news posts

Uncategorized

SIGN UP TODAY!

Hello, thank you for your interest in the D&CO. News Post! We are so glad you’re going to join in to receive all of the D&CO. home fun and facts!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

All editions of the D&CO. News Post are delivered directly to your email inbox. It’s informative, fun, and free! Don’t miss out, sign up today!

“What is it?” D&CO. News Post is our reoccurring newsletter, sent directly to your email inbox. Think of it as a tiny magazine celebrating home ownership, from the perspective of your favorite mortgage advisors! Every issue of the D&CO. News Post features all of the D&CO. home fun with DIY, how-to, reviews, tips, design trends… even signature recipes from our D&CO. treat bags! We’ve also got industry news, loan advice and tips for you too.

A note about password “protected” articles: Sorry, those are articles to be released in the next issue of the D&CO. News Post. See them asap by signing up for our email list. Just scroll down to see the current month’s and past News Post articles.

Home Hack

Declutter Those Closets – The Practically Painless Way!

This spring cleaning season, make the closet less of a chore with this month’s Home Hack. Use the method below to do a lot of the sorting work for you while you live your normal day-to-day.

Reverse Hanger Trick

Face hanger hook openings toward you…

You simply take all of your clothes that are currently on hangers, and reverse them from their normal way of hanging. To explain, turn the hangers backwards so that the hanger hook opening faces outwards, towards you. (If you already hang your clothes this way, you’ll just make it the opposite.) When you use an item, place it back on the rack with the hanger hook opening facing the wall, away from you. Then as you go through the next month you’ll see what clothes you actually use, and the ones you never touch. The hanger hook openings still facing out are all your potential donations, yard sale, or give-away/hand-me-down items.

You can use this method for shoes as well. Place all of the shoes on the floor, and as you use a pair place them on a shoe rack or in another part of your room. The ones you never touch are the potential donations, yard sale, or hand-me-down items.

Donations

There are some common misconceptions about clothing donations. Here are a few simple rules to help the donation facility of your choosing while you clean your closet at the same time.

  • Only donate clean clothing. Many people assume their donations are cleaned at the donation facility before they sell them. This is false. Most donation places do not have the budget or capacity to clean donated items. Only donate CLEAN clothing and goods.
  • If it’s broken or torn, toss it – don’t donate it. They don’t mend clothing or repair things either.
  • Try to Recycle. Have items you just don’t want to give away? There are shops that actually buy lightly used clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, and even interesting books for “upcycling.” Check with local consignment shops and vintage stores for selling and upcycling opportunities.

Storage Solutions

Once you’ve sorted through your clothes, it’s SO much easier (and kinda fun?) to organize it. There are a lot of cost-effective closet storage solutions out there these days. Ikea has several full closet systems and storage options that are meant to accommodate any size home. We also found some great organizational solutions on Amazon (pictured below).

Easy View Shoe Storage

Simple Dresser Solutions
Simple, and even the stackable utility drawers work great for things like socks, light clothing, and undergarments.

Drawer Organization
Organizers are great for all the things that tend to get jumbled in drawers.


Compact Hangers and Dust Cover Storage
These options aim to take the bulk out of your closet, which should make finding and retrieving clothes so much easier – and make closets feel more spacious too.


Folding the Clothes
If you’d like to have your folded clothes as neat as a store display, folding boards are the trick!

HAPPY SPRING CLEANING!

Recipes

Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

Ingredients:
Fresh egg whites – 5 (from actual eggs, not a box)

Lemon – 1 slice

Vanilla – 1 teaspoon

Sugar – 1.5 cups

Chocolate Chips

Directions:
Heat oven to 220 degrees

For this recipe, you will need a stand mixer or electric hand mixer.

In a small bowl, collect the egg whites by separating the egg whites from yolks. Make certain to not get any yolk in the egg whites. Let the egg whites sit for a few minutes to come closer to room temperature before you start mixing.

  • Slide lemon slice over the mixer beaters and the inside of a large mixing bowl
  • Add egg whites to the bowl you’ve rubbed the lemon on
  • Add the vanilla to the egg whites
  • Blend on medium speed, until you have soft peaks
  • Add sugar SLOWLY by sprinkling a thin layer at a time into the bowl as you continue to mix on medium speed. Adding the sugar should take several minutes.
  • Blend until all the sugar is fully incorporated, and the mixture forms very stiff, glossy, white peaks
  • Turn off mixer to add chocolate chips – I try to keep it to 3/4 cup or less so that the cookies stay big and fluffy – gently sprinkle the chocolate chips in an even layer over the surface of meringue mixture, then use a spatula to gently fold them in by hand. Mix just enough to incorporate the chocolate chips, do not over mix.

Use an ice cream scooper to drop big even portions onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, keeping cookies an inch or two apart. (You can use cooking spray if you don’t have parchment, but it can discolor the bottoms of the cookie slightly.)

Bake for 60 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the oven closed for several hours to cool. The longer you leave the cookies to cool in the (turned off) oven, the better they will be. Properly dried meringue cookies will be crunchy and sound hollow when you tap on the bottom.

GET FANCY WITH YOUR MERINGUES:

  • You can eat them plain, of if you’d like to get fancier: dip/drizzle with milk chocolate or sprinkle with a cocoa/powdered sugar mixture (pictured).
  • Make them spring/Easter themed by adding a tiny drop of food coloring to lightly color your meringues just before you add your chocolate chips.
  • If you’re great with a piping bag, you can skip the chocolate chips and use an extra large star attachment, or freehand pipe large Peep shapes.

HAPPY SPRING!

Curb Appeal

Create an Instant Butterfly Garden

Grab the garden gloves! Today, we’re creating a not-so-secret garden that continuously attracts beautiful butterflies and their whimsical friends. The best news is, you can create a butterfly garden on a small budget with just a few good plants – which means you can have fun growing your garden by collecting plants little by little if the need be.

D&CO. PRO TIP: Buy in threes. Three always seems to be the magic number for how many plants to buy, especially when starting out. Grouping three of the same plants together (planting a few feet apart for growth) usually makes the best visual, and also makes it easy for butterflies to find.

Most of the plants that attract butterflies love the Florida sunshine, therefore a great area for a butterfly garden is one that has at least part sun – check plant labels or with an associate for specific plant care and warnings*. Butterfly plants are usually simple looking, with lots of green leaves and small flower accents. A butterfly garden should grow a little more wild than be perfectly trimmed and shaped all the time, if you want the plants to attract the most winged visitors. (Too frequent trimming gets rid of flowers and buds, which are what attracts the butterflies.) Approach your butterfly garden design more like you are building a theme park for butterflies, than creating a traditional tightly manicured garden.

Common Butterfly Attractors:


Monarch Caterpillar eating Milkweed leaves

Milkweed
The easiest way to get butterflies to show up in your yard is to plant some Milkweed. Milkweed is a host plant for Monarch butterflies and comes in a few varieties. We like the type pictured here best. It’s labeled a “host plant” because Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the plant so caterpillars have something to eat when they hatch. The caterpillars will eat this plant down to a nub. Don’t worry, the plant continuously leafs out and grows back again. We suggest planting it behind or among other plants so that you don’t notice as much when the caterpillars eat it all – and they will absolutely eat it ALL! Note: Milkweed is toxic to nearly everything but the Monarch caterpillar, so keep it away from curious children and animals. 


Penta flowers with butterfly

Pentas
These tiny star flowers come in a variety of colors and attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, bumble bees… all of the little creatures that make a garden magical. Note: Some varieties are long and leggy, some are neat and shrub-like. Be sure to check labels or ask an associate about the type of penta you are purchasing, so that you know what space is best for planting it.


Yellow Shrimp Plant

Shrimp Plants
Shrimp plants have flowers that kind of look like little shrimps from a distance. It’s a butterfly favorite in any color. Note: Hummingbirds LOVE this plant too. In our yard, they seem to gravitate to the red variety. 

 

 


Plumbago with lots of flowers!

Plumbago
This one is a large loose bush that butterflies and hummingbirds love. You want to keep it a little wild so that the flowers are always plentiful and present – it’s what the butterflies are attracted to and feeding on. 

 

Plumbago

By adding all or any of these four simple butterfly attractors, your garden is sure to be a hit with all kinds of butterflies.  

Share your butterfly gardens with @DeAnnaAndCompany by using the hashtag #GrowWithDandCO

* Keep in mind: some plants can be toxic to animals and humans. Be sure to check labels and with a knowledgable plant associate for information. Additionally, it’s a good rule of thumb to always wear gloves and eye protection while gardening, and to thoroughly wash hands/shower after.

Home Hack

3 Easy Ways to WOW Home Buyers!

If you are selling your home, there are three easy things you can do to WOW your potential buyers:

Remove Personalization, Declutter, and Clean

There is a difference between decluttering and cleaning, we’ll explain that below – but let’s start with removing personalization.

1. Remove Personalization. This is an easy one. Start the packing process immediately with items that are personal to you. Meaning, if it’s something that is “so you,” pack it up. This means pictures of you, your friends, your family, your feelings, your favorites… pack it all up. Packing things now that you don’t need everyday will not only help you in the long run, but also help your home to look its best for buyers at the same time. You want to do everything you can to allow a buyer to picture themselves living there. Transforming your home into a more generic space allows the majority of buyers to see the potential your home offers, and allows them to imagine how they will decorate and customize it. If you’re having trouble with this step, just imagine the things you would remove or store to make your home a vacation rental. Here’s a general checklist of personal things to pack up and/or securely store:

  • Photos and Art: Anything depicting friends, family, pets, degrees, favorite sports teams, political themes, religious themes, awards, names, initials, etc.
  • Signs and Banners
  • Collections and Knick Knacks
  • Hobbies and Supplies

D&CO. TIP: If you are having in-person showings and open houses, strangers will be in your home. Don’t forget to securely store personal items like medication, mail, personal papers, jewelry, and other valuables. 

2. Declutter. Clutter is something we all become immune to over time. Piles of mail or magazines, everyday conveniences like snacks or water bottles on kitchen counters – it may be everyday living to you, but all of these items are clutter in the buyer’s eye. Clutter makes it harder for buyers to imagine themselves living in the space. It literally “clutters” their view. Pack it up, neatly store it, or toss it. Here are some clutter culprits:

  • Piles of mail or magazines
  • Stacked items on counters; snacks, bottles, dishes, spices, books, mail, newspapers, etc.
  • Shopping Bags
  • Mail Packages
  • SHOES and Clothes
  • Collectibles
  • Office and Craft Supplies

3. CLEAN. We’re talking deep clean. Windows make a big impact. Sparkling windows make for great looking photos and beautiful views of the vistas for those in-person showings. Here are other overlooked items to consider for deep cleaning – they all make a big impact to the feel of your home:

  • Windows
  • Floor Boards
  • Doors and Cabinets
  • Back Splashes and Appliances – look for splashes and hand prints
  • Door Knobs and Hardware – look for the hand prints
  • Tile Grout Lines
  • Mirrors, Toilets, Showers
  • Corners – along wall edges, where the carpet/floor meets the wall is a dust magnet!
  • High Traffic Floors, Doors, and Walls – paint touch ups and cleaning where needed

Removing personalization, decluttering, and deep cleaning can instantly improve your home’s image – all it takes is some time and elbow grease.

Recipes

Pub-Style Shepherd’s Pie (Hello Fresh)

We have been relying on (and LOVING) our Hello Fresh subscription for fun and delicious meals safe at home during the pandemic. The Pub-Style Shepherd’s Pie was one of our many favorite meal kits from them.

 

Since Hello Fresh sends us the exact portions to make each dish, the recipe here is more of a “little-of-this, a little-of-that” approach.

Note: *This is not an ad, we really have a Hello Fresh subscription and we really enjoy this recipe!

 

Ingredients:
Mashed Potatoes (5 to 6 Yukon Gold or 2 to 3 Russet)
Sour Cream – about 2 tablespoons (for making the mashed potatoes)
Carrots – 2 to 3
Onion – 1
Celery – 3 stalks
Ground Beef – 1 pound – OR make it plant-based with Impossible Burger instead, same directions.
Tomato Paste – 1.5 ounces
Flour – 1 tablespoon
Beef Stock – 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
White Cheddar Cheese – 1/2 cup
Garlic Powder – 1 teaspoon
Fresh Thyme – 1 teaspoon for mashed potatoes, 2 teaspoons for meat mixture
Vegetable Oil
Butter – 1 to 2 tablespoons
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Wash and dry all produce

  • Finely chop onion and celery. Peel, then slice carrots length wise and chop into 1/4″ half moons. Strip thyme leaves from stems and roughly chop leaves. Cut potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.

Next, make mashed potatoes and vegetables separately but simultaneously.

  • Mashed Potatoes: Place potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water (2″ of water above potatoes), add a little salt. Bring to boil and cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain. Return potatoes to original pot. Mash potatoes with sour cream, butter, and about 1 tsp of fresh thyme. Add splash of water as needed to loosen.
  • Vegetables: Drizzle oil in large pan, (use an oven safe pan if you’d like to make  the pie assembly easier). Cook carrots in a little salt and pepper for 3-5 minutes until slightly softened. Add celery, onion, and a large drizzle of oil. Cook 5-7 minutes until tender. Add splashes of water to keep veggies from browning. When veggies are fully cooked, add garlic powder, and 2 tsp of fresh thyme and cook for 30 seconds.

Add ground beef to vegetables, and season with a little salt and pepper. Break meat apart while cooking. Cook until meat is browned and thoroughly cooked.

  • Add 1 tablespoon of flour and 1.5 ounces of tomato paste to ground beef and vegetables and cook until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of beef stock to ground beef and vegetables. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture is very thick, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If using oven safe pan: top ground beef/veggie mixture with even layer of mashed potatoes, leaving a gap around the pan edge. Sprinkle with shredded white cheddar cheese. BROIL about 3 minutes until browned. CAREFULLY WATCH it to avoid burning.

If using a baking dish: If you don’t have an oven safe pan, assemble pie in baking dish. Ground beef with veggies in the bottom. Top with even layer of mashed potatoes, leaving a gap around the pan edge. Sprinkle with shredded white cheddar cheese. BROIL about 3 minutes until browned. CAREFULLY WATCH it to avoid burning.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK‘S DAY!

 

 

Curb Appeal

Pool Solar Panels – is it worth it?

Living in Florida, we have the ability to heat our pools with the sun using pool solar panels. But is it worth the investment?

In our opinion, yes. If the goal is to regulate a pool’s in-season temperature in an energy-efficient, cost-effective way, then solar panels are a great way to accomplish that goal. Read more to see if solar pool panels are right for your needs.

Solar Pool Panels Perks List:

  • Low energy
  • No giant propane tanks like with gas heaters
  • No reoccurring propane costs because the SUN is the heat source
  • Most economical way to keep a pool at a consistent temperature
  • Lasts 10+ years

How it works:

A solar panel heating system takes water from your pool filtration system and sends it up to your roof to be heated by the sun, moving the water through a series of small tubes in the “solar panels” before returning the newly heated water to the pool. The system has sensors that regulate and keep the pool at the set temperature, automatically adding the solar-heated water as needed to maintain temps. Here in Central Florida, it’s best used “in-season,” late spring through mid fall. You can still warm a pool in the colder months, BUT using it when it’s consistently cold can cause you more general pool maintenance issues. (Likely due to the temperature changes between day and night evaporating the pool water at a higher rate.) Keep in mind that in the winter months shorter days providing less sunlight means less heating capabilities.

What panels are best for:

Solar panels can typically heat your pool up to 10 degrees above it’s current stand-alone temperature.

A solar panel heating system simply does not have the environmental resources to heat a 40 degree pool up to a consistent 80 degrees in the winter. We only rely on our system for the warmer season when the outside day temperatures are more consistent with the night temps. While solar panels can technically work all year mechanically, winter will have less sun (shorter days), which means a lot less opportunity to warm the colder pool water with the solar panels. There’s also a lot more water evaporation if the temperature of the pool is warmer than the air on the colder nights.

How long do they last:

Be sure to ask your provider. Lots of systems are guaranteed for around 10 years. The roof components of a system is typically changed out with a new roof installation, but the mechanics of the system (the power, piping, and controls mounted on the side of the house) can last even longer. Expect a few minor fixes needed along the way, usually due to freezing temperatures in the winter. Fixes should only have labor costs when panels are under warranty.

How much do they cost:

Prices vary but typically around $3,000 to $5,000. Cost usually depends on things like how many panels your pool will need, and the additional materials and labor needed to install your system.

How to choose a solar panel provider:

Make sure they are a licensed, insured contractor. Look for real-world reviews and compare companies. Ask neighbors with pools if they have solar heaters, who they hired, and how their solar panels have worked for them. Warranty is important, so make sure you are getting a quality product that is guaranteed.

Do you have solar panels for your pool? Share your experience with others in the comments section of our Instagram pics for this Curb Appeal article: @DeAnnaAndCompany

Home Hack

Oh So Pretty Pantry!

This month we are sharing our finds to help organize the kitchen pantry. From cans, to dry goods, pastas to cereals… even your avalanches of spice jars – we’ve hopped over to Amazon and found a little something to arrange it all.

MEET THE ORGANIZERS:

CLEAR BINS

Clear bins allow us to see things at a glance. Containers with higher walls also seem more versatile than the shorter walls, but you will have to assess your particular needs. Clear bins are great for: bags or small boxes of sides, snacks, packs of things like oatmeal, granola bars, individual chip bags, bagged soups, beverages in boxes or packs, etc.

AIR-TIGHT CONTAINERS

Air tight containers are great for: pastas, cereals, dry beans, rice, candies, flours, sugars, etc.

RACKS

Storing things like soda and soup cans are so much more efficient on racks. We like the racks like the picture above; single row units where the cans slide forward as you use them, so that you can easily cycle through the cans. Make it easy to find what you’re looking for by dedicating one rack (or row) to one type of can: canned soups – OR – canned vegetables OR canned fruits OR canned beverages, etc. Canned goods are heavy, be sure to distribute the weight of these items by placing them at the strongest points on your shelves. We do not recommend stacking units or having all the cans on one shelf. (See arranging ideas below) Can racks are great for: REGULAR sized canned vegetables, soups, fruits, and beverages.

SPICE RISERS

Spices can overwhelm a cabinet, but these little risers really help to keep things nice and neat. Keep your most used spices on the bottom step of the riser, with the least used spices stored on the top. Spice risers are great for: standard and short spice bottles.

BASKETS

For the other odds and ends. Baskets are great for: potatoes, onions, dedicated snack bins for individuals (add a cute name tag), food storage items like bags and foils, etc.

Where to start?

REMOVE IT ALL! Sounds daunting, but it was actually kind of fun and refreshing once you get going. Fully wipe down the shelves. Sort out the expired goods. Play some good music to keep your momentum.

TOSS:

Expired items? Toss them. If it’s had time to expire, you don’t use it anyway.

BUNCH of cereals? Do a taste test, they’re likely stale. Time to toss!

COMBINE:

Several opened bags or boxes of the same items? Combine them. Think: flours, pastas, sugars, dry beans, rice, snacks, spices, etc.

Note: Don’t make multi-ingredient confetti. Only combine like things. Example; several open boxes of spaghetti noodles? Combine them. But DON’T combine, say an open bag of bowtie pasta with penne pasta, and spaghetti noodles just to save space. If you don’t cook it or eat it together, don’t combine it together.

Now the fun part:

MAKE YOUR OWN LITTLE STORE!

Arrange goods like your own little store! Keep the things you use most often at eye level. Things you use least often on the harder to reach shelves.

Canned goods: organize them by type. Soups, Vegetables, Fruits, Meats, Drinks.

Arranging the goods: consider organizing every shelf by a theme. Since we all don’t have giant pantry rooms at our disposal (like the celebrities on these organizing shows do), we have created this simple 4-shelf outline to start your realistic pretty pantry endeavors. Swap the shelve order for how (or who) uses the items on it most often. The most accessed items/shelves should be easiest to reach.

CEREALS and BREAKFAST – top shelf:

Start with the sweet cereals on one end, move to the healthier options in the middle, then things like oatmeals, granola bars and breakfast alternatives, then nut butters, jam, and syrups on the other end.

SNACKS and SWEETS – mid shelf:

Start with canned fruit (can rack), then boxed cookies, move to boxed crackers, chip bags, dips, then dried fruits and nuts. This is also a good shelf for canned beverages (can rack).

PASTA and BEANS – mid shelf:

Start with your canned vegetables (can rack), then canned meats (think tuna, chicken, etc.), sides in packages or boxes, pastas, then dry beans/rice, jar goods (olives,pickles, etc.), condiments

BAKING and BLUE MOON – bottom shelf:

Start with sugars and flours, then oils and other baking essentials/decorations (spice riser/ clear bins). Next, boxed mixes, your rarely-used “in a blue moon” goods, then spices (spice riser), and end with canned soups (can rack).

Are you proud of your pretty pantry? Share your tips and pics with us on Instagram! Use the hashtag: #DandCOPrettyPantry

Recipes

Valentine Treat Mix

This original Betty Crocker recipe is a go-to for our Valentine’s Day treat bags!

Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups Chex cereal
  • 1/2 cup vanilla chips
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pink/red/white candy-coated chocolate candies
  • 2 tablespoons pink/red sprinkles

 

Directions

  • Place cereal in large mixing bowl, set aside.
  • In microwavable bowl, place vanilla chips, peanut butter, and regular butter. Set microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stop the microwave every 30 seconds to stir the mixture until just melted. (May not take the whole 1:30 depending on your microwave.)
  • Pour melted mixture over cereal and gently mix until coated.
  • In a gallon zipper food storage bag, place 1/2 of the cereal mix. Add powdered sugar, close and shake bag until cereal is fully coated. Empty mix onto wax paper or aluminum foil and spread it out to cool, about 15 minutes.
  • With the remaining cereal mix in the bowl, gently stir in candies and sprinkles. Spread out on aluminum foil or wax paper to cool, about 15 minutes.
  • In large mixing bowl, gently combine both cereal mixes.
  • Place about 1 cup of mix into plain sandwich twist tie bags or decorative food-grade cellophane bags.

Make it a Valentine! Use pink, red, and white curling ribbon to cinch the tops of bags closed. Add a themed tag if you want to get even fancier!

HAPPY VALENTINE‘S DAY!