17 Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

Expecting a tax refund this year? Is it already burning a hole in your pocket? We can help. Here are 17 ways to splurge on Amazon.

Note: You can feel good about treating yourself when you shop using AmazonSmile. Simply designate Douglas County Libraries Foundation as your charitable organization of choice, and Amazon will donate a portion of the price of your purchase to our Foundation. And yes, you can buy any of these products, and everything else on Amazon, using AmazonSmile.

Let’s shop!

1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

A fun way to capture all the moments. Instantaneously. In print!

2. Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browning, Yogurt Maker, Steamer & Warmer)

Instant pots are all the rage right now. This one happens to be a 7-in-1 multifunctional cooker, so you get more bang for your buck. Check out DCL’s selection of instant pot cookbooks, too!

3. 23andMe DNA Test

Now this is a splurge! Take the plunge and learn about your ancestry.

4. Endoscope Camera

Guys love this cool gadget! It’s great for exploring hard-to-reach spaces, especially when repairs are needed. Typical uses include car engine repairs, plumbing repairs, ventilation, and so on. Looks fun. Hip tip: Father’s Day is June 17. Mother’s Day is May 13. (Because moms are handy, too!)

5. Snuggle-Pedic Memory Foam Pillow

Who can resist something called Snuggle-Pedic? And it’s hypoallergenic, and dust mite resistant. Splurge and buy two!

6. Sloths on a Vine Picture Hangers

Adorable. Period. A must-have for sloth lovers everywhere. And it won’t set you back too much either.

7. Coleman Retro Cooler

Who remembers these classic coolers? Start making new fun family memories with this updated version.

8. Portable Smoker

Take it with you when you go camping. See also Coleman Retro Cooler above.

9. Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

This durable, sustainable yoga mat has gotten great reviews on Amazon.

10. Faux Fur Pillow

Add a little luxe to your decor, no harm done. Love this pillow! Your pets probably will, too.

11. Cashmere Travel Throw Set

Yes, please! Talk about luxe. You can feel like a million bucks even if you’re flying coach.

12. Cuisinart Griddler

This countertop appliance also works as a panini press, full griddle, and contact grill. One reviewer says it’s great for grilling vegetables, too.

13. Yamaha Acoustic Guitar

This guitar gets great reviews on Amazon. If you’re looking for lessons, try Lynda.com. You can access it for free on our website, using just your library card number and PIN.

14. Cotton Acupressure/Acupuncture Mat

This mat is touted to help activate the body’s natural healing receptors. It’s gotten great reviews on Amazon so far.

15. French Press Coffee Maker

Reviewers say it makes great tasting coffee, even cold-pressed.

16. Laptop Backpack

According to reviewers, the best features of this backpack are that it’s waterproof, has a combination (anti-theft) lock, and has a charging port and headphone interface. Note: You must supply your own battery pack.

17. Insulated Growler

Keeps your favorite ale cold, or your favorite coffee hot. All 2 quarts of it (that’s 64 ounces)! It’s stainless steel, BPA-free, and dishwasher safe.

One Book 4 Colorado 2018

Do you have a 4-year-old? Drop by any Douglas County Libraries location April 9-23 and pick up a free picture book — while supplies last.

Each year, One Book 4 Colorado gives away 75,000 copies of one picture book to every 4-year-old in the state.

This year the three final contestants for the One Book title are:

Penguins Love Colors by Sarah Aspinall

A Pet for Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown by Eric Litwin


And the winner is……Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown! Bring your four-year-old in today to pick up a copy (while supplies last).




8 Spring Break Staycation Ideas

Staying in town for spring break? Here are eight great ways to turn the kids’ time off into a fun staycation.


1. Explore the Outdoors

Douglas County is home to some pretty awesome state parks and a short drive to several others. Round up the kids and go — for a hike, wildlife viewing, a family picnic, or all of the above. Stop by your library for a free state park pass with one of our Check Out Colorado backpacks.

2. Plan an Adventure

Did you know you can get free passes to local museums and cultural attractions using your library card? Get your Adventure Pass and spend the week exploring Butterfly Pavilion, Dinosaur Ridge, Molly Brown House Museum (NEW!), Denver Firefighters Museum, or four other attractions.

3. Play Games

Plan an epic game day at home, or stop by one of these libraries for an evening of games:

4. Host a Family-Friendly Film Festival

Convert the family room into a movie theater, complete with comfy seating and theater treats, and host your own celebration of film. Try these family flicks or check out our catalog for more.

5. Challenge the Kids to a Bake-Off

Make it a contest or do it for fun. Baking with the kids can be such a treat — and you can share the baked goodies with friends, neighbors and family. Check out these kid-friendly cookbooks, and heat those ovens!

6. Go ‘Camping’

Camp DCL’s weeklong, half-day camps — Be a Builder and Be a STEAM-y Chef — allow kids ages 6-12 to have fun with hands-on projects while learning important skills. Check out a typical day at Camp DCL. There are still a few spots available — register today!

7. Start a Garden

Early spring is a great time to start your garden. Why not get the kids involved? Spend some time each day putting together a creative container garden. Here are some books and ideas to get you going.

8. Cultivate Creativity

Bond with the kids over crafts. These books provide great ideas for crafting your own day of fun, or drop by our Lone Tree location for two different craft sessions for all ages during spring break.

  • Craft Lab: 2-4 p.m., Sunday, March 18. No registration required.
  • Open Studio: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 22. No registration required.



Learn About: Group Travel

If you missed the Travel Adventures event we recently hosted at Douglas County Libraries in Lone Tree, we’ve got you covered. That event, designed especially for travelers ages 50-plus and presented by a Road Scholar ambassador, covered educational travel tours in the U.S. and abroad.

If you’re excited to try new travel adventures but don’t want to figure out all the details, a group or guided trip might be right for you. Here’s some information from last week’s travel event to get you started.

Decide Where to Go

Check out travel books, videos and magazines from one of our seven library locations or DCL.org. You can also draw inspiration from travel experts:

When Do You Need a Tour Guide?

A tour guide might be helpful if:

  • You have limited time or simply prefer to leave the details to professionals.
  • Your destination calls for expertise: historic places, subject knowledge, language, adventure trips, dangerous or chaotic locations, and nature excursions.
  • You desire “local” or cultural experience outside the usual tourist fare.
  • You don’t want to drive or navigate public transportation on your own.

Questions to Ask Before You Book

Comparing tour companies goes beyond destination and price. Make a list of all your questions and record the answers in a spreadsheet to make your decision-making easier. Here are a few common questions:

  • Is this tour for travelers 50-plus or all ages? Couples, singles or both? Group size?
  • Can I see the full itinerary before committing?
  • Who are the guides? Are they locals/subject matter experts? Will they speak throughout or rely at times on prerecorded audio with headphones?
  • Is this tour tailored to general interest travelers or subject matter experts?
  • What kind of transportation is used? How much walking? Where will we eat?
  • Will I get free time?
  • What extra fees and expenses can I expect?

Additional Resources

Try these additional resources for more information or if you have questions.

Budget Group-Tour Companies

These companies accommodate groups of 20-40 people, mostly seasonal travelers. Lodging is equivalent to a Holiday Inn or Marriott, and expenses average $200-$350 per person per day (a nonrefundable deposit of $250-$300 is required; balances are due 75-90 days prior to departure). Extras may include single supplements, some meals, some excursions, international flights and transfers.

Upcoming Event

Join us for our next free travel-focused event.

Travel Club
Unique travel experiences and ideas for your next destination
Thursday, April 26, 11:30AM-1PM
Douglas County Libraries in Lone Tree (10055 Library Way)
No registration required
Learn more



DIY Concrete Valentines

concrete-heart-by-oceanCement your love this Valentine’s Day with this little DIY concrete valentine craft. It’s easy and fun to try with the kids.

Materials Needed

  • Rapid-set cement
  • Water
  • Heart-shaped silicone molds
  • Disposable cup
  • Stir stick
  • Optional: sandpaper, paintbrushes and craft paint

“Mise en place” isn’t just applicable to cooking. Make sure you have all your materials prepped and ready because this cement dries fast.

Ready to Start?

First, measure out 12 tablespoons of the rapid-set cement in the disposable cup. Then add 3 tablespoons plus a half-teaspoon of water. Stir immediately.

Once all dry chunks of cement are gone, pour into molds and smooth the tops of the hearts. Set aside to dry for one hour.

After hearts have dried, pop them out of the molds. If desired, you can sand the bottoms and paint the hearts.


If your kids loved this craft, then you have to sign them up for our Be a Builder camp during spring break (March 19-March 23). In this weeklong, half-day camp, kids will design and build everything from collapsible cardboard forts to wooden birdhouses. And, yes, they’ll get to experiment with stone, brick and mortar.

Recipe: Banana Dulce de Leche Pancakes

Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are the perfect Valentine’s Day breakfast. Whip these up with your kids.


Have kids measure 1 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and a BIG pinch of sea salt into a big bowl. This is the dry bowl.


Ask kids to chop and slice 2 semi-ripe bananas into TINY BITS! Set to the side.


Have kids stir together 1 cup of your favorite milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 1/2 tablespoons of light brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter in a small bowl. This is the wet bowl.

Show your child how to crack open large egg. Add the egg to the wet bowl and mix together.


Have kids combine the wet ingredients into the dry-ingredient bowl. Add the chopped and sliced bananas to the batter and mix well.

Preheat your skillet over medium-low heat and melt about 2 tablespoons of butter or oil.


Spoon batter into preheated hot skillet, forming small-sized pancakes. Cook for about 2 minutes per side or until golden brown and bubbly, then flip the pancakes and cook the other side until golden brown and puffed.


Transfer to an oven-safe plate to keep warm in your oven — and then serve topped with Vegan Dulce de Leche Sauce (see recipe below).


Vegan Dulce de Leche Sauce


Whisk one 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in a large heavy skillet on your stovetop until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until mixture is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Serve with pancakes!



If your sweet sous chefs loved making these, then you should sign them up for our Be a STEAM-y Chef spring break camp. In this weeklong, half-day camp (March 19-23), kids will make two recipes each day while learning STEAM concepts like the science of taste and genetic modification from Sticky Fingers.

This recipe was generously provided by our friends at Sticky Fingers.

Learn to Say “I Love You” in 72 Different Ways


Surprise your Valentine by learning to say “I love you” in a foreign language:


Spanish: Te amo

French: Je t’aime

Italian: Ti amo

Russian: Я вас люблю!

Danish: Jeg elsker dig

Tagalog: Mahal kita

Swahili: Ninakupenda

Try these and other languages — more than 70! — using your library card to access Mango Languages.

Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions!


The new year is here, which means it’s an opportune time to wipe the proverbially slate clean and start fresh. 2017 is so last year — it’s time for brand-new resolutions, and maybe even a few bookish ones.

You make ‘em, and DCL can help you stick to them! 2018 is going to be a piece of cake (or whole-grain deliciousness, depending on the resolution).

Resolutions That Stick!

Resolution: Save money, but still enjoy life.
Stick to It: Let’s count the ways DCL can help you save money using just your library card:

  1. Check out DCL Local for great deals and discounts at area shops and restaurants.
  2. Get free passes to local museums and cultural attractions with Adventure Pass.
  3. Watch the best movies by conveniently downloading or streaming them to your device via Hoopla. Cost to you: $0.
  4. Read the newest books coming out, or the classics you’ve been meaning to get to. You can easily stream or download books for free using OverDrive and Hoopla.
  5. Go ahead and splurge on that new gadget you’ve been eyeing, but do your research first at Consumer Reports to get the best deal.
  6. Get fit without the expense of special classes. Hoopla offers a variety of health and fitness videos you can stream or download for free.

Resolution: Learn some skills, or at least some new ones!
Stick to It: Lynda.com makes it easy to brush up on skills, learn new ones, or just polish the old resume. All you need is your library card number.

Resolution: Read more, and maybe read something a little different.
Stick to It: We’ve got a Reading Challenge for you! Or you can join one of the many book clubs that meet at our libraries.

Resolution: Help my child become a stronger reader.
Stick to It: Struggling readers can gain reading skills and confidence through DCL’s Bark for Books and Reading Buddies programs.

  • Bark for Books allows kids to read out loud to trained dogs in a relaxed setting, with no judgement from classmates or parents. This kind of practice helps improve reading skills and build confidence.
  • The Reading Buddies program pairs kids ages 6-9 with trained teen volunteers for reading practice and literacy-based games.

Resolution: Cook healthy meals.
Stick to It: A new year calls for new recipes. Check out these cookbooks for healthy eating.

Resolution: Learn a new language.
Stick to It: Get started with Mango Languages via the Research page on this website. Learning with Mango is easier than you think, and you can do it from the comfort of home, the coffee shop, or even the airport. All you need is your library card number.

Sticking to your resolutions can make for a much happier new year. Here’s to that!




DCL’s Most Popular Checkouts in 2017

Wondering what your Douglas County neighbors were reading, watching and listening to in 2017? Wonder no more! These are the year’s top checkouts.

Adult Fiction

It’s safe to say Douglas County readers love twists and turns, and thrills and chills. Topping the adult fiction checkouts in 2017 were Camino Island and The Whistler by John Grisham, followed by David Baldacci’s The Fix, Michael Connelly’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and C.J. Box’s Vicious Circle.

Want more? View the expanded list of top adult fiction checkouts here.

Adult Nonfiction

Life-changing stories topped the list of popular nonfiction in 2017. And yes, we’re still trying to get organized! The top five included The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines; Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly; The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo; Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg; and The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman.

View the expanded list of top adult nonfiction checkouts here.

Young Adult Fiction

These page-turners were tops with young adults (and more than a few, ahem, older adults, too): Cinder by Marissa Meyer; The Maze Runner by James Dashner; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon; and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

View the expanded list of top YA fiction checkouts here.

Juvenile Fiction

Wimpy kids flexed some major muscle with young readers in 2017. The top-five juvenile fiction checkouts included: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down by Jeff Kinney; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling; Wonder by R.J. Palacio; Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney; and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling.

View the expanded list of top juvenile fiction checkouts here.

Picture Books

Easy reading, great lessons, and adorable illustrations. These were the most popular picture books: Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James Dean; The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems; Ice Cream & Dinosaurs by Eric Litwin; The Thank You Book by Mo Willems; and How Do Dinosaurs Choose Their Pets? by Jane Yolen.

View the expanded list of top picture book checkouts here.

Adult Fiction Audiobooks

Historical fiction found a place among the thrillers at the top of this audio category, which included: No Man’s Land by David Baldacci; The Whistler by John Grisham; All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; and Night School by Lee Child.

View the expanded list of top fiction audiobook checkouts here.

Adult Nonfiction Audiobooks


Disney’s animated film Moana topped the list of DVD checkouts in 2017, followed by The Girl on the Train, Trolls, Hacksaw Ridge, and Sully.

View the expanded list of top DVD checkouts here.




New Year’s Eve Party Soundtrack

Glittery-2018-Confetti-with-Ribbons2017 is swiftly coming to a close. Fresh starts and new beginnings await with 2018. We hope you’re taking some time to celebrate the end of the year (either because you had a fantastic one or the fact that it’s finally over).

This playlist is designed to have you dancing into the new year. You can download each song using your library card. (Download up to five songs per week from Freegal.)


Celebration” by Kool & the Gang

Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen

Raise Your Glass” by P!nk

Havana” by Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug

Lose Yourself to Dance” by Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams

Blame It on the Boogie” by The Jacksons


Of course, you’ll have to end the night with the old favorite: “Auld Lang Syne” by Mediaeval Baebes