14 Entertaining Hacks You’ll Be Thankful You Read Before Thanksgiving

Hosting Turkey Day will be a treat once you master these entertaining hacks.

Being home for the holidays is all about relaxing, making memories and sharing great meals together. However, if you are the one hosting the holiday at your house then being home for the holidays can mean lots of prepping , budget breaking shopping lists and what feels like a race against time to get it all done. Here are some of our favorite holiday entertaining hacks that you will be thankful you read before Turkey Day.

Make it a Team Event

Just because you are gracious enough to host Thanksgiving at your home doesn’t mean you need to take on the entire menu yourself. Delegate drinks, apps, sides and desserts to family and friends to cut down on work and on the cost of all the food and drinks. Your guests will be happy to help and proud to show off their culinary skills.


Save Space by Serving Dinner Buffet Style

A crowded table can leave your guests feeling claustrophobic. Aside from setting up a kid’s table, an easy way to free up space (for a few extra bottles of vino perhaps) is by serving dinner buffet style. Side note: Vegetarians and those with special dietary needs will thank you for this. We love this beautiful buffet display HGTV.

Go Double for Less Trouble

If you’re hosting a large party, The Washington Posts says go for two smaller birds instead of one. Two small turkeys will take about the same time to roast as one large turkey and you can have two different flavors.  You can even roast two in one pan with this recipe from Rachael Ray.

No Ice? No Problem!

If you don’t have an ice machine you just need to plan ahead. SheKnows advises making ice in ice cubes and them emptying the cubes into large, freezer safe containers starting a few days before the event. By the time your party starts you will be all stocked up!

Follow this Alcohol Cheat Sheet to Avoid Buying Too Much (or *gasp* not enough)

The cost of alcohol, on top of all the other food you are buying, can really add up. Hostess with the Mostess Martha Stewart has come up with the following suggestions:

Wine: One bottle per two people per hour

Beer: Two per person per hour

Spirits: One bottle per five people per hour

Mixers: Three bottles per each bottle of alcohol

Ice: At least one pound per person per hour

Stop Crying During Onion Prep

Chances are at least one of your recipes will call for chopped, minced or diced onions. Dry those eyes and try some of these tear free tricks from Lifehacker.com.

1) Freeze the Onion: Put the onion in the freezer 15 minutes before cutting it.

2) Cut Under a Vent: Use your stove or microwave vent to redirect the odor away from your nose, mouth and eyes.

3). Wear Goggle: Looks ridiculous but works like a charm!

Use Your Slow Cooker to Save Time

“This seems completely counter-intuitive – slow cooking to save time? But using your crock pot for Thanksgiving frees up valuable space in your oven and allows you to space out your cooking more efficiently.” – Sunny Day Family  Here are some amazing crockpot Thanksgiving recipes from Food Network.

Make Up for Lost Time By Cooking Your Bird in a Bag

If you waited too long to start the turkey don’t panic. Cooking your turkey in an oven bag seals in moisture and can cut cooking time by about 1/3 according to Diply. Learn how to cook your bird in a bag from Clever Housewife here.

Make Personal Sized Portions of Stuffing in a Cupcake Pan

Pass the stuffing could very well be the most popular phrase at the table on Thanksgiving. With this Stuffin Muffin trick passing the stuffing is easy and no one needs to fight for the crispy pieces. Check out this recipe from Serious Eats.

Put Your Dishwasher to Work

Is there a more thankless job on Thanksgiving than scrubbing potatoes? I think not. Heavenly Homemakers hacks this task by suggesting that you wash your potatoes in the dishwasher (sans soap of course!) Get the instructions here. Side Note: You can also steam your veggies in the dishwasher. Pop Sugar suggests “wrapping them in aluminum foil and throwing them in the dishwasher for a full cycle (including a complete dry cycle).”

Cook Your in Your Cooler (Yes, really!)

Have a massive amount of corn on the cob to cook? Instead of breaking out all of your pots consider cooking them in a cooler.  This hack from YouTube user Donald Boling is pure genius. Pour boiling hot water, butter, salt and the corn into a clean cooler, close the lid and let it sit for 30 minutes. Voila, cooked corn!

Boil Potatoes Whole to Avoid Peeling

Nicked fingers and a ton of time is something any Thanksgiving hostess can relate to when it comes to potato prep. If you boil them whole then shock them in iced water the skin will slide right off! See the whole video from Chowhound.

Up Your Pie Crust Game in an Instant

Put that fork you were able to use on your crust down and say hello to your new best baking friend, Libbie Summers. In this video she shares 20 creative and easy “pie crimping” hacks using everything from a corkscrew to a pearl necklace that will make you look like a master chef.

BYOT (Bring Your Own Tupperware)

Hosting guests AND generously giving away leftovers…you are just too much! If your family is anything like mine then once you send someone home with Tupperware there is a 99% chance you won’t be seeing it again. If you aren’t quite ready to part with yours then you can tell your guests in advance to bring their own. If all else fails, freezer Ziploc bags work quite well.

images via Tupperware

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!


How to Shop for Mortgages

How to Shop for Mortgages: The Guide to Finding a Great Home Loan

 | Nov 1, 2016

Mortgages might not be as much fun to shop for as new shoes or a new car, but if you know how to do some smart comparison shopping, you’re going to save yourself a lot of hassle … and a huge chunk of change. Some of this will require an attitude shift. Because while most of us already know full well that you’ll need to see lot of houses before you find The One, many people take the first mortgage that comes along.

In fact, almost half of consumers don’t shop around at all for a mortgage, according to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

But that’s a big mistake. Don’t just go with the first option you think of, even if it’s the one with the coolest ads or from your own bank right down the block. It pays to look around. Here’s why, and how to shop for a mortgage right.

What to look for in a lender

Here are several solid reasons why it pays to compare and review your options when choosing a mortgage:

  • Lenders offer different rates: Even if the mortgage product they are offering is essentially the same—say, a 30-year fixed-rate conventional loan—rates can vary by more than a half-percent, and that half-percent can add up fast. Let’s look at a $250,000 mortgageas an example. If your interest rate is 3.0%, your monthly payment will be $1,054, and you’ll pay $129,444 in interest over the life of the loan. If your interest rate was a half-percent higher, at 3.5%, you’d pay $1,123 every month for a total of $154,140 in interest. That’s almost $25,000 more in interest payments alone over the life of the loan.
  • Lenders have different programs: Because there are so many different types of mortgages, you’d do well to talk to someone who can really sit down and articulate the pros and cons. Some borrowers are better suited to a fixed-rate conventional product, while another who isn’t planning to stay in the home longer than 10 years or so might end up paying a lot less with a 15-year loan or an adjustable-rate mortgage. Each homeowner’s situation is different, so it’s vital to talk through the various options with a knowledgeable lender.
  • Lenders have different specials: Mortgage lending is a business obviously, so lenders need to make money. In a competitive environment, you might find that some are offering to pay closing costs or provide other perks while others might tout quicker processing. Shopping around allows you to find the best deal for you.
  • Lenders charge different fees: Many lenders charge a lengthy list of fees: loan origination, title insurance, loan application, rate lock (which protects you from rate fluctuations during the process), and more. You’ll want to find out what fees each one charges and see if any of the lenders you are considering are willing to negotiate by curtailing or all-out dropping a few of those fees.
  • Lenders have different standards: Have a blemish on your credit history that could keep you from getting a good loan? Different lenders have different standards, so just because one turns you down or doesn’t offer you a great interest rate doesn’t mean that others will, too.


Where to look for a home loan

There are three main places you can get a mortgage:

  • Banks: Your bank may be the first entity you think of, because one-stop shopping for your financial matters can greatly simplify your life. A bank can be a great choice if you already have a solid working relationship. If you have been a trustworthy customer over the years, your bank can often offer excellent rates. However, sometimes you have to have a little more financial savvy when working with a bank to make sure that its proprietary products are the best ones for you and your situation.
  • Mortgage brokers: These professionals are also a great option mainly because they are specialists. They know more about the vast variety of loan programs that are available and can be better equipped to help you think through creative options. Since they work with a wide variety of lenders, they can do a lot of the homework to find you the best rate and specials from a variety of offerings. But, you’ll want to make sure that they are reputable and have your best interests—not the lender’s—at heart. Check their credentials online and talk to several before settling on a provider.
  • Online: These days, everyone shops for everything online, so why not mortgages? At realtor.com/mortgage/rates, you can compare offers in your area.

The 20 hottest housing markets in America

Suisun City is featured as #17 on the list of hottest housing markets in America!

Population: 29,492

Median household income: $71,306

Median home listing price: $327,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 3,300


Real estate is a competitive business. In some markets, if you don’t jump on a property you like right away, you risk losing it within days — or even hours.

new study by Realtor.com found the hottest housing markets in country by zip code, measuring the time it takes properties to sell and how frequently homes are viewed.

Homes in the hottest zip codes go fast, selling in an average of 25 days — a full 53 days faster on average than the rest of the country, according to Realtor.com. These places also have a few crucial similarities: They tout strong job markets and are home to a large population of millennials, one of the largest generations in US history.

Notably, the top three places — Watauga, Texas; Pleasant Hill, California; and Northglenn, Colorado — are all located along the perimeter of major metro areas: Fort Worth, San Francisco, and Denver, respectively. These peripheral locations allow buyers to purchase relatively affordable homes within expensive metro areas, according to the report.

Read on to check out the 20 hottest housing markets in America by zip code.

20. 58103 — Fargo, North Dakota

20. 58103 — Fargo, North Dakota


Population: 118,523

Median household income: $46,311

Median home listing price: $193,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 4,700

19. 49508 — Kentwood, Michigan

19. 49508 — Kentwood, Michigan

Google Maps

Population: 51,357

Median household income: $49,201

Median home listing price: $148,000

Job growth in the past year: 3%

Jobs added in the past year: 8,600

18. 14625 — Rochester, New York

18. 14625 — Rochester, New York


Population: 209,802

Median household income: $30,784

Median home listing price: $203,000

Job growth in the past year: 1%

Jobs added in the past year: 3,600

17. 94585 — Suisun City, California

Population: 29,492

Median household income: $71,306

Median home listing price: $327,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 3,300

16. 78749 — Austin, Texas

16. 78749 — Austin, Texas


Population: 931,830

Median household income: $55,216

Median home listing price: $360,000

Job growth in the past year: 4%

Jobs added in the past year: 24,000

15. 37214 — Nashville, Tennessee

15. 37214 — Nashville, Tennessee


Population: 654,610

Median household income: $46,758

Median home listing price: $198,000

Job growth in the past year: 1%

Jobs added in the past year: 3,200

14. 95123 — San Jose

14. 95123 — San Jose

Wikimedia Commons

Population: 1,026,908

Median household income: $83,787

Median home listing price: $725,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 16,000

13. 48072 — Berkley, Michigan

13. 48072 — Berkley, Michigan

Google Maps

Population: 15,268

Median household income: $70,625

Median home listing price: $229,000

Job growth in the past year: 3%

Jobs added in the past year: 16,000

12. 66204 — Overland Park, Kansas

Population: 186,515

Median household income: $72,231

Median home listing price: $150,000

Job growth in the past year: 3%

Jobs added in the past year: 9,700

11. 40242 — Louisville, Kentucky

Population: 615,366

Median household income: $44,806

Median home listing price: $187,000

Job growth in the past year: 1%

Jobs added in the past year: 4,000

10. 92104 — North Park, California (part of the broader San Diego area)

Population: 80,276

Median household income: $47,454

Median home listing price: $497,000

Job growth in the past year: 1%

Jobs added in the past year: 20,000

9. 97222 — Milwaukie, Oregon (part of the broader Portland area)

Population: 20,830

Median household income: $55,827

Median home listing price: $309,000

Job growth in the past year: 4%

Jobs added in the past year: 7,600

8. 63126 — Crestwood, Missouri

Population: 11,966

Median household income: $66,842

Median home listing price: $183,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 9,000

7. 01276 — Melrose, Massachusetts

7. 01276 — Melrose, Massachusetts

Google Maps

Population: 27,997

Median household income: $86,409

Median home listing price: $462,000

Job growth in the past year: 1%

Jobs added in the past year: 7,700

6. 94954 — Petaluma, California (part of the San Francisco Bay Area)

Population: 60,438

Median household income: $80,590

Median home listing price: $596,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 4,000

5. 78247 — San Antonio

5. 78247 — San Antonio


Population: 1,469,485

Median household income: $46,317

Median home listing price: $184,000

Job growth in the past year: 3%

Jobs added in the past year: 23,000

4. 80916 — Colorado Springs, Colorado

4. 80916 — Colorado Springs, Colorado

Storefront in Colorado Springsteofilo | Flickr

Population: 456,568

Median household income: $54,228

Median home listing price: $178,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 7,200

3. 80233 — Northglenn, Colorado (part of the broader Denver area)

Population: 39,197

Median household income: $53,616

Median home listing price: $278,000

Job growth in the past year: 3%

Jobs added in the past year: 7,900

2. 94523 — Pleasant Hill, California (part of the San Francisco Bay Area)

Population: 34,810

Median household income: $81,556

Median home listing price: $630,000

Job growth in the past year: 2%

Jobs added in the past year: 7,200

1. 76148 — Watauga, Texas (part of the broader Fort Worth area)

Population: 24,525

Median household income: $61,716

Median home listing price: $137,000

Job growth in the past year: 3%

Jobs added in the past year: 28,000

Mortgage Applications Rise for New Home Purchases

Mortgage Applications Rise for New Home Purchases
Mortgage applications for new home purchases increased by 5 percent relative to the previous month, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Builder Applications Survey (BAS) data for August 2016.

“Applications for new home purchase mortgages were up in August on an unadjusted basis following a sluggish July,” says Lynn Fisher, MBA’s vice president of Research and Economics. “New home purchase applications increased 5 percent over the month and increased more than 14 percent compared to August a year ago. Based on the applications data, our estimate of seasonally adjusted new home sales for August reached 601,000 sales, the highest level observed in our survey since it began in 2012. While our new home sales estimates have trailed the recent Census data, the increase in our series in August, which derives from a different source of data compared to the Census, provides some corroboration that single family building activity has remained strong even as the summer winds down. Our sense is that builders have been attempting to catch up with demand in the face of labor shortfalls and other limiting factors in various parts of the country.”

By product type, conventional loans composed 67.7 percent of loan applications, FHA loans composed 18.4 percent, RHS/USDA loans composed 0.7 percent and VA loans composed 13.2 percent. The average loan size of new homes decreased from $325,843 in July to $325,224 in August.

The MBA estimates new single-family home sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 601,000 units in August 2016, based on data from the BAS. The new home sales estimate is derived using mortgage application information from the BAS, as well as assumptions regarding market coverage and other factors.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for August is an increase of 11.3 percent from the July pace of 540,000 units. On an unadjusted basis, the MBA estimates that there were 48,000 new home sales in August 2016, an increase of 6.7 percent from 45,000 new home sales in July.

MBA’s Builder Applications Survey tracks application volume from mortgage subsidiaries of home builders across the country. Utilizing this data, as well as data from other sources, MBA is able to provide an early estimate of new home sales volumes at the national, state, and metro level. This data also provides information regarding the types of loans used by new home buyers. Official new home sales estimates are conducted by the Census Bureau on a monthly basis. In that data, new home sales are recorded at contract signing, which is typically coincident with the mortgage application.

For more information, visit www.mba.org

10 Home Renovations That Offer the Best (and Worst) Return on Investment

Hammer on Stack of Money

Judy Dutton

Remodeling may be a labor of love, but it’s also an investment that can seriously boost the value of your home.  Only by how much? Well, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, you’ll recoup an average of 64% of what you paid for a renovation if you sell your home this year.

To arrive at these figures, Remodeling asked consultants in various markets to estimate the average cost for 30 home improvement projects, from adding a bathroom to replacing a roof. Then, they asked real estate agents nationwide to estimate the expected resale value of these renovations so that readers could compare their out-of-pocket costs to how much money they’d get back when it came time to sell their home.

The next best-paying renovation on the list: manufactured stone veneer, offering a respectable 92.9% return.

Meanwhile—sorry, luxury tub fans—the home improvement project that reaps the worst ROI is the addition of a bathroom, at 56.2% (although the “added value” of an extra bathroom for anyone who’s ever had to wait their turn for one is, of course, priceless).

Take-home lesson? If you’re looking for a general rule of thumb, it’s that less is more: Lower-cost projects  generally reap bigger returns, with four of the five projects that cost less than $5,000 ranking among the top five for money back when you sell.

Check out the best (and worst) returns for home renovations in the two charts below, including how much you’ll pay and get back if you sell your home this year.