8 Brilliant New Year’s Eve Decorations You Can Make

If you prefer to have friends over to celebrate the new year rather than go out to some big bash, Here's some tips to give your place that festive air.

End the year on a high note. Set the scene for an unforgettable bash of your own with these DIY New Year’s Eve party crafts. For pictures and details, click here

Simple Home Repair Jobs You Can Do Now

Winter's doldrums got you down? Grab a screwdriver and a hammer and fight back with easy home repairs that’ll raise spirits and get your house ready for spring.

What to Look (and Listen) For

In each room, look around and take stock of what needs fixing or improving. Focus on small, quick-hit changes, not major redos. Here are some likely suspects:

1. Sagging towel rack or wobbly toilet tissue holder. Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

2. Squeaky door hinges. Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

3. Creaky floor boards. They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet — the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

4. Rusty shutoff valves. Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most. Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

5. Blistered paint on shower ceilings. This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

6. Loose handles or hinges on furniture, cabinets, and doors. You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/repair-tips/home-repair-jobs-winter/#ixzz3uhoxXq1A

Give Your Pet The Gift Of Holiday Safety

As we head into the thick of the gift-giving season, make sure you’re giving your pets the gift of holiday safety! It’s easy to get wrapped up in our pets’ adoring, curious and begging eyes, but now is not the time to indulge them in table scraps, an abundance of treats or cute holiday toys with jingle bells or other choking hazards.

Here are some essential tips and important pet facts to help you keep your furry friends safe this holiday season:

Food
While it’s true that sharing a tiny bit of turkey with your dog or other pet may seem harmless, you may want to reconsider! Think about it … when was the last time you saw your dog politely sampling just a bite of anything? A “tiny bit of turkey” doesn’t exist in a dog’s world! And unfortunately, too much turkey, particularly the skin, bones and fatty parts, can lead to a serious and sometimes fatal condition called pancreatitis.

But turkey isn’t the only danger. Too much of any fatty foods, including those delicious holiday table sides or desserts, and too many seasonally-decorated dog treats that are high in fat content, can cause pancreatitis in dogs.

Pancreatitis occurs when fatty foods cause a pet’s pancreas to become inflamed and begin leaking digestive enzymes, which in turn start breaking down intestinal tissue. Although symptoms are not always apparent, they can include poor appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. Treatment may include hospitalization, IV fluids, pain relievers, anti-nausea medications, antibiotics and even plasma transfusions.

The best rule of thumb is to stick to your pet’s normal diet and avoid introducing too much of anything new.

Decorations
As mentioned in our “It’s All Fun And Games, Until …” blog, there is a significant increase in ER visits during the holiday months due to injuries caused by holiday cooking accidents, decorating hazards and house fires. And those holiday-related injuries aren’t exclusive to humans! Our fur babies can just as easily (and often easier) wind up in a dangerous situation due to lack of holiday precautions. To keep your pets safe from injury when your home is decked out, consider these tips:
When choosing a location to display your decorated tree, choose a room that your pet can’t access. If your home has an open-floor plan, making it harder to isolate your tree from your pet, consider using some temporary pet gates to secure an area.
Poinsettias, mistletoe and other popular holiday and winter plants can be very poisonous to animals. Display your plants in a room that your pet can’t access, or on a high shelf that is out of reach.
Make sure strands of lights and electrical plugs are safely blocked and out of reach to your pet.
Never leave lit candles on low tables or ledges that your pets can get to.
If your pet gets nervous around guests, have a safe place away from guests for him/her to rest during social gatherings.

Santa Suits
Have you noticed the many adorable pet holiday costumes and accessories available in stores these days? While it’s fun to dress up our dogs and cats in seasonal-themed attire, it is important to remember that those santa suits, jingle bell collars, etc., can lead to harm. Never leave your pet unsupervised when he/she is “suited up” for holiday cheer.

Source: Prime Lending - Kim Kelman 210-421-8854

Home Maintenance: What to do about a faulty GFCI outlet?

You're probably using a lot more of your electrical outlets this time of year. Did you know you’re supposed to test them the GFCI ones that you find in your kitchen,bathrooms and outside outlets once a month? If you haven't done this you don't remember when, why not check them now to keep yourself safe. great time. Just check to make sure the device trips and resets correctly.

Do it yourself or call an electrician - which could cost you up to $100 depending on where you live.

Click here to see the video

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8 Ways to Cut Your Holiday Energy Bill

The holidays can be an expensive time of year with house guests, holiday meals, and festive lights pushing up your utility bill. Now if you do your lights up as much as the house here, these tips won't save you that much. However, for the rest of us, these tips can be money savers,

1. Set time on your side - Set timers for your holiday displays to turn off before bedtime so you don’t accidentally leave the lights on all night.

2. Get guests on board with saving energy - Remind guests to turn off lights and fans when they leave the room. Stopping one ceiling fan from running all the time and turning at least one light off when you leave the room can save you more than $7 a month on your electric bill.

3. Stop peeking at cooking food - Ovens lose a lot of heat when opened and require significant energy to heat back up to the appropriate temperature. Instead, when you have to sneak a peek, turn the oven light on and look through the interior window.

4. Choose glass or ceramic pans for the oven -These pans heat faster than metal ones and allow you to set the temperature 25 degrees lower than a recipe suggests for the same cooking time.

5. Use Crock-Pots and microwaves - Use smaller appliances such as Crock-Pots, microwaves, and toaster ovens when possible. These can be much more energy-efficient for side dishes or small meals.

6. Wait to wash - Wash only full loads in laundry machines and dishwashers. Use the energy saver, air-dry cycle in the dishwasher and cold water in the washing machine.

7. Bake before you clean - Use the self-cleaning oven feature only when necessary and start the self-cleaning cycle immediately after the oven is used to take advantage of pre-existing heat.

8. Deck the halls with LEDs - When it comes to holiday lighting, LED lights are the bright choice to get you more for your money. The amount of power it takes to operate just one 7-watt incandescent holiday bulb could power two 24-foot LED strings — enough to light a 6-foot tree. Additionally, LED light strings last about 10 times longer.

Sources: Florida Power & Light, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/news/saving-energy/8-ways-cut-your-holiday-energy-bill/#ixzz3uhcnYNzQ

Bad Tree Choices

This story and photo gallery caught my eye, and I thought you might find it interesting. It shows 11 trees that you should never plant in your yard for the problems they can cause. One of those is a mountain cedar - which if you live in South Texas it may be the bane of your existence if you have allergies. It's so prevalent that newscasters give the pollen count during pollen season.

Another no-no tree is a willow, which I take exception to as we had a big, beautiful one in our yard when I was growing up. It gave great shade for several tables and chairs when we had parties outside.

What trees do you have in your yard that have caused you problems? In our last house, we had a big palm tree that was dangerous when it had to be trimmed because of the big spikes in the palms.

Now click here to see the other trees to avoid.

2015’s Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 6 and Up

If  you're looking for gifts for children and haven't a clue as to what is currently hot on the Santa list, here's some tips. Of course, if you expect to find the Star Wars toys at the store that are included here, you may have to travel to another galaxy  or time to find them.

The pros at The Toy Insider have projected this year's hottest buys for the holiday season. Here, co-publisher Laurie Schacht shares the list for children six years and up, based on their own research and market trends. Check out the list for kids here.

7 Ways to Decorate Your Dining Chairs for the Holidays

If you're having guests over for the holidays you can make your home more merry and fun with these tips. 

When setting your Christmas table, don’t forget about the chairs. Some festive details will spruce up everyday seating, while uniform accents can streamline a mix of dining and folding chairs.

To see samples of what you can do click here.

Is an Interest Rate Hike Imminent?


In a Congressional hearing this week,lawmakers bombarded Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen with reasons to hold off on raising a key interest rate for the first time in nearly a decade: slow wage growth, the strong dollar, recession fears and recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

Yellen downplayed each one of them Thursday. She didn't definitively indicate that Fed policymakers would nudge up the benchmark rate when they meet Dec. 15-16, but Yellen solidified the expectations of analysts who now see it as a near certainty.

“It sure sounds to me like she's seen what she's looking for” in the recovery, said Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group. “If anybody's surprised the Fed raises rates in two weeks, they haven't been paying attention.”

Although Yellen said the U.S. economy has “recovered substantially since the Great Recession,” she acknowledged risks, including slower global growth and outbreaks of domestic or international violence.

But she said one reason to raise the so-called federal funds rate, which affects terms for consumer and business loans, is so the Fed has the flexibility to lower it if those risks cause the economy to falter in the future.

The federal funds rate has been near zero since December 2008 in an attempt to boost economic growth during the Great Recession and its aftermath. The Fed began lowering the rate in 2007 from 5.25% as the economy slowed.

A rate increase “will be a testament … to how far our economy has come in recovering from the effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession,” Yellen said during a hearing by Congress' Joint Economic Committee.

“In that sense, it is a day that I expect we all are looking forward to,” she said.

But several lawmakers peppered her with worries about the state of the U.S. economy and concerns that the Fed was moving in a different direction than the European Central Bank, which announced new stimulus measures Thursday.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), the committee's chairman, asked Yellen whether “coordinated terrorist attacks or just an acceleration of the kind of violence we're seeing — mass shootings and so forth” could have a negative effect on the economy by causing people to hold back on spending or fear going to a mall to shop.

Yellen said the Fed watches those risks “very carefully.”

“I would not say that I see a significant effect at this point, although certainly in the aftermath of the financial crisis, we've seen rather cautious behavior on the part of households and firms,” she said.

She promised that the Fed would move cautiously, inching the interest rate up slowly. Some analysts have predicted the Fed could wait as long as six months after the first 0.25 percentage point increase to enact another one.

But Yellen warned that Fed policymakers couldn't wait too long because there are “well-documented lags in the effect of monetary policy” on the broader economy. The longer the Fed waits, the faster it might have to raise rates, which could harm the economy, she said.

“Such an abrupt tightening would risk disrupting financial markets and perhaps even inadvertently push the economy into a recession,” Yellen said.

She downplayed the short-term risk of a U.S. recession, discounting a Citigroup report this week that there was a 65% chance that would happen next year.

“I can't put a number on the risk of a recession, but I absolutely wouldn't see it as anything approaching 65%,” Yellen said.

Based on history, the economy is well past due for a recession after expanding for more than six years. But the sluggish pace of economic growth has helped stave off circumstances, like a housing bubble or overextended consumers, that would trigger a downturn, said Faucher, the economist.

“The flip side of the disappointing recovery means we can continue at this pace for a while longer without creating the conditions for a recession,” he said, putting the risk at 15% next year.

Fed policymakers will look closely at Friday's job report, the last before their meeting, Yellen said. The report is expected to show solid growth of about 190,000 net new jobs in November — although down from 271,000 the previous month — and the unemployment rate holding steady at 5%.

Wages also are forecast to increase, continuing what Yellen said was “tentative evidence” of a trend that would push low inflation closer to the Fed's 2% annual target.

But she indicated that a weaker-than-expected report might not be enough to wait on a rate hike.

“We need to be looking at underlying trends in the data and not over-weighting any number,” Yellen said.
SoHiurce: http://www.latimes.com/la-bio-jim-puzzanghera-staff.html#nt=byline