Category: Holidays

How To Pet Proof Your Home When Decking The Halls

The holiday season is a special time of year. Many factors combine to make the holiday season so unique and festive, and that includes all the effort people put into decorating their homes. Much thought is giving to holiday lighting arrangements and which tree to buy, but it’s equally important to consider pets when decorating. Many common household pets are naturally curious, and that curiosity can make it difficult to decorate safely come the holiday season. But various pet-proofing strategies can ensure holiday decorations and displays aren’t compromised by four-legged friends this season.

Secure the Christmas Tree

Much like other residents of the home, pets may be mesmerized by a glowing Christmas tree. Pets may sniff around the tree or investigate it closely, which can increase the chances that it tips over. That poses a significant safety hazard and underscores the importance of using a sturdy stand. Fastening the tree to a wall, much like one might do with a television that isn’t mounted, adds a further layer of protection from tip-overs.

Block Off The Base Of A Live Tree

Live trees need water to stay green and keep their needles throughout the season. That water could prove enticing to thirsty pets. Drinking water from a tree stand could increase the risk of the tree tipping over and the water could upset the stomach of pets if the tree was treated with pesticides prior to being brought home. When decorating with a live tree, make sure the base of the tree where the water will be is blocked off. A small fence around the tree could keep curious pets away. The room where the tree is located should be locked or inaccessible when pets are home alone.

Inspect And Conceal Light Wires

Wires can become frayed over time, and that could pique pets’ curiosity. Lighting wires should always be inspected prior to decorating and frayed or damaged wires should be thrown away, even if it means replacing lights. If wires are still sturdy, conceal them along the base of the wall using a cable concealer, which prevents pets from chewing on them.

Avoid Lighting Candles

Candles should not be lit in homes with pets. Even candles on shelves that are seemingly beyond pets’ reach can be hazardous, as pets, especially cats, have a way of accessing spaces they seemingly shouldn’t be able to reach. Use electric candles in lieu of traditional ones.

Speak To A Vet About Seasonal Plants And Flowers

Pet owners can speak with their veterinarians before bringing poinsettias, holly and other seasonal plants and flowers into their homes. Some pets could suffer allergic reactions if they eat certain seasonal plants, so it’s best to be on the side of caution and speak to a vet before including live plants and flowers in decorative displays.

Decorating is part of the holiday season. Pet owners must exercise an extra bit of caution to keep their pets and homes safe when decorating during this special time of year.

5 Reasons To Shop Small Versus Big Box

The importance of small businesses to the economy cannot be overstated. Though national chains often garner publicity, local businesses are equally, if not exceedingly, worthy of attention.

What defines a small business as “small” varies significantly, but these businesses are generally privately owned and generate far less revenue than big corporations. General consensus also defines small businesses as companies with fewer than 500 paid employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Here’s a deep look at why small businesses are so vital, and why consumers should direct more of their purchasing power to smaller companies rather than the big box retailers and other national chains.

1. Autonomy And Diversity

The layout and offerings at national chains will be identical whether you live in the mountains or at the beach. Big box stores follow a consistent marketing strategy and look the same regardless of where they are located. That familiarity can come at the cost of variety. On the other hand, an independent business offers the products and services that are reflective of the customers and the community they serve.

2. Local Hiring Strategy

Certain big box retailers will hire local residents, but hiring policies may push for promoting from within the organization. This could mean relocating an employee rather than bringing in someone from the community who may be more in tune with local sensibilities. Small businesses may be more inclined to hire residents they know and keep hiring centralized to the local area – something that keeps more resources and money in the community.

3. Adaptability And Change

Local businesses can move more quickly to respond to economic factors that require change. Since they are focused more on the needs of their customers rather than stockholders, changes can be implemented rapidly without having to go through red tape, meetings and updates to corporate policies. Changes also can be customized to the local community at large.

4. Investing In The Town

According to the financial resource Financial Slot, shopping at locally owned businesses rather than big box retailers keeps more money in the community. Local property taxes and other taxes paid by the businesses go right back into the community. This helps raise overall value for homeowners and can even reduce their taxes. The funding helps keep police, fire and school departments functioning properly.

5. Turnover Is Greater

While no one wants to see a small business fail, that fate is sometimes unavoidable. However, that turnover helps teach communities what was done poorly and helps others learn from those mistakes. It also means fresh businesses will come in and replace the old, driving new growth, opportunity and competition that keeps prices competitive.

The benefits of a thriving small business sector are numerous. Consumers can do their part by patronizing these firms more frequently.

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.

Tips for Labor Day Getaways and More

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. Even though summer officially ends a few weeks after Labor Day, a new school year begins for most students by Labor Day, and the lazy, hazy days spent on the beach give way to a new school year.

It’s no wonder that so many people want to capture the last of the summer magic before it’s gone for another year; Labor Day getaways help people hold on to summer just a little longer. Explore these tips to make Labor Day trips a bit more safe and convenient.

Leave extra time

Roadways are bound to be busy with other Labor Day weekend travelers, particularly for those headed to seaside locales or campgrounds. One way to avoid some of the traffic is to depart from home in the wee hours of the morning or late at night. Leave plenty of time to get to your destination so you won’t be tempted to speed or drive erratically. Utilize GPS and mobile phone mapping apps to identify routes that can help you avoid traffic.

Be cautious of the weather

Extreme temperatures can be a concern even this late in the season. The American Red Cross urges travelers to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids while en route to destinations or while engaging in Labor Day fun. Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day. Strong storms can blow through in an instant, so keep track of weather alerts and find shelter if a thunderstorm approaches while on the beach or in other areas where lightning strikes occur more readily.

Plan ahead

Labor Day vacationers number in the millions. Hotels and motels will be in demand, driving up rates, and airfare prices could soar. Book early to secure the best prices available and to guarantee you have accommodations.

Consider a bundled vacation

Package deals at destinations can save you a considerable amount of money. Fly.com allows users to search the site for destination-appropriate packages that can combine airfare with hotel and car rentals to save money.

Look for lifeguards

If the plan is to swim in a lake, river or the ocean, select areas that have lifeguards available. Always swim sober and with a buddy. Even strong swimmers can be caught off guard by the power of water, which can include rip currents or rushing rapids.

Watch alcohol intake

Never drink alcohol while operating a vehicle en route to and from Labor Day festivities. Have a designated driver available if need be. Also, vacationers must recognize that alcohol can contribute to dehydration. Choose non-alcoholic and decaffeinated beverages to stay hydrated in warm weather.

Consider smaller airports

It may seem more convenient to utilize larger airport hubs for travel, but driving a little further to smaller, regional airports can help you save money on fares. Plus, these airports may be less crowded, helping to calm stress and make the overall trip a little easier.

Labor Day travel is about to heat up, and a few tips can make plans go more smoothly.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for All Types of Dads

This Father’s Day, families will gather to thank dads for all they do. Gifts often are part of Father’s Day celebrations, and here’s a list of gift ideas for dads with various interests.

Gaming Dad

The draw of popular video games doesn’t abate for some men as they get older. If your dad is at home with a game controller in hand, then gifts that feed his hobby can be ideal.

Virtual reality has made great strides. Devices that enable VR gameplay and other entertainment may appeal to Dad. There are a few options on the market, like the Oculus, Pico Neo, HTC Vive, and Valve Index.

Another option is to gift the Nintendo Switch Console, which enables your dad to play at home connected to the television or on the go with the handheld controller and screen combination so he never misses a chance to engage in gameplay.

Sports Dad

Tap into your father’s love of sports with gifts tailored to his passion. Baseball and soccer are played during warm months, so tickets to a game are something dads and their children can do together. You also can cheer his team on in front of a new big-screen television he gets for being such a great dad.

Outdoorsman Dad

If your dad is most at home with a fishing pole and tackle box, kayaking a nearby body of water, or hiding in a tree stand during hunting season, then gifts that cater to his love of the great outdoors are perfect. Insulated thermoses, waterproof bags for storing phones or wallets, multitools, backpacks, and hiking boots make great gifts.

Techy Dad

Does the idea of the latest “smart” offering get your father all revved up? Then purchase gifts that cater to his love of gadgets. Maybe he can use a new tablet or laptop that bridges the gap between home and office. Could it be time to upgrade his smartphone? A doorbell camera or home security kit can help Dad keep an eye on the comings and goings around the house when he’s away. Or help him create surround lighting effects that can react to content on the screen or music being played with LED smart lighting strips.

Practical Dad

Some fathers don’t want flashy gifts, preferring ones that can be used daily. Think about a new paper shredder or identity block roller stamp to keep sensitive information safe. If Dad takes long road trips, then he might be able to use a car visor extender or a smartphone holder. Shelving, racks, or storage straps for the garage also may put a smile on Dad’s face.

This year, make Father’s Day a smash hit with gifts that cater to Dad’s interests.

How to Host a Memorable Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day is a bittersweet day on the calendar. Memorial Day is a day to pay homage to the brave men and women who lost their lives defending the United States. However, over time, Memorial Day has evolved into the unofficial beginning of summer.

As temperatures start to heat up, so, too, do backyard grills. In fact, grilling is an essential component of a good Memorial Day barbecue. There are many other ways to put your mark on Memorial Day cookouts as well. These ideas can make your event all the more memorable.

Keep it simple

Guests have certain expectations when they arrive at Memorial Day barbecues, and simplicity often tops the list. A simple playlist of recognizable, popular songs playing in the background, classic yard games like corn hole or horseshoes, sack races or water balloon tosses for the kids, and tasty classic fare on the grill, including burgers, hot dogs and chicken drumsticks, is likely all you need to put smiles on the faces of your guests.

Prep the grill and yard in advance

Memorial Day may be the first big event of the season, and chances are that the grill and yard could use some attention. Make sure all the burners are clean and working properly. Clear clutter from the yard and give patio furniture a thorough cleaning. Add outdoor furniture if you need more seating. Have a spare propane tank on hand so you won’t run out of fuel. If you have a pet, be sure that the yard is cleared of waste.

In addition to cleaning the yard, stock up on citronella candles or insect repellents. Bugs may want to join the festivities, too.

Create a red, white and blue burger

No barbecue is complete without delicious burgers cooking over an open flame. Those burgers can give an extra nod to the Stars and Stripes by showcasing the nation’s well-recognized colors. Place your grilled burger patty on your bun of choice. Top it with raw or grilled tomato slices (red), a slather of mayonnaise or a more dressed up aioli (white), and some blue cheese crumbles (blue). Carry the color theme over into a side salad as well, with your favorite greens topped with beets, blueberries and chunks of feta cheese.

Serve buffet style

One of the easiest ways to serve a number of people is to put the food out on long tables so that guests can pick and choose what they want. Place condiments and beverages in a separate area to keep the line flowing.

Separate beverages

Make sure that alcoholic beverages are kept separate from non-alcoholic options so that children do not get into the wrong drinks. Coolers placed on opposite sides of the yard can eliminate confusion.

It doesn’t take much to make Memorial Day barbecues enjoyable. With delicious food and close friends and family in attendance, fun is guaranteed.

Serve Up Homemade Salsa This Cinco de Mayo

Much like St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by people with no trace of Irish heritage, Cinco de Mayo has become a day of celebration for people who do not trace their ancestry to Mexico. In fact, History.com notes that Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, where the day commemorates a symbolic yet not significantly strategic win by a heavily outnumbered Mexican army over French forces sent by Napoleon III to establish an empire on Mexican land. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to commemorate Mexican culture, including its much-loved cuisine.

Food is front and center at many Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Home cooks hosting friends or those who simply want to enjoy some homemade Mexican fare this Cinco de Mayo can try their hands at this recipe for “Fiery Corn Salsa” from Kelley Cleary Coffeen’s “200 Easy Mexican Recipes” (Robert Rose).

Fiery Corn Salsa

Makes 2 cups

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed

lime juice

2 teaspoons minced fresh

cilantro

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced

11/2 cups corn kernels

2 to 3 jalapeño peppers, seeded

and diced

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine oil, lime juice and cilantro. Add tomatoes, corn and jalapeño to taste. Mix well until corn mixture is well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Tip: In place of the corn kernels, you can used canned corn, drained; frozen corn, thawed; or corn from the cob, cooked on the stove top. For a smoky flavor, use corn grilled on the barbecue grill.

The Origins of Easter Sunday

Easter takes place on a different Sunday each year. In western Christianity, Easter follows the Gregorian calendar and is thus considered a “movable feast” that is always celebrated between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Orthodox Christianity adheres to the Julian calendar, so Easter will fall on a Sunday between April 4 and May 8 each year. In 2022, the western Christian Easter celebration occurs on April 17 and the Eastern Orthodox Easter is observed on April 24.

Easter is the most important celebration on the Christian liturgical calendar. While commemorations of Jesus Christ’s resurrection likely occurred earlier, the earliest recorded observance of an Easter celebration was in the second century, according to Britannica.

Initial Easter celebrations weren’t known as “Easter,” which is a word that was borrowed from Pagan spring celebrations of Eostre, the goddess of spring and fertility. It only became associated with Christian usage later on – long after biblical scripture was written. In fact, the word “Easter” only appears in one Bible, the King James Version. But it is likely the word was used as a translation of pascha, or Passover, and not what has come to be known as Christian Easter.

The earliest Easter celebrations were a version of Passover. According to leading sabbath scholar Professor Samuele Bacchiocchi, Christians universally kept Passover on the biblical date of Nisan until 135 A.D. Early commemorations focused on the crucifixion, and the pain and suffering of Jesus. Bacchiocchi says that eventually the resurrection emerged as the dominant reason for the celebration that would be known as Easter, and also as the main message of weekly Christian Sunday masses. By the fourth century, the Easter Vigil and celebration were well-established and a symbol of joyful anticipation of the resurrection.

Easter is now celebrated annually by faithful Christians. While Easter is not mentioned in the Bible, scripture depictions helped shape the holiday that would become an integral component of the Christian faith.

Behind the Jokes of April Fools’ Day

Pranks, practical jokes and various goofs abound at the start of April, when celebrants around the world mark April Fools’ Day – a tradition that dates back several centuries.

Even though April Fools’ Day, also known as All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for centuries, no one is completely sure of its exact origins.

According to History.com, many historians speculate that April Fool’s Day traces its origins to the transition from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one in 1582. At this point, the start of the new year had been moved to January 1 from the last week of March. Those who were slow to get the news still celebrated the new year from late March into April and became the object of pranks as a result. One of the more notable pranks included having a paper fish placed on the backs of unsuspecting individuals and being referred to as poisson d’avril (April fish). This symbolized a young, easily fooled, or hooked fish.

During the 1700s, April Fools’ Day spread northward throughout areas of Britain. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event. One feature was sending people on phony errands called “hunting the gowk.” Gowk refers to the cuckoo bird, which often has been used as a symbol for fools. Tallie Day followed, which included pranks like pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on unsuspecting people.

The earliest mass April Fools’ Day hoax on record occurred in 1698, according to Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes.

“People in London were told to go see the annual ceremony of the washing of the lions at the Tower of London,” said Boese. “They showed up at the Tower of London, but there was no annual lion-washing ceremony.”

Mass media later became a prime vehicle for some April tomfoolery. In 1957, the BBC told viewers there was a great spaghetti crop in Switzerland that year due to the disappearance of the spaghetti weevil, and people of Britain, who were largely unfamiliar with spaghetti at the time, believed it. Faux advertisements, broadcasts and interviews eventually crop up as well. National Public Radio did a piece on how Richard Nixon was going to run for president in the 1992 race and used the voice of a man who sounded like Nixon. People were outraged, and thousands believed it.

Many companies have gotten in on the foolishness in recent years. The popular dating app Tinder once announced they put an end to men lying about their height on the app with a “height verification feature.” And Lego purportedly introduced a “Find My Brick” app to make building more efficient. Even National Geographic got in on the fun when, in 2016, the media company announced via Twitter that it would no longer be publishing photos of naked animals, stating “the media group will no longer degrade animals by showing photos of them without clothes.” Those who clicked through were greeted with “April Fools” and photos of adorably dressed puppies and kittens.

April Fools’ Day is an opportunity to have some lighthearted fun, even if that fun comes at the expense of others.

How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Safely

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are renowned for their boisterous nature. St. Patrick’s Day traditionally is marked by festivals, parades, gatherings with family and friends, and trips to pubs to enjoy merriment with others.

Even though folks want to focus on the fun and the fanfare come March 17th, it’s important to recognize that safety should come first when making St. Patrick’s Day plans.

Drink responsibly

St. Patrick’s Day is a time when the Guinness or Jameson’s may flow more readily. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that roughly 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes every day – that’s one person every 52 minutes. St. Patrick’s Day revelers should establish their plans for getting home prior to going out. Taxis or ride sharing services can ensure everyone gets home safely. Friends celebrating together also can select designated drivers. Celebrants also should be sure to balance their alcohol consumption with eating so they do not feel the effects of drinking too quickly, as alcohol impairs decision-making.

Safer health choices

Just when the world could see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the Omicron variant spread and made celebrations less safe – eventually affecting holiday season celebrations. Since the World Health Organization named Omicron a variant of concern on November 26, 2021, it has ripped through countries and communities causing illness in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Health experts say Omicron is two to three times more contagious than the Delta variant, although severity of symptoms may be reduced. UNC Health infectious diseases specialist Dr. David Wohl, MD, says Omicron is not responsive to current treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, and future variants may not be, either. This means that St. Patrick’s Day celebrants may want to gauge COVID-19 transmission in their communities and avoid gatherings with lots of people. Mask-wearing, avoiding crowded events and getting vaccinated can help reduce risk for COVID-19 infection. Choosing outdoor festivities may be much safer. Also, at-home rapid tests may help people figure out if they have COVID-19 faster so they’ll know if they can celebrate without spreading infection.

Celebrate virtually

Virtual celebrations may be the norm this St. Patrick’s Day. Plan a video-conference call with a group of friends and order takeout of favorite Irish delicacies to party safely at home.

St. Patrick’s Day festivities are boisterous, but safety must play a significant role in such celebrations.