Houseplants now are most tolerant of neglect in the winter and, if we plan a little, they can even thrive in our absence.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans eased to an average 4.12 percent from 4.20 percent last week. That was still sharply higher than a 30-year rate that averaged 3.65 percent for all of 2016, the lowest level recorded from records going back to 1971. A year ago, the benchmark rate stood at 3.92 percent.

Poinsettias don't have to be tossed to the curb with the trees and tinsel once the celebrating is over. They can be restored to provide cheer for many more holidays, although it takes some work to make them color up again.

It all began when Quad-City home builder Jim Schumacher realized that a cute little gambrel-roof barn in the onion fields of Pleasant Valley was beginning to fall into disrepair.

Alma Gaul