Category: Holidays

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.

Fun Holiday Tech Gift Ideas for Kids

Looking for some kid-friendly tech gear this holiday season? Here are some on-trend gift ideas, featuring engaging content for kids.

Wearable Tech

Wearable tech is a great choice for energetic kids, as it seamlessly integrates innovative technology into their active lifestyles. For even more value, consider devices that combine fun with learning.

For instance, with the Kidizoom Smartwatch DX2, they can take pictures and videos, play games, tell time and more. The durable watch features a sleek design that includes 55 customizable watch faces to help kids learn to tell time, as well as two cameras that allow children to capture everything from action videos to selfies that can be customized in the Silly Yourself app or made into new watch faces. Kids can also use the watch’s motion sensor for active play challenges or to track movements. The watch features an assortment of innovative games, including Monster Catcher, which uses augmented reality to help kids find and capture virtual monsters in the real world.

Gaming Systems

Shopping for a gaming console? Seek out family-friendly options that offer opportunities for age-appropriate or educational gaming. Some consoles even provide parental controls, so monitoring use is easy.

Camera Fun

Little cinematographers and videographers may enjoy the Kidizoom girl, tree, tween, holiday, christmas, giftsAction Cam 180, a 180-degree rotatable camera that takes photos and videos with fun features like slow and fast-motion. It comes with accessories needed to mount it to a bike, skateboard and more while taking action shots. The all-weather, water-resistant case allows for use up to six feet underwater, perfect for swimming and splashing. For even more fun, kids can play one of three included games.

Drones

Kids have always loved flying toys and with the technological advancements in drones, they can be had at all price points with a wide variety of capabilities. For beginners, you’ll want to consider durable drones with easy controls. Just be sure to look into local rules and regulations to be sure you’re flying in appropriate places that aren’t restricted.

Handheld Smart Devices

With quality content and robust features similar to those found in christmas, holiday, kids, tabletparents’ smartphones, KidiBuzz lets children message over Wi-Fi to a parent-approved contact list. They can also push the talk button and send quick voice messages. Through the kid-safe web browser, users can visit popular pre-approved websites, and can also download Android apps. It’s also a multimedia player for listening to music and watching videos. Kids can explore silly stamps, frames and photo effects and use them to capture pictures and selfies or make their own videos with the 180-degree rotating camera. The device includes more than 40 learning games and apps and its bumper and shatter-safe screen means kids can take it virtually anywhere.

Make this holiday season the most exciting one yet for kids, with great new tech gear that engages, informs and entertains. (StatePoint)
 
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Improve Visibility While Trick-Or-Treating (And Other Safety Tips)

Thousands of costume-clad children will embark on treat-finding missions in neighborhoods all across the country this Halloween. Everyone wants their Halloween festivities to be fun, but it is important that trick-or-treaters and their chaperones prioritize safety as well.

The child welfare organization Safe Kids says that twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year. In addition, the National Safety Council states that darting out or running into the road accounts for about 70 percent of pedestrian deaths or injuries among children between the ages of five and nine and about 47 percent of incidents for kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

Ensuring trick-or-treating youngsters are visible to motorists can make Halloween safer for everyone involved. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other safety groups suggest the following strategies for safe trick-or-treating.

· Supervise the festivities. Adults should chaperone young trick-or-treaters who are unlikely to be focused on safety in the midst of Halloween excitement.

· Use reflective tape or LED lights. Dark costumes coupled with twilight can make it difficult for motorists to see trick-or-treating youngsters. Parents can improve the chances of their kids being seen by motorists by adhering reflective tape onto kids’ costumes. Glow sticks and wearable LED lights also can illuminate trick-or-treaters.

· Carry lanterns or flashlights. Children and/or chaperones who carry flashlights and lanterns can improve their own visibility while also making themselves more visible to motorists. Lanterns and flashlights help trick-or-treaters avoid holes, cracked pavement and other obstacles. For those children who want to free up their hands for better treat gathering, lights that strap to the head are an option.

· Keep the lights on. Homeowners can do their part by keeping outdoor flood lights and accent lighting on to make paths safer for youngsters on the prowl for Halloween candy.

· Choose face makeup over masks. Children wearing masks may not spot oncoming cars or other hazards. Face makeup won’t affect kids’ visibility but will still help them look scary.

With the right combination of caution and fun, Halloween can be an enjoyable time for youngsters and adults.

Throw a Hauntingly Good Halloween Party

Halloween is a special day that delights children of all ages and helps adults feel like kids at heart. Few people want the fun to end once trick-or-treating is over. By throwing a Halloween party, revelers can continue celebrating well into the evening.

When hosting a Halloween party, it helps to determine who will be in attendance before making any plans. Parties that include children should be PG in nature, and hosts should find the right balance between scary and fun. While you want to have a certain measure of the macabre, make sure you don’t send young guests home with nightmares. Reserve gruesome decorations and details for adult-only parties.

Halloween parties do not necessarily need to be ghoulish to be fun. Try a glittery gala masquerade party or decorate exclusively in orange and black. Classically eerie parties may feature ravens and crows, or they can be subtly spooky with red candles and heavy curtains.

Many people can’t wait to dress up for a Halloween party, even picking out their costumes months in advance. Still, not everyone feels comfortable donning a costume. To welcome all guests, don’t make costumes mandatory. One way around this is to set up a Halloween Disguise Table full of accessories that anyone can borrow and use to alter their appearance. Goofy glasses, strange hats, adhesive mustaches, or masks can be fun. If someone didn’t feel comfortable dressing in full costume, he or she may be more apt to pop in a set of plastic fangs or put on a spinning bow tie.

Food is an integral part of any party and can enhance Halloween soirées. Candy is a pivotal component of Halloween and you can play off that theme at your party. Set up a candy bar full of appropriately hued candies of all shapes and sizes. Put them on display in clear glass or plastic canisters so they add to your Halloween décor.

Some people like to get creative with Halloween cuisine, crafting foods into items that may look like parts of the body or other symbols of the holiday. Cookie cutters can turn sandwiches, desserts, biscuits, and many other foods into different shapes. However, foods also can be made a tad more spooky simply by renaming them or presenting them in interesting containers. Why not serve punch out of a fish aquarium? Other beverages can be housed in jugs or old bottles and labeled “potions.” Use laboratory instruments, such as petri dishes, vials and beakers, to serve snacks.

A Halloween party makes for a fun night, and there is no limit to what hosts can do when planning their scary soirées.

Halloween Pumpkin-Carving Pointers

Transforming pumpkins into cleverly carved creations is a Halloween tradition. Each October, glowing pumpkins take up residence near doorsteps and porches, adding to the magical ambiance of the season. Young and old spend time designing their themes and then taking knife to pumpkin to achieve the desired effects.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns can be traced back centuries to Ireland and a story about “Stingy Jack.” The tale involves Jack outwitting the Devil twice, the second time freeing the Devil from a prank in exchange for the promise that he would not claim Jack’s soul should Jack die. When Jack did die, God did not want the unsavory character in heaven, but the Devil could not claim Jack for hell. Therefore, Jack was relegated to roam the planet indefinitely with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put that coal into a carved-out turnip. His ghostly figure was referred to as “Jack of the Lantern.” Later on it was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern.” When Irish immigrants arrived in North America, turnips weren’t plentiful, so jack-o’-lanterns were instead carved into pumpkins.

Today, many people carve jack-o’-lanterns, with some featuring just smiling or grimacing faces while others are far more artistic creations. These tips can help anyone carve a pumpkin.

· Begin with a fresh pumpkin. Look for a pumpkin with a green stem. If the pumpkin has been sitting around for too long or has been handled too much, the stem can get brittle and/or fall off. A thick, fresh pumpkin is best for carving.

· Plan your ideas. Draw a plan for your pumpkin before you make your first cut. Then transfer that design to the pumpkin with pen or a thin marker. Pumpkin-carving kits come with designs that can be “traced” by poking small holes to create the outline of the design.

· Don’t cut all the way through. Many professional pumpkin artists do not actually cut clear through the flesh of the pumpkin. They carve and shave off layers of the outer rind until it becomes more translucent. The level of transparency can be adjusted based on how much skin is removed and as a way to add texture and shadowing. The more air that is allowed to penetrate the pumpkin, the faster it will start to degrade.

· Delay carving until the last minute. Wait until the day before Halloween to begin carving. Pumpkins are a perishable item, and they’ll begin to rot as soon as you begin carving. Spritzing them with water can help them stay fresh, but there’s no turning back the clock once the first cut is made.

· Cut a hole in the back. According to Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, cutting off the top of the pumpkin can affect its structural integrity and cause it to rot faster. Instead, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin and use an electric light to illuminate it. LEDs are advisable because they don’t generate much heat, which can cook and rot the pumpkin from the inside out.

With some creativity and a little know-how, anyone can create an eye-catching jack-o’-lantern.
 
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How Being An Early Bird Can Benefit Holiday Shoppers

Come the end of the often hectic holiday shopping season, many people resolve to begin shopping earlier in the following year. While such resolutions can be hard to keep, shoppers would be wise to consider the myriad ways they can benefit by starting their holiday shopping earlier than they’re typically accustomed to doing.

Deals

The more time shoppers give themselves to find gifts for their loved ones, the more time they have to comparison shop and find the best deals. Retailers often offer steep discounts during the holiday season, but such deals may pale in comparison to those that can be had throughout the rest of the year. Holiday shoppers who begin shopping early can always skip buying in late summer or autumn if they think better deals can be had once the holiday season begins.

Shipping

By shopping early, shoppers can choose the least expensive shipping option offered by online retailers, potentially saving substantial amounts of money as a result. In addition, shoppers who start early won’t have to worry about items failing to arrive on time, a common source of stress for last-minute holiday shoppers.

Credit score

Another advantage to shopping early for holiday gifts is it allows consumers to protect their credit scores by spreading their spending out over several months instead of doing so in the handful of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a survey examining debt associated with the holiday season, MagnifyMoney found that the average holiday debt in 2016 was slightly more than $1,000. Credit card debt can negatively affect consumers’ credit scores, especially if balances are not paid in full when bills are due. Shoppers can avoid such situations entirely by shopping early using only disposable income to make purchases instead of credit cards. Such financial flexibility may not be possible for shoppers who wait until the holiday season has begun to start shopping.

Time

Shoppers can save more than money by starting their holiday shopping in advance of the holiday season. In spite of the popularity of online shopping, many people still visit traditional brick and mortar retailers to do their present buying. Such stores can be overwhelmed with shoppers between Thanksgiving and Christmas, leading to long lines and lengthy searches for parking. Shoppers are far less likely to encounter big crowds and crowded parking lots if they get their shopping done before the dawn of the holiday season, saving themselves substantial amounts of time as a result.

Shoppers who commit to getting their holiday shopping done early can save money and time and protect their financial reputations as well.

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