Category: Holidays

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.

Get Gifts There On Time!

Thanks to families being more spread out than ever before, today’s holiday shoppers must figure out ways to get holiday gifts to their destination on time. The holiday season tends to be the busiest time of year for many delivery services. The following tips should help shoppers ensure their loved ones’ gifts arrive on time.

• Ship directly. Adobe Analytics reported that online shopping hit a record high of $108.2 billion in the 2017 holiday shopping season, and all indicators suggest online shopping will only increase in the years to come. Holiday shoppers who want to ensure their loved ones will receive their gifts on time can rely on online shopping. When checking out, have gifts shipped directly to loved ones’ homes. Many online retailers will even wrap gifts for a nominal fee.

• Research shipping options. In 2018, Christmas falls on a Tuesday. Shoppers who plan to rely on two-day or overnight shipping should keep that in mind. Some delivery services may be open throughout the weekend before Christmas, while others may only be open on Saturday. Last-minute shoppers, whether they’re shopping online or in-person, should confirm their shipping options well in advance of Christmas. Because Christmas is on a Tuesday this year, getting gifts to their destination on time may require shoppers to purchase and ship them earlier than they otherwise might.

• Purchase package insurance. Consumer Reports notes that UPS and FedEx shipments automatically come with declared-value coverage of up to $100. (Note: Declared value is the carrier’s maximum liability.) Purchasing additional insurance can ease shoppers’ concerns about lost or stolen packages. Just be sure to keep all invoices and receipts in case claims must be filed. Shoppers also should ask for tracking numbers on all packages so they can confirm when packages are delivered.

• Properly secure the package. Many delivery services now have off-site drop-off boxes that can make it easy to send gifts. This is a convenient service, but shoppers who use them won’t be able to have a company employee provide in-person confirmation that their packages are secured to company standards. Poorly packaged items may never be shipped. Visit the shipping company’s website for packaging guidelines, and include a business card and duplicate label inside the package just in case it is damaged after being dropped off.

Tips for Hosting a Fun 4th of July Party

The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate in the United States. Much about July makes the fourth day of the month the ideal time to celebrate. School is out, the weather is warm and the generally relaxed attitude of summer has typically set in by the first week of July. People tasked with hosting Fourth of July festivities may not feel the same pressure when hosting such gatherings that they would when hosting more formal affairs. The relaxed nature of summer often pervades Fourth of July festivities, but hosts can still take a crash course in summer hosting to ensure everyone has a good time.

Don’t try to break the mold.

Some hosts may be tempted to think outside the box in regard to the foods and beverages they’ll serve at their Fourth of July parties. While hosts can still experiment and serve new foods and creative cocktails at their parties, many guests will be anticipating some Fourth of July staples, such as grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and cold beer and lemonade. Making sure such foods and beverages are served alongside more experimental fare won’t disappoint traditionalists, and those looking for something beyond the norm won’t be disappointed, either.

Embrace the red, white and blue.

When decorating, opt for red, white and blue decorations. This gives the party a distinctly Fourth of July feel. Red, white and blue napkins and tablecloths are readily available come July, and hosts with a gift for crafts can even create their own decorations to use year after year.

Prepare to entertain.

Unlike holiday season gatherings that typically begin in the evening, Fourth of July parties tend to begin in the afternoon and extend into the night. That means hosts must not just feed their guests, but entertain them as well. Since Fourth of July parties tend to take place outdoors, plan lots of backyard games, such as badminton, bocce, Wiffle ball, horseshoes, and more. Hosts with swimming pools should have pool games readily available as well.

Leave the fireworks to the professionals.

Hosts should not succumb to pressure, real or perceived, to supply fireworks at their Fourth of July parties. Fireworks can lead to injuries and accidents and are best left to the professionals who put on community fireworks shows. Discourage guests from bringing their own fireworks by making it known they will be asked to leave the party if they do.

Arrange transportation home for guests.

To make sure everyone gets home safe and sound, arrange in advance for some guests to serve as designated drivers. Hosts also should abstain from consuming alcohol during the party so they can get people home safe if necessary. Keep a list of local taxi company phone numbers on hand and encourage guests who plan to consume alcohol to use ride-sharing apps to get to and from the party.

Fourth of July festivities typically are less formal than other celebrations, but hosts still must plan their parties to ensure everyone has a fun, safe Independence Day.

Unique Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, and many more remarkable women often work tirelessly and without fanfare to provide for their families. Even though they may deserve to be recognized throughout the year, moms enjoy a special day nestled within the month of May when children, spouses and others celebrate Mother’s Day.

Many people give heartfelt gifts on Mother’s Day to express their love for the mothers in their lives. The perfect gift may focus on Mom’s interests and the things that make her truly happy. With that in mind, the following shopping tips can help anyone find the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

Explore spa packages.

What mother won’t benefit from some rest and relaxation with a little pampering thrown in? Salons and massage therapists typically put together Mother’s Day packages that cater to mothers. Packages may include massages, facials, hair treatments, manicures, and pedicures. Gift-givers can customize the services depending on their budgets.

Dining out can be a treat.

A meal at a favorite restaurant can be a welcome change from kitchen duty. Mother’s Day is a busy day for restaurants, many of which have limited menus to better handle the crowds. As a result, if dining out on Mother’s Day, Mom may not get the full menu she desires. To ensure mothers have full menus at their disposal, gift givers can cook a meal at home on Mother’s Day and then choose another day of the week to enjoy a meal in an upscale restaurant.

 Schedule a paint and sip.

A paint and sip session is a unique gift. A session is typically two hours and includes step-by-step instructions. Patrons are encouraged to bring snacks and their favorite beverages. With the right planning, well-intentioned children can turn the evening into a “ladies night out” and encourage other moms to join in the fun. Or the entire family can paint masterpieces together.

Give tickets to a show or sporting event.

Whether Mom is a sports fan or she prefers the theater or live music, event tickets can make a wonderful gift. Unique gift ideas include tickets to Cirque du Soleil, Shen Yun or a Broadway play.

Give the gift of wine tasting.

Wineries can be found across the country and frequently open their doors to wine tastings and wine pairing events. A Mother’s Day wine tasting can be special for the entire family and support local businesses. Check the vineyard’s rules on guests. Many times those under 21 can attend but will not be permitted to consume wine, though other refreshments may be available.

Mother’s Day offers the perfect opportunity to lavish attention on special women. Gifts that cater to Mom’s interests will make the biggest splash.

Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Staying fit during the holiday season can be quite challenging, even for the most ardent fitness enthusiasts and disciplined calorie-counters.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, many people are offered a wide assortment of foods, beverages and other indulgences — typically in mass quantities. According to researchers at Stanford University, although the average person only gains around one pound during the holiday season, quite frequently that pound sticks around, and those extra pounds add up year after year. As a result, it doesn’t take too many years of holiday bundt cakes to gain a considerable amount of weight.

Holiday season weight gain is not unique to the United States and Canada. Investigators at Tampere University of Technology in Finland tracked weight gained in the United States, Germany and Japan during those countries’ festive times and found that each country’s participants gained weight, particularly during the holiday season. Annual holiday weight gain can contribute to weight-based problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The holiday season might not be the best time to start a diet, but holiday eating does not have to derail healthy lifestyles. The following are ways to avoid holiday weight gain and still enjoy all of the parties, adventures and time spent with friends and family.

Focus on festivity instead of food. When hosting holiday festivities, make the bulk of the celebration about an activity rather than food. If guests are focused on fun, such as a sing-a-long, dancing or tree-trimming, they may be less likely to overeat.

Don’t show up starving. Eat a light, healthy snack before participating in any holiday revelry. Hunger pangs may drive one straight to the buffet table.

Survey your options prior to eating. Guests should scope out the food choices and then make the smartest selections possible. Avoid creamy sauces, greasy foods and those that are heavy on cheese. Fill up on vegetables and then you won’t feel bad about splurging on a dessert.

Go sparingly on alcohol. People seldom realize how quickly calories from beverages can add up. A 12-ounce glass of beer has about 150 calories, a five ounce glass of red wine has about 125 calories and a 1.5-ounce shot of gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, or tequila has about 100 calories, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Furthermore, alcohol lowers inhibitions, so you may be more likely to overindulge in more spirits or extra food when intoxicated.

You can’t buy back calories with exercise. Putting in a marathon exercise session the next day probably will not undo the damage done from overeating the night before. Maintain a consistent workout schedule all through the holidays.

Holiday weight gain is not inevitable for those who take control and exercise discipline.

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Christmas Music Origins

Scores of artists have released Christmas albums or holiday-infused singles during their careers. Christmas music can be broken down into two distinct categories: traditional hymns and carols and popular secular songs.

Some believe that the religious standards have been passed down since the earliest days of Christianity. However, that is not so. Before the 12th century, music wasn’t typically included in religious services, and even then music was included only sporadically. In present day, religious tunes identified as Christmas music typically are not sung until Christmas Eve and thereafter until the Epiphany.

Many of the oldest Christmas songs are not old at all. Many popular carols sung today are less than 200 years old. The world’s most popular Christmas carol was originally a poem penned in 1816 by Austrian Catholic priest Josef Mohr. Two years later, Mohr asked Franz Xaver Gruber, an organist and local schoolteacher, to put his words to music. The resulting song, “Silent Night,” was not translated into English for 40 years.

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” also originated from a poem and had the original opening line of, “Hark how all the welkin rings.” The subsequent version was more catchy, and the faster-paced accompaniment was courtesy of Felix Mendelssohn, added 100 years after the poem was written.

“Jingle Bells,” a nonreligious tune that has become synonymous with Christmas, was not originally written as a Christmas tune. In fact, the song was intended to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Christmas music is diverse, with lively tunes, modern interpretations and religious classics enjoyed through the years.