6 Ideas to Spice Up Your Outdoor Area on a Budget

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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.

Get away with a staycation

Winter staycation ideas in and around Nebraska.

If winter has you feeling stir crazy, you might be in need of a staycation. What exactly is a staycation? It’s a simple getaway—maybe for just a weekend—that’s just far enough from home to feel like an adventure. We have a list of fun-filled destinations that the whole family can enjoy:

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Any time of year is a great time to visit Mahoney State Park, but winter offers extra fun like skiing, ice skating, and sledding. The park itself is gorgeous for sightseeing, but you can warm up inside too. Mahoney has its own restaurant, cozy lodging, and indoor play area. You can also enjoy their theater productions and arts and crafts center.


Omaha is the perfect staycation destination for anyone in Southeast Nebraska (even if you already live in Omaha). The Ramada Plaza is a lovely hotel that houses the Coco Key Water Resort. It’s a booming indoor water park with lazy river tubing, plenty of slides, and a separate pool for the smaller kiddos. Plus your room fee includes entrance to the park. But while you’re in Omaha, make time for some great restaurants, like Joe’s Crab Shack, and the Henry Doorly Zoo, which is open every day except Christmas Day.

Lied Lodge

The Lied Lodge in Nebraska City is perfect for holiday get-togethers and family reunions. And they’re particularly festive during December. Head down now through December 30th and enjoy a holiday mansion tour with an array of vintage Christmas décor. You can also enjoy concerts, trolley car light tours, or a brunch meet-and-greet with Santa himself. Take a look at the dates and details.

Kansas City

Kansas City is the place to be, especially if you have little ones. The Great Wolf Lodge has adorable camping themed rooms, an indoor water park, arcades, and games. But when you’re read to dry off, there’s no shortage of fun to be had in the city. From shopping, to museums, LegoLand, and aquariums, Kansas City has it all, even the Federal Reserve Bank. Enjoy a refreshing vacation with memories that can’t be beat.

How to host your first holiday dinner

How to host your first holiday dinner.

First-time homeowners, unite! This is your year for finally hosting a holiday dinner. It’s a rite of passage, an honor, and also? Just a whole lot of fun. Don’t worry about stressing, just use these basic steps to turn your holiday hosting into an appetite-pleasing, perfectly decorated event that everyone can enjoy.

Start with a list.

You’ll need lists, lots of them. For starters, create a guest list. Then once you decide on a direction for the meal, make a grocery list. But don’t forget to keep a non-food list as well—you’ll want to include things like napkins and decorations (or even extra Tupperware). You can minimalize list stress by using an invitation service like www.evites.com. Electronically send invitations and then manage RSVPs.

Choose a style.

Your style is your own, and it should suit the guests you’re inviting as well. You can go five-star formal, or opt for a more low-key buffet style meal. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable with. If you have a huge gathering, there’s no shame in disposable plates to help with the cleanup. From five-star to buffet, a buffet warmer is staple that will serve your household for years to come. Consider your options here.

Buffet Warmer - great for hosting your first holiday dinner.

Self-Serve Drinks

Empower your guests by setting up a self-serve bar for drinks. It only takes a few kitchen staples and ingredients, and it allows you to focus on food and socializing and not refilling glasses. Plus, you can throw in a few decorations to make it an eye appealing focal point. Think of it like the office water cooler, a nice gathering place for guests.

Self-Serve Bar for Drinks - Holiday Hosting Idea


Don’t fret, decorating for your holiday meal doesn’t need to be a stressful event. A few things here and there will do plenty to set the mood. Remember holiday colors, and don’t forget the power of a few seasonal items like pine cones and tinsel. We happen to think that place cards are a delightful way to make your guests feel special, and this place card idea gives cranberries a fantastic use.

Holiday Place Holders - great for hosting holiday dinner

Most importantly, have fun! This is your home, your people, your meal. You have everything to enjoy, right in front of you. After dinner, switch on the fireplace or a good movie, and simply relish in a job well done.


Make holidays less stressful with a pre-Christmas cleanup

Make holidays less stressful with a pre-Christmas cleanup

The last thing you want to do during the holiday season is add yet another item to your list of things to do. But giving your home a solid declutter before Christmas will actually make the holidays less stressful. Everything runs better in a clean environment, so use this guide to tackle a few areas each day, and by the time Christmas Day is here you’ll be ready to relish in your accomplishments.

  • Start low. Under the bed is the perfect storage place for wrapping paper and other small items, so tidy it up now before it’s time to start storing.
  • Whether you’re traveling near or far for the holidays, a clean car will make commuting merrier. Clean out trash and give it a quick swipe with the vacuum. Keep it clean by hanging bags on the back of chairs for future trash.
  • Manage your coat closet for snow days by purging little-used or too-small outerwear. Put lighter jackets on one side and heavy coats on the other for easy grabbing.
  • Then head to the rest of your closets. It doesn’t need to be an all-day project, but do get rid of anything you haven’t worn in a few months. Consider an inexpensive organizer for shoes or even socks.
  • You’ll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen, so make it an enjoyable place to be by decluttering the fridge. Make space for your favorite dishes in the fridge, and clean up the storage bins and shelving.
  • Next, tackle the junk drawer. It’s easy to close the drawer and ignore the mess, but it’s even easier to clean it once and organize it for life with silverware trays. This might be the least fun task, but trust us, it’s worth it.
  • Tupperware is a holiday staple if you want to send guests home with leftovers, or take Tupperware with you for your own leftovers. Organize your Tupperware stash and finally toss those extra lids. Then find a good sale on a new Tupperware sets to permanently “loan” to hungry friends and family.
  • While the kids are home from school, clean out their backpacks and start fresh in January. Take a few extra minutes to clean out purses and wallets too.
  • Christmas break is a great time to cuddle and watch movies, so make sure yours are organized. Get each DVD back in its original case, and weed out any movies you don’t watch anymore.
  • Take a deep breath … and then tackle the toy room. Purging is absolutely necessary before the kids bring in their haul of new Christmas toys. Chances are they won’t even notice what’s gone.
  • Finally, the key to a good declutter is giving back. Don’t just toss your hard work in the trash; donate it to a good cause. You can enjoy your clean home, and others will enjoy your generosity.
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