Category: Holidays

The History of America’s Independence Day

Few summertime holidays elicit as much excitement as the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day in the United States. Each year, family, friends and revelers anticipate the arrival of the holiday so they can host barbecues, enjoy the sun, listen to their favorite summertime tunes, and commemorate the freedoms afforded by the monumental events that led to the holiday’s establishment.

Independence Day became a federal holiday in 1941, but July 4th has stood as the birth of American independence for much longer. July 4th marks a pivotal moment in the American Revolution. According to PBS, the colonies were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. “Taxation without representation” became a battle cry and was one of several grievances colonists had with Great Britain.

Conflict between the colonies had been going on for at least a year before the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in June of 1776, says Military.com. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence from England. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence is a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer of the declaration writing committee charged with putting the colonies’ sentiments into words. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was one of the first people to present a resolution for American independence, and his commentary was the impetus for the formal Declaration of Independence. A total of 86 changes were made to Jefferson’s original draft until the final version was adopted. The signing of the document helped to solidify independence, and eventually lead to the formation of the United States of America.

A total of 56 delegates signed the document. Although John Hancock’s signature is the largest, it did not hold more weight than the other signatures. Rather, rumor has it, Hancock signed it so large so that the “fat, old King could read it without his spectacles.” However, the National Archives says it was also customary that, since Hancock was the president of the Continental Congress, he be the first person to sign the document centered below the text.

The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence on July 6, 1776. The first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square on July 8, 1776.

Tips for Buying Jewelry This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is rife with tradition. Couples may have their own unique traditions, but others, like Valentine’s Day date nights, are widely popular.

One Valentine’s Day tradition many couples embrace is the exchange of gifts. Shoppers might not need much advice when purchasing heart-shaped boxes of chocolates or flowers for their sweethearts. However, when shopping for jewelry, Valentine’s Day celebrants may feel as though they’re in over their heads. The following tips, courtesy of the Better Business Bureau®, can help shoppers as they navigate the potentially confusing process of buying jewelry.

Diamonds

The BBB notes that diamonds’ value is based on color, cut, clarity, and carat. Often referred to as the “4 Cs,” this criteria refers to the grade of the color (color), the way the diamond is finished (cut), how flawless the diamond is (clarity), and its weight (carat). When shopping for diamonds, the BBB advises asking jewelers if they have the most up-to-date testing equipment, which makes it easier for them to distinguish between diamonds and lab-created gemstones. That’s important, as lab-created gemstones resemble diamonds and may not be detectable if jewelers are using testing equipment designed to identify cubic zirconia.

Colored gemstones

Colored gemstones are very popular, and the BBB notes that various new stone treatments have been developed to improve their appearance and durability. However, the BBB also notes that such treatments may adversely affect the value of the gem and necessitate special care in order to maintain the gem’s appearance. When shopping for colored gemstones, ask the jeweler if an item has been treated and if there’s any special maintenance required. Imitation or assembled stones may look like natural stones, so shoppers should ask if a stone is natural, synthetic or imitation before purchasing anything.

Gold

When used alone, the word gold implies an item is all gold or 24 karat gold. But the BBB notes that gold is naturally soft and, as a result, is typically mixed with other metals to improve its hardness and durability. The karat-quality marking indicates what proportion of gold is mixed with other metals. For example, the most common mark for gold jewelry is 18K of 750, which signifies an item is 75 percent gold. Lower-karat gold jewelry may include copper, silver, zinc, or other metals. Consumers should ask about these alloys and determine if the item’s ultimate recipient is allergic to certain metals or if he or she has a high acid content in their bodies. People with high acid content in their bodies may have their jewelry turn black as a result.

Buying jewelry can be intimidating. However, jewelry buyers can work with their jewelers to find a beautiful piece their sweethearts will be proud to wear this Valentine’s Day.

More information on buying jewelry can be found at www.bbb.org.

Top Gifts for Your Valentine

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to show the ones you love just how much you care about them. This is achieved through various gestures, including giving heartfelt gifts. Research from Business Insider found that 51 percent of Americans now celebrate Valentine’s Day. While a recent poll from Insights West found that although many Canadians view Valentine’s Day as overly commercial, 75 percent still plan on celebrating it. People are still spending big bucks on making Valentine’s Day special. The National Retail Federation indicates Americans spent more than $20.7 billion on the holiday in 2019 and forecasters predict similar spending in 2020.

Every Valentine’s Day, certain gifts emerge as the most popular. While certain gifts are common, there are ways to make them seem fresh and exciting. Here are some ideas for Valentine’s Day gifting.

Flowers

The National Retail Federation estimates that people spend around $2 billion on flowers for gifts. While roses are much sought after, thinking outside the bouquet can produce unique results. Choose different blooms, perhaps a loved one’s favorite flower or something regional. Potted plants also will last longer than cut flowers, giving them more staying power. Skip bouquets in favor of table centerpieces, which can be eye-catching.

Jewelry

Gifting jewelry can be tricky because it is such a personal gift that must tie into a sweetheart’s style. It may be tempting to go with something large and flashy or full of diamonds, but a better option is to take inventory of what your loved one wears on a daily basis and try to mimic the size and scope in your gift. Other thoughtful jewelry gifts include understated pendant necklaces or bracelets engraved with key dates or the names of their children. Colored gemstones in lieu of diamonds also may be a striking choice.

Entertainment

Dinner and a movie is a classic date night, but on Valentine’s Day restaurants and theaters may be overcrowded and only offer limited menus. An alternative can be to arrange for a gourmet meal to be delivered and wrap up a new streaming movie/TV device already primed with a subscription to his or her favorite streaming service. Then all you need to do is snuggle on the sofa for a romantic night in.

Chocolates and candy

Roughly $1.8 billion is spent on candy each Valentine’s Day, says the National Retail Federation. A box of chocolates certainly can fit the bill, but other options abound. Perhaps a sweetheart has a favorite candy that recalls his or her childhood or prefers a chocolate maker from his or her hometown. Purchase those items to add a bit of nostalgia. Make the holiday magical by setting up a candy bar right at home, where your sweetheart can pick and choose from candies displayed in eye-catching bowls and canisters. Another novel idea is to use candy molds to make your own sweet treats.

Thoughtful Valentine’s Day gifts can make the day even more special for sweethearts.

3 Strategies That Can Help You Achieve Your Goals in the Year Ahead

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many people are living it up and toasting the dawn of a new year. Come the afternoon of January 1, those same people might have shifted their focus to the year ahead.

January is a great time to set professional and personal goals. Setting goals can have a greater impact than people may know. Studies examining the importance of setting goals are few and far between, and some have even been revealed as fallacies after being accepted as authentic for years. But a 1979 study that asked newly minted Harvard MBA graduates about setting goals found that 13 percent had set goals. When interviewers followed up with survey participants a decade later, they found that the 13 percent who had set goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent of participants who had set no specific goals at all.

While there’s no universal formula for success, successful people often cite the importance of setting goals and how doing so was integral to their success. The following are some strategies that may help people achieve their goals in the years ahead.

1. Make it a group effort.

A 2013 study from a University of Connecticut researcher found that there is a high level of correlation between users’ exercise activities and their participation in these digital health communities. Such communities served as motivating factors for people aiming to live healthier lives. Relying on others for support, insight and motivation can be a great way to achieve your goals, no matter what those goals are.

2. Set goals big and small.

No goal is too small, and no big goal should be considered beyond reach. In fact, achieving small goals can provide motivation and inspiration along the way to realizing your larger goals. Devise a one-month plan, a six-month plan and a 12-month plan for the year ahead. The one-year plan can serve as your big goal, while the one- and six-month plans can serve as small motivators and great ways to track your progress en route to achieving your larger goal.

3. Write down why you’re setting goals.

People set goals for various reasons, and writing down the reasons they’re pursuing their goals can serve as inspiration when challenges arise. For example, if you aspire to change careers to spend more time with your family, writing that down can provide motivation to keep looking for opportunities when a job search stalls or feels fruitless.

A new year is a great time to set goals. A handful of strategies can help people set their goals and keep them on track toward achieving them.

Celebrate Safely This New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate. But for hundreds of people each year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day proves fatal. According to fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over the last five years an average of 300 people died in drunk driving fatalities between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Holiday celebrations, and New Year’s Eve festivities in particular, tend to include alcohol, raising the stakes during this festive yet too often fatal time of year.

The sobering statistics provided by the NHTSA don’t have to prevent people from toasting a new year. In fact, there are many ways to have fun this New Year’s Eve without putting yourself in harm’s way.

• Don’t overindulge in alcohol. For many people, overindulging in alcohol is part and parcel during New Year’s Eve celebrations. Such behavior puts everyone at risk, even people who don’t drive. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, conservative estimates suggest that roughly one-half of sexual assaults on American women involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim or both. While alcohol and its relationship to traffic fatalities draw the bulk of the attention on New Year’s Eve, even people who don’t intend to drive should recognize the dangers of overindulging in alcohol and drink responsibly.

• Arrange for transportation. If you need a car to get around on New Year’s Eve and plan to drink alcohol, arrange for someone else to do your driving for you. Groups of friends should choose someone to be their designated driver or pool their money and hire a taxi or bus service for the night so no one who’s been drinking gets behind the wheel. The NHTSA even offers a free app called SaferRide that is compatible with Apple and Android devices and enables users to call a taxi or a friend to be picked up.

• Host responsibly. Even people who don’t intend to leave their homes can take steps to make New Year’s Eve safer for everyone. If you’re hosting a party at home, do so responsibly, making sure none of your guests overindulge and making the party less about drinking and more about having fun. Shift the focus from toasting drinks to games and activities that don’t include alcohol. Make sure to have plenty of food and nonalcoholic beverages on hand and encourage people who are drinking to eat full meals and drink water throughout the night. People who fill up on food and water during the party may feel full, which may discourage them from having extra drinks. While many people will expect to drink alcohol on New Year’s Eve, don’t stock up on too much alcohol, the availability of which may encourage guests to overindulge. Hosts also should keep the phone numbers of local taxi services handy just in case some guests cannot drive themselves home safely.

New Year’s Eve should be as festive as possible. Celebrating responsibly can ensure everyone has a fun and safe time.

Holiday Hosting in Small Spaces

Gatherings of family and friends are a big part of the holiday season. Hosting such gatherings can be a great way to show loved ones how much you appreciate them, and hosting also saves hosts the trouble of traveling during one of the most hectic travel seasons of the year.

When hosting a large crowd at home, space can be a difficult hurdle to clear. However, a few helpful strategies can help space-starved hosts pull off a holiday soiree where everyone is comfortable.

Pare down the menu. Holiday feasts don’t have to resemble medieval banquets with excessive amounts of food and drink. Hosts with small kitchens and tiny dining quarters can pare down the menu, limiting offerings to just a single entree and a few simple side dishes, so everyone feels comfortable at the table and has ample room to eat. A small menu also gives hosts more time to spend with their loved ones during the festivities.

Don’t overdo it on drinks, either. When planning the drinks menu, avoid offering cocktails, which take time to prepare and often require guests to visit the kitchen for refrigerated ingredients. Limit drinks to wine, beer, water, and soft drinks, storing cold beverages in a cooler kept outside on a front or back porch or in an area outside the kitchen so cooks can work without interruption.

Move some furniture. If your main living space is small, consider moving some bulky furniture into a bedroom or office where guests won’t be spending time. Then make better use of the open living space by placing folding chairs or other accommodations to ensure there’s ample seating for everyone. A single recliner can only be enjoyed by one person, but removing it from a room may create enough space for as many as three folding chairs.

Go small on decorations. If you know you’ll be hosting in advance of the holiday season, decorate with guests in mind. That might mean skipping a six-foot Christmas tree in favor of one that takes up less space. Avoid leaving any fragile decorations out, as adults or overexcited kids may knock them over as they try to navigate a cramped space.

Holiday hosting can be fun, even in small spaces. A few simple tricks can make even the smallest spaces accommodating.

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.

Countdown to Valentine’s Day with Week-Long Fun

Millions of people eagerly await the arrival of the shortest month of the year for the opportunity to show their spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, companions, and many other special people in their lives how much they are loved.

Even though Valentine’s Day is just one day a year, that doesn’t mean it should be the only time one expresses his or her love for a special someone. With this in mind, individuals can count down the days to Valentine’s Day with these daily events that precede the day of love.

February 7:

Rose Day Celebrate love with a vase filled with roses. Red symbolizes love, and many other colors represent heartfelt emotions. The flowers will add to home decor and ambiance.

February 8: Proposal Day

Couples ready to tie the knot can use this day as an opportunity to propose. Those already engaged or married can spend Proposal Day celebrating the events that led up to their own engagement or betrothal, and toast how their relationships have evolved.

February 9: Chocolate Day

Lavish a loved one with all the decadent treats they enjoy. These can include store-purchased chocolates, chocolate fudge sundaes or warm brownies fresh out of the oven.

February 10: Teddy Day

This day can be interpreted in different ways. Couples adding spice to their relationships can celebrate Teddy Day with the lingerie of the same name. Those looking for a more G-rated experience can gift each other with an adorable stuffed bear. Make-your-own stuffed animal retailers at nearby malls are a place to turn for customizable teddy bears.

February 11: Promise Day

Promise Day provides an opportunity to make promises to each other that are specific to couples’ relationships. These can include being more patient, traveling more or spending more time together.

February 12: Hug Day

On this day the world celebrates the uplifting and comforting power of hugs, which can be powerful expressions of love. February 13: Kiss Day Couples can pucker up and spend a few extra moments showing their affection with some kisses. The lips are quite sensitive to touch, and kissing is one of the more renowned expressions of intimacy.

Show love all week long leading up to Valentine’s Day.

18 Ideas for Making Holiday Memories

Counting down to Christmas Day means many different things to people across the globe. Although families likely have several different traditions they anticipate each year, it can be fun to incorporate some new merrymakers into the festivities.

Here are some festive ideas to include in the days leading up to Christmas — a special family calendar of fun finds.

1. Annual memento

Have the kids or adults make one new handmade ornament each year. This way the tree is always evolving, and everyone can track milestones.

2. Cookie day

Devote one day to making Christmas cookies. Invite friends or family members over. Distribute some cookies to elderly neighbors.

3. Holiday classic

Spend a night in and watch a classic Christmas flick you’ve never seen before. Streaming movie services often put classics and obscure titles into rotation during the holiday season.

4. Christmas concert

Host a gathering of children where they can sing or perform their favorite tunes for an audience. Take it on the road to a nearby nursing home.

5. Dine out

Take a break from cooking, shopping and hosting and stop into a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Keep it local to support nearby businesses.

6. Adopt a child/family

Volunteer with a charitable organization that provides for less fortunate families. Answer the Christmas desires of a needy child or family by purchasing an item on their wish lists.

7. See the sights

Pack the children into the family car to tour nearby areas and look at Christmas lights displays. Bring along cookies and hot chocolate.

8. Trim a tree

Get together with adult friends at a tree-trimming party. Rotate the hosting house each year.

9. Play dress-up

A gentleman can dress up as the man in red and pop into a friend’s holiday gathering.

10. Wilderness walk

Enjoy the crisp air and snow and see a local park from a winter perspective.

11. Acts of kindness

Choose any act of kindness and make it happen this Christmas. It can include feeding the hungry or helping a disabled person shop for the season.

12. Kids’ Secret Santa

Spread the joy of giving by having the kids choose a sibling or friend’s name from a hat and purchasing or making a gift for that person.

13. Hand out hot chocolate

Make a big thermos of hot chocolate and give it out to shoppers or workers who have been out in the cold.

14. Read religious stories

Understand the true meaning of the season by reading Biblical passages.

15. Camp-in

The first night the tree is decorated, allow the kids to sleep beside it under the glow of Christmas lights.

16. Scavenger hunt

Plan holiday-themed trivia questions and hide small trinkets for children to find.

17. Surprise box

Put a gender and age nonspecific gift into a box. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the person who finds a hidden gift tag under their chair at dinner gets to open the box.

18. Family portrait

Wear your holiday finery and pose for a portrait that actually will be printed and framed.