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4 easy ways to make your home look and feel more wintry

It only comes around once a year but it truly is the most wonderful time when it does: the holiday season. Whether it's the delicious food, the camaraderie of friends and family or giving and receiving gifts, the activities that define the season are unlike any other. And a great way to get into the spirit is by decking the halls with some of the signature symbols of glad tidings, such as tinsel, wreaths, twinkle lights and miniature villages.

Once the holidays are over and the aftermath of presents and parties are cleaned away, you may take the holiday-themed ornaments and lights down, but you don't have to let go of the wintry revelry. When the weather is frigid and frightful, here are a few simple ways you can make your home look and feel warm and delightful.

1. Craft an outdoorsy vase

The key to adding winter festivity is keeping the cold air out but letting in the look that this time of year is known for, which can be found just outside your window. As detailed by lifestyle blogger Julie Blanner, a birch vase may be just the thing to use as a centerpiece for a post-holiday dinner or merely to place on end table for decoration. To put the piece together, you'll need a small log, tri-flute drill bit, saw and sandpaper. You can use it to go over a thin glass vase or as a vase all on its own, filled with holly branches or winter-themed flowers such as snowdrops, pansies or winter honeysuckle.

2. Design a hot cocoa "bar"

A pot of freshly brewed coffee is often the first thing people fire up on a frosty morning, but an ideal replacement is hot chocolate or cocoa. To make each cup extra special and welcoming for yourself or your family, you may want to design a space that can enhance the sweet and delicious ambience. Pen + Paper Flowers has a mockup version you can use as a template, which features a painted wooden sign, wooden bases for placing creamers and containers and a rack with accompanying mugs. You can make it as extravagant or as simple as you'd like.

3. Set up a scenic winter tablescape

One of the more popular ways to celebrate the holiday season is with those villages that arts and crafts stores sell, many of which have certain themes like Charles Dickens or Charlie Brown. But you don't need to go to extravagant lengths to make a table look wintry. All you need is some evergreen garland or tree scraps (most tree lots are more than happy to let you rummage through the tree trimmings and scraps), battery-powered twinkle lights and evergreen tree ornaments. Given that you may see these snow-covered evergreens just outside your window, they make for eye-catching kitchen and end table settings that can be used in the months after November and December.

4. Make a DIY snowflake

Perhaps nothing is more synonymous with winter than the white stuff that can come in flurries or sheets - snowflakes. It's fitting that no two snowflakes are the same, because the same can be said for how you create them or from what you make them. The Crafted Sparrow offers some suggestions for where to begin. After you collect the necessary supplies, putting it together should take between 45 and 60 minutes. All you'll need is some wooden blocks, white acrylic (or chalky finish paint) a foam brush pre-crafted wooden snowflakes (typically available at arts and crafts stores or through Amazon) and hot glue gun with accompanying glue sticks.

With a little elbow grease and inventiveness, you can create a winter wonderland that can help make the season more enjoyable - without the cold. 


 


Helpful Tips

Thanksgiving leftovers

Turning Your Thanksgiving Leftovers into Delicious Meals

Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated meals of the year, and you can easily make it the dinner that keeps on giving. Impress your family with these creative and easy ways to repurpose your Thanksgiving leftovers into delicious comfort food for the rest of the long weekend!

Savory waffles:

Pull out that waffle iron that has been taking up space in the back of your cabinet and make a stuffing-based batter. Top your waffles with your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and you will have yourself a quick dinner that is the definition of comfort food. See the full recipe here.

Turkey Pot Pie:

Shred turkey and throw in leftover gravy and veggies into a casserole pan and top with a pie crust. Toss it into the oven and get ready for a cozy meal that requires minimal prep time.

Thanksgiving in a Sandwich:

Pull out the wonder bread, cheese slices, leftover turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Have your family line up and make their sandwiches to their taste. It’s a meal that caters to picky eaters without lifting a finger.

Turkey Salad:

Pull out the turkey, leftover celery, grapes and apples. Chop everything up and toss it all in a little mayo. Serve on bread as a sandwich or scoop it over a bed of greens and enjoy!

Shepard’s Pie:

Did you end up making too many mashed potatoes? Turn them into a delightful shepherd’s pie with stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy and veggies underneath. See Martha Stewart’s full recipe here.

Take a break after making your Thanksgiving meal with easy and quick recipes to use up those leftovers. That way you can spend the rest of your week relaxing with your family!


Helpful Tips

Cyber Security: Strong Passwords

Best practices for strong passwords:

Cybersecurity is critical, both in your personal and professional life, and passwords are the first line of defense against imposters gaining access to your accounts. The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found over 70% of employees reuse passwords at work. The report also states 81% of hacking-related breaches leveraged either stolen and/or weak passwords.

Follow the tips below to make sure that you are setting strong passwords to protect your accounts and information online.

Password Do’s:

  • Use a password manager: Password managers are online services that safely store and manage your passwords. Your passwords will be encrypted, so it is a secure way to keep them all in one easy to find place.
  • Change your password regularly: This will make it less likely that your accounts will be compromised.
  • Make your passwords long: Advanced hackers can use computer programs that run through every combination of numbers and letters. The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it is to crack!
  • Mix up symbols and numbers with letters: An example of this technique is using the number 1 in place of a lowercase letter l.
  • Use nonsense sequences of letters and numbers: This will make it more difficult for someone to guess your logins and harder for advanced technology to crack your passwords.

Password Don’ts:

  • Don’t use the same password for everything: If you do, and an imposter gets your password for one account they can use it for all the other services and platforms you have.
  • Don’t keep passwords in areas people can access: Storing logins in your desk or easy to access places in your computer puts you at risk. Instead use a password manager that encrypts your passwords for you.
  • Don’t use common words or phrases: If the letter sequences you use are found in the dictionary, an intruder will be able to crack your passwords easier.
  • Don’t use personal information: Logins that include birthdays, names of loved ones, or streets you grew up on will make it easy for someone to hack your accounts.

Don’t give your password to anyone: Not even coworkers or good friends.


Helpful Tips

Here comes autumn

Here Comes Autumn:

Time to start prepping your property for winter

The first official day of Fall, September 23, is upon us. As the weather becomes crisper, it is time to start preparing your home for the winter months. Taking time to winterize your home can increase the longevity of your appliances, keep your house running efficiently, and can even save you money.

Insulation:

  • Check your window and door frames for drafts, loose frames, or cracked panes. Caulk and use weather stripping as needed. Click here for a checklist from the Department of Energy to make sure your home is sealed top to bottom.
  • Install storm panes as needed.
  • Check the insulation and wrap pipes in unheated locations.

Circulation:

  • Reverse your ceiling fans so they turn clockwise. This will draw rising air down.
  • Change your furnace filters to ensure efficiency.
  • Make sure your furniture is not directly in front of vents so the warm air can circulate.

Home Interior:

  • Clean and prep your furnace, wood stove, fireplace and back up generator.
  • Prepare an “emergency” kit in case of power outages from storms with some key items:  food, water, battery operated radio, flashlights and batteries.
  • Clean clothes dryer vent pipe.
  • Clean showerheads, bathroom drains and vents.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Home Exterior:

  • Clean, repair and store your grill, patio furniture and pool accessories.
  • Prepare lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed whackers and other yard maintenance equipment for storage; don’t forget to drain fuel from all gas-operated equipment.
  • Close outdoor water valves and drain garden hoses.
  • Bring your plants inside before the temperature goes below 45 degrees.
  • Clean out your gutters.

Spend some time winterizing your home this Autumn so you can stay toasty warm during the winter months.

House with blue background and snow

 


Helpful Tips

keyboard and coffee cup

Here is a way to protect yourself from predatory lending,
potential identity theft and telemarketers

Important Notice to All Borrowers:

Did you know that when a mortgage inquiry is logged on your credit report, your personal information is then automatically added to lists that are being sold by Experian, Trans Union and Equifax to certain kinds of mortgage lenders?

Predatory lending is a serious issue, especially in times of economic downturn, when unscrupulous mortgage lending companies become more aggressive in luring in home-buyers with bait-and-switch tactics. Additionally, the more companies that have your personal credit data, the greater the risk that you will become the victim of identity theft.

Consumer Credit Opt-Out

The good news is there are preventative measures you can take to protect yourself from predatory lending, potential risk for identity theft and even hassling telemarketers:


You will need to provide enough personal identification for this service to verify it is correctly removing your personal record from the marketing lists. In addition to being removed from these new lists, you may also choose to be removed from the lists that are currently sold to credit card companies to generate pre-approved card solicitations. You can opt out for a period of five years or permanently.


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