Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Relief Stress This Holiday Season

Are you stressed about the holidays? There is a way you can have a stress free holiday season. In part two of this blog, we will discuss how you can relieve some stress in your meal preparation. Make sure to go back and read last week's blog on decorating if you missed it. You can learn more at moneycrashers.


While turkey is now the most common dish served during Christmas Day dinners around the world (replacing Tiny Tim’s roasted goose), fried chicken, ham, and fish remain popular. Our childhood memories of Christmases past often include aromatic, mouthwatering, belly-filling, belt-busting meals of savory meats, fresh vegetables, and sugary, meringue-topped desserts, but rarely the hours of exhaustive preparation, mounds of dirty pots and pans, and obligatory cleanup by those responsible for our repasts.

Try the following to save time in the kitchen this year:

Bake and Freeze in Advance. Rolls, coffee cakes, muffins, and breads can be made, shaped, placed in pans, and frozen up to six months before serving. Unbaked pies and cookies can be prepared up to two months before a meal. Appetizers and casseroles taste just as delicious even if they have been frozen for months. Spreading your food preparation over several weekends before the crunch of the season can help to keep you sane and rested.

Use Professionals. Many grocery stores and restaurants offer holiday specials where complete meals are delivered or can be picked up the day before Christmas, so your only duty is to pop them in the oven and serve. The ability to choose à la carte allows for a selection of not only different foods, but different caterers.

Share Cooking and Cleaning Duties. To spread the workload around, one member of the family can bring appetizers, another can supply a vegetable dish, and another can provide dessert, already agreed to beforehand to ensure everyone’s favorites will be available. Cleanup is also shared – those who eat but don’t cook must clean.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stress Relief Part 1

The holidays can be a stressful time for any family. This is part one of our stress free holiday series. However, in this blog we will focus on the planning of your holiday. These helpful tips will help you with that stress free holiday of your dreams. You can learn more at

Plan the Perfect Holiday

It’s important to remember that there is more to Christmas than the giving and receiving of gifts – there are decorations to be made and hung, food to be prepared and served, and homes to be cleaned for guests. However, if you can stay within your budget and set aside sufficient time to complete all these tasks, you and your guests will delight in a stress-free and memorable holiday.

The bulk of time and money spent each Christmas revolves around gifts – choosing, buying, and wrapping presents for those we love. This year, consider the following: 

A Family Gift Exchange. As families get larger, the costs of buying gifts can be a financial burden. To reduce costs and the time spent shopping, establish a dollar limit for the individual gifts, as well as any other desired criteria (for example, only clothes, toys, books, and gift cards).

Gift Cards. Gift cards allow the receiver to pick his or her perfect gift. In fact, more than 77% of shoppers gifted cards in 2011. Most retailers offer their own, and also accept gift cards issued by major credit card companies, which can be combined to purchase more expensive items. However, when choosing a gift card, be aware that some may charge inactivity fees after one year if the card isn’t used.

Internet Shopping. Shopping online is faster, often cheaper, and far more convenient than visiting brick-and-mortar stores. It is easy to compare prices, gift wrapping is often available, and your purchase can be delivered wherever you choose. 

Most Internet retailers also guarantee delivery by a certain date.

Price Comparison Apps. Shopping apps enable in-store price comparisons and an easy way to verify and obtain discount coupons to save more money. Consider free apps, such as Price Check for Android devices and Google Shopper for the iPhone.

Personalized, Inexpensive Gifts. These are unique and meaningful. For example, the small illustrated book “I Like You” with a personal note to a family member, business associate, or friend will be cherished and kept for a lifetime. A letter to a friend recalling a special time together or simply telling a loved one how much they mean to you will be remembered for years and always appreciated.

Paid Gift Wrapping. Paying to have your gifts wrapped can save you time as well as money spent on excess wrapping paper, tape, bows, and gift cards. Many retailers offer an in-house service and include free gift wrapping with each purchase. Professional gift wrappers charge a different rate for different sizes of packages, which can run as low as $5.

Charitable Donations. Making donations to charity in lieu of buying and receiving gifts can make you feel good, and it teaches your children the joy of giving while helping those less fortunate. Consider 

Alternative Gifts International, where $45 feeds an American family of five for a week;Heifer International, which provides domestic animals, such as cows, sheep, goats, and chickens to poor families around the world; or Kiva, which makes micro-loans to third world entrepreneurs. 

If your holiday includes children, involve them in the gifting process so they can learn how much better it feels to give than to receive. Take them shopping to buy inexpensive Christmas gifts that they can wrap themselves. Let them print their names on the gift cards and pass out the presents they’ve purchased and wrapped.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Be A Good Houseguest

Are you traveling for the holidays?  If you are staying with a friend or family member, it is very important to be a respectful houseguest.  Hosting guests is very stressful, but you can help make it easier for your loved one.  Read over these tips, and you can comment below with some tips of your own.  You can learn more at Apartment Therapy.

Keep your belongings, neatly, in your room.

As someone who aspires, at least, to keep her house in order, I really appreciate it when my guests do their best to keep their suitcases and extra belongings in their designated areas. Of course, items like coats and shoes (which we don't wear in the house), are left out, and I am happy when guests take it upon themselves to notice where they belong and put them there.
Take care of your own special needs.

If your hostess asks about things you can't (or prefer not to) eat, it's okay to be honest— to a point. But if you have specific dietary or health needs, it's nice to take care of them yourself rather than expecting your hostess to learn about and provide for your needs. For instance, before I was more familiar with gluten-free diets and before gluten-free alternatives were ubiquitous, a houseguest of mine brought her own gluten-free pasta. I appreciated her foresight and consideration — and that, for the sake of my preparations, she told me she would do this beforehand.
Fit in.

Try to notice the rhythms and rituals of your hosts. If their habit is to sit and eat around the table together, join them rather than grazing, even if that's what you're used to. If your hosts enjoy conversation once all the kids are down, spend some time with them even if all you want to do is go to bed yourself! On the other hand, if you know your hosts go to bed earlier than you do, assure them that you're fine up on your own or even retreat to your space so your hosts feel comfortable leaving the common area as well.
Strip the sheets.

This could depend on how well you know your hosts, but this act, to me, shows a thoughtfulness about the practical side of having houseguests and a willingness to help however possible — and this means a lot. If you're not on a do-my-laundry-in-your-washer level of familiarity, leave the bed linens and towels in a tidy pile. Otherwise, if you can swing it, do the sheets and put them back on the bed. My mother always does this, and recent houseguests did this for me and what a relief! How nice to leave your host's place even better than when you got there.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Four Best Herbs For Thanksgiving

Do you know what herbs need to be in Turkey for the best stuffing and taste? The Kitchn has instructions on how to use these four herbs to make the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. These herbs are easy to find, and they will bring the perfect taste to your Thanksgiving Dinner.

Want to stuff the Thanksgiving turkey with some fresh herbs or chop some up for stuffing and are not sure which ones to use? Here are the four traditional herbs you should pick up and use in your cooking to really give it that authentic Thanksgiving aroma and taste!

1. Parsley

There are two types of parsley sold in the store: Flat-leaf and curly. Choose Italian flat-leaf parsley since it has a more pronounced flavor, although many people like to decorate with the curly variety. Strip the tender leaves off the stems before chopping them up, but you can always save the stems to flavor stocks and soups. Parsley is a great all-purpose herb to have around to add fresh, delicate flavor. Add the leaves into your dish at the last minute for the freshest flavor and brightest color.

2. Thyme

Thyme is one of my favorite herbs and the one I most associate with Thanksgiving. I especially love it in stuffing and to flavor the turkey. Thyme stems are woody, so you should strip the tender leaves off of them for cooking. Thyme benefits from some cooking time to bring out the oils and aromas of the leaves.

3. Rosemary

The piney scent and flavor of rosemary helps conjure images of Christmas trees and cozying up to the fire. A little goes a long way with rosemary, so err on the side of starting out with less and know that you can add more. Like thyme, the needle-like rosemary leaves should be stripped off the woody stems and chopped up finely, and they also benefit from some cooking time, especially since the coarse leaves aren't great eaten raw.

4. Sage

I love the feeling of soft, velvety sage leaves. Its leaves are extremely tender and have an aroma reminiscent of pine and eucalyptus, but again, make sure to strip the leaves off the tough stems first. Sage is a member of the mint family and pairs well with poultry, pork, and sausage, and it also pairs well with butternut squash and other sweet flavors.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope you have a great Thanksgiving with your friends and family!

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