Preparing Your Home for Out-of-Town Guests


One of the best parts of owning a home is having the ability to host out-of-town friends and family. If you’re getting ready to welcome guests into your home this holiday season, here are five ways to create a welcoming space.

  1. Prep the guest room and bathroom
    This seems pretty straightforward, but in case it isn’t obvious, you’ll want to tidy up the guest bedroom, make sure clean sheets are on the bed and clean towels are easily accessible in the bathroom. Also make sure you are stocked up on the essentials, like toilet paper, and maybe
    grab a few toiletries to keep in the bathroom too, just in case your guests forget toothpaste or shampoo.
  2. Provide some space to unpack
    Your guests will need somewhere for their suitcases and clothes to go, so if you can, clear some space in the guest bedroom for their things. If you don’t have much space to work with, this can be as simple as clearing off a shelf, cleaning out a drawer, or even freeing up a corner of the bedroom. If you happen to have a closet for them to use, make sure you’ve left them some space to hang their things and a few spare hangers.
  3. Create a coffee station
    Even with the best of friends, poking around the kitchen in the morning looking for a caffeine fix can feel awkward for guests who may not know where you keep the coffee mugs. Help your guests out by setting up a coffee station so they can help themselves if they’re up before you in the morning.
  4. Set up the technology
    No one wants to go searching for the WiFi password in a new place. Make this easy for your guests by jotting this information down on a notecard and keeping it in the guest bedroom. If your guests have access to a television, make sure you also explain how to work the remote and any other gadgets that make be tricky for others to figure out.
  5. Stock up on kitchen favorites
    Ask your guests ahead of time about their favorite snacks and beverages and make sure you have plenty in the fridge. It’s a simple gesture your friends and family are sure to appreciate and before long your home will become their favorite place to stay when they’re in town.


7 Design Trends You Won’t Regret in 5 Years

Keeping up with interior design trends can be exhausting. Some simply aren’t worth the cost or effort, to only change your mind about them when the next trend comes around. To keep things simple, here are 5 timeless design choices that won’t leave you wanting to change things up again 5 years down the road.

Keeping the colors in your home neutral with tones of white, brown, beige, grey, and black is a timeless, simple and sustainable choice. This doesn’t just apply to paint colors, but applies to rugs and furniture as well. Neutral colors allow you to participate in some bolder color trends with bright accessories, blankets, and artwork without needing to repaint the walls or buy new furniture when the “it” color changes.

Whether whitewashed or scraped and clean, exposed bricks add a historical and industrial quality to an interior or exterior. The beauty of exposed brick is that it’s an architectural building material, so its purpose is core to the space. That in itself gives it integrity. Brick always carries its history, and history won’t go out of style.

You can’t really go wrong with plants when it comes to adding pops of color and liveliness to your home. The benefits of plants, like improved air quality, environmental wellness and reduced stress, will never go out of style. Houseplants also add character to a space and provide a feeling of peace and serenity.

This design choice (also sometimes called shiplap) first became popular in the mid- 20th century and is still a common design choice for many homeowners today. Wood is easy to work with and has never really gone out of style as a building material. Plus, wood paneling can transform a room from cold and sterile to warm and cozy.

Open shelving offers style flexibility while giving you a place to display mementos, photos and keepsakes. If you get bored with how your shelves look, you can always move display items around or swap them out with new pieces. This flexibility allows you to change up the look without having to do much heavy lifting.

This design choice is currently having a trendy run. If you opt for neutral colors like white or cream, you’ll end up with a bright, clean backdrop to go with any decor style. Subway tiles are popular for a reason — they’re classic, chic, durable, and timeless.

Few materials are as widely used, and have been around as long, as wide-plank oak for flooring. Durable blond floor planks offer a classic look that’s easily integrated with many design aesthetics. Wide-plank floors were used in early houses out of necessity, but are now used in kitchens and family rooms to create a feeling of warmth and ease.

In a world of ever-changing design trends, simplicity and timelessness prevail. Neutral colors form a versatile canvas, allowing for playful accents and a range of aesthetics. Exposed brick adds enduring character, and greenery brings life and serenity. Wood paneling, open shelves, subway tile backsplashes, and wide-plank oak floors stand as icons of enduring elegance.


HOLIDAY HOSTING: Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is a beloved time to gather with loved ones and enjoy great food. But as anyone who has hosted Turkey Day before knows, this gathering can also be stressful. To help you prepare to host your best Thanksgiving yet, here are five tips to keep the holiday simple, fun, and low-stress.

Start planning your menu a few weeks in advance and gradually stock up on the groceries you’ll need. You can even have them delivered if that makes shopping easier for you. Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, take some time to prepare as many dishes as you can before the holiday. Many staples, like cranberry sauce and stuffing, can be made a day or two before the big meal. Let’s be honest, who can realistically pull off roasting a massive bird and cook all the side dishes without going a little insane? The more you can prep in advance, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the
holiday when it arrives.

Elaborate table settings are not a necessity at Thanksgiving, but if this is something you enjoy doing and you have a particular vision in mind, take some time first thing in the morning or even the day before to get your table just right. You cross this off your list before the hustle and bustle of the day sets in.

Cooking, cleaning, and prepping aren’t the only parts of Thanksgiving that can potentially make the holiday stressful. Large family gatherings can also make some people feel uneasy, particularly if they’re shy or introverted. Take some of the pressure off small talk by playing a board game or charades. If the weather is nice, setting up yard games can also be a fun way to encourage your guests to interact.

Hosting Thanksgiving doesn’t necessarily mean you should do all the planning and cooking yourself. Take some of the load off and invite friends and family over in the days leading up to the holiday to help prep dishes you can make ahead of time. And while you probably don’t need (or want) everyone’s help in the kitchen the day of, enlisting one or two people to be your sous chef(s). This will help take some of the stress off cooking. You can also ask guests to help by bringing an appetizer, side, or dessert.

For some people, Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without Grandma’s green bean casserole or eating dinner with their finest dishes. But for others, outsourcing the cooking or opting for paper plates over fine china can make the difference between enjoying the holiday and dreading it. Do the things that will help you enjoy this time with loved ones. If that means picking up every part of Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Hosting any holiday will likely come with stress, but planning ahead and simplifying as much as possible can help you enjoy Thanksgiving with the people you love.

6 Ideas to Spice Up Your Outdoor Area on a Budget

Content Provided by American Home Shield

6 Ideas to Spice Up Your Outdoor Area on a Budget

6 Outdoor Area Tips on a BudgetWhether it’s your front door or your backyard, we have some ideas how you can change things up without breaking the bank. Use these tips to spice up your outdoor area for the summer when you have family and friends over.

Whether you’re looking to boost your home’s curb appeal or simply create a more inviting backyard space, you can do a lot to improve your outdoor area without spending a lot of money. Planting trees and shrubs, adding custom accents, installing new lighting or just laying some new mulch in your garden beds can refresh and rejuvenate the exterior feel of your home, making your yard a more attractive place to relax with friends and play with the kids. Let’s take a look at some budget-friendly yard and patio ideas to spruce up your outdoor space:

Add Pops of Color in Planters

Planters are one of the easiest ways to add color to your porch, patio or backyard. You can buy planters of all kinds at your local home and garden store and fill them with the annuals or perennials of your choice. If you’re looking to sell, add curb appeal by arranging planters around your front door or on your front porch. Mix and match a variety of foliage and flowers in each planter to add interest.

Looking for a simple DIY project, or just not satisfied with the planter options on offer at your local home improvement store? Making your own unique planters is one of the easiest and most fun crafts to do at home, with or without the kids. Stack terracotta pots on a metal pole for a cool, topsy-turvy planter, or hollow out a log to add texture and dimension to a flower bed. You’re limited only by your imagination.

Refresh Your Beds with New Mulch

You’d be surprised how much a fresh layer of mulch can improve the look of your garden beds. Weed first and install any new plants you want to put in your beds. A one- to two-inch layer of fine mulch, or a three- to four-inch layer of coarse mulch will keep weeds from growing in your garden beds and give them a cleaner appearance. They’ll also help keep the soil moist for your plants.

Shed Some Light on the Situation

Don’t simply rely on your back porch light to provide the lighting you need, especially if you have a large backyard. Most trendy backyard designs these days include some additional lighting sources to make after-dusk hangouts more convenient. It’s easy to add more lighting to your yard and you don’t necessarily have to call an electrician.

Backyard fire pits, for example, make great DIY projects and add light and warmth to your patio or backyard design. Other backyard lighting options include solar lights, battery-powered lanterns, string lights, and candles or tiki torches. For the latter, choose a citronella option to keep insects away.

Install a Trellis

A garden trellis, perhaps combined with some climbing plants, can be an affordable way to add some striking personality to your front or backyard. Add one as a focal point in the back of your garden or to delineate the entrance to a vegetable patch or sitting area. Trellises can offer great support for rambling rose bushes and flowering vines or provide a place for a hanging planters, bird houses or other decorative elements.

Plant Perennials

Annuals are nice for adding quick color to a flowerbed, but perennials come back year after year. What’s more, a carefully cultivated perennial bed requires diminishing maintenance each year, as the plants thrive and fill out the space. Because many perennials can be easily propagated using rooting hormone or need to be separated regularly, they’re a more affordable way to expand your garden beds.

Trees and shrubs are also a good way to add shade or texture to your outdoor space, but if you go this route, save money by buying young plants. Young trees and shrubs are easy for anyone to plant, while large and medium-sized specimens may require specialized equipment and training. Trees and shrubs will grow to fill the space they’re in, so make sure you leave them enough room.

Customize Your Accents

There are all kinds of ways to create your own unique garden accents, from building a fairy tale village in your flower beds to creating concrete stepping stones or garden balls. Use colorful glass bottles or ceramic plates to create a one-of-a-kind garden border. Build your own garden statues from salvaged metal, construct a DIY water feature or train your own topiary. If it’s weatherproof, you can add it to your outdoor design scheme.

Changing your outdoor space doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. You can make over your yard with a little elbow grease, some creativity and a few inexpensive supplies. In the end, you’ll have a porch, patio or garden to be proud of – and one that calls your name at the end of a long day.

How to Find Your ‘Dream Home’

Guide to finding and buying your Dream HomeMaybe it’s a grand entrance or a big backyard or even a very specific master bathroom layout: You’ve got to admit that you have some specific ideas for a dream home. Now, the challenge is getting everything you want for a price you can also live with long-term.

By the time you are grappling with these questions, you are likely also a seasoned homeowner (and buyer). That’s a credit to you in this new hunt—but here are a few more tips to keep in mind.

Find out your current home’s value:

Whether you’ve been in your current home for decades or are newer to the neighborhood, chances are the value has fluctuated since the time of your purchase. Although there are numerous ways to get an “estimate,” the best bet is by working with a realtor who understands the market, comps and your home’s unique aspects.

Set your budget:

Armed with the knowledge of how much your current home could garner in a sale, factor that into the other ways your life has changed since your last search. Also know that while what you can get approved for may be one thing, what truly is a comfortable budget may be a different matter. With a dream home in particular, it’s likely the place you will continue to call home as kids leave the nest and you enter retirement—so figuring out what is sustainable through all of those changes is key.

Get pre-approved for a loan:

Before you formally begin the search, take the time to get your financing squared away by getting pre-approved for a loan through a reputable mortgage lender. Although most pre-approval documents are only valid for two to three months, that’s better than finding “the house” and then having a more organized buyer beat you to the punch.

Remember what you can change:

If your wish list is three pages long, it’s going to be pretty hard to find a house with all of the criteria. Does that mean it can’t be done? No—you might just have to be the one who does the work. For example, if you will only go for a home with quartz countertops in the kitchen, don’t rush to rule other contenders out if the price would allow you to make this change after buying.

Allow time for the search:

It’s your dream home, but it may not materialize overnight. Especially if there is no urgency to move from your current house, take the pressure off yourself—and entertain all options, such as renovating or building a new property.

Finally, while it may be hard to check everything off the wish list and it may be disappointing to make compromises, remember that memories are what will really transform your new house into a dream home.

10 Home Updates That Quickly Increase Value

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10 Home Updates That Quickly Increase Value

If you live in an older home, or just bought a new one and want to make it yours, these 10 updates might be a great place to start. These updates will help increase your home value right away.

10 home updates that quickly increase the value of your home

Some home updates are all about making your home more comfortable for you and your family. For example, putting in a swimming pool won’t increase your property value by as much as you might think, but it will give you and your family many summer afternoons of fun. However, other home improvements are just as much about increasing your property value as they are about making your house homier.

If you’re thinking of selling in the relatively near future, you need to spend your home update budget where it counts. These 10 home updates will net you the biggest increases in property value and the highest returns on your investment.

1. Landscaping

Landscaping can increase your home’s curb appeal, and that can translate into an increase in property value of 5.5 to 12.7 percentMature plantings will net you the biggest return on investment, so ideally, you’ll begin landscaping long before you put your home on the market. A cohesive landscaping plan will give you the best return on your investment, so even if you can’t afford to hire a professional landscaper, you should take the time to plan out your new landscape before you plant anything.

2. Kitchen Remodel

Even a minor kitchen remodel can return 80.5 percent of the money you spend when it’s time to sell. Refacing cabinets, installing new countertops and floors, redoing the lighting, then installing a new sink, fixtures and range will cost roughly $15,000. In most cases, people look for bigger and more updated kitchens from what they already have. A kitchen update might just be able to seal the deal for your property when it comes time.

Bathroom remodel for home value

3. Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom remodels are another expensive update that buyers like to see already done – so much so that a minor bathroom remodel will actually increase your property value slightly. If you spend $20,420 to remodel a bathroom, you’ll get back about $13,717 at resale, on average. A complete bathroom redo might cost about $64,743, but you’ll recoup about 60 percent of that when you sell.

4. Adding a Deck

You’ll recoup about 75 percent of the cost of adding a 16×20 ft. wooden deck, although it varies somewhat depending on where you live – in the West, you’ll get back 100 percent of what you spent on a new deck, but in the South, where the air feels like hot soup, a deck addition will recoup about 83 percent of its cost.

5. Finishing a Basement

A finished basement will recoup an average of about 70 percent of its cost at sale. You may be able to recoup more than that in areas where basements are less common, such as in the West, but your ROI on a basement remodel will run closer to average in areas where basements are pretty standard. In the meantime, a finished basement can serve as a family rumpus room or a place to entertain.

6. Replacing Windows

Replacing your outdated windows with new ones is a good way to attract buyers and will get you back about 73 percent of what you spent at resale. If you live in a major city, you might even get back more than what you paid for your replacement windows when you sell. In desert climates, install low-e windows.

7. Replacing Your Garage Door

The average garage door replacement costs $3,611, and nets back $3,520, assuming it’s a two-car garage. A new garage door boosts curb appeal, making it one of the most valuable home updates in terms of ROI.

8. Exterior Door Replacement

Like new garage doors, new exterior doors boost your home’s curb appeal. 20-gauge steel doors also enhance your home’s security. The average exterior door replacement costs $1,826 and recoups $1,368.

9. New Siding

Your house can be the nicest one on the block in every other way, but if the siding is old and worn out, the whole house will look dilapidated. But installing new siding is like giving your home a facelift. For about $16,000, you can replace 1,250 feet of siding, and you’ll get back about 75 percent of that when you sell.

10. A Working Fireplace

If you have a working fireplace in your home, keep it. If you have a non-working fireplace in your home, it may be worth the cost of getting it in working order again. Each functioning fireplace in your home can add about 12 percent to its value.

Some home updates will improve your property value more than others. Before you start paying for home improvements, do your research and find out which ones will pay off the most when you put your home on the market. With careful planning and a little luck, you could get end up getting much more for your house than you’d hoped.

Spice Up Your Life | Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Potted Herbs

After several months of winter, many Nebraskans are crying out for some green to start peeking through the ground; but even though our favorite groundhog predicted an early Spring this year – the weathermen seem to be disagreeing with him. Don’t fret! With the right tools and a little bit of planning, you can enjoy fresh, year-round “greenery” grown right in your home.

There are several popular options for indoor gardening. Indoor veggie gardens or even the newly popular wall gardens have added to the ranks and upped the game of the average house plant. But a garden that is sure to please your ambiance and your culinary critic(s) is an herb garden.

Once you’ve decided to grow an indoor garden, the first problem to solve is whether you want to start your garden with seeds or seedlings. You can typically pick up herb seeds year-round from places like Campbell’s Nursery or Earl May. This time of year many local garden centers will start adding seedlings to their selection too!

Next find a container that offers proper drainage, but also jives with your interior decor. Size is important as well, be sure to check the package or do a quick Google search on what is recommended for your plant choices. (Don’t forget to check the back of your seed packet or the label in your seedling – they often provide this info.)

Plants need a good light source to grow properly. If you have a window in your kitchen, you are off to an awesome start. No window? No problem! There are a ton of affordable indoor grow light options that eliminate your garden’s need to be near a window. Local and online shops such as Amazon typically have several options to choose from.

After grabbing your soil mix and good organic garden fertilizer, you are ready to start your adventure. Gardening can be therapeutic and a terrific family activity, teaching all ages the values of patience and responsibility.

Starting an indoor herb garden has a ton of benefits, not to mention it’s easy! Visit our blog for more ideas and links to local and online offerings.

Love Your Oak Cabinets | Make Them One of a Kind

Kitchen with oak cabinetsIf you’re tired of looking at your boring oak cabinets, a little bit of elbow grease and a fresh coat of paint can help you fall in love with them again. According to Kesha Franklin of Halden Interiors, an interior design influencer, deeper blues and grays are popping up in modern and traditional kitchens this year.

We suggest Sherwin Williams Silverplate – a cozy gray that will give your cabinets new life. Here’s a quick run-down on what you’ll have to do to revamp those cabinets to fall in line with the trend.

First, you’ll want to degrease the surface to remove the remnants of your cooking experiments. A simple and eco-friendly solution of equal parts water and vinegar spritzed on the surface should do the trick. For surfaces needing a little extra help, add a couple drops of dish-washing liquid to the solution.

After you’ve cleared the surfaces of any grease and grime, it’s time to sand. Remove the hardware knobs from the cabinets. Then, start sanding – where the real elbow grease comes in. If you can’t get all of the glaze off, it’s not the end of the world. Do the best you can and get ready to prime them. Apply the bonding primer and prepare for the fun part, painting!

After priming, it generally takes two coats of fresh paint to get the job done. Let your cabinets dry and then hang them back up. Doing this project yourself will cost you around 1/5th of what it would cost to have it done professionally. New cabinets, a cool project, and saving money – what’s not to love?

2019 Kitchen Trends to Inspire the New You

An Updated Kitchen

At the start of the New Year, we contemplate how to better their lives. Often, this focus is centralized around food. Whether you’re taking up a culinary hobby (like learning to recreate your French patisserie favorites) or gaining a meal prep mantra, kitchen updates can put you in the right mindset to pursue your goals. Here are the kitchen trends we love for 2019.

The clean lines in industrial-style kitchens are cropping up in the new year. Shaker-style cabinets and cabinet walls compliment the sleek appearance while offering a host of storage options. Tuck away your new kitchen gadgets behind these cabinet doors. Compliment the updates with matte black hardware.

Intermingling raw materials can add elements of warmth to a seemingly “cold” kitchen. Stained wooden range hoods bring a feeling of comfort while you cook. Stone sinks will fit well into the color scheme and offer a large workspace for cleaning vegetables (hello, meal prep). Don’t forget about options glass offers. Glass shelves installed on otherwise bare walls adorned with personal touches is a quick update to add a bit of class. Replacing traditional pantry doors with fluted glass adds to the visual appeal.

Kitchen renovations can be extremely exciting, yet time-consuming. However, the updates we’re into for 2019 can be done somewhat quickly. You can choose to work in a few to add a freshness to your kitchen that wasn’t there before. One of the best things about a new year is that it’s a clean slate. Take this opportunity to improve your kitchen while you work on yourself, too. It’ll help keep you motivated longer when you have a beautiful kitchen to work from in your home.

Easy Ways to Store Christmas Decorations

Easy ways to store Christmas decorations.We all love decorating for the holidays: it’s cheerful, nostalgic, and just plain fun. But the aftermath? That can be a little less enthralling. This year take a few extra steps when storing your decorations after Christmas, and your sanity will thank you next year when it’s time to get them out again. These easy ideas will make holiday cleanup a breeze:

The Christmas Tree

It’s the focal point of all your decorating, but how do you store an artificial tree to ensure it lasts for years to come? First, saran wrap. Wrap the tree securely to keep dust off year-round. Then choose its storage place wisely. Try to make space for it on the same level of the house that you use it, instead of risking damage by hauling it up or down stairs or squeezing it into a tight attic space. No one will mind it in a guest bedroom or even an office.


Nothing can halt holiday cheer quite as quickly as tangled Christmas lights. Stop the frustration before it starts by wrapping strands on paper towel rolls. Or utilize an extra plastic hanger or two, then, simply hang them in a closet or storage room until next year. Plus, it doesn’t take any extra time than it does to roll them into the knot you’ll have to deal with next year. Take a look:

Use a plastic coat hanger to keep Christmas light strands tangle free.


Tree Ornaments

Before you splurge on the pricey products promising to keep your ornaments safe, consider a more frugal option. We’ve always loved the versatility of hanging shoe organizers, so why not use them for holiday décor? They’ll store ornaments neatly in a closet, but you can grab a few extra and use them to organize small gift bags, bows, ribbons, and gift tags.

Wrapping paper

It’s so easy and satisfying to stock up on wrapping paper once it hits the clearance rack after Christmas. But once the roll is opened, it can quickly become unrolled—turning that beautiful paper into a wrinkled disaster. Save some empty toilet paper rolls, and with one cut down the middle you can wrap them around wrapping paper tubes. A little tape will keep it secure and won’t harm the paper.

Utilize Totes

Lastly, do a little extra work and feel like an organizing guru. With the right tools, installing hanging tote organizers in the garage is an easy weekend project. Just keep the original boxes for the rest of your decorations, stack in a plastic tote, and hang them up with satisfaction until the next holiday season rolls around.

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