Tag: entertainment

Tips to Keep Your Tree Fresh This Holiday Season

Christmas trees are often the pièce de résistance of holiday decor. Few things draw the attention of holiday guests quite like an awe-inspiring Christmas tree, especially when that tree maintains its fresh, healthy sheen throughout December.

Many families purchase fresh trees over Thanksgiving weekend or during the first weekend of December. Though the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day may seem like a long time to keep a tree looking great, there are a handful of ways for holiday celebrants to help their trees maintain that undeniable appeal for the long haul.

Pick the right tree

Choosing the right tree is one of the simplest ways to keep a tree looking good throughout the holiday season. A freshly cut tree that buyers choose and cut down themselves or have cut down can reassure them that the tree is likely to stay strong throughout December. Trees purchased from a tree lot may have been cut down long before they made it to the lot, which can make it harder to keep them looking good until Christmas Day.

Cut an inch off the base of any tree that is not freshly cut

MSU Extension at Michigan State University notes that all Christmas trees are conifers, which means they have resin canals in their trunks. Once a tree is cut, the resin can block the pores and make it harder for the tree to take in water. Cutting an inch off the base of a tree that was not freshly cut just before putting it in the stand can help ensure it gets the water it needs to stay healthy and firm. MSU Extension notes that this approach should be taken with any tree that was not cut within six to eight hours of being put in a stand.

Replenish the water supply every day

Fresh tree veterans recognize that Christmas trees can be very thirsty, especially within the first week or so of being cut and brought home. Fill the stand with water each morning and, if necessary, refill it each night before going to bed. The more water a tree gets and drinks, the more likely it is that the tree will look healthy all the way to Christmas Day. MSU Extension notes that many decorative or antique tree stands do not hold much water, so anyone with such a stand may need to replenish the water supply more than once or twice per day.

Keep the tree away from a heat source

For safety’s sake, trees should be kept away from heating vents, fireplaces and space heaters. But keeping trees away from such heat sources, and ensuring they are not spending the daytime in direct sunlight, also decreases the chances they will dry out before Christmas Day.

A handful of simple strategies can help holiday celebrants keep their Christmas trees looking good throughout the month of December.

What to Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

Holiday hosts toil for hours to create lavish meals everyone will enjoy. It’s not uncommon for Thanksgiving tables to be covered with more food than guests can conceivably (and comfortably) consume. Leftovers are the norm, but without a plan for what to do with leftovers, food can spoil or end up in the trash.

Here are some delicious and waste-conscious ways to put Thanksgiving or other holiday meal leftovers to use.

Wrap it up promptly

Even though you may want to sit around and chat with guests when the meal is finished, leaving food out at room temperature for too long can create a breeding ground for microbes that may lead to food spoilage and sickness. With a few helping hands, all foods can be packaged away in no time, ensuring that drumsticks or stuffing can safely be served another day.

Collect containers

Be sure to have reusable food storage containers, zip-top bags, foil, and plastic wrap at the ready. Before all of the food is put away, encourage guests to make their own doggie bags.

Plan with other meals in mind

Shop for and prepare holiday fare with a nod toward what can be used in subsequent meals. Turkey is a versatile ingredient that can be made into everything from breakfast burritos to casseroles. Turn potatoes and sausage stuffing into latke patties that can be whipped up for breakfast or lunch. Sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin can be mashed and reworked into batters for quick breads, pancakes and even doughnuts. Spoon leftover cranberry sauce over hot oatmeal in the morning or use it as a substitute for grape jelly in PB&J sandwiches. Try grinding up stale biscuits to make a breading for turkey slices and turn them into fried cutlets.

Take care of the needy

Find out which organizations accept food donations. Even if you cannot donate previously prepared foods, if you have surplus packaged, boxed or canned items, you can bring them to food pantries and soup kitchens to help others.

Organize a post-holiday pot luck

Turn leftovers into an opportunity to fraternize with friends or relatives who couldn’t make it to Thanksgiving dinner. Pool your leftover resources and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labor. A pot luck can be a great place to gather after shopping Plaid Friday sales in the community.

Thanksgiving leftovers can provide a few extra delicious meals when hosts plan ahead.

Tips to Simplify Thanksgiving Entertaining

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner for a houseful of close friends and relatives can be a tad overwhelming. Thanksgiving is a food- and tradition-centric holiday, and all eyes will are typically on the dinner table. Pulling off a feast of this magnitude Ñ multiple courses, side dishes and desserts takes considerable effort. These tips, tricks and timesavers can be a Thanksgiving host’s saving grace.

Pick the menu early

Don’t leave menu planning and shopping to the last minute. Decide what you’ll be cooking in addition to turkey several weeks before the big day. Select two or three side dishes, preferably items that can be prepared in advance and then reheated on Thanksgiving. These can include a baked macaroni-and-cheese casserole, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and a cornbread stuffing.

Brine your bird

Turkey is the centerpiece of the feast, so give it every opportunity to shine. No one wants a dry turkey, but unfortunately this lean poultry can dry out easily. Meats typically lose about 30 percent of their weight during cooking. However, by soaking the turkey in a brine prior to cooking it, you can reduce this moisture loss to as little as 15 percent, according to Dr. Estes Reynolds, a brining expert at the University of Georgia. Brining the fowl for a day or more can infuse flavor and moisture. Food Network personality Alton Brown has a fan-favorite roast turkey recipe with an aromatic brine that has garnered five stars and was featured on his show “Good Eats” (www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe-1950271). A simple salted water soak also can work.

Start prep work a few days before Thanksgiving

Take some stress out of Thanksgiving by cutting all vegetables and/or preparing some dishes a few days early. Label and organize prepared ingredients by recipe and store in the refrigerator. Make extra room in the fridge by removing nonessential items and placing them in a cooler with ice and cleaning out any old food or condiments. Plan your table settings and label which bowls and other serving dishes will be used for which items. This will make it much easier to set the table on Thanksgiving.

Serve batched cocktails

It can be challenging and expensive to have a full bar for guests. Mulled wine, hot cider and punches are ideal ways to service a crowd looking for delicious spirited drinks.

Create simple centerpieces

Use seasonal sights for your centerpieces or place settings. These can include small squashes, gourds, citrus fruits, nuts, or acorns. A hollowed-out pumpkin filled with fresh flowers also can be eye-catching.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate bounty. Treat guests to a great experience by learning some hosting tips to make the holiday easier to manage.

The Importance of Safety When Swimming in Backyard Pools

Backyard pools provide families with ample opportunities for recreation. It’s easy to be distracted by all the fun when swimming in a backyard pool, but it is crucial that homeowners take steps to ensure everyone is safe when spending time in the pool.

Establish a barrier

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children between the ages of one and four in the United States. Pools attract curious children, so maintaining a barrier between the home and the pool is essential. Many municipalities require some sort of fencing around pools or ladders that self-latch or can be closed off to climbing.

Locks and alarms on windows and doors that face or provide access to the backyard also can serve as barriers.

Keep play under control

Children and even adults may be swept up in the fun and engage in potentially dangerous behaviors. Pool users should not be allowed to run around the perimeter of an inground pool, as the cement can get slippery when wet and lead to falls that can cause injuries.

Exercise caution when using diving boards or diving into pools. It’s easy for divers to hit their heads when diving off a board into a pool due to close proximity of the transition wall in the deep end of the pool or by diving into shallow water. The Red Cross recommends a water depth of 11.5 feet for safe diving and the transition wall should be at least 16.5 feet from the tip of the diving board. However, the standard depth for many pools is 7.5 feet of water and a slope beginning seven feet from the board.

Exercise caution with inflatables

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute found that inflatable pool toys are especially dangerous. Such toys can flip easily, putting children at risk for injury (from striking the sides of the pool) or drowning (especially if the children were ejected into deep water). Inflatables also can prevent access to the surface of the water for submerged swimmers.

Choose a backyard lifeguard

At least one person should be designated as backyard lifeguard when the pool is in use. This person should always direct his or her focus on the pool, counting swimmers and keeping track of who enters and leaves the pool. Safe Kids Worldwide suggests rotating water watchers every 15 minutes.

Pools are fun places to spend summer afternoons, especially when every step is taken to ensure the safety of swimmers.

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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Plan Your Fall Foliage Excursion

Autumn means different things to many people. Students may embrace the dawn of a new school year, while others might embrace the crisp weather after a season of heat. One of the more widely enjoyed aspects of autumn is the chance to take in the brilliant foliage.

Although New England may be renowned for its bright, orange, red and yellow panoramas, dazzling displays of foliage can be witnessed anywhere temperatures descend enough for deciduous trees to shed their leaves.

The first step to a successful fall foliage excursion is to find the right spot. The Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York, Amish Country in Pennsylvania, the Great Lakes from Michigan to Ohio, and many other areas can be great places to witness nature at its most colorful. To make the most of fall foliage road trips, drivers can keep the following suggestions in mind.

· Get off the highway. To see great fall vistas, take a detour from major thoroughfares and visit small towns and mountain passes. Invest in some maps, as cellular networks may be inaccessible in remote locales.

· Avoid tourist-heavy areas. Drivers may prefer less crowded roadways to accompany the great scenery. Such drivers should visit areas that are not tourist meccas. Any area that plays home to forests and sprawling landscapes will do.

· Go on foot. To get the best photos, head out at sunrise or sunset. Soft, golden light dappled by leaves will bring out the golden tones in photos. Going on foot will help you discover the nuances of the season and slow down for a change.

· Don’t overlook overcast days. Traveling in the rain may not be fun, but overcast days might be ideal. On such days, the sun won’t be too warm and drown out the colors.

· Bring along binoculars. Wildlife is often mobile and abundant in the fall, as animals scurry to feed and gather supplies before the winter. As a result, autumn is a great time to spot wildlife that’s normally hiding in thickets and woodland areas.

· Plan for stops along the way. Don’t forget to bring some spending money in the form of cash so that you can enjoy the small farm stands and shops that often dot rural landscapes. Pick up farm-fresh produce or choose a plump pumpkin. Yard sales also are abundant this time of year. Small shops may not take credit cards, so if you plan to buy, cash is king.

Trees begin shedding their leaves as early as the beginning of September in Canada and the northern United States. As the days press on, the fall finery will gradually shift southward. For those who can afford to take a weekday off, do so, as weekends might be overcome with fellow nature enthusiasts.