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PREPPING YOUR HOME FOR FALL

autumn trees
Photo Courtesy: b k

 Along with the leaves on the trees, you should be making some changes of your own over the next few weeks.  Here is a list of home maintenance items to consider as you make your way into the chillier months of the year!

  1.  Gutters and Downspouts—Remove leaves and other debris from your downspouts and gutters to prevent clogging.

    clogged gutter
    Photo Courtesy: Eric Schmuttenmaer
  2. Fireplace and chimney—Clear ash and charred wood from the fireplace yourself, but leave the chimney cleaning to a professional, asking them to check the damper to ensure it tightly closes, preventing drafts.
  3. Heating system—Have an annual heating system check-up. Survey your home’s heating vents, checking proximity to furniture, carpeting, or curtains.Chimney-Cleaning
  4. Air conditioners—Remove window units. Dust and clean before covering or storing.
  5. Drafts—Examine windows and doors for cracks, sealing them to prevent drafts.
  6. Storm windows—If you have removable screens, now’s the time to clean, store, and replace them with storm windows.

    Photo Courtesy: Laura Moss
  7. Water heater—Prepare for cooler weather by draining the water heater and clearing out any debris that has settled at the bottom of the tank.

A little maintenance goes a LONG way to making your fall and winter clean, cozy and safe!

Excerpted from “Prepare Your Home for Fall and Winter.” Readers Digest Prepare Your Home for Fall and Winter Comments. Readers Digest Magazine, 02 Oct. 2011. Web. 13 Aug. 2015.

Featured

Get Mosquitoes WHERE THEY LIVE!!

Featured imageMosquitoes begin their lives in standing water. With this in mind, rainy springs often lead to a mosquito-filled summer.  Here are some suggestions to reduce your chances of becoming a creepy-crawly’s snack and stop those bloodthirsty beasts in their tracks.

  1. Remove standing water by drilling holes in the bottom, not the sides, of any garbage or recycling containers stored outside to ensure complete drainage. Keep gutters clean and  pools chlorinated, even when not in use. Dump anything that holds water after it has rained, like birdbaths, wadibird bathng pools, even drip trays under your potted plants.
  2. Exchange your white light bulbs for less mosquito-attractive yellow ones. Tiki torches and citronella candles will also help in the immediate area.yellow light bulbs
  3. Guard your body by using spray-on or lotion mosquito repellant. Just as with your sunscreen, be sure to apply indoors or before you are exposed to the mosquitoes.  For those looking for an all-natural alternative, try putting two dryer sheets in your pockets before Cutter Skinsations bug sprayventuring outdoors!

With several weeks of warm weather still ahead, following these guidelines might make your trek into autumn a little less ITCHY.

How to Cut Household Expenses and Save Money Each Month

kitchen

The key to saving money is knowing where to trim your budget.

Paying bills is never fun, but it’s even less exciting when monthly expenses leave you eating noodles for the last few days before every payday. But you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice the lifestyle you want to live in an apartment or home you love. In fact, eliminating unnecessary household expenses is easier than you think.

Whether you’re living those big-city dreams in a studio apartment in San Francisco, CA, or moving into a single family home in Austin, TX, read on to find out how to eliminate or reduce monthly household expenses like grocery bills, insurance, and cellphone bills without disrupting your life.

7 Ways to Cut Household Expenses

  1. Head to the grocery store. Sure, you can’t eliminate the price of food when you are determining your budget. But do you really need to buy all of your groceries at Whole Foods and buy takeout for lunch every day?  Eating in doesn’t have to mean daily trips to the grocery store either. Research local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and talk with your neighbors or coworkers about sharing the weekly offerings — buying into a CSA with a group still gives you a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables while easing the stress of having to figure out a way to use every piece of produce delivered.
  2. Have a plan when you shop. Using coupons to cut expenses is easy, but it’s not for everyone. One top alternative for cutting those grocery expenses, sans couponing, is to know the cost of the top 20 things you buy most often (think milk, eggs, and butter). That way, when you see the prices go up (or down!), you’ll know if you’re getting a good deal. Small strategic changes in shopping can help you cut down on expenses over time.
  3. Lay off the landline. Be honest: When is the last time you used your landline? If your phone has followed you from rental to rental, or remained unused in your home for years, it may be time to unplug it for good — and cut out that expense. However, if you have a home office and require a landline, it may be worth investing in a product that hooks up to your router and allows you to make voice calls around the country.
  4. Renegotiate your insurance rates. Car, health, rental, and homeowners insurance costs are negotiable. Insurance rates fluctuate often, so you could be missing out on a lower rate if you don’t shop around for new insurance at least once per year. Plus, competition is high among insurance companies, and you may qualify for certain discounts based on your age or risk with a different plan.
  5. Keep your home neat. A cleaning service can tempt even the neatest renter or homeowner, but you may be paying for more than you’re getting, especially if you live in a small apartment rental in NYC. It’s not uncommon to spend $150 or more on each cleaning. If you’re paying for a monthly maid service, that could add up to well over one month’s rent each year. Instead, dedicate 30 to 60 minutes each week to speed clean your place yourself and split the time into five to 10 minutes each day. That way, your space will never get out of control, and you won’t be tempted to dial your cleaning service for a quick fix.
  6. Switch from commuting to carpooling. While it may not seem fair that you have to drive an hour to work or pay for parking at your office, your best bet for trimming your transportation budget is to share the cost with coworkers or skip the parking space altogether. Make a plan to carpool a few days a week with co-workers who live closest to you, or ditch the car entirely and bike or take public transportation to work.       7a094c058b82baddc3db29385d624a49
  7. Cut back on unnecessary pet expenses. Fido’s needs come first, of course, but when it comes to dog spas, doggie day care services, and accessories, it’s easy for the extras to pile up. Instead of taking your pooch to doggie daycare every day, find a local dog park to throw the ball and let him run loose with other dogs before you head to work. And instead of spending loads on grooming costs, renters can shop for apartment communities that include dog washes and grooming stations as amenities. Homeowners or renters without grooming stations should look into self-service wash shops that can cost as little as $10 per wash.

– See more at: https://www.trulia.com/blog/how-to-cut-household-expenses/#sthash.I5wQf0OU.dpuf

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Simple Home Decor Ideas

via Daily Prompt: Simple

Simple Home Decor Ideas

1.Change your wall color. It’s as simple as that. Paint your walls to show depth as well as create a warm and bright feel.  Here are some colors we like by Sherwin Williams.

paint

2. Add bright pillows to furniture. Just add a splash of color to your furniture. This will surely make your room pop!

family-room

 

3. Create beautiful centerpieces with your old stuff!  Don’t toss out those old vases! Use them over and over! This also adds a pop of color to your rooms!

kitchen

 

These are just a few of the many simple home decor ideas that can transform any room in your home!

The Cure for Chilly Nights

fireplace

Does the mere mention of winter bring to mind drafty days and chilly nights? Follow this advice.

The struggle to keep warm is real, especially when temperatures start to dip below freezing. No one knows this better than the citizens of cold climates. But what’s the best way to deal with the chill? Is having a programmable thermostat worth it? Do heavy-duty curtains really curtail the cold? We asked our frigid-weather friends for their best tips on staying toasty indoors when winter is in full force. And no, moving to Miami, FL, wasn’t one of them — though that’s not a bad idea.

1. Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed

If your windows and doors are super old, and it’s in your budget to do so, replace them. Jeana Kraft, a resident of Wausau, WI, says her family opted for a brand of windows that are manufactured in northern Minnesota, one of the coldest places in the country. “I think they have an edge on designing windows that can withstand long, very frigid winters,” she explains. Otherwise, try placing clear plastic over especially drafty windows or add a threshold seal to your sliding doors, suggests Brian Hugins, who resides in the suburbs of Chicago, IL.

2. Invest in insulating curtains

“This is particularly useful for sliding glass doors, older windows, or if you have a couch in front of your windows,” says Karen McConnell of Newton, MA, a suburb of Boston. “When you’re reading or watching TV, it’s pretty hard to get comfortable with an icy breeze trickling through, and curtains can mean the difference between coziness and cranking up the heat (and the corresponding utilities bill) yet again.”

3. Keep the doors between rooms open

“Because of our house’s wonky heating system, some rooms get really cold, whereas others are overheated,” says McConnell. “We’ve found that if we keep the doors open to the overheated ones, it helps to keep everything a little more balanced and comfortable.”

4. Stock up on flannel sheets and down comforters

“We still keep a lot of blankets on hand in sitting rooms, and we place flannel sheets on the beds,” says Kraft. For McConnell, pairing flannel sheets with a down comforter makes a “huge difference on cold nights.” Never underestimate electricity-free means of keeping warm.

5. Install a programmable thermostat

“But make sure you re-evaluate your settings every few months, particularly if you have different heating/cooling zones in your home or your lifestyle has undergone any changes,” advises McConnell. “I realized I needed to do this when I wandered into our family room and was surprised by how toasty warm it was. We still had the heat settings tailored to when my daughter was younger and we spent almost all our time there.” Find a programmable thermostat here.

6. Splurge on floors with heated coils

“We have them in our master bath, and I thank God each time I wake up on a cold, dark morning and step onto my heated bathroom floor,” says Kraft. “If someone told me that I had to take 1,000 square feet off the design of my home in order to meet the budget for a heated bathroom floor, I would take the heated floor.”

7. Light a fire

“We had a wood-burning fireplace in both our previous and current homes, and on cold nights, it could heat the whole house,” says Kraft. If you do light a fire, be sure to close the chimney flue once you put it out. Otherwise, you’ll let in a lot of cold air.

8. Insulate your attic

“That was the first thing we did when we moved into our house,” says Heather Wiese, of Dexter, MI, outside Ann Arbor. It’s a weekend project that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates can save you 10 to 50% on your energy bill. You can use either loose fill insulation (and “blow it in” with a machine you can rent from a home improvement store) or batts, which are sold in large rolls. Pro tip: Be sure to fix any air leaks with foam sealant or caulk, or the extra insulation will be for naught!

Do you have tried-and-true methods for how to keep the house warm during the cold? Share your tips in the comments!

Article credit: Trulia Blogs. 25, Janary 2017. See more at: https://www.trulia.com/blog/how-to-keep-the-house-warm/#sthash.wbi0SSrP.dpuf.
Photo Credit: Survivopedia. 25, January 2017. http://www.survivopedia.com/heat-home-electricity/. 

South Barrington Luxury Living

01_23forest_57_frontview_lowresLuxurious estate refined to the highest level while remarkably appointed in Forest Knoll Subdivision. Presented on an interior parcel with just over an acre this gorgeous home welcomes guests with a 2-story marble entry that unfolds to a magnificent living room and separate Dining room. A floor plan that is truly an entertainers delight opening the kitchen to the dining room as well as the family room with brick fireplace. The exceptional eat-in kitchen features cherry cabinets, breakfast bar, granite, stainless steel appliances, Dacor range and warming drawer. The main floor also features, rear staircase, hardwood floors, all season room with volume ceilings, 1st floor office/6th bedroom with full bath and a powder room. The 2nd floor showcases hardwood floors, 5 bedrooms including master suite, walk-in closets, balcony, jet tub, double vanity and full body spray shower. Finished lower level with a wet bar and full bath. 3-car garage, serene yard, patio and deck with built-in grill!

Check out this beautiful home on http://www.23Forest.GreatLuxuryEstate.com.

5 Ways to Save on Winter Heating Costs

5 Ways to Save on Winter Heating Costs

 

chicago-winter-survival

  1. Invest in a programmable thermostat.

A programmable thermostat will be your best friend. You can easily set it to raise or lower the heat as needed. For example, it can lower the heat during the day while you are at work. Then, it can raise it a few degrees in the evening when you are home. It does the work for you, making sure you are only using heat when you are home to enjoy it. Here are some more tips that will help you save on your winter gas bill. Below is the Nest Learning Thermostat.

  • Works with Amazon Alexa for voice control (Alexa device sold separately)
  • Auto-Schedule: Nest learns the temperatures you like and programs itself in about a week.
  • Home/Away Assist: Nest automatically turns itself down when nobody’s home to help you save energy.
  • Remote Control: Connect your thermostat to Wi‑Fi to control the temperature from your phone, tablet or laptop.
  • Farsight: When Nest spots you across the room, it lights up to show you the time, temperature or weather.
  • Energy History: Check your Energy History in the Nest app to see how much energy you use and why.
  • Nest Leaf: You’ll see the Leaf when you choose a temperature that saves energy. It guides you in the right direction.

You can find it here on Amazon. And the plus side, once you purchase one, you can call your electric company about a rebate!

  1. Test your comfort level.

You might think that your thermostat HAS to be set at 72 degrees. Why not try testing your comfort level? Knock it down a few degrees and set a timer for 3 hours. See how you feel after the two hours. If you are still comfortable, it is well worth resetting your thermostat to this new, lower temperature. If you wish, you can even knock it down another degree and set the timer to see how well you do. Chances are, you can go lower and still be comfortable.

  1. Keep layers within reach.

Keep assorted quilts and blankets in the areas you often relax in. Keep sweaters and wraps on hand as well. When you feel a chill, grab one of these items to layer some warmth on yourself. If they are easy to find and reach, you will be more likely to use them instead of turning up the heat.

These faux fur blankets are perfect for snuggling up and staying warm this winter. You can find it here. 

       4. Seal all cracks.

Go through your home room by room and check all of the windows. Be sure all cracks are sealed so that precious warm air doesn’t escape. You can buy caulk inexpensively at your local home improvement store, and it is a great way to keep warm air in instead of out. If you wish, you can also place draft blockers near your exit doors. Just fill a tube sock with sand or rice and tie it shut. Place the sock along the bottom crack of the door and it will keep warm air from escaping. For more ways to winterize your home, take a look at these ways to winterize your home.

  1. Let the light in.

In the morning, open the curtains and let the sunlight in. It will heat the space more than you might imagine. You can then close the curtains when the sun goes down, to keep the warm air in the room. Be sure that rooms that get good sunlight have their doors left open, so the warmth can travel to the rest of the house. At the same time, keep the doors closed to unused, darker rooms so they do not suck in warm heat that isn’t needed.

You can also try there thermal-insulated curtains at night! They will keep the cold out, if you happen to have a slight chill! Find those curtains in an arrangement of colors, here. 

 

You don’t have to freeze in order to save some money on heating costs this winter. Instead, give these tips for saving money on winter heating costs a try. You will find they are well worth looking into!

 

Photo credit: http://www.mychicagotherapist.com/chicago-winter-7-tips-survival/

How to Clean Your Blinds and Curtains

Maintain your blinds & curtains to keep them looking like new with these tips from blinds.com!

Your blinds and curtains can be sneaky. They can collect dirt, dust and grime without you ever noticing, because, well, you probably don’t examine your blinds and curtains when you get home every day.

Like any accessory in your home, your blinds and curtains need attention from time to time. It’s important to clean them regularly—dusting once a month and deep-cleaning twice a year is a good rule of thumb—to avoid any lasting damage from dirt and dust buildup. The more you keep the buildup off, the longer your window treatments will last. Cover all your bases with these simple steps.

#1 Bust Out the Vacuum

Have you ever raised your blinds, only to be met with a shower of dust? It’s time to get the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and use an attachment to suck up loose dirt and dust. If you go right into cleaning extra dusty window treatments with any sort of spray or wet cleaner without using a vacuum, you’re going to make an even bigger mess. You can also try a feather duster or microfiber cloth in place of a vacuum, but you’ll likely have to vacuum the dust you knock onto the floor either way.

In many cases it’s a good idea to approach your curtains the same way, but be careful that the vacuum doesn’t tear up any thin or delicate fabrics. If you’re worried about that happening, simply take the curtains down and shake them out outside.

#2 Wash Away the Grime

Even with regular dusting, it’s important to do a more thorough cleaning of your treatments a couple of times a year. There are several ways to tackle deep cleaning curtain and blinds. A damp sponge with some soapy water typically does the trick with dirty blinds, but be careful if you have real or faux wood blinds. Too much moisture can cause them to warp or split. For faux wood blinds, a mixture of water and vinegar or dusting spray can also be used to clean away dirt and grime.

When it comes to your curtains, check the washing instructions on the tag. Some curtains can be machine washed and ironed. If there are no instructions, take them to the dry cleaner.

#3 Block Out the Sun

Keeping your window treatments clean is a great way to ensure that they live long and prosper. But the biggest issue when it comes to protecting your window treatments for the long run is the sun. The sun can cause some major fading and discoloration in your treatments, and of course, there’s no real way to turn that off. But there are a few things you can do to protect your treatments.

You can put shutters on the outside of your home to open and close on occasion, but that’s a big undertaking. The best thing to do is look into window tinting. There are dozens of options when it comes to window film: Some will darken the look of the window, others will remain translucent but block harmful UV rays. This a good option if you want to keep the look and feel of your windows and their treatments, and you won’t have to replace them in a couple of years due to fading or yellowing.


Katie Laird is the Director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com and a frequent public speaker on Social Media Marketing, Social Customer Care and profitable company culture. An active blogger and early social technology adopter, you can find her online as ‘happykatie’ sharing home décor, yoga, parenting and vegetarian cooking tips. Check out the newest faux wood blinds, drapes and shades on blinds.com.

By Katie Laird

Do you know your Debt-to-Income Ratio?

debt-to-income-ratio

(photo excerpted from blog.transamerica.com)

For those who are ready to make a home purchase, one of the biggest components a Lender is looking at is your debt to income ratio or DTI.

Your DTI is calculated by adding the total sum of all monthly debt payments including the principal, interest, taxes and insurance; then dividing it by the borrower’s monthly gross income. This is the back end debt to income ration. When the front end debt to income ratio is calculated, you take the monthly payment of your principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, then divide it by the borrowers gross monthly income.

Monthly Debt Payments Include:

  • Child Support Payments
  • Alimony Payments
  • Minimum Student Loan Payments
  • Auto Loan Payments
  • Minimum Credit Card Payments
  • Other Monthly Debt Payments

*Utilities, auto insurance, health insurance, and cell phone payments are not calculated in the debt to income ratio. 

According to Gustancho.com, the “2016 FHA Guidelines On Debt To Income Ratio exempts medical collection accounts with outstanding balances and charge off accounts from debt to income calculations. However, this does not hold true with non-medical collection accounts if the borrower has more than $2,000 in total outstanding collections. FHA requires that if the borrower has over $2,000 in outstanding collection accounts that are non-medical, then 5% of the outstanding collection account balance needs to be used in debt to income ratio calculations of the borrower. The borrower does not need to make any payments and FHA does not require the borrower to pay off or make any payment agreement with the creditor and/or collection agency.”

Click here, for an easier way to calculate your debt to income ratio,

This post is just a start to calculating your debt to income ratio. You should always meet with a Mortgage Lender Professional to determine a more accurate debt to income ratio or other financial information.

For more information on purchasing a home, contact the Rob Morrison Team with any home buying/selling needs at (847)212-0966.

 

Excerpted from:
“Update On 2016 FHA Guidelines On Debt To Income Ratio.” Gustancho.com. 13, October 2016.
“Debt to Income Ratio Calculator” Zillow.com. 13, October 2016.

 

Best Haunted Houses to Visit this Fall

Halloween is right around the corner…and you know what that means! Haunted Houses! Yes or is it NO!! We have comprised a list of the best Haunted Houses in Illinois in one great location! Descriptions are from the original websites and links are included!  You’re Welcome!

  1. Basement of the Dead– Aurora, IL   basement-of-the-dead                                                                                         “Top 13 Haunted Houses in America”                      In the late 1920’s, Walker Laundry opened at 42 West New York St. and became Aurora’s largest laundry Company. Around 1945 Imus Kilya was working there as maintenance engineer. His son Al came to work as his assistant in 1960. Heat for the building and steam for the presses was supplied by a coal fired boiler installed when the building was built. Al and Imus continually complained that it needed to be replaced, but management wouldn’t spend the money. In 1964 the boiler exploded maiming and scalding Al and Imus. They never returned to work and rumor was they had vowed to get even. Under the streets and building were sewer lines and tunnels well known to Al and Imus. A year or so after the explosion people from the laundry started to disappear and body parts were found in the river near the drainage pipes. Al and Imus were suspected but never found. The laundry eventually closed and the basement was never used again. Businesses have come and gone but nobody stays. Basement Of The Dead is proof that Al & Imus still exist and have made this basement their home. The mutilation and horror you will witness is so shocking, you’ll wish you never entered. SO COME WALK THE BASEMENT OF AL & IMUS KILYA. IF YOU’VE GOT THE GUTS!
  2. Statesville Haunted Prison– Crest Hill, IL  statesville                         The Prisoners have rioted, the guards have fled, a darkness has seized control of this Maximum Security Prison and our Warden has opened the gates for visitors. After the prisoners have processed “The Meat/Visitors”, you will be forced to find your way through 23 maximum security cells and come eye to eye with over 100 criminals that were too evil to die. Statesville Haunted Prison®. No one escapes. After you find your way out of the mighty walls of Statesville, you must descend into the burial pit of City Of The Dead. In these caves and mine shafts you will find the mass graves of Statesville’s past inmates. Here, in the depths of this unholy tomb, the Gatekeeper has risen from the dead and the zombies are on the march. You must make it back to the surface before you become a permanent resident.
  3. Dungeon of Doom– Zion, IL    dungeon-of-doom-logo                                                                    Come Celebrate our 20-Year Fear-Union in 2016! Located between Chicago and Milwaukee at the old Briquette Factory in Zion, the Dungeon of Doom has has engraved its name in Haunt History because year after year, the sickest minds in the industry take the chill to new heights. While heart-pounding boundaries are pushed to the limit, DOD’s freak show shatters expectations with unmatched attractions, such as the one-of-a-kind Buried Dead or Alive, where everyone in your group will be physically buried. The DOD continues to reach the boundaries with the best Killer Crew including the lurking ghouls, deranged clowns and shambling undead. They are sure to scare you right out of your skin!
  4. 13th Floor– Melrose Park, IL    13th-floorHorror in the Heart of Chicago! This Halloween Season, explore the legend of the 13th floor at one of the most horrifying haunted house experiences in Chicago, the 13th Floor Haunted House! In most buildings, the 13th Floor does not exist. But, hidden in this building, it’s very real.

    Experience the truth about the legend of the 13th Floor at a haunted house created from your darkest fears. Legends and nightmares alike will come to life at the 13th Floor, Chicago’s legendary haunted house, a gut-wrenching ride to untold nightmares 13 floors straight down!

     

  5. Baldwin Asylum– Rantoul, IL      baldwin-asylumBaldwin Asylum screams into 2016 as Central Illinois’ premiere haunted attraction. Located at 2040 Lon Dr. in Rantoul, IL., Baldwin Asylum was ranked in the Top 10 Haunted Houses by HauntedIllinois.com and was voted Visitors’ Favorite Haunt.

    Baldwin Asylum is a journey through the aftermath of a witch’s curse. Come with us as we expand her curse from the start to the brutal end! Each season we are giving you an experience that is longer, darker, and more terrifying. Can you survive 10,000 square feet of absolute terror?