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Jutta "Utah" Burden

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UPDATE: Taste of Houston Festival has had to move to October 14 & 15 due to Hurricane Harvey. The event is now a benefit for the victims. All ticket proceeds will be donated to the fund set up by JJ Watt for Harvey Relief.Tickets are $5 at the gate but if you can bring a can of food for Montgomery County Food Bank you can take $2 off that ticket price! Proceeds from the Carnival rides will go to first responders affected by the Hurricane. 

This event is produced by Spark Productions, please contact then directly for event information:
https://www.facebook.com/SingleSparkEvents/
(832) 708-9478
info@singlesparkevents.com

For two wonderful days in October, Town Green Park in the Woodlands will be filled with some of the best that Houston has to offer! Food Trucks, eateries, artists crafters, boutiques, and more will fill over 200 booths ready to serve you. In addition, there will be live music and performances from over 20 of the best musicians and performers the Houston area has to offer! Bring the whole family! There will be a huge kids zone filled with rides, activities, a petting zoo, inflatables and more.

A TRUE TASTE OF HOUSTON

Taste of Houston Festival will feature over 200 artists, crafters, boutiques, eateries, craft beer brewers, food trucks, shops and more unique to the Houston area.

AN ECLECTIC MIX OF ENTERTAINMENT

Over two days Taste of Houston Festival will feature performances from around 20 of the Houston area’s best bands and performing artists. An eclectic mix of pop, r&b, country, rock, indie, zydeco, acoustic and blues artists will keep you on your feet and enjoying the day. There will also be performances from local dance academies, martial arts dojos, comedians and more. It’s all about Houston!

FOOD TRUCKS, EATERIES, CRAFT BEERS & MORE!

You may not want to eat before you come out to Taste of Houston Festival, as there will be over 20 food trucks, restaurants & eateries on hand to keep your belly full and your taste buds happy. In addition, there will be craft beer and wine tastings featuring exclusively Houston area crafts. (Yes there will be some non Houston based drinks for the unadventurous palette.

Houston Symphony: Hocus Pocus Pops 2017 October 13, 2017 7:30 pm

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

OCTOBER 13, 2017
7:30 p.m. / Doors: 6 p.m.
Lucus
Waldin, conductor

Tickets: $20 Orchestra/ FREE Mezzanine & Lawn seating  

Get ready for tricks, treats and lots of family friendly fun at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion’s Hocus Pocus Pops featuring the Houston Symphony Friday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for orchestra seating. Mezzanine and lawn seating are free. Tickets are not required for free seating.

Lucus Waldin conducts the Houston Symphony in a mesmerizing performance of horrifying horns, bewitching bassoons and chilling cellos. Everyone is gravely encouraged to dress up in their Halloween costume for a chance to walk on stage during the concert. The first 100 boys and “ghouls” to check in at Hocus Pocus Central in the North Plaza, fully costumed, get the chance to march in the Goblin Parade. Wristbands are required to participate in the Goblin Parade.

Haunting the plazas before dusk are pre-concert activities starting when the gates open at 6 p.m. Enchanted events to win spooktacular prizes at BOOths offered by H-E-B, The Pavilion Partners, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands and others. If you dare, hop onto the Great Pumpkin Express and carve out some great (or gruesome) memories on The Pavilion’s haunted grounds. Train rides begin at 5:30 p.m. in The Pavilion’s Gold Lot.

Feel free to pack a picnic to sink your fangs into, but keep in mind that outside potions (drinks) cannot be brought into The Pavilion. Sitting on the hill? Lawn chairs also are provided free for this event!

Don't Break the Bank: How to DIY Your Home Bar

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

There's nothing more suave or double-o-seven than having your own wet bar in your own home. Think of how cool you'll look asking your guests "Scotch on the rocks?" while standing over a wet bar just outside your lounge.

Here's the thing though: Wet bars? They're expensive. Well, they are if you have them designed and constructed by the so-called professionals. DIYing can leave you – and your wallet – looking debonair as ever.

Here's how to DIY your new wet bar.

Save your wine corks
There are actually a crazy number of things you can do with wine corks. You can save them, making sure to write the occasion and date that made you strike at wine o'clock – even if it's just a Tuesday. Collect them in a vase or ceramic, patterned bowl and – voila! – suddenly you're fancy. You can also cut them nearly in half and make them menu holders.

Arrange them in a circle, and hang them on your wall for a dartboard. Cut them width-wise into small circles, and secure them to the bottom of your bar stools so they don't scratch your wood floors.

We mean it. You can do anything with these little guys.

Repurpose your beer caps
Remember what we told you about wine corks? (If you're having a hard time recalling, scroll up.) The same thing applies to beer caps. Beer caps can be art: You can arrange them into any shape, hot-glue them to literally anything flat and hang them on your wall. You can arrange them into a fun, creative backsplash for your wet bar.

You can collect one for every craft beer you've consumed or one for every state you've had a beer in. Bring a little culture to your wet bar.

Pop some tags
Remember that Macklemore jam from a while back – the one about going thrift shopping? Take the message to heart, and run out to your nearest thrift store. Or garage sale. Or yard sale. You get the idea.

Any reusable item has amazing powers, including being able to transform into almost anything else. You can make vintage bottles into handsome light fixtures. Buy old wooden barrels and turn them into creative bar stools or a cabinet or even – if you're even craftier than we thought – a sink.

Don't have a counter? Get some wooden pallets and stack them on top of each other. Now you have a place to rest your chalice when your hand gets tired. This wet bar is Shabby Chic at its very finest.

DIY wet bars make your home that much more attractive to home buyers. The best part? You get to keep it when you move out. For help with next steps, give us a call.

3 Creative Ways to Hide Power Outlets in Your Home

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Most building codes require outlets to be spaced out along each wall of your home. While this means that you will always have a convenient place to charge your phone, it also means that you might end up with unsightly outlets located in inconvenient spots. Fortunately, there are a few creative ways to hide your home’s power outlets. This way, you will not have to sacrifice functionality for aesthetic reasons.
 
1. Underneath Your Kitchen Cabinets

At first glance, you will see a smooth, unbroken backsplash. This is undoubtedly an attractive way to design a kitchen, but you will still need a convenient place to plug in all of your kitchen appliances. This issue is solved by mounting the outlets on the underside of your upper kitchen cabinets. This keeps the outlets out of sight but still easily accessible when needed.

You can purchase cabinets with outlets built in or design your own for a fraction of the cost. Adding an electrical box to the underside of your existing cabinets can provide you with a place to tuck away all the wires and an extra-long cabinet door can make this addition appear as though it is a part of the existing cabinetry. 

2. Cover It Up

This might seem obvious, but a well-placed cutting board leaning up against your kitchen wall can cover up all kinds of unsightly switches and outlets. This is an instant solution that will not cost you anything, but it is admittedly not the most elegant approach. 

3. Outlet Covers That Blend Into the Wall

One of the main reasons your outlets stand out from their background is because they are usually a different color than the wall, cabinet or backsplash that they're mounted on. Choosing an outlet cover that blends in with the background can be a quick and affordable way to make your outlets less noticeable. 

Many tile manufacturers sell matching outlet covers that can be included in your backsplash rather than being placed on top of it. Having the outlet lay flush with the rest of the tile can make it nearly invisible at first glance.

Another similar idea is to choose outlets that lay flush with your wall. These outlet covers can be painted over or covered with wallpaper, making the outlet cover appear to be a continuous part of your wall rather than an obtrusive eyesore.

Think about the space you are designing and choose one of these clever solutions to help camouflage your outlets and make your space appear sleek and uncluttered.

Is This Your Situation: Ready to Purchase Your Next Home?

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

If you've decided it's time to move up to a bigger home or a home in a more coveted area, your next challenge will be getting there financially. It's likely you'll need more cash, a larger income and, perhaps, better credit than you had when you purchased your current home. Putting all the pieces in place for the move up could take some time and detailed planning.

1. Credit Clean-Up

Although your credit rating may have been sterling as a first-time home buyer, years of credit card and utility accounts, car payments and consumer loans may have scuffed up that financial image a bit. Late or missed payments have a negative effect on your credit profile, as do large, long-term balances on your accounts. Your credit score, a rating system many lenders use to evaluate your financial situation, may prevent you from borrowing as much as you'd like for your next home or getting the lowest interest rate currently available.
 
The wise buyer will take stock of his or her credit standing and debt status well before attempting the next home purchase. You may need some time to reduce your debt, catch up on any delinquent accounts, remove inaccuracies and blemishes from credit reports and make other adjustments to increase your credit score.
 
2. Loan Shopping

A quick way to sift through these issues is to contact a lender who can pull a credit report to see if there are any glaring spots on your record. If nothing needs immediate attention, you can continue with a complete application, providing the financial information needed for loan pre-approval. The loan officer will determine the maximum loan amount you qualify for based on your income and debt profile.
 
You may want to shop around at this point, comparing loan programs and interest rates. Consider how well your current loan has worked for you and remember that rates aren't everything. The lowest rate may be accompanied by high points. If so, you'll have to keep the mortgage long enough to justify paying the steep up-front cost of the loan.
 
Consider whether a non-traditional mortgage program could meet your needs. An adjustable-rate mortgage may be a good choice if it looks as though interest rates will be falling. A 40-year mortgage might reduce the monthly payment enough so you qualify for a larger loan.
 
3. Collecting Cash

An important factor in the equation that determines your buying power will be how much cash you have for a down payment and closing costs. The best mortgage interest rates are available to buyers with down payments of 20 percent or more. If you make a smaller down payment, you may have to take a higher interest rate or pay for private mortgage insurance, both of which will reduce your buying power.
 
Unless you're a prodigious saver, chances are the equity you have in your current home will provide the largest source of cash for your next home purchase. Equity, of course, is the difference between the market value of the home and the balance on any mortgages secured by the home.
 
We would be happy to conduct a comparative analysis of your home to determine the right sales price—at no obligation to you. By determining the value of your home and subtracting out selling costs (paying off the old mortgage, marketing fees and settlement expenses), you'll have the basis for a down payment on your move-up property.
 
4. Fine Tuning

After taking stock of your financial situation, you may find it necessary to delay your move in order to get the type of home you've targeted. Perhaps you need to save more cash for down payment and settlement costs. You may need to pay down outstanding debts to improve your credit score and qualify for a larger mortgage or a lower interest rate. Remember, it's likely your home's value and your equity in it will continue to grow as you get yourself in a position to move up successfully.

Give me a call and I will help get all of your finances in order before you start shopping for your next home.

7 Home Maintenance Tasks All Homeowners Should Master

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Whether you're a first-time homeowner or a seasoned veteran in homeownership, there are a few home maintenance tasks that all homeowners should master in order to keep their home in tip-top shape. Use these seven tasks as a general guide: 
 
Clean the garbage disposal in your kitchen sink. It is widely agreed upon that the best way to keep your garbage disposal blades clean and sharp is to run vinegar ice cubes through it. This easy task can eliminate odors as well as maintain your garbage disposal unit, keeping your kitchen clean and functional.
 
Check fire safety equipment. Test the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors every six months. If you ever need either one, you'll be glad you kept them both well-maintained. At the same time, you should check to make sure that your fire extinguisher is easily accessible and not nearing its expiration date.
 
Inspect/replace HVAC filters. Your furnace and air conditioner units play a vital role in keeping your home comfortable during all seasons. Keeping the filters clean and free of pet hair, dust and debris can go a long way toward prolonging the life of your HVAC units. This simple task can mean the difference between a quick fix and a costly repair down the road.
 
Vacuum the dust-collecting parts of your major appliances. Vacuuming your dryer's exhaust duct each year can prolong the life of your dryer. Same for the coils underneath your refrigerator. Trapped dust can result in trapped heat, leading to energy inefficiency and decreased life expectancy.
 
Test your garage door sensors. If you have a garage door, it is important to make sure the auto-reverse feature is in working order. This feature can keep your garage door from being damaged — or damaging any of your personal property, family members or pets.
 
Clean the gutters around your home. If your home has gutters, it is important to keep them clean and free of debris, especially during the rainy season. Standing water can create all kinds of problems. It can damage your home as well as provide a breeding ground for insects. Keeping your gutters clean will ensure that they are draining properly at all times.
 
Keep up with landscaping. In addition to improving your home's curb appeal, clearing away dead plants or shrubs on a regular basis can help you notice any issues early on. Also, make sure to check for any dead or dying limbs that overhang power lines, parking spots or your roof. Clearing away dead limbs before they become a problem can minimize stress down the road.
 
Keeping up with a few simple tasks can mean the difference between a routine repair and a costly replacement. Taking these steps can maintain the value of your home.

 

Budget-friendly Curb Appeal Upgrades

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Curb appeal is the first impression that any potential buyer receives, so you should ensure that the front of your home, from the curb to the facade of the house itself, is in the best shape it can be in — even if you don't have the budget to splurge on huge upgrades and services. 

With these easy and cost-effective suggestions, you can improve the curb appeal of your home, while giving yourself a lovelier residence to enjoy right now.

Paint your front door
Giving your front door a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for the overall appeal of your house. Make sure that it's a color that contrasts with the color of the main body of the house, so that it pops out more than it would otherwise. This makes a home feel more welcoming, not to mention more stylish and appealing.

Spice up your front porch
After painting your door, don't neglect your front porch! Add small, inexpensive luxuries like metal house numbers or other decorations. Make sure everything is spotless as well. Sparkling windows and a freshly swept porch make for a more welcoming home, and a more welcoming home often sells far more easily.

Get your lawn in order
Tidying up your lawn is a given. Making sure it's spick-and-span, regardless of the season, is a great way to improve your curb appeal without spending much money — or any money at all! An unkempt lawn can make the house seem less appealing overall, so before showings, make sure your lawn has been mowed and edged for a more professional appearance. Also try to ensure that weeds are pulled. The healthier the lawn looks, the healthier the house looks.

Plant flowers
Having a garden with flowers can really make a home stick out in a buyer's mind. The pops of color can improve even the most immaculately manicured lawn, and a healthy garden can make any house feel more welcoming to anyone possibly looking to buy a home. It's an inexpensive way to improve your home's overall aesthetic, and can also give you a brand-new hobby.

Hose off the front of your home and sidewalks

No need to buy a pressure washer — your standard garden hose is usually sufficient to get most of the gunk and grime off your house. You want your house to be as clean as possible for potential buyers and guests.

Touch up your driveway
Repairing the cracks in your driveway can go a long way toward making your house more accessible in the mind of a buyer. Even superficial flaws such as driveway cracks can really sour someone's opinion of an otherwise beautiful house. And a smoother driveway is easier on your car's tires and suspension.

Closet Design Trends We Never Thought We'd See

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Large, walk-in closets have become more and more popular over the past few years. In fact, many newer master bedrooms have closets that are almost as big as another bedroom. These closets frequently have space for all your clothes (hanging and folded), shoes and even jewelry. While closets used to be an afterthought, they have now started to become one of the most important rooms in a home. 

With all this extra space, designers and homeowners have started to come up with some crazy decorating trends that center around the closet.
 
1. Wine fridge. In many upscale homes, the master bedroom's closet has started to become the female equivalent of a man cave. In the closet you can find a full vanity with a makeup area as well as plenty of storage for clothes, shoes, jewelry, purses and more. In addition to all this, some closets even include a wine fridge for anyone needing refreshments while they are getting ready.

2. Upscale hardware. Many newer closets include gold, silver or brass cabinet hardware and/or accessories.

3. Bright colors. With the expansion of the closet, there is more space to include design elements that were previously used only in a home's larger spaces. Accent walls have become increasingly popular recently, and that trend has spread to accent countertops, doors and drawers that can be found in the closet.

4. Contrasting textures. In addition to using contrasting colors to accent a space, designers have started to use contrasting textures as well. A textured cabinet or drawer will pose a stark contrast to a smooth, wood-paneled wall.

5. Laundry room. If you are getting dressed and undressed in your closet, it would make sense for you to have your laundry hamper in the closet too. But some designers have taken this one step further and relocated the entire laundry room to the closet. Some newly built homes have the washer and dryer hookups right in the master bedroom's closet. This way homeowners can wash, dry, fold and put away their clothes all in one room. Efficient? Yes — and a trend that was previously unheard of.

6. Built-in shelves and drawers. Even in smaller closets, it is becoming more common to include a built-in shelving unit and/or a built-in set of drawers. These shelves and drawers may or may not match the closet door and trim. Many designers choose contrasting colors or plain wooden features in order to accent the closet's design. A combination of hanging sections and shelves can maximize your closet space.

7.  Doorless closets. Gone are the days of hiding everything behind closed doors. Many modern closets are so well-organized that they can become a stylish part of your bedroom.

What are some of the craziest trends you've seen in the world of closets? We'd love to hear from you! 

How to Finish Your Basement Right!

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Like most things, planning a basement renovation is easier when you have all the right tools at your disposal. Read on to learn about a few tips and tricks you can use to make your project as quick and inexpensive as possible.

Tip #1: Find a good contractor.

Finding an experienced contractor can help make the renovation proceed as smoothly as possible. The contractor will be able to help you acquire all the necessary building permits that might be required by your city. This person's business network and connections can also be a huge asset when you are arranging subcontractors to help you with specific parts of the basement renovation. 

Tip #2: Choose the right materials.

You will have to order or purchase the building materials for each phase of your basement upgrade, and it is important to make sure you choose the best materials for the job in every scenario. A good contractor will be able to help you make the right decisions about each of your building materials. 

Tip #3: Increase airflow.

The basement tends to be the coldest room in the house. Many homes have the furnace at one end of the basement, making the opposite end chilly by comparison. Consider installing ducts with an in-line fan in order to even out your basement's temperature.

Tip #4: Check for signs of possible water damage.

Before you proceed with the renovation, check the foundation for cracks and check the basement floor for any pools or drips. Repairing any potential problems before you begin to renovate can save a lot of time and money down the road. If you live in a particularly damp climate, you might want to consider adding a vapor barrier before sealing off your walls and floors. Another way to reduce moisture in your basement is to offset the interior walls from the home's exterior walls. This can be done using thin strips of wood or metal, and can also be used to balance out an uneven exterior wall.

Tip #5: Add additional insulation.

Most basements are not as well insulated as the home's other levels, so if you are planning to start spending more time in the basement, it might be a good idea to add some extra insulation to your basement's walls.

Tip #6: Sand down your ceiling joists.

Many older homes have ceiling joists that are beginning to sag, and this can cause problems if you are installing a new ceiling in your basement. Sanding or planing these joists can help make your ceiling appear as smooth as possible. You can easily do this yourself by using a level and an electric sander. 

These basic steps can help give your newly finished basement a solid foundation to grow from and become an integral part of your family's life.

5 Ways to Automate Your Home

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

5 Ways to Automate Your Home

 

Many large technology companies are coming out with devices to help streamline and automate your family's busy lives. One popular example of this is the Amazon Echo or its similar competitor, the Google Home. These digital personal assistants can help you make shopping lists, play music on demand and more. This trend in automation has extended into the home, with more and more homes including one or more automated features. 

#1 Automated Light Switches

Your home's lights can be programmed to turn on or off on a timer, through the use of a remote device such as your phone, or when another condition is met. One popular use of this feature is to have your porch lights turn on when the light sensor detects that the sun is setting. Never again will you have to fumble for your keys on a dark front porch if you get home late from work or another event.

#2 Programmable Thermostats

One popular way to save money on your energy bills is to keep your house warmer during the summer and colder during the winter. A programmable thermostat will allow you to keep your home at an energy-efficient temperature while your family is gone during the day, but it can then raise or lower the temperature appropriately when it is getting close to the time that you will come home from work. Using this system can help you save money on your energy bills without sacrificing your comfort during the times that you will be at home.

#3 Remote-Controlled Blinds

Similar to the thermostat, another cost-saving strategy is closing your blinds, something that can help keep your home cool on a sunny day. Many people like to have the blinds open to let in the natural light while they are home, but having blinds that close when you leave the house can be a low-maintenance way to keep energy costs down.

#4 Timers for Electrical Outlets

Many people use timers to automate their home's interior lights while they are out of town (making it appear that there are people home even when there aren't), and this technology can extend to many other useful operations. For example, if your coffeemaker doesn't have a built-in timer, you can have the outlet switch it on so that you can have fresh-brewed coffee when you come downstairs in the morning. 

#5 Automated Food and Water Bowls for Pets

Another item that is growing in popularity is a set of food bowls that deposit a preset amount of food into your pet's bowl at a predetermined time (or times) each day.

This is yet another example of the fact that any repetitive task can probably be automated. The recent advances in technology have produced an impressive series of automated devices that can help to streamline the daily maintenance of your home, making it easier to focus on the other, more important parts of your life.

 
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