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! 

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! 

Quick and Easy Ways to Make Any Room in Your House Go from Drab to Fab!

Concept : happy young family in  new apartment dream

It really doesn’t cost much or take much time to spruce up any room in your home. Here are a few ways that a trip to your local home store can help you give your home the sprucing up it needs to make everything feel fresh and new again.

Treat the windows to something new. Home good stores are full of ready to hang window treatments that are easy to install. A new curtain or blinds can add as splash of color or ambiance to a kitchen, living room or bedroom.

Roll out the red carpet. A throw rug or area rug can make all the difference you need in your living room, entrance, bedroom or bath.

Get warm and cozy with a fireplace. You don’t need to have a wood burning fireplace or fancy fireplace unit. Today’s faux fireplaces look nice and can be functional, too, serving as a TV stand or bookshelf, while adding warmth and a comfortable glow to a living room or bedroom.

Shed new light on the subject. A new lamp, a new lampshade or even some new candles will shed new light in your room. This may be just what you need to brighten up a room that has lost its luster.

Everyone loves a new coat – especially when it’s a new coat of paint. A fresh coat of paint may be what you’re looking for to bring an old room back to life. Try something bright and cheery or go for an accent color you never thought you’d try. You may surprise yourself with the difference something as simple as a splash of color makes.

Tell a story. A children’s bedroom or bathroom may be the perfect place to play out a theme – a jungle, an underwater adventure or a fairy garden. The dollar store may be your best friend for finding inexpensive decorations to make a kid’s room an adventure!

Make a simple move. Move the furniture around and see what you get. You may find that moving the furniture around is just what you need to breathe new life into all the rooms of your home!

No matter what you decide to do to redecorate,  you’re sure to fall in love with your home again with just a few simple changes.

Clean Your Home with Household Items You Already Have on Hand

Dogs work is never done

Getting ready to do an annual fall cleaning and purge? You may have some items in your house that can do double duty – a lid may be a coaster; a sponge may be a furniture cleaner. Here are some household items that may have a second or third use, and they may just make your life a little easier.

No scrub pad? Use aluminum foil. Crumple a handful and scour to polish stainless steel pots – don’t use this on non-stick pots and pans, of course!

Use Pam or another cooking spray to dissolve soap scum. Spray your shower glass with cooking spray and leave for 30 minutes. The oil slides between the glass and the soap scum, making it easy to wash. Wipe off with soapy water (use a wet sponge with a drop of dish washing liquid).

Dog and cat hair on your furniture? Lightly dampen a sponge, and rub it across upholstery. It will easily lift pet hair.

Use baking soda to clean greasy dishes. Add two tablespoons of baking soda to the usual amount of dish washing liquid you use. It will give your detergent a powerful boost and easily clean greasy dishes.

Coffee can lids can keep your pantry and refrigerator clean. Use a plastic lid from a coffee can as a coaster. Slip it under containers that might drip – honey, jams/jellies, salad dressings. You’ve saved yourself from cleaning a sticky mess.

Dryer sheets can keep dust off your television and PC screens, which are electrically charged and attract dust. Dryer sheets remove dust and prevent it from resettling for several days. Polish glass screens with the sheets after they’ve been in the dryer, for a softer texture.

Feed your plants with water you’ve used to cook. If your water doesn’t have salt in it, it’s perfect for your plants after it’s cooled.

Freshen almost anything in your house with a cotton ball saturated with one of your favorite fragrances. Use an essential oil such as lavender, or use lemon juice or lemon, orange or cinnamon extract or vanilla. Try placing one in your vacuum cleaner to have the scent pushed throughout the room while you clean. You can also put a wet cotton ball on a shelf in your fridge to act as a deodorizer.

The good news about all of these tips is that they are easy to do and you most likely already have everything you need! They are sure to put the spring in your step when you’re spring cleaning.

Want more ideas? Check out 43 Truly Extraordinary Uses for Household Staples You Already Own.

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.

Tips for Making Moving Less Stressful: The Art of Packing

happy female couple celebrating in new home

Moving is stressful, whether you are going across the country or across town. We want to help make moving a little bit easier by providing you with some helpful tips on a few things you can do to make your move easier and less stressful.

Make packing an art and a science! Here are some quick tips for ways to make packing a little easier.

Use strong boxes and secure them tightly. Your dishes and valuables deserve extra care, so use special boxes for kitchen, wardrobe and other special things. Avoid using boxes that have had food shipped in them.

If you still have your original boxes and packaging from your audio and visual equipment, repack those items snuggly in those boxes.

Put heavy items, like books, in smaller boxes to keep boxes from getting to difficult to carry.

Label all of your boxes! Include what is in each box and what room it goes into.

Do you have kids? Set aside some of their favorite items for moving day so you aren’t looking for these things and your kids have something to keep them from getting bored.

Consider making a Home Inventory Checklist.
This is an especially good idea if someone is packing and moving for you, or if it’s time for you to review your homeowners insurance policy or regroup on what you have. Your checklist should include all of your belongings and:

What the item is
Its estimated value
Its condition
What room it is in, in your home

Click here for more information on how to create a home moving checklist. 

Vinegar Keeps Your Home Clean and Fresh, Inexpensively!

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Keep it clean with vinegar. Vinegar is one of the most versatile items we keep in our kitchens and can save you money or provide you with a cleaner when you are in a pinch. Here are some tips on when and where to use vinegar and when and where NOT to use vinegar.

In Your Kitchen
In the Fridge: You don’t want to spray chemicals in your refrigerator, so use a 50-50 vinegar-water mix. Keep a spray bottle of the mixture in your refrigerator for a quick clean up at any time.

Down the Drain: Pour a little vinegar onto a scrub brush that fits down the drain. Sprinkle a little baking soda on the brush and scrub to remove the odors and any build up.

In the Microwave: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 2-3 minutes until it boils. Wipe your microwave clean when the mixture is safe to touch.

On Reusable Plastic Containers: Wipe a coating of vinegar on the plastic containers stained with spaghetti sauce, soup or any other leftovers you stored. Let them sit for an hour or two, and wash as usual. Good as new!

In the Bathroom
In the Toilet: Pour a cup of vinegar in the toilet. Let sit overnight. The next morning, sprinkle with baking soda, scrub, then flush. If the toilet is really stained, you may need to empty the water first.

Down the Drain or in the Tub: Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar around a closed drain and let sit several hours. Scrub to remove buildup. Drain and rinse.

In the Shower: Bring vinegar to a boil, then wipe it on the walls and shower door. Keep them damp by wiping them down every 5 to 8 minutes for 30 minutes. Then, dampen a non scratch sponge in vinegar, sprinkle with baking soda, and scrub. Rinse. You can watch germs, stains, mold and more disappear.

On the Shower Head: Pour some vinegar into a plastic bag, and secure it to your shower head with a twist-tie. Make sure there’s enough vinegar so the bottom part of the shower head is submerged. Leave the bag on overnight. Remove the next morning before showering.

As a Disinfectant
Wipe it on: Use a 50-50 vinegar-water mix to wipe down telephones, doorknobs, faucet handles and more.

What NOT to Clean with Vinegar
As versatile as vinegar is, there are still some things you don’t want to use vinegar to clean.

Do not use vinegar on granite and marble counter tops. The acid in vinegar can ruin natural stone. Use a mild dish soap and warm water.

Do not use vinegar on stone floor tiles. The acid in vinegar (and lemons) can ruin the floors. Use a special stone soap.

Do not use vinegar to clean egg. If you are the victim of the old egg throw, don’t use vinegar to try to clean egg off your car or home. It will cause the egg to coagulate and it will be even more difficult to clean.

Do not use vinegar to clean your iron. It can seriously damage the internal pieces of an iron. Follow the instructions that come with the iron to clean it properly.

Do not use vinegar to clean hardwood floors. Some people say they use vinegar solutions to seal and clean their floors and it works great. Others say it damages their floors. Why take chances?

Use vinegar where you can for  clean house and for some money savings.