Celebrating Veterans Day Around the World

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

The Great War and Armistice

Though the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, November 11 remained in the public imagination as the date that marked the end of the Great War. In November 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. The day’s observation included parades and public gatherings, as well as a brief pause in business activities at 11 a.m. On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.; the U.S. Congress had declared the day a legal federal holiday in honor of all those who participated in the war. On the same day, unidentified soldiers were laid to rest at Westminster Abbey in London and at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Did You Know?

On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the “recurring anniversary of [November 11, 1918] should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations” and that the president should issue an annual proclamation calling for the observance of Armistice Day. By that time, 27 state legislatures had made November 11 a legal holiday. An act approved May 13, 1938 made November 11 a legal Federal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’” In actuality, there are no U.S. national holidays because the states retain the right to designate their own, and the government can only designate holidays for federal employees and for the District of Columbia. In practice, however, states almost always follow the federal lead.

From Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day

American effort during World War II (1941-1945) saw the greatest mobilization of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force in the nation’s history (more than 16 million people); some 5.7 million more served in the Korean War (1950 to 1953). In 1954, after lobbying efforts by veterans’ service organizations, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act that had made Armistice Day a holiday, striking the word “Armistice” in favor of “Veterans.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954. From then on, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

The next development in the story of Veterans Day unfolded in 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which sought to ensure three-day weekends for federal employees–and encourage tourism and travel–by celebrating four national holidays (Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day) on Mondays.

The observation of Veterans Day was set as the fourth Monday in October. The first Veterans Day under the new law was Monday, October 25, 1971; confusion ensued, as many states disapproved of this change, and continued to observe the holiday on its original date. In 1975, after it became evident that the actual date of Veterans Day carried historical and patriotic significance to many Americans, President Gerald R. Ford signed a new law returning the observation of Veterans Day to November 11th beginning in 1978. If November 11 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the federal government observes the holiday on the previous Friday or following Monday, respectively.

Celebrating Veteran’s Day Around the World

Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the veterans of World Wars I and II on or near November 11th: Canada has Remembrance Day, while Britain has Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November). In Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth countries it is common to observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every November 11.

In the United States, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held each Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, while parades and other celebrations are held in states around the country. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day–a common misunderstanding, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Memorial Day (the fourth Monday in May) honors American service members who died in service to their country or as a result of injuries incurred during battle, while Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans–living or dead–but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

Remembrance Day is symbolized by the artificial poppies that people wear and place at war memorials. The poppies may be worn or placed singly or as wreaths. The use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance comes from a poem written by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving in the military. The poem is called In Flanders Fields and describes the poppies growing in the Flemish graveyards where soldiers were buried.

Poppies grow well in soil that has been disturbed. They also grew in large numbers on battle fields. The red color of their petals reminded people of the blood lost by victims of and casualties in the conflict. Some people choose to wear white poppies to campaign for non-military interventions in conflict situations.

Other symbols of Remembrance Day are the war memorials, which are often near the geographical center of communities. These commemorate members of the community, who have died in military action. A particularly well-known memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, Ontario. The military parades held on November 11 are also symbolic of Remembrance Day.

Excerpted 11/15 from





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Housing & Hispanics: The Next Decade Demand

Hispanics & Housing: Demand Over The Next Decade | Keeping Current Matters

The Mortgage Bankers’ Association (MBA) recently released a report: ‘Housing Demand: Demographics And The Numbers Behind The Coming Multi-Million Increase In Households’. In this study, the MBA “utilized a comprehensive analysis of data from 1976 to 2014, a period encompassing several market and housing cycles, to provide a projection of much stronger housing demand over the next decade.” According to the report:

“by 2024, demographic and economic changes will bring what could be one of the largest expansions in the history of the U.S housing market with 13.9 million additional households.”

But, what did they say about the Impact of the Hispanic community?

The Impact of Demographics on Housing Demand

§ Over the next decade, Hispanic household growth will increase by 5.7 million households.

§ New “minority-owned” households will be more than one-third higher than the number of new “non-Hispanic/White” households.

§ The homeownership rate among Hispanics ages 40 and over is greater than the current average rate of 46% for all Americans.

§ Millennials will be a key component of growth raising the ranks of households age 18 to 44 by 4.1 million. (21% of Millennials in the U.S. are Hispanic.)

Bottom Line

The Hispanic community will be a major driver of housing over the next decade. 



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Why So Much Paperwork for a Mortgage?

Paperwork Madness NYREEX

We are often asked why there is so much paperwork mandated by the bank for a mortgage loan application when buying a home today. It seems that the bank needs to know everything about us and requires three separate sources to validate each and every entry on the application form. Many buyers are being told by friends and family that the process was a hundred times easier when they bought their home ten to twenty years ago. There are two very good reasons that the loan process is much more onerous on today’s buyer than perhaps any time in history.

  1. The government has set new guidelines that now demand that the bank prove beyond any doubt that you are indeed capable of affording the mortgage. During the run-up in the housing market, many people ‘qualified’ for mortgages that they could never pay back. This led to millions of families losing their home. The government wants to make sure this can’t happen again
  2. The banks don’t want to be in the real estate business. Over the last seven years, banks were forced to take on the responsibility of liquidating millions of foreclosures and also negotiating another million plus short sales. Just like the government, they don’t want more foreclosures. For that reason, they need to double (maybe even triple) check everything on the application.

However, there is some good news in the situation. The housing crash that mandated that banks be extremely strict on paperwork requirements also allowed you to get a mortgage interest rate probably at or below 4%. The friends and family who bought homes ten or twenty ago experienced a simpler mortgage application process but also paid a higher interest rate (the average 30 year fixed rate mortgage was 8.12% in the 1990’s and 6.29% in the 2000’s). If you went to the bank and offered to pay 7% instead of <4%, they would probably bend over backwards to make the process much easier.

Bottom Line

Instead of concentrating on the additional paperwork required, let’s be thankful that we are able to buy a home at historically low rates. 



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Why Buying a Home is Less than Renting!

Buying a Home Remains 35% Less Expensive than Renting!

In the latest Rent vs. Buy Report from Trulia, they explained that homeownership remains cheaper than renting with a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage throughout the 100 largest metro areas in the United States. The updated numbers actually show that the range is from an average of 16% in Honolulu (HI), all the way to 55% in Sarasota (FL), and 35% Nationwide!

The other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Interest rates have remained low and even though home prices have appreciated around the country, they haven’t greatly outpaced rental appreciation. “In the past year, these two trends have made homeownership even more affordable compared with renting.”
  • Some markets might tip in favor of renting if home prices increase at a greater rate than rents and if – as most economists expect – mortgage rates rise, due to the strengthening economy.
  • Nationally, rates would have to rise to 10.6% for renting to be cheaper than buying – and rates haven’t been that high since 1989.  

Bottom Line

Buying a home makes sense socially and financially. Rents are predicted to increase substantially in the next year, lock in your housing cost with a mortgage payment now. 



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Does the Holidays Pressure & Stress You Out?

Stressful Holiday Season?

As fall begins, a lot of us are starting to think about the holidays. Thanksgiving will be here soon, as will Christmas, and then New Years.

For a lot of people, these holidays equal one thing—stress. According to a recent survey, Christmas is actually rated 6th on the list of ‘most stressful life events’, being right up there beneath moving, divorce, changing jobs, and other equally stressful situations. 86% of people also said that they found buying presents difficult, and 65% said that shopping for Christmas presents was, in itself, a stress-filled experience.

But why are the holidays associated with so much negativity?

A big part of it is probably the expectation of ‘holiday magic’. Many mothers feel pressured to cook the ‘perfect’ Thanksgiving dinner and to wrap the ‘perfect’ presents to go under a flawless, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Of course, all of this shopping, cooking, and decorating also costs money—which is why a lot of people face financial stress during the holiday season as well.

But is it really worth it? Is a magical holiday worth stressing out over? Or perhaps an even better question is this—what constitutes a ‘magical’ holiday?

A challenge for the upcoming holiday season

This holiday season, try to think about things a little bit differently. There is nothing wrong with wrapping presents, decorating, and trying to make the holidays magical—but try to keep in mind that these things are not worth your happiness. If you plan too much or try to take on too many tasks, you might start to feel burnt out. This can lead to stress, frustration, and resentment. You might find yourself more unhappy than happy during what is supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’

This year, try to keep things in perspective. Have a meeting with your spouse and children, and try to figure out what is really important to everyone. Odds are good that everyone will agree that they would rather have a stress-free holiday season than a ‘commercialized’ one—which can be a very healthy thing to hear if you usually pressure yourself to deliver something that, in all actuality, doesn’t matter that much to the rest of your family.

Above all else, try to remember that the holidays should be about relaxing, having fun, and spending time with the people you love. Do this in the manner that fits best with your life, and try not to feel pressured by magazine covers and commercials that tell you that it has to be a certain way to be ‘magical’.



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Fall, Backyard Ideas


the perfect time to enjoy your outdoor space. Gather your friends and family and make the most of the cooler season with one of these fun outdoor ideas.

Gather Around the Fire — From a portable fire bowl to an elaborate built-in structure, there are fire pit designs to fit every budget. (Your town may have rules on where or if you can build a fire pit, so check ordinances first.) Use your fire feature to roast marshmallows or stay warm while you swap stories under the stars.

Host a Movie Night — Revive the drive-in movie concept in your own backyard. Prepare for your outdoor movie night by stringing a crisp white bed sheet between trees or tacking it to a fence. Then find a clear spot for the projector. Once the sun sets, grab a blanket and a few snacks, and let the entertainment begin.

Enjoy Fall Grilling — There’s no reason to write off the backyard grill just because there’s a chill in the air. Have a few friends over for a fall cookout, complete with grilled seasonal veggies and a potluck dessert. An outdoor heater or chimenea can supplement the warmth from the grill, or spread out a couple blankets for friends to cozy up with if necessary.

Throw a Tailgate Party — Fall weekends belong to football, so why not host a backyard tailgate party? Broadcast the game outdoors by setting up a TV in the garage or under a small tent. Then plan a simple themed menu, decorate in team colors, and create a playlist with feel-good tunes.



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Is It Now Easier to Qualify for a Mortgage?

Is Qualifying for a Mortgage Getting Easier? | Keeping Current Matters
There has been a lot of talk about how difficult it is to get a home mortgage in today’s lending environment. However, three recent reports have revealed that lending standards are beginning to ease. This is great news for both first time buyers and current homeowners looking to move or buy a second vacation/retirement home. Let’s look at the three reports:

The MBA’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index

This index, issued by the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, measures the availability of credit available in the home mortgage market. A decline in the MCAI indicates that lending standards are tightening, while increases in the index are indicative of a loosening of credit. We can see that the index has been increasing nicely this year: Mortgage Credit Availability Index | Keeping Current Matters

Fannie Mae’s latest Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey

This survey revealed that more lenders report that mortgage lending standards across all loan types are easing. The survey asked senior mortgage executives whether their company’s credit standards have eased, tightened, or remained essentially unchanged during the prior three months. The gap between lenders reporting easing as opposed to tightening over the prior three months jumped to approximately 20%. This represented a new survey high of “net easing.” In addition, the share of lenders who expect their organizations to ease credit standards over the next three months also ticked up this quarter. Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, addressed this easing of standards:

“For the first time in seven quarters, we see a pronounced increase in the share of lenders, particularly medium- and larger-sized lenders, reporting on net an easing of credit standards … This is a significant result in light of public discourse on credit availability and standards … Overall, we expect that lenders’ tendency toward easing credit standards, together with relatively low mortgage rates and a strengthening labor market, will continue to support the housing market expansion.”

Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report

The easing of credit standards is also confirmed in this report which showed that the average FICO score on a closed loan fell to its lowest point in well over a year. Here is a chart of average FICO scores on closed loans so far in 2015: Ellie Mae FICO Scores | Keeping Current Matters

Just keep an eye on interest rates…

Although this is all great news, there was one challenge in the recently released data. Ellie Mae reported that the average interest rate on closed loans is beginning to inch upward: Ellie Mae Interest Rates | Keeping Current Matters

What this means to you…

If you are a first time buyer or a current homeowner thinking of moving up to a bigger home or buying a vacation home, now may be the time to act. Mortgage lending standards are beginning to ease and interest rates are beginning to inch up. 

Successful People’s 5 Motivational Secrets

Motivational Success Tips

Some make success look easy but the truth is that when a person who has reached the brass ring is noticed it’s only after the most difficult steps have been traversed, and not when they are struggling, which all people who have worked hard have done.

Luckily for those who want to follow in their footsteps, the secrets to success are not secrets at all. In fact, there are five things that all successful people do in order to achieve their dreams.

1. Successful people take responsibility for their actions and inaction


Have you ever wished for success but never put forth the hard work? If you can admit it, then you are on your way to becoming successful, because a person looking to become something bigger than he or she is will be honest enough to say ‘I made a mistake,’ or even ‘I was not totally committed to my dream.’

Most people would rather lie to themselves. They’ll buy new gadgets while on the brink of bankruptcy, eat out when they should be on an at-home budget, and sit around playing video games and eating snack foods while they tell themselves that they are going to be in a bodybuilding contest.

2. Successful people are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams


Sacrifice is a must for success. Sometimes it is spelled out like the amount of time it takes to finish college. Other times it’s not, like the amount of rejections one must go through in order to publish a book.

The length of time that it may take is of little consequence when you want something badly enough.

3. Focus and Determination


When one is chasing a dream the pursuit must be a single-minded focus at times, which requires immense determination.

Aspiring pro athletes will be in the gym when they are not in class, and some will let their grades slide in order to ensure that their bodies will be able to operate at a higher level. Like these athletes, musicians will spend countless hours perfecting their technique and compositions, and this does not come but with the focus that brings about time allotted for practice.

Abraham Lincoln was noted as having practiced his speeches repeatedly. From this, he was able to overcome being unsure of what to do with his hands and keep his voice from breaking into a high pitch.

4. Focus leads to field expertise


From this focus people become experts in their fields. A musician knows all of his scales. Business people know all of the proper terminology, such as gross and net income, ROI, ROE, and billable hours.

Without focus, people who want to be successful may find themselves in embarrassing situations.

5. Successful people have a written plan as well as a personal mission statement


Without a written plan, it is unlikely that success will be achieved because goals are not reached in a day, but daily. Every day must involve something that helps a person achieve their goals.

Over time priorities change and so do people, but a good plan should not. If it is not readily available along with a personal mission statement then it will more likely than not be forgotten like so many other dreams that were really just wishes.




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Adopt These Habits and Your Bathroom Will Always Sparkle

8 Things People With Spotless Toilet, Shower and Sink Do Every Day
If the bathroom is your least favorite space in your entire home to clean, we hear you. It’s messy, germy, and sometimes smelly. But what if we told you by adopting a few daily habits you can actually clean this room less often and it will be ​way ​easier? These are a few of the things people with clean bathrooms do every day:

1. They make a point of emptying the trash can.

Even the smallest amount of garbage can leave a room smelling foul and looking cluttered. Instead of letting trash pile up, do as Patty Vila does: “I have never been able look at a full trash can, so I empty it in the bathroom every day.” Much like making your bed each morning, an empty garbage bin sets a good intention for your daily bathroom tidiness.


2. They spray shower walls after they wash up.

Now that you’re so fresh and so clean, why not take an extra minute to give your shower the same treatment? “Every time I get out of the shower I spray the walls with a vinegar and water mixture,” says Bonnie Dewkett from The Joyful Organizer. Skip the vinegar on natural stone surfaces, but also squeegee the tile after your shower. Whisking away excess moisture can minimize time spent cleaning later.


3. They use their dryer to keep towels fresh.

“I put the towels from the bathroom in the dryer for about seven minutes every night before I go to bed to get all the moisture out,” Maryam Ghaffari​ says. She says this quick task helps keep her towels fresh longer. Just be careful not to over dry them — this could shrink or damage the fabric overtime. And toss them in the wash every three uses or so.

4. They turn on the exhaust fan when they enter their bathroom.

It’s the first thing Womanantics blogger Surabhi Surendra does when she enters her bathroom — and flipping off the fan is the last thing she does before she leaves. “This helps keep the air inside the bathroom fresh,” she explains. Plus, it keeps mildew at bay. 


5. They do the gross chores before they become BIG chores.


Try simply wiping off soap from the counter at the end of the day — before it hardens and becomes more annoying to clean. Or try Amy Metherell’s tip and tackle the least popular spot in the bathroom each and every day: “I pour a little baking soda into the toilet and scrub with my toilet brush,” she says. Since she does it so often she says it’s super fast and easy. 

6. They keep a clothes hamper at the ready.

If you strip down pre-shower in your bathroom, don’t let your shirts, pants, or socks end up in a pile on the floor: “I keep a clothes hamper in the bathroom to place the clothes in and I have a rule that all clothes must be placed in a personal hamper or put away after showering,” says Debra Johnson, national home cleaning expert and training manager for Merry Maids​.


7. They multitask while brushing their teeth.

Don’t waste those precious minutes when you’re stuck in the bathroom just starring at your reflection. Use ’em to clean like Leticia Pfeiffer, President of the National Associate of Professional Organizers: “I swirl water around the sink while rinsing my mouth out to keep the sink clean and free of toothpaste clumps.”

8. They reach for the vac (often).


We all know the pain of finding our hair all over the shower drain and tiled floors. Instead of letting it turn into a bird’s nest, Leslie Reicher who’s known as The Cleaning Coach, uses a battery operated broom vac to suck it up every day: “If you do this after you’re done getting ready, your floors will stay nice and clean,” she says.


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Easy Ways to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Just as every mother believes her son is a handsome devil, we homeowners tend to see the best in our houses—or at least we become comfortably familiar with the way they look.

yellow victorian style house

Cosmetic fixes can put a prettier face on a plain-Jane home, and the bill doesn’t have to hurt.

But let’s face it, to the objective eye, not every man is George Clooney and not every house is a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. There are a lot of drab, even downright gloomy façades out there, especially among homes that were built shortly after World War II, when many builders abandoned traditional architectural styling to streamline costs and mass-produce housing.

Thankfully, the cosmetic surgery required to put a beautiful face on your home doesn’t require a big-ticket construction job. “Creating curb appeal isn’t about trying to transform the house from a plain-Jane ranch into a grand Victorian,” says Charlotte, Vt., architect Ted Montgomery. “Just changing one or two little details is all it takes.” It’s an investment that will boost your home pride, endear you to the neighbors, and generate a lot more interest from buyers someday.

To find inspiration, you can hire an architect (about $100 an hour) to offer ideas and maybe sketch a plan (expect these to take a few hours each). Or look at similar homes in your area while keeping the following strategies in mind.

Subtract Flaws

Assuming the house and yard are already well maintained, job one is to get rid of blemishes left by a penny-pinching builder or the misguided efforts of previous owners:

Replace the garage doors. The most prominent facial feature of many homes is a pair of big garage doors, which all too often are flat, lackluster slabs of steel or vinyl. Trade them for more visually appealing doors with moldings, windows, or an old-fashioned carriage-house look ($3,000 to $8,000 a door, including labor).

Remove siding. Sometimes ugliness is only skin deep. “Peek under dreary aluminum, vinyl, or asbestos siding and you may find well-preserved wood clapboards,” says Asheville, N.C., architect Jane Mathews. If so, remove the siding, repair the old wood, and give the house an attractive paint job ($10,000 to $20,000). If not, you could paint the siding or replace it with fiber cement siding, a no-maintenance product that looks like real wood ($15,000 to $25,000).


Lose the funky railings. Swap out bad porch or stoop railings, such as black iron bars or chunky pressure-treated decking components, for visually interesting banisters and spindles that are worthy of their prominent placement ($1,000 to $10,000).

Add Character

Like a dimple or a cleft chin, the addition of an interesting architectural element can give your house some distinctiveness.

Install a salvaged door. The typical post- war front door is decidedly dull, but the entry should be your home’s focal point, says Corvallis, Ore., architect Lori Stephens. For interesting replacements, look in an architectural salvage yard (see page 26). Consider a recycled mission-style oak door, a six-panel Colonial with blown-glass windows, or arch top French doors ($400 to $1,600; more if you’re converting a standard opening to an arch top).

Add moldings. Many newer homes lack exterior trim; the siding just butts up against the windows and doors. A contractor can give the house a more sophisticated, traditional look by cutting back that siding and slipping in wide, flat moldings around the openings and possibly at the corners of the house and between its stories ($3,000 to $4,000). It’s best to use a synthetic product like cellular PVC for your new moldings, since it looks like wood but will never rot.


Enhance the roof. A straight, unadorned roofline makes a house look about as interesting as a shipping container. So consider adding windowed dormers (a.k.a. gabled peaks) or extending the eaves (the roof overhangs) a few feet beyond the front of the house with detailed moldings on the underside ($2,500 to $10,000 per dormer or eaves extension). This is major surgery, though; do not attempt it without first getting an architect’s input.

Enhance the Effect

Invasive procedures aren’t always necessary. Just adding the right accents can transform your home’s outer look—not unlike a pair of stylish new specs or a good haircut.


Replace light fixtures and hardware. Lose generic shiny brass or black house numbers and mailbox and porch lights (especially bare-bulb fixtures) and substitute something unique and substantial, perhaps made of antiqued copper, bronze, or brushed nickel. 

Plan for a nonstop flower show. Most of the flowers in your yard probably bloom in the late spring, which makes for a beautiful May—or whenever the big show happens in your climate—but leaves you with a bland yard for the other 10 or 11 months of the year. A local nursery can help you choose and plant additional bulbs, shrubs, and trees with different bloom times (as well as plants with colorful autumn foliage and winter berries), so there will always be something performing ($50 to $250 a shrub, $500 to $1,500 a tree).


Add color. A paint job ($2,000 to $10,000) in pleasing hues can make any structure appealing. “But don’t choose a bright, high-contrast color scheme—that only exaggerates a house’s flaws,” Montgomery warns. For subtler suggestions, check out the book House Colors by Susan Hershman ($26 at Amazon) or go for the colors of nature—muted greens, deep reds, and pale yellows—and keep the body and trim close in color. That will give your home a friendly, peaceful look rather than make it say, “Hey, look at me!” Sort of like an average-looking guy choosing a simple charcoal suit instead of a flashy powder-blue one that only a Hollywood star could pull off.


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