Tag: christmas

5 Tips for a Merry Holiday Home

A merry holiday season starts at home. Here are some nice ways to add cheer to the rooms and spaces where people gather.

Light a Fire: It may be the most primitive technology in existence but lighting a fire is still one of the best ways to create a rich holiday atmosphere. Bonus: use aromatic firewood such as pine, fir or cedar.

Project a Movie: Decorating for the holiday season can be as easy as setting up a projector and playing seasonal movies on a loop. From classics like “Miracle on 34th Street” to contemporary favorites like “Elf,” these films provide the perfect backdrop to the holiday season. With the ability to run all day, the LampFree Projectors in Casio’s Slim Series are ideal for this purpose.

Bake Cookies: Make the whole house smell amazing (and become everyone’s favorite person) by popping cookies and other desserts in the oven that include spices evocative of the season, like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla. For a lighter option, you can get the same effect by brewing tea with these same ingredients.

Host a Sing-a-Long: Securing yourself a digital piano with an authentic concert grand sound may just be the best gift you give your family this holiday season. The Casio GP-500 reproduces the three-dimensional sound field generated by an acoustic grand to fill a room with rich, complex sound, making it a great place to gather for holiday sing-a-longs. The piano itself can also be a decoration destination — think garlands and candles. Be sure to set out sheet music and other instruments like tambourines or bells so that guests can join in the fun.

Add Flora: Spruce up your living spaces – literally. Holly, Christmas cactus, poinsettias and spruce add color and vibrancy to mantels, staircases, coffee tables and other nooks and crannies. What’s more, many of these plants will continue to thrive long after the lights and tinsel come down.

The holidays come but once a year. Make the most of the season by turning your home into a winter wonderland.

Last-Minute Holiday Shopping Tips

Holiday shopping season typically begins the day after Thanksgiving and extends all the way to Christmas Eve. While that’s a considerable amount of time for shoppers to find gifts for everyone on their shopping list, many people will still find themselves putting holiday shopping off until the last minute. In certain ways, last-minute holiday shopping is easier than ever.

Thanks to online retailers who can ship products overnight, men and women who delay their holiday shopping have more options at their disposal than they did before the arrival of the Internet. And unlike the days of yore when the best deals were largely exclusive to Black Friday, some shoppers find that competition between online retailers and traditional brick-and-mortar stores is so great that deals can be found regardless of when they begin shopping.

But while waiting until the last minute to begin holiday shopping may not be as risky as it used to be, shoppers may still benefit by sticking to certain strategies so they can find the perfect gifts without breaking the bank.

Stay within your budget.

Even last-minute shoppers have holiday shopping budgets. But it can be harder for last-minute shoppers to stick to their budgets because they have less time to comparison shop and hunt for deals. As the holiday shopping season winds down, resist the temptation to go over budget. If a gift you had in mind is available but more than you can spend, look for something else. Overspending on holiday shopping in December is a recipe for debt in January, and no shopper wants to begin the new year weighed down by consumer debt.

Shop local

National chains and big box retailers are renowned for rolling out great deals during the holiday season, but such stores may have very limited or unimpressive inventory left by the time last-minute shoppers begin shopping. Local retailers are often incapable of slashing prices as significantly as their larger competitors, and that may mean they have more extensive inventories available throughout the holiday shopping season. In addition, shoppers who stick with local retailers won’t have to pay shipping costs to ensure items arrive on time.

Shop during off-peak hours

Shopping during off-peak hours can help last-minute shoppers make efficient use of the limited time they have to buy gifts for their loved ones. Visit stores early in the morning or late at night, or schedule a midweek afternoon shopping trip so you aren’t spending what little time you have left waiting on lines or hunting for parking.

Give something less traditional

Holiday gifts need not come from stores. Rather than spending their time shopping for gifts for loved ones who seemingly have it all, last-minute shoppers can give the gift of a donation in their loved one’s name.

Last-minute shoppers who want to give something more tangible can create a homemade gift that’s both unique and heartfelt. If your DIY skills are lacking, give a loved one the gift of a night out on the town at your expense.

Shoppers who wait until the end of the holiday shopping season to begin their searches for holiday gifts can still find great gifts without going broke.

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.

Gifts for Avid Hunters, Anglers and 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.

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.

Be Prepared for Unexpected Company

The latter part of the year is full of social engagements with family and friends. Pew Research Center says 92 percent of all Americans plan to celebrate Christmas as a holiday, with 69 percent using it as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

While many social occasions surrounding Christmas are anticipated for months in advance, unexpected pop-ins are also the norm this time of year. Rather than being caught off guard, individuals can take steps to prepare for unexpected guests.

· Have food available. Even if guests pop in for a little while, it’s nice to be able to offer them something to eat. Keep cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, pretzels, and other snacks on hand. Make-ahead, crowd-friendly foods can be prepared and frozen. Casseroles, pasta dishes and stews are hearty and can serve in a pinch when unexpected visitors arrive. Simply take out to defrost and heat up. Keep cookies in air-tight tins and purchase a premade frozen pie to serve, if necessary. In a pinch, you can always order out, but over time the cost of having food delivered can add up.

· Keep the bar stocked. Toasting to a happy holiday season is the norm during this time of year. Toasting requires hosts have some spirits on hand. Stock the bar with a few staples, such as red and white wine, vodka, rum, whiskey, and mixers. Also, you may just want to create a signature or seasonal cocktail that can be served when guests arrive, such as a spiced punch or a holiday eggnog.

· Cue the playlist. Put together a playlist of favorite holiday music that will provide the ideal ambiance should guests ring your doorbell. Thanks to services like Spotify, Amazon Music and Pandora, holiday music that fills a home with the sweet sounds of the season is now always accessible.

· Keep things neat. Set aside a closet or space that can serve as a catch-all where errant items can quickly be stored should guests arrive. Gather loose toys, books or stray papers in a basket and then stash the basket in the closet until guests depart. Routinely empty the dishwasher so dirty dishes left in the sink can be quickly loaded before guests arrive.

· Create an aromatic atmosphere. Scented candles that evoke the aromas of the season can refresh stale indoor air. Butter cookie-, apple pie- and cinnamon-scented candles can make it seem like you just finished some holiday baking.

Guests tend to drop by on a moment’s notice come the holidays. Preparing for the unexpected can make such visits more enjoyable.

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Holiday Gift-Wrapping Tips and Tricks

After all the holiday presents have been purchased, the task of wrapping can begin. Although some people find wrapping is relaxing and provides a chance to embrace one’s artistic flair, many others find wrapping gift after gift becomes tedious quite fast.

While there are no statistics on just how many gifts the average person purchases over the course of the holiday season, the National Retail Federation says the average consumer will spend around $800 on all things holiday. That means there will be a lot of gifts to wrap before the big exchange. Those who want to make gift-wrapping less tedious this holiday season can consider these ideas to streamline the process.

Gather all supplies

When the time comes to wrap gifts, there’s nothing more frustrating than hunting for wrapping supplies. Have paper, bows, bags, tissue, pens, tape (double-sided tape streamlines the process), scissors, ribbon, and any other wrapping accoutrements at the ready. Set up a folding snack table near your wrapping area to hold the supplies so they don’t get in the way.

Choose the right location

Always wrap on a large, flat and sturdy surface. Avoid wrapping on a carpet, which will give gift wrap a wrinkled look and increase the amount of time needed to wrap.

Square it up

If you are a master at wrapping rectangular or square gifts but fail when presents are oddly shaped, place misshapen gifts into boxes and then wrap the boxes. Gift bags also can be used for such gifts, but wrapped boxes may look more appealing under the tree.

Fabric over paper

If you think gift wrap is wasteful, think about repurposing fabric into beautiful wrapping for presents. A square of leftover fabric, a piece of a t-shirt or even a portion of a sweater that has seen better days can be transformed into an innovative package for gift-giving. Tie the gathered ends into a bow and skip the tape as well. Dress up with ribbon and a tag for extra flair. Fabric bends and moves, making it more forgiving for oddly shaped gifts as well.

Stock up on paper shopping bags

On your next trip to Trader Joes or Whole Foods, bring home more than organic produce. Walk away with paper bags and free gift wrap. Craft a DIY stamp roller or handmade stamps to dress up plain brown bags. Or wrap the gift in twine and add a sprig of evergreen for a rustic look. Children can even use markers or crayons to create their own designs on gifts, personalizing even further.

Diversify gifts

Identify each recipient’s gifts by wrapping in a different color or style. Just jot down the key to decoding the wrapping, and you’ll save time on individual gift tags.

Wrapping presents doesn’t have to be a chore. With some time-saving tips and tricks, the work can be a breeze.

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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PHOTO SOURCE: (c) georgerudy/stock.Adobe.com

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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.