Month: August 2015

Weekend Getaway Ideas


  • Bloomington-Normal, Illinois: Restored 1800’s buildings, farm to table restaurants, shopping, and live music venues.
  • Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: This resort town has many hotels, restaurants, and resorts right along the beautiful lake shore. This gorgeous spot doesn’t just attract visitors in the summer; visit in February for the annual Winterfest.
  • Rockford, Illinois: Home to a newly renovated downtown area, foodie scene, and gorgeous public gardens.
  • Galena, Illinois: Visitors are drawn to restaurants and shops housed in century old buildings. You can also hike, boat on the river, or ski the slopes.
  • Fox River Valley, Illinois: Many towns dot this river offering great places to eat, shop, and stay. Try visiting St. Charles and their historical Arcada Theater, or Geneva for their great shopping. Oswego has a cute downtown area with brick paved sidewalks and a family run winery.
  • Michigan’s Sunset Coast: New Buffalo, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor offer great food, beautiful beaches, and awesome views of Lake Michigan.
  • Woodstock, Illinois: Cute and cozy town, with unique stores and places to eat. Visit in early August for the Woodstock Mozart Festival.
  • Beloit, Wisconsin: Famous for their throwback supper clubs.
  • South Bend, Indiana: Visit the home of the Fighting Irish and enjoy water sports on the St. Joseph River and awesome dining and shopping.
  • Cedarburg, Wisconsin: This quaint town has a main street that is part of the National Register of Historic Places and features many boutiques, restaurants, and chocolate shops housed in limestone buildings.
  • Turkey Run Inn, Indiana
  • Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin: Enjoy swimming and other recreational activities on the lake or take in some races at the Road America race course. 
  • Red Arrow Country, Michigan: This makes for a great fall getaway; enjoy cottage style housing, apple picking, and winery tours.
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Caring For Kitchen Appliances

Chicago Tribune Homes

Average Life Span: 10-15 years
Common Repairs and Costs: Igniter cleaning or failure: $110-$200, broken control board: $260 or more, bake element problems: $160 or more.
Tips: Keep your stove clean, but avoid getting water or cleaning solution into dials and switches since they are connected to electrical parts.
Repair vs. Replace: It may be a good idea to replace the stove if you are going to spend half the price of a new unit on a repair.
Cost: $650-$2,000

Average Life Span: 8-10 years
Common Repairs and Costs: Drain pump cleaning: $100 or more, Repairing water inlet valve: $160 or more, control board failure: $190 or more.
Tips: Always rinse off large food clumps off of dishes before loading them into the dishwasher since food can clog the dishwasher and get stuck in the arms.
Repair vs. Replace: If your dishwasher has rust or corrosion or if a repair costs half the cost of a new unit, it’s better to replace the dishwasher than repair it.
Cost: $400-$700

Average Life Span: 6-15 years
Common Repairs and Costs: Ice maker failure: $275-$325, Main control board failure: $260 or more, Clogged drain line: $110 or more.
Tips: Clean condenser coils once a year and more often if you have pets. These are located underneath the fridge, behind it, or sometimes on the top of the unit. These coils collect dust and hair and when dirty, can make the fridge work harder which leads to wasted energy and can cause the fridge to break down prematurely.
Repair vs. Replace: Take into consideration the units age and performance history. If the compressor needs to be replaced, it’s almost always a good idea to invest in a new fridge.
Cost: $900-$8,000

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Should You Refinance? 

Benefits of refinancing

  • Paying off your mortgage early: For example, if you go from a 30 year loan to a 15 year loan without a big increase in your monthly payment, you could save thousands of dollars in interest while quickly increasing the equity in your home.
  • Increase cash flow: Obtaining a lower interest rate on your mortgage may lower your monthly payment and allow you to have more cash to decrease your debt or expand your budget. 
  • Utilize home equity: With a cash-out refinance, you are able to borrow more money than you currently owe on your loan. You can then use that money to pay down debt, make home improvements, or to get out from under financial burden.
Consider these factors before refinancing
  • Credit score: The higher a credit score, the better interest rate you will get.
  • Closing costs: Although it may be an option to add the closing costs into the refinanced loan amount, it’s better to pay those costs in cash.
  • Your mortgage in relation to your family’s financial situation: What is your household budget? Are there college expenses on the horizon? What are your financial goals?
  • If you end up with a lower monthly payment, how will you handle the extra cash? In a perfect world, the cash you save on your mortgage payment should be used to pay down debt or to increase the size of your savings account.
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15 Minute Home Makeovers

  • Switch the plates: Update switch plate and outlet covers.
  • Make touch ups: Touch up scratched baseboards, window and door trim, and marks on the wall that won’t go away.
  • Change out hardware: Putting in new drawer pulls and knobs can give a room an inexpensive face lift. Home improvement stores have a wide variety of inexpensive hardware to choose from.
  • Update the mailbox: Give an old mailbox a makeover by scrubbing it down and then spray painting it, either the same color or a new hue.
  • House numbers: Switch out your old house numbers for new ones to create a custom look. Some numbers are peel and stick and others need to be nailed in. There are different material choices such as wood, plastic, brass, stainless steel, etc. Expect to spend about $6-$30 a number.
  • Toilet seat: A new toilet seat can instantly improve the look of your bathroom without spending a lot.
  • Declutter: Spending 15 minutes a day decluttering a room can really make a huge difference in your home. Start in the kitchen by clearing off your refrigerator door and watch your kitchen instantly look cleaner. Put mail and other paperwork in labeled boxes with lids or other organizers; put school supplies in caddies, etc.
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Home Improvement Apps And Websites

  • Dering Hall ( Assists homeowners in choosing an interior designer by allowing users to browse through hundreds of portfolios to help choose a firm. Users can also simply browse through picture galleries organized by room for inspiration.
  • Porch ( Interactive maps are available on this site to assist you in seeking out trade professionals and local architects. You can also see whether or not your Facebook friends and neighbors have used their services as well.
  • Homezada: This app, available for free, helps you keep track of your home’s maintenance and insurance and can also help you manage renovation projects by setting a budget, setting time lines, and making to do lists.
  • MagicPlan: This functional app creates accurate floor plans of your home by using photos of spaces in your home taken by your smart phone. 
  • Ikea Catalog: This free app allows users to scan an image of a sofa or other item in the catalog, take a picture of the space they have in mind for the item, and then users can see how the furniture would look in their home.
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Fresh Tomato Recipe

With tomatoes in season, this is the perfect time to make your favorite tomato recipe or experiment and find a new fave. Here is a great recipe where both fresh tomatoes and corn come together to create a delicious pasta salad:

Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad 
Midwest Living

  • 1 1/2 cups dried bowtie pasta
  • 2 fresh ears of corn or 1 cup whole kernel frozen corn
  • 1 cup shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons basil pesto, ready made
  • 1 tablespoon chicken broth or water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Snipped fresh basil
  • In a dutch oven, cook pasta according to package directions. Add corn during the last 7 minutes of cooking the pasta. Return to a boil and continue cooking. When the pasta is cooked and the corn is crisp-tender, drain pasta and corn. Rinse the pasta and corn with cold water to stop the cooking process and drain well again. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cobs. 
  • In a large bowl, combine the pasta, corn, chicken, and tomato.
  • For the dressing: In a screw top jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, pesto, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Cover and shake well.
  • Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture and toss gently to coat. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours. Sprinkle the salad with Parmesan cheese and basil just prior to serving.

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Back To School Tips For Parents

  • Meet the new teacher: Take advantage of any back to school nights or meet and greet sessions with your child’s new teacher. If face to face contact is not available, try to find the teacher’s picture on the school website so that your child can place a face with a name. 
  • Take a tour: Take advantage of any opportunities to tour the school and to find your child’s classroom and desk. For older kids, have them take you on a tour of the school to refresh both of your memories.
  • Meet up with friends: See if any kids from last year’s class are in your child’s class this year and schedule a play date with them to refresh the friendship before the school year begins.
  • Supplies: Take your child on a special shopping for their school supplies and allow them to pick out a special pen, folder, or other supply that they can be excited about.
  • Get in the routine: Routines are very important to kids so to help them feel more comfortable making the transition into the school year and to avoid a chaotic morning on the first day of school, get in a routine ahead of time. A few days before school starts, set the alarm and go through the morning routine with your child so that they are comfortable. Have them get ready, eat breakfast, and get to the bus stop on time so that they know what to expect.
The school year can be a very busy time for parents as well so it’s good to have crock pot recipes on hand for days you don’t have a lot of time to spend making dinner.

Crockpot Orange Chicken

  • 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup Smucker’s Sweet Orange Marmalade
  • 3/4 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Cook chicken in crockpot on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.
  • After 3 hours, drain juices from crockpot
  • Mix together bbq sauce, orange marmalade, and soy sauce
  • Pour mixture over chicken and cook on high for 30 more minutes
  • Serve this chicken with some rice and enjoy!
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Tips For Moving With Pets

Traveling By Car
  • Before making the move, have new dog tags made with your new address and your phone number and email address.  Keep both the new tags and the old tags with you during the move and make sure you have a recent picture of your pet with you in the event that your pet gets loose.
  • Call ahead and make reservations at pet friendly hotels. These rooms can fill up quickly, so the father in advance the reservations are made, the better.
  • Many pet friendly hotels do not allow pets to be left in the room unattended, so plan on taking your pet with you while going out to eat, etc. The hotel should be able to provide you with a list of pet friendly establishments in the area.
  • Keep your dog on a leash or crated at all times during the move. Even if you have not had an issue with your pooch running away in the past, the stress of the move can cause your dog to run.
  • Packing slowly over the course of weeks can help your pet adjust better and make sure to have your pet spend time in a crate before the move if they are not used to doing so. Have your pets nails clipped before the move to avoid them getting stuck in the crate.
  • Although it is common sense, always avoid leaving your pet unattended in a car, even when cool outside.
Traveling By Plane
  • If moving by plane, reservations need to be made well in advance for space in the cargo area as well as the cabin.
  • Be prepared for airlines to cancel a pet’s flight due to the weather being too hot. Also, if the flight is delayed because of bad weather, your pet may be moved to a kennel facility and will need to take a different flight than you. Be prepared to take care of any costs related to the schedule change.
  • Check with your airline prior to your flight; crate size requirements can be very specific.
For All Moves
  • Make an effort to find a new vet in your new town before you move in case your pet becomes sick during the move. Know the vet’s exact location and hours and try to find a 24 hour vet clinic in case of an emergency.
  • Keep your dog contained while all of the moving is going on; falling boxes and hazardous cleaning supplies can harm your pet.
  • Set up your dog’s bed and fill it with familiar toys shortly after arriving at your new home to help your pet adjust to their new surroundings.
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