Tag: holiday

10 Romantic Films for Valentine’s Day

Many people feel the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to enjoy an evening at home with the one they love. A quiet dinner followed by a romantic movie can make for a relaxing, memorable Valentine’s Day.
Romantic films pluck at the heartstrings and leave few dry eyes in the house. This genre has produced many unforgettable moments in film. While many people have their go-to romantic films, it can be fun to rethink those preferences and watch something new. The following are just some of the films dubbed “the most romantic movies” by sources such as AMC, TimeOut magazine, Rotten Tomatoes, and Flavorwire.

• Beauty and the Beast (1991): This animated classic tells the tale of a prince who is disfigured into a beast to outwardly represent his internal ugliness. Only true love can break the spell, which seems unlikely until the lovely Belle comes into the Beast’s life. Fans of the animated film will have another opportunity to fall in love again with the live-action retelling of the story set for release in March 2017.

• Once (2007): A modern-day busker in Dublin has a chance meeting with a Czech immigrant. The two begin to collaborate musically and a romance blossoms. The film features musician Glen Hansard and his Irish band “The Frames.”

• Say Anything (1989): In a tale of first love, Lloyd seeks to capture the heart of Diane, who is an unattainable high school beauty. The movie includes a now-famous pivotal scene when Lloyd holds up a boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

• The Notebook (2004): Based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel of the same name, this modern cult classic is set in 1940s South Carolina. The movie is the tale of a poor man who falls in love with a rich young woman, only to be separated by their social differences. However, true love ultimately prevails in the end.

• When Harry Met Sally (1989): Close friends Harry and Sally have known each other for years and ponder if engaging in an intimate relationship would ruin the friendship.

• Gone With the Wind (1939): This sweeping epic is set in the antebellum south during the American Civil War. The story of Scarlett O’Hara’s tangled love affairs has been popular with film fans for nearly 80 years.

• Sense and Sensibility (1995): This film is a dramatic interpretation of Jane Austen’s novel published in 1811. Sudden financial struggles force the Dashwood sisters to move to a distant cottage. Locals develop romantic feelings for the ladies in this story that is considered an early example of the romantic novels of today.

• Roman Holiday (1953): A European princess is disillusioned with her life and needs an escape. She takes off for a night in Rome and meets an American reporter, who first thinks he can get the exclusive scoop on the runaway princess. However, romance soon gets in the way of that plan.

• The Princess Bride (1987): Wesley and Buttercup begin with a tumultuous servant-master relationship. But their love blooms only to have Wesley be called away, leaving Buttercup to believe he has died. The two ultimately reunite in this classic and often hilarious tale of romance.

• Casablanca (1943): A nightclub owner in Casablanca is reunited with his old flame, only to discover she is traveling with her husband. During World War II, Ilsa wants her rebel husband to escape to America, but her renewed feelings for Rick leave her struggling with what to do.

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Give Your Christmas a Country Feel

Christmas decorations can range from grandiose lighting displays to more subtle adornments. Some families may prefer more traditional holiday decor, while others might like the look of modern trimmings.

Holiday decorations can also be used to create an atmosphere reminiscent of a certain type of locale, giving a home a holiday in the city vibe or a more rustic feel. For those who prefer a rustic look reminiscent of a country Christmas, consider the following tips.


* Start with the tree. The Christmas tree is the center of many a home’s holiday decor, and those who want to create a country Christmas can start with their tree. Instead of traditional holiday lights, choose lights that look like candles while adorning the tree with wooden ornaments and strands of popcorn.

* Forgo traditional wrapping paper. Instead of flashy, store-bought wrapping paper, wrap presents in brown paper and put presents under the tree as early as possible. Instead of store-bought gift tags, create your own and attach a candy cane or another candy to the gift.

* Think nature with decorations. Items gathered from nature can give a home a rustic appeal during the holidays. Hang a homemade wreath on the front door and include pine cones and clippings from evergreen trees when adding decorative accents around the house. Tuck a few decorative woven baskets in corners to further emphasize a rustic look.

* Create homemade ornaments. Homemade ornaments can also give a home a more rustic look come the holiday season. Spend an afternoon creating holiday crafts with the kids and use these instead of store-bought ornaments. For those who are especially gifted craftsmen, put your woodworking skills to the test to create decorative wooden stockings that, if not functional, can be replaced with more traditional stockings come Christmas Eve.

* Don’t forget the music. Another way to create a country Christmas is to play country Christmas albums instead of classical or more traditional Christmas records. Nearly every country music star of the past and present has recorded a Christmas song or album, so create a master playlist of country Christmas songs on your digital music player and play it throughout the season to set the holiday mood in your household. HL12C747

Frugal Gift Wrapping Ideas

Holiday shoppers spend billions of dollars each year on gifts for friends, family and coworkers. But holiday shoppers also spend substantial amounts of money dressing up those gifts with bows and wrapping paper. Shoppers may not want to spend much more on wrapping paper, bags and other ways to dress-up their gifts, and by employing a few tricks of the gift wrapping trade, they may not have to. The following are some frugal, yet flashy, ways to wrap presents this holiday season.


* Children’s artwork: Over the course of a school year parents can accumulate dozens of original pieces of art from their children’s time in the classroom. Instead of relegating those pictures to a memory box or temporary glory on the refrigerator, turn them into unique gift wrap. Pair these pieces of art with colored ribbon, and everyone who gets a unique masterpiece will feel special.

* Newspaper: Recycle newsprint and comics into wrapping paper. Encourage everyone to wrap in newspaper for a cohesive look come Christmas morning.

* Cloth: Leftover cloth from Halloween or cloth purchased to create homemade curtains can be turned into giftwrap for awkward-shaped gifts. Use decorative ribbon to seal the bundle shut.

* Brown paper: Brown paper tied with twine or ribbon is inexpensive and can easily be recycled after use. Use a marker to put the names of gift recipients on each package to save on gift tags as well.

* Glass jars: Use mason jars when wrapping smaller gifts, including gift cards, to give them an arts-and-crafts feel.

* Fabric gift bags: If you’re handy with a needle and thread, sew sacks out of leftover fabric to make gift bags of various sizes.

* Cookie tins: Find unique cookie tins from yard sales or leftover tins from holidays past and use them as gift boxes.

* Recipes: If you will be giving a cookbook or food-themed gifts, print recipes that can be used as gift wrap and then later used to make certain dishes.

* Baby linens: From blankets to wash cloths, use baby linens to wrap infant-themed gifts for new parents.

* Baskets: Wicker baskets are available in various shapes and sizes. They can be used to make a gift collection and then reused over and over again.


There are many creative and inexpensive ways to wrap gifts this year instead of relying on preprinted and often expensive wrapping paper. GG13B650

The Benefits to Buying Local this Holiday Season

Holiday shopping dominates many people’s free time between the day after Thanksgiving and the final days before Christmas. While many people may shop ’til they drop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, those days still account for a relatively small amount of the hundreds of billions of dollars that are spent each holiday season.

Shoppers now have a bevy of options at their disposal as they embark on holiday shopping season. Traditional in-store retailers are still around, and online shopping continues to grow in popularity with each holiday season. But many holiday shoppers are looking to buy local this holiday season, and such a decision can pay a host of dividends for both shoppers and the communities they call home.


· Buying local benefits your local economy. Studies from Civic Economics, an economics and strategics planning firm, found that independent, locally-owned retailers return a far greater percentage of their revenue into their local economies than national chain stores. One such study examined the disparity between revenue recirculation among independent, locally-owned businesses in Raleigh, North Carolina, versus four major national chains in the city. The former recirculated 51.1 percent of revenue into the local economy, while the latter recirculated less than 14 percent. Similar results were discovered in many cities, indicating that buying local not only benefits local business owners, but also the communities those owners and their customers call home.

· Buying local creates jobs in your community. One of the biggest ways local business owners in Raleigh recirculated their revenue in the local economy was job creation. While national chains also create jobs, such jobs only benefit your community if the chains are located within your community. If your local mall is a considerable drive away, chances are the chains within that mall are not employing many of your fellow community members. Local businesses in your community are more likely to employ residents of your town.

· Shopping local may provide access to more unique gifts. In addition to the economic benefits of buying local, shoppers may find merchandise made by local craftsmen is more unique than mass-produced items found on the shelves of national retailers. Recipients may cherish more unique items that they cannot find on their own, and that appreciation may even spur them to visit more local retailers after the holiday season has come and gone, benefiting their own communities in so doing.

· Local business may provide a more personal touch. Buying from national chains has its advantages, but customer service is not always one of them. Should your loved ones encounter problems with their gift that requires assistance, they might be forced to wait on the phone for extended periods of time as they and thousands of others wait for customer service representatives to answer their calls. Local businesses do not deal with nearly the volume of customers as national retailers and, therefore, are capable of addressing concerns more quickly and personally than large chains.

Buying local not only benefits small business owners, but it also pays dividends for their customers and the communities they call home. GG159480

Successfully Plan Your Holiday Escape

Millions of travelers take to the roads, rails and sky in the days surrounding major holidays. While a large percentage of people travel miles and miles to visit with friends and family members these times of year, others use days off from school and work as prime times for vacations.

Holiday excursions can be exciting, but they may require some extra planning and patience. Larger crowds at airports and more cars on the roads can make holiday-timed travel challenging. Make these trips memorable by reducing travel-related stressors.


Research thoroughly

Study your travel options to determine the best way to get from point A to point B. Weigh the cost of your trip as well as the time involved in traveling. Driving may seem like a good idea if you don’t want to stretch your budget, but it may eat up too much of your vacation time if you’re traveling long distances.

If you will be flying, learn the airline baggage restrictions and the security measures in place at your departing airports. This makes navigating the airport that much easier.

Planning well in advance also enables you to get the best prices possible. A study by CheapAir.com found that those who booked tickets for domestic travel 49 days prior to departure saved the most money.

Develop a contingency plan

Even the best laid plans can go awry. Know what to do in the event a particular rest stop or scenic spot along the way is closed or if travel plans get delayed or rerouted. Certain travel apps provide real-time updates on delays or provide gate numbers prior to arriving at the airport. Other apps indicate which gas stations have the lowest prices or which rest stops offer the cleanest bathrooms.

Take your car in for a tune-up

Drivers should make sure their vehicles are in good working condition prior to departure. More cars are on the roads during holidays, and that means a greater potential for stop-and-go traffic, which can put added stress on the vehicle. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and in good condition to avoid flats or blowouts, which can delay your trip.

Pack light

Ship gifts or keepsakes ahead of time so you do not have much to lug through airport terminals or rail stations. If you must take gifts with you, wait until you arrive at your destination before wrapping them, as this makes items easier to inspect.

If you’re going on vacation instead of just a weekend getaway, you will probably return home with more items than you brought because of gifts or souvenirs. Pack an extra tote bag or an empty carry-on suitcase where you can store extra items accumulated on the trip. Otherwise, see if these things can be shipped home. It may be cheaper to ship items than to pay airline baggage fees.

Travel off-peak

It’s often quicker and less stressful to travel during off-peak hours when roads and airports are less crowded. Off-peak hours include overnight, early morning or late evening. Red-eye flights or off-peak travel times also may be less expensive.

Travelers looking to avoid crowded roadways or airports may also want to avoid especially popular travel days, such as the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Leave a few days before a major holiday or arrive a few days after to avoid the crowds.

Travel with your own snacks

Failure to eat or drink can do more than lead to hunger pangs and dehydration. It can make the body sluggish and may affect your ability to deal with minor (or major) irritations. Pack nutritious snacks and take breaks to refuel your body.

Remember your destination

If you find holiday travel stressful, focus on the comforting thought that once you get to your destination you can kick back and relax. Do not overbook your trip and leave yourself time to unwind and decompress. TF153030

Choose Lighter Fare This Thanksgiving

Statistics indicate the average Thanksgiving dinner exceeds 3,000 calories. That is more calories than a person should eat in an entire day, much less a single meal. Many people admit to indulging on bigger portions and more fattening foods come the holiday season, but choosing some lighter fare this Thanksgiving can make the meal healthier without sacrificing taste.

Although there are staples of Thanksgiving dinner, many low-calorie foods can be included to make the meal healthier. The following are a few healthy substitutions or alterations holiday hosts can make when preparing their Thanksgiving feasts.


* Trim down the turkey. Play up the main course with aromatic seasonings or unexpected flavors. Use garlic, olive oil and basil to add a boost of flavor to turkey without having to rely on butter or salt. Marinate the bird with lemon juice and citrus marmalade for a sweet, yet pungent flavor. Consider omitting the bread stuffing and making a stew of roasted root vegetables instead.

* Opt for turkey breast. White meat of a turkey tends to have less fat and calories than the darker cuts. Serve turkey breasts only, which will not only cut down on calories, but also on the amount of time needed to cook the meal.

* Make homemade cranberry sauce. Taking the time to make your own cranberry sauce means you can control the ingredients. Cut down on the amount of sugar used in the recipe or substitute it with honey or molasses.

* Reduce the number of courses. Thanksgiving dinner often features multiple courses. Extra courses can be expensive, but such massive spreads also lead many people to overeat. Stick to two or three courses, and chances are guests will not miss the extra food.

* Choose whole-grain breads. Sliced whole-grain breads or rolls paired with an olive tapenade will be flavorful and such breads are healthier than white bread and butter.

* Flavor vegetables with herbs. Vegetables grilled or sauteed with fresh herbs may be so flavorful they will not need added dressings that tend to be rich or cream- or butter-based. Have a wide variety of vegetable side dishes available so guests can fill up on healthier fare rather than more calorie-dense items.

* Serve only low- or no-calorie drinks. Beverages can add a substantial amount of calories to Thanksgiving meals. Give guests the option of sparkling water or even diluted cider so they’re not filling up on sugary sodas or other high-calorie beverages.

* Serve fresh fruit for dessert. Create a fresh fruit salad that can be served in lieu of fatty cakes and pastries.

* Include other activities. Do not make the meal the centerpiece of the celebration. Plan activities, such as a game of football in the yard or a walk around the neighborhood. This places a smaller emphasis on eating while giving guests the opportunity to burn off some of their meal.

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How to Host an Eco-Conscious Holiday Event

Many families anticipate holiday gatherings for months. Such gatherings bring together friends and family members who may not see one another much throughout the year.

Food tends to be plentiful at holiday gatherings, so it should come as no surprise that the holiday season generates a good deal of waste. In addition, energy consumption is high during the holiday season. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says household waste generally increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – equalling about 1 million extra tons of waste. The Worldwatch Institute states that the same period of time generates three times as much food waste as other times of the year.


Making the holiday season more sustainable does not mean families must give up their cherished traditions. Here are several tips to help make your holiday celebrations a bit more eco-friendly.


· Cut down on packaging. When shopping, seek items that are minimally packaged or shop at retailers that offer package-free products. Packaging accounts for a considerable portion of the trash that ends up in landfills. Shopping at local stores and craft fairs can help you avoid too much plastic packaging.

· Decorate with efficient products. Making a home look festive is part of many families’ holiday celebrations. Opt for LED holiday lights, which last longer and use a fraction of the energy of traditional lights. Use soy or beeswax candles and incorporate as many natural items, such as fresh evergreen boughs, branches and berries, as you can find in your decorations.

· Shop smart. Shop at food stores that stock local products so foods do not have to travel great distances to reach your table. Take advantage of local farm stands and other vendors that pop up in the autumn. Remember to bring reusable shopping bags with you on any shopping excursions so you can reduce your reliance on paper and plastic bags.

· Reduce food waste. People often cook extra food for the holidays out of fear of not having enough for guests. But leftovers often end up going to waste. Use planners to determine how much food to cook for the number of guests you will be having. Keep portion sizes healthy by selecting smaller dinner plates and providing foods that are hearty and will fill guests quickly, such as rich proteins and complex carbohydrates. When the meal is done, promptly wrap up leftovers so they don’t spoil.

· Use reusable dishes. Avoid paper and plastic dishes, instead opting for ones that can be used again and again. Take out your fine china or a festively patterned service set to use. Keep the dishwasher empty so that you can load it up with dirty dishes and run a full load to save even more energy.

· Reuse gift wrapping and accessories. Save wrapping paper and other decorative paper products to use as gift wrap at a later date. Keep a container full of bows and ribbons that are still in good condition as well. Gift bags can often be used several times before they begin to exhibit signs of wear and tear. TF15B673

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