Give some space in between two similar meals to keep it different.

If you are short on ideas, think about themed dinner nights like Friday night pizza or Thursday Asian. This will help give you an idea, but is broad enough to be taken into many different directions.

Next gather your recipes and make a list of everything that you will need. Organize each recipe ingredient by category (all meats together, spices together, etc) so you can find overlapping. Overlapping ingredients is a great way to save at the grocery store. You can easily purchase items at member’s only warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco with big savings. For those who like a lot of fresh produce, make a weekly list of perishable items that you will pick up each week.

Start cooking! Having a plan will avoid the dinner blues, plus those who plan dinners tend to eat healthier. You won’t make Ramen noodles out of desperation.

Month after month, tweak the menu to fit your family and the food seasons.

Happy home cooking!

Moving To A New Home; A Few Tips To Make It A Better Experience

You know how everyone usually has one chore that they just absolutely HATE to do? Like taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, mopping, laundry etc. Well, the thing i absolutely dread doing everytime it comes around is not your typical chore. I don’t mind sweeping, cleaning the bathtub or vacumning the floor. The thing i dread most is MOVING.

It seems like everytime i’ve moved to a new house i have collected a mountain of new things and have no idea how it all accumulated. When all put away and organized in my house it doesn’t seem like too much. But the second i start putting my things in boxes i find myself wondering how in the world i have collected so much stuff!

Unless you are lucky and have settled into a home that you know will be yours for the rest of your life, most likely you are going to have to move a few times (or in some cases, a lot of times) in your lifetime. If you are organized and on top of moving, it goes much smoother and is a lot less of a burden.

Here are a few tips to helping your move be a better experience:

  • Plan Ahead- Don’t think for a second that you are going to be able to pull off, start to finish, a move in one day. Although you may be able to get everything out of your house in one day, you will probably want to pack boxes starting at least a week before hand. Even if you have a small house, you really have no idea how much stuff you really have. If you want to be smart about your move, plan a head of time and make sure you are prepared.
  • Label Every Box- The most terrifying thing about moving is have a stack of boxes in your new home and having NO idea where they go. Having to go through every box to see what is in it to see which room it will be put in. To make the transition easier, make sure you label every box clearly. Write down with permanent marker which room it will go in (i.e. Kitchen, Dining Room) and then what is in it (i.e. Dishes, Towels).
  • Get Help- Its okay to get help from others to help you move. Dont be embarrassed to ask! There are plenty of people out there willing to help.  If you have a few more hands to get furniture and boxes into a moving van, the move will go a ton quicker. Its okay to ask family, friends, or wo-workers for help moving. If they are good friends they wont have a problem helping you out. Although you may want to get a brib like pizza or doughnuts for those helping out. :)
  • Keep Your House Clean- This is an obvious one that sometimes i forget. If you are trying to pack with an unorganized or unclean house, you will come out with an unorganized and unclean move. It takes much longer to pack a house that is unorganized or messy. So to help make the move quicker and less of a hassle, take a couple hours (or a whole day if you need) to organize and deep clean your house. It will make a big difference once you start putting things in boxes!

 

Work Out At Home: The Neccessary Supplies

Writing about working out is ironic as I have missed my gym appointments for over a week now. Between work and life, working out becomes very secondary and at the bottom of my life list. For some reason, it seems impossible to find the time to find my work out clothes, gather my stuff (water bottle, iPod, iPod arm band, gym id, keys and driver’s license) and drive to the gym to work out.

Working out at home cuts out the hardest hurdle for me which is getting to the gym. Once I am there, I love working out and the feeling I have after. But gathering my stuff and actually getting out of the door and into the car just is not happening. But with working out at home, you often do not even have to get out of the door.

One of my favorite (and cheapest) ways to work out is by getting outside. The minute the spring weather came it was like a switch had turned and every person was outside enjoying the weather. I mean if you have to work out, you might as well enjoy the weather, right?

Simple working out at home is just as easy as strapping on shoes and hitting the road. But if you want to get serious about working out, you need the right gear. Sure, you can do without, but you will have a better work out that is more fun.

  • Water bottle. The hard thing with running or walking outside is making sure you are hydrated. In addition to perspiring from the physical activity, you are also losing a lot of water from the heat of the sun. And replenishing after your work out might not be enough to keep you from getting dehydrated. If you are lucky enough to work out in a friendly neighborhood, you could bum a drink from a neighbor’s hose. But to be safe take a water bottle. Waist packs (read: not fanny packs) are great for this. These slim, adjustable bands have a pouch for your water bottle and often a small zipper for other items like a house key and cell phone. Waist packs are much better than carrying your water bottle, which can actually inhibit your form when running.
  • Good shoes. For basic walking, your needs are not too particular with shoes. But if you have high arches (or no arches) you will want to purchase shoes or insoles that are specifically designed for your feet. If you like to run, visit a shoe store that specializes in runner’s shoes. A sales associate can watch your run and help you find the perfect shoes for you.
  • Bright clothing. Exercising outside means you are put into a lot of potentially risky situations. The most dangerous is cars. Wear bright, reflective clothing when you run, especially at night, to ensure that all drivers on the road will be able to see you.

Be safe and have a great and cheap work out!

Home Upgrade – Painting The Outside of Your House

One of the easiest and yet hardest home repairs can be painting the exterior sides of your house. Of course, not all houses can be painted on the outside. But what a dramatic change can be seen, almost like coming home to a new house.

But there are several things that need to be done prior to performing an external painting job.

You may be itching to get this done because of the warm weather, but remember, things change quickly and this can damage and ruin your entire effort.

Let’s look at some things to remember:

Paint and the Weather

Paint is the most important aspect of the job of painting outside.  The issue with paint is long and important to remember. Weather can affect paint in a drastic form. Say you put on a paint in cold or cooler weather, it may not dry properly and this could result in a poor outcome. Adhesion may be what suffers and peeling or even cracking can occur.

If rain is in the forecast, or it arrives unexpectedly, still wet pain will slide right of the side of your house.

Surprisingly, direct sunlight can also have an adverse effect. Blistering of the paint is often seen, especially in the high temperature months.

A cloudy, but warm day, with no rain in sight is often a great way to apply paint.

Paint and Understanding Your Needs

Needs and Wants for outdoors paints are vast and changing. There are many different types of external paints.  Be aware of Consumer report that annually comes out and rates paints and what they can do.

Paints can be rated according to how well they resist cracking, dryness, color fading.  In areas of high dirt or mildew, paints can also be rated according to where you live and what needs you will have.

If you are surrounded by trees or desert, living in different parts of the country, you wouldn’t want the same paint for those two different areas.  You may end up getting the same color, but different paints.

Going Overboard

Having a unique house color is what many want and expect. But what if you stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe this is exactly what you want. But, on the other hand, choose a subtle color that you really enjoy. Don’t necessarily be too unique, but enjoy what you’ve got.

Taping and preparing.

The painting is the easy part. Often the preparation to get to that point is difficult. Mask windows, air conditioners, window wells, doors, and everything else that needs to be done.

Having a good ladder or scaffolding is vital to get to the areas of the house.  Watch out for wind spraying your paint onto adjacent fences, grass, or maybe your neighbor’s house. I am certain they wouldn’t love bright yellow with their dark brown.

Touch ups Will Be Required

Whether it’s in the first 10 days or 10 months, it is likely that touch ups will be required. Maybe the sun hit the back side of your house and you put less paint. As you look at it a few days later, another coat may be required.

Maybe you will do the walls one color and the doors, trim and other areas instead of doing the entire house. Maybe it is a gradual finishing project. Just doing some of the more basic things will ensure that your house looks better for far less.

Look at the entire project as a whole

Maybe you have brick or live in the dessert. Match existing color to what is already there.  There are even computer programs that can help match colors.

Pick a color that will do in where you live and what rocks, fence, or other colors that are already present.

Cost

Paint, especially exterior paints can be expensive and a larger number of paints can be required. Remember that to have it professionally done can cost over $4,000 and maybe much more. Find a good and well known company that does this. Even if you are just getting a quote or a professional opinion about if and what needs to be done.

Good  Luck

Perfection on the first attempt is unlikely. Work hard and you will be happy about the great changes that can happen.  It might take some luck and knowing a few good friends. But, in the least, talk with those at the store and see what their opinions may be.  There are a lot of good resources from magazines to actual professional help.