Soon the smell of spiced apple cider and fresh pumpkin pie will fill the air.  As you approach this holiday season, giving thanks for family and friends, planning your Thanksgiving Day will soon be on the agenda.

As you entertain the ideas of food preparation, decorating your Thanksgiving table will be the centerpiece of your mind.  Creating a warm environment to share this tradition can begin with planning your table decor.  You can also use this time to fellowship with friends and engage your children to help plan an event that will bring memories to last a lifetime.

Plan an evening dessert, where you and your family can enjoy some goodies as you decide together what will be included on the Thanksgiving menu. Everyone has their favorite dishes, and this is the perfect time to come together to kick off a great holiday tradition. Once you decide on the menu, maybe you can create a chalk board display highlighting your choices; this can become part of your decor.

If you prefer traditional decor, take advantage of the lovely fall colors and make sure to include them within your planned tabletop design.  If you want to go with something different, choose a different main color, like turquoise blue, burgundy or grey and then work in other complementing colors to bring about the desired look you want to display.

Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your table decor:

  • Main table-cloth – select your main color using a solid or pattern
  • Tablecloth accent – use a vintage crocheted tablecloth or a different color cloth to overlay on the main tablecloth
  • Centerpiece – A classic look will include floral arrangements, and if you want to do a more modern look you could use a gourd style vase and mix in a few small trays featuring festive edible fall accents, maybe roasted garlic with thin bread sticks or brie and baked figs.
  • Chargers, plates and napkins – Chargers make a nice simple accent to dress up any table.  Decide if you will use paper napkins or stylish cloth napkins.  When choosing your plates, maybe everyday plates will be perfect or pull out your grandmother’s china for a more elegant venue.
  • Cups, silverware – Will you choose to use plastic cups, don’t forget the sharpie! Or will you use crystal or everyday glassware.  Silverware will also be a choice, and many families pull out their special silverware, which has been used for years on formal holiday dinners, or go for the modern path and use plastic, either way your guests will be amazed at the thought you have placed for this special time with family and friends.

In order to keep your children and grandchildren excited, keep them involved by assigning tasks to help set the table, create handmade name place settings or creative napkin foldings using online video tutorials.  You tube and Pinterest are great places to learn fun ideas to incorporate into your holiday tradition.

Deciding on whether to set your prepared dishes on the dinner table, passing prepared dishes to each other as you feast or create a buffet style serving area is your preference and many times decided based on the number of people attending.  Also keep in mind if you have a separate children’s table, help to coordinate their decor so they get to enjoy the fun of eating at an elegantly styled table.  This is a great time to enjoy stories of Thanksgiving past, while together creating memories to enjoy for many years.

We hope you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving with many happy memories within your home.

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For some of the same reasons people choose organic gardening over traditional gardening, more and more people are using environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.  The cleaning supplies you choose to use inside your home can include harsh chemicals.  These chemicals may be abrasive to the skin or unhealthy to breath and in some cases can be harmful for animals and small children.

Environmentally friendly cleaners are typically better for anyone using them or exposed to them, including the environment.  Learning which recipes to create on your own, or finding the right cleaners to use can be a process, however the internet has made this so easy for us!

To start, we must understand the basic ingredients for many of these cleaners.  These include baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.  Others may also incorporate soap, washing soda or borax.    You want to make sure you are careful when mixing ingredients, and it’s always good to follow recipes that are known to work.  Pinterest is a great place to search for these cleaners.  Sprouts Farmers Market has a nice Pinterest link showing a few recipes you may want to try.

To clean Mirrors and Windows, try this recipe:

  • ¼ cup white distilled vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 12 drops of lemon essential oil

Pour the ingredients into a clean spray bottle and shake well.  Spray on surface and wipe with a clean cloth.

And for a general cleaner, try this one:

  • 1 tbsp. of liquid castile soap
  • ½ cup of white distilled vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups of water

Take an empty spray bottle and combine liquid castile soap, white distilled vinegar and water.  Replace the cap on and shake well.  This makes a nice multipurpose cleaner.

In addition to some of the basic ingredients that go into making these environmentally friendly cleaners, you can also use essential oils.  Different essentials oils may have antibacterial qualities as well as offer a fresh scent to your cleaning supplies.  If you have tips and recipes you have used around your home, let us know in the comments section.

Building the house you want is only one part of creating a home, and you do have a choice when it comes to the chemicals you bring inside your house.  Whether you are using environmentally friendly cleaners like simple green, or making your own cleaners at home, discovering some of the benefits of using these products may help your family as well as the world we live in.

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Preparing for building your new home is a great time to de-clutter and get organized!  Depending on how long you have lived within your current home you may have a few boxes of unnecessary items or rooms full of items you no longer need and certainly don’t want to relocate into your new home.  Think about your new home and what new spaces you will have to fill, maybe you are adding a work space in your garage or a craft studio or home office.  As you look around your home, start with the room that seems most unapproachable. Trash bags and boxes are always good sorters for large items or soft goods like clothing, shoes or stuffed animals.

To get started, find several boxes, plastic tubs and trash bags.

Set up the boxes side by side and label them on the outside – keep / go through / donate

As you pick up items within the room, decide which box to put it in – and then stick it there.  Once you have all of the items sorted into these categories, you can break it down further and continue to organize.  The donation boxes will be easy – just find a good charity, like goodwill, salvation army or other local charities that may be able to reuse or resell  these items to help their mission.  Remember when you donate items, you are eligible for a tax donation receipt, make sure to get it.

As you move forward on organizing the “keep” items, find some small clear tubs or other baskets or useful items to organize items further.  Go through this box and find like items and house them together in these useful storage bins.  Make sure to label the boxes once you have completed, making it easier to find markers, buttons, tools, or other items you are holding onto.  Placing these items within areas they will be used will also help with the organization of your home.  If you have tools, cleaning supplies, sponges, nails, etc. you may keep these within your garage.  If you have craft and art supplies you may keep these within your craft room or laundry room.  If you have a coat closet that doesn’t get much use, you can convert this into a storage area by adding shelves.  Once you have this completed, you can store these useful small clear plastic, labeled totes to keep all of your items in one place, making finding what you are looking for much easier.

A “go through” box is a mixture of items you aren’t sure you are ready to part with, or items you just aren’t sure what to do with – they may take a little more thought on how to organize.  You can save this box for last, and as you go through it, you may find you will have some items you decide to keep, which can be added to your already organized items.  You will also find a few more items you decide to donate, and these can be added to this group. In the end, you will be left with an organized area, and possibly find more space to use within your home, while feeling good about being clutter free!  If you have tips, please feel free to share those in the comments below.

As you manage the organization of your home, you may find you could really use a craft room within your new home, or customized garage shelving to keep all of your tools, gardening supplies or basketballs, tennis rackets and frisbees!

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If you are in the market for a new home, you are probably no stranger to understanding how important a good credit rating is. Everything from buying a car to low-interest rates on a mortgage, credit knowledge is one area of finance you can’t afford to skip. If you are like many Americans, you may have never received any formal training on finance or how the credit industry works. Many people live outside their means and truly live day-to-day, almost chasing their debt. Understanding credit and how it works may help you to be in a better position to build your dream home, buy a new car, and benefit from low-interest rates and low monthly payments.

Many circumstances can create life changing situations allowing ones credit history to become damaged. Repairing credit can be a daunting task and in many cases there is no quick fix, however time and diligence will help you to round the corner into repaired credit.

Here are a few suggestions you may implement into your credit repair strategy:

  • Check your credit report and score each year.  
  • Review your credit card balances
  • Report discrepancies
  • Pay off debt hurting your credit
  • Report paid balances to the credit reporting agencies

You can receive a free credit report at and you may obtain your credit report free with other companies that offer monitoring services. Choosing an organization to monitor your credit may be beneficial for you, just be aware of charges and read the small print to ensure you are getting what you are looking for out of the arrangement. With identity theft on the rise, many of these companies offer services to help stop people from being victims.

As you review your credit card balances, it is recommended to avoid having high balances on your credit cards. Of course, this is a catch 22, because it is almost a requirement to have credit cards in order to build credit, but the credit agencies really don’t like to see people using them completely – it is recommended that your balance not exceed 30% of your available credit. This is typically known to show discipline and may help improve your overall credit worthiness.

In regards to small collection accounts, pay them. These accounts may hurt your credit score and the sooner you can pay them off the better. In many instances you can contact the collection agency who has bought the debt and arrange to pay a pre-determined settled amount, which is lower than the original debt.  If an agreed amount is reached, make sure you have this information in writing to avoid being responsible for the full payment instead of the reduced amount agreed upon.

Judgments and tax liens can be a little more tedious to remove from your credit, so communication is key when it comes to arranging a debt reduction and following through with your payment plan. Collections and general bad debt is typically reported for 7 years, after which it may be removed from your credit file.  Judgments can stay on your credit report until the debt is paid in full, or removed through the court system. It is generally a requirement to pay off and have judgments removed prior to being eligible for a mortgage.

Even though you pay off your debt, as you work to improve your credit score, you want to make sure you update the credit report agencies with debts you have paid off. They may or may not be corrected automatically and it may require your involvement to get your credit report correct. This process can be a tedious and aggravating at times. There are many companies who will assist you in this process, guiding you through each step and offering tips to improve your overall credit worthiness, however you can choose to handle the process yourself if you are willing to educate yourself with the process.

Either way, be aware of what is on your credit, report discrepancies as you find them, pay off unnecessary debt, reduce your collections and watch your credit score improve over time.

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Although water is a necessity of life and is welcome in many parts of our life, there is one part that can cause some issues.  Introducing water into an environment that is meant to be dry can lead to certain issues, depending on the circumstances.  Your home has been designed so that a calculated amount of moisture, air, ventilation and other variable are a part of your environment, but if one of these items gets a little out of measure, it can affect the other items, and have an influence on the quality of life in your home.

There are many types of leaks you must consider, and make sure you take steps to prevent throughout the year.  Roofing leaks can occur when a piece of flashing has been compromised, or maybe a shingle has been damaged at a critical location on the roof.  Sometimes stopped up gutters can allow a leak from the roof by allowing water to wick into the roof decking at the eaves and overhangs of the house.  Any of these leaks can lead to bigger problems if they are not managed properly.

The building materials within your home are generally designed to perform in a dry environment, with a certain level of average humidity.  If this humidity or wetness becomes so large that the rate of evaporation does not exceed the rate of saturation, it could cause materials to rot, which could promote the growth of mold and mildew, it could even invite certain pests like termites to come into the home.

Many times these leaks may go unnoticed for a while based on where they are located.  This is why it’s a good idea to have a regular roof inspection every few years to try and prevent a problem before it happens.  Left untreated, a roof leak could lead to thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, or even cause the air quality in your home to be less than ideal.

Other types of leaks may include water lines, condensation lines, or even plumbing fixture drains.  A few common leaks include shower heads, dishwasher lines and washing machine lines.  Any time you see evidence of a water leak, it is worth investigating to ensure larger problems do not come up at a later date.  In some cases you may not see a leak, however a peculiar smell can be an indication of a leak in certain areas of your home.  Sometimes a small leak may be resolved by tightening the shower head, the washing machine hose, or adding gasket material under a sink faucet plate.  Much of this does not require a professional, but may require an instructional video online.  As always, be sure to take proper steps to avoid any dangers and quickly remedy potential additional damage.

If a water heater furnace is leaking it is highly recommend to hire a licensed professional to inspect and resolve the problem. If a water line under the sink has a drip, pull out the plumbers tape and a wrench and have a go at correcting the problem yourself.  Just make sure the water is off before getting too deep into the project.

It is a great idea to prepare a home maintenance plan, and follow it as closely as possible. Just like with automobiles our homes have moving pieces and these pieces can wear out over time.  By staying ahead of these potential “break downs” we may avoid costly and inconvenient repairs, which tend to occur when least expected.

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So you have LED lighting in the kitchen, automatic light accents on your outlet covers and your lights self adjust when you enter or exit a room; you have wired your home with smart wiring and can now control your lights, temperature and see who is at your front door all from a small device you hold within your hand. If this doesn’t already sound like a futuristic home, go ahead and throw in the fact that your refrigerator tells you when you are running low on something and all you have to do to order new laundry detergent when you are out is press a button – Wow! Many baby boomers will attest the futuristic home has arrived. From stories as they were children, listening to their parents on how they maintained food, without refrigerators; how they entertained themselves, as the radios and televisions were sparse and everyday transportation, well there wasn’t a lot of it!!

Our society as a whole has made so many improvements to the way in which we live and how new inventions and trendy items become the everyday staple within our homes. As you build your new custom home, it may not be as easy as just selecting a plan, choosing your colors and moving in. The thought of futuristic implementations may mean the difference of you selling your home, some day.

Generations see futuristic homes differently, some children are born into a society where they think a phone is a requirement and have no idea what an ice tray is. Futuristic homes may include robotic features to remove many of the daily tasks you currently do to keep your home functioning. You may also experience energy reducing home materials generating energy through solar leaves, or possibly solar pods, designed like micro-beads and added to housing materials to help produce energy.

The Inclusion of robotic skills will most likely be within the futuristic home and as imaginations unleash new ideas and innovation puts it to work, the new home may include self-adjusting paint based on temperature, grass cutting techniques we can watch instead of doing and a virtual type of existence within a physical world of living.

Every year there are new products on the market and if you are considering building a new home, you may want to include some time to research some of the great products available today. Work with your builder to incorporate these selections to assure you are building the home of your dreams while maintaining a reasonable budget.

Check out these futuristic designs:

  • Single Stack Kitchen by Massimo Facchinetti
  • Computerized Refrigerators
  • Transparent Televisions
  • Self-sterilizing door handles
  • Google Home

When it comes to the future of homes and home designs the possibilities are only limited to our imaginations. What are some things you think of when it comes to the futuristic home or designs you would like to see within more home plans?

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Whether you are searching for a home plan to build or you are already working with a builder to build your new custom home, the words standard features, may come up throughout your building experience. So what are standard features and how does it relate to your building project?

Most builders offer a set of standard features, which are inclusive features when it comes to the beginning sales price of your new home.  In order to properly set a sales price the builder must set certain standards to know the cost, and at what price it should be sold based on this cost.  Understanding these standard features may help eliminate any frustrations throughout the process.

Consider all the variables that are involved with building a home.  Ceramic tile could be $5 per square foot, or it could be $30 per square foot, depending on the type of tile, size, color, etc.  Lighting could be brushed nickel, oil rubbed bronze, contemporary or traditional in style.  Flooring could include engineered hardwood, solid hardwood, laminate, etc.  Without having a starting point it would not be possible for a builder to understand the cost associated with the house.  At that point everything would have to be custom priced, and it would be hard to market to their customers.

Take some time to fully understand the product that is built into the price of your home.  Identify any gray areas with your builder to make sure you have a complete understanding of these features.  Many times a builder may include an allowance for cabinetry or counter tops, and simply say that maple cabinets with granite tops are standard.  If you know much about cabinets and granite you also know that this cost could vary greatly.  Identify which maple cabinet and what grade of granite is included with your sales price.  At that point you may choose to pay additional to make an upgrade, or perhaps you like laminate tops and would want to take a credit for not using granite.  If you know the inclusions it helps to make sure you are pleased with the product, and also helps to understand where you may have a chance for cost savings.

Many reputable builders try to align their standard features with the particular area they build.  If granite and hardwood are common in the “normal” new home, they try to align so there is no unnecessary confusion.  In some instances builders are strictly using a mild form of deception by pricing their product under the market norm, as a way to get you in the door and on a contract.  Be aware of this technique and make sure the contract comes after you have a good understanding of what your home will include.

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How many hot summer days do you think to yourself that it would be nice if the landscaping could somehow tend to itself, so you have more time to do other things, or to spend with your family during these fun summer days.  Sometimes the landscaping gets neglected because of these tough choices during the summer on how we should spend our time.  Should we water the shrubbery and the turf, or should we go to the pool with our kids?  We can always water the bushes tomorrow.  These are probably similar words spoken by many people who now look outside to dry, brown grass and shrubs because tomorrow just didn’t come quick enough.

Ultimately, you want to create and implement a good landscaping plan that considers maintenance as much as beauty.  By installing a simple irrigation system many of these maintenance issues can become a lot easier to deal with long-term.  If you let your landscaping go for a day or even longer, at least it is being watered so it maintains the green lush life that makes it so beautiful.  You can always trim it up and cut the grass, practically restoring it to its original breath-taking image.

For the cost conscious budget it may not be practical to add irrigation to your entire yard, but typically several landscaped areas can be covered for a modest amount of money.  Although these costs vary in different parts of the country, it may be considered small in the long-term as you aren’t tasked with replacing those dried out, drooping plants and shrubs.

Like many other features in your home there are many options when it comes to irrigation.  You can set it up on a timer, or on a programmable timer.  There are even smart sprinklers that allow you to control these features from anywhere with your phone.  You can even synchronize these smart sprinklers with the weather forecast so they do not run on rainy days.  Although the sky is the limit, don’t let impressive costs that come with impressive systems sway you from the importance of making irrigation part of your landscaping plans.  It definitely pays off in the long run, and helps to make those hot summer days much more enjoyable since you have one less thing to worry about.

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In today’s world of plans and lot options we sometimes get overwhelmed with trying to make everything perfect.  You want the perfect house on the perfect lot, in the perfect neighborhood or on the perfect piece of property. Based on all the variables, this can sometimes seem to be a tall order. There are ways to compromise in certain areas without making it seem like anything was compromised.

At the end of the day your goal is to create an inviting home, which is warm and comfortable for yourself and your family to enjoy. This comes in many different forms, but one huge part of the process is making sure you take advantage of the natural beauty within sight, inside and out.

If your home will be placed on a higher elevation, consider placement of the windows to enjoy the view of beautiful sunsets in the evenings.  You will also want to plan your home so the hot afternoon sun isn’t bombarding your living room from windows that are directly across from the television.  Positioning your bedroom windows with morning light, may bring about a natural way of awakening each day.  As you review your lot and your selected home plan, think about garage placement, deciding if the garage should face left or right.  As you look at both options, try to determine which direction may offer the best privacy for those days you are in the garage tinkering on your car or shooting hoops with the kids.

Each room of the house matters when it comes to creating a view inside and out.  If it is a living area where you and your family relax, make sure it has soft light and is oriented to take advantage of any natural beauty on your lot, or in the distance.  Bedrooms work best focusing on the theme of the room, with any type of scenery outside being a secondary consideration.  Your master bedroom is primarily a private retreat, a place to unwind, possibly lounging in the bed watching a movie on lazy evenings.  It too can take advantage of views, or leave those views for shared living space throughout your home.

Once all the natural beauty outside has been considered, it is time to decorate each room, based on your style and preference.  If you have a mountain view from your Living room you may decide to integrate some rustic features or a nice stone surround at your fireplace, etc.  These items help to tie the inside of the home to the outside.  Of course it can work with whatever the view may be.  It could be pasture land, or a nice park like setting.  It may be a lake view, or a view of some large Oak trees.  Whatever it is can be pulled into the interior home décor as much as desired.  It just takes a little imagination, and sometimes it becomes a work in progress, getting better with time.

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Thinking of a warm coastal breeze with waves crashing in as you enjoy a sunset view, or planning your winter trip to the Appalachian or Rocky Mountains brings about an automatic sense of relaxation as you begin planning your vacation. While heading out for a lengthy stay somewhere else can be fun, you want to make sure as you leave your home it is safe and well protected.

Here is a checklist you can follow to give yourself peace of mind while away:

  • All windows and doors are locked
  • If you have a monitored security system, make sure your contact numbers are up to date and notify them of being away
  • If leaving during cold weather, make sure pipes are well insulated and exterior hose bibs are properly covered.
  • Make sure garages are closed completely and locked
  • Notify the post office to halt your mail delivery until you return
  • Notify your newspaper delivery or arrange for someone to pick up your papers
  • Set your thermostat to a reasonable temperature to avoid expensive utility bills while away
  • Leave a key with a friend or family member in case of an emergency
  • Notify your neighbors so they can watch for suspicious activity
  • If you are leaving pets behind, ensure they have proper food and water, or in some cases proper caretakers to check in on them
  • Make sure water faucets are off and toilets are not running
  • Turn off lights you will not need while away.

With all of the high tech options available today you may also choose to install cameras, which can be easily accessed from your cell phone.

Vacation is a time to relax and enjoy family and friends.  Whether you are out of the country on mission trips, racing down roller coasters at amusement parks or being adventurous in the great outdoors knowing your home is safe while you are away offers some comfort.

Another area you want to remember is making sure you have proper insurance, whether you are a homeowner or a renter, so in the event of an unwanted occurrence you and your home are protected.  Adding a few extra steps to protect your home prior to heading out on your adventures is a great way to start off any vacation.

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