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Time-saving tips to prep your home for the holidays

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During the holiday season, you’ll likely be spending more time indoors. While getting your home ready for the fun is important, making the process smooth and easy can help you focus on family, friends and the spirit of the season. Here are some holiday prep tips that will save you time and energy: Organized House When you’re expecting company, you’ll want the house to be clean and in tip top order. De-clutter closets by giving away unneeded items -- it’s the perfect time of year to be charitable. While all the items are out, vacuum the floor and clean the baseboards.

Clean appliances, counters, cabinets, tables and chairs. Scrub and sanitize sinks, countertops and backsplashes. Clean your range top and refrigerator top and exterior, as well as inside and outside your microwave. And wash those floors! Or for a thorough, customized deep clean of your home, and to cross a major chore off your to-do list, consider using a professional service such as Merry Maids, that can help ensure no small detail is overlooked. Information can be found at Peace of Mind Be sure your heating system and appliances are in proper working order all winter long --

the last thing you’ll want is a broken heater or refrigerator when you have guests. Feel more confident in your repair or replacement with a home warranty that covers many of the appliances and system components found in most homes. For example, American Home Shield provides service contracts on such system components and appliances as plumbing, water heaters, refrigerators and dishwashers. If something breaks, your holiday budget won’t feel as big a pinch as a repair or replacement. More information can be found at Lawn Care Your lawn makes a first im-

pression, especially around the holidays when attention is called to your home’s exterior. Boost curb appeal by taking great care of your yard year-round. For example, corrective pruning can prevent dead or overgrown plants from detracting from your home’s cheery personality. It can also enhance a plant’s growth for the coming spring. Core aeration will help your lawn breathe and strengthen roots. To save time at this busy time of year, opt for a professional lawn care specialist, such as TruGreen, that can tailor a plan for your lawn using science-based solutions. More information can be found at

Pest Control It may be cooler outside, but pest control should be a yearround concern. Use weather stripping and caulk to seal exterior doors, cracks, and openings around pipes and utility lines. You’ll not only improve your home’s energy efficiency but you’ll prevent pests from entering your home. Information on pest control can be found at More tips and information about different home services, such as carpet cleaning can be found at To truly get into the holiday spirit, take steps to prep your home. -StatePoint

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The best bang for your buck kitchen remodelings tips Kitchen remodeling can significantly increase home value. However this can get extremely expensive. But simple kitchen fix-ups can add both value and comfort to your space. With this in mind, consider sprucing up your kitchen without breaking the bank. Don’t know where to start? Try these tips from HomeAdvisor, a leading website offering resources for home repair and improvement projects: • Fix the countertops: Changing the material of kitchen countertops is a simple way to make an impact in the room. Materials such as ceramic, laminate, granite and siltstone are all great options. Laminate is the most cost effective and granite is the most popular. • Refinish the cabinets: Even though cabinet replacement can be pricey, giving your existing cabinets a new look can come at an affordable price tag. Remove the original finish and add a new stain coat. Or paint the cabinets a bold color. Combine the paint with a crackling glaze to give the cabinets a weathered appearance. • Redo lighting: Altering the lighting in your kitchen can give it a different look and feel. Track lighting is a good aesthetic choice with many different options. Add a few task lamps to improve the functionality of the work space area. Dimmers are easy to install and can make the atmosphere of the room more versatile. • Upgrade appliances: Buying even just one or two new

appliances can significantly increase the kitchen’s value. Large appliances, such as the refrigerator, oven and stove, should be upgraded first. • Restyle the floor: Laying

a new floor doesn’t have to be a costly project. Materials such as peel-and-stick vinyl tiles are inexpensive and can be easy to install. Other excellent options in-

clude linoleum, porcelain, cork and stained concrete. More great ideas for your kitchen and beyond can be found at

You don’t need to start from scratch to give your kitchen a makeover. With small improvements, you can get a great return on your investment. -StatePoint

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8 Tips for fast and safe natural gas service Real Estate

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With winter on the horizon, Atmos Energy Corporation, one of the nation’s largest natural gas-only utilities, is reminding customers to sign up for service online before the winter rush. “We recently updgraded our online Account Center to help customers establish natural gas service, pay a bill, and view natural gas usage on their own and at their own pace,” said Clay Cash, Atmos Energy’s Vice President of Customer Service. “In order to receive the fastest service possible, new customers should signup for service at,” said Cash. Customers who had their natural gas service suspended during the summer and need to re-establish service must still call Atmos Energy toll-free at 1888-286-6700 to speak with an agent. “Please call us as soon as possible to ensure that your natural gas is on and you are ready for that first day of winter,” said Cash. Tips for calling:

1. The best time to call is weekday afternoons. Mornings are typically the busiest time at the call centers. 2. Atmos Energy’s two customer contact centers, which are located in Texas, receive approximately 20,000 calls per day. Customers who call during a busy time can use the automated phone system to schedule a return call from an agent, rather than wait on hold. 3. Call centers are open Monday-Friday from 7 8 p.m. (CST); Saturday 8 5 p.m.; and for emergency calls 24/7 at 1-866-322-8667. Energy conservation: 1. The best way to lower your energy bill is to use energy more wisely. A programmable thermostat allows you to keep your house cooler at night and when you’re away, and will automatically warm your house to comfortable levels for the hours you are home. 2. Try Atmos Energy’s online tools such as an Energy Calcula-

tor to help manage your energy use. 3. Inspect your windows and doors for drafts. Use caulk or sealant to insulate as needed. 4. If you are having trouble paying your utility bill, please visit our website to learn more about energy assistance programs. Low-income customers are eligible for federal energy assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps pay energy bills and weatherize homes. About Atmos Energy Atmos Energy Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, is one of the country's largest naturalgas-only distributors, serving over three million natural gas distribution customers in over 1,400 communities in eight states from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the East to the Rocky Mountains in the West. Atmos Energy manages company-owned natural gas pipeline systems in Texas.

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Tips to prepare for winter weather emergencies

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Imagine living without heat, power or communication during the coldest days of the year. During a winter weather emergency, not only can these conditions be unpleasant, but dangerous too. Making a plan, winterizing your home and stocking up on supplies are all essential steps to prepare for winter emergencies. Use this crucial stay-safe checklist now to help your household prepare for blistering conditions all winter long: Make a Plan Storm heading your way? Follow the news closely so you can make last minute preparations before the weather turns dangerous. As part of this process, create an emergency plan

and review it with your family. The plan should also address specific scenarios, such as what to do if someone is separated from the group and is unable to call for help. Stay Powered Up In the event that the power goes out, you will need a reliable alternative power source to charge essential communications equipment like your phone and computer, as well as heat sources, such as space heaters. A durable and compact USB solar charger that’s compatible with smartphones, tablets and even laptops, can be a lifesaver. The pocket-sized iLAND FLY or the higher-powered iLAND TREK are great for emergencies as they work on solar cell tech-

nology that runs in overcast or low-light situations. Should your power go out during a winter storm, for example, the TREK can provide electricity to portable devices for up to three days. iLAND products are the most efficient, light-weight and eco-friendly portable solar energy systems in the market, and both products are made of military grade and quality materials, and are water-, dust- and shock-resistant, which means you’ll have peace of mind during those critical moments where powering your device will be crucial. More information about iLAND’s FLY and TREK can be found at Winterize Ensuring that your home is

protected from the elements can turn a bad situation into a lifesaving scenario. Install storm windows and apply weatherstripping to help insulate your home. In the event the heat goes out, you’ll be trapping warm air in and keeping cold air out. And remember -- you can never have too many blankets and warm clothes. Pack an Emergency Kit When extreme weather hits, it’s important to have essential supplies within an arm’s reach. Be sure that you have a wellstocked, up-to-date first aid kit and an extra supply of all family members’ prescription medications. Your kit should also include several gallons of clean water, as

well as enough non-perishable food to last three days, including formula for young children. Pick items that don’t require cooking or preparation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends replacing these stores every six months. Lastly, make sure you have a battery-operated radio and plenty of batteries on hand. Unless you enjoy treacherous roads, panicked crowds and long lines, don’t wait until that big storm comes your way to start preparing. For a safe and happy winter season, follow these steps to ensure your family is ready for any winter weather emergency that comes your way. -StatePoint

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Great holiday gifts for gardening enthusiasts 13

Shopping for gardeners this holiday season? You can make their season a bit brighter by shopping with their favorite hobby in mind. Here are a few ideas that will put a smile on the face of those green-thumbed family members and friends: Make a Statement Upgrade a hobby wardrobe with gear that’s not only stylish, but functional too. If your gardener is still watering, hedging, weeding and working in the yard in an old pair of beat-up sneakers, consider a pair of garden clogs designed for the specific chores associated with working in the yard or garden. Easy-to-clean and waterproof, they make a great present. Or consider a utility apron in

your gift recipient’s favorite colors or pattern. Go Bird-Friendly No garden is complete without visits from local wildlife, such as songbirds. Help your gardener transform his or her garden into a wildlife refuge. A birdbath and bird feeder will help attract birds and encourage them to linger in the garden longer. Unfortunately billions of songbirds are killed worldwide each year due to accidental collisions with window glass, according to the Wilson Ornithological Society. Consider a unique gift that makes the area safer for flying friends. A new high-tech liquid called WindowAlert UV Liquid can be applied to windows, containing a component that brilliantly reflects ultravio-

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let sunlight. This ultraviolet light, that’s invisible to humans, takes advantage of the keen eyesight of birds, creating a visual barrier on windows to help prevent fatal collisions. “Wildlife can beautify a garden. But birds and other wildlife don’t appear by chance. They seek habitats that provide them with food, shelter, and safety,” says Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert. “ For bird-friendly gift ideas, visit Personalize Make watering the plants a pleasure with a vintage watering can. You can add a personal touch by painting the side of the can with a unique design or your

gift recipient’s name. Or buy a set of planters and give them the same painting treatment. When shopping this holiday season, don’t ignore your gift re-

cipient’s hobbies and passions. There are plenty of gifts that complement the gardening lifestyle. -StatePoint

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Create warm snuggly days this winter 17 Real Estate

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Your house serves as a safe haven from whipping winds during the long chill of winter. When the days are short and the nights are long, making your rooms warmer and more inviting can brighten the mood of the whole house. Combat winter blues by creating comfy days this winter with these tips from the experts at Sun Products, the makers of Snuggle fabric softener: • Breakfast in Bed: It may

feel decadent, but breakfast in bed is the perfect way to stay cozy as you get the day started. • Movie Night: Set aside a night each week to snuggle up on the couch for movie night. Be sure your family room or living room is decked out with plenty of pillows and just-washed throw blankets. Put some popcorn on the stove for a piping hot treat. • Build a Fort: Looking for a fun family activity? Build a fort

using snuggly soft sheets. Play a board game or work on a puzzle in your cozy fort. • Fireplace: Get the fireplace going and have a “campfire” in your living room, complete with marshmallows and sing-alongs. Make sure the kids have their favorite teddy bears to cuddle up with for when you tell scary stories! • Soften up: Create comfier rooms all around the house by giving your fabrics a touch of

softness. Treat sheets, linens, blankets and other laundry with a fabric softener. Extend the cozy feeling of a hot shower by wrapping up in soft, fluffy freshscented towels and robes. To put a good mood in the air, look for a fabric softener with a long-lasting scent and freshness. For example, Snuggle Exhilarations comes in five fragrance combinations, such as white lavender and sandalwood and wild orchid and vanilla, that last from

wash to wash. • Make soup: Nothing is more hearty and fulfilling then a big bowl of soup in winter. Make a big batch of healthy soup at the start of the week and serve it as a side all week long. More tips on creating cuddly days in winter can be found at With a bit of care, you can stay warm and cozy all winter long at home. -StatePoint

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December Real Estate Showcase 2013  

Monthly entertainment magazine of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

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