Category: Entertainment

A Look At The Oldest Halloween Traditions

As with many celebrations, Halloween is steeped in traditions – many of which can be traced back quite some time. Since Halloween is believed to have originated from Celtic pagan, ancient Roman and early Christian events, its traditions are varied. The following is a deep look at some old traditions associated with Halloween.

Bonfires

Historians trace many traditions of Halloween to a Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in parts of what is now Northern France, Great Britain and Ireland.

During Samhain, people believed that the door between the worlds of the living and the dead was blurred. On Samhain, Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned. Also, Druids made predictions about the future at this time of year. It was customary to build large, sacred bonfires and burn crops and other sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

While large bonfires are not typically part of Halloween celebrations today, revelers can light fire pits in their yards that are reminiscent of ancient celebrations.

Trick-or-Treating

Christianity spread throughout Celtic regions and blended with other rituals. Pope Gregory III expanded on a holiday Pope Boniface IV established to honor Christian martyrs to include all saints and martyrs. All Saints Day on November 1 commemorates the venerable saints, and All Souls Day on November 2 celebrates loved ones who went on to eternal rest. All-Hallows Eve (Halloween) was a time to pay homage to the dead. Poor children would go door to door in more affluent neighborhoods offering to say prayers for residents’ deceased loved ones in exchange for some food or money. This was known as “souling,” which became the basis for trick-or-treating. Later the tradition became known as “guising” in areas of Scotland, where children would go around in costumes.

Witches

Images of witches riding broomsticks are everywhere come Halloween, and witch costumes remain a standard. Almanac.com indicates that, during the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were dubbed “witches,” from the Anglo-Saxon word “wicce,” or “wise one.” It was believed the witches could go into a trancelike state, and would do so in front of their fireplaces. Superstitious people believed the witches could fly out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorize others with magical deeds.

Bobbing For Apples

Bobbing for apples is not quite as popular as it once was, as more people have become concerned about spreading germs. During the Roman festival for Pomona, which occurred around November 1, Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards, was celebrated. Romans believed the first person to catch a bobbing apple with his or her teeth would be the first to marry. It also was believed apple peels contained the secrets to true love.

Carving Pumpkins

Removing the insides of pumpkins and carving them into funny or fearsome faces may be messy work, but it’s tradition on Halloween. Turnips were the material of choice in ancient Ireland, but were replaced by pumpkins when immigrants came to America. The “lanterns” were made with scary faces and lit to frighten away spirits.

Halloween is full of traditions, many of which have lengthy histories.

8 Sights To See At Fall Harvest Festivals

Just as summertime is synonymous with concerts and carnivals, fall is a prime time for its own opportunities for seasonal entertainment, such as harvest festivals. Certain features overlap between summer carnivals and fall festivals, but the latter offers some unique offerings as well. The following are some things to expect when fall festival season hits full swing.

1. Seasonal fare

Many fall harvest festivals are built on the foods harvested in the fall for that region. In Wisconsin, that may be cranberries, while in Massachusetts it could be oysters. Apples also turn up in many areas starting in September. For those who can’t wait to bite into food picked at the peak of its season, a fall harvest festival can’t be beat.

2. Wagon rides

Farms and the tools of the farming trade are part of harvest festivals. Wagons transporting crops are a classic sight, even if they’re no longer heavily relied upon on the farm. Rather than a cargo bed full of corn or apples, harvest festivals tote families around on wagon rides or on hay bale beds towed by tractors.

3. Apples galore

Candied and caramel apples and many other apple products feature prominently at many harvest festivals. Apple fritters, apple turnovers, apple pies, fried apples, and others are bound to be sold by vendors, along with traditional fair foods, like funnel cakes.

4. Cider stations

Lemonade stands that are staples of summer give way to hot or cold cider offerings come the fall. Cold ciders are perfect for an unseasonably warm fall day while warm varieties are tailor-made for days when there’s a chill in the air.

5. Pumpkin patches

Fall harvest organizers pick and display pumpkins in fields to make it easier for youngsters to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween carvings. It’s a sea of orange this time of year, and things may get more colorful with non-edible gourds in shades of white or yellow.

6. Leaf-peeping opportunities

Some festivals are geared around chances to view the fall foliage that abounds in primarily rural areas. A mountain or forest backdrop adds vibrant color to any event. Coastal areas may set up fall foliage cruises that let guests see the leaves from a new perspective.

7. Corn mazes

Fall festivals set up adjacent to or on farms may have corn mazes for the kids. These mazes may be kept up throughout October and repurposed into haunted mazes for older kids looking to get a scare for Halloween.

8. Wine tastings

Many grape varieties are harvested in the fall, so fall harvest festivals may capitalize on that and invite local vineyards to set up tables providing tastings of their vintages. Vineyards also may host their own fall festivals, featuring sips and snacks with live music.

Fall offers a host of entertaining festivals geared around the harvest season. These festivals are ideal ways for people to see the sights and nibble on seasonal delights along the way.

What to Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

Holiday hosts toil for hours to create lavish meals everyone will enjoy. It’s not uncommon for Thanksgiving tables to be covered with more food than guests can conceivably (and comfortably) consume. Leftovers are the norm, but without a plan for what to do with leftovers, food can spoil or end up in the trash.

Here are some delicious and waste-conscious ways to put Thanksgiving or other holiday meal leftovers to use.

Wrap it up promptly

Even though you may want to sit around and chat with guests when the meal is finished, leaving food out at room temperature for too long can create a breeding ground for microbes that may lead to food spoilage and sickness. With a few helping hands, all foods can be packaged away in no time, ensuring that drumsticks or stuffing can safely be served another day.

Collect containers

Be sure to have reusable food storage containers, zip-top bags, foil, and plastic wrap at the ready. Before all of the food is put away, encourage guests to make their own doggie bags.

Plan with other meals in mind

Shop for and prepare holiday fare with a nod toward what can be used in subsequent meals. Turkey is a versatile ingredient that can be made into everything from breakfast burritos to casseroles. Turn potatoes and sausage stuffing into latke patties that can be whipped up for breakfast or lunch. Sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin can be mashed and reworked into batters for quick breads, pancakes and even doughnuts. Spoon leftover cranberry sauce over hot oatmeal in the morning or use it as a substitute for grape jelly in PB&J sandwiches. Try grinding up stale biscuits to make a breading for turkey slices and turn them into fried cutlets.

Take care of the needy

Find out which organizations accept food donations. Even if you cannot donate previously prepared foods, if you have surplus packaged, boxed or canned items, you can bring them to food pantries and soup kitchens to help others.

Organize a post-holiday pot luck

Turn leftovers into an opportunity to fraternize with friends or relatives who couldn’t make it to Thanksgiving dinner. Pool your leftover resources and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labor. A pot luck can be a great place to gather after shopping Plaid Friday sales in the community.

Thanksgiving leftovers can provide a few extra delicious meals when hosts plan ahead.

Tips to Simplify Thanksgiving Entertaining

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner for a houseful of close friends and relatives can be a tad overwhelming. Thanksgiving is a food- and tradition-centric holiday, and all eyes will are typically on the dinner table. Pulling off a feast of this magnitude Ñ multiple courses, side dishes and desserts takes considerable effort. These tips, tricks and timesavers can be a Thanksgiving host’s saving grace.

Pick the menu early

Don’t leave menu planning and shopping to the last minute. Decide what you’ll be cooking in addition to turkey several weeks before the big day. Select two or three side dishes, preferably items that can be prepared in advance and then reheated on Thanksgiving. These can include a baked macaroni-and-cheese casserole, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and a cornbread stuffing.

Brine your bird

Turkey is the centerpiece of the feast, so give it every opportunity to shine. No one wants a dry turkey, but unfortunately this lean poultry can dry out easily. Meats typically lose about 30 percent of their weight during cooking. However, by soaking the turkey in a brine prior to cooking it, you can reduce this moisture loss to as little as 15 percent, according to Dr. Estes Reynolds, a brining expert at the University of Georgia. Brining the fowl for a day or more can infuse flavor and moisture. Food Network personality Alton Brown has a fan-favorite roast turkey recipe with an aromatic brine that has garnered five stars and was featured on his show “Good Eats” (www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe-1950271). A simple salted water soak also can work.

Start prep work a few days before Thanksgiving

Take some stress out of Thanksgiving by cutting all vegetables and/or preparing some dishes a few days early. Label and organize prepared ingredients by recipe and store in the refrigerator. Make extra room in the fridge by removing nonessential items and placing them in a cooler with ice and cleaning out any old food or condiments. Plan your table settings and label which bowls and other serving dishes will be used for which items. This will make it much easier to set the table on Thanksgiving.

Serve batched cocktails

It can be challenging and expensive to have a full bar for guests. Mulled wine, hot cider and punches are ideal ways to service a crowd looking for delicious spirited drinks.

Create simple centerpieces

Use seasonal sights for your centerpieces or place settings. These can include small squashes, gourds, citrus fruits, nuts, or acorns. A hollowed-out pumpkin filled with fresh flowers also can be eye-catching.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate bounty. Treat guests to a great experience by learning some hosting tips to make the holiday easier to manage.

The Importance of Safety When Swimming in Backyard Pools

Backyard pools provide families with ample opportunities for recreation. It’s easy to be distracted by all the fun when swimming in a backyard pool, but it is crucial that homeowners take steps to ensure everyone is safe when spending time in the pool.

Establish a barrier

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children between the ages of one and four in the United States. Pools attract curious children, so maintaining a barrier between the home and the pool is essential. Many municipalities require some sort of fencing around pools or ladders that self-latch or can be closed off to climbing.

Locks and alarms on windows and doors that face or provide access to the backyard also can serve as barriers.

Keep play under control

Children and even adults may be swept up in the fun and engage in potentially dangerous behaviors. Pool users should not be allowed to run around the perimeter of an inground pool, as the cement can get slippery when wet and lead to falls that can cause injuries.

Exercise caution when using diving boards or diving into pools. It’s easy for divers to hit their heads when diving off a board into a pool due to close proximity of the transition wall in the deep end of the pool or by diving into shallow water. The Red Cross recommends a water depth of 11.5 feet for safe diving and the transition wall should be at least 16.5 feet from the tip of the diving board. However, the standard depth for many pools is 7.5 feet of water and a slope beginning seven feet from the board.

Exercise caution with inflatables

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute found that inflatable pool toys are especially dangerous. Such toys can flip easily, putting children at risk for injury (from striking the sides of the pool) or drowning (especially if the children were ejected into deep water). Inflatables also can prevent access to the surface of the water for submerged swimmers.

Choose a backyard lifeguard

At least one person should be designated as backyard lifeguard when the pool is in use. This person should always direct his or her focus on the pool, counting swimmers and keeping track of who enters and leaves the pool. Safe Kids Worldwide suggests rotating water watchers every 15 minutes.

Pools are fun places to spend summer afternoons, especially when every step is taken to ensure the safety of swimmers.

Safe Entertaining Options

Entertaining has changed quite a bit in 2020. Government-issued restrictions dictated how many people you could invite into your home or even your backyard. Large family gatherings, such as weddings or birthday parties, were put on hold. Many people are still cautious about crowds and maintaining their distance, even from close friends and family and even as safety protocols have been loosened.

Those who are eagerly awaiting hosting dinner parties or backyard gatherings can take various steps to ensure the health and safety of their guests. These guidelines can help make entertaining that much safer.

Keep the guest list small

While you may want to invite as many people as possible, keeping the guest list small can help you keep better track of contact tracing should anyone develop symptoms or feel ill. It also limits the number of people with whom you come in contact. If you plan on entertaining routinely, stick to the same guest list over and over rather than inviting new people.

Maintain social distancing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to urge people to remain at least six feet apart from one another. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets also can be inhaled into the lungs. The CDC and other health organizations maintain that keeping at least a six feet from others reduces the likelihood that respiratory droplets will land on another person. More distance is always better. Leave room between seats around the dining table, and discourage crowding around entertaining areas.

Wear masks

Masks can be worn when maintaining distance is not possible. Although masks may not always be comfortable or fashionable, there are ways to incorporate them into the theme of your gathering. Ask everyone to wear a specific color or style of mask. Purchase extra masks for guests if you suspect someone may not own one.

Offer individual portions

Self-service buffets and drink bars may be risky. Instead, you can don proper safety gear and serve food to your guests to minimize the amount of people touching food or beverages. Have individual drinks Canned soft drinks, beers or small bottles of wine may also help limit the spread of the virus by providing individually portioned beverages rather than having people pour or ladle drinks out of communal offerings.

Provide hand-cleaning options

Encourage guests to wash their hands frequently and make sure there’s plenty of soap in the bathroom. Individual paper towels, while not as eco-friendly as reusable cloth towels, also can improve bathroom hygiene. Keep containers of hand sanitizer in high-traffic spots around the entertaining area as well.

Check for symptoms

No one wants to play bouncer at their own dinner party, but checking to make sure guests are well or experiencing symptoms can minimize risk. The CDC urges anyone who is feeling unwell to avoid gatherings.

Hosting a gathering in the era of COVID-19 can be challenging. However, it’s possible to do so safely if hosts and their guests adhere to safety precautions set forth by local governments and the CDC.

Favorite Fair Foods

State and county fair season has arrived, and that means there will be rides and games galore. While many people are drawn to fairs by the entertainment, just as many are willing to stand in line for the unique and tasty foods that seem to embody fair and carnival fun. If it can be served on a stick or deep fried, chances are you can find it at a fair. Everything from chocolate-dipped bacon to deep-fried butter may turn up on fair stand menus. The following are some of the more coveted foods revelers can expect to find at their local fairs and carnivals.

Funnel cake: Funnel cake and its close cousin, zeppole, have long been fair favorites. Topped with powdered sugar, funnel cakes can be pulled apart and shared with others.

Corn dogs: Corn dogs are essentially hot dogs on a stick that have been covered in cornmeal and fried. Like funnel cakes, corn dogs have become so synonymous with fairs and carnivals that few people have ever enjoyed them anywhere outside of their local fairgrounds.

French fries: French fries are a favorite at fairs, and carnival-goers can choose from savory shoestrings to hearty steak-cut potato chunks.

Cotton candy: What fair would be complete without a cotton candy vendor? Cotton candy is made by heating up granulated sugar until it is liquified enough to be blown into thin threads. Those threads are collected and wound into a sweet treat that is loved by kids and adults alike.

Pie: Fair-goers are likely to happen upon a pie-eating contest or pie-tasting tent. Many prefer to indulge in a piece of pie while at the fair, preferring such treats to sweeter, heavier desserts.

Corn on the cob: Corn on the cob is proof that carnivals and fairs provide some healthy fare for customers in addition to the many decadent treats on display. Corn on the cob is most popular in corn-producing areas and can be the ideal complement to burgers and other fair foods.

Anything on a stick: Each year fair vendors experiment with culinary oddities that can be served on a stick. One day it may be skewered pork chops and the next a sleeve of cookies. Those who want the full fair experience should consider trying something served on a stick.

Classic Ways to Have Fun and Keep Cool this Summer

Downtime sounds fairly straightforward, right? Unfortunately, busy schedules often prevent many families from spending enough time together simply relaxing and having fun.

With an overwhelming 96 percent of people believing it’s important to have downtime together as a family, according to research from Mintel Trends, you may be looking for some ways to do just that this summer.

Check out these great ideas for the warm weather months ahead:

Picnic Time

Sunny day? A picnic can be extremely easy to prep on a moment’s notice. Pack some blankets on which to spread out, as well as lunch — which can be as simple as sandwiches, fruits, veggie sticks and dips. Bring along lawn games, such as a croquet, badminton or bocce set, or keep things simple with a couple of frisbees or a soccer ball. Then, find a shady spot in a nearby park to enjoy the afternoon. Don’t forget to take along some bags, in case there are no garbage cans around. You’ll want to leave the area as pristine as you found it.

Hit the Pool, Lake or Beach

Nothing says summer fun more than relaxing or splashing around at the pool, lake or beach on a hot day. And this is one activity that doesn’t require a lot of advance planning; just grab some SPF and a few pool floats and you’re ready to go. Easy to pack and inflate, the latest novelty pool floats from Intex are the perfect accessory to look cool while staying cool in the sun. Durable and trendy floats for all ages like the Angel Wings Mat, a Sit N Float lounger, Realistic Sea Turtle Ride On, even a juicy Strawberry Island or Watermelon Island, are available at select online, big box and specialty retailers. Just don’t forget to pack the camera because there will be plenty of picture-perfect selfies for any Instagram post!

Baseball, Up Close

Root, root, root for the home team at a minor league baseball game, where there are no bad seats and fans have more chances to interact with the players, pose with the mascot and even round the bases. A great activity for a weekend or even a family fun night mid-week, minor league baseball games are affordable, fun and local.

When the kids are out of school and the days are long, use all that downtime to your advantage, finding classic ways to unwind, reconnect and have fun.

Guide to End-of-Summer Sales

The end of summer is marked by mixed feelings. Come the end of summer, vacations may be coming to an end as children ready themselves for a new school year. But shoppers know the end of summer is an ideal time to find great deals on an array of items. Although back-to-school sales flood the marketplace this time of year, plenty of other sales take place in the final weeks of summer — and consumers can save substantial amounts of money if they know where to look.

Outdoor furniture

As stores clear out their seasonal items, shoppers can score big deals on patio sets and other outdoor furniture. Retailers need to make room for snowblowers, rakes, shovels, and holiday merchandise, so shoppers are bound to find discounted tables, chairs, fire pits, umbrellas, and chaise lounges. Individuals can use this opportunity to update worn-out patio furniture and other seasonal items they can store over the winter.

Camping/hiking equipment

Only the most devoted campers camp out when the temperatures begin to dip, so consumers can use this opportunity to grab camping equipment before it’s gone for another season. Tents, flashlights, cooking gear, backpacks, outdoor recreational items, such as kayaks or fishing tackle, water bladders, and heaters may be available at steep discounts.

Grills

Backyard barbecues are a staple of summer. If your barbecue or outdoor cooking equipment experienced heavy use throughout the summer, now is a great time to shop sales on grills and outdoor cooking gear.

Travel

Consumer Reports says that prices tend to drop on airfare, hotels and theme parks after Labor Day. Deals on luggage also can be had once summer travel season ends. Tuesdays are a great day to book airline tickets because they tend to be cheaper on Tuesday than other days of the week. Travelers can use this information to their advantage, booking trips to destinations that have super weather throughout the fall, such as Hawaii or the Mediterranean. Caribbean destinations also are good choices, though travelers should consider travel insurance to protect against hurricane-related cancellations.

Vehicles

Many dealerships tend to begin discounting cars when new models begin to debut in August and September. The longer a dealership holds on to a vehicle, the more money it tends to lose. Prospective car buyers may be able to negotiate a good deal this time of year, ultimately walking away with a brand new vehicle with a solid warranty. It’s not unheard of to receive a discount of 15 percent or more on previous year models.

Spa treatments

Many spas have begun discounting massages and facials at the end of summer, according to the International Spa Association. Shoppers can use this opportunity to try out new spas and save some money in the process. In addition to these discounts, bathing suits, summer clothing, lawn and garden equipment, and pool/spa items may be discounted come the fall.

How College Kids Can Save When Dining Out

Dining halls may be the eatery of choice for college students, but that does not mean students don’t enjoy dining out. Tight budgets may make it difficult for some to dine out very often, but there are various ways for students to make dining out more affordable.

Take advantage of your student status.

Many restaurants in the vicinity of college campuses offer student discounts to patrons who present their college identification cards to their servers or cashiers. Students who patronize such restaurants can save substantial amounts of money.

Look for discount nights.

Just like many college-area restaurants offer discounts to customers who present their student ID cards, others may host discount nights when certain items on their menus are offered at substantially discounted prices. Such discounts are traditionally offered on nights that would otherwise be slow nights for restaurants. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be slow nights for many establishments, and students might be able to find great meal deals on these nights.

Abstain from alcohol.

College students who are of legal drinking age can save money on date nights by abstaining from alcohol. A bottle of wine tends to be considerably more expensive in a restaurant than it would be if customers were to purchase the same bottle at a nearby liquor store. College students who still want to enjoy a drink during their next dinner out can save money by visiting BYOB restaurants.

Embrace food sharing.

Some restaurants offer food sharing or “family style” options to parties that exceed certain sizes. This can be a great way for college students to dine out and save money, as the cost per person might be less when sharing plates than it would be when each person is paying for his or her own entrée.

Tight budgets may prevent college students from dining out too often, but various saving strategies can make dining out more affordable for college students.