Tag: holiday

Day Trips To Entertain Holiday Guests

Travel tends to heat up as the weather begins to chill around the holiday season. With friends and family to see and holiday cheer to spread, it’s no wonder why millions of people take to the roads, railways and friendly skies to travel during the holiday season.

It’s not uncommon for holiday hosts to open their homes to loved ones for days at a time. Holiday hosts who want to ensure that visitors enjoy their stay can plan certain excursions to make the most of their time together.

Go See The Lights

Holiday lighting displays are popular across the country. Treat guests to a visit to a nearby attraction. That could be an amusement park that drapes the center of the park in lights, Main Street storefronts and town centers that put on tree lighting ceremonies, urban centers where department stores showcase impressive windows, or other attractions where lights take center stage.

See A Show

From productions of “A Christmas Carol” to other holiday favorites, it’s not difficult to find entertainment that showcases some holiday spirit. Dance troupes may be showcasing “The Nutcracker” or a choral ensemble may be putting on a concert of Christmas carols. Enjoy a night or day out at one of these events.

Visit A Cathedral Or Temple

The holiday season brings many individuals closer to their faiths. Travelers may want to visit a house of worship during their stay. Many churches are dressed up for Christmas and some may even have live animals in their living nativity scenes.

Cut Down A Christmas Tree

Save the tree cutting and trimming for when guests arrive. This way everyone can enjoy a day out at the tree farm as families select the perfect evergreen. Partake in refreshments such as hot chocolate or warm cider, then return home to decorate the tree together.

Day trips with overnight guests staying for the holidays can make for an entertaining way to get out of the house and enjoy time together.

Simple Tricks To Disentangle Holiday Lights

The joyous holiday season is enhanced by the beautiful and festive decorations that adorn homes and businesses during this special time of year. Twinkling lights are part of the holiday decorating equation. However, tangled lights in storage bins and boxes can sap anyone’s holiday spirit.

Christmas lights can turn into a tangled mess no matter how hard people work to avoid such an outcome. Christmas lights get tangled partly because of their design. There is a metal wire inside the cord to help with the packaging of the lights, which gives the cord a natural curve. Furthermore, most light cords are made from twisted or braided wires that have spaces throughout. The lights themselves can get snagged in these pockets between the wires.

Although it can be frustrating to deal with tangled lights that look like balls of yarn in a knitting basket, there are ways to disentangle them with relative ease – and then pack them in a way that can reduce further tangles.

Begin by plugging all lights into the outlet to see if they work. If most of the bulbs are burnt out or the lights do not go on at all, discard the strand. There’s no point untangling lights only to learn they don’t work.

Start slowly, beginning on the plug end, when untangling the lights. Keep the strand you’re working on separate from the other lights so they do not inadvertently become entangled. Tackle this job in a space with a lot of room. Lay the lights out on a large table or sit on the floor to do the untangling.

Utilize a pen or pencil to fish out more stubborn snags. This can help you loosen any knots and make it easier to pull snags through.

Lay the untangled strands out in a safe area away from your working space as you work through each strand.

One of the ways to avoid the hassle of tangled lights is to remember to store the lights in ways that will reduce their propensity for tangling in the first place.

· Rather than wrap lights around your hand or arm to condense the strand, use something else. A piece of cardboard, a hanger and some PVC tubing can keep lights from becoming tangled.

· Store lights in a zip-top bag to keep them from tangling with other strands stored together.

· Save the original boxes and return the lights to them after each use.

· Icicle lights have hanging strands of lights on longer strands, which can compound tangling issues. Use a rubber band to gather the hanging “icicles” together, or use some plastic wrap for the same purpose.

· Invest in a cord reel, similar to what you might use for a garden hose. Longer light strands or wires are stored on such reels, and they can be used with Christmas lights.

Patience and care can prevent holiday lights from becoming tangled.

Essential Gear For First-Time Thanksgiving Hosts

Hosting Thanksgiving is a large undertaking that can put some hosts under pressure. Unlike some other holidays that are less food-focused, Thanksgiving is largely about the meal. Turkey is the centerpiece of the celebration, and any guests who come over are going to expect turkey and a number of side dishes. Leaving hungry is never an option on Thanksgiving.

Individuals who are new to Thanksgiving hosting may be at a loss as to where to start with their preparation. There are certain must-haves hosts should familiarize themselves with. Many of these essentials revolve around tools for cooking in the kitchen and serving guests.

· Large Roasting Pan: You’ll need somewhere to oven-roast the turkey. While it’s perfectly acceptable to purchase a disposable aluminum pan for this purpose, if you plan to host Thanksgiving year after year, investing in a quality roasting pan will help deliver even cooking temperatures to the food and also can be used for roasting other meats.

· Wire Rack: The turkey is placed upon a rack inside of the roasting pan so that it will not swim in the juices and cause a soggy bottom during cooking. Many roasting pans and racks are sold as sets, but others can be purchased separately. The rack can be used for other purposes as well, including cooling baked cookies or even drying out fresh herbs.

· Food Thermometer: Ensuring the turkey and other foods are cooked to the correct internal temperature is essential. You do not want to send guests home with foodborne illnesses. Food thermometers run the gamut from very basic to those that can be programmed to alert cooks through an app on a smartphone. Turkey is done when the temperature reads 170 F in the breast and 180 F in the thigh. If stuffed, the stuffing should register 165 F, according to Butterball.

· Coordinated Casserole Dishes: Casserole dishes can hold all of the sides served with the turkey, including stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, and more. A set of matching dishes will help the tablescape look more coordinated.

· Service For Eight or More: Thanksgiving draws a crowd, so take inventory of silverware, dishes, wine glasses, and any other table needs to ensure that you can accommodate all of the guests. Purchase new items if you cannot set the table completely with what you have, as mixed and matched may be okay for informal events but may not set the tone hosts are aiming for on Thanksgiving.

· Table and Chairs: Determine if you have enough table space to seat all of your guests. Some dining tables come with an extension leaf, but you still may need to supplement with a folding table. You may need more seating. Chairs can be rented or you can utilize some folding chairs.

· Turkey Serving Platter: When the turkey is ready, it can be placed on an attractive serving platter for your photos, after which you slice and then return the sliced poultry to the serving platter for dining.

Thanksgiving requires a number of essentials that hosts will need to have on hand to make the holiday complete.

Interesting Facts About Memorial Day

Each year on the last Monday of May, Americans celebrate Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a federal holiday that honors and mourns American military personnel who died while performing their duties in service to the United States Armed Forces.

Memorial Day has a rich history and one that’s worth revisiting as the nation prepares to honor the sacrifices made by its military personnel over the centuries.

· Freed slaves played a role in the establishment of Memorial Day. The American Civil War is the deadliest military conflict in American history, as the Union and the Confederacy each suffered more than 800,000 casualties by the time the war ended in 1865. According to History.com, as the war drew to a close, hundreds of Union soldiers who were being held as prisoners of war died and were buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp in South Carolina. After the Confederate surrender, more than 1,000 now-freed slaves honored those recently deceased Union soldiers during a ceremony in which they sang hymns and distributed flowers. The ceremony was dedicated to the fallen soldiers and served as a precursor to what is now celebrated as Memorial Day.

· Confederate soldiers were honored, too. Confederate losses during the Civil War outnumbered Union losses, and those losses were not forgotten by southerners who survived the war. History.com notes that, in 1866, the Georgia-based Ladies Memorial Association, one of many similar organizations to arise in the aftermath of the war, pushed for a day to honor fallen Confederate soldiers. In fact, these efforts are believed to have influenced General John A. Logan. In 1868, General Logan, a Civil War veteran who was then serving as commander-in-chief of a group of Union veterans, ordered the decoration of Union graves with flowers on May 30. The day would ultimately be known as “Memorial Day.”

· It took a long time for Memorial Day to become a federal holiday. Despite tracing its origins to the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Memorial Day did not become an official federal holiday until 1971, more than a century after the war ended. This is the same year the holiday was officially designated as taking place on the last Monday in May. The designation has periodically drawn the ire of veterans and military supporters who suggest it is now more widely seen as the unofficial beginning to summer and not a day in which the sacrifices of fallen U.S. soldiers are honored to the extent that they should be.

· Debate exists about which town has the longest history of celebrating Memorial Day. A handful of towns claim to be the first celebrants of Memorial Day. That debate figures to continue in perpetuity, but History.com notes that Waterloo, New York, was officially recognized by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966. Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and Rochester, Wisconsin are some other towns that claim to have celebrated Memorial Day since the mid-1860s.

Memorial Day has a rich history that highlights the importance of honoring the men and women who have given their lives while in service of the United States military.

The Significance Of Various Symbols Of Easter

Easter Sunday is a day when Christians across the globe celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Data from the Pew Research Center indicates there are approximately 2.4 billion Christians across the globe, which accounts for nearly one-third of the global population.

Though certain Christians groups do not celebrate Easter, many consider it the holiest day of the year. Given that significance, it’s no surprise Easter is steeped in symbolism. The following are some of the many symbols of Easter and what they represent to faithful Christians across the globe.

Eggs

Eggs might now be more instantly associated with Easter egg hunts for children, but the American Bible Society notes that eggs are symbolic of more than just fun for kids. Eggs represent the new life that’s symbolic of spring, which is when Easter occurs in the northern hemisphere. Christians view eggs as a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus. Interestingly, though colored eggs are often seen as a fun Easter activity for kids, the ABS notes that the tradition dates back to the early days of Christianity, when red-colored eggs were used to represent the resurrection.

Crucifix

The crucifix, which is a distinct representation of a cross with Jesus Christ on it, is symbolic of the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. The ABS notes that the resurrection of Jesus symbolizes his victory over the power of sin and death.

The Lamb

Jesus is referred to in the Bible as the “Lamb of God” (Revelation 5:6-14), so the lamb is another important Easter symbol for Christians. In addition, in John (1:29), Jesus is referred to by John the Baptist as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Easter Bunny

Another symbol, like Easter eggs, that people could be forgiven for mistaking as purely secular, the Easter Bunny is not entirely separate from the spiritual meaning of the holiday. As noted, Easter, even though it’s a moveable feast, takes place in spring in the northern hemisphere each year. Spring is symbolic of rebirth, and the hare was a symbol of fertility among the ancient pagans. The spirit of rebirth associated with rabbits, particularly in spring, also is reminiscent of the resurrection of Jesus from his tomb.

Easter is celebrated across the globe. Those celebrations feature many significant religious symbols that have withstood the test of time.

Dish Up A Classic Comfort Food This St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone has “corned beef and cabbage” on the brain come St. Patrick’s Day. But another flavorful dish might appeal to a greater number of people with Irish roots.

Shepherd’s Pie is a savory dish made of minced lamb that originated in England but also made the jump to Ireland, where it became a popular comfort food. While Shepherd’s Pie can be made with freshly cooked ground meat, it also is a fine way to use leftovers from a previous meal. Shepherd’s Pie is commonly mistaken for Cottage Pie, which is very similar, yet tends to use beef as the meat of choice.

Many families have their own ancestral recipes for Shepherd’s Pie, but for those looking to cook the dish for the first time, try “Shepherd’s Pie,” courtesy of Alton Brown, which appeared in Season 12 of his hit show “Good Eats.”

Shepherd’s Pie

Yield: 8 servings

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup half-and-half

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup English peas, fresh or frozen

1. Heat oven to 400 F.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Put them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set said pan over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, drop the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Heat the oil in an 11-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the meat, salt and pepper, and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the meat with the flour, toss to coat, and continue to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, broth, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and thyme and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer slowly until the sauce is thickened slightly, 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, combine the half-and-half and butter in a microwave-safe container and nuke until warmed through, about 35 seconds.

6. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes (a masher is an excellent tool for this, though a hand mixer will do), then add the hot half-and-half mixture, as well as the salt and pepper. Mash to smoothness, then stir in the egg yolk.

7. Add the corn and peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly in a 7-by-11-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling over, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Place on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooking rack and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

A Look At The Oldest Halloween Traditions

As with many celebrations, Halloween is steeped in traditions – many of which can be traced back quite some time. Since Halloween is believed to have originated from Celtic pagan, ancient Roman and early Christian events, its traditions are varied. The following is a deep look at some old traditions associated with Halloween.

Bonfires

Historians trace many traditions of Halloween to a Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in parts of what is now Northern France, Great Britain and Ireland.

During Samhain, people believed that the door between the worlds of the living and the dead was blurred. On Samhain, Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned. Also, Druids made predictions about the future at this time of year. It was customary to build large, sacred bonfires and burn crops and other sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

While large bonfires are not typically part of Halloween celebrations today, revelers can light fire pits in their yards that are reminiscent of ancient celebrations.

Trick-or-Treating

Christianity spread throughout Celtic regions and blended with other rituals. Pope Gregory III expanded on a holiday Pope Boniface IV established to honor Christian martyrs to include all saints and martyrs. All Saints Day on November 1 commemorates the venerable saints, and All Souls Day on November 2 celebrates loved ones who went on to eternal rest. All-Hallows Eve (Halloween) was a time to pay homage to the dead. Poor children would go door to door in more affluent neighborhoods offering to say prayers for residents’ deceased loved ones in exchange for some food or money. This was known as “souling,” which became the basis for trick-or-treating. Later the tradition became known as “guising” in areas of Scotland, where children would go around in costumes.

Witches

Images of witches riding broomsticks are everywhere come Halloween, and witch costumes remain a standard. Almanac.com indicates that, during the Middle Ages, women who practiced divination were dubbed “witches,” from the Anglo-Saxon word “wicce,” or “wise one.” It was believed the witches could go into a trancelike state, and would do so in front of their fireplaces. Superstitious people believed the witches could fly out of their chimneys on broomsticks and terrorize others with magical deeds.

Bobbing For Apples

Bobbing for apples is not quite as popular as it once was, as more people have become concerned about spreading germs. During the Roman festival for Pomona, which occurred around November 1, Pomona, the goddess of fruit and orchards, was celebrated. Romans believed the first person to catch a bobbing apple with his or her teeth would be the first to marry. It also was believed apple peels contained the secrets to true love.

Carving Pumpkins

Removing the insides of pumpkins and carving them into funny or fearsome faces may be messy work, but it’s tradition on Halloween. Turnips were the material of choice in ancient Ireland, but were replaced by pumpkins when immigrants came to America. The “lanterns” were made with scary faces and lit to frighten away spirits.

Halloween is full of traditions, many of which have lengthy histories.

Tips For Traveling With Gifts in Tow

“There’s no place like home for the holidays.” The popular Christmas tune says it best, and millions of people support that notion every year by heading back to their hometowns to spend the holidays with friends and family.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics points out that the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are some of the busiest times for long-distance travel. Around Thanksgiving, the number of trips to and from a destination 50 miles or more away increases by 54 percent. During the December holiday period, the number rises by 23 percent.

When traveling for the holidays, suitcases and other baggage tends to be filled with gifts, decorations and other items like food. Packing for travel can become a little more complicated during this time of year. But these suggestions can help ensure holiday items make it there and back relatively easily.

Wrap them there

One way to preserve the integrity of holiday gifts and ensure they look attractive rather than crushed or ripped is to wrap items when you arrive. Build extra time into holiday travel so that you arrive a day or two early. Seek out a quiet spot and get your wrapping done.

Ship there or back

Depending on your mode of travel, there may be limited cargo space in the trunk or back of the SUV. Also, if you’re taking a long road trip that involves rest stops or even staying over at a hotel, gifts left in a vehicle may attract the attention of thieves. Lugging them into the hotel may not be practical, either. In addition, many airlines charge fees for extra baggage, which can quickly add up with bulky holiday gifts. Instead, ship gifts to their destination, trying to plan accordingly so that someone will be there to receive them when they arrive. Pick a shipping rate that fits your budget.

Make a “small gift” pact

Speak with family members and agree to a set gift size (and/or dollar value). A theme, such as limiting gifts to gift cards, perfume/cologne or food, can make this more manageable. Try to avoid delicate items which can break during transit. Small gifts are easily stashed in luggage or boxes to bring home, saving everyone a little stress.

Remove packaging and wrapping

While they may not look as pristine as carefully wrapped boxes, wrap soft clothing items right in wrapping paper or tissue paper to save on space so gifts will take up less space. On the return trip home, break down clothing boxes and remove toys from their cardboard and plastic packaging to make them easier to transport.

Bring along an empty piece of luggage

Much like on vacation, you’ll probably return home with a few more items than you arrived with during the holidays. Plan ahead with an empty piece of luggage for stowing the new gifts. Nest soft or foldable items into other gifts to save on space. Shirts rolled into shoes can save significant space.

Millions of people travel for the holidays. A plan to get gifts to and fro can make trips go smoothly.

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.

Enjoy a Safe and Happy Independence Day

Independence Day is a celebration of the United States of America. The holiday is marked by fanfare and large parties, complete with barbecues, fireworks and parades.

As fun as July 4th festivities typically are, injuries, particularly those involving fireworks, are a concern that celebrants should not take lightly. An estimated 11,000 people visited the emergency room for fireworks-related injuries in 2016, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, fireworks aren’t the only danger this time of year. In order to remain safe, individuals can heed these tips.

• Do not drink and drive. Alcohol consumption may accompany Independence Day festivities. For those planning on using a car to get to and from parties, it is essential to designate a driver who will not imbibe. Otherwise, utilize any number of ridesharing services or available taxis.

• Swim smartly. Always swim with a buddy, and consider hiring a lifeguard if you’ll be hosting a pool party and cannot keep a watchful eye on guests in the pool. Adults also should not swim intoxicated, as it can impede the ability to stay afloat and may lead to risky behaviors.

• Leave fireworks to the professionals. Watch a public fireworks display instead of lighting fireworks on the street or in the backyard.

• Exercise caution with sparklers. Kids running around with sparklers in hand could be a recipe for disaster, as sparklers burn extremely hot. Make sure children do not wave them around or others can get burned. Keep a bucket of water handy to properly extinguish the sparklers.

• Review safe boating practices. If July 4th festivities find you out on the water, be sure that life jackets are worn and set boating and water safety rules for the family.

• Check in with a vet. The Fourth of July can be traumatic for pets not accustomed to fireworks and other loud noises or crowds. Behavior therapy, medication and ensuring that pets do not run away from home and get lost may be necessary.

• Watch food temperatures. Do not leave food out in the hot sun for too long; otherwise, harmful bacteria can grow and potentially cause foodborne illnesses. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says to never leave food out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 F, food should not be left out for more than one hour.

These are some of the safety strategies that can keep Independence Day celebrations both safe and enjoyable.