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DIY Self-Draining Bath Toy Storage


If you have a small child (or small children), you probably have “too many” bath toys, and would benefit from an easy-access storage system. Better yet, an easy-access storage system that drains automatically. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

DIY Bath Toy Organizer

Photo of DIY bath toy organizer

This set up is great! Your little one can reach all of his/her toys, and putting them away after bath time is both easy, and fun! To make this organizer, you will need a few things.

Gather Supplies

  • 1 – tension shower rod (you can get this at any home improvement store)
  • 4 – (or your preferred quantity) plastic baskets with holes in them (you can find these at dollar stores)
  • 2 – per basket – S type shower hooks (metal is recommended for ease of use)

Do you have your supplies? Great! Now it’s time to put our new idea together!

Make It!

  1. Size your rod so that it fits roughly 6″ above the side of your tub along the back wall, and install.
  2. Install the shower hooks onto the tension shower rod.
  3. Decide where your baskets will be placed, and fasten to the rod by using the hooks with the holes in the baskets.

Easy, right? See? You CAN Do It Yourself!

Use It!

You know what to do! If you have toys that can be categorized, have fun placing categories in their own bins. Toss the toys home in a round of bath-time hoops with your little one. The best part? The holes in the bins mean that these cubbies are self-draining.

Like this project? See other projects in our DIY series. click here!


Build A Decorative Mug Plaque!


This post is inspired by:

If you rely on a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, you probably don’t keep it a secret. Let’s turn your favorite dish in the cupboard (the noble mug) into a centerpiece of pride! Have you ever wanted to show off your stunning collection of unique mugs? Do you have a handmade favorite, or souvenirs from special memories, or simply a mug that makes a statement? Show it off!

DIY Mug Hanging Wall Board

This is something that every coffee lover will appreciate. If you are a tea-lover, this is for you too. This is quick, easy, and, not to mention, quite useful!

Gather Materials

For this project, you will need

  • A wood panel that is 1″ thick, 2′ wide, and as tall as you want. (as long as it will fit where you want to mount it)
    You can cut this yourself (be careful, and follow manufacture instructions on tools!), or have your home improvement center cut it for you. Remember to measure twice, and cut once. 
  • Some paint, stain+finish, or a finishing oil. (I like Danish Oil, as it gives color and protection in one product)
  • Lastly, you will need screw hooks large enough to accept your mug handles.

You can find all of these materials at your local home improvement store.

Build It!


For Paint

Take your board, and paint it the color of your choice. If you want to distress it a little, paint a different color for two coats, and lightly spot-sand for a rustic color-reveal look.


If you are using a stain, lightly sand the board, wipe any dust free, and apply your stain in a well-ventilated area. Apply as many coats as product instructions indicate, and follow instructions for drying time. Once try, apply INTERIOR wood finish according to product instructions.

Finishing Oil

Apply finishing oil following instructions on product container. Certain oils may be buffed for added sheen.

Install Hooks

Once your board has dried, it’s time to install your screw hooks! Lay your board flat, and arrange mugs on it in a pattern that makes you happy. Mark where the hooks will be screwed. It may help to drill pilot holds before screwing your hooks in place. Screw hooks in place.

Mount Your Mug Plaque

If you are mounting this to the side of your cabinet, you can use 3/4″ wood screws to screw into it from inside the cabinet for a clean look, free of exposed fasteners. If you are mounting it anywhere else, use drywall anchors, or screw directly into studs using 2″ wood screws. Make sure your anchors are rated for the weight of the board + mugs.

Use It!

Now that it’s up, hang your mugs, and show your collection off with pride! The next time you stumble into the kitchen to pour your cup of coffee/tea, you will love being greeted by your mug plaque. Your guests will love it too!

Bonus Ideas

  • Using paint, stencil, or any other ideas you may find, paint a word, scene, or picture on your board!
  • Paint your hooks to match your kitchen decor!
  • If hanging directly on an exposed wall, add a row of hooks to the bottom for keys, kitchen tools, towels, or anything else you can think of!
  • Add a small shelf to the top (if you are handy enough) for more ornate detail and functionality!

Like this project? See other projects in our DIY series. click here!


Build A Stylish Dog Food Station


While this may be a project for big dogs, you can certainly adapt the concept to fit your own adorable fur ball! This dog food station nests the food and water bowls into the top, so there is no chance of them being knocked around, or knocked over. Are you tired of cleaning the mess? This plan is for you!

DIY Dog Food Storage and Feeding Station

This is a carpentry project. If you do not already have a few carpentry tools on hand, you may need to improvise. The finished piece is approximately 28.5″ wide, 13.75″ tall, and 20.5″ deep. If you don’t have enough space for something this size, you might see this as simply inspiration for your own idea.

Gather and Cut


  • Table Saw (or Circular Saw)
  • Pocket hole jig (the pocket screws act as clamps, and you can use brad nails with bar or pipe clamps instead)
  • Drill/Driver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Jig saw (for bowl openings in lid. You can probably also use a router, or even a rotary tool with router attachment)
  • Power sander (will certainly make the job go faster, but you can also use a sanding block)
  • Chisel set


  • 1 – sheet .75″ veneer plywood (maple, birch, etc.)
  • 3 – of 1″ x 3″ x 8′ pine boards
  • 1 – .75″ square poplar dowel (6′)
  • 1 – .75″ square poplar dowel (4′)
  • 1.25″ pocket screws
  • 1.25″ brad nails
  • Wood glue (we recommend water-resistant, food-safe glue, like TightBond III or Gorilla Wood Glue)
  • Stain (not required if you wish to only use paint).
    I recommend a finish like Danish oil, which imparts both color and protection. You can also stain, then finish with melted paraffin wax applied with a foam applicator brush. Once dried, scrape off the excess with a putty knife or card scraper for a food-safe (even for knives) finish.
  • Paint (not required if you wish to only use stain/finish)
  • 2 hinges + 1 lid support hinge
  • Wood filler or spackling (optional)

Cut List

  • 1 – .75″ plywood – 24″ x 16″
  • 2 – .75″ plywood – 17.5″ x 13″
  • 2 – .75″ plywood – 24″ x 13″
  • 1 – .75″ plywood – 27″ x 19″
  • 4 – 1″x3″ boards – 17.5″ (cut to fit)
  • 4 – 1″x3″ boards – 27″ (cut to fit)
  • 8 – 1″x3″ boards – 8″ (cut to fit)
  • 2 – .75″ square dowels cut at 45deg, 28.5″ on the long side (cut to fit)
  • 2 – .75″ square dowels cut at 45deg, 20.5″ on the long side (cut to fit)

Build It


  • Drill .75″ pocket holes into each short side of the front and back panels (24″ x 13″ plywood pieces)
  • Drill .75″ pocket holes into each long side of the bottom panel (24″ x 16″ plywood piece)
  • Glue and screw the front and back panels to the bottom panel.

The screws provide the clamping pressure. If you don’t have a pocket hole jig, you can use an extra square dowel (24″ long) in the inside corners of the joint, then glue the contact sides and fasten both panels to it with brad nails, then clamp.


  • Glue and attach the side panels (17.5″ x 13″ plywood pieces) with 1.25″ pocket screws.

The screws provide the clamping pressure. If you don’t have a pocket hole jig, you can use an extra square dowel (16″ long) in the inside corners of the joint, then glue the contact sides and fasten both panels to it with brad nails, then clamp.


  • Measure the true width of the sides, and cut your 1″x3″ pieces to fit the top and bottom widths of the side panels. Glue and attach with brad nails.
  • Measure the true heights along the sides of the side panels between the trim boards you’ve just attached, and cut your 1″x3″ pieces to fit. Glue and attach with brad nails.


  • Measure the final width of the top and bottom edges of the front and back of the box (length should include the 1×3 trim boards that you have attached), and cut more 1″x3″ lengths to fit. Glue and attach with brad nails.
  • Measure the true heights along the sides of the front and back panels between the top and bottom trim boards you’ve just attached, and cut your 1″x3″ pieces to fit. Glue and attach with brad nails.


  • Measure the outer diameter (excluding lip) of your dog food bowls, draw the circles on the lid (27″ x 19″ plywood panel) accounting for equal space between them and the edges of the panel.
  • Cut the .75″ square dowel pieces to size. Glue and attach them to the edges of your lid with brad nails.
Tip: you can find the center of your not-yet-drawn circles, and tap a nail in place. Tie a string to it, measure the length to the radius (half the diameter) and mark the length on your string. Using a pencil, use your new “compass” to draw a perfect circle.


  • If you are painting the box, you can fill in any gaps or holes with wood filler and/or drywall spackling.
  • Sand all surfaces of the box and the lid.
  • Paint and/or stain your surfaces, and allow time to fully cure. (read instructions on container for dry/cure times)


  • Attach the lid to the box using the hinges of your choice, and the lid support hinge. (it’s a good idea to drill tiny pilot holes for your hinge screws)
  • Place the 10 gallon storage tub inside, and fill with dog food, and snap its lid in place.
  • Drop the food and water bowls that you measured into the holes that you cut into the lid. (they should be supported by their respective lips)
Tip: If your hinges mount to the inside of the hinged joint (hidden), it’s a good idea to chisel out enough of the back panel for the hinge to nest in so that the lid will close flush. After chiseling, sand, and paint/stain the newly exposed area.
Tip: You can measure, then build small open boxes to attach to the lid under your dog bowls to prevent any spills from entering the main storage bin.
Paint the inside of these open boxes to repel moisture.

Use It!

Your new self-made wooden dog feeding and storage station looks great! No longer will your dog’s food and water bowls slide around on the floor as they dine. No longer will you have to make extra steps to refill the food bowl!

Alt Use

This project makes a box that is quite sturdy.

Have kids? Build this without the holes in the lid for use as a toy chest!

Decorative storage? Add a cushion to the top for a stylish storage bench! You can use this in a mud room, or in a guest room to store linens pillows, and blankets.

Use your imagination!

Like this project? See other projects in our DIY series. click here!


Make Your Own Decorative Key Holder!


Do you love whimsical decorations? What about decorations that are also useful?

If you have ever misplaced your keys, you may have tried to assign a place for them. The plan, anyway, is to always know where they are (at least when you’re home). Did it work?

The best way to actually benefit from your new organization tool is to encourage yourself to use it.

You will address this problem in two ways.
1: You will LOVE the way it looks, and you will actually WANT to hang your keys.
2: You will make this new key holder YOURSELF. Who doesn’t love to take pride in using their own creations?


The best way to actually benefit from an organization tool is to encourage yourself to use it. Click To Tweet



For this project, you will need:

  1. A frame.
    Sure, you can use almost any wood (or plastic, composite) frame, though why not get creative? It’s easy to find vintage or upcycled frames in antique stores, or online. Find one you like!
  2. A screw driver.
  3. Screw hooks.


Prepare the Frame

  1. Remove any glass and backing from your frame. We want your frame to be free of accessories.
  2. Plan out and mark where you would like your key hooks to be placed on your frame. Remember to space them appropriately for your specific keychain.

Make the Holder

  1. Drill appropriate sized pilot holes for your screw hooks.
  2. Screw in each hook, making sure to be aware of the angle (don’t forget what they’re for).

Hang the Holder

Find a space on a wall near your entry/exit path, and hang your hanger!


With any good organization tool, it doesn’t work unless you use it. You have set yourself up for success by choosing a great location, making your key holder yourself, and using a frame that you love. Great job!


Can you think of other ways to use your new creation?

Like this project? See other projects in our DIY series. click here!

Sold on for-sale sign in front of house.

Low Housing Inventory Driving Values Up

Many people may have been watching home values steadily rise over the past year, and notice that it isn’t slowing down.

Another Housing Bubble?

Is this the aftershocks of 2008? Has sub-prime lending made a comeback as the Federal Reserve has hesitated to raise interest rates? Are new homeowners soon to be upside down on their young mortgages? No. Some have speculated it. Don’t believe it.

Purely Supply and Demand

After the bubble crash 8 years go, demand dropped first, then supply followed. In the market’s rebound correction (that we are still in the middle of), demand is driving the housing market once again.

In this case, demand growth is outpacing the housing supply. The result? More people want the housing that is available, and the competition drives up market value.

While this does make it a difficult time to buy, it may also be a terrific time to sell!

What’s A New Buyer To Do?

When prices are going up, and are projected to continue to increase, it is good to remember that interest levels are still low. This is when it makes sense to consider the true cost of waiting.

True Cost of Waiting

Consider this:

If you were to buy a house right now, with a $250,000 mortgage at 3.68%APR interest, your Payment (P&I) would be $1,147.88

If you were to buy the same house Between January and March (estimate) in 2017, your same mortgage would be $263,750 at (estimated) 4.5%APR interest. Your Payment (P&I) would be $1,336.38

By buying now, your net worth would automatically increase by $13,750 (not including the principle payments that you would be making to shrink the balance/increase your equity)

The difference in monthly payment would be $188.50. Can you afford an extra $188/month in exchange for… uh… well… …hesitation?

Over the course of 30 years, you would end up paying $67,860 more as a result. What could you do with an extra $68k?

Lock It In, And Watch It Climb

The general convention, as we have mentioned before, is to buy as early as you can. You may be better off in terms of both equity and housing costs.

Ready to get started? Give us a call!

Achievement Center of Texas graphic

Benchmark Cares: Achievement Center of Texas



The 2009 Corporate recipient of this prestigious award( is Benchmark Mortgage and their co-founders Bryan Harlan and Stewart Hunter. Two years ago, they created what is known as the Benchmark Loving Cup Fund which assists families and their special needs individuals to remain at the Achievement Center during hard economic times. This fund is based on one dollar contributed for every successful Benchmark transaction nationwide. Former Dallas Cowboy great, and FOX sports announcer, Daryl Johnston presented the award. Johnston received the first individual Champions Who Care Award in 2007 and is a true supporter of the Achievement Center of Texas.

first published at


While we do a lot of work to support our nation’s veterans, we also give to other philanthropic causes.

We have a fund called the “Benchmark Loving Cup Fund” for the Achievement Center of Texas. Marilynne Serie, Executive Director of the Achievement Center of Texas, recently gave us an idea of the reach of our fund in a letter thanking Benchmark for our support. Below is a sampling of the letter to show what it is that the Achievement Center of Texas does, and how the Benchmark Loving Cup Fund helps to support their cause.

“We served 6 students with funds from the Loving Cup which greatly helped them to afford the services here at the Achievement Center. Among the programs that we offered are functional living skills, personal health and hygiene, gardening, sensory motor training, arts exploration (both visual and performing arts), robotics (utilizing our newly acquired robot “Milo” who teaches children with autism). Researchers have found children with autism relate better to the robot than to a human. Our community inclusion program is designed to get students out into their community to experience a world of adventure. As part of this program, students participated recently in World Habitat Day where hey planted seeds, played challenging games, and had lunch with the people of Habitat for Humanity. This year they will visit the Heard museum to see the animals, they will visit a ranch, visit Springcreek Forest Preserve, and will see many new things that they never dreamed of seeing or experiencing…


..While we cannot give the names of the students due to strict confidentiality regulation, I am pleased to tell you that you have ben a godsend to these families. It is heart wrenching to tell a parent that we can’t take their child when they depend  on us so heavily for our services which allows them to work to provide the high cost of care for their disabled family member. We hope that Benchmark will continue to help our families each year. It is a wonderful thing that you do.”

Marilynne Serie
Executive Director

To learn more about the Achievement Center of Texas, we have included a few snippets from their website, or you can visit their website by clicking the Achievement Center of Texas logo, or by clicking the URL below.

Achievement Center of Texas Logo

The Achievement Center of Texas is a licensed non-profit day care and day habilitation center for children and adults with special needs. Every effort is made to offer families their choices in services and to support those choices wherever possible. In providing a wide range of services in the least restrictive environment, students at the Achievement Center can grow and develop physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially working toward greater independence and more satisfying way of life.

 Our goal is to teach individuals the skills they need to be able to participate in the life of the community and to enjoy the same opportunities available to their non-disabled peers and family members.

Q. Are scholarships available to low income families who do not have HCS or other agency support?
A. Yes. We have the Garland Community Development Block Grant Funds and Benchmark Loving Cup Fund. Each one has special restrictions and these funds are allocated quickly.


15 New Years Resolutions And the Secret to Keeping Them

Happy New Year!

The fresh start of a new year is always nice. The ups and downs of 2015 are left behind, and a bright new canvas lies ahead.

What are your hopes and dreams for this New Year? Maybe amidst all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, you haven’t had a chance to make your resolutions. If that sounds familiar, here are a few ideas for inspiration.

15 New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Procrastinators

  1. Of course, the most popular one of all…get in shape!
  2. Read more.
  3. Spend more time with your loved ones.
  4. Get a promotion.
  5. Save money.
  6. Take a class in something that interests you.
  7. Volunteer.
  8. Start a new hobby.
  9. Mend a relationship.
  10. Travel.
  11. Make new friends.
  12. Start a journal.
  13. Learn a new language.
  14. Get more sleep.
  15. Be more thankful.

Making Them Stick

Even more important than making your resolution, is to have an actionable plan to be successful in reaching your goals.

  1. It is also important that you set a realistic goal.
  2. Keep yourself accountable.
  3. Automate when possible.
  4. Eliminate temptation.
  5. Most importantly, be motivated. Without motivation, it will be next to impossible to change your habits. This is also why it is so important that your goal be realistic. Success boosts your confidence to keep going.

Example: If you are want to get in shape, find a work out partner. You are much more likely to get out of bed and get to the gym at 5:30 am (or whatever time you schedule.. which is important.. schedule it!) if you have someone relying on you to be there for them.

Example: If you want to save money, open a savings account, write out a budget plan, and set up an automatic transfer with your bank. If the money isn’t in your spending account, you won’t be tempted to spend it.

A tip to keep yourself accountable without a partner: Post your resolutions in a place it will catch your attention often, and share them with your family and friends who can help you achieve your goals.

A Resolution for Everyone

Last but not least, let’s all make more mistakes this year. You will absolutely love this quote from Neil Gaiman:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

So Here’s to 2016!

Let’s make it a great one full of fun, happiness, and love!


C. Gomez
C. Gomez works at our corporate office as an administrative assistant. She recently welcomed a new addition into her family as she became a new mom! She contributed the foundation for this article. Thank you!

2016 Mortgage Interest Rate Outlook graphic

Home Prices and Mortgage Interest Rates to Rise in 2016

Your home’s mortgage payment is based on the price of the home (minus the down payment), and the interest rate for the loan.

Both prices and interest rates will likely rise in 2016.

Home Prices

CoreLogic anticipates a national 5.2% home value increase for the next year. The percentage varies by state, with WA, CA, NV, UT, AZ, NM, FL, and VT seeing the greatest increase at an average of  7.6% (the highest being CA at 10.8%, the lowest of this group being NM at 6.0%). The lowest forecasted home price increase is WV at 1.3%.  Clearly, the majority of the country is projected to see a real home value appreciation that outpaces currency inflation (0.5% from 2014-2015).

Which reminds one of this post: click here

Mortgage Interest Rates

All four establishments who provide future projections on mortgage interest rates agree that rates will rise in 2016. The following table shows the change for each quarter of the next year.

Quarter Fannie
MBA NAR Average
of all four
2016 1Q 3.9 4.0 4.2 4.1 4.05
2016 2Q 4.0 4.2 4.4 4.3 4.23
2016 3Q 4.0 4.4 4.6 4.6 4.4
2016 4Q 4.1 4.6 4.8 4.9 4.6

So, What’s the Bottom Line?

Since home prices and interest rates expected to increase over the next year, it makes sense to buy sooner rather than later, if you are buying a new home.