All About Cranberries

Christmas Candles and Fireplace

Cranberries – The holiday fruit of all holiday fruits. As the holidays get closer, cranberries go on sale. And who can resist buying four bags when they are buy-one-get-one free? But after you make the traditional cranberry sauce, what are you supposed to do with the other three bags? Here are some non-food uses for cranberries and some fun cranberry facts to share.

Create a festive holiday mantel.
Cranberries add the perfect hint of deep red to a classy and classic holiday mantel. Lay out some evergreen garlands and vases with floating cranberries and candles to really make a special holiday mantel.

Light up the room.
Add cranberries to your glass cylinders and top with candles. If your cylinders are all one size, you can add different amounts of cranberries to raise candles to different heights for this beautiful look.

Hang topiary balls.
Cover foam balls, which you can purchase at any craft store, with leaves and cranberries. Simply use pushpins to stick the cranberry on the balls. The silver head of the pin will sparkle, too. Add a red ribbon and hang small topiaries on your tree or larger ones anywhere you’d like to add a special touch.

Make a super easy, super festive centerpiece.
Even if you have not got a single crafty bone in your body, it does not get easier than this. Fill a ceramic dish with cranberries and lay some evergreens over the middle. Voila. The holidays come to your dining room table.

Hide the stems in a floral arrangement.
Do you like holiday flowers but wish you couldn’t see the stems? Use cranberries as camouflage. Fill a vase half full of cranberries and fresh water and drop in your floral arrangement, perhaps roses and holly for a holiday treat. Add more water and cranberries to hide the stems of this beautiful mantel decoration. Or pair cranberries with a bouquet of white flowers for a beautiful holiday contrast. Keep in mind when using cranberries in a vase that they will float. If you don’t want to hide the stems, toss in fewer so they mix in with the stems.

Keep kids crafty.
You can even get kids in the cranberry game with this “oldie but goodie.” String cranberries for garland for your tree. It’s a lovely tradition and a lot of fun. You can mix with popcorn or other small decorations of your choosing. Choose a heavy thread and eliminate bad cranberries before you get started. Then tie a knot at the end of your thread, thread the needle and start stringing. It’s a fun craft for a cold night.

Fun Facts about Cranberries

  • Native Americans and Pilgrims used cranberries as a red dye.
  • Wild cranberries were probably part of the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
  • The first recorded use of the word “cranberries” appeared in 1647 in a letter written by missionary John Eliot.
  • New England sailors ate cranberries, a good source of vitamin C, to fight off scurvy.
  • The first commercial canned cranberry sauce was put on the market by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company in 1912.
  • Wisconsin in the nation’s #1 cranberry producer. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington also produce millions of pounds of cranberries every year.
  • One cup of fresh cranberries contains about 50 calories.
  • One cup of cranberry sauce contains about 400 calories.

We’ve answered your questions about cranberries; now let us answer your questions about home loans! 

Make Your Holiday Home, Holiday Guest-Ready

christmas dog with teddy bear sleeping

Welcome your holiday visitors with a home that is guest-ready. It’s easy to feel ready for anything when the doorbell rings by taking a few simple steps today.

Clear the clutter. For a lot of us our guest room was once our “spare room” or it is still our office. Clear the clutter from the guest room when you know you are going to have visitors. If the guest room doubles your office, put away your files and move your laptop. If you store items in the guest closet, buy some storage bins and put things in the bins to keep the closet organized and welcoming. Clear out at least half of the closet, and leave plenty of open hangers so your guests can hang their clothes and jackets right away. Make sure some of the dresser drawers are available, too. Guests are more comfortable when they have a place to store their clothes and other items so they aren’t tossed around in their room or stacked on top of their suitcase.

Have a luggage rack ready. If you simply cannot empty any drawers or make room in the closet, get a couple of inexpensive luggage racks so your guests can put their luggage on those and pull their clothes from there, without having to work from a suitcase on the floor. Put an inexpensive hook on the outside of the closet and dangle a few coat hangers on that, so your guests have a place to hang up jackets and nice clothes.

Make a guest basket. Fill up a basket with everything from travel-sized soaps to snacks to munch on after you’ve gone to bed. Include a few travel essentials: lip balm, lotion, sunscreen, a lint roller and little essentials they may not have remembered or thought to bring. If you are feeling extra welcoming, put in some fun snacks, such as granola, bite-sized candy bars or fig newtons. Include some bottles of water or a reusable water bottle or glasses in the basket or next to the basket so your guests can get water during the night without having to fumble around in the dark kitchen.

Create an online cheat sheet. Make their stay easy by creating a packet ahead of time with all of the information they’ll need, like your WiFi network name and password, so they can log on whenever they want.

  • Add soft, low-key lighting. Make sure your guest room has a lamp with soft lighting or a 3-way bulb so they can adjust the lighting. Soft lighting makes it easier to read before dozing off and makes the room feel more cozy.Use good sheets. Put nice sheets on your bed. Splurge a little on sheets and a soft blanket. If the mattress is your old one from your youth, it may be time to buy an inexpensive but new mattress that is a little less used. Make the bed look lovely with a throw blanket or pillows, but don’t go overboard on the decorations. Too many throw pillows and guests get flustered trying to make the bed the way you like it.

    Put extra pillows and blankets in the closet or on a small table or chair in the corner so your guests can be as comfy as they want.

    Provide a fan if the room gets warm, or make sure your guests know how to work the ceiling fan if there is one.

    Clear some space on top of the dresser. Don’t clutter the space with family photos or knick-knacks. Leave the space clear so your guests can put their jewelry, books, phone, etc. in a place that’s easy to see. If you do want to put something on the dresser, nothing says “welcome” more than some fresh flowers.

    Prep the bathroom, too!

  • Put out fresh towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, cotton balls, cotton swabs. If your guests forget something, they’ll be glad you thought of it.
  • Make sure you leave extra toilet paper where they can see it or in the obvious cabinet. No one wants to ask for toilet paper.
  • Put out a box of tissues, as well, if you did not put one in the guest bedroom.

Early Risers?

  • Put coffee by the coffee maker or prep the coffee maker and set the timer so your guests can start their day early (or late if you’re up and out before them). Put out some fruit and muffins so guests aren’t forced to root through your cabinets if they are hungry.

It’s all about your guests. Make them feel welcome and comfortable. By following a few simple tips, you’ll be able to make sure your guest and you have the visit of a lifetime.

Thanksgiving Activities the Whole Family Can Enjoy

Family Throwing Autumn Leaves In The Air

Are you looking for some fun family activities that you can enjoy on Thanksgiving? Sometimes it’s hard to find something for all ages, so we wanted to give you some ideas for ways you can make Thanksgiving and the long weekend fun for the whole family.

Make Thanksgiving Crafts.

No matter what your guests’ ages, everyone has fun making crafts. Set up a craft table with different items they can use – pine cones, construction paper, crayons, glitter, beads, holiday ornaments, scissors, glue and whatever your creative mind can thinks of. Guests can make holiday cards, wreaths, ornaments and more. And for a great Thanksgiving dinner treat, let everyone create their own Thanksgiving place mats or let the kids create them for themselves and adult family members.

Make a Game Out of Thanksgiving.

You can tweak just about any favorite game to give it a Thanksgiving twist. Here are just a few.

  • Pin the Tail on the Turkey. Make several construction paper turkey tail pieces and create a construction paper turkey body. Tape the turkey body to a wall. Give all players a construction paper tail. Blindfold the players, spin them, and let them have a chance to pin the tail on the turkey. Whoever gets the tail closest to the right spot, wins.
  • Turkey Words: Give all of your adults and children who can spell a piece of paper and pen. Set a timer for three minutes and have everyone make as many words as they can out of the word turkey. Whoever has the most words in three minutes when the timer goes off wins the game. If you have adults, older kids and young kids competing, you can have prizes for different age groups.
  • Turkey Talk: Tell a “story in the round” by making a circle and starting with the first person who makes up the first line of a Thanksgiving story. An example might be, “Jerry didn’t want to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving this year.” The next person adds a sentence to give the story another twist. The third person does the same. Go around the circle until the story ends and see what kind of turkey tale you come up with.

Take a Break Outside.

If the weather is nice, get outside. Take a walk around the neighborhood, go on a local hike or even start a game of football — the traditional Thanksgiving sport. Is there really a better way to burn calories after a big dinner or before you sit down to eat? Everyone can use a little movement on this holiday.

Make Memories. Share Memories.

After dinner is the perfect time to make some new memories by sharing some old ones. Pick a theme such as “the greatest day ever,” “my favorite memory,” or the funniest thing that ever happened to me.” Then share the stories with your family and friends. It’s a great way to relax and keep the evening going while sharing memories. Want to relive this? Make sure someone videotapes the stories on their camera or phone. You can share this after the evening for a fun memory you’ll always treasure.

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together and share quality time. We hope some of these activities can help your family keep the day special and make it memorable.

Tread Carefully Colorado – Haunted Hikes and Haunted Places

foggy-545838_1280 (1)

Getting scared is shockingly good for your health. The excitement can help alleviate depression by increasing your adrenaline, which increases energy. Also, it’s just fun. Don’t miss a beat this fall. Take advantage of the cooler days and the early evenings to check out some of Colorado’s haunted hikes and haunted places. 

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs
The hike to Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs is short and scenic but don’t be fooled. It just may be haunted! Hikers report hearing strange voices in the surrounding area at night. Years ago, a woman named Helen Hunt died at this set of waterfalls. Visitors report hearing voices all around the waterfalls at night, even though no one is there.

Fort Morgan Nature Trail, Fort Morgan 
An hour north of Denver, Fort Morgan remains haunted by the ghost of the River Witch, a woman who killed herself in the area after becoming an outcast in society. Hikers report sightings of the witch.

Woodglenn Park, Thornton
Near Adams in Colorado, you can go on a spooky walk through Woodglenn Park. In the 1980s, some friends all came to this park together and played pranks on each other. One of these pranks went horribly wrong, and two of the friends died in a raging fire. According to visitors in the park, you can hear a boy screaming on windy days, asking for help. Sometimes it feels as though someone is following you.

Carter Lake, Berthoud
Hundreds of years ago, a settler named Mr. Bennet lived in this area. He was shot and killed by a rival settler on Bennet Road, over a land dispute. Sometimes visitors can see a man dressed in old fashioned clothes walking down this road and carrying a bag.
When they get closer, he disappears from view and does not reply.

Horse Thief Canyon, Fruita/Grand Junction
West of Grand Junction and near the Colorado National Monument, you can see a woman in a white dress wandering between the canyon walls. In the 1800s, this passage was popular for horse smugglers, who would bring their stolen horses through this canyon before making a tidy profit. One night they were riding through this canyon, when one of them accidentally trampled a young woman. Her ghost still wanders around on the canyon floor.

Grand Lake
The hikes in Colorado around Grand Lake are always haunted, so be careful if you choose to visit there. Years ago, there was a huge battle between the Ute and Cheyenne Native Americans. The Ute sent their women and children across the lake in rafts to keep them safe, but a huge storm rose up and the rafts all capsized. Now the spirits of these women and children still walk around the lake at night and look for their family.

Sand Creek, Eads
Make sure to stop by Sand Creek in Kiowa County. The terrible story of the Sand Creek Massacre is true, and people still see ghosts from the battle to this day. In the 1800s, more than two hundred Native Americans were killed in an ambush, mostly women and children, even though they tried to escape. Their bodies were treated disrespectfully and left unburied, so their spirits haunt the area around Sand Creek.

Brown Palace Hotel, Denver
This century old luxury hotel is said to host a number of spirits in its historic rooms and hallways. The ghost of an old railroad ticket manager walks directly into a wall, a baby is heard crying in the basement, an ethereal waiter rides the service elevator, and a long dead string quartet has been known to practice their music here.

Capitol Hill, Denver
Once the neighborhood of Denver’s wealthiest citizens, Capitol Hill continues to wear its decadent image with honor, blending the past with the present, as ancient Victorian mansions and contemporary condos and apartment complexes dot the neighborhood. Also here in this historic neighborhood, are a bevy of ghosts. Ghost tours of the area tell of numerous entities who continue to inhabit this historic neighborhood. At the old Governor’s Mansion, ghosts are said to walk the halls, at the State Capitol buildings, a phantom woman in a long dress is often known to appear.

Read more
Legends of America, Colorado
7 Haunted Hikes in Colorado
10 Most Haunted Hikes in Colorado

Inside on a Rainy or Snowy Day – Keep Yourself and Your Kids Entertained

Playing in robot

When it’s cold and raining or snowing outside on weekends and during school breaks, the days can drag on. What can you do to keep the kids entertained but not spending the day in front of the television? Try some of these fun activities for a rainy day inside. Keep what you need on hand and you’ll always be prepared for anything. 

Have an indoor treasure hunt. This is a great game for all ages, because you can decide how challenging it is. Hide a small present for each child. It can be a toy or an IOU for a fun day at the movies or skate park. Then, create a set of clues for each participant and hide the clues in order, so the first clue leads them to the second clue, the second clue leads to the third, etc., until they find their treasure.

Create an inside campsite. Drape some sheets over the furniture around one of your rooms to make a tent. Your tent can be as big you want and your sheets will allow. Add some pillows and blankets inside your tent and you have a place to tell ghost stories, play games and, if you’re lucky, take a nap. It may even be fun to have a picnic inside the tent.

Create a story book. All the kids can create their own story books or they can create one together. All you need is some paper, some crayons, a few pens and lots of imagination. Let them write their stories on the pages and draw pictures to go with them. At the end of the day, everyone gets to read their books out loud.

Bake some chocolate chip cookies. Everyone has fun during and after this activity, as the reward is a cookie. Want to sneak a vegetable in? Add some chopped garbanzo beans and add them to the cookie dough before baking to sneak in something good.

Make a splash! If it’s a warm rainy day and it’s just raining, not thundering or lightning, it’s the perfect time to put on the rain boots and rain jackets and grab an umbrella. Go outside for some fun letting off steam and splashing in puddles. Because no one wants to be inside all day if they don’t have to be!

Make a movie. It’s rare today that our phones and digital cameras don’t come complete with their own video recorder. Have some fun. Write a script, learn your parts and try out your acting skills while you make your own movie. Pop some corn and watch your movie on the computer.

Make a family dinner. Is it getting later in the day and it’s still raining? Get everyone involved in dinner preparation. Let the kids make salads or help you stir a sauce. And encourage someone else to set the table.

Put together a Rainy Day / Snow Day Box that you keep on hand. Inside include arts and crafts supplies, like papers, crayons, glue, glitter, beads and other things that kids can use to create fun art; coloring books or other activity books; books to read; puzzles and games; a deck of cards. You can pull this out in a pinch on a rainy day or any time your kids say, “I’m bored.”

With these tips in your box of tricks, there’s no reason your or your kids should be inside AND bored when the weather outside keeps you in. 

Make More Room in Your Kitchen

Family Life in the Kitchen

There are some ways to make even the smallest kitchen seem bigger and gain some awesome storage space you weren’t expecting. Try these tips as you start thinking about ways to make the kitchen you have the dream kitchen you want.

Before doing anything else….PURGE!

Grab a garbage bag and start throwing things away.
Clean out your pantry, cabinets, freezer and refrigerator. Anything outdated including cereals, spices, canned goods and more can go. Old sponges, storage containers with no lids, expired meats, freezer burned soups and vegetables, and old leftovers all can be discarded. You’ll feel good about starting from scratch, and you will know what you have and what you need when you go to the store.

When you do go to the store, only buy what you need. If you’re a bulk shopper, store extra items in the garage or basement, but keep them out of the kitchen.

Hide your chairs. If you have an island or counter seating in your kitchen, buy a couple of low stools that you can push underneath and out of the way.

Put small appliances away. Toasters, mixers and other kitchen appliances are tools, not decorations. Put them in one of the larger cabinets until they are used again for meal prep.

Buy some cabinet shelving and dividers. You can purchase some inexpensive cabinet shelving for stackable pots and pans, serving dishes, vases and pitchers. It’s an easy fix to get some quick storage space back.

Get a smaller table. If you have a small dining nook, then you need a small table. You may even find one with folding parts so you can make it larger and smaller as needed.

Attach a sanitation rack to cabinet below the sink. These are inexpensive and easy to affix to the wall of the cabinet. Put your dish soap, sponges, and other frequently used cleaning products in it. They are easy to get to and off the sink.

Hang your plants. Get your houseplants off the counter by hanging them up or putting them on upper shelves.

Do you want some more ideas about how to free up your kitchen space? Read Tips to Maximize Kitchen Storage Space.

Surprised by Unexpected Guests? Give Your Home a 20-Minute Quick Clean

Guests come to visit and see new house

Did you just get a text saying your old friend is in the neighborhood and she’s stopping by? You may not have a lot of time to freshen up your home, but maybe you don’t need it. Fake your way to a clean house with a 20-minute quick clean!

Does the smell of last night’s dinner still linger? Control some smells! Start by popping open some windows and turn on a fan to circulate the stale air. Then put some cookie dough in the oven – easy to do if you store some in your refrigerator to use in a pinch. You’ll get twice the bang for your buck a pleasant smelling house and sweet treats to share.

Clear the clutter. Now is the time for a “teen clean.” You remember those days, when you threw everything in a laundry basket and hid it in a closet. That works when you’re an adult, too.

Tidy your sitting space. The next place to tackle is the room you’ll be sitting in. Do a quick dusting, pick up any magazines, socks, cat toys, or whatever you find in the room that you wish wasn’t there. Toss them in the laundry basket. Work a room from right to left or left to right so you don’t miss anything and you have an easy pattern for success. Have five more minutes? Run a vacuum around this room and the hall leading to the room, and the entry way.

Disinfect with ease. You know those disinfectant wipes you store under your bathroom sink? Now’s the time to pull them out and run a few around the toilet and the sink (and even the tub!). Your bathroom will sparkle in no time. No wipes? Paper towel and an all-purpose spray will work just as well. And while you’re at it, empty the waste basket. And the last step? Put in a fresh hand towel, and make sure you have toilet paper and soap.

Do the dishes. Or at least move any dishes you have in the sink to the dishwasher. Dishwasher full? Empty it or wash the dishes by hand. In the end, you’ll wish you had emptied the dishwasher, so go ahead and get that done if you can.

And remember: A spouse and kids are the greatest Quick Clean helpers around.

And remember this, too: Don’t apologize if you’re house isn’t spotless. You weren’t anticipating guests.

And the best news of all: Your house is clean enough! You can take a break on the weekend (after you put the things in the laundry basket where they belong).