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7 Ways to Use Fresh Cranberries to Make the Holidays More Beautiful

The relatively short season for fresh cranberries (October through December) is now in full swing with bags of the ruby red tart fruit available in supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere.

 

Fresh ripe cranberries poured out of a wicker basket on old wooden table, still life in rustic style, selective focus

Here are some cranberry fun facts: There are about 440 cranberries in one pound, 4,400 cranberries in one gallon of juice, and 440,000 cranberries in a 100-pound barrel. Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year. If you strung all the cranberries produced in North America last year, they would stretch from Boston to Los Angeles more than 565 times.

Cranberries are as delicious as they are nutritious, but there are other ways we can use fresh cranberries—to make the holidays even more beautiful!

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A Mishmash of Christmas Ideas and Holiday Tips

As we face the crush of holiday prep, could you possibly use some help? Try these tips and ideas on for size—clever ways to do more while spending less.

Double up

When you cook, double your favorite meals and freeze the leftovers. Then, when you’re in a frenzy the few days before Christmas, you won’t have to fret about making dinner, too.

family-room-tips-to-decorate-for-Christmas

Electronic cards

You can save a lot of time and money when you send electronic Christmas ecards. There are lots of free sites—DaySpring.com and BlueMountain.com offer the best selections.

Shop from home

Shopping online can save a lot of time, frustration and gasoline. Finding free or reduced shipping makes online shopping even better. Dec. 14, 2019 is Free Shipping Day. Check FreeShipping.com for retailers who will be participating—and to grab hundreds of coupon codes, too.

READ: How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

Get cash back

If you’ll be shopping anyway, you might as well get some of your cash back. Rakuten is by far the easiest and most efficient way to do that. A Rakuten account is completely free, easy to set up. Then every time you shop online, make sure you have your Ebates account activated (it’s so easy—you’ll see once you have an account). And you can use your Rakuten account in-store, too!

If you’re curious why I’m such a Rakuten fan, a few weeks ago I got another Rakuten check in the mail—cash back for things I would have purchased anyway, including the rental car Harold and I used on our recent New England getaway. I didn’t expect it, but I’ll take it!

The hardest part about using Rakuten? Remembering to use it! Ha. However, they do make it pretty easy to add a Rakuten button on your computer’s toolbar or the Rakuten app for your mobile device. I believe I’ll stop forgetting, now that Rakuten is putting money back in my pocket.

READ: 3 Ways to Find Extra Cash for Christmas Read more

11 Things You Should Never Burn in Your Fireplace

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it’s likely that now and then you toss in things like cardboard, junk mail, and egg cartons. And why not? It seems like anything that burns should be able to go in because the smoke and fumes go right up the chimney. And that’s a really bad idea. In fact, each time you do that, you could be putting your home and your family at risk.

Fire in fireplace with a pile of log firewood

It seems like anything that burns should be able to go right in, as the smoke and fumes go right up the chimney. But the U.S. Fire Administration warns that some items can release toxic fumes into your home and neighborhood or become an out-of-control fire hazard. To keep your home and family safe, burn only dry, seasoned wood, never leave a fire unattended, and never put any of these items into your fireplace.

Wet wood

Wood that is wet, freshly cut or otherwise not completely dried out or “seasoned” can contain up to 45 percent water. When burned, wet wood is going to produce a lot more smoke than if it had been allowed to dry. That smoke can contain dangerous creosote, a substance the forms in your chimney as you burn fires, and it can pose serious threats to your health and household.

Painted or treated wood

When you burn painted, stained or varnished wood, the chemicals in those coatings produce toxic fumes. Pressure-treated lumber is injected with a form of arsenic to kill bugs. Set that on fire and you get a noxious burn-off.



Plywood, particleboard

These types of wood are manufactured with glue and resin, which release toxic fumes when burned.  If that air fills the house it can be dangerous for you and your family and can corrode your chimney and fireplace. 

Wood pallet

Shipping pallets appear to be well-seasoned and easily broken down into kindling and indoor firewood. But no. These days, many pallets are built from wood that has been treated with methyl bromide, a pesticide to combat ash borer disease in forests of living trees.

While treated lumber is required to be stamped and marked with codes to indicate said treatment, don’t assume that if you can’t find that information on a pallet that it’s safe to burn it indoors.

Christmas tree

Every holiday season it seems, local fire departments demonstrate the foolishness of attempting to get rid of the family Christmas tree by stuffing it into a lit fireplace. If you’ve seen that, it’s likely no one needs to remind you to not do it!

Here’s the problem that can easily burn your house down: In addition to that tree not being seasoned,  the evergreen wood of the tree contains high levels of resin. These resins burn quickly and can pop, causing a risk of a chimney fire that can take the entire house down with it.

Cardboard

Once ignited, cardboard goes up fast—so fast, it can create an out-of-control situation in a big hurry. If that’s not enough to scare you, that if cardboard has any printing or labels on it, that ink and paint will release toxic fumes

Dryer lint

While an effective fire-starter for your outdoor firepit or campfire, dryer lint can contain a lot of chemicals left from the laundry products and softeners many people use. Once ignited those fumes have to go somewhere. Knowing this could be released inside your home if you were to put dryer lint in the fireplace should keep you from doing that in the future.

Driftwood

Even totally dried out and fully seasoned, driftwood can be filled with salt, which when burned can corrode the fireplace itself and chimney. That can lead to expensive repairs.

Trash

It’s tempting to just toss items like bubble wrap, paper cups, plates, egg cartons and other trash into the fireplace just to get rid of it quickly. Stop. Just stop doing that. You could be releasing dioxins, which can lead to respiratory problems, headaches, even cancer when inhaled in a closed environment.

Lighter fluid

It’s cold! You want a fire going in a big hurry.  So, out comes the lighter fluid you use in your outdoor grill. That will do the job, but it’s not very smart to use it indoors. Any kind of charcoal starter fluid or another type of fire accelerant contain petroleum-based chemicals that produce toxic fumes—hazardous to breathe. They produce super hot fires, too, which can put your chimney in danger. Worse, that lighter fluid could set you on fire when used haphazardly and inappropriately.

Magazines and paper

The inks used to print in bright colors on paper of all kinds—junk mail, newspaper inserts, magazines, catalogs, gift wrap—can produce toxic fumes when ignited. Small bits of lightweight paper can float up and out of the chimney putting your roof and surrounding structures at risk of fire. These items should be disposed of properly in a recycle bin, not burned in the fireplace.

What can you safely burn?

While using a few sheets of black and white newspaper to ignite the kindling is just fine, remember this when building a cozy, crackling fire indoors: The best fuel for your fireplace is the fuel it was built for. Pellets for pellet stoves and dry, seasoned firewood or manufactured fire logs for a wood-burning fireplace. Burn other types of fuel and you run the risk of releasing toxic fumes or encouraging chimney fires.

UP NEXT

How to Avoid Christmas Debt When You’re Short on Cash

Your Best Thanksgiving Feast Ever, Healthy, Delicious, and Cheap!

No Need to Shiver: Easy DIY Ways to Cut Heating Costs This Winter

 

 

11 Things You Should Never Burn in Your Fireplace

7 Common Clutter Problems and How to Solve Them

I have a theory that most of us would be more than willing to let go of the stuff that’s cluttering our homes if we knew these things would serve a worthwhile cause or help someone else—the good things, kitchen things—our highly useful possessions that we just don’t use. Check out these worthwhile solutions for most household’s seven biggest clutter problems.

 

Ceramic Bakeware, Ovenware. Bakery Kit. Ruffled Pie Dish

 

Vases, baskets, containers

And anything else that held flowers you have received. If they’re cracked or broken, no one wants them. For the rest, take those which are in “like-new” condition to the closest flower shop to be recycled.

Excess dishes and glassware

No matter how pretty or potentially useful, if you do not use those items at least once each year, sell them to an antique dealer, or give them to a local thrift shop or the church’s annual rummage sale.

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How to Give Yourself a $2,000 Raise in a Hurry

If there’s one thing that I love about you, my loyal readers, it’s how responsive you are. Sometimes you like what you read, other times not so much. Now and then you simply need more information. But no matter what, I can always count on hearing from you. Which brings me to what I wrote on pulling the plug on subscription pay-TV. It brought a huge response.

According to this 2012 article from NPD Group, the average pay-TV bill was predicted to hit $123 per month by 2015—more than $1,400 a year—and will hit $200 ($2,400 a year) in 2020. So far the predictions are right on the money.

For many, that’s money that could be better used to build an emergency fund or pay off debt. No wonder that column struck a chord with so many readers.

Overhead close up photo of a woman putting money in her purse.

 

The most-asked question had to do with the need for an antenna to receive free, local HD broadcasting. Which kind? Which one works best?

As I was fielding your messages, my husband and I were in the process of relocating. In 2015, we moved from California to northern Colorado. What a change from big city life in Orange County to a little village boasting a population of just 18,000. And what a perfect opportunity to test antennas to find the best way to enjoy free TV and quality programming in our new location. Read more

5 Home Buying Mistakes That Will Make You House Poor

Buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will ever make. This is not the time to make mistakes that could easily plunge you into a financial situation you cannot afford. 

During my 18-year career as a real estate broker, I learned a lot of things but none as valuable as what not to do! I didn’t learn this in a seminar or while studying to pass the licensing exam. I witnessed real-life situations where buyers did really dumb things related to buying real estate—buyers who then went on to regret the decisions they’d made.

Avoid these five home-buying mistakes and you will avoid getting in over your heads with a house you cannot afford—and save yourself many thousands of dollars and heartaches in the process.

 

Young couple looking at their dream house

Mistake: Allowing a lender to determine how much you can afford

When you meet with a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage, that lender is going to tell you how much house you can afford and how much money the company is willing to lend to you. Understand this: He or she is concerned about only two things: 1) Your ability to repay the mortgage and 2) the size of his commission.

This lender wants to steer you into the biggest mortgage possible. Ignore that number. It is not based on what you can afford because the lender has no idea what you can afford.

You need to set your own housing budget before you ever sit down with a lender or other real estate professional, which is based on your specific financial situation and lifestyle. And that housing budget should be realistic enough so that you can afford to make progress on all your other important financial goals like maintaining a healthy emergency fund, getting debt-free, and funding retirement accounts. Read more

Caught Between Aging Parents and Adult Children

A lovely new assisted living complex is under construction close to where I live. As beautiful as this place is, it has become a daily reminder to me for how difficult it can be to talk to aging parents about their health and future needs.

Baby granddaughter walking with her grandparents on a nature path

If you’re 40 or older, you’re part of the Sandwich Generation, which refers to middle-aged individuals who feel pressured to support both aging parents and adult children. You likely fall into one of these categories:

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9 Surprising Things You Can Clean with a Clothes Steamer

A compact clothes steamer is handy for removing wrinkles and stale odors from fabric, but is that all? Just another single-purpose tool that sits on a shelf gathering dust? Don’t be so sure! I’ve been amazed to discover all the ways to use an ordinary clothes steamer to steam clean, sanitize, renew, and refresh all around the house.

 

Woman releasing wrinkles from a blue polka dot dress with garment steamer

Basics

Before we get started, let’s go over a few steam clean basics.

  • Always use distilled water in a steamer. The minerals in tap water can cause it to clog up and can also leave behind traces of minerals.
  • Never use steam on silk or other delicate fabrics. Always test first in an inconspicuous place for color-bleeding or spotting.
  • Do not use steam on freshly painted surfaces, vintage surfaces, waxed or polished wood or musical instruments.

Loosen carpet stains

A blast of steam can loosen a tough carpet stain that’s been difficult to remove. Hold the steamer a few inches away from the spot for at least 30 seconds, then blot it with a clean white cloth. Repeat until nothing more is transferred to the cloth. If you still see evidence of the spot, it should respond more effectively to a good stain remover like Spot Shot. Just make sure you follow the instructions on the label, which may require rinsing once the stain is gone.

Remove labels and stickers

A blast or two from your trusty clothes steamer can soften and melt the adhesive that keeps a stubborn label or sticker stuck so you can easily remove it. Be cautious if you’re dealing with an unpainted surface.

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