Tag: seasonal

Tasty Tidbits About Eggnog

Eggnog is a rich and delicious beverage that has become synonymous with the most festive time of year. This milk- and egg-based concoction is tasty on its own, or it can be dressed up with other flavors and spiked with a favorite spirit when celebrating the holiday season with other adult partygoers.

December is National Eggnog Month, and December 24 is National Eggnog Day. There is no more perfect time of year to learn everything you can about eggnog – all the while sipping a cup of this creamy concoction. Indulge in these festive facts about the beverage, courtesy of Mental Floss, The Fact Site and Tastemade.

Eggnog likely originated in the medieval period and was known as “posset,” a hot, milk-based drink made of spices and wine. Even though posset could be a cocktail, it also was used as a remedy for colds and flu for its soothing properties.

  • Milk, eggs and sherry used in the early recipes were difficult to come by, so when eggnog first appeared it was a drink only the wealthy could enjoy. That changed when eggnog was popularized in the American colonies, where dairy products and liquor were more readily available.
  • Entymologists believe “eggnog” stems from the word “noggin,” which refers to small wooden mugs often used to serve strong ale, known by the slang word “nog.”
  • In the Medieval period, it was risky to drink milk straight because it wasn’t pasteurized. Eggnog contained alcohol so that it would kill off any harmful bacteria in the milk.
  • A typical homemade version of eggnog has roughly one egg per serving. However, commercial eggnog is regulated by the FDA and can only contain 1 percent of the product’s final weight in egg yolk solids. That stems from fear of raw egg and salmonella.
  • President George Washington apparently enjoyed serving eggnog at Christmas, and even had his own special recipe, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
  • There is no right or wrong alcohol to use when preparing eggnog. Distilled spirits like rum, sherry, cognac, and whiskey all have produced suitable eggnogs.
  • Puerto Rican coquito is a traditional drink that is very similar to eggnog.
  • Individuals concerned about eggs or milk in eggnog can enjoy a vegan recipe made from nut milk instead. Commercially produced vegan eggnog offerings are now more widely available.
  • One of the more notable flavors in eggnog comes from the use of nutmeg. Nutmeg is a fragrant spice made from grinding the seed of the nutmeg tree.

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.

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.

5 Reasons To Shop Small Versus Big Box

The importance of small businesses to the economy cannot be overstated. Though national chains often garner publicity, local businesses are equally, if not exceedingly, worthy of attention.

What defines a small business as “small” varies significantly, but these businesses are generally privately owned and generate far less revenue than big corporations. General consensus also defines small businesses as companies with fewer than 500 paid employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Here’s a deep look at why small businesses are so vital, and why consumers should direct more of their purchasing power to smaller companies rather than the big box retailers and other national chains.

1. Autonomy And Diversity

The layout and offerings at national chains will be identical whether you live in the mountains or at the beach. Big box stores follow a consistent marketing strategy and look the same regardless of where they are located. That familiarity can come at the cost of variety. On the other hand, an independent business offers the products and services that are reflective of the customers and the community they serve.

2. Local Hiring Strategy

Certain big box retailers will hire local residents, but hiring policies may push for promoting from within the organization. This could mean relocating an employee rather than bringing in someone from the community who may be more in tune with local sensibilities. Small businesses may be more inclined to hire residents they know and keep hiring centralized to the local area – something that keeps more resources and money in the community.

3. Adaptability And Change

Local businesses can move more quickly to respond to economic factors that require change. Since they are focused more on the needs of their customers rather than stockholders, changes can be implemented rapidly without having to go through red tape, meetings and updates to corporate policies. Changes also can be customized to the local community at large.

4. Investing In The Town

According to the financial resource Financial Slot, shopping at locally owned businesses rather than big box retailers keeps more money in the community. Local property taxes and other taxes paid by the businesses go right back into the community. This helps raise overall value for homeowners and can even reduce their taxes. The funding helps keep police, fire and school departments functioning properly.

5. Turnover Is Greater

While no one wants to see a small business fail, that fate is sometimes unavoidable. However, that turnover helps teach communities what was done poorly and helps others learn from those mistakes. It also means fresh businesses will come in and replace the old, driving new growth, opportunity and competition that keeps prices competitive.

The benefits of a thriving small business sector are numerous. Consumers can do their part by patronizing these firms more frequently.

8 Sights To See At Fall Harvest Festivals

Just as summertime is synonymous with concerts and carnivals, fall is a prime time for its own opportunities for seasonal entertainment, such as harvest festivals. Certain features overlap between summer carnivals and fall festivals, but the latter offers some unique offerings as well. The following are some things to expect when fall festival season hits full swing.

1. Seasonal fare

Many fall harvest festivals are built on the foods harvested in the fall for that region. In Wisconsin, that may be cranberries, while in Massachusetts it could be oysters. Apples also turn up in many areas starting in September. For those who can’t wait to bite into food picked at the peak of its season, a fall harvest festival can’t be beat.

2. Wagon rides

Farms and the tools of the farming trade are part of harvest festivals. Wagons transporting crops are a classic sight, even if they’re no longer heavily relied upon on the farm. Rather than a cargo bed full of corn or apples, harvest festivals tote families around on wagon rides or on hay bale beds towed by tractors.

3. Apples galore

Candied and caramel apples and many other apple products feature prominently at many harvest festivals. Apple fritters, apple turnovers, apple pies, fried apples, and others are bound to be sold by vendors, along with traditional fair foods, like funnel cakes.

4. Cider stations

Lemonade stands that are staples of summer give way to hot or cold cider offerings come the fall. Cold ciders are perfect for an unseasonably warm fall day while warm varieties are tailor-made for days when there’s a chill in the air.

5. Pumpkin patches

Fall harvest organizers pick and display pumpkins in fields to make it easier for youngsters to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween carvings. It’s a sea of orange this time of year, and things may get more colorful with non-edible gourds in shades of white or yellow.

6. Leaf-peeping opportunities

Some festivals are geared around chances to view the fall foliage that abounds in primarily rural areas. A mountain or forest backdrop adds vibrant color to any event. Coastal areas may set up fall foliage cruises that let guests see the leaves from a new perspective.

7. Corn mazes

Fall festivals set up adjacent to or on farms may have corn mazes for the kids. These mazes may be kept up throughout October and repurposed into haunted mazes for older kids looking to get a scare for Halloween.

8. Wine tastings

Many grape varieties are harvested in the fall, so fall harvest festivals may capitalize on that and invite local vineyards to set up tables providing tastings of their vintages. Vineyards also may host their own fall festivals, featuring sips and snacks with live music.

Fall offers a host of entertaining festivals geared around the harvest season. These festivals are ideal ways for people to see the sights and nibble on seasonal delights along the way.

Steps Anyone Can Take to Protect Local Wildlife

The opportunity to experience local wildlife is one of the many alluring features of spending time in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, wildlife is being threatened in many parts of the world as the human population increases and spreads to regions that historically have not been home to large numbers of human beings.

Numerous local, national and international environmental organizations are dedicated to protecting local wildlife. But such organizations can always use a helping hand, and the following are some simple steps anyone can take to protect local wildlife.

Sign up for local trash pick-ups

The organization Environment America reports that scientists have found fragments of plastic in hundreds of species. For example, researchers found such fragments in 44 percent of all seabird species. Local park and beach cleanups can help reduce that figure and make these beloved spaces look even better. Signing up for park or beach clean-ups also provides a great reason to get outdoors.

Make an effort to cut back on your energy consumption

This effective approach can benefit local wildlife and animal lovers’ bottom lines. The Animal Welfare Institute notes that many power plants rely on fossil fuels, the extraction of which can be harmful to local habitats. That ultimately and adversely affects local wildlife. Reducing energy consumption can cut back on the need to extract fossil fuels, and it also can lead to lower energy bills for consumers.

Support eco-friendly legislation

Legislators fighting to protect local wildlife need all the help they can get. Individuals can lend a hand by supporting legislators who are working to maintain local habitats so wildlife can continue to thrive. Share information about political issues related to local wildlife via social media and volunteer to help local politicians and nonprofit organizations spread the word about the importance of protecting the species who call your region home.

Do not get too close to wildlife

The beauty of wildlife can be hard to resist, but the AWI urges animal lovers to keep their distance from animals they see in the wild. Do not handle young animals found in the wild, no matter how vulnerable they appear to be, as the AWI notes that it’s not uncommon for mothers to leave their young alone for long periods of time while they forage for food.

Wildlife faces an uncertain future in many parts of the world. Individuals can do their part to protect wildlife and ensure their long-term survival.

How to Protect Nature When Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Few getaways can reinvigorate the mind and body like a day spent in the great outdoors. The rewards of a day spent outside aren’t just figments of the imagination. The online medical resource WebMD notes that exposure to the great outdoors can improve sleep cycles, boost self-esteem, reduce anxiety, help people focus, and bolster the immune system, among other benefits.

The relationship between people and nature is not a one-way street. Just as nature takes care of people, people must do their part to protect nature. Whether nature lovers are hiking, relaxing at the beach or engaging in another outdoor activity, the following tips can help people protect the serene settings and landscapes they love so much.

Leave nothing behind

Anti-littering campaigns have been prevalent for decades. Despite that, litter remains a significant problem. A 2020 study from Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing litter, found that there are nearly 50 billion pieces of litter along roadways and waterways across the United States. Each piece of litter that finds its way into nature can be prevented. When spending time in nature, individuals can commit to brining out whatever they bring in. Leaving nothing behind reduces the issues associated with litter, including the negative effects it has on wildlife and marine life, and helps to maintain the idyllic look of natural settings like forests and beaches.

Reduce reliance on plastics and recycle the plastics you do use

Plastics adversely affect the health of the planet in various ways. But a staggering percentage of the plastics humans use are never recycled. A 2108 study published in the journal Science Advances found that, of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics that have been produced since 1950, only around 9 percent has been recycled. Plastics take roughly 400 years to degrade, so much of the plastics that have not been recycled are ending up in the world’s oceans. In fact, projections from environmentalists suggest that oceans will contain more plastics than fish by the middle of this century. By reducing reliance on plastics and recycling the plastics they do use, nature lovers can do their part to combat this significant threat and protect the natural settings they enjoy so much.

Plant trees

Planting trees could help combat the issue of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. According to Greenpop, an organization devoted to urban greening and forest restoration projects, trees absorb CO2, removing it from the air and storing it as they release oxygen. A day outdoors planting trees is a fun activity for people of all ages, and it’s also a highly effective way to help the planet.

The great outdoors is a respite for millions of people across the globe. Taking steps to protect nature is a great way to ensure it’s accessible and there to enjoy for generations to come.

Helpful Tips for Picking and Cutting Watermelon

Watermelon is a summertime staple. Each summer, stores, and farm stands have an abundance of watermelons on display, and many people feel no picnic or barbecue is complete without watermelon.

Watermelon is a refreshing option on hot days. It’s ideal sliced and served, or can be included in fruit salads, smoothies or even “spiked” cocktails. The key to a tasty watermelon is knowing how to pick one that is ripe while serving watermelon comes down to understanding some easy-cutting strategies.

Choose a watermelon that has a firm, symmetrical shape

Avoid melons with bumps, dents or cuts.

Watermelons should be relatively heavy

They’re 92 percent water, and that juiciness should be reflected in a substantial weight for the melon’s size.

Watermelon.org advises looking for a creamy yellow spot on the underside of the watermelon

This is called the “ground spot.” It indicates where the melon sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. Once cut from the vine, a watermelon has about three to four weeks to be consumed.

All parts of the watermelon are edible, including the seeds and rind

The rind can be pickled or cut up to use in stir-fry dishes.

When bringing watermelon to an event, it is a courtesy to bring it already sliced or cut up. This ensures the host or hostess does not have to tackle what can sometimes be a chore. Here are three techniques to cut a watermelon easily.

Cubes

1. Cut both ends off of the watermelon.

2. Stand the watermelon on one sliced end. Use the knife to slice down and cut off the rind.

3. After removing the rind from all sides of the melon, cut into discs about 1/2-inch in thickness.

4. Then cut those discs into cubes.

Slices

1. Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise.

2. Take one cut half and place it cut-side down.

3. Cut the watermelon into slices.

4. Repeat for the other cut half.

Strips

1. Cut the watermelon as you would with the slices. Rather than leaving it in large slices, turn the watermelon and cut the same size slices in the opposite direction. This creates strips that are easy for kids to grab and maneuver.

2. Repeat with the other half of the watermelon in the same manner.

How to Cut Costs on Your Summer Road Trip

The most memorable road trips are often the byproduct of ample planning. Careful examinations of maps months before a trip begins can help vacationers find the best sights to see and uncover must-visit restaurants. In fact, many people find pre-trip planning nearly as enjoyable as the trip itself.

Vacationers who planned road trips months ago likely did not think they would be forced to contend with extraordinarily high gas prices, but that’s precisely the position drivers find themselves in this summer. The average gas price in many parts of North America exceeded $5 U.S. dollars per gallon by early June, and economic forecasters predicted prices could climb even higher as June gives way to the summer travel season.

High gas prices likely won’t compel most vacationers to cancel their travel plans this summer. And those who are staying the course can rest easy knowing there are plenty of ways for them to cut costs and still enjoy a memorable summer road trip in the months ahead.

Book a vehicle maintenance appointment

Prior to heading for parts unknown, visit your local auto body shop and have your car or truck serviced. The U.S. Department of Energy notes that regular engine tune-ups to ensure a vehicle is running efficiently increases fuel economy by an average of 4 percent. Schedule an oil change and tune-up shortly before your departure date so your car won’t be forced to work extra hard, and thus consume extra fuel, during your trip.

Reconsider your ride

Vacationers with more than one car to choose from may want to reconsider which car they drive on their road trip this summer. For example, families with one SUV and one sedan may save money by driving the sedan instead of the SUV, which is likely less fuel-efficient than the smaller vehicle. In addition, consider the type of fuel each of your cars requires and let that inform your decision. For instance, certain vehicles require more expensive high-octane fuel. If you own a car that requires the more budget-friendly regular 87 octane fuel, take that one on the road with you this summer.

Look to save on lodging

Roadside motels have undergone something of a rebirth in recent years. Many motels have been given full makeovers but remain budget-friendly lodging options for road trippers. Motels won’t offer all the amenities of five-star hotels, but they’re affordable places for vacationers to lay their heads for a night before traveling on to the next adventure the following morning.

Take your foot off the gas

Another way to conserve fuel during a summer road trip is to resist the temptation to drive too fast. Avoiding excessive speeds isn’t just safer; it’s also more fuel-efficient. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy reports that fuel economy for a light-duty vehicle traveling at 80 miles per hour is about 27 percent lower than when traveling at 60 miles per hour.

Vacationers may be worried that high fuel costs will bust their budgets during road trips this summer. But there are various ways to cut costs and still enjoy memorable trips, even when fuel prices are especially high.

How to Conserve Energy While Keeping the AC On

Air conditioning is a welcome luxury come the dog days of summer. Few people can imagine getting through a hot summer afternoon without turning their AC on, which can make July and August some of the more costly months on the calendar regarding energy consumption.

Though the months of July and August may not seem well-suited to cutting energy consumption, there are ways to conserve that doesn’t require turning off the AC.

Reconsider the location of your thermostat

The Performance Building Institute, Inc. notes that thermostats are sensitive to heat. Thermostats located near heat-generating appliances like lamps, televisions, and computers may be fooled into thinking a home’s interior is warmer than it actually is. That will keep a temperature-controlled AC running longer and more frequently than is necessary. If necessary, move the thermostat to a part of the home where there are no electronics and appliances.

Emphasize maintenance of the AC unit

Even the most energy-efficient AC unit will be forced to work harder, and consume extra energy if it’s not well-maintained. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy notes that ENERGY STAR-certified HVAC equipment can yield annual energy savings of 10 to 30 percent. But such products must be maintained. Annual maintenance appointments with an HVAC technician can ensure the unit is clean and refrigerant levels are correct, helping it run as efficiently as possible.

Embrace natural ways to keep a home’s interior cool

Cranking the AC is not the only way to maintain a comfortable temperature inside a home during the months of July and August. Closing curtains on hot days keep the sun out and makes it easier to maintain comfortable temperatures inside without lowering the temperature on the thermostat. Avoiding the stove on hot nights and preparing cold meals or firing up the grill outside is another way to keep the house cool.

Address insulation issues

Cracks around windows and doors affect the temperature inside the home, making it colder in winter and warmer in the summertime. Seal cracks around doors and windows to keep the cool air in during the summer. Keeping that air in should allow you to raise the temperature on your thermostat without compromising comfort.

Come the dog days of summer, conserving energy needn’t come at the cost of comfort. Various strategies can help people reduce their energy consumption and keep their air conditioners on.