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5 Tips for a Merry Holiday Home

A merry holiday season starts at home. Here are some nice ways to add cheer to the rooms and spaces where people gather.

Light a Fire: It may be the most primitive technology in existence but lighting a fire is still one of the best ways to create a rich holiday atmosphere. Bonus: use aromatic firewood such as pine, fir or cedar.

Project a Movie: Decorating for the holiday season can be as easy as setting up a projector and playing seasonal movies on a loop. From classics like “Miracle on 34th Street” to contemporary favorites like “Elf,” these films provide the perfect backdrop to the holiday season. With the ability to run all day, the LampFree Projectors in Casio’s Slim Series are ideal for this purpose.

Bake Cookies: Make the whole house smell amazing (and become everyone’s favorite person) by popping cookies and other desserts in the oven that include spices evocative of the season, like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla. For a lighter option, you can get the same effect by brewing tea with these same ingredients.

Host a Sing-a-Long: Securing yourself a digital piano with an authentic concert grand sound may just be the best gift you give your family this holiday season. The Casio GP-500 reproduces the three-dimensional sound field generated by an acoustic grand to fill a room with rich, complex sound, making it a great place to gather for holiday sing-a-longs. The piano itself can also be a decoration destination — think garlands and candles. Be sure to set out sheet music and other instruments like tambourines or bells so that guests can join in the fun.

Add Flora: Spruce up your living spaces – literally. Holly, Christmas cactus, poinsettias and spruce add color and vibrancy to mantels, staircases, coffee tables and other nooks and crannies. What’s more, many of these plants will continue to thrive long after the lights and tinsel come down.

The holidays come but once a year. Make the most of the season by turning your home into a winter wonderland.

The History of Black Friday

Black Friday marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Come Black Friday, shoppers strive to get the lowest prices on gifts for their loved ones. Much of the focus of Black Friday is on finding the best deals, but it can be interesting to take a breath and learn how this phenomenon developed and how it has evolved over the years.

“Black Friday”

The term “Black Friday” was originally associated with gold prices and manipulation on the part of speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk. This scandal occurred in September 1869. Commodity prices plummeted 50 percent as a result, and the term “Black Friday” was coined to refer to that drop. The phrase “Black Friday” also became famous for all the wrong reasons in 1966. Philadelphia police used it to refer to the Friday traffic jams and crowding in downtown stores from tourists and shoppers who flooded into the city in advance of the Army-Navy football game held the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year. Bigger crowds and rowdiness contributed to long hours and stressful shifts for local police.

Black Friday Reinvented

The retail industry started using the term “Black Friday” in the late 1980s. Spin doctors turned previously negative connotations into positive ones by associating the phrase with stores turning a profit and moving accounting ledgers from “red to black” thanks to big year-end sales. Retailers and consumers rallied around low-cost “doorbusters” and other discounted prices. Interestingly enough, according to the National Retail Federation, Black Friday really hasn’t been the most lucrative day for retailers over the years. In fact, greater profits and larger crowds are often seen on the last Saturday preceding Christmas.

Shopping Weekend Evolves

While Black Friday may have been the catalyst, in recent years shoppers have made the entire weekend of Black Friday a lucrative one for retailers. Many stores now open on Thanksgiving and extend sales through the entire weekend. Small Business Saturday and Sunday promote patronizing mom-and-pop stores. Cyber Monday emerged when online shopping became a popular way to grab deals, and it marks the close of the opening weekend of the holiday shopping season. In 2017, Black Friday weekend attracted 174 million shoppers who spent an average of $335.47, according to the NRF.

Thanksgiving Quiche Puts Sweet Potatoes Front and Center

Sweet potatoes are a favorite side dish at Thanksgiving dinner tables. Packed with vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and delectable flavor, sweet potatoes have earned their place on holiday dinner tables. While many holiday hosts bake, fry or mash their sweet potatoes, these beloved tubers can be prepared in other ways as well.

If you want to put a new twist on this Thanksgiving staple, whip up this recipe for “Sweet Potato Quiche,” courtesy of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Submitted to the NC State Fair Tailgate Recipe Contest by Kristen Frybort, this recipe marries sweet tubers with decadent cheese, rich cream and savory spices.

 
 

Sweet Potato Quiche

Makes 8 servings

2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes

3⁄4 cup yellow onion, diced

21⁄2 tablespoons olive oil

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

Egg mixture:

4 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1⁄2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

1⁄2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

11⁄2 teaspoons salt

1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded

Pre-baked deep dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix together the first five ingredients and place on baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. While sweet potatoes and onions are roasting, shred cheese and set aside. Whisk the egg mixture and set aside. Once potatoes and onions have finished roasting, spoon them into the pre-baked pie shell. Next, layer the shredded cheese on top of the sweet potatoes. Reduce oven to 375 F. Pour egg mixture over the cheese and potatoes. Place quiche in the oven on a center rack. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until eggs are set.

Gobble Up Turkey Nutrition Facts

Turkeys are seemingly everywhere come November, whether it’s at your favorite grocery store, on television cooking shows and possibly hanging out in the wild of a nearby nature preserve. Turkeys are the main course for many holiday dinners, and turkey leftovers also make for popular meals once holidays have come and gone. Although turkeys earn most of their attention during the holiday season, their health benefits can be enjoyed throughout the year.

Turkey contains roughly 34 calories and 1 gram of fat per ounce (33 grams) of meat. It is low in saturated fat and is a good source of protein. In fact, just one 3 to 4 ounce serving of turkey provides 65 percent of a person’s recommended daily intake of protein. Protein helps fuel the body and can help a person feel full longer.

People who are customizing their diets to protect against cancer may want to include turkey on the menu. Turkey contains selenium, which can promote healthy function of the thyroid and boost the immune system. Selenium also helps to eliminate free radicals in the body through its antioxidant power.

Those who need to increase their B vitamin intake also can turn to turkey. According to Livestrong, a serving of turkey has 36 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin B3, which helps process fats in the body. It also contains 27 percent of the RDA for vitamin B6, which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, among other things. In addition to these vitamins, turkey also is rich in many minerals, including iron, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc. While turkey is healthy, the way it is prepared can affect just how beneficial it is to one’s diet. For example, slathering the meat with butter or dousing it in rich gravies may negate some of turkey’s positive attributes.

One of the most popular ways to cook turkey is to roast it. Let fresh herbs and a citrus juice marinade add the desired flavor. Place the turkey on a roasting rack so that any fat will drain to the bottom of the pan. Baste the turkey with fresh marinade to keep it moist.

It’s best to cook any stuffing outside of the turkey so there is no potential for contamination by bacteria. Make stuffing healthier by using whole-grain rice, vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts in lieu of a heavy bread base. Leftover roasted turkey can be ground and used to make tacos and burgers or chopped and turned into turkey salad. The possibilities for leftover turkey are endless, especially for cooks willing to try their hands at something new.

Stay Safe this Hunting Season

Hunting is a thrilling hobby for millions of people across the globe. In fact, non-hunters may be wide-eyed to learn just how popular the sport is. A recent report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that 11.5 million Americans participated in hunting in 2016. Many hunters spend a lifetime hunting without ever suffering an accident or injury. However, hunting can be a dangerous sport, which only highlights the need for hunters to emphasize safety at all times.

Firearms

It’s essential that hunters exercise caution with their firearms at all times. Firearms should always be considered loaded, even when they’re not. This approach should apply while hunting and while at home. Maintaining such a mindset can help hunters avoid dangerous, potentially deadly mishaps should they mistakenly believe a firearm is not loaded when it is. When hunting, only point the firearm when you plan to shoot, making sure to keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Only shoot when a target is clearly identifiable and you’re certain about what is beyond the target.

Weather and Gear

The right attire can protect hunters from Mother Nature and their fellow sportsmen. Weather can be unpredictable during hunting season. Hunters should always check the forecast before leaving home, making sure to dress for the weather. Even if the forecast calls for agreeable weather, hunters could be at the mercy of Mother Nature should the weather unexpectedly change. As a result, it behooves hunters to prepare for cold, wet weather, which could put them at risk of hypothermia if they are not dressed properly. A water-repelling outer layer can protect hunters in wet conditions, and it’s also ideal to dress in layers. To lower your risk of injuries suffered at the hands of other hunters, avoid colors and patterns that blend into natural surroundings. Such colors can include earth tones, blacks and browns. Animal patterns may confuse fellow hunters into thinking you’re an animal, so avoid these as well.

Staying in Touch

Hunters, especially those who plan to go it alone, should always let others know of their plans before going on a hunting excursion. Sharing plans can help rescue teams find you should you suffer an injury on your trip and prove incapable of returning to your campsite or vehicle without assistance. Let others know when you plan to return and indicate your plans to call or text them when you arrive back at your vehicle. This way they can promptly alert the appropriate authorities should you not contact them on time.

Millions of people across the globe enjoy the sport of hunting. Hunting trips are even more enjoyable when hunters prioritize safety.

Trick-or-Treating Tips for Rural Residents

If someone were commissioned to paint a picture of Halloween bliss, it would probably showcase a neighborhood full of children ringing doorbells and gathering treats. Millions of children and adults participate in the annual ritual of trick-or-treating. For urban and suburban children, close-by neighbors make it quite easy to fill up sacks of candy. However, people who live in rural areas — where homes may be miles away from one another — may find that traditional trick-or-treating poses a challenge. For kids who live by farmland or off country roads, trick-or-treating may not be a stroll through a well-lit area with sidewalks and welcoming neighbors with open doors. Such youngsters may have to traverse dark roads and dodge motorists who do not expect people to be walking on the shoulder.

So what is a rural kid, or any child whose resides in an area that is not conducive to trick-or-treating, to do?

Hit the road. Plan a road trip to a neighborhood where trick-or-treating is encouraged in full force and is safe and inviting. Friends or family members may live in such neighborhoods and can host “out-of-town” trick-or-treaters. Others who are choosing a town off a map may want to try an app called Nextdoor. It is a free and private social media site for neighbors that employs a Treat Map. Halloween fans can see exactly which houses are trick-or-treat friendly. In 2014, Zillow issued a list of the 20 best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating as well.

Head to a shopping center. While it may not be the same as going door-to-door, rural residents can trick-or-treat at nearby shopping centers. Many shopping centers and malls host area children and dispense treats.

Organize a trunk-or-treat. Trunk-or-treat events involve various participants parking in a community lot and opening their trunks or truck hatches to crowds of trick-or-treaters. Often these events are hosted by churches, schools or organized clubs.

Trick-or-treating can be challenging for kids growing up in rural areas. But with a little ingenuity, such youngsters can secure their Halloween bounty as well.

Learn How to Carve a Better Pumpkin

Toothy grins and a mesmerizing orange glow help make jack-o’-lanterns captivating sights come Halloween. Pumpkin carving is an autumn tradition and runs the gamut of simple designs to more intricate artwork worthy of any medium. Although anyone can grab a pumpkin and get started, when done correctly, jack-o’-lantern designs can last for several days.

• Start with a fresh pumpkin. Look for pumpkins that have a thick, green stem. These usually are fresh and haven’t been handled much. A thick stem also may indicate fleshier pumpkin walls that can be carved more easily. Avoid pumpkins that are soft or full of blemishes, or those that have dried, shriveled stems.

• Cut a hole in the back. Rather than impeding the structural integrity of the pumpkin by cutting off the top and the stem for interior access, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin. This will still make it easy to reach inside and clean out the pumpkin.

• Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Be sure to thoroughly clean the inside of the pumpkin. Leaving the pulpy, stringy matter and seeds inside can cause the pumpkin to rot that much faster and produce a foul odor. Scoopers, spoons and even hand shovels can help.

• Keep it cool. Heat can adversely affect carved pumpkins, so work in a cool area and store the pumpkin in a cold garage or refrigerator if you need a few extra days before displaying it. Also, carving experts suggest using an electric light inside rather than a candle; by using a candle, you’re essentially cooking the pumpkin from the inside.

• Work in your lap. When carving faces or intricate designs, looking down onto the pumpkin provides more control.

• Don’t cut all the way through. Many pumpkin designers end up shaving or scraping off the outer rind of the pumpkin, but leave a delicate orange film underneath. Light can still shine through, but the design will not collapse on itself as easily if you were to cut straight through the pumpkin wall. Experiment with different tools to achieve the desired look.

• Maintain the freshness. Rubbing exposed areas of the pumpkin flesh with petroleum jelly may help keep the pumpkin moist. Some designs will last for a few days. However, since pumpkins are highly perishable, it’s wise to wait to carve until a day or two before putting a pumpkin on display.

Autumn is a Prime Time to Tend Lawns and Gardens

Autumn is gardening season. That statement may not seem right to those who think of the spring as the peak time to care for lawns and gardens. However, autumn is an ideal time to get into the garden and ensure that flowers, trees and garden beds will over-winter successfully.

A number of things make autumn a prime gardening season. The cooler days of fall enable gardeners to spend ample time outdoors without the threat of blazing heat. In addition, soil harbors a lot of residual warmth in autumn. Also, the colder temperatures haven’t yet arrived in autumn, nor have the leaves completely fallen, making fall a prime time to assess what’s already in the landscape, what needs pruning back and where to address planting for next year. Gardening enthusiasts can focus their attention on these areas this fall.

• Pamper perennials. As annuals and perennials start to fall back, mark the spots where perennials are located so they can be easily identified later on. This way, when planning spots for spring bulbs or other spring layouts for next year, perennials won’t be overlooked or covered over.

• Prune shrubs. Look at shrubs and trees and cut out dead or diseased wood.

• Clean up borders. Weed and tidy up borders and lawn edging.

• Install pavers or rock wall. Embrace the cooler temperatures to work on labor-intensive projects, such as putting in a garden bed, retaining wall or walkway.

• Remove spent summer veggies. Take out vegetable garden plants that have already bloomed and borne fruit. Tidy up vegetable gardens and start to sow cooler weather plants, such as onions, garlic, beans, and sweet peas.

• Rake and compost. Rake the leaves and gather grass clippings to add to the compost pile.

• Plant spring bulbs. Get tulips and other spring bulbs ready for planting so they’ll burst with color next year.

• Dig up herbs. Relocate herbs like parsley or basil to indoor gardens. Otherwise, strip all leaves and freeze for storage during winter.

• Consider mums. Chrysanthemum plants are perennials. While they look beautiful in pots, if planted, maintained and winterized, they can bloom every fall.

• Fertilize the lawn. Fertilizing in autumn helps ensure grass will stay healthy throughout the winter.

• Add mulch and compost to the garden. Replenish spent soil with mulch and compost so garden beds will be revitalized for spring planting.

• Prune hedges. Tidy up hedges, as they won’t be growing much more this year.

• Clean and store equipment. Clean, sharpen and oil all equipment, storing lawn and garden tools properly so they are ready for spring and not lying out all winter.

Autumn may not seem like gardening season, but there are plenty of lawn and garden tasks to tend to during this time of year.

Match Food to Your Favorite Brews

The rise of craft and home brewing has created more beer flavor profiles than ever before. In fact, there’s likely a beer for everyone, whether you’re a novice or connoisseur. The Brewer’s Association, a trade association that represents small and independent American craft brewers, reports that, in 2018, small and independent brewers collectively produced 25.9 million barrels and experienced a 4 percent total market growth. The BA also states that these small brewers achieved a collective retail dollar take-in of $27.6 billion.

While wine will always have its enthusiasts, beer is fast on its heels as a popular mealtime beverage. Much in the way wines are paired with certain foods, it has become the natural course of action to pair certain foods with particular styles of beer.

“Beer is a great match for food because of the complexity of its flavors, its ability to provide refreshment and to interact with many food flavors,” says Marc Stroobandt, a master beer sommelier for the Food and Beer Consultancy, UK. Although each person has his or her preferences, here is a brief listing of generalized pairings, courtesy of the Brewer’s Association and CraftBeer.com.

• American Amber Lager: Creamy risotto, wild rice, polenta

• American Pale Ale: Game birds, such as duck and quail

• Belgian-style Dubbel: Pork chops, sausage, tenderloin

• Belgian-style Flanders: Grilled ribeye, root vegetables

• Blonde Ale: Chicken, salads, salmon, nutty cheese

• Dark Lager: Barbecue, sausage, roasted meat

• Hefeweizen: Weisswurst, seafood, sushi

• Imperial Stout: Smoked goose, foie gras, strong cheeses

• IPA: Spicy foods, curries

• Porter: Roasted or smoked foods, blackened fish

The Brewer’s Association recommends matching delicate dishes with delicate beers and strong dishes with assertive beers. Commonalities, like aromas and sub-flavors, also work together. A beer with roasted notes may pair well with chocolate, for example. Opposites also attract, in that a spicy food may taste best when paired with a sweet beer. Pairing might once have been limited to matching wines with certain foods. But the booming craft beer business has popularized pairing flavorful beers with foods to make meals even tastier.

A Spiced Dessert for Halloween Parties

Halloween party hosts may want to have a variety of treats on hand to satisfy the assortment of sweet tooths in attendance. Candy might be the first thing people think of on Halloween, but cakes and cookies can make for delicious treats as well. Borrowing from the flavors of the season, including pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg, “Spiced Pumpkin Cake” from “Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Home Cooking (Time Home Entertainment)” from the editors of Real Simple can be a welcome addition to any Halloween spread.

Spice Pumpkin Cake (Serves 12)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pan

5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

11⁄2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

1⁄2 cup whole milk

1⁄4 cup molasses

11⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high heat until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs. Beat in the pumpkin puree, milk, and molasses (the mixture may appear curdled). Reduce the mixer speed to low; gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over the cake. Let set before serving.

Tip: This cake can be baked and glazed up to one day in advance. Store, covered at room temperature.