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Updated: Monday, November 30, 2015

Eco-Friendly Lighting For Your Home And Backyard

When youre putting up your holiday decorations, youre probably not thinking about how much it costs to power your Christmas tree lights, but the costs can add up. Powering a big tree can cost you up to three cents an hour, tech writer Jamie Condliffe estimates, while a modestly-lit yard can run up to 28 cents an hour. If youre running your lights 10 hours a day for two months, that comes out to 18 and 168, respectively. But using eco-friendly LED Christmas lights instead of incandescent lights can cut your holiday lighting costs by 70 percent per year, the Golden Valley Electric Association estimates. This is just one example of how paying attention to your lighting costs can save you money while helping the environment. Here are some other ways eco-friendly technology can increase your efficiency and cut lighting costs around your home and in your backyard year-round.

Smart Lighting

Lighting costs 14 percent of total residential energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. One of the simplest ways to save energy is to turn off lights when youre not using them. But how often do you leave a room without bothering to turn off the light because youre coming back later?

With new smart home technology, the lights can turn themselves off when youre not using them. You can program lights to dim on a regular schedule or you can install sensors to detect whether the amount of lighting is appropriate to the presence or absence of people in the room. Lighting provider Enlightened found that installing wi>

Better Bulbs

The type of lights you use also has an impact on your energy consumption. Energy-saving incandescent bulbs can save you 25 percent off the cost of traditional incandescent bulbs, according to the Department of Energy. CFL or LED bulbs can cut your costs by 75 percent. GE Link bulbs use 80 percent less power than traditional bulbs.

Computer Screens

Turning off your computer screen when youre not using it is another way to save lighting energy. The Department of Energy recommends that you should turn off your monitor if youre not going to be using it for more than 20 minutes, and you should turn off both your PC and your monitor if youre not going to be using them for two hours.

You can automate these guidelines by using your computers sleep mode and power management features. The EPAs ENERGY STAR estimates you can trim your electricity bills by 30 a year using these features.

Backyard Applications

Smart lighting strategies can also save your outdoor lighting consumption, the DOE says. Using lights that shut off automatically during daytime or only activate at night when motion sensors detect people in the area can reduce the number of hours your lights are on. Outdoor lights are often left on a long time, so using CFL and LED lights will save a lot of energy. Using solar-powered lights can also reduce your lighting consumption.

LED lights can also cut your pool lighting costs by 80 percent, according to Pool LED lights also create deep hues that can fill your pool with color and give you a backyard light show. Be sure to select the correct bulb for your light niche and follow local code for voltages, Merino says.

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How To Survive Thanksgiving With Your Conservative, Liberal, Bigoted, Lazy, Loudmouthed Family

Tomorrows the big day, and, for many of us, that means a long overdue reunion with beloved family and digging into some of our favorite dishes - dishes worth the carb depletion youve been suffering through all week in preparation for the calorie explosion. For others, it means searching for more and better coping mechanisms to deal with what is bound to be a complete train wreck.

And this year could be more highly charged than ever.

You thought Uncle Franks IBS-induced farts at the table were polarizing? Wait until he gets started on how Donald Trumps immigration plan is going to make America great again. Before you let him know what a bigot you think he is, use a few of these techniques to keep the peace at Thanksgiving and get through the day without being excommunicated.

Get up and leave.

Theres nothing like a pro-con discussion of letting Syrian refugees into the country to get those juices flowing and not the good kind that keep the turkey moist. The easiest way to avoid getting pulled into an incendiary argument is to simply not be there.

Before you succumb to calling Grandpa an ignorant old fool, excuse yourself to get more gravy/check on your sick cat/attend to explosive diarrheaanything to avoid what can only lead to raised voices and blood pressure this coming from someone who once shut down an Easter brunch at the house of [formerly] close friends after being baited into a heated abortion debate at the dinner table.

Make a game of it.

If you know someones going to drink too much and someones going to start a fight, have some fun with it by playing Thanksgiving Bingo. Pass cards out to the other fun members of your familyor play remotely with friends who need a break from their own Thanksgiving struggle. You can download four different versions of the card on BuzzFeed.

Huffington Post

Drink heavily.

Maybe the person drinking too much should be you You probably dont need much of an excuse to get that going anyway, but in case you need a good reason, your blustery, hyper-millennial second cousin is about to give you one. If you plan your imbibing right, you may not care what anyone says. And if you overdue it and end up spending the rest of the evening sitting by the toilet, that may actually be preferable.

Agree and repeat.

"Conventional wisdom states that there are only two ways to get through Thanksgiving: with your politeness intact, or with your integrity intact. The third way is not to go to your family Thanksgiving at all. But theres another way," said Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post.

"I have found one foolproof strategy that will get you through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and beyond. It is simple: any time you are faced with a conversation-dominating person whose political opinions you do not share, you find the one thing you agree with in what the person has just said to you, and you keep repeating it until the interaction is over."

Put something in your piehole.

Or your piecakehole, as it were. You cant talk if your mouth is full of piecaken, a hybrid of our two fave desserts.

"Making your very own Piecaken is surprisingly simple," said Distractify. "All it requires are a couple of cake pans... a couple of pies store bought ones work just fine and a whole buttload of frosting. In fact, heres a tutorial to get you started.


Channel Adele.

The singer has a way of bringing people together, as this Saturday Night Live skit so hilariously displayed. Queue up "Hello" before everyone sits down to the table so youll be ready to break into song at the first mention of "All lives matter."

Wear earplugs.

You cant respond to what you cant hear. Worried about being rude? Its probably less rude to be mute than it would be to express your true feelings about reproductive healthcare between bites of spiral ham.

Earplugs Guide

Use a similar tone.

"Another technique is to use the same tone they were using but say something totally different and hope that they do not notice the substitution. This works better with Cousin Sue, who spends her vacation time tending to sheep on a commune," she said.

"Cousin Sue: I think we should socialize America
You: I love to socialize"

Fake sick.

This will allow you to:

  • Sit at the end of the table, where you can make a quick escape for "nose blowing" when needed
  • Ensure that youre not sandwiched between people, where youll be emotionally and physically uncomfortable
  • Allow you to leave - or at least excuse yourself to "go lie down" if things get really heated and your cousin from New Jersey looks like hes about to throw your Aunt Marys new husband out on his Ben Carson-loving butt

Have another technique for surviving Thanksgiving? Wed love to hear about it.

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Are You Like Most Home Sellers?

According to its latest homebuyer and seller survey, the National Association of REALTORS has an idea of what current home sellers are like. Because of the housing boom and bust, many sellers waited for underwater homes to appreciate in value so they could have enough equity to sell their homes and purchase larger homes.

The typical seller in 2015 was 54 years old, up from 49 in 2010, and married with a household income over 104,000. They occupied their homes for nine years and realized a median equity gain of 40,000, 25 percent more than a year ago. Their homes increased 23 percent in value since they purchased, from 17 percent last year.

One of the factors for rising home equity is low supplies. With homebuilders failing to add significantly to supplies, many sellers are waiting for bigger gains.

When their homes were purchased made a notable difference in equity gains. Seller who purchased their homes between one to seven years ago sold their homes for 30,000 to 35000 more than they paid. But equity gains fell to 3,000 for owners who bought between eight and 10 years ago. Homes sold after 21 years showed price gains of 138,000.

The median time on the market for recently sold homes remained at four weeks for the second year in a row. Once their homes sold, sellers moved a median distance of 20 miles, with 70 percent remaining in the same state.

The top reason sellers gave for selling their homes was that the homes were too small. Nearly 90 percent of sellers hired a real estate professional. Only eight percent of homes sold in 2015 were for-sale-by-owner. That is the lowest share ever recorded since the annual survey debuted in 1981.

The survey results were gathered mid-year in 2015. By the third quarter, the national median existing singlefamily home price was 229,000, up nearly six over last year.

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Are Extended Warranties Worth the Cost?

Extended warranties offer consumers longer terms of coverage on service, repair and replacement for their homes appliances than the standard out-of-the-box warranty from the manufacturer. These warranties are highly profitable for retailers, as they can run up the total cost of your purchase by 100 or more, with very few claims being filed per year. Are they actually worth it?

You can argue the benefits both ways.

In the fast paced world of home electronics, by the time the extended warranty expires, future technology will far out> agrees. Their data concludes that the likelihood of most home appliances needing repairs in the first three years is less than one in five. And most defects will reveal themselves within the first year of use, while the manufacturers warranty is still good.

That said, extended warranties should be purchased for some items, including those that are difficult to repair or high-priced items that would be painful to replace. These include high ticket items like a 6000 Viking gas range or pricey hi-definition plasma TVs, suggests

Since extended warranties do make so much profit for retailers, they are very aggressive about selling them to customers. If youre tempted, follow this rule -- the cost of the warranty should be no more than 10 of the purchase price.

And if you decide to skip the warranty, be prepared to shoulder the cost for assessment service calls, repair time in labor plus parts and shipping. Though its more of a hassle, this can be the most cost-effective measure. If you have a warranty option of 250 and you experience only one instance in the life of your appliance where it needs 100 of work, you could save 150, or 60.

Ultimately the choice and risk are yours to assume. Extended warranties can be worth the cost in terms of peace of mind, but only if its for a product you dont intend to change for a few years.

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What Kinds of Mortgages are Available?

Once you have signed a contract for the purchase of your new home or condominium or cooperative apartment, and assuming that you do not have all of the cash in your bank account, you will need to obtain a mortgage loan.

There are many different loans on the market and many different loan programs from which to choose. You should contact at least three different lenders, and ask them to give you a list of the loans which they can offer you. Take careful notes, and remember one important thing: do not give any lender any money until you are absolutely certain that this is the lender - and this is the loan - you want to obtain.

Under the new mortgage lender rules issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB, it is actually very easy to shop and compare.

Oversimplied, the three basic loan programs are as follows:

1. Conventional: this type of loan in generally available from a bank, a mortgage broker, or a credit union. Within the category of conventional loans, there are various options available, such as a fixed 30 year loan, or an adjustable rate loan called an ARM.

ARMs adjust on a periodic basis, although in most cases they will run for a period of thirty 30 years. Generally speaking, the shorter the term of the adjustment such as a one year ARM the lower the initial interest rate will be. However, when the adjustment period comes around, the interest rate for the next adjustment will either go up or down, depending on the economy at the time of the adjustment. When interest rates are falling, an ARM seems like a good deal. However, when interest rates are rising as it appears they will be increasing as early as the end of this year, the consumer who obtains a one-year ARM is almost guaranteed to see the interest rate hike as high as 2 percentage points at the end of the first year.

This is not a complex issue, and all lenders are now required to provide you with a written explanation of the way their particular ARM works. Read it carefully and seek assistance from your financial and legal advisors if you have any questions

2. VA Loans: This type of loan is generally available from mortgage brokers, It is called a VA loan, since only military veterans can obtain such loans. They are guaranteed by the Veterans Administration. There are certain conditions which you must meet if you want a VA loan, and you should make sure that your potential lender provides you with all the details, up front.

3. FHA loans: This loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration. FHA will guarantee the lender against a default by the borrower, but the borrower will have to pay an insurance premium for this coverage. Once again, there are conditions which must be met before such loans can be obtained, and you should discuss all these terms with the potential lender.

It is not possible in a short article to fully discuss all the various mortgage loans on the market. Furthermore, creative lenders are always coming up with new programs in an effort to be competitive. However, not all these loans are in your best interest.

You should shop around, and dont accept the first loan that is offered. While the real estate agent and often the seller may give you loan information - and the name of potential lenders - only you can make the final decision as to what is best for you. After all, remember that the life of the loan may be as long as 30 years - and thats a long time to be stuck with an uncomfortable loan.

For more information, go to, and search "Know before you Owe".

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How To Ditch The Red and Green For Modern Holiday Dcor

Still rocking red and green everything and a tinsel-covered tree for Christmas? Might be time for a holiday dcor upgrade. You do regular updates to your homes everyday dcor, right? Why stick with the same ole stuff when it comes to the holiday season.

Need some inspiration to modernize or glamorize your holiday home? Check out these examples.

Christmas in black and white

Who says you need to go all red and green to show your holiday spirit?

"Let a black-and-white palette be the antidote to tinsel and flashing colored lights," said Sunset. "Spray-paint inexpensive nutcrackers white, then place them at attention beneath a paper-loop wreath. If you happen to have dark walls, this look can be especially pleasing."

Learn how to make the wreath on their website.


Sticking with the black-and-white theme, how bout upgrading your old Christmas tree blanket this year? This geometric Christmas Tree Blanket, Triangle from Ferm Living, will bring in a little >
Design Necessities

Dressing the mantel

Decorating the mantel is one of the easiest ways to pump up the holiday flavor in your home. But whats not always so easy is getting the look right. This DIY version uses a framed, chalkboard-painted backdrop to showcase a simple green wreath, with a combination of greenery and twinkling lights below.

This festive and vibrant display uses a collection of holiday-inspired and everyday home dcor items you can find at stores like Target, HomeGoods, or TJ Maxx - an easy, inexpensive trick for creating a magazine-worthy look.

the nest

Go coastal

Freshome also likes the idea of decorating with blue at Christmas, and bringing in elements to create a coastal feel.

"A frosted decor livened with blue tones can really make a difference this Christmas," they said. "Adding some starfish and jellyfish tree decorations and hanging coastal-inspired stockings on the fireplace mantel is just what you need to create a feeling of a coastal Christmas."


Natural materials bring in some rustic, country Christmas flair while still keeping it modern. Stockings in a ruddy material like burlap are perfect for this look, and the artwork over the mantle can easily be made with scrap wood, white paint, and stencils.

the nest

Silver is high impact dcor, especially when combined with the flicker of candles. Gather all your hurricanes, some metallic ornaments, and anything else you have in a glittery silver finish, and create a glistening mantel you might want to keep even after the holidays.

Apartment Therapy

The tree

There are a million ways to decorate your tree, but one of our new favorites includes these DIY chalkboardpainted ornaments. They can be created easily, personalized by family members, and help make the tree like modern and chic. You can find an easy tutorial here.


Bringing the dcor around the house

Tablescapes and traditional vignettes are great - and, of course, great attention is going to be paid to your tree - but dont pass up opportunities to showcase your unique holiday flair in unexpected ways and places throughout the house, like on the stairs.


Or on the windows

"Rethink your wreaths and instead of limiting them to doors, display some over your windows to bring the holiday spirit to your rooms vertical plains," said MYDOMAINE. "Use a colorful ribbon to hang them to add a vibrant splash or opt for a shimmering metallic to inject some sparkle.

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10 Tips For Creating a Chic Home Office

Who says a home office has to be boring? Not this fashion blogger, whos been turning Instagram upside down with pics of her impossibly chic space.

"When youre a fashion blogger, your good taste is everything, so its no surprise that Christine Andrew of Hello Fashion and POPSUGAR Select took her time perfecting every detail of her home office," said POPSUGAR. "After months of trial and error, shes just revealed her stunning home office - and it was definitely worth the wait

Done up in pink and white with flashes of blue and green and feminine touches throughout, this home office breaks a few "traditional" rules for home office design a bookcase full of shoes? I mean, cmon. And thats just why we love it.

You dont need to be a fashion blogger to get a stylish, inviting look in your home office. But you can be inspired by her space just like we are to create your own great home office.

Emmy Lowe via Hello Fashion
Emmy Lowe via Hello Fashion

1. Keep it organized

There are some of us who thrive in chaos ahem, however it has been proven that clutter and chaos in your workspace can create clutter and chaos in your mind. Sufficient storage can help. The built-ins behind the desk in this home office provide space for open and closed storage, so dcor items can also be displayed, which will give the room some life.


2. Pick the right desk

Your work surface is a critical element in the room. Having enough room is critical, but it should also look good. In this space, the homeowner is often joined at the desk by her young son, who "likes to game while I work," she said. A desk for two, courtesy of IKEA, was the answer. Bonus: the family dog loves the room too, and often joins the pair to gaze out the window while theyre typing away.

3. Choose a lively paint color

The days of super neutral are over. Forget office beige: you need a color that gets your work motor humming," said HGTV. "For some people, thats a bright, cheery color like orange or lime green. Others need a calming shade like botanical green or sea foam blue to perform."

Keeley Kraft

4. Consider the view

Staring at a blank wall may not be the best option. Natural light and a view of the outside can keep the mind inspired. If your space doesnt accommodate a direct view of the outdoors, hanging some interesting artwork above the desk can substitute.


5. Make it masculine

The above space may feel more "typical" for a male-dominated home office, but dark and den-like doesnt have to dominate the >

6. Create a separation

"Working from home is exciting because it offers an opportunity for real comfort and efficiency, but if the office is too casual, or isnt effectively separated from the home environment, peak productivity may be lost," said Entrepreneur. "While comfort is essential in any office, an office that is too casual may seriously impede the ability to get things done. You have to find a way to separate yourself from the rest of the goings-on in the home and to convey a sense of off limits to all other normal and natural home sounds and interruptions."

If you dont have doors to close, consider a screen.


7. Light it up

"Good lighting is essential," said Entrepreneur. "Ideally you want as much natural daylight as possible. If no daylight is available, a combination of general and task lighting will be required.

EURO >8. Take a seat

Youre going to be on your butt for long periods of time, so "Invest in a great chair," said HGTV. "A beautiful, ergonomically-correct, comfortable seat is worth every dime." Dont forget to also include a comfortable chair for guests.

9. Make it fun

Why so serious? Adding some flair and fanciful >
Keeley Craft

10. Keep it stylish

If you follow every other tip but forget to create a space that speaks to you, you may not be very creative or productive. The great thing about this room is that, while its ultra personalized and oh-so-chic, theres nothing in here that cant be changed out if the homeowners needs changed or they put the house up for sale. Strip out all of the dcor, and youre left with gray walls and neutral flooring.

Fabulously Disheveled
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Updated: Monday, November 30, 2015

Are Extended Warranties Worth the Cost?

Extended warranties offer consumers longer terms of coverage on service, repair and replacem...
> Full Story

What Kinds of Mortgages are Available?

Once you have signed a contract for the purchase of your new home or condominium or cooperat...
> Full Story

How To Ditch The Red and Green For Modern Holiday Dcor

Still rocking red and green everything and a tinsel-covered tree for Christmas? Might be tim...
> Full Story

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