Fact or Myth: Test Your Fitness Knowledge

factormythGoogle fitness, and you’ll get about 1,490,000,000 results. That’s a staggering amount of information. And it’s just one term. Think about how much information is out there when you add related terms. Keeping it all straight can be challenging, especially when you don’t know how accurate all of it is.

Can you separate the fact from myth? Try to decide for each statement before reading the answers.


Low-intensity exercise burns more fat.
MYTH – The more you exercise, the more carbs you burn. You may burn less fat, but you’ll burn more calories. Your body goes after the fat once it has burned off all the carbs.


Your weight doesn’t have much to do with your fitness level.
FACT – It’s common to see an increase in weight when performing lifting regimens because muscle weighs more than fat.


Spot reduction always works for tight abs and toned arms.
MYTH – The more reps you do, the more muscle memory you create. This reduces the effectiveness of your workout and makes your body burn less fat.


Cardio is not the only way to burn fat.
FACT – Cardio is good for your heart and increases endurance. After extended cardio regimens, your body begins to feed off of the energy within the muscle rather than the fat.


You do not have to exercise before breakfast in order to burn fat.
FACT – In the morning, your body’s metabolism is at its lowest because you haven’t eaten for eight hours or so. If you eat a well-balanced breakfast, you will be able to exercise longer and your body’s metabolism will already be working.


You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise regularly.
MYTH – Losing pounds and burning fat occur when you consume fewer calories than what you burn off in a day. And muscles need to feed too. Your food intake should consist of a balance of fats, proteins and carbs.

How to Shampoo Your Dog or Cat without Water

dryshampooDo you have a pet that hates getting a bath? Why waste water? Try cleaning your pet with one of these recipes for a dry shampoo! Whether you have a dog or a cat, you’ll find these recipes to be great for freshening up your pet’s coat, they can save you and your pet a lot of frustration!


DRY SHAMPOO FOR DOGS

Dogs are known for getting into anything and everything, but a strong shake on their part just isn’t enough to get them adequately clean, so try this shampoo to make your pet dog-gone clean.

Materials:

  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 drops of a skin-safe fragrance oil
  • Bulk spice container

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine the baking soda, cornstarch, and fragrance oil, and pour mixture into the container. If your container’s lid does not already have holes in it, poke a few of your own holes.

To apply, take your dog outside, and brush him to remove any clumps of fur. Sprinkle a good amount of your dry shampoo on your dog’s coat, and rub it in thoroughly. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, which will give the mixture time to absorb any oils and odors from the fur, brush your dog again to get most of the shampoo out, and use an old towel to rub out the rest. (If you still see some shampoo after that, try blow drying your dog’s coat.)

Cat-300x225DRY SHAMPOO FOR CATS

Cats do a relatively good job of keeping themselves clean, but they are also notorious for disliking getting wet, so this dry shampoo will come in handy when it’s time to freshen up your feline’s fur.

Materials:

  • ⅓ cup unprocessed bran
  • ⅓ cup cornmeal
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • Microwave-safe container

Instructions:

Pour the grains into a microwave-safe container, seal, shake to combine, and warm the mixture in a microwave set on low for 10-15 seconds. To apply, take your cat outside, rub the warm grains into your cat’s fur, let it sit for a few minutes, and brush it out.

How to Make a Patriotic Centerpiece

flagcraft2Centerpieces are designed to be focal points, centers of attention. And what better way to make use of this adornment than to show your pride in your country? Honor all those who have served in our military by creating a one-of-a-kind star-spangled centerpiece, which is certain to be an eye-catcher and conversation starter!

Materials:

  • 3 quart-size mason jars
  • White spray paint
  • Paintbrushes (large and fine tip recommended)
  • Red, white, and blue acrylic paint
  • Painter’s tape
  • Pencil
  • Foam star
  • Sandpaper (optional)
  • Clear acrylic sealer

Instructions:

  1. Spray paint two of the mason jars white. (You might have to apply two or three coats.) Make sure to let the jars dry completely in between coats.
  2. With the large paintbrush, paint the third jar blue. Allow to dry, and apply additional coats, if necessary.
  3. After the white jars are dry, create two painter’s tape stripes on each jar. Use the red paint to fill in the uncovered areas. Allow to dry, and apply additional coats, if necessary. Remove painter’s tape, and use paint to touch up where necessary.
  4. Create star shapes on the blue jar by tracing the foam star with the pencil. Using the fine tip paintbrush, fill in the star shapes with the white acrylic paint.
  5. For a more rustic look, gently rub sandpaper over the edges and embossed text on the jar once the paint has dried.
  6. Once your are happy with how the jars look, spray them outside with the clear sealant. After they have dried, fill them with fresh cut flowers to complete your centerpiece.

Maintaining a Chemical-Free Garden

chemicalfreeA healthy garden is the best defense against pests and weeds. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to protect plants from damaging influences. Since most store-bought remedies contain toxic chemicals, consider some natural alternatives to keep pests at bay.

Here are some homemade, chemical-free recipes that are safe for your garden and the environment. These formulas will eventually break down, so they are okay to use on vegetable and herb gardens, too.

Oil Spray Pesticide
This solution will keep away aphids, thrips, spider mites, and whiteflies. Mix together 1 cup of vegetable or white mineral oil and 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap to create the pesticide concentrate. Then dilute 1 tablespoon of the concentrate with 4 cups of water prior to using. Once diluted, you can use a spray bottle for easy application. Apply to plants liberally, especially on the backside of leaves, as this is where many pests tend to hide or lay eggs. Store the concentrate for three months in a sealed container or jar.


Peppermint Oil Pesticide
This minty solution will keep away ants, aphids, beetles, caterpillars, flies, lice, moths, spiders, mice, and rabbits. Fill the empty spray bottle with warm water, leaving a 2-inch space between the water line and the rim. Pour 1 tablespoon of pure peppermint oil into the warm water. Replace the spray nozzle tightly, and shake vigorously (this ensures the oil is distributed well). Cover plants with a light mist. Store in a cool, dry location.


Garlic Pepper Spray Pesticide
Use this spray to keep away rodents, rabbits, skunks, deer, raccoons, cats, dogs, bears, and flying insects that feed on leaves, flowers, and fruit. Combine 1/2 cup of red chili peppers, 10-12 garlic cloves, and 2 cups of water in a blender. Process briefly, then strain into a bowl, and mix in 1 cup of cooking oil. Let the mixture stand for two days before use. To apply, spray it on vegetables, fruits, or herbs every few days, and be sure to wash your hands after using it or handling your plants. For best results, use the solution within a week.


Vinegar Weed Killer
Combine 1 gallon of vinegar (with 5 percent acetic acid) and 1 ounce of liquid dish soap, and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Apply to weeds on a sunny day with no wind so the sun helps the vinegar dry out the weeds and the spray won’t inadvertently blow onto other plants. The latter is important because vinegar is a nonselective plant killer, meaning it might kill everything it touches. So be cautious where you use it, and store in a cool, dry location.


Helpful Reminders
Being mindful of what solution you’re using and how you’re using it can really help its effectiveness. When the recipe calls for liquid dish detergent, use the basic stuff—nothing fancy with added bleach, nothing concentrated, and no special antibacterial formulas. A gentler liquid soap, such as liquid castile or a perfume-free liquid hand soap, can also be substituted.

In addition, always test the solution out on a small portion of the plant first to make sure there are no adverse effects, and apply the treatment to the top of the leaves as well as underneath. But don’t overdo it; excess solution can cause damage.

Make sure to mind the weather, too. Never apply pesticides to any plant on a hot or bright, sunny day, as this will quickly lead to burning of the plant and its ultimate demise. And if it looks like rain, delay until the weather is clear since any rain will wash away the new application. If it has recently rained, wait until the greenery is dry before applying to prevent the mix from being diluted with water.


With just a little ingenuity and some common household items, you can make your garden a safe haven from pests and harsh chemicals. It’s good for both you and your plants, and you’ll be doing your part of help the environment, too!

Introducing HomeReady® Mortgage

SolutionFannie Mae’s Enhanced Affordable Lending Option Serving the Diverse Needs of Today’s Homebuyers

Fannie Mae has reinvigorated its commitment to responsibly help lenders extend affordable mortgage financing to qualified homebuyers. We offer an industry-leading combination of mortgage products, tools, and informative resources to create and grow sound business opportunities for lenders and sustainable homeownership opportunities for consumers.

Our priority is a safe, responsible balance between expanded access to mortgage financing and the long-term viability of today’s mortgage loans—limiting risk to lenders, investors, homeowners, and taxpayers. Our goal is straightforward: to work with lenders to make mortgages more accessible, affordable, and sustainable.

Accessible: Helping creditworthy homebuyers qualify for a mortgage

Fannie Mae works with lenders to serve qualified homebuyers who may have difficulty getting approved for a home loan in today’s market. We offer the mortgage products, underwriting guidelines, and lender tools that help limit risk and increase confidence as lenders make approval decisions. We support homebuyers with resources to help them navigate the mortgage process.

Affordable: Limiting the up-front and monthly costs of mortgages

Fannie Mae has established product flexibilities allowing lower down payments and competitive monthly costs—addressing key financial barriers for many homebuyers. Low down payments are supported by other common-sense requirements, including income verification, debt-to-income maximums, a good credit history, and in many cases pre-purchase counseling.

Sustainable: Supporting the long-term success of homebuyers

Fannie Mae wants a homebuyer’s mortgage to be affordable on the day they buy their home and for the life of their loan. This is a key requirement for today’s affordable lending, achieved by verifying a homebuyer’s financial readiness, and offering products that fit their financial needs. Combined with tools that help lenders manage risk, Fannie Mae and the industry are able to serve a dynamic housing market.

Looking for a new home. Home Ownership can take you from nothing to something. I am here to help you navigate the mine fields of home buying. Please feel free to give me a call.

Never Forget

 

Veteran

We should never forget the sacrifices of our veterans.

Keep their dedication top of mind by sharing President Truman’s words;

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. AMERICA WILL NEVER FORGET THEIR SACRIFICES

We offer our heartfelt appreciation for all who have served!

A Salute to Veterans

the text thank you veterans written in a chalkboard and a flag of the United States, on a rustic wooden background

In America, we have lot to be thankful for. Our freedom. Our security. Our way of life. But the truth is, we wouldn’t have any of these if it weren’t for the countless veterans who have served and sacrificed for our country throughout our history.

A salute to all who have served and continue to serve our country and protect our freedom.

Today, we honor all who have served and sacrificed!

DIY BUYER’S GUIDE TO BARBECUES

Leisure_2016_Victoria_SET_8_VICTORIA_6_SEATER_DINING_SET_CAMEO_BBQ_7For food lovers, sunny weather means one thing – fire up the barbecue. Dining al fresco is a summer treat that’s guaranteed to create a buzz amongst your family and friends.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re only cooking a handful of hamburgers for your closest loved ones, or hosting an epic party to remember – the BBQ buffet has to deliver.

Where will you be using your barbecue?

Are you going to be doing the majority of your cooking in your own garden? Or will you take it wth you for picnics and camping?

Many in our range come with handles and wheels so you can easily move them around. But if you’re going to be transporting it alot, consider the size and weight of your barbecue and how you’ll be getting it in and out of your car.

When deciding where to place your barbecue, make sure there are no low-hanging plants or tree branches close by. And remember that they’re not recommended for balconies or to be placed on artificial grass (as it will melt).

How many people will you be cooking for?

Almost all of our barbecues are designed to cook enough food for four people or more, but the bigger the grill size, the better it will be to cater for larger groups or parties. Look for more than one grill level if you want to be able to cook several different types of food at once – if for example you want to separate out vegetables or fish from your meat.

If you’re looking to create the feel of an outdoor kitchen, explore a BBQ with a side burner so that you can boil vegetables or make rice without having to go back indoors.

Gas barbecues

For complete control over the temperature, as well as the ease of being able to start cooking with one click, choose a gas barbecue. Unlike a charcoal option, they’re ready to start cooking almost immediately. Gas barbecues have a generous cooking area making them ideal when cooking for larger groups, and they’re easy to clean afterwards.

Charcoal barbecues

For the authentic barbecue experience and flavour, grab a charcoal barbecue. While they take a little more time to be ready – you’ll need to wait at least 20 minutes after lighting before you can begin cooking – the ritual of getting one going is what outdoor cooking is all about.

Masonry barbecues

For a permanent charcoal option, explore our masonry barbecues. They’re ideal if you want to enjoy as much outdoor cooking as possible, and help create the feel of an outdoor kitchen. Why not do so by growing a herb garden safely nearby so that you can easily grab herbs to add to your food when cooking? Masonry barbecues can double up as a patio heater in colder weather and our range is available exclusively online.

To get the best out of your barbecue, pick up a couple of extra items.

Barbecue fuel

Make sure your barbecue doesn’t burn out halfway through cooking your sausages by having fuel on hand. Choose from charcoallogs and gas canisters (available instore only), dependent on what type of barbecue you have. Charcoal BBQs will also need firelighters or a chimney starter to get the fire going.

Be sure that any extra fuel is kept a good distance away from your barbecue when it is lit.

Barbecue cooking tools

Prepare delicious food on your barbecue with the help of our wide range of cooking accessories. From smokers to grill basketsdigital thermometers, to tool sets and even kit for preparing pizzarotisserie poultry and meat and home-made burgers – our cooking tools will help you look and feel like a professional chef.

Succulent Citrus Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

cookies2Make the day for a troop that’s defending our country every day! Take a little bit of time out of your day to say thank you with this recipe, which includes real cranberries and orange to give these shortbread cookies a real kick of fruity sweetness.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 2 cups sweetened dried cranberries
Instructions:
  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, and set aside.
  2. Add the butter and confectioners’ sugar to a separate bowl, and mix with an electric mixer. Blend in the extracts and then the orange zest, and then add the flour mixture in small amounts, and fold in the cranberries evenly throughout the mixture.
  3. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, and roll them into 7-inch logs. Wrap each log in wax paper or plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  4. After chilling is complete, preheat your oven to 350°F. Remove the wax paper, and cut the cookie dough into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet about an inch apart.
  5. Bake in the oven until the cookies are golden and firm, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Finally, once you’re done baking your delicious cookies, follow these instructions to for packing and sending them to ensure that they get safely to our deserving troops.

 

Find Out if a Loan Modification May be Right for You

ModificationMany homeowners have fallen behind on their mortgage, and could soon be on the path to foreclosure without permanent help. If this sounds like your situation, you may be eligible to modify your mortgage. Modification options include the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which was designed to help homeowners make their payments more affordable.

If you’re having mortgage payment challenges, try our modification quiz to see if a mortgage loan modification may be right for you. Modification programs exist to accommodate a variety of circumstances.

1. My loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

2.  I am at least 30 days late with my mortgage payment

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

3.  I am able to make a monthly mortgage payment of some amount equal to or less than my current payment

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

4.  I want to stay in my home

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don’t know

Don’t just walk away from your home.
There are better options. The most important thing is to avoid foreclosure—and options may be available to assist you if you are ready to leave your home. Some options may even offer cash incentives to help you move and transition into different housing. Now’s the time to take action before it’s too late.

Whether you pursue a modification or another foreclosure prevention option such as a short sale or Mortgage Release™, it is important to address your payment challenges right away for the best available outcome. Call, e-mail or use the Contact Us for a confidential review of your mortgage situation.

13 Simple Ways to Save Money

10waystosaveWe’ve all heard this advice before: If you want to save money, you need to cut back on spending, save your receipts, and balance your budget on a regular basis. While this is sound and practical advice, it’s not as easy as it seems.

But don’t fret. Whether you are saving to buy a new home, saving for a great vacation, or just trying to add to your “emergency fund,” these little changes can help you to curb senseless spending that quickly adds up:

  1. Save with DIY landscaping. Do your research, and landscape with plants that require little maintenance. Use a barrel to collect rainwater, and use it when watering your lawn.
  2. Create visual reminders. Do this for things such as debt or the cost of something you’re saving for. Seeing these numbers on a regular basis will help you commit to cutting back.
  3. Make lists. You may have heard that making a list before heading out to the grocery store can cut down on impulse purchases. But did you know that you can use this same strategy when buying clothing to decrease spending and ensure you buy what you need, rather than what looks good in the store?
  4. Eliminate paper. Instead of buying paper towels and napkins, opt for dish towels and cloth napkins, which can be used again and again.
  5. Lower utility bills. Close closet doors so you don’t heat or cool unnecessary spaces. Challenge yourself to only one month of air conditioning use in the summer, or use your fireplace during colder months so you can lower your heat. Install things like ceiling fans and light dimmers for an economical and environmental impact. Eliminate your landline; bundle your home, phone, and internet for a cheaper price; or consider cutting your cable. There are many alternatives that will allow you to continue watching your favorite TV shows and movies for a lower monthly bill.
  6. Plan out everything. Planning your weekly meals will help you eliminate dining out. Plan for and balance your monthly entertainment activities as well to avoid overspending.
  7. Avoid bank fees. Total the amount of fees (including ATM fees) you’ve incurred over the past six to twelve months, and consider changing accounts or even banks to eliminate unnecessary costs.
  8. Shop smarter. Making a grocery list is a no-brainer, but many grocery store websites now allow you to create a list online and will give you a total for all of your purchases. This method allows you to make substitutions when necessary and stick to the sales, as well as your budget. And, when you’re trying to cut down your grocery bill, cut out the meat. Even if you do so only one day per week, it will have an effect on your overall spending.
  9. Balance entertainment spending. Everyone needs to blow off steam, but there are many savings websites out there that offer deals or coupons. Do a quick search to help keep expenses down.
  10. Cut back on transportation costs. Carpooling to and from work, even if only for one or two days a week, can save a lot on gas and car maintenance. Pick a mutual location, and invite as many coworkers as you can.
  11. Do the math. Everyone knows that it’s far cheaper to bring your own coffee rather than stop for a cup on the way to the office. But don’t believe that single-cup, at-home coffee machines are more economical. To really save, stick to a good old-fashioned pot of coffee.
  12. Break your piggy bank. This may sound more like advice for college students, but the effects will surprise you: Save your loose change! Clean out your car, gather change from the bottom of your purse, and check your pockets. Designate a jar, and don’t cash it until it’s full.
  13. Reconsider your necessities. If you are accustomed to getting your hair trimmed every six weeks, push it out for eight or ten weeks at a time, or trim it yourself. The same applies to pet grooming. Ask yourself, “Is this a want or a need?”

Whether you’re saving up for your first home or a home renovation, budgeting doesn’t have to be a burden. Start right in your home with these 13 small savings suggestions, and audit your energy costs as an easy way to start saving for any project, large or small. When saving for a home, there are certain steps to follow that we’ve outlined in our Road Map to Home Ownership printable that can make the process easier for any first-time home buyer.

6 Ways to Make Dog Training Easier

trainingtipsDogs are generally eager and attentive learners. (Of course, it may not always seem like that when your dog is busy smelling everything in sight instead of listening to your command to “Come here!”) In addition, much like most people, dogs respond best to positive reinforcement. Follow the tips below to make learning effective and fun—for both you and your four-legged friend!

Be Consistent: Apply the same rules and the same words all the time. Also, try to keep the names of the commands to one or two syllables, which will make it easier for your dog to understand.

training2-300x225Be Clear: Say your command once, wait for a response, and then give a treat for a correct response. If your dog gives an incorrect response, wait a few minutes, and try again; if need be, you can also try a different command. (Keep in mind that giving the same command continuously will result in your dog listening after multiple attempts instead of the first time.) You can also pair a hand signal along with your voice command.

Keep It Short: Keep the training sessions short, up to five minutes at a time, a few times a day, so your dog doesn’t lose attention.

Stay Positive: Dogs can easily pick up on your tone of voice and body language. Staying positive will keep your dog’s attention and make learning fun. In contrast, yelling will likely only scare your dog.

training1-300x225Use Treats: Small, soft treats are best during a training session because they can be quickly eaten. You want your dog to focus on your commands, not on chewing a larger treat. If your dog isn’t motivated by treats, use a toy, or even just praise and a nice ear scratch may be enough. After a command has been mastered, you can wean your dog off of treats and instead use them sporadically when using the command, which will make sure the command really sticks.

Act Fast: Reward your dog immediately so he’s certain to know which command he’s doing correctly. If you wait too long after the correct response, he’ll most likely not understand the reason for the reward.

Be Patient: It might take a few training sessions over a few days, or even weeks, to really get your dog to understand what you want him to do. Remember: dogs don’t understand your language. It will take some time to get on the same page!

HOW TO PLANT A HANGING BASKET

verve_shutterstock_lifestyle_2016_65Take gardening to new heights

Hanging baskets are an easy and cost-effective way to brighten your outdoors. They add a seasonal pop of colour that works well hung in your front garden to welcome guests, in your backyard and even from a suitable structure.

It doesn’t matter how little space you have to play with, and you can use all kinds of plants, including herbs and fruit as well as flowers, creating interesting and colourful displays throughout the year. Coordinate them with beds and borders for a matching look or give them their own distinctive style for gardening glory at raised heights.

Hanging baskets come in a wide range of different styles and materials. Classic options include plastic-coated wire or wicker baskets, but increasingly popular are solid-sided baskets in terracotta, ceramic and even polished steel, that have built-in water reservoirs and are ideal for hot, exposed conditions.

Lining your basket will help keep moisture in and stop compost from falling out. The traditional lining material is sphagnum moss, which is farmed specially for this purpose (so don’t collect it from the wild). Many gardeners prefer to use other materials such as coco fibre. Alternatively there are purpose-made options such as thick, felt-like liners made from recycled fibres and solid liners which, with care, should last for several seasons. If you use a solid liner, make sure it’s deep enough for your chosen basket.

Some of our hanging baskets come pre-lined so, depending on the material, you simply need to puncture a few holes in the bottom for drainage.

You can use almost any small plant for a hanging basket, as long as it doesn’t outgrow its container.

Summer bedding plants

These are the most popular plants for hanging baskets – think petuniasgeraniums, calibrachoa and trailing fuchsias, verbena and lobelia.

Young small shrubs

You can plant evergreen shrubs likes hebes in hanging baskets to give a splash of colour throughout the winter, and then replant them in pots for the garden in spring.

Tomatoes

The trailing varieties are perfect for hanging baskets.

Strawberries

Like tomatoes, these are an interesting (and edible) addition to your hanging garden. And they are also really easy to grow.

Herbs

Keep herbs such as basilrosemary and thyme handy for cooking, by hanging them near your kitchen door.

Step 1

Place a liner in your basket (if it doesn’t have one already) and half-fill it with compost. A specialist moisture-retaining compost is best.

Then add water-saving gel and slow-release plant food to help keep your plants moist and nourished throughout the season.

Step 2

Around the sides of your basket, gently push the roots of trailing plants through the hanging basket liner, and firm them into the compost.

Do this all the way round the outside of the basket, and add a little more compost.

Step 3

Arrange the remaining plants in the top of the basket: one in the middle and the rest around the edge.

Firm more compost around the root balls, keeping the final level a few centimetres (cm) below the top of the basket to allow room for watering.

Then water your plants well.

Step 4

Select your spot for hanging. We recommend hanging your basket well above head height to avoid accidents and far enough away from the wall to avoid damage in windy weather.

To keep your hanging basket looking good, it’ll need regular watering and feeding.

Watering

Even with the help of water-retaining gel, hanging baskets dry out very quickly. Try to water them at least daily, if not twice a day during the height of summer.

Feeding

Feeding is equally important. As the average planter or basket contains only a small amount of compost compared with the amount of plant growth it supports, the nutrients will quickly become depleted. Slow-release plant food comes in granules, sticks and nuggets that you can easily push into the compost.

Supplement this with regular liquid feeds, which will give your plants an instant boost. And as with all annuals and perennials, regular deadheading will make your plants flower for longer – so aim to do this every week.

Beyond Instant: Grow Your Own Iced Tea

teafeature1Lemon balm is a perennial herb that you can find growing naturally in nature, buy at a store, and grow at home. A lot of the time, it grows so quickly that you’ll soon have more lemon balm than you know what to do with. This homemade iced tea recipe will help you put it to good use!

Ingredients:
4 handfuls lemon balm leaves
6 cups of water
honey, to taste
ice
lemon slices for garnish

Directions:
1. Pick your lemon balm leaves from your plant. (If you are collecting leaves from the wild, make sure you get them from an area that wasn’t sprayed with pesticides.)

2. Clean your lemon balm in the sink, and roughly chop the leaves.

3. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn off the heat, and add your leaves.

4. Let the tea steep for a minimum of 30 minutes. The longer the leaves steep, the more flavorful the tea becomes.

5. Once you have finished letting your tea leaves steep, strain your tea into a pitcher to get rid of the leaves. If the tea still seems too warm, refrigerate until it is cool. Then pour yourself a glass, add honey, top with ice, and enjoy!

Tips:
You can dry your lemon balm leaves to use in hot tea during the cooler months. Just cut the stalks of the plant, wash them, tie them together, and hang them upside down. Once they are completely dry, you can pick off the leaves, and store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use them. If you want to add some more flavor and color to your tea, you can put 1 or 2 green tea bags in your tea for 5 minutes while the leaves are steeping. Prefer mint tea instead? Just follow this recipe, but cut the amount of lemon balm leaves to 2 handfuls, and add 2 handfuls of mint leaves.

Set Buyers Straight on These 5 Mortgage Myths

Closing CostsBorrowers still have a lot of confusion when it comes to mortgages; from closing costs to minimum down payment requirements and questions over credit scores. Some mortgage myths are even preventing some would-be home buyers from entering the market too.

The National Mortgage News recently highlighted some of the following mortgage myths that still seem to perplex borrowers, including:

1. Closing costs: New mortgage rules that took effect last fall, TILA-RESPA, are providing borrowers with a clearer picture of mortgage closing costs prior to settlement. However, those expenses can still come as a shock to your clients. They may be surprised to see the costs of closing on a home loan when they receive their Loan Estimate disclosure upfront.

2. Who can cover closing costs: Borrowers may believe that they are the only ones who can pay their closing costs. However, closing costs also can be offered as a seller concession.

3. The credit-less: Consumers who don’t have credit cards may think their lack of debt history will be a positive when applying for a mortgage. However, lenders are looking for how well consumers manage their debt and a lack of history could be problematic in qualifying a borrower.

4. Minimum requirements for qualifying: Home buyers may be under the impression that their credit needs to be a lot more stellar to qualify for a mortgage than it actually needs to be. To qualify for a Fannie Mae-backed loan, borrowers only need a 3 percent down payment and a minimum FICO score of 620.

5. Eligible tax breaks: Mortgage interest deductions are not limited to just primary residences. In some situations, second-home loans and home equity loans of credit may also be eligible.

Source: “7 Mortgage Myths That Still Befuddle Borrowers,” National Mortgage News (May 2016)

Must-Have Phone Numbers for Your New Home

phonenumbersMoving is largely about looking back and looking forward. We make meticulous lists of everything before the move: from what has to be packed up or tossed out from the old house, to the utilities turn-off dates and the moving van’s pickup time. Likewise, we do our best to make sure that everything in the new home is ready to go so that we can seamlessly start our new life.

And an important part of that post-move plan is to be prepared. Sure, you’ll probably have a good idea of what you want to put in each room as you unpack. But what if you suddenly need a dentist? Or your son gets sick? Or a pipe bursts in your basement? Would you be prepared for any of these situations?

You should make a list of of important phone numbers before you move (or, at worst, soon after you move in), and make sure to share it and its location with everyone in your household. Here are some ideas for what numbers to put on your list.

Police department/Fire department.  If you have an emergency, you should call 911. However, it’s always helpful to have the local phone numbers of these personnel handy as well, in case you have a question about ordinances, need to report something, or need other non-emergency help.

Doctor/Hospital. Be sure to have the phone number of your physician in your new town (as well as the physicians for everybody else in your family) in case there’s a sudden illness and you need a same-day appointment, or if you just need some medical advice.

Dentist. People don’t usually think of needing a dentist’s number right away, but if a dental disaster occurs—such as a chipped tooth—trust us, you’ll be glad you have it. If your kids have braces, make sure to have the contact info for their orthodontist as well.

Poison control. Hopefully you won’t be one of the approximately 24 million people who call poison control each year. But with harmful chemicals common in households, it’s a good idea to have the number at the ready, just in case.

Vet. We can’t speak with our pets, but we can speak with their vets. Keep your local veterinarian’s contact information easily accessible in the event of your four-legged friend needing some expert help—especially since that possibility is enhanced as they explore their new surroundings.

School.  New school district, new school, new friends. All reasons to have the school’s phone number readily available as you and your family adjust to a new area. The school will have your phone number in case they need to contact you; you should do the same.

Plumber.  Researching for a plumber can save you from a ton of headaches, especially if your new home’s in a different area of the state or country. Look at reviews online, ask around, and keep in mind the plumber’s proximity to your new home. Once you decide on one, add his or her number to your list.

Utilities company.  You likely already have the contact information for your new utility company on your new bill or service agreement. Jot it down on your list in case you have an issue such as a blackout.

Babysitter.  This one is almost second nature for parents. Because of the important role the babysitter plays, you very well may have to plan ahead to find a reliable, trustworthy one in your new neighborhood. When you do, you don’t want to have to root around for her number.

Pizza place. Yes, this is important, especially when you first move and may not have everything unpacked and set up at your new place (including pots, pans, or silverware). Fortunately, many restaurants send complimentary mailings to the new family on the block, so you can easily transfer the number onto your list.

Click below to get this handy list of important phone numbers, and put it on your fridge or near your phone—any place where you or anyone else in your household can easily access it at any time.

Road Trip! Important Tips for Traveling with Pets

roadtrip1Planning for a trip can be a daunting experience, and traveling with your pet can seem like a lot more work, especially if you have never done it before. Before you hit the road, though, make sure you reference the handy road trip tips below.

Carry On

Be sure the carrier fits the pet. Your pet should be able to stand up and turn. The carrier should have a solid, leakproof floor, covered with a towel in case of accidents.

Get Attached

Before you place your pet in a carrier, attach a collar, leash, and harness. You don’t want to risk losing him during a struggle to attach these items at your destination.

Don’t Forget the Food

Bring your pet’s usual food, or make sure it will be available at your destination. Be sure to pack a few meal-size portions for before you get there.

Bring Bowls and Bags

Make sure to have collapsible food and water bowls (light, leakproof and long-lasting) and clean-up bags.

Space Out

Make space for any special bedding your pet may have so your pet feels at home.

Get with Your Pet’s Vet

You may want to ask your vet for sedating and/or antinausea medications, and make sure you schedule a checkup with your vet before the trip as well.

Make Frequent Pet Stops

Plan a pit stop every two to three hours so your pet has time out of the car. Plan ahead to where the animal can go to the bathroom or use the litter box.

DIY – FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT – BRINGING YOUR HALLWAY TO LIFE

Living_Hallway_01When you open the door to your friends and family, you want to feel proud of your home. As they say, first impressions counts. If your stair carpet, skirting boards and floors have seen better days, then it’s time to give your hallway the facelift it needs.

The illusion of space

The secret to making a small space feel bigger is light. You can really open up your hallway, however narrow it might appear to be. Think light colours, light patterns and neutral tones.

Also, banish the clutter. If your hallway has become a dumping ground for your family’s shoes and coats then it is time to get creative. A key box on your wall is the ideal place to hang your keys when you get home. Or why not create a console table using MDF? You can create separate space for shoes and bags so they are hidden from view.

Walls, floors and beyond

Hallways are high traffic areas – so it’s best to save that cream coloured carpet for the bedroom or living room. Wood, laminate and especially floor tiles are the way to go. Pick a colour that won’t show those muddy boot and paw prints too badly, busy family life doesn’t leave much room for constant floor mopping. As for interior doors that lead to other rooms, simply refresh their paintwork, or treat yourself to some new internal doors.

Make an entrance

If you want your hall to glisten, a glass chandelier will really impress, especially if you have high ceilings. There is nothing to say you can’t be bold. Why not paint your skirting boards with bright, metallic colours. Finish off with jewelled picture frames on walls leading upstairs, or simply add a feature wall full of family snaps.

Top tip… Add an elegant full-length gilt or silver mirror for a touch more glitz. This feature will also make your hallway appear wider and lighter too.

Style your staircase

Styling or revamping your staircase doesn’t have to be costly or difficult. There are plenty of ways to spruce up your staircase at a fraction of the cost. Wood stains are the ideal way to re-colour your spindles and balustrade. But if you feel as if your spindles have seen better days then replacing them with new ones won’t cost the earth either. If it’s just your banisters that look a bit gloomy then consider a lick of paint – or changing them for something fresh, like a chrome finish. If you choose to stick with wood then make the most of its natural warmth and character with a clear varnish or light wood stain.

Top tip… add a flair of regency style to your home by adding stair edging.

Stair flair

If you want to really enhance your staircase then think about lighting. Wall lights following the curve of the stairs can really enhance the wall space and the fittings can complement your styling. Spot lights shining up through the step can add some essential lighting into darker hallways and emphasise the textures within the wood.

Finally, you can add dramatic effects to your staircase and hallway with wallpaper and photo frames. Why not make the wall leading upstairs your feature wall? Damask prints or bright colours can make a really bold statement. Add a variety of mismatched photo frames with photos of your family to really highlight your personality.

It doesn’t take a lot to transform a room, so why not make those first impressions lasting ones with your hallway.

We Did What the Defense Attorney Could Not Do!

20160511_131803Meet our client Oscar. When he was referred to us in the beginning of April 2016, he was literally on the edge of losing his home. He had spent thousands of dollars in an attempt to keep his home but had no success.

Unfortunately, he was injured at work and his employer refused his workman’s compensation benefits. That is when he depleted his savings and fell behind with his mortgage. After surgical treatment and months of recovery, he was able to take a new position and begin full time employment.

He had tried to obtain a Loan Modification by himself with no success. He turned to a Foreclosure Defense Attorney who took his money but “continued” the Foreclosure process. He was told he could not qualify for a modification.

After meeting him and discussing his situation, we decided we could help him. The long and short of it is that Oscar has been granted a Loan Modification. Today, May 11th, 2016, his Foreclosure was delayed to allow him time to make his trial payments. After that, he will receive a permanent modification and his order for foreclosure will be dismissed.

We are so happy for Oscar. If you know someone in trouble or someone who could benefit from our services, please pass our information along.

Beet Pesto and Pasta

Beet Pesto & PastaWho says pasta can’t be pink? Nutritious and delicious beets turn this pesto bright pink—a perfect transformation to celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
  • 3 large beets, tops trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ½ cup pistachios, shelled
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound dry pasta

 

Directions:
  1. Prep the beets by removing the stem and most of the root, and then thoroughly rinse until they are clean.
  2. Add the beets to a pot of boiling water, and boil for about 30 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Drain the water from the pot, and then peel the outer layer off of the beets. It’s best to do this under running water so that the vegetable doesn’t stain your hands.
  4. To assemble the pesto, chop the beets into quarters, and place them into the food processor, along with the smashed garlic, pistachios, lemon juice, olive oil, and cheese. Pulse until smooth.
  5. To prepare the pasta, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta of your choice, and cook until al dente.
  6. Toss the pasta with the beet pesto, and garnish with chopped pistachios and Parmesan cheese before serving.