Thursday, December 27 2018
2018 is quickly coming to a close, with just five days left in the year. As you prepare for the new year, and map out your resolutions and goals, a home remodel may be on your to-do list. A great way to tackle your goals is by creating a plan to follow. We want to help you plan out a home remodel, so you can achieve your home design goals in 2019!
Budget & Plan
The first step to take when planning a remodel is to decide on budget and size of the project. Budget and size of remodels are dependent on each other, so it’s very important to begin the project with solid guidelines in mind. You should determine what your overall budget is, and what you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to focus on major kitchen and bath upgrades, while dedicating smaller improvements to the rest of the home, like new paint and flooring.
Do some research and find inspiration on websites like Houzz and Pinterest, so you can create a wish list with must-have features and model your budget around this. Keep in mind that kitchen and bath remodels are more costly than other areas of the home—according to HomeAdvisor.com, the average kitchen remodel costs around $23,000, or $150 per square foot; the average bathroom remodel costs around $10,000. Of course, costs also fluctuate with size of the space and materials used. Setting a budget and sticking to it can be difficult but having a plan can help you maintain a budget and achieve your design goals!
Now that you have a clear vision and budget, you can take the next step and hire professionals who will execute the project. Find a few local, experienced contractors and reach out for a project quote. Determine who best fits within your needs and budget and hire them for the project! If you need some design help, most contractors are happy to assist with creating a functional layout and including your must-haves in the design—don’t hesitate to ask for their input and suggestions because they may have good insights and ideas that you’ll love! A great resource for finding professionals in your area is the “Pros” search tool on Houzz.com. Another way to find reputable contractors and builders is by asking around—ask neighbors, coworkers, and the community for recommendations.
With a solid plan, and a team to execute it, you are now ready to establish a schedule for your project. You can ask your contractor for a time estimate, and plan accordingly—normally the contractor will suggest which room to start the project in and can give you a timeline and steps involved in each project. Give yourself plenty of time for the project, so you are prepared for any unexpected delays!
Consider the timeless design trend of indoor-outdoor living spaces. This modern, ongoing design trend can increase the value of your home as homebuyers desire indoor spaces that can be expanded to their outdoor entertainment areas. The design is great for homeowners who enjoy entertaining guests, who enjoy nature and fresh air, and who want to expand their views. Indoor-outdoor living can be achieved by including innovative, custom patio doors in your home remodel—Bi-Fold Patio Doors and Multi-Slide Patio Doors can eliminate entire walls and open the room to the outdoors. Using a Folding Door System in your living room, dining room, and kitchen will create open-air living throughout your home! You might also consider using a Bi-Fold Window to create a kitchen passthrough window from kitchen to patio.
Tuesday, December 25 2018
The holiday season is the season of giving. After you’ve spent time with friends and family, given and received thoughtfully picked out gifts, and indulged in countless meals full of rich foods and sweet treats, you may feel a desire to do something more this Christmas. This is a nice time to think about others who are less fortunate, and to give back to the community. Below are some ways that you can make a difference and do some good this holiday season.
Donate to Charities
One way you can give back this Christmas is by donating money to a charity. Maybe you already have a charity you support, or maybe you need to do some research to find one you are passionate about—whatever charity you choose, you can donate a small or large amount of money and know that your donation will be used for an important cause that you want to help. When you research a charity to support, you can narrow it down by causes that interest you; are you passionate about helping children, the homeless, the environment, animals, etc.? Check out relevant charities and choose one whose administrative costs are reasonable, so the largest possible percentage of your donation actually reaches recipients. Then you can be sure that any donation you make will go to a great cause!
Help a Family in Need
Reach out to local community agencies that organize assistance for the less fortunate—there may be a family going through a hard time who could use help this Christmas. You could graciously provide gifts, Christmas decorations, and a meal to this family so they can celebrate the holiday. Small gestures like this could change a family’s life and spread the Christmas cheer to a family who really needs it!
Create Gift Bags
Another way to give back to the community is by creating gift bags for the homeless. You can find inexpensive backpacks and bags at discount stores like Ross and the 99 Cent Store, and you can fill them with items that they will need. Things to include are toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, lotion, sunscreen, deodorant, etc. You should also include items like new socks, gloves, sunglasses, underwear, an emergency blanket, and poncho. This is a nice way to help provide people with basic supplies that everyone needs.
Donate to a Food Bank
You can buy some nonperishable foods, or empty out your cupboard, and donate to a local food bank. Food banks are often in need of extra food during the holidays, so this is the perfect way to help local families in need. You can call your local food bank and ask which foods they most need, or use this list to help you pick some out!
Sing Christmas Carols
Visit a nursing home and bring Christmas cards to pass out. Go as a group and sing Christmas carols to spread cheer among the residents. Many of the people living in nursing homes don’t have family or regular visitors, so spending an hour or two visiting and celebrating the holiday with nursing home residents can bring them happiness and joy and make them feel less lonely during the holiday season.
Merry Christmas from all of us here at AG Millworks!
Thursday, December 20 2018
Tomorrow, December 21st, winter officially begins with the Winter Solstice! Can you believe that Christmas is in just five days, and 2019 is right around the corner? Winter is beginning, so we should be ready to expect colder days and nights, more rain or snow, and frosty windshields. Are you ready for this change in weather? There are things you can do to make this harsh weather more bearable while, day by day, we slowly get closer to Springtime and warmer weather!
Being cold is an uncomfortable feeling and can make any outing miserable. Now that it’s extra chilly outside, be sure to bundle up and wear layers to keep warm. Scarves, hats, gloves, and coats are great protection from the cold weather! Layers are perfect because if you get a little too warm, you can remove a layer or two. You should also invest in a great pair of rain or snow boots to keep your feet warm and dry this winter. Keep an umbrella in your car just in case you get caught in a storm!
Use hot drinks to warm up when it’s especially cold outside. Grab a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate from your local coffee shop and sip on it to keep you warm on your morning commute. Because hot beverages are warmer than your body temperature, they help make your body warmer, even when it’s cold out! Not only will these yummy refreshments keep you nice and toasty, but they are delicious, and could even soothe a lingering cough or sore throat—opt for teas with lemon and honey to achieve the latter.
Break the Chill
Run your fireplace and heater to break the chill in your home. Keep cozy throws and pillows out so it’s easy to cover up on the couch when it’s chilly. Once your home is nice and warm, keep your Bi-Fold Patio Doors closed to preserve the warmth— Energy Solutions Bi-Folds are energy efficient doors that can keep the heat from escaping your home. For those times when no matter how high you raise the thermostat, you just can’t seem to warm up, put on cozy pajamas and fuzzy socks, and turn on your heated blanket to help combat the cold!
Now that you’re ready to fight the cold, here are some interesting facts about this year’s Winter Solstice:
1 | Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year—this means that Friday will have the least number of daylight minutes out of all 365 days of the year. The farther North you are from the equator, the less sunlight you’ll get during the solstice, and the longer the night will be (in the Northern hemisphere).
2 | All the planets in our solar system have solstices too—any planet that rotates on a tilted axis will have seasons, solstices, and equinoxes.
3 | There will be a full moon, called the “Long Night’s Moon,” on the Winter Solstice—the full moon hasn’t fallen on the solstice since 2010, and won’t again until 2094.
4 | The word “solstice” translates to “sun stands still.”
5 | The primary axis of the Stonehenge monument is aligned to the sunset on Winter Solstice.
Tuesday, December 18 2018
Christmas is one week away and its about that time to watch all your favorite holiday movies, so you can really get into the Christmas spirit. Spending a day (or two) bingeing all the best Christmas movies and indulging in tasty holiday treats is one of the best parts about Christmas! We want to help you plan the ultimate Christmas movie binge party that you can enjoy with your friends and family.
Plan to start the event first thing in the morning, to maximize viewing time! Inform attendees that the first movie will begin promptly at 10 am (or whenever you choose) and everyone should arrive early to claim their seats and get situated. You should create a movie lineup with all the movies you plan to show throughout the day, so people know what to expect.
Supply some snacks and holiday treats for the occasion, but also request that guests come with a snack or two to contribute to the snack table! You should include some movie watching staples like popcorn, candy, and chips. It also doesn’t hurt to have a few healthier options like veggies and dip and cheese and crackers. And don’t forget the holiday refreshments like hot cocoa and eggnog (click here for recipes of holiday favorites).
Have plenty of soft blankets on hand for viewers to curl up and get cozy with. Make sure your couch is ready for tons of people and bring in some extra seating like chairs and bean bags, so everyone has a comfy seat. You can even start a fire in the fireplace to keep your home warm and add to the aesthetic! Tell everyone to show up wearing Christmas sweaters and pajamas or loungewear so they are both festive and comfortable for the long movie day that lies ahead. If the room gets a little stuffy, open your Bi-Fold Doors or Multi-Slide Doors and let in the fresh December air.
You might consider scheduling a break from movie watching, to chat, mingle, refuel, and play games. Fun classics like Yahtzee, Cards Against Humanity, Charades, and Pictionary are great for large groups! An hour is the perfect break from the movie marathon, and then you can move on to the next one in the lineup.
The most important thing to plan is your movie lineup. You can opt for all your own personal favorites or conduct a poll amongst your friends and family to conclude which movies will be shown. You can never go wrong with the major classics like A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause Trilogy, Home Alone and Home Alone 2, The Grinch, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Everyone enjoys Christmas movies, so whichever movies you choose are bound to be a hit.
Planning to watch all the best Christmas movies in just one day can be difficult, especially with scheduled times for games, snacking, and bathroom breaks, so why not make it a two-day marathon event! Not only does this give you more time to check off the best movies from your list, but it allows people who may not be able to make it to the party on one day a chance to join in on the next one.
Happy bingeing from AG Millworks!
Thursday, December 13 2018
There’s less than two weeks until Christmas, so it’s time to start planning for your Christmas Day meal. You can create a unique and memorable Christmas brunch for your family by opening your folding patio doors and hosting the event outside on the patio! Use the following tips to ensure your Christmas Day brunch turns out perfectly!
Before the big day, you’ll want to make sure the patio is swept and free of leaves, dust, and cobwebs. Give your outdoor dining set a good wipe down so it is nice and clean and ready to serve its purpose. Check that your outdoor heaters are functioning and have plenty of propane to keep them running throughout the occasion. If you haven’t already, put out some holiday decorations so family and guests can enjoy their meal in a cheery, festive environment! Plan for a way to play classic Christmas music outdoors while the meal commences!
Set up a hot cocoa bar in a nook on the patio so everyone can warm up with the tasty beverage while they wait for brunch to be served. Ingredients for the perfect hot cocoa bar include hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, candy canes, and whipped cream. You can also include small bites like pastries and fruit for your friends and family to snack on before the main meal.
Prepare the table with your favorite table cloth, settings, and holiday center pieces. Don’t forget to include plenty of napkins, and salt and pepper to prevent diners from getting up during the meal. You can keep a basket close by with a stack of cozy blankets, just in case it’s a particularly chilly day.
Keep your Bi-Fold Doors or Multi-Slide Doors open and set up a buffet in the kitchen for guests to serve themselves (if you have a Bi-Fold Kitchen Passthrough Window, you may choose to set up the buffet here). Picking the right brunch food is tricky—you can never go wrong with the basic dishes like eggs, oven-cooked bacon, toast, and pancakes. If you feel like going all out with your meal preparation, check out these tasty and unique brunch ideas from Delish.com. Remember that your family will be happy and grateful for any meal you prepare!
When you guys sit down to eat, make an effort to go around in a circle and take turns saying what you are grateful for this Christmas. It will be a good reminder for everyone that Christmas is more than just gifts and treats, it’s about spending time with the ones you love and enjoying their company! When everyone’s bellies are full, make cleanup a team effort so the job is done in record time. Spend the rest of the day watching movies, telling stories, playing games, and snacking on leftover holiday treats as a family. When the sun begins set, close up your folding doors and light a fire in the fireplace; finish off the day by roasting marshmallows on the fire and making s’mores. There’s no better way to spend the holiday than with Christmas brunch on the patio surrounded by your friends and family!
Tuesday, December 11 2018
Impress family and guests this holiday season by making everyone’s favorite holiday drink from scratch! Below are delicious recipes for some of the most popular holiday drinks. They are easy to follow and taste so much better than store bought mixes!
Of course, hot cocoa is high up on the list—it is a fan favorite every holiday season. Who can resist the sweet, chocolatey flavor that is hot cocoa? Hot chocolate is so easy to make from scratch and tastes 100 times better than the store-bought packets! For the creamiest, chocolatiest recipe, you need: whole milk, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings. In 5 or 10 minutes you will be drinking the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had! Click here for step by step instructions. You can always add your own twist to this recipe with extra ingredients, like marshmallows or cinnamon!
Eggnog is up there with hot cocoa on the list of holiday favorites, and for good reason. The thick, creamy, cinnamon flavor is so unique and delicious, making it a holiday season staple for many. Eggnog is slightly more difficult to make than hot chocolate, however after you do it once, you’ll realize just how easy it is! To make eggnog you need milk, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, eggs, granulated sugar, and heavy cream (and bourbon or rum if you want to make it boozy). This recipe from Delish.com is easy to follow and will leave you with creamy, rich eggnog for you and your family to enjoy!
Hot Apple Cider
Hot apple cider is another popular drink that surrounds Thanksgiving and Christmastime. It’s the perfect libation for a chilly night spent walking the boardwalk, looking at Christmas lights, or sitting at home on the patio by the fire, Bi-Fold Doors open. This is one of the easier recipes on this list because most of the cook time is spent letting the ingredients mix and mingle on the stove to ensure maximum flavor is released from the spices. Ingredients for hot apple cider include: whole cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, apple cider, and orange juice! Follow this recipe from The Food Network to create a tasty cider to warm you up on a cold night!
The hot toddy is a classic beverage perfect for the holidays (and this ongoing cold and flu season). Whether you need it just to warm up and have a nightcap, or to remedy a sore throat, the hot toddy is the ultimate choice for a warm and refreshing holiday treat. A very simple recipe, the hot toddy calls for water, honey, whiskey, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon, and nutmeg. You’re ready to whip up some hot toddies, open up your Multi-Slide Patio Doors, and cozy up on the patio with the family! For step by step instructions, click here.
Everyone loves a peppermint mocha from Starbucks, but you can save money and add flavor by making your own! This recipe calls for just four ingredients: milk, coffee, bittersweet chocolate, and peppermint extract. In minutes, you can have peppermint mochas prepared for the whole family! Follow this peppermint mocha recipe.
Hot Buttered Rum
If you haven’t tried a hot buttered rum before, now is the time! This is the most difficult recipe on the list to master and requires an electric hand mixer to blend the ingredients. Though there is a little more work involved in this drink, a hot buttered rum is worth the extra effort. This drink is full of sugar and spice (and butter) and topped off with rum! Once you try it, it just may be your favorite holiday drink. When you are more familiar with the flavors and recipe, you can customize the recipe to appeal to your own tastes! Click here for the full recipe.
Horchata with Mint & Cocoa
One of our tastiest recipes on this list: Horchata with a twist! This recipe has Mexican roots, and uses mint and cocoa to create a unique twist on the standard horchata. If you're craving a sweet, creamy, cinnamon drink, this is the perfect horchata recipe for you! To master this special Horchata with Mint & Cocoa recipe, developed by the recipe specialiasts at JenReviews.com, visit the Jen Reviews Website here.
Thursday, December 06 2018
With just a few short weeks left before Christmas, you might be feeling the pressure that surrounds such an important holiday. If you’ll be hosting guests for Christmas this year, make their stay more comfortable and lessen the stress that comes with being a host with these tips!
Preparing the guest bedroom should be the first item on your list. Make sure the room is clean and dust free, and all lights are functional. Dress the bed with fresh linens and comfy pillows and leave a supply of cozy blankets in the room, in case your guests get cold. You might even add a scented candle and matches to their room for a warm, relaxing touch. Be sure to let them know the candle is theirs to keep! Consider providing water bottles or a carafe of fresh water and glasses on the dresser or nightstand, so they won’t have to stumble around in the middle of the night in search of the kitchen.
Next you can tackle the guest bathroom. Have the bathroom deep cleaned so it is prepared for guests. Check that there are plenty of fresh and fluffy bath towels and wash cloths available for your guests to use. Have shampoo, conditioner, and soap readily available in the shower nook so your guests don’t have to request any. Don’t forget to supply enough toilet paper in the cupboard or basket for easy access!
If the rest of your home has been cleaned recently, simple spot cleaning will suffice for key areas of the home. Dust and wipe down surfaces and spruce up the powder room to prepare the rest of your home for guests.
Before their arrival, ask guests what tea, coffee, and meals they enjoy so you can better prepare for their stay. Make sure your bar is stocked and ready for entertaining. Have a few different liquors, mixers, beer, and wine on hand to accommodate a variety of tastes—research some fun holiday coctail recipes beforehand and impress guests with a unique and tasty concoction. Offer guests full use of the bar during their stay so they can indulge in their favorite drinks. Don’t forget to pick up some non-acholic beverages for children and non-drinkers. Lay out a spread of holiday snacks, like nuts, popcorn, and other treats for guests to help themselves throughout their stay!
Plan a welcome dinner for their arrival. Find out when guests will be arriving, or if they need a ride from the airport, and make your dinner plans accordingly. This is a busy time of year, so opt for one of these easy crock pot meals to lessen the burden of cooking a large meal—we suggest the Slow Coocker Pot Roast! Throw together a salad, and some garlic bread to include as sides and you’re all set! Open your Bi-Fold Patio Doors and set up the meal on the outdoor dining table where everyone can enjoy your festive patio décor. Your guests will be so grateful to come home to a warm, homemade meal after a busy day of traveling. After the meal, let guests get settled into their guest room and have an early night to relax and recover from the chaotic day.
Tuesday, December 04 2018
December has arrived, which means the next few weeks will be full of holiday planning, baking, and gift wrapping! A fun holiday event that everyone will enjoy is a holiday cookie decorating party! This get-together is super easy to plan and host, so what are you waiting for? Use this guide to plan your cookie decorating party this holiday season!
Now that you’ve decided to host a cookie decorating party, you need to make sure your house is festive and ready to host guests for the occasion. If you haven’t already, begin putting out your holiday décor and make your home feel extra cozy and cheery! Next, pick a day for the party and send out invites—this can be a phone call, text, e-vite, or mailed invitation. You can easily create your electronic invitations on Evite.com and have them sent out immediately. Another great program for invitation design is Canva.com. Canva has hundreds of templates and streamlines the design process! Make sure to create the ultimate holiday music playlist that will last the entire party and put guests in the holiday mood—we suggest you include “Jingle Bell Rock” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” as they are guaranteed to get your friends and family on their feet dancing and singing along!
Now that you have a set day and guest list, you’ll want to gather supplies! You can specify on the invitation that guests bring some sprinkles, frosting, candy, and any other cookie decorations to contribute so there is an abundant assortment of decorations. Colorful sprinkles, lots of frosting, food coloring, plates, Ziploc baggies, and other edible décor are a good starting point! You may also need some Christmas cookie cutters. Decide if you want to bake the cookies in advance or wait until the day of to get baking. This sugar cookie recipe from allrecipes.com is the best for cookie cutting and decorating! If you need additional space to set up decorating stations, don't hesitate to open your large Bi-Fold Patio Door and set up on the patio!
Turn the decorating into a contest! Give everyone plenty of time to get creative and decorate their cookies, and when the time has come, guests should submit their favorite design into the contest. Guests can then vote for their favorite cookie to elect a winner! You might consider purchasing some fun prizes to give out to the first, second, and third place winners of the contest. If you want to make it even more fun, you can have categories like “Most Festive,” “Most Unique,” “Cutest Snowman,” and “Ugliest Sweater.” (Photo from willbakeforbooks.com)
Step up your holiday game by doubling your cookie decorating party as an ugly holiday sweater party! Mention on the invite that everyone should attend the party wearing an ugly holiday sweater. This is a fun and silly way to make sure everyone is festive and in a cheery holiday spirit! You can turn this into a contest as well and vote for the best dressed guest!
Don’t forget to have plenty of snacks and refreshments on hand—people will be craving a salty snack after snacking on cookies and frosting while they’re busy decorating. Chips and dip, veggies and hummus, and cheese and crackers are tasty and affordable snacks you can provide at the party!