Category: Holidays

Immune Boosting Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season

The hectic holidays and chill in the air can take a toll on the immune system making one more susceptible to cold weather challenges. Stay healthy and vital all season by taking the following steps.

Be Balanced

From eggnog and cookies to champagne toasts, you may be more likely to over indulge during the holiday season than at other times of the year. Be mindful of what you are eating and drinking at parties, and then balance out these extravagances with plenty of rest, regular exercise, healthy hydration and an otherwise nutrition-filled diet.

Get Some Support

“We are learning more each day about what weakens the immune system and how we can strengthen it for better health,” says Larry Robinson, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs at Embria Health Sciences, a manufacturer of natural, science-based ingredients that support wellness and vitality. “Good immune health requires more than just getting enough vitamin C.”

For some extra support this season and beyond, consider taking an immune-supporting supplement that goes further than a standard vitamin C tablet.  For example, NOW EpiCor Plus Immunity contains Zinc, Selenium, and vitamins D-3 and C, and can give you the nutrition you need to help you make it through the holidays healthfully. To learn more, visit nowfoods.com.

While all these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and this supplement is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease, many experts believe they can help maintain your daily health.

Relax

The holiday season is meant to be joyful. Unfortunately, it can also be stressful. From navigating a shopping mall parking lot on the busiest day of the year to dealing with the extended family, stress can compromise your immune response. Use at least some of that time you may have off from work to truly relax, scheduling some down time for yourself — whether it’s curling up with a glass of green tea and a paperback, taking a bubble bath or doing yoga.

For a happy holiday season, take steps to treat your body right and to prioritize health and wellness. (StatePoint)
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The History of Christmas Stockings

Just when the excitement of opening presents abates after the last of the packages under the Christmas tree have been torn open, children and adults alike may discover that there are more treats to be had nestled inside of stockings hung on the mantle.

The hanging of Christmas stockings is a tradition with an extensive history. Several legends attribute the hanging of stockings to different people or events. Here is a look at some of the stories that have made Christmas stockings so popular.

St. Nicholas Day

Rather than hanging stockings on Christmas, many countries celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on December 6, and this is when stockings are proudly left out for treats. The small, inexpensive trinkets are later unwrapped and enjoyed on Christmas Day.

Dutch heritage

One tradition says that, in 16th century Holland, children kept their clogs filled with straw in front of the hearth for Santa’s reindeer to find. They also left treats for Santa Claus. In return, Santa would leave gifts in the clogs. Over time, stockings were swapped out for clogs.

Merchant’s family story

A popular tale tells the story of a merchant, his wife and three daughters. After the wife falls ill and dies, the man becomes devastated and squanders all of his wealth on frivolous things to mask his sadness. When it comes time for the daughters to marry, the man does not have money for a dowry. St. Nicholas hears of the plight and knows the man would be too proud to accept charity. Therefore, St. Nicholas anonymously tosses three bags of gold coins down the chimney. The man’s daughters had done the laundry prior and left their stockings hanging by the fireplace to dry. The gold landed in the stockings, thus starting the Christmas stocking tradition.

Italian good witch

One stocking story does not attribute the tradition to Santa, but to a kind-hearted Italian witch named “La Befana.” La Befana arrives on a broomstick the night of January 5 and fills the stockings of good children with sweet treats and toys. Bad children are awarded lumps of coal. La Befana is also credited with being the old woman who the wise men ask for directions to Christ’s manger in the Christ child’s story. After turning down an offer to accompany them, La Befana later carried gifts in search of Christ.

Christmas stockings have become part of holiday traditions, and this beloved tradition has its own unique history.

Warm Up With a Classic Hot Toddy This Holiday Season

Come the holiday season, hot toddies are ideal for entertaining, providing spirited fun and a means to chasing away the winter chill.

Hot toddies have been around for centuries. Usually a mix of a spirit – either whiskey, rum or brandy – hot water, honey and spices, some believe the word “toddy” comes from an Indian drink of the same name that is produced by fermenting the sap of palm trees. Other sources say the hot toddy was created by Dr. Robert Bentley Todd, an Irish physician who prescribed a drink made of brandy, white cinnamon, sugar syrup, and water. The drink was dubbed the “hot toddy.”

Hot drinks embellished with alcohol were long used for medicinal purposes. While alcoholic beverages are no longer used as medicine, hot toddies can still chase away a chill. “Grog” is another name given to hot alcoholic drinks, or any drink in which unmeasured amounts of spirits are mixed with other ingredients. Grog may also refer to a water-and-rum mixture that sea merchants once drank. The water kept the merchants hydrated, while the rum prevented the water from spoiling during voyages.

The classic hot toddy can be a versatile drink used to keep guests comfortable and cheerful. This warm libation is soothing and savory, mixing citrus, honey and spices, which each have their various health benefits.

Although hot toddy recipes vary, the following is the recipe for a classic hot toddy, as culled by recipes from Wine Enthusiast, Imbibe and PBS Food.

Classic Hot Toddy

• 11/2 ounces bourbon, whiskey or another brown liquor
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
• 1 cup boiling water
• Cinnamon stick
• Lemon wedge
• Cloves or star anise

Combine liquor, lemon juice, honey, and boiling water together in a mug or Irish coffee glass. Push cloves or star anise into the lemon wedge. Add the cinnamon stick and lemon wedge to the mug. Allow lemon and cinnamon stick to steep in the beverage for a few minutes. Stir and enjoy.

Experience Gifts Are Out-of-the-Box Exciting

The holidays are a season for decorating, entertaining and, of course, figuring out what to get all of the special people on gift lists. Instead of navigating crowded stores to find a gift that may just take up space in their loved ones’ closets, more and more people are giving the gift of an experience.

According to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, new belongings will only be exciting at first, but then people adapt to them. If shoppers’ goals are to prolong those feelings of excitement, then personal experiences can be more effective than material goods.

When shopping for those who seemingly have everything, a gift of an experience may be a smarter choice, especially if the experience is something the recipient may never have done before or wouldn’t think to get for him or herself. For those who need a little inspiration, the following are some ways to treat loved ones to special experiences.

· Wine tasting: Find a local winery that offers tours and other wine-tasting experiences. Many areas of the country not particularly known as meccas for wine are still homes to local wineries. Treat a loved one to a day at a nearby winery or vineyard, bringing along some snacks, such as bread and cheese, to pair with the wines.

· Fitness class party: Enable fitness enthusiasts to try out new and trendy exercise classes by giving the gift of a class or membership. Consider tagging along to a class so the recipient doesn’t have to go it alone.

· Head in the clouds: Book a trip aboard a sight-seeing plane, balloon or helicopter for the high-flying thrill-seeker on your holiday shopping list. Contact a nearby airport or sightseeing company to find out what is available. Some tours circle national monuments and points of interests, providing more bang for the buck.

· Action and adventure: There’s adventure to be had on land as well. Racing fans can sit behind the wheel of a race car and lap the racetrack like their favorite NASCAR® stars. Those who prefer getting a little wet with their wild may enjoy a whitewater rafting excursion.

· The choice is theirs: If you’re stuck on what to get, let recipients choose their own experience. Companies like Cloud 9 Living enable individuals to choose their experiences from a wide variety of options.

Giving experiences can equal a year of entertaining and enjoyable memories for gift recipients.
 
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Travel Gifts for the Holiday Season

Vacations create memories that last a lifetime. But across North America, surveys indicate that fewer people are cashing in on all of their vacation days. Some may be too busy to travel as much as they would like, while others might not be able to afford to travel. A gift of travel removes much of the expense of traveling and can serve as a catalyst one needs to go and explore.

Escaping to warm climates can be just what the doctor ordered when winter weather sets in at home. Although that first snowfall can make for a picturesque holiday season, there’s a good chance that after several storms and navigating icy roads, a getaway to sunshine and sand can help beat winter blues. When gifting travel this year, consider these great places to travel in January and February.

· Anguilla: Anguilla is a British territory in the Eastern Caribbean, just east of the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s known for its long sandy stretches of beach and pleasant winter temperatures, which average 83 F. There isn’t much hustle and bustle, so this island destination can be the ideal place for relaxation.

· Australia and New Zealand: January and February are summer months in the southern hemisphere. These vibrant countries offer everything from costal charm to remote plains.

· Costa Rica: An abundance of wildlife, unspoiled beaches and rain forests draw visitors to this Central American locale. Travelers can hike active volcanoes or surf warm turquoise waters. The “dry season” arrives in December along with moderate temperatures.

· Honolulu: The weather in Hawaii tends to be beautiful year-round, but February can be an especially good time to travel to this U.S. island chain. Travel & Leisure says that hotels often slash their rates by up to 40 percent in February. This makes it much more affordable to gift a stay in Honolulu.

· Orlando: While holiday crowds peak in November and December, visiting Orlando and its main attraction, Disney World, is much easier when the crowds thin out in January and February. The slower season means affordable hotel rates and shorter lines for attractions.

· Montreal: Those who don’t want to escape the snow but embrace it might find a vacation in Montreal a welcome diversion. This cultured city offers Old World charm plus modern amenities.

· Puerto Rico: American travelers can vacation in Puerto Rico without needing travel visas or passports. While all of Puerto Rico is a sight to be seen, the capital of San Juan has thriving arts and culture.

· St. Martin: Also known as St. Maarten, this paradise offers two different cultures for the price of one. The island shares French and Dutch territory status. Visitors who like to eat well and party into the morning often find St. Martin an ideal destination.

Gifting plane tickets, hotel reservations or upgraded meal plans can make winter vacations that much more enjoyable.

Gifts That Pamper and Rejuvenate

Stress can be bad for the body, contributing to depression, anxiety, hypertension, and even obesity. Unfortunately, more than half of working adults and 47 percent of all Americans say they are concerned with the amount of stress in their lives, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association. Canadians, too, are feeling stressed. The North American research company Ipsos found that stress affects 76 percent of the Canadian population.

Reducing stress can be especially important during the holiday season, which, thanks in part to its hectic nature, tends to produce extra feelings of stress. Gifts that pamper, relax and rejuvenate might be the ideal fit for those who need a little rest and relaxation.

· Aromatherapy: Studies have shown that aromatherapy, or breathing in certain scents, can trigger reactions in the brain and affect emotions, mood and memory. Specific essential oils can help relieve stress, induce relaxation and even promote better sleep. Scents such as lavender, lemon or yuzu, bergamot, ylang ylang, and jasmine can promote relaxation in many people.

· Candles: The combination of subtle, low flickering light and relaxing aromas can make candles soothing gifts. Put together an entire gift package with decorative candle holders or a nice tray on which candles of various heights can be placed.

· Plush robe: Sometimes lounging around the house is all that’s necessary to create a soothing atmosphere. A plush robe that is luxurious and comfortable will help that someone special unwind after a long day or after sleeping in on the weekend.

· Home aquarium: Stress can melt away watching underwater life flick and flitter through the aquarium. Combined with soothing bubbles and the gentle hum and splash of the filter, it is easy to see how having a fish tank in the home can alleviate stress. Make sure the gift recipient is able to care for the fish and select low-maintenance species.

· Bed linens: Treat someone special to the gift of added relaxation in the bedroom. Buying bed linens is often a chore and an expense that people put off. Pima cotton, silk, satin, or sateen sheets can be cool, comfortable and soothing.

· Facial treatment: A massage session can be relaxing, but so can a facial. There’s something serene about having a professional apply products and rub areas of the face and temples. Stress will slip away in an instant.

Pampering gifts can help ease anxiety, tame stress and help anyone feel more relaxed and happy.

Baking Shortcuts for Time-Pressed Entertainers

‘Tis the season for baking cookies, cakes and other treats. However, during the holiday rush, it’s easy to get side-tracked or tired, and perhaps even a little bit overwhelmed by all the things to do in such a short period of time. Holiday baking doesn’t have to add to seasonal stress. With these tips and shortcuts, there will be plenty of sweet treats for the family.

Stick with tested recipes

Although holiday bakers may want to branch out a bit with their culinary creativity, recipes that have previously been prepared with great success can take some of the work out of holiday baking. Preparing recipes you recall preparing in the past is much easier than trying something new. If you’d like, add sparkle to old standards, such as decorating oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies with colored sprinkles.

Cookies are fast-baking

Did you know that cookies were originally made to test oven temperatures? Culinary historians say that cookies were first made to test if an oven was hot enough to bake other goods. Today, cookies can be whipped up in mere minutes. Make a batch of dough and then freeze or refrigerate it, thawing it when the time comes to bake. Also, think about baking one day and decorating the next if pressed for time.

Embrace colored candy melts

Icing can be tricky to master. Simply heating colored candy melts and pouring over cakes or painting onto cookies can add festive appeal to desserts. Candy melts even come in many different colors and can be combined to achieve the tint desired.

Keep ingredients in top form

Don’t let poorly performing ingredients or a lack of supplies be your undoing. Butter can be softened quickly in the microwave when needed for recipes. Eggs can be brought to room temperature by allowing them to sit in a bowl of warm water. Ensure that brown sugar stays soft by putting a piece of sliced bread in the container. Don’t forget to stock up on other baking staples, such as vanilla and almond extracts, baking powder/soda, molasses, and confectioner’s sugar.

Don’t bake from scratch

Not all recipes need to be made from scratch. Boxed cake mixes can be embellished and turned into delicious desserts without much fuss. Substitute melted butter for oil, buttermilk for water, and add an extra egg for a rich cake. Mix in chocolate chips or nuts or experiment with garnishes for a festive look.

Parchment paper is key

Line cookie sheets or cake pans with parchment paper for easy dessert release and quick cleanup. Parchment paper and even foil can help lift cakes or cookie bars out of pans so they look neat and do not stick.

Holiday baking can be made much easier by employing a few tricks of the trade.

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Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.

Holiday Budgeting Tips for Savvy Consumers

Sticking to one’s budget is important all year long, but doing so during the holiday season can be especially tricky, when expenses run high and festive cheer makes it difficult to put the brakes on over-spending.

To get a better handle on your spending this holiday season, consider the following simple tools and tips.

Make Plans

Decide exactly what your plans are for this season. Will you be traveling? Will you be hosting a dinner party? What does your holiday shopping list look like? Add budget line items for all the associated expenses and put a price cap on each one.

Add it Up

Seek out tools that help make the logistics of staying within budget simple, such as desktop and printing calculators like Casio’s HR-100TMPlus, a 12-digit printing calculator with a large, easy-to-read display. It is especially well-suited for organized budget planning, as it offers special keys for tax calculations and has two-color printing, enabling shoppers to color code positive entries as black and deductions or purchases as red. For additional information on Casio’s portfolio of calculators, visit Casio.com.

Take Steps to Save

Make more space in your budget during the holiday season with smart strategies. Use free apps to help you score deep discounts on favorite retailers. If you’re crafty or handy, consider DIY-ing certain gift items and greeting cards. Suggest a day of volunteer service at your workplace in lieu of a gift exchange.

Don’t Get Impulsive

When you’re in the store aisles, it’s easy to make impulse purchases, particularly during the holidays when every display is designed to make you spend. Make a shopping list and then adhere to it.

To start 2018 on the right foot, spend no more than what you intended to using tech tools and smart strategies.​​​​​​ (StatePoint)

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Gifts for Avid Hunters, Anglers & Outdoorsmen

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services’ 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation unveiled that more than 90 million United States residents aged 16 or older participated in some sort of wildlife-related activity that year – the most recent year on record. Wildlife recreationists spend nearly $150 billion per year on their activities. With this in mind, those who have hunters, anglers or outdoorsmen on their holiday shopping lists may find that gifts facilitating these specific pursuits can be the ideal fit this holiday season.

Rather than scouring the mall for hours, a visit to the nearest sports outfitter can yield a bevy of appropriate gift ideas. For some inspiration, consider these gifts for the outdoor enthusiast.

· Binoculars: Scoping out territory and looking for game is often part of the hunt. A set of durable new binoculars can give hunters an edge.

· Heated shoe insoles: Hunting and fishing often require long wait periods – sometimes in chilly weather. Heated shoe insoles and hand warmers can keep outdoorsmen warm.

· GPS/digital watch: Although many smartphones tell time and offer GPS services, lightweight watches may be more convenient than phones. For example, the Garmin Fenex Watch is waterproof and offers such functions as GPS, an altimeter, barometer and a digital compass.

· All-season tent: Camping out is not just a summer activity. A tent that is rated to withstand various temperatures and conditions can be an asset.

· Waders: Anglers sometimes need to get up close and personal with their prey. A sturdy pair of breathable waders is ideal for those who venture out of the boat or off of the coast.

· Wool socks: They may be a basic item, but hikers, hunters and other sports people can’t stock up enough on warm, sweat-wicking wool socks that will keep their feet comfortable and dry on all excursions.

· Folding knife: Knives are ideal for cutting fishing line, twigs for a campfire and much more. A sturdy, quality knife that fits easily in a pocket or backpack is a must-have for hunters, campers and anglers.

· Water-resistant pouch: A day on the boat or near the water requires gear that can get wet without soiling items stored inside. Choose a pouch that can fit a camera, keys, phone, and other necessities.

· Climbing stand: Hunters frequently spend time up in the trees to get a better view of oncoming game. Stationary tree stands may remain for the season, but lightweight offerings fold and can be transported from area to area.