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Holiday Gift Guide 1

November 20, 2013

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Keep the area around a fireplace clear to prevent fires.
Safely deck the halls this holiday season
precautions when doing so.
• Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures so they don’t reach dangerous levels. • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves. • Do not leave fires unattended for long periods of time or allow them to burn overnight. • Keep Christmas trees far away from fireplaces. Christmas trees can easily ignite, and the heat from the fire can dry them out over time.
• When using candles, make sure they are out of the reach of children and/or pets. • Use electric lights on a Christmas tree instead of lit candles.
Christmas Lights
Many brands of Christmas lights are ULlisted and tested for safety. But safety precautions are necessary when stringing lights as well. • Do not overload circuits with too many lights strung together. Doing so is a fire hazard and can cause overheating. • Use caution when putting lights outside. Purchase lights that specifically mention outside use. Have a person help you string lights when you must climb a ladder. Spotters can help prevent injuries. • Shut off lights when you go to bed. You will be saving energy and preventing fire risk. • Keep dogs and cats away from Christmas lights. They can become tangled or chew on wires and get shocked.
pending time around a warm fireplace is an indelible holiday image. The entire family hanging stockings from the mantle while a fire roars below can make for a cozy evening and set the scene for the season to come. While the warm glow of candles and a blazing fire are key components of holiday decor, some holiday decorations have potential to be dangerous if homeowners are not careful.
• Fireplaces can become quite hot no matter which type of fuel they burn. Draperies and other fabric should not be hung too close to fireplaces and stoves. • The glass and screens that cover fireplaces should be used to prevent sparks and embers from entering a room. • Keep children away from fireplaces while they are in use. • Have fireplaces professionally cleaned each year and inspected by a certified chimney specialist. The United States Fire Administration says heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires each year. Clearing the chimney of creosote can reduce accidental chimney fires.
Candles used to decorate Christmas trees and the like were once the norm. However, candles can easily tip over and start a fire. Today there are far safer alternatives to providing holiday illumination. • Flameless candles use a twinkling LED light to create the atmosphere of an actual candle. They can be purchased in all different shapes and sizes. • Extinguish all candles before retiring for the night.
Gathering around the fireplace is a holiday tradition for many families. But it is important to remember basic safety
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Preparation pointers:
How to get your home ready for holiday guests
amily gatherings are synonymous with the holiday season. Even those families who have spread out far and wide often manage to come together at least once at the end of the year. When families include members who don’t live within driving distance of one another, those who aren’t hosting the holiday festivities must plan an overnight stay. Lodging costs can be considerable during the holiday season because hotels can quickly fill to capacity. Holiday hosts who want to go the extra mile can invite guests to forgo hotels and stay overnight at their homes, where guests can spend more time with hosts and won’t have to worry about finding lodging they can afford. Though it’s a nice gesture to host overnight guests during the holiday season, it’s also one that requires a little work on the part of the hosts, who must take time ouf of the often hectic holiday schedule to prepare their homes for guests. The following are a few pointers for hosts who want to ensure everything is ready and accommodating for overnight guests. • Take inventory of household linens. Depending on how many guests you’ll be hosting, you may need to stock up on extra linens. If only one or two people will be staying overnight, you should be able to make due with what you have. However, if you’ll be hosting a second family for the holidays, whether it’s one night or a full week, then you will likely need to buy more linens, including bedding, pillows and blankets. Take inventory of what you have and make sure you have adequate bedding for each guest, as well as some extra bedding in case of emergency. • Stock up on toiletries. Toiletries are bound to run out if you’re hosting guests for the holidays. Before guests arrive, stock up on these items, including toilet and facial tissue, hand soap, bath soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and extra toothbrushes in case guests forgot to pack their own. These items have no expiration date, so even if you end up buying more than you need you can always use them down the road when guests have long since returned home. • Clear the house of clutter. Clutter can make a home seem even more crowded when guests are staying overnight. Clutter can accumulate anywhere in the house, from bathrooms to a living room to the kitchen. When hosting guests for the holidays, you will need all the space you can get, so clear the house of as much clutter as possible. Put all toys away and clear the common areas of items like shoes and clothing that can make a space seem more cramped. In addition, clear the dining room table of any items that aren’t needed at mealtime and choose festive centerpieces that don’t take up much space. • Don’t be caught off guard by a storm. If guests will be staying multiple nights, it’s safe to assume everyone, hosts and guests included, will want to get out of the house, be it to enjoy local holiday celebrations or simply to avoid cabin fever by getting some fresh air. But the holiday season gets its fair share of inclement weather, including snowstorms. Hosts should not be caught off guard by a snowstorm, stocking up on items like a snow shovel, a snow blower and salt or a de-icing product for walkways and driveways before guests arrive. This will ensure everyone won’t feel trapped inside the house should a storm arrive unexpectedly. Hosting guests for the holidays is no small task. But hosts who prepare in advance can ensure everyone makes the most of their time together.
• Discuss pet allergies. Holiday hosts who have pets should discuss pet allergies with potential overnight guests well in advance of the season. If guests are allergic to your pets, then it might not be comfortable for them to stay overnight at your home. While most families would not want to shelter their pets on a holiday, doing so is an option but one that may not even be worth it. Pet hair and dander around the house might be enough to trigger an allergic attack even when the pet isn’t in or around the home, so sheltering the pet may not be a solution after all. Discuss this issue with prospective guests well in advance of the season so they have time to find affordable lodging in the event that any of them do have a pet allergy.
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he holiday season means it’s time once again for parents to take their youngsters to visit Santa Claus. Pictures with little boys and girls lining up in their dress clothes with Santa are a holiday tradition, and youngsters are often anxious for their chances to share their Christmas gift wishes with the jolly man in red. But as integral as such photo sessions are to the holiday season, parents know they are one crying fit or meltdown away from having this tradition turn into trouble. After waiting in long lines to see Santa, it’s understandable when everyone’s patience starts to wear thin. The combination of antsy children and aggravated adults could set off a chain reaction that culminates in tear-stained cheeks and a sullied holiday memory. Pictures with Santa can go much more smoothly when you employ the following tips. • Prep children. While kids may love the idea of Santa, youngsters face to face with a man in a red suit and a big, white beard may be nervous. Begin talking up Santa a few months before Christmas, mentioning how nice and friendly he is. Gauge how kids act around costumed performers at fairs, circuses and birthday parties and help them grow accustomed to people in costumes. If costumes elicit screams of horror, wait another year before seeing Santa. • Visit during off-peak hours. Weekends and evenings are the busiest times to visit Santa. This means long lines and longer wait times. Instead of dealing with the masses, try to get to the mall when the doors first open. Otherwise, let the children skip a day of school and visit during the week when the lines are shorter. • Consider another venue. Many different places of business host events where kids can meet Santa. Families may be able to share a meal with Santa at a restaurant or visit him at a nursery while selecting Christmas trees. A different environment may be less
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intimidating to children and take the pressure off waiting in line in a busy mall. • Go well-fed. There’s little worse than waiting in line and doing so hungry. Hunger pangs can turn even the most placid child into a menace. Pack snacks to enjoy while waiting. Opt for items that will not stain lips and teeth or drip onto clothing. • Make it a family photo. Sometimes the only way to entice a little one to take a picture with Santa is to provide some added security. Dress your best and be prepared to have to step in and cozy up to Santa to ensure your child is all smiles.
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Gift ideas for the food fanatic on your list
Gift the foodie on your holiday shopping list with something that encourages their love of cuisine.
consider paying for a cooking class. Many communities have cooking classics for various types of cuisine, so consult your friend or family member, asking them which cuisine they’d like to learn and when they’re available. Or let them find their own class and then pay for the class. This can be a great way for foodies to learn something new and meet fellow food afficionados along the way. • Specialty spices: Spices can make the difference between an ordinary meal that’s void of flavor and a meal that’s so flavorful it won’t soon be forgotten. When spicing things up for a foodie this holiday season, don’t just buy regular spices at the grocery store. For example, instead of standard cinnamon, buy a specialty spice like Mexican or Vietnamese cinnamon. Such specialty spices can add extra flavor to a meal while becoming the go-to spice for the home chef among your friends and family members. • Pressure cooker: Many foodies are fawning over pressure cooking, which can cut down on cooking times without sacrificing nutrition. Some recipes may take half the time to prepare with a pressure cooker as they might with a more traditional cooking method, an important time saving element that’s attractive to foodies who want to enjoy their favorite foods but feel pressed for
ome people are a cinch to shop for come the holiday season, while others can be more of an enigma. When it comes to the latter, shoppers should determine what tickles their mysterious friend or family member’s fancy, such as a favorite hobby or even something to do with his or her profession. Food is a passion for many people and provides holiday shoppers with a great opportunity to make a loved one’s holiday
season even more special. Perhaps thanks to the increase in cable networks focusing on food, foodies, those people with an appreciation and passion for cuisine, have grown in number in recent years, and holiday shoppers with foodies on their lists have a host of potential gift options at their disposal. • Cooking class: Many foodies don’t just like eating food but cooking their favorite cuisine as well. For those who like to get their hands dirty before filling their bellies,
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time on weeknights. And while pressure cookers employ steam to cook foods quickly, that steam also traps flavor, whereas boiling can wash flavor out. Many foodies also laud pressure cookers for their nutritional benefits. Steaming certain foods can intensify their flavor, which allows cooks to rely less on potentially unhealthy additions like salt or butter to ensure a meal is flavorful. • Serving dishes: Of course, many foodies want to share the fruits of their labors with friends and family. For the person who loves throwing dinner parties, consider some serving dishes this holiday season. Serving dishes can range from casual (for the foodie who can’t wait to fire up the grill) to formal (for the gourmet foodie), so get a feel of your friend or family member’s preferences before purchasing a set of serving dishes. • Cookbook: The ideal fallback item for holiday shoppers who can’t seem to find anything for their favorite foodies, cookbooks filled with recipes for dishes from their favorite type of cuisine (i.e., Italian, Thai, Cajun, etc.) are sure to please. When gifting with a cookbook, peruse a few of its recipes to determine if there are any special ingredients that appear throughout. If there are, purchase these ingredients and gift them as well.
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Holiday music for the next generation O
ne of the early indicators that the holiday season has arrived is the music play at retail stores and on the radio. Christmas music evokes strong emotions that help many people recall fond memories of holidays spent with family and friends. While certain holiday albums have become classics, younger artists have begun to embrace holiday music as well. For example, Universal Music Group Nashville has announced that “Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas,” will be available for purchase this holiday season. The Robertson family is based out of Louisiana and are the stars of the A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty.” In addition to being prolific duck hunters, the Robertsons also grew up singing in church, and members of the family will be showcasing those talents on their holiday album. Former “X Factor” winner Leona Lewis has revealed she is going to be recording a Motown-inspired Christmas album, while R&B superstar Mary J. Blige will put her soulful spin on holiday classics with her first-ever Christmas album. “A Mary Christmas” will be released through Interscope Records. Blige is working with acclaimed composer and arranger David Foster. In addition to those forthcoming albums, holiday enthusiasts can choose from many recent holiday albums from seasons past.
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“American Idol” alum Scotty McCreery put some serious country twang into his “Christmas With Scotty McCreery” album. “Christmas in the Sand” is Colbie Caillat’s nontraditional Christmas album for those who may not live in cold or snowy locales. “Cheers, It’s Christmas” is the first Christmas collection from country star Blake Shelton. Guest artists include Miranda Lambert, Kelly Clarkson and Michael Buble. “On This Winter’s Night” is Lady Antebellum’s first holiday collection and includes various versions of Christmas classics. “Merry Christmas, Baby” is the first ever holiday release from legendary singer Rod Stewart.
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Great gifts for men and women hoping to get healthier
Subsidizing a loved one’s gym membership is a great way to help him or her realize a resolution of living healthier in the year ahead.
he holidays are synonymous with many things, including get-togethers with family and friends, shopping and, at the tail end of the season, resolutions. One of the more common New Year’s resolutions is a commitment to getting healthier. This year, holiday shoppers can combine the tradition of gift-giving with the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions by giving a loved one who wants to improve personal health a gift that can make keeping that resolution that much easier. When holiday shopping this season, consider the following gift ideas for that health-conscious friend or family member who’s looking to turn over a new leaf in the new year by adopting a healthier lifestyle. • Gym membership: Fitness centers tend to see a spike in enrollment at the dawn of a new year, as men and women who want to get healthier take the first step by signing up for a gym membership. The holiday season can be a great time to sign up for a membership,
as many fitness centers waive their initiation fees in an effort to attract more customers. When trying to help a friend or family member get back on a healthy track, offer to pay a portion of their membership fees or, if their preferred club is charging an initiation fee, offer to pay that instead. Recipients might feel more obligated to go to the gym if they know a loved one helped pay for it. • Cardiovascular machine: Many people cite a lack of time as the primary reason they don’t exercise enough. Getting to and from the gym takes time, but having a cardiovascular machine, whether it’s an elliptical machine, an exercise bike or a treadmill, at home removes this hurdle, increasing the chances that people will exercise more often. And the potential benefits of routine cardiovascular exercise are considerable. According to the American Heart Association, as little as 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise each day can significantly reduce an individual’s risk for heart disease.
• Bicycle: Few activities are more enjoyable and simultaneously beneficial as riding a bicycle. Many people still enjoy riding a bike just like they did when they were children, when they might not have known just how healthy riding a bicycle was. Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness, lowering a person’s risk for heart disease while helping to build and tone muscles. In addition, men and women with preexisting joint conditions often find riding a bicycle is a great low-impact exercise that encourages them to get off the couch in a way that doesn’t aggravate their conditions. Many adults received a bicycle as a holiday gift when they were children, and those looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle might be just as excited to receive a bicycle once again. • Cookbook: Adopting a healthier lifestyle does not have to be all about exercise. In fact, eating healthier is just as important as exercising more. A common misconception about eating healthy is that healthy foods don’t boast the flavor of those irresistible, yet ultimately unhealthy, foods we can’t get enough of. However, a healthy diet can be flavorful, so help health-conscious men and women get started with a cookbook filled with healthy and delicious recipes. Before buying a cookbook, find out if the book’s eventual recipient has any specific dietary restrictions, including if he or she needs to eat gluten-free or has been told to avoid red meat. Then find a cookbook that suits them but does so in a way that allows them to embrace healthy eating.
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Gifting those who help
oliday gift-giving etiquette can be confusing, especially when it comes to gifting those men and women who aren’t necessarily friends or family members, but still help us out in a variety of ways. Deciding how to thank the people who intersect our lives by delivering mail or cleaning the pool can take a little ingenuity. Gifting preferences often vary from region to region. What might be acceptable in a certain area of the country may be frowned upon elsewhere. For example, in urban areas cash gifts are usually appreciated, whereas rural, close-knit communities tend to give homemade gifts. The rule to remember, above all, is that if a gift is given with good intentions, it should be happily received. That being said, here are some general guidelines for gifting those men and women who help us throughout the year. • Determine your list. Think about the people with whom you interact regularly. The sanitation workers who pick up the trash twice a week and your mail carrier may take priority over the hairstylist you visit once every month or two. • Establish a budget. The holiday season can be costly, so set a firm limit on what you plan to give, perhaps between $10 and $20 each, and stick to that budget for each recipient. • Recognize that not everyone is allowed to accept gifts. Some service providers are not allowed to accept cash gifts or presents. Government employees, for example, may be prohibited from accepting cash gifts or gifts that exceed a predetermined amount. With this in mind, gloves or a gift basket may be your best option. • Gift a little more to personal care professionals. Your hairstylists, masseuse or anyone who performs more personal
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tasks for you may warrant a larger gift. Etiquette suggests giving a gift equal to the price of one session of service, even if that gift is cash. Therefore if your hair cut costs $35, gift $35. • Health and child care employees warrant special treatment. A private nurse, nanny or nursing home worker should be gifted for the holidays. Avoid cash gifts with health service providers, opting for a more personal gift that is a token of your affection and appreciation. If gifts are not allowed, consider making a charitable donation in the person’s name.
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arties are an integral part of the holiday season, when friends and family gather to celebrate and give thanks. For holiday hosts, parties are a great opportunity to make the season even more festive with an event that guests won’t soon forget. The following are just a few themes to make your holiday party as memorable as it is merry. • Christmas sweater party: Christmas sweater parties have grown in popularity over the last decade, when revelers have tried to outdo one another with the most outrageous holiday-themed sweater. Give prizes for the most outlandish sweater and let guests know early on so they can begin their hunt for a holiday sweater that’s so ugly or outrageous you can’t help but love it. • Christmas costume party: Costume parties aren’t just for Halloween. This holiday season, consider making your holiday bash a costume party, encouraging guests to dress up as their favorite characters from holiday tales like “Frosty the Snowman,” “A Christmas Carol” or any of the host of beloved holiday legends.
• Caribbean Christmas: The weather come the holiday season may be the one thing to put a damper on the festivities. To combat blue feelings from potentially inclement weather, consider a Caribbean theme for your holiday party this season. Rather than wearing sweaters and long pants, wear beach attire and give the party a touch of the Caribbean. Outfit your home in beach decor and serve food and drinks reminiscent of the Caribbean instead of more traditional holiday fare like eggnog and gingerbread cookies. • Film festival: Holiday movies are another tradition of the season, so why not invite friends and family over for a holiday film marathon? Include classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” and encourage guests to submit their own favorites for consideration. • Christmas karaoke: For those who love to belt out their favorite holiday tunes, consider throwing a Christmas karaoke party that allows guests to perform their own renditions of their favorite Christmas carols. Purchase a home karaoke set and ask guests in advance of the party if there are any particular songs they’d like to perform. 1/4 PAGE AD
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A turkey tailor-made for a holiday feast
Herb-Roasted Turkey
Serves 10
1. In a small bowl, combine the butter, chopped parsley, chopped rosemary, chopped thyme, chopped sage, salt, and pepper, and mix well. 2. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450 F. Sprinkle the main cavity of the turkey with salt and pepper. Place the whole sprigs of parsley, rosemary and thyme and the sage leaves into the cavity. Add the lemon, 4 shallot halves and half of the garlic cloves. 3. Starting at the neck end, carefully slide a hand between the skin and the breast meat to loosen the skin. Spread 3 tablespoons of the herb butter over the breast meat under the skin. Tuck the wing tips under the skin, and tie the legs together to hold the shape. Season the turkey generously all over with salt and pepper. 4. Place the turkey on a wire rack set in a large roasting pan. Rub 4 tablespoons of the herb butter over the turkey. Roast about 30 minutes, until golden brown, and reduce the heat to 350 F. Baste the turkey with 1/2 cup of the broth. Cover only the breast area with a sheet of heavyduty aluminum foil. Scatter the remaining shallots and garlic cloves in the pan around the turkey. 5. Continue to roast the turkey for about 11/2 hours, basting with 1/2 cup of broth every 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the turkey breast. Continue to roast the turkey,
o holiday feast is complete without turkey. The main course at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner tables alike, turkey is something many people look forward to more and more as the holidays approach. Those about to cook their first turkey or even turkey-cooking veterans who want to stray from the norm may want to consider the following recipe for “Herb-Roasted Turkey” from Yolanda Banks’ “Cooking for Your Man” (Broadway Books).
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, plus 4 whole sprigs 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, leaves chopped, plus 2 whole sprigs 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus 4 whole sprigs 15 leaves fresh sage, chopped, plus 3 whole leaves 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the turkey 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for the turkey 1 15-pound turkey 1 lemon, quartered 8 shallots, peeled and halved 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock 2/3 cup dry white wine 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
basting with pan juices every 20 minutes, about 1 hour longer, until it’s golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 F. Transfer the turkey to a platter and brush with 1 tablespoon of the herb butter. Tent it loosely with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving. 6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots and garlic from the roasting pan to a plate. Transfer the pan juices to a medium bowl, then skim off and discard the fat. Set the pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Deglaze the pan with the wine and 1 cup of chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until it’s reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Pour the sauce into a large measuring glass. Add the degreased pan juices, and broth, if necessary, to equal 3 cups of liquid. 7. Blend the flour into the remaining herb butter until combined. Pour the broth mixture into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk in the herb-butter mixture. Add any accumulated juices from the turkey platter and boil until the gravy thickens enough to coat a spoon, whisking occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining shallots and garlic to the gravy and simmer for 1 minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the turkey with the gravy.
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holiday hosting tips
dates, so buy such items well in advance of the party. This leads to one less task to tackle in the weeks and days leading up to the party. Planning early also affords you ample time coordinate with guests and decide who will be responsible for certain party tasks. Planning a party at the last minute can be stressful, so if you know you will be handling hosting duties this holiday season, start preparing for the party as soon as possible. • Hire a cleaning service. One of the more difficult parts of holiday hosting is cleaning the house before guests arrive. A thorough house cleaning can take up a substantial amount of time, which tends to be hard to come by during the holiday season. To avoid a late night cleaning session or the need to spend a valuable weekend afternoon hard at work around the house, hire a cleaning service to come and clean your house in the days before the party. Such services can clean your home in a fraction of the time it might take you to do so on your own, and this removes one of the more time-consuming and arduous tasks from your to-do list. • Have a theme for the party. Holiday hosts may worry about how to entertain their guests throughout the party. A theme party makes it easier to entertain guests, who can show up decked out in holiday pajamas or sweaters or bring along a favorite unique compilation of holiday songs for a sing-along. Such themes set a tone for the party right away and often make it easier for guests to unwind immediately. Seek suggestions for a theme from your guests to make the party even more fun. • Pass the buck. Hosting a holiday dinner party? Consider passing the hosting duties on to a local restaurant, especially if your friends and family members are on board with the idea. If your schedule is especially hectic this holiday season, then move the party from your home to a local restaurant, where the staff can worry about accommodating your guests and you can simply relax and have a good time with your loved ones. When choosing a restaurant, look for one with a menu that features something for everyone. Entrée selections should include a pasta dish, a beef dish, a seafood dish, a poultry dish, and vegetarian fare. Holiday hosting is meant to be fun, but hosts often find themselves scrambling to prepare for the party as it draws closer. Planning early, seeking help and input from your guests and delegating certain tasks can help ensure hosts have as festive a time as their friends and family members.
How to get your home ready for holiday guests
new linens so your guests feel as if they’re at home and don’t get cold overnight. If your linen closet is fully stocked with quality linens, clean them in the days leading up to your guests’ arrival. • Buy some night lights. You might be familiar enough with your home’s layout in the dark, but your guests likely won’t have that same sense of familiarity. Purchase a few night lights for the hallways and restrooms so guests can easily get around should they need to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. • Childproof your home if necessary. Kids can be curious, so holiday hosts without children of their own should childproof their homes before any guests arrive with kids in tow. Move hazardous materials to high shelves that kids can’t reach, and make sure any prescription medications are also out of reach of youngsters. If your home has any steep staircases, consider purchasing some child gates or asking your guests to bring their own gates to reduce the risk of young kids falling down your stairs. • Stock up on toiletries and other essentials. Replenish your supply of toiletries before guests arrive. Stock up on toilet paper, tissues, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion in the days leading up to the holidays. In addition, consider buying kitchen items like paper towels, napkins, plastic cutlery, and paper plates. Paper plates may come in especially handy, saving you the trouble of having to load up the dishwasher after meals in which paper plates and plastic cutlery would have sufficed. • Give your common areas a thorough cleaning. Any common areas of the home, including the foyer, living room, dining room, kitchen, and restrooms, should be given a thorough cleaning prior to your guests’ arrival. Clean any bedrooms where guests will be staying as well. You don’t need to devote as much time to cleaning your own bedroom or home office, but make sure these rooms are presentable as well. • Clean out the closets. If your hall closets are largely used for storing miscellaneous items, clean them out for the coming days to make room for your guests’ coats, jackets, scarves, hats, and shoes. Moving these items, be it to the garage, a backyard shed or the basement, can be temporary, but you will need your closets to serve a more traditional purpose while your guests are in town for the holidays.
atherings with friends and family are a big part of the holiday season. Many people travel during the holidays to spend time with distant relatives, but those same people often want to gather with those loved ones who live nearby as well. Thus an abundance of gatherings comes in December, when office parties, dinners with family and festivities with friends have a way of dominating the last five weeks of the year. All of those gatherings translate to a lot of holiday hosting, and hosts can easily feel overwhelmed as they try to juggle hosting duties with everything else that comes along during this time of year. The following are a few steps holiday hosts can take to make hosting a lot less hectic and a lot more fun. • Enlist help. Just because a holiday party is at your home does not mean others can’t pitch in or will be unwilling to help. If you plan to decorate for the party, invite a friend over to assist. When hosting a holiday dinner party, ask guests to bring certain items to save you some work. Ask one guest to bring some dessert, saving you the time it takes to visit the local bakery or bake your own desserts, and ask others to provide side dishes. This drastically reduces the time it will take you to shop for groceries and cook the meal, leaving you more time to spend with friends and family, both during the party and in the days leading up to the festivities. • Plan well in advance. The earlier you begin planning the party, the less stress you’re likely to feel as a host. Certain items for the party, like decorations and certain snacks and beverages, have no expiration
osting family members for the holidays is a great way to spend quality time with loved ones during a special time of year. For many families, the holidays are the one time each year when everyone can get together regardless of where they live or how demanding their commitments to work and family can be. When families gather for the holidays, many people often find themselves playing host to distant relatives. Accepting such hosting duties is an act that comes with many responsibilities, including readying the home for overnight guests. The following are a few ways hosts can prepare their homes for holiday guests. • Take inventory of linens. Overnight guests mean you will need extra bed linens, blankets and pillows. Take inventory of your linen closet now, and inspect each set of sheets to make sure they are still usable. If sheets are ragged or the blankets have thinned, purchase
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Holiday decorating not bound to strict schedules
ome people are so eager for Christmas to arrive that they simply cannot wait long to transform their homes from the traditional decor into a holiday wonderland. Others prefer to build up the suspense of the season and wait until mid-December before decking the halls. There is no right or wrong time to start decorating, but there are some tips to make that process easier. Christmas items can sometimes be found on store shelves as early as September, and even those homeowners who intend to decorate when the season is in full
swing can purchase items now and then bring them out when the time comes to decorate. Shopping early allows holiday enthusiasts to be more choosy about their decorations. Many families start their holiday decorating on the day after Thanksgiving. Such families should know there are benefits to using artificial greenery in the decor. A real Christmas tree or wreath may dry out and present a fire hazard if purchased too early. If you want the tree in the window for a full month or more, an artificial tree is a safer choice. Decorating
before December also allows families to enjoy their decorations much longer. It can be hard work to decorate the house, and equally arduous to remove those decorations, so decorating earlier allows homeowners to enjoy the fruits of their labors a lot longer than they would if they decorate in December. Some people feel that decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving is a tad too early, and there are advantages to decorating in early or mid-December, when stores have a wider selection of decorations at shoppers’ disposal. Some stores do not display all of their merchandise until after Thanksgiving. If you have your heart set on a natural Christmas tree, decorating later helps to ensure the tree remains fresh, fragrant and safe with the right care. Homeowners who delay their decorations also can take
inventory of what neighbors are doing and design a decorating scheme that blends with the neighborhood or stands out. Some families even prefer to save their decorating until right before Christmas, choosing to decorate on Christmas Eve. Those who prefer to a more religious them to their holiday decorations may prefer to decorate later and keep their decorations on display until the celebration of the Epiphany, when the magi are said to have arrived bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. Whether families enjoy stringing up lights as soon as Thanksgiving is over or waiting until Christmas Eve, there is no wrong way to embrace the spirit of the season.
Travel tips for holiday visits
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housands of people take to the skies come the holiday season. High fares do doubt await holiday travelers, who also can count on higher baggage fees and fuel surcharges. Buying tickets early can help offset some of those costs, but many travelers may not know where they’ll be spending the holidays until the last minute, leaving them at the mercy of the airlines. Waiting for last-minute airline sales can be tricky, especially during the holidays when everyone needs to travel in a specific date range. Airlines continually evaluate just how many seats they have already sold to determine prices on reduced-fare seating. Getting a good deal or being gouged may come down to a variety of factors, but buying early when flying during a heavy travel season is often the best way to go. Airlines rarely discount tickets during the holiday season, when demand is especially high. Therefore, booking as soon as you know your travel plans increases the liklihood you can get the flight you want and not have to make concessions. In addition to booking early, there are other ways to save some money and arrive relatively jolly for a holiday visit. • Travel midweek. Flying on a weekday is often less expensive than flying on a weekend. Some travel experts say flights on a Tuesday or Wednesday traditionally offer the lowest fares. • Consider an alternate route. Choosing connecting flights in travel hub cities may cost less than direct, nonstop flights. While from flight to flight may be less convenient, it’s likely to cost less
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• Ship your gifts. Rather than paying high fees for extra checked baggage, ship your gifts or have them directly shipped to your loved ones when buying online. • Book in mid-November. Some travel experts say that Christmas travel is at its cheapest during the middle of November. If you can arrive early at your destination then you can also save. Experts suggest flying before December 17 can earn travelers the best deals. • Choose an unpopular flight time. Early-morning, overnight and dinnertime flights are less expensive than more popular travel times. • Arrive on Christmas. It’s often less expensive to travel on Christmas, when surcharges may be waived and flights may be less packed.
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