Top 5 Spring Break Ideas for Families Around Phoenix

Lounging by the pool, exploring the city and just spending time with family. For many, this is the ideal spring break. However, it’s hard to know the best way to spend your short amount of time and get the best bang for your buck. Spending spring break in Phoenix means having near-perfect weather while also having access to water activities, sports and so much more. Whether you’re planning on going big this spring break or keeping it low-key, we’ve got the rundown on the best things to do for families around Phoenix. Here’s our list of the top 5 spring break ideas to do in Phoenix that are sure to bring smiles to every member of the family:

Stay at a resort that has something for everyone

One of the best ways to be sure everyone has a good time is finding a resort that has a little bit of everything. The Arizona Grand Resort & Spa is just one of the options that will make this spring break the best one. First, let’s start with the fact that this resort is near family-friendly Phoenix attractions and entertainment including the South Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Zoo and dozens of restaurants. However, for those who want an all-inclusive experience, this resort also has an 18-hole golf course, luxury spa and a seven-acre waterpark. Get a private cabana and enjoy the endless amenities while the kids play in the wave pool. The resort also has six dining options if you want to stay close to your room.

Spend a day at the lake

Many are surprised that Phoenix is surrounded by beautiful lakes perfect for cooling off and water sports. One of the most popular is Saguaro Lake, about 45-minutes from Phoenix in Tonto National Forest. This lake is popular for not only its views, but the activities that come with it. At Saguaro Lake you can rent a boat, kayak or even go Salt River tubing through the desert landscape. Bring a waterproof camera, as you may spot some of the area’s famous wild courses that hang around the river. While in the mountains, take a cruise on the Desert Belle and see what the area’s really about. Some cruises even include live music or wine, how can you beat that?Finish off the day watching the sunset in the Usery Mountain Regional Park on one of the many trails with stunning views of the desert.

Have a wild time at Wildlife World

Going to the zoo may sound the obvious choice, however, the Wildlife World Aquarium & Safari Park is something your family shouldn’t miss. With a giraffe feeding station, loray parrot feeding and more wildlife encounters, photos from this spring break will be epic. Be sure to hop on the skyride for a birds-eye view of the park. Other rides include an Australian boat ride, family-friendly roller coaster and zip line. After your safari adventure, try the delicious Dillon’s world-famous K.C.-style BBQ with a stunning view of the aquarium while dining.

Make it to a game or two

Phoenix is a destination for sporting events that bring millions of fans to the desert escape. One of the most popular sporting events each year is Cactus League Spring Training, where MLB teams around the country come to practice for the season. Whether you’re a fan of the Diamondbacks hometeam, Chicago Cubs or another baseball team, you can see them right here in the Valley of the Sun. Stadiums are located in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe with games available nearly everyday into March. Be sure to get your tickets early and check the site for special promotions.

Don’t forget desert

If you’re thinking of day trips outside of Phoenix, Sedona is a must-see with things to do for the whole family. While on the way to the red rock town, make a stop at Rock Springs Cafe in Black City Canyon, about an hour drive north of Phoenix. With the best pie in the state and local shopping, this is the perfect stop on the way out of the city. Once in Sedona, the family will love hiking the famous Cathedral Rock trail. You’ll also want to check out the Pink Jeep Tours, which give a variety tours around the rugged yet peaceful land. One of the most popular Pink Jeep Tours will even take guests to ancient ruins, giving a bit of a history lesson on your spring break adventure. Then, treat yourself again to prickly pear ice cream (or dozens of other flavors) at Black Cow Cafe. Or, have dinner at the dozens of restaurants lining the city’s charming streets.

Now that you have the breakdown on what’s hot to do in Phoenix this spring break, get booking. These are activities you don’t want to miss out on. Don’t forget the swimsuit and sunscreen and have a blast!

By: Jeremy Alderman, ZOG Digital

How to Make Your Home Pet Friendly

Pets are more than just animals. Our furry, feathered, and finned friends require time, attention, and as safe and comfortable a home as we do. “Most people don’t think about pets when buying or building houses—not even the pet owners themselves,” says David Beart of, a Canadian company that will start building “the world’s most pet-friendly house” at the end of this year. “Over half of all homes have pets living in them, but animals are still an afterthought when it comes to home improvements,” says Beart. “What I really want to get across is much more than just creating the world’s most pet-friendly house,” Beart adds. “It’s about making people think of pets with importance rather than as possessions, or even disposable.”

When you’re planning a home for both you and your pets, consider their particular needs. Think about whether you’re putting your door-dashing dog on a high-traffic street. Will your protective pup go postal on guests? How can you make your multi-story home comfortable for your elderly dog? What common household items are hazardous to pets and not humans? (Last year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances and hazardous things in their own homes.) Keep reading to learn what you should be looking for, and how a little planning can go a long way to help you streamline your daily routine and keep your pet safe and happy.

All-Fours Inspection

Try to think like your pet to get a sense of what might be dangerous to them. The pros at Purina suggest that the best way to start is by taking “a puppy’s eye-view” of things. You have to put yourself in your pet’s place—and get down on all fours—to take a look around. Make sure you inspect areas that your pet can access by way of climbing or jumping. You’d be surprised at the dangers a periodic inspection of your home can reveal. Here are some hazards to look for (although they may not be all you find):

•Look for choking, strangulation, electrocution, and suffocation hazards. Keep window treatment cords short and cut through any loops, and unplug or cover wires and electrical cords.

•Don’t leave human foods and medications where pets can access them. Eliminate “ladders” that curious pets can climb to access elevated areas like countertops and tabletops. Discard perishable trash daily to keep pets from rummaging through it. Between trips to the curb, keep trash odors (and pet temptation) low with baking soda and a tight-fitting lid. One pet-owner favorite is the stainless steel and rubber Vipp Trash Can with foot-pedal.

If pets get into the trash, they can chew chicken bones into shards, get to choking hazards like fruit seeds and cores—and your house is going to be a mess. Note that many fruit seeds contain natural contaminants that can result in potentially fatal cyanide poisoning in dogs: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, caffeine in coffee grinds and chocolate are also toxic, sugar-free foods and gums containing Xylitol can cause liver failure, and nutmeg can cause tremors, seizures, and central nervous system damage. See the ASPCA’s list of Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet.

•Make sure indoor plants are varieties that are pet-safe. Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. Other common, but toxic, plants include amaryllis, poinsettia, mums, and aloe vera. See the ASPCA’s database of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants before bringing a new plant home.

•Pets can often maneuver cupboards open to access home cleaning products, pesticides, fertilizers, and other hazardous items. Consider latching them shut. Keep rooms where you set out rodenticides and traps off limits to your pet.

•Not letting your pet ingest antifreeze seems like a no-brainer. But, the smell and taste of the stuff is especially appealing to both cats and dogs. In fact, approximately 10,000 pets die every year as a result of antifreeze poisoning from as little as a drop. Keep it stored in a latched cabinet or on a high shelf, and use it carefully, cleaning up any drips or spills immediately.

•Keep your toilet lid down, especially if you use automatic bowl cleaners, to eliminate risk of poisoning. Keeping the lid down also eliminates a drowning hazard.

•The number of cats that fall out of windows is so high, that the veterinary profession has coined the term High-Rise Syndrome. If you must open windows, make sure that screens are sturdy and properly installed. Window guards are not adequate protection for cats, who can easily fit through the bars.

Carving Out a Space

Kittens and pups will sneak into an opened dryer (or other small, dangerous places) the first chance they get. Give them their own space and you won’t have to worry about them seeking refuge where they don’t belong. A hazard-free zone, with a cozy bed, water source, and safe toys will do the trick. Other convenient features include a sink to wash feeding bowls, and adequate storage for accessories. Remember that well-exercised pets are less likely to get into trouble, and more likely to rest well at night instead of barking or whining for attention. If it’s possible, create a pet area in a mudroom with cat or doggy door access to a fenced-in yard, corral, or dog run so that they can head outdoors at their leisure.

Litter boxes should be placed away from feeding areas and in a place that’s private, but not too isolated. If your pet doesn’t feel safe or comfortable using a litter box, he won’t. Elderly pets should be given an area on the ground level, and weepads should be accessible. Consider placement of ramps to furniture if you allow your elderly pet that kind of access. If you’re not home for most of the day, you’re presented with a special set of concerns: Consider a pet fountain so that fresh water is readily available. Leave your pet with sturdy toys that won’t break to reveal small parts. Interactive treat toys made of high-impact plastic, like the Buster Cube from Doctors Foster and Smith, will keep your pets occupied and stay in one piece. If your pet is especially curious, consider crate training him or blocking off a small, safe area with a baby gate.

Paw-Safe Flooring and Fabrics

Go with fabrics and flooring materials that’ll make less work for you. Stylish, easy-care leather or ultrasuede can be wiped clean and won’t be dramatically affected by wear. Crypton Super Fabric is a synthetic germ- and stain-resistant option made with pet owners in mind. It’s available in a variety of custom colors and patterns and the Crypton online store offers couture pet beds, “Throver” furniture covers, and decorative pillows.

Carpet isn’t the best choice for pet owners, but if you must go wall-to-wall, choose a color that matches your pet (it’ll mask pet hair) with a performance rating of 3.5 or higher. For lightweight dogs, hardwood with adequate urethane finish is a common and easy-clean choice. For heavier dogs, ceramic tile or another nonporous hard surface flooring would be best.

Clean Pet, Clean House

Groom your pet yourself, and you’ll save up to $100 per visit to pros. You’ll also spend less time cleaning house. Regular nail clipping keeps scratch damage down, while regular brushing keeps hair in the brush instead of, well, everywhere else. Brush before and after a wash to keep drain-clogging hair to a minimum. Vacuum twice a week with a machine like the DC17 Animal Vac by Dyson designed especially for homes with pets. It features a mini turbine head to lift hair and dirt from upholstery, stairs, and vehicles. The design allows for hygienic bin emptying and includes a lifetime HEPA filter. For a quick clean up, pass strips of packing tape or a wet plastic kitchen glove over clothing and surfaces to pick up stray hairs.

If your pet inherits furniture and flooring that isn’t ideal, then you’ll have to become a master at stain removal and disinfecting. Monitor your pet so accidents can be handled promptly. The longer a stain sits, the harder it’ll be to remove, and your pet will be more likely to sniff out the same spot for a repeat offense. Look for special cleaning products with natural enzymes to break down stains and odors. Pros recommend OdorLogic CleanAway and OdorLogic OxyQuick (for fresh stains). Finally, pay attention to flea and tick prevention and control. If the pests are on your pet, then odds are flea eggs, pupae, and larvae are in your carpeting, bedding, and yard.

Petscaping Your Yard

If you let your pets out into the yard, flea and tick prevention isn’t your only concern. You’ll have to determine whether you need to build or add structures, install invisible fences, and identify toxic plants in your landscape. The ASPCA keeps an extensive database of plants that are hazardous to dogs, cats, and even horses. Some such plants are azaleas, some ferns and ivies, daffodils, and daylilies. Pet-friendly plants include bamboo and, of course, catnip. Search the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants database before you put something in the ground. Insecticides and fertilizers were among the ASPCA’s top 10 pet poisons in 2008, so consider organic gardening.

Feeding Time

Buying bulk to save on pet food? Then you have to store it appropriately to avoid contamination and slow the vitamin and nutrient degradation process. Check for tears in food packages before you buy them. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) advises against using feeding dishes to scoop food out of packages. Assign a clean spoon or small container for scooping. FDA guidelines for food storage call for leftover wet food to be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and dry food to be stored in its original bag, then placed in a clean, food-grade plastic container, and stored at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Placing the bag in a container will also keep unwanted insects and rodents away. Note that dry foods are more nutritious and less susceptible to contamination or spoilage than wet foods are.

Storing bulk food in large trash cans in the garage is a fairly common practice, but this exposes food to temperature extremes in a container that can leach dyes and additives into food over time. Make sure you purchase a special food storage container, or visit a local food establishment to claim a food-grade plastic bucket that’ll soon be headed for the trash heap.

Small Animals

“Too often parents buy small pets and fish for their children as learning tools, but those pets are even more fragile than cats and dogs,” Beart explains. “The average lifespan of a hamster, for example, is about 3 years. In many homes, the pet hardly ever lasts more than a few months.” Here are some helpful tips that’ll ensure the safety and longevity of your small pets:


•They tend to be active at night and asleep during the day. For that reason, you’ll want make sure your pet’s exercise wheel isn’t a squeaky one.

•Provide at least 2 inches of bedding to allow for normal burrowing behavior. Use shredded tissue or paper, or clean processed corncob. Commonly used cedar chips are associated with respiratory and live disease in rodents. Clean cages and refresh bedding at least once a week.

•Many hamsters must be kept in cages by themselves after the age of 10 weeks. Adult females are especially hostile to one another, so do your homework before you consider grouping.

Guinea Pigs

•Their bodies cannot produce Vitamin C, so you’ll have to supplement it with an appropriate product from your pet supply store.

•Guinea pig’s teeth grow constantly, so chew toys are essential.


•They actually learn litter box habits quickly and easily. Keep in mind that they like to chew and may hide in small, dark spaces. When you allow your pet time out of his cage for exercise, consider cord protectors, securely cover ducts and vents, and always locate your pet before sitting down and opening and closing recliners.


6 Garage Door Security Tips to Prevent Break-Ins

You have checked and double-checked all the windows and doors to make sure they are closed and locked and activated all the passive security systems in your home, but the garage is often an overlooked gateway for thieves. If your garage is attached to your home—or if you keep anything of value in that area—you should implement these tactics to keep trespassers out.

1. Use Your Garage

Park your car in the garage when it is not being used or if you are leaving by other means. Many people leave their garage door remote in their car, and all it takes is something like a broken window in your car to give a thief access to your home. If you are parking outside of the garage, get in the habit of bringing your garage door opener into the house with you.

2. Use a Door Devil

If your garage has a side door, thieves can kick it in. That’s where devices like Door Devil come in handy. These doorstops screw into the ground and prevent your door from being compromised. You can install a Door Devil or similar product on other exterior doors in your home to heighten your security, too.

3. Keep Windows Frosted

People who can see into your garage are a lot more likely to try to break in. If you have garage door windows, use a frosted spray paint to increase privacy, or install shades to prevent anyone from peeking inside.

4. Keep It In Good Condition

Make sure the garage door is properly functioning and that there is no damage to the panels through which a thief could access your home. If your garage door is falling apart, it’s that much easier for people to break in. You should install a metal or solid wooden garage door, so it’s strong enough to stand up to thieves.

5. Install Motion Sensing Lights

Keeping your garage well-lit will deter thieves. You can shop for awesome motion sensing lights that do everything from basic motion detection to alerting you through an app when its light flicks on. To keep a complete eye on your garage, take a look at home security cameras too

6. Keep It Contained

Do not leave important items in the garage and make sure to lock the door to your home. If thieves do break into the garage, you want to make sure that is all they can access. Place a deadbolt and anti-kick device on the door that leads to the garage.


5 Budget Friendly Curb Appeal Projects

Curb appeal is the first impression that any potential buyer receives, so you should ensure that the front of your home, from the curb to the front door, is in the best shape possible—even if you don’t have the budget to splurge on huge upgrades and services.

Follow these five easy and cost-effective suggestions to improve the curb appeal of your home:

1. Glam the Front Door

Adding pizzazz to your home’s front entrance is an easy, low-cost way to up your home’s curb appeal. Try painting your door a pretty hue that coordinates with your home’s color. “Make sure there is a contrast between the front door and the facade of the home,” says Kristine Ginsberg, owner of Elite Staging and Redesign in Morris County, N.J. If your house is gray or white with black shutters, consider painting the front door red, she suggests. Other ways to beautify your home’s exterior are adding appealing house numbers to your entrance and hanging a pretty wreath on the door. For extra pop, place a potted plant or two by the front entrance.

2. Manicure the Lawn

Tending to your lawn is a do-it-yourself task that can add instant curb appeal to your home. Get out the lawn mower, cut the grass regularly and conquer those weeds. “I think it’s always a great idea to edge your lawn for a professional look,” Kristine suggests. If you need to green your lawn in a hurry for an open house or for showings to potential buyers, you can spray your lawn with a green lawn spray paint that’s especially formulated for grass, is nontoxic and is environmentally safe. You can do it yourself, or hire a professional lawn painting service.

3. Wash Off Dirt

Turn the nozzle on your garden hose to its strongest setting and use the water to blast dirt and debris off sidewalks, your driveway and the front of your home. Be careful not to dislodge or get any water underneath your home’s siding. You could rent a power washer at an extra cost, but you probably don’t need to go to the trouble — a simple garden hose can do the job, and a power washer can be too powerful and could damage siding. “If you do use a power washer, don’t put it close to windows or doorways,” suggests Stephen Boehler, owner of Mr. Handyman of NE Monmouth County in New Jersey. “The pressure can remove caulk and other materials sealing your home.”

4. Tidy Up the Driveway

Buyers won’t be impressed by your garbage or recycling containers, so store those on the side of the house (preferably behind a bush, a small fence or a screen) or in the garage. Take care of minor cracks in your driveway by patching or resealing it yourself. Determine how much sealant you’ll need by using the length and width of your driveway to calculate its square footage. Then match that up against the product’s use recommendations. “Plan on getting 10 percent extra because some areas will absorb more than others,” Stephen says. “You can always return unopened pails of sealer.” Stash your car in the driveway or down the block to give your driveway and the approach to your home a neater appearance.

5. Trim Trees and Bushes

Your home needs to be visible from the curb in order to have curb appeal, so cut overgrown bushes and trees, removing branches that block walkways, windows, the driveway and views of the home from the street. “People need to see the front of the house,” says Kristine. Except for very large tree limbs, you most likely can use a pair of hedge or pruning shears for the job. If you don’t have your own pair of shears, look into borrowing a set from a friend or neighbor to keep costs down.

Implement these simple and cost-efficient ideas to help spruce up your home’s exterior and attract potential buyers.


How Does the New Tax Law Impact Homeownership?

New tax laws will affect income taxes filed in 2019, so it is important to be aware of what changes could potentially affect you.

The Mortgage Interest Deduction:

  • For mortgages taken out after December 15, 2017, only interest on up to $750,000 in acquisition debt is deductible ($375,000 if married filing separately)- includes primary and second homes

  • Interest on up to $1,000,000 in acquisition debt incurred on or before December 15, 2017 is still deductible ($500,000 if married filing separately)

  • The $1,000,000 limit ($500,000 if married filing separately) will still apply to anyone who refinances existing qualified residence debt that was incurred before December 15, 2017 to the extent the new loan does not exceed the old loan

  • Acquisition debt is ANY debt incurred in acquiring, constructing or substantially improving a qualified residence and is secured by the residence

The interest deduction on home equity debt is eliminated

  • This is any debt that is secured by a qualified residence other than acquisition debt

  • Interest on HELOCs used to purchase a qualified residence is deductible to the extent that the loan is used to purchase the property (making it acquisition debt)

No changes will be made to the current law that excludes capital gains on the sale of a home.

The standard tax deduction will nearly double for single files from $6,350 to $12,000, for joint filers from $12,700 to $24,000, and for heads of household from $9,350 to $18,000.

The new law eliminates the deduction for personal exemptions and the personal exemption phase-out.

State and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax (in the aggregate) will now be limited to a maximum deduction of $10,000.

The current mortgage revenue bonds and mortgage credit certificates (MCCs) are preserved under the new tax law.

Source: IRS

Weekend Guide to Scottsdale, AZ

The desert towns can seem dreadful to some. Sure, you can fry an egg or two on the asphalt in the summer (which you really should not eat if you ever try), and yes, you need sunscreen often through the year, but most people get quite shocked once they give desert towns a shot. Even the look of the buildings has a different, vintage and nostalgic look that you can’t find anywhere else. Everything down to the plant life can show people that different worlds are out there. Scottsdale, Arizona is one of those amazing towns that embodies and exceeds the example of a fantastic desert city. Located on the eastside of Arizona, there are so many fun things to do in Scottsdale that will capture your attention and have you coming back for more! Here is just a tiny list of the commodities Scottsdale can offer.

McCormick and Stillman Railroad Park

The nostalgia of the town will hit you right away when you visit the McCormick and Stillman Railroad park. Prepare to have your interest in trains re-invoked from when you were a kid. Operated by the city of Scottsdale Parks & Recreation department, this 30-acre park will offer more train joy than one can handle. Try out their centerpiece of the park: the Paradise & Pacific Railroad. It is built and operated as an exact 5:12 reproduction of a Colorado narrow gauge railroad! You can also take it slow with the Scottsdale Charros Carousel.  If you are looking for a real awesome experience, on Saturdays and Sundays from October to May, they will allow guests to ride the Arboretum Train. This will run right through their desert arboretum to make for an incredible experience.

Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain might just be the perfect getaway if you are looking for an outdoors seclusion from the world. Be warned, the trails can get steep. I’m sure you are wondering why they call it Camelback Mountain. It’s as simple as you can guess. The mountain resembles a kneeling camel with its hump and head protruding up. It really is quite the sight when you look at it, but nothing is more beautiful than the view it offers. If you decide to take its 1.2-mile summit trail, you will find yourself reaching an elevation of 2,707 feet. This is known as one of the most scenic hiking spots in the city! As rewarding as it is, make sure to be prepared. The hike can be quite steep.

Big Surf

Say you hit the hike in the morning, you might be a little worn out from the heat. You might want to cool off. What better way than with a gorgeous water park? Located about 6 miles from Scottsdale is Big Surf Waterpark. Big Surf is known for being the first water park in the United States to have a wave pool. All you need to do is gather up the family and hop in your weekend rental car or family-owned vehicle and drive about 15 min south. Obviously, they have done something right because know it is widely adapted everywhere! Find yourself zipping through their abundant choices of water slides or relaxing on the grassy areas getting some sun. No matter, you will find it refreshing to soak in the sun and take a dip in the water.

OdySea Aquarium

Okay, maybe jumping into the water gets old after a while, but one thing that never gets old is observing sea life. In Scottsdale, there is the OdySea Aquarium. It just happens to be the largest aquarium on the Southwest of the United States, holding in more than 2 million US gallons of water! You can see all types of marine life and explore their Aqua lobby. It is incredible to see nine massive 1,000 pound globe-shaped aquariums hanging overhead. It really is something that will drop your jaw to the floor. IF you are over the age of 21, you can even check out their Nightlife after hours adventure under the sea event. Bring your friends, or a special date, and enjoy live music, a five-course dinner, cocktails, behind the scenes tours and much more during this amazing nighttime event.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Come explore your interpretation of art by yourself or with friends at the Scottsdale Museum of contemporary art. With more than 40 years of experience, the museum is completely dedicated to exhibiting modern art, design, and architecture. Sounds like a perfect place to wind down after an eventful weekend. If you really want to dive in, the museum offers a great selection of educational classes that can teach anyone from young and old about art and creativity. It really is a good way to get out there and make some friends that share the same interest in you. You might take it more seriously when you find out there are more than 50,000 children and adults that the museum engages with.

Scottsdale, Arizona is a magnificent desert city filled with very creative and explorative things to do. Whether you live there or are just visiting for the weekend, you will find yourself falling in love with the desert more and more as you traverse the weekend and it’s desert glory. Have fun!


By: Jeremy Alderman, ZOG Digital


5 Budget-Friendly Ways to Remodel a Bathroom

Is your bathroom looking a little outdated? Although we all love to drool over images of gorgeous designer bathrooms, we may not have the budget to go all-out when the time comes to spruce up our own washrooms. Fortunately, giving your bathroom a new look doesn’t require a complete overhaul. Take a look at some ideas for remodeling that will help revive your bathroom without breaking the bank.

1. Paint

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for a bathroom in need of an upgrade.  By choosing a completely different color palette, you can even make your old space feel like new. Whether you decide to play it safe or go bold, be sure that you use mold-proof paint. Because of the humidity, mold is the most common issue in every bathroom. You can also use new paint to refresh your dated bathroom cabinets. In addition to painting the bathroom, re-caulk the lines around the tub and sink and clean the grout between your tiles. This will make look your bathroom extra “fresh”!

2. Tile

Remodeling a bathroom often means replacing old tile with expensive new tile that looks gorgeous. But if you want to cut your budget, cutting the expensive tile is your first step.  Consider limiting the amount of tile in your bathroom by focusing on high-impact areas such as the floor and use a larger tile size and simple patterns first. Another alternative is to save by designing a “rug” with just a few square feet of something fancy and eye catching, and using large-format field tiles in a coordinating stone around it.

3. Countertops

If you have a limited amount of counter space, you won’t break the bank by installing granite or other solid-surface counters.  To save even more, consider looking at various color choices and slabs with imperfections. Consider alternative colors that will still look nice, but that you hadn’t previously considered.

4. Fixture Updates 

If you don’t have the funds to spend on a custom vanity, don’t fret. A simple model can look one-of-a-kind with some pretty hardware. While these changes may seem small or insignificant, they can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your bathroom. Try a vintage or specialty store to find hardware that is unique.

5. Bathtub 

Once a bathtub is installed in a bathroom, getting it out is usually expensive. Although a new tub doesn’t have to be pricey the process of removing the old one, hiring a plumber to reattach the pipes and installing the new bathtub can add up to $3,000. If your bathtub is in good shape but its beauty has faded, consider refinishing. You can reglaze a bathtub to a like-new finish for $200 to $300 or hire a professional for $500-700 to get it looking as good as new.

5 Great Entertaining Features in a Home

Having a home that supports your activities makes all the difference in hosting an event which you can enjoy along with your family, friends, and guests. No matter the size of your home, introducing just a few easy elements can transform it into an entertaining haven.

Here are five key features that make a home ideal for entertaining:

  1. An Inviting Entryway

The entryway is the first impression your guests have of your home, so make it inviting and functional. No need to be over-the-top, but make sure it’s sizable enough to allow guests to enter comfortably and to remove their coats and shoes. If you have room add a lovely bench and have a coat rack readily available for guest.

  1. An Open Floor Plan

Over the past decade, an increasingly popular home trend has been an “open floor plan.” Essentially, this means an open space in the heart of your home, which creates a sense of togetherness throughout homes and make it easier to communicate. This open space gives plenty of room for guests to mingle, while not feeling closed off from any part of the party. If your house doesn’t have an open floorplan, don’t worry. Just clear out larger pieces of furniture, such as side tables, to make room for your guests.

  1. Multiple Seating areas

Entertaining is all about creating a comfortable space for guests to mingle and converse. The best entertainment environments maximize seating, creating large group and intimate seating arrangements for all types of conversations.Some guests may prefer to be in the center of all the action, while others may prefer a quieter area to catch up with friends. Having more than one space to entertain creates an atmosphere of easy interaction with a variety of choices. A living room with a grouping of couches and comfortable chairs is a perfect fit. A versatile dining area with neutral furnishings work well with all types of decorations, while extendable tables accomodate parties of all sizes.

  1. A Powder Room

While you may not notice this feature on a daily basis, a bathroom becomes noticeably important when entertaining! You can transform any half bath into a powder room by adding a small basket that holds lotion, hairspray or anything else someone may find themselves needing during a visit to your home. Powder rooms not only provide guests their own comfortable space, they’re wonderful opportunities to play around with decor by adding candles and special occasion hand towels or by using a bold wall color or artwork.

  1. Mood Lighting

Good lighting is everything when it comes to making a home feel inviting and cozy. Proper mood lighting is about making your guests feel comfortable while still being able to see each other. Play around with different types of lighting for adaptable levels of light and don’t forget to add candles for that extra coziness factor.



7 Ways to Make Your Home Brighter

The winter may bring darker and cloudier days ahead, but with the seven tips below you can make your home look brighter, more cheerful and inviting:

1 Take the Screens Off Your Windows

You’ll get 30% more sunlight shining indoors without screens on your windows.

Here’s the best part: Sunlight warms your room and saves you money on your heating bill. It’s solar power — for you!

Be sure to store your screens in your garage or basement where they won’t get damaged. In the spring you’ll want to put them back on so you can keep that 30% of the sun out and run your cooling system less.

2 Hang Outdoor String Lights Indoors

They don’t give off a lot of light, but they’re cheerful as heck.

Drape them around a window or a mantel, or hang a string of LED glimmer lights in a tall potted plant. They’ll add a layer of soft light to your room and remind you of fireflies, flip-flops, and patio parties.

3 Change Your Bulbs

Replace those incandescent bulbs and their yellowy light with LEDs, which produce a brighter, whiter light.

But get your bright right:

  • The higher the K rating on the bulb, the cooler and whiter its light.

  • For cool, white light, opt for a bulb rated 3,500K to 4,100K.

  • For blue-white light that’s closest to natural daylight, use a bulb between 5,000K and 6,500K.

4 Hang Mirrors

Make the most of that weak winter light by bouncing it around the room with mirrors.

If you don’t want the distraction of seeing your reflection all the time, use a large, convex one — also known as a fish-eye mirror. It will amplify light better than a flat one. Another option: Hang a gallery wall of small mirrors.

5 Replace Heavy Curtains With Blinds or Roman Shades

Fabric curtains, while quite insulating, block light and make a room feel smaller and more cramped, especially if they’re a dark color or have a large print.

Try Roman shades or a simple valance paired with blinds to let in the maximum amount of natural light.

6 Swap Your Solid Front Door for One With Glass Inserts

A solid front door can make your house look and feel as dark as a dungeon.

Get rid of it and install a half-light or full-light door that lets the natural light stream in. For even more natural light, add glass sidelights and a glass transom.

The median cost of a new door is $2,000 for steel and $2,500 for fiberglass, before any extras, but a new door will add curb appeal.

Curb appeal equals higher resale value. And coming home in the evening to the warm glow of light radiating out the glass panels in your front door is an instant mood lifter.

7 Add Plants

Putting pots of plants around your room will remind you that spring and green will return.

Match plants to the amount of light you have, because dead and dying plants are depressing. Tropicals that thrive in indirect light are usually the best choice. If you have a sunny window you’ve got more plant options.

Bonus points for adding a plant that blooms in the winter, like a kaffir lily or anthurium.


Source: “,

What to Do When Your Home Isn’t Selling

Have you tried to sell your house before and it just wouldn’t sell? Or maybe you are thinking of selling your home and this is your worst fear? Having a house that has seen minimal movement on the market is especially frustrating. If your home doesn’t sell it is time to take a step back, asses the situation and think about what the problem is. Ask yourself: why would  a buyer choose your home over all the other homes for sale?

Here are 6 things you can do:

1. Understand the Market

It’s important to have a good understanding about the real estate market. Consult with an experienced real estate agent that knows your area to determine the sales price. Don’t rely on your emotions and sweet memories to come up with a price. Instead price by comparing your house with other homes that are selling, sold or just went under contract. A key factor to selling a house is to know if the current market favor buyers or sellers. Perhaps things just aren’t moving quickly in the current market. If the market is hot, your agent should discuss with you the next options.

2. Price Your Home to Sell

Beyond the temperature of the market and your marketing efforts, the most likely factor when it comes to a lack of offers on a home is price. Properties sell when they are priced correctly. If the price is too high, you won’t get any offers and your home will sit on the market. Obviously you don’t just want to give away your house, but the value of your home is determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for it.

3. Pump up the Marketing and Advertising

If you have had a lot of showings with no offers, it is most likely a pricing issue. However if you are having very little activity,  it can be a pricing or marketing issue. Check if your house is being marketed on all the major websites and a combination of different marketing efforts are used. Four-color postcards to surrounding homes in the neighborhood, Open Houses on the weekends, virtual tours and and lots of photos are the bare minimum! You want to let everyone know that your house is on the market and what gem it is, so spread the message in person with your neighbors and online through websites and social media.

4. Take Many and Quality Photos

Speaking of marketing: a major factor in buyers’ decision to go look at a house is quality pictures. Too often there are photos out there with too much clutter, reflections of people in the mirror, open toilet lids and dark rooms. Unless you are a pro, don’t take pictures yourself. Hire a professional photographer instead who can shoot wide angles pictures with plenty of light showcasing your home’s best features.

5. Improve Your Home

It might not be what you want to hear, but maybe people aren’t buying because they don’t like what you are selling. It doesn’t have to be a total make-over and huge repairs, but often just a little touch up can improve the whole vibe of the house. Fresh paint (neutral colors) and a clean, decluttered home would be your best bet. If your house is vacant and you can afford staging, go for it!

6. Interview Other Real Estate Agents

If your agent isn’t responsive or doesn’t have a good explanation for why your property isn’t selling, then you might want to consider a new real estate agent. Search for experience in an agent not only by who has been in the business for many years, but also who has sold a lot of homes. Ask your family and friends with whom they have worked with and had good experience before and they might be able to give you referrals.


By: Patricia Madigan