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.

Halloween Safety Tips for Homeowners

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You’ll definitely say “boo” if you are faced with a claim to your homeowners insurance because of a Halloween accident on your property. Fortunately, there are some really easy things you can do ahead of time to make sure Halloween is a safe and fun day.

Keep your lights on. You want your visitors, including trick-or-treaters, to see clearly when they enter your property after dark to avoid injuries caused by falling. And, keeping some lights on can stop burglars, so you’ll want to do this regularly, not just on Halloween.

Create a clear path. Make sure there is nothing in the driveway or other walkways that someone may trip on. Remove lawn art and gardening equipment, and make sure all toys, flower pots/planters, etc. are put away. Little kids like to scamper. They aren’t looking for these hazards. If you have any loose steps or stones, make sure to repair those, too.

Use flameless candles. Do you like the way the dark looks with a flickering flame? Use flameless candles or battery powered lanterns. If you do use regular candles, watch them closely and keep them away from curtains that may blow into the flame. Use flameless candles in your jack-o-lanterns, too.

Put your pets in another room. Keep dogs and cats away from trick-or-treaters. They may be spooked by the extra activity, loud noises and costumes.

Set your alarm system before you leave. Halloween brings out the most mischievous so protect your home with your home alarm system. And why not use Halloween as one of the days you always check your smoke alarms, too!

Halloween’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a day that sees a lot of injuries. Don’t be caught off guard.

Top Tips for Keeping Produce Fresh Longer

Family Outing to the Grocery Store

No one likes to throw food away. Groceries are expensive and when you can keep your food fresh longer, you can save a lot of cash. Here are some tips for keeping your fresh food fresher longer.

Keep your refrigerator clean. Leftover residue or mold spores can increase the spoilage of all your food in the refrigerator.

Click here for some tips to easily clean your refrigerator and keep it clean longer.

Don’t store fruits and vegetables near a gas stove. Natural gas has been shown to increase ripening. In addition, don’t store fruits or vegetable in areas that have smoke or heat, like the stove or toaster oven. The exhaust and heat from these can increase the amount of Ethylene gas that is produced and speed up the ripening process.

Store produce in special storage bags that you can buy from your grocer.

Don’t cut your fruits and vegetables until you will be using them. Cut fruit will spoil faster.

If you do cut your fruit or veggies sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to keep them fresh and cover them with plastic wrap.

Place fresh herbs and leafy greens in a jar or vase of water, just like you would a bouquet of flowers. They’ll last longer and you’ll have a beautiful, green arrangement.

Store dried green onions or chives after you chop them up in a plastic water bottle in the freezer. When you’re ready to use some, just pull this out and sprinkle.

Store potatoes with apples to keep the potatoes from sprouting, and keep them away from your onions. Onions will make apples go bad faster.

Keep your greens in the refrigerator in a bowl with a paper towel, and cover with plastic wrap. The paper towel will absorb the excess moisture and keep them fresh.

Clean berries, fruits, and greens in a mixture of 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. This will remove dirt and even pesticides, and help them last longer by preventing mold.

Bad apple in the bunch? Remove it immediately. The old saying “One bad apple will spoil the bunch,” is true.

Store fruit in the middle of the refrigerator or in the drawers to keep temperatures consistent.

Keep bananas away from your other produce, as they produce some of the highest amounts of Ethylene gas. Place plastic wrap around the crown of your banana bunch to keep them lasting longer. If you want them to ripen super fast, place them in a closed plastic bag. Since they emit so much Ethylene gas, they’ll ripen quickly when the gas is trapped by the bag.

Keep tomatoes at room temperature and away from sunlight. If you grow your own tomatoes, pick them as soon as they are ripe. Do not to store your tomatoes in plastic; this will trap moisture and increase the likelihood of spoilage.

Store nuts in the freezer or in a food safe jar to protect them from moisture and air.

It’s no fun to throw food away, and it’s always fun to eat fresh! Try a few of these tips and see if you’re not saving and using more food than you ever have before! 

Tips for Helping to Make Moving Easier for Seniors

Collaboration: Grandfather and grandson assembling furniture

Where others may see “trash,” elderly family members and friends may see “treasures.” As America ages, more and more of us are trying to help family and friends move to smaller homes or into independent living communities. Talking to seniors about downsizing and releasing decades of treasures is not easy.

Here are a few tips to help seniors downsize.
Don’t pack away your patience. “Patience is a virtue.” When helping seniors make a move, you will most likely need a lot of patience. Remember, often they are leaving homes they have lived in for decades, are dealing with physical or mental ailments, and are moving out of necessity rather than desire. Helping anyone through a difficult life change takes patience and compassion.

Avoid tackling the whole house at one time. It may be more efficient for you to go full steam ahead, but elderly family members may be stressed emotionally and physically. Think in terms of months rather than days for helping elderly family members move. Tackle one room at a time to make this easier on you and them!

Ask yes-or-no questions rather than open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are more stressful. Rather than asking, “Which pots or pans do you want?” present a manageable question such as, “I have your best frying pan, a large pot and a small sauce pot. Does this work?” This makes it easier for seniors to make a decision faster.

Use the new space as a guide. Find out how much closet and cabinet space there will be in the new home and fill that space only. How big are the rooms? Mark that information off on a diagram to see exactly what space you have to fill and use. There’s no reason to bring too much stuff.

Encourage giving a gift now. Urge your parent not to wait for the next holiday, birthday, or other milestone to bestow; remind him that there’s no space for storage. Ask, “Why not enjoy the feeling of giving right now?” (And if you’re the recipient — just take it, and encourage your relatives to do the same. You can donate the item later, if you don’t want it, but the immediate need is to empty your parent’s house.)

Target recipients and charities for specialty items. It’s time-consuming to find willing recipients for everything, but it may be worth the effort for items that your parent would be relieved to see in a good home. Examples: Schools may welcome musical instruments, old costumes. Auto repair shops and community maintenance departments may take tools and yard tools.

Call on the professionals. A fast-growing specialty, senior move managers specialize in helping older adults and are skilled at both the emotional and practical dimensions of late-life transitions. These experts can defuse a parent-child emotional clash, while handling everything from sorting and packing through hiring movers and unpacking in the new place.

Encourage seniors to focus on their most used items and let the rest go. What seems useless to you may be the most comforting item a senior has. The newest item isn’t necessarily the most favored item. Learn the story behind something…find out why the old plastic tumblers are preferred over new, sparkling glasses.

Aging is a fact of life. Taking a few steps at a time can help make any move easier.

Button Up Your House for Early Winter Prep: Cold Weather Hacks

Kids enjoy the snowfall

October is a good time to button up your house for winter. We still have days that are nice enough to get outside and take care of business, but we know that Old Man Winter will be knocking on our doors soon enough. Here are a few hacks to make winter-proofing your house easier. 

Find all the places that cold air can leak in and warm air can leak out.
And then caulk these cracks so no more air can whisper through them. Check baseboards, windows and doors, ceiling light fixtures, electrical outlets… anywhere that the outside can meet the inside. When you block drafts, you have the potential to save between 5 and 30 percent in utility bills, according to the US Department of Energy.

Here’s your hack: At night, have a friend walk outside after you turn off your lights. Have your friend shine a flashlight along doors and windows. The light will illuminate large cracks. Those are your leaks. Here’s another hack, let your neighbors know you are doing this so they don’t call the police.

Check your heating system. You’ll save money on energy bills if your heater is running efficiently. Even if you have to call in a pro on this one, it’s a good idea to have your heater looked at. If you have gas fireplaces, get someone in to check those, too. Better safe than sorry when it comes to potential carbon monoxide leaks or other dangers.

Here’s your hack: Remove all of the vent covers and wash them in sudsy water and dust the heating returns. Let the covers dry all the way before putting them back on. This is one simple way to cut down on dust in your home.

Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. You and your family are at greater risk when batteries aren’t working in your alarms. You should check these batteries twice a year, so now is a good time.

Here’s your hack: Make it a habit to check your batteries when we move our clocks forward or backward. This weekend’s your big day, and you’ll have time as we fall back on Saturday and gain in hour!

Clean your patio furniture. Rats! It’s that time of the year. You’re not going to be lounging lawn-side for a few months. When it’s clean, find a good place in the garage or basement to store it to keep it clean.

Here’s your hack: You can scrub your plastic furniture to a pristine clean with a Brillo pad and then give it a final rinse. Not up for that? You also can power wash your furniture.

Get your home ready now so you’re not scrambling in the cold to get ready later.