How to Get Warm and Stay Warm without Turning up the Heat

In the winter and the cooler months of the year, chilly weather makes it difficult for us to keep our homes and our bodies as warm as we’d like. Turning up the heat is the easy solution, but it is not the most economical solution. Instead, why not try some of these suggestions for how to get warm and stay warm this winter!

Rather than running up your electric bill unnecessarily, consider being smarter about how to stay warm at home. When it comes to outdoor winter recreation, try these tips for staying warm outside. Here are 15 tips for getting warm and staying warm either outside or inside without turning up the heat:

1. Drink a cup of hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. This is a great option for at home, at work, or on the commute in between. Warm beverages are a fabulous way to warm yourself from heat to toe.

2. Go for a walk. Get your body moving and get your blood flowing. You can warm yourself with only a short walk at home or at work.

3. Get up, move around, and do some chores. Just like taking a walk, you can warm up by moving and doing things, and also by taking your mind off the cold. Plus, you are getting things done that you need to do anyway – good job!

4. Wear socks and shoes. Experts say a lot of heat escapes through your head and feet, so wear socks and shoes when possible to keep yourself warm all over. If you have wool socks, those are better yet!

5. Dress in layers. If you dress in several layers, you can always add more layers or take something off to readjust your body temperature. Layers are great because this form of dressing provides flexibility and an easy way to get comfortable in the winter temperatures.

6. Wear a knit hat. As mentioned earlier, heat escapes from the head as well as the feet. Wear a nice warm hat or snowcap when possible to keep the warmth from escaping your body.

7. Sit under an electric blanket for a little while. Although you are still using heat, you’re only heating what’s necessary for you to stay warm. Just make sure you read and follow the safety instructions on your heated blanket.

8. Eat some warm soup or broth. Whether inside or out, eating warm soup or warm broth can really warm your body from head to toe. Enjoy a tasty meal or snack to help you stay warm!

9. Close doors to rooms you aren’t using and close the heating vents for those rooms. Keep your energy usage as efficient as possible by not wasting electricity on rooms that are empty.

10. Place “draft dodgers” or door snakes next to all exterior doors. Draft dodgers are long and skinny beanbags, sometimes shaped as animals and other times shaped like a long skinny tube, to block the draft from entering your house. Place one at the door between your garage and your home, place one at your front door, and one at your back door.

11. Try using those hand warmer packets. If you plan to be doing any hiking, hunting, fishing, sledding, skiing, outdoor ice-skating, or other outdoor activities, hand warmers can really provide comfort by helping to avoid freezing fingers.

12. Do some wash and run the dryer. You can kill two birds with one stone by getting your laundry out of the way and also warming up your home.

13. Bake something for dinner (or cookies!) in your oven.
The best time to use this technique is when it is actually time to make a meal or a dessert or snack. No sense in using one form of electricity to avoid another, but if you’ve got to cook anyway, there’s no sense in turning on the heat too.

14. Exercise! It’s no lie – if you move around and get your heart pumping, you can raise your body temperature to a comfortable level. The bonus – you’re also helping to get in shape or stay in shape!

15. Snuggle up under blankets or inside a fleece robe. If possible, spend some quality time with a loved one, cuddled up under some blankets. You can watch a movie together, sit in front of a fireplace, or merely relax in each other’s arms.

Eating Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight During the Holidays

Each year as the air starts to get colder and the Christmas lights start springing up all around town, ovens fill with cookies, pies, and other scrumptious treats while delectable holiday dinners await.

Fears of putting on a few extra pounds prey on the minds of many while most of us are too lazy to do anything about it. Want to know a secret? With some mildly altered eating habits and a bit more of a relaxed setting, you can trim down the extra pounds before the spring thaw!

Simply get the right attitude and be prepared to eat a little slower. Take your time and enjoy every mouthful… you can avoid gaining weight – and even lose a few pounds this holiday season.

– Enjoy your meal and relax while eating. Do not rush. Let your brain catch up with your stomach… you may not be as hungry as you think! Our brains tend to take about 20 minutes to register that we are full. Try telling that to our stomachs!

– Chew – Chew – Chew… Savor every bite of your food. Avoid gulping it down like someone’s trying to steal if from you. There will be plenty to go around, and if not, there’s always dessert!

– Do not eat on the run. Sit down and enjoy your food, whether it is as in-depth as a full-course meal or as simple and quick as a cookie or two. Take your time, chew and just eat. Don’t drive, don’t talk on the phone, don’t have a race to see who can fit more cookies in his mouth. Savor every bite and relax.

– Take a break. Do something else once your meal is done and see how hungry for dessert you really are. Do not force in a piece of pie or cake just to “be polite”. Those calories won’t be thinking the same way as they cascade across your hips!

– Keep your hands out of the cookie jar unless you are sitting down casually with a glass of milk and only a few tasty treats.

– Drink more water. It may fill you up a little bit, but it also flushes out germs and keeps you healthier. Drink as much as you like, but try to maintain a habit. Your body will come to expect the extra hydration – which is also especially good for athletes who may have to compete in coming weeks.

– Don’t give in to the growl. Once in a while is OK, but teach your stomach some discipline. You eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and maybe a snack here or there. Never eat just because you are bored!

– When grabbing for seconds, go for something a bit healthier. If your choices are meat and buttery biscuits or steamed broccoli and wild rice, think about how the calories may affect your body and choose wisely. If you want, compromise and take a little bit of a few different things instead of loading up on one dish.

– Satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit or a dish showcasing it. Smoothies, fruit cocktail and fruit salad are just a few ideal waist-busters.

– Share a dessert with someone instead of forcing the calories on yourself. You’ll still satisfy your sweet tooth while taking in fewer calories than you would solo.

– Ask for salad dressing on the side when eating in a restaurant. You’ll be able to pour it on the way you like instead of fishing your lettuce and carrots out of a drowning pool of Italian, Russian or whatever you select.

– Broth-based soups will generally have fewer calories than thicker, cream-based soups. Choose what you want with no regrets, but save yourself a few calories every now and again if you like chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, or others.

– Lessen the number of cocktails or beers you pour for yourself. It is a known fact that heavy drinking will eventually cause weight gain.

– Try to avoid eating major meals two hours before you plan to go to bed and later. Chances are, your body will burn off most of the calories if you give it enough time… unless your gorge yourself, so try to plan your evening with meals in mind.

– Make a plan and stick to it! Once you make a commitment to yourself, don’t let the little devil on your left shoulder talk you out of it. No, one bite, one cookie, or one dish of ice cream won’t hurt… just this once. But listen every time your stomach growls and you might be kissing your new eating plan goodbye.

Carefully balance your eating habits with some discipline and healthier baking techniques. Add some exercise, fresh air, better sleeping habits and a more active lifestyle and you are well on your way to getting or maintaining that fabulous figure.

Remember that it isn’t a matter of what you eat, when you eat, how you eat, or how much you eat, but rather a combination of all of those. Make a goal for yourself and stick to that goal, so the calories don’t start sticking to your sides!

Check out some healthy cooking and baking tips to keep your routine on a roll.

Product Review: Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth® Headset

Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth headset, available at Amazon.com

The Plantronics Discovery 925 brings vibrant color and style to the world of Bluetooth earpieces.  The”V” shape design gives device a unique look while the AudioIQ technology provides noise cancellation and improves voice clarity.

Funny story – I thought I would test the earpiece by calling my parents; they surely would tell me about the quality on the other end of the phone.  The person that answered the phone was my 95 year old Grandfather.  After a couple of “what”s and “who”s I thought this was an ineffective test as his hearing aid batteries had run out…

After testing the earpiece with a couple of proper calls, I found that the audio quality was rich and full.  It didn’t rob the voice on the other end of any frequency on the spectrum.  My next test was to give the device to my wife so that I could be on the receiving end of its microphone.  The quality was also good and the noise cancelling was satisfactory – it didn’t eliminate all noise, but would certainly reduce and cancel most noise you would face in an everyday application.

The Discovery 925 was easy to pair with my phone and it also has three distinct features worth mentioning.  First, it supports multipoint technology, which is important if you have a work phone/BlackBerry and a personal cell phone.  Multipoint allows you to connect one earpiece with two different Bluetooth mobile phones.

Secondly, the earpiece comes with a protective carrying case, which also has a battery that will charge the device while away from an outlet.  Lastly, I have to say, I like the Gel Eartip which keeps the earpiece in place without the usual loop that goes over your ear.  While the ear loops have gotten better over the years, some can still make you look like a cyborg.

That being said, it all goes to back to my first sentiment, style is not lacking in the design of the Plantronics Discovery 925.

You can buy the Plantronics Discovery 925 at Amazon.com as a gold Bluetooth headset, pink Bluetooth headset, and more.

In the Spirit of Giving: The Best Gift I Ever Gave

Celebrate the holidays and give the best gifts you possibly can to your loved ones.The holidays are a special time to remember those we love. Many people show their love by giving gifts to their family, friends, and significant others. In the spirit of giving this holiday season, we bring you a list of the best gifts some of our readers have ever given for holidays or birthdays.

In November, Life Love Beauty hosted a contest with author Irene Brand to determine the best gifts any of our readers have ever given or received. Read on for heartwarming tales of the best gift a reader ever gave.

The Best Gift I Ever Gave

“Before Christmas, I found all of these old photographs that my mother had kept in shoeboxes in the bottom of the hall entry closet.  I found some great photo albums and placed all of the pix in the books in chronological order (that was not easy).  She and the entire family loved the surprise of this unexpected and shared present.” – Ed Nemmers, IL

“My dad, nicknamed ‘Buck’, was running an (illegal) football pool in his nursing home.  He had a great time with it, and staff and residents participated.  For Christmas I created him a ‘Buck the Bookie’ visor.  He loved it and wore it until he died a year later.  He was so proud to be the nursing home ‘troublemaker.’” – Jennifer Short, WV

“I love to prepare a special meal as a gift. When I was a teen, I made a lavish anniversary dinner for my parents. I was so proud of myself, and it is a meal they still talk about. A gift that stays with someone for more than 25 years, has to be a great gift!” – Debra Ford, NY

“The greatest gift I gave was the wedding dress I bought for my sister. She decided against the traditional wedding and opted to go to Vegas. I bought her a 3/4 length lace dress for the occasion. She was overwhelmed. The best Christmas ever for both of us.” – Michele Guinsburg, TX

“My sister was 44 and I was 45. She was dying of breast cancer and I was in remission. For Christmas I bought her a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. I didn’t think much about it but she called me all excited and asked me to buy her more of those books. When someone is leaving this life you don’t know what to get them as they can’t take it with them. But this helped sustain and nourish her soul when she needed it. She’s gone now and I’d do anything to buy one of those books for her again.” – Rosanne Morrison, IL

“Give a nice gift to a child for Christmas that normally may not get much for Christmas. I did this two Christmases ago for a child whose mother was on drugs. This young fellow was so happy he couldn’t believe someone would give him something.” – Ingrid Jackson, SC

Handmade gifts are very often cherished!“A few years ago I didn’t have much money but I wanted to give my friend who lives in a retirement home a Christmas gift.  It doesn’t seem life much but I can knit, I made her a shawl and an afghan, both in her favorite color of a lovely soft blue. I was surprised and touched that my gifts brought tears to her eyes. Later she told me that my homemade gifts warmed her twice– once with yarn, once with love.” – Pat Nieh, CA

“Last year a friend invited me to her home to have Thanksgiving dinner. While there I learned that my friend’s brother’s family had lost everything they owned a few weeks before in the Southern California wildfires. To make matters worse, her brother had been operated on for a brain tumor (one the size of a grapefruit was taken from his head) just before the fire, and the home they were renting at the time of the fire had no insurance coverage. I had just won a cash prize for a recipe contest, and decided to spend the money on Christmas for this family. It took me a few days – including shopping on Black Friday, which I had vowed years ago never to do again – to get the many items needed for this family of four young children.

“I had my friend’s children help me sort and giftwrap all of the items. It took two or three days just to get everything wrapped.  Two weeks before Christmas we drove out to the home that someone was letting this family ‘borrow’ for the time being and delivered the gifts. The young mother wept and hugged me. The twin boys, around age 8, were so excited about the gifts they were running around, leaping in the air. The most shy twin came over, wrapped his arms around me, kissed me and said, ‘Thank you.’ I drove home that night feeling warm inside, and content that I had helped this family start their new life with a true token of Christmas spirit.” – Sheila Christensen, CA

Alcohol Free Hosting and Entertaining Tips for Holidays or Any Day

As you prepare to host special events at your home, a banquet hall, or elsewhere, remember to keep in mind that all your guests may not be interested in the alcohol. Alcohol free parties can be just as much fun with the right atmosphere. (photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)Some guests may be too young, some may have health concerns or allergies, others may be recovering from addiction, and still others may simply be serving as the evening’s designated driver.

As you plan and prepare for your holiday or special occasion entertaining, make sure to keep in mind that all of your guests may not want to drink. This fact can help you when planning your holiday menu or special event beverage list. As a good host or hostess, you will want to keep the comfort and enjoyment of all your guests in mind. And remember, you can have just as much fun at a party whether alcohol free or not, as long as you have the right atmosphere and chemistry in your group of guests.

These five tips on alcohol-free hosting and entertaining are from Caron Treatment Centers, a national drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility (www.caron.org) that encourages hosts to plan a festive occasion that doesn’t center on the alcohol.

Alcohol free parties can be just as much fun with the right atmosphere. (photo courtesy of morgueFile.com)1. Get Creative: Festive drinks can be “dry.” Look to non-alcoholic drinks such as fruits, juices, ice teas and lemonades as a way to encourage healthy habits.

2. Take Drinking Out of the Party Games: Group games such as “Taboo,” Charades and “Pictionary” will keep people in stitches.

3. Stimulate Conversation: Help keep the chatter flowing by actively making introductions and introducing fun topics.

4. Don’t Make the Bar Center Stage: Place beautifully prepared and presented food and flowers at the center of the table and move the alcohol to the back of the room; make the juice bar a colorful center of attention.

5. Be Safe: For guests who do drink, make sure they have a safe way home or keep taxi numbers on hand to prevent them from leaving and driving under the influence.

It is important to make all your guests feel comfortable at your home, especially if guests are bringing a significant other, friend, or family member who may not know the rest of the guests attending the party. Remember what it feels like to be the only sober person at a party or a bar where you know only a few people? Don’t give your guests that same uncomfortable feeling.

Plan your event with everyone – and their needs – in mind. You can still offer a bar with alcoholic beverages, but don’t make it the showpiece of your party. With the right combination of good conversation, ice breakers, nonalcoholic beverage options, and delicioius menu items, even your nondrinker guests can enjoy a fabulous time at the party.

About the Expert:
Caron Treatment Centers is a national drug and alcohol rehab center helping people to begin a new life. Caron Treatment Centers has offices in Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, and Bermuda. To learn more about Caron Treatment Centers, visit on the Web at www.caron.org.

Things to Do for the Holidays in Cape May, N.J.

If you plan to spend the holidays in Cape May, N.J., count yourself lucky. Cape May is a beautiful, quaint town with much to do in terms of restaurants, shopping, sight-seeing, and touring. Visit Cape May in the winter for the holidays!The lovely beach atown of Cape May offers many things to do for the holidays, from a walking tour of the Washington Street Mall to casual or fine dining and much more.

To plan your own list of things to do when spending the holidays in Cape May, N.J., consider those who are traveling with you and the guests you are visiting. Keep everyone’s age, health, and personal interests in mind as you try to find the perfect holiday activity in Cape May.

Consider the following list of ideas for things you can do over the holidays in Cape May, N.J., whether by yourself or spending the time with your friends and loved ones.

Visit Cape May wineries like Turdo Vineyard.1. Visit any or all of the Cape May, N.J. wineries and vineyards for an enjoyable cultural experience.

Wineries and vineyards offer so much to those who take the time to visit and sample the selection of wines. A winery tour can be as simple or as complex as you wish, ranging from an hour or two to visit or planning a full day of wine tastings and tours, visiting several wineries instead of just one.

Cape May, N.J. offers a fine selection of wines to indulge your senses. Consider visiting Cape May’s wineries:

Cape May Winery‎

711 Town Bank Rd, Cape May, NJ‎
(609) 884-1169‎
http://capemaywinery.com

Cost: Wine tasting for $5, keep the glass.

Visit:
January – April: 12 – 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday
May – December 12 – 5 p.m. Daily
Extended hours: July – August till 6 p.m.
Closed: Easter, Thanks
Gift shop on site

Turdo Vineyards‎

3911 Bayshore Rd, Cape May, NJ
(609) 884-5591‎
http://www.turdovineyards.com/

Visit: Open daily for wine tasting, 12 – 5 p.m.

Natali Vineyards LLC‎

221 N Route 47, Cape May Ct Hse, NJ‎
(609) 465-0075‎
http://www.natalivineyards.com

Visit:
Open daily, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day

2. Take a walk through the festively decorated Washington Street Mall.

Many of the cute shops and eateries in Cape May remain open at night during the holiday season. You can do a little last minute shopping, pick up a few things for your own home, or simply enjoy the noncommittal joys of window shopping.

Cape May’s Washington Street Mall recently underwent some renovations to enhance the aesthetics of the town’s popular attraction. Various eclectic shops and restaurants line the street, which now boasts a lovely brick pattern on the ground between all the stores. The renovations also include fountains and other aesthetics.

The Washington Street Mall features a wide array of gift shops, art galleries, bookstores, clothiers, jewelry stores, toy stores, restaurants, candy shops, and ice cream parlors, to name a few. For an artistic afternoon, consider checking out some of Cape May’s lovely art galleries: Cape May on Canvas, Victorian Walk Gallery, Washington Street Gallery, and Winterwood Gift & Christmas Gallery. Some favorite Washington Street Mall restaurants include Stumpo’s Italian Grille and Cucina Rosa, but the walk is lined with options to fill your tummy.

To learn more about the Washington Street Mall in Cape May, N.J., visit: http://www.washingtonstreetmall.com.

3. Take a ride on a Cape May horse-drawn carriage.

Cape May Carriage Company offers romantic horse-drawn carriage rides.Schedule a romantic date or family activity in Cape May. A half-hour tour of the quaint town on the horse-drawn carriages (also known as hansom cabs) may be the perfect holiday activity for you and your sweetheart or for your group. Riding in a horse-drawn carriage is an excellent activity for any time of year, but during the holidays, it offers an extra special element of romance to the experience.

When weather permits, the Cape May Carriage Company takes guests on a romantic tour of Cape May, starting at Ocean St. & The Washington Street Mall. The carriages can accommodate up to eight adults and two children.

Cape May Carriage Company
641 Sunset Blvd.
Cape May, N.J. 08204
609-884-4466

To learn more about horse-drawn carriages and horse-drawn carriage rides in Cape May, N.J., visit http://www.capemaycarriage.com.

4. Check in with the marina to see …


RAVE REVIEW: Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum

Who knew chores could be fun? And who knew having a Dyson handheld vacuum could make one’s husband do more housework with a smile, even if it is pink?Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum, available at Amazon.com

The Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum is a godsend to anyone who does their own household cleaning. The device is lightweight yet highly effective, featuring awesome suction power and immediate and effective results in sucking up crumbs, dust, dirt, fuzz, lint, and much more.

When my Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum arrived, my husband couldn’t even wait for me to get home before opening it. He happily hunted around the house to find this helpful cleaning device a home and he was thrilled to scour our entire first floor for any trace of dirt, cobwebs, or dust bunnies that could be swept away quickly and easily with the Dyson handheld vacuum. If I knew other women’s husbands would react the same way, I would urge you right now to purchase this wonderful handheld vacuum.

An amazing cleaning machine, the Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum features a pretty pink hue and a fine selection of Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum, available at Amazon.comattachments. The dirt trap for the vacuum is easy to empty and clean. You can even take this handheld vacuum into your vehicle to do as much detail work as you like.

You can mount the charging station for the Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum on a wall in your home or simply find a nice nook to plug it in and store it for fast access. This device really is easy to use and I must admit – much better than pulling out the full size vacuum or even the broom and dustpan for light cleaning in the kitchen or elsewhere.

The Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum retails for $149.99 and is available at Target and Amazon.com. A portion of all sales of this device goes toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. You can learn more about the Dyson DC16 Pink Handheld Vacuum at www.dyson.com.

How to Buy It: This product is available exclusively at Target (in stores and online, also at Target’s store on Amazon.com).

Holiday Gift Guide for Long Distance Friends, Relatives, and Loved Ones

Holidays and birthdays often bring relatives and loved ones together, even when some of the family may live far away from the rest. Shopping for long distance friends and relatives can be a challenging task for a number of reasons. Dinner and a Movie of the Month Club, available at Amazon.comPerhaps you don’t know these relatives as well as you know your local relatives, which makes gift selection less intuitive. Perhaps your long distance friend or loved one is just plain hard to buy for in the first place.

When selecting holiday presents or birthday gifts for relatives or friends who live out of town or even out of the country, keep in mind that you will either have to ship the present to your loved one, or he or she will have to take it back in with the luggage. Because of this, some gifts that may seem perfect for this person may not be easy to accommodate.

Before you give up on finding the perfect gift for your long distance relatives and friends, allow your creativity and imagination a chance at finding a wonderful present. Try to think of things that don’t weigh a lot or things that don’t take up a lot of space. Consider gift cards and gift certificates and other items that bring a lot of value without a lot of hassle.

Consider these gift ideas for long distance relatives, long distance friends, and long distance loved ones:

Gift Cards or Gift Certificates
As long as you can narrow down a couple of your long distance friend or relative’s interests or hobbies, you will be in good shape to select a gift certificate or gift card as a present. This way, you don’t need to know exactly what your loved ones want or need – they can actually pick their gifts out for themselves.

If your uncle likes electronics, you’d be pretty safe with a Best Buy gift card or a Circuit City gift card. If your aunt loves gardening, you can find a nursery or garden center in her area and purchase a gift card so she can pick out some new plants or flowers that will always remind her of you.

If you really don’t know what to get your long distance friend or relative, you can always opt for an Amazon.com gift card, as the selection of items on Amazon.com is virtually endless, providing something for everyone.

Travel Gift Certificates
A gift certificate for travel offers a gift of freedom and flexibility to your loved one. Depending on your budget, you can give your friend or relative a gift certificate to offset the cost of a romantic weekend getaway or an exciting weekend adventure. If you want to spend a bit more on this person, you can always get a travel gift certificate at BnB Finder.

BnB Finder serves as an online portal featuring many relaxing, romantic, and adventurous vacation getaway destinations. When you order gift certificates for travel with BnB Finder, you are essentially giving your gift recipient the freedom to select the perfect destination based on his or her travel preferences. In fact, more than 1500 locations accept BnB Finder’s travel certificates!

For more information on featured destinations at BnB Finder or to purchase a travel gift certificate, visit BnB Finder online.

Gift of the Month Club
From the traditional to the extreme, you can surely find your long distance loved one an appropriate gift of the month. Some favorite themes for gift of the month clubs include:

Cheese of the Month Club, available at Amazon.comFresh Fruit of the Month Club, available at Amazon.comCoffee of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com

•    Beer of the Month – Men and women alike will truly appreciate your thoughtfulness for a beer of the month gift.

•    Wine of the Month – Wine of the month offers your gift recipient a wonderful and relaxing gift to enjoy with dinner or without.

•    Coffee of the Month – For your favorite caffeine fans and those who claim they can’t start their day without it: (ground or whole bean available) $80.85 for three months of ground coffee$161.70 for six months of whole bean, and many selections available from one month to 12 months

Hot Sauce of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com

•    Hot Sauce of the Month$30 for three months, $55 for six months, and more…

•    Fresh Fruit of the Month$104.85 for three months, $209.70 for six months, $419.40 for 12 months, with other options available.

•    Cheese of t
he Month
– A wonderful choice for your cultured loved ones: $134.85 for three  months, $179.80 for seasonal, $263.70 for six months, $515.40 for 12 months

Chocolate of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com

•    Chocolate of the Month – The perfect present for any chocoholic: $99 for three months, $198 for six months, $296 for nine months, $389 for 12 months…

•    Pizza of the Month – A gourmet treat for pizza lovers: $69.95 for one month, $209.85 for three months, $419.70 for six months, and more…

Pizza of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com 12-Month Spice Blend Club, available at Amazon.com

•    12-Month Spice Blend Club – A great gift for fans of gourmet cooking and new recipes: $125 for 12 months of spices plus authentic Thai rice tureen and ladle

Marinade of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com
•    Marinade of the Month – A tasty treat for the chef at heart: $36 for three months, $62 for six months

Jam of the Month, available at Amazon.com•    Jam of the Month – A nice gift for aunts, grandparents, and anyone who enjoys jam and toast or crackers: $45 for three months, $90 for six months

•    Gourmet Fudge of the Month$65.50 for three months, $264.50 for 12 months

•    Tea of the Month $67.89 – $93.99 for six months (with Dimbula Press or teapot if desired), $117.49 – $142.49 for 12 months (with Dimbula Press or teapot if desired)

Salsa of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com•    Salsa of the Month – This gift would be great for football fans and anyone who loves Mexican food or a good snack: $59.85 for three months, $79.80 for seasonal, $113.70 for six months, $215.40 for 12 months

BBQ Sauce of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com•    BBQ Sauce of the Month – A great gift for your favorite grill master: $36 for three months, $62 for six months

•    Dinner & a Movie of the Month Club – A great gift for young couples and those who enjoy cooking and relaxing together: $89.85 for three months, $119.80 for seasonal, $173.70 for six months, and $335.40 for 12 months

Cookie of the Month Club, available at Amazon.com
•    Cookie of the Month – The perfect gift for your own favorite cookie mo
nster: $67.89 for three months

•    Note: Check around for other monthly gift clubs – many offer unique gifts like jerky, dinner of the month, dessert of the month, etc.

Finding a special gift for a friend or relative who lives far away can be quite the daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out these gifts and use your own creativity to think of other special gifts that would also be fitting for your recipient. Try to think of gifts you would like to receive from that person if you were out of town and visiting him or her at home.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our gift guide for long distance friends, relatives, and loved ones. Good luck finding that perfect gift!

Holiday Leftovers – Recipes for Leftover Turkey and Ham

Leftovers – some people love them, some people hate them. If you are tired of the same old recipes for your Thanksgiving leftovers, here are some fresh new Thanksgiving leftover recipe tips to help you use up those turkey and ham leftovers in the days following Thanksgiving. Ham and strawberry waffles, courtesy of Hormel FoodsDepending on your family’s traditions, you might also enjoy these recipes with your Christmas dinner leftovers.

Joan Hanson, test kitchen director of Hormel Foods, shares a number of leftover tips for what to do with your leftover Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham (or vice versa). Her recipe suggestions for holiday leftovers are great for brunch, lunch, dinner, or just a snack.

Joan’s Quick and Easy Recipe Ideas for Thanksgiving Ham Leftovers:

After the meal, cut the ham in cubes for easy use the next day.

•    Toss cubed ham into potato, pasta or bean salads—a surprise sure to receive compliments.
•    Top toasted French bread slices with shaved HORMEL® CURE 81® ham, thinly sliced pear, and thinly sliced Fontina cheese. Broil 1 to 3 minutes to melt the cheese and watch them disappear.

Ham and strawberry waffles, courtesy of Hormel FoodsJoan’s Quick and Easy Recipe Ideas for Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers:

After the meal, cut the turkey into cubes or strips for easy use the next day.

•    Add cubed turkey to alfredo sauce and serve linguini pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
•    Create a day after Thanksgiving sandwich by spreading cranberry sauce on toasted bread slices and topping with warm turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Cap it off with a drizzle of gravy over the top.
•    Toss cubed turkey, grapes, almonds, and celery with mayo.  Pile turkey salad high on bread or a croissant.
•    Create a fast and easy snack / appetizer by placing cubes of turkey and cheese on skewers.  Serve with a barbecue, honey mustard, or Asian dipping sauce.

Life Love Beauty Recipe Suggestions for Thanksgiving Leftovers

•    Make a homemade Stromboli or Calzone and add in your leftover ham or turkey, sliced thinly, with some cheese.

•    Mix the small scraps of turkey and some gravy and then cut up the leftover pieces of turkey and add to the mixture for delicious hot turkey sandwiches.

•    Make homemade turkey soup or split pea soup. Use a family recipe or look online for one that sounds yummy.

About the Expert:
Joan Hanson is the test kitchen director of Hormel Foods. Visit Hormel Foods online at www.hormelfoods.com.

19 Tips for Reducing Party Clean-Up Time

*These timeless tips for party clean-up are great for any special occasion!*

Between inviting, shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating and gift-wrapping, birthday parties and other social events require a tremendous amount of energy, time and creativity. Sometimes the clean up involved with having a party becomes a deterrent to the cause.

The simplest solution may be to “have it at someone else’s house,” but with a few tricks, your cleaning time will be so scant that you barely even notice it. Enjoy hosting parties over and over again with an easy, regimented strategy for eliminating most of the clean up involved before the day is through.

Stop the Mess Before It Starts…
Perhaps the easiest way to reduce the mess made during your parties is to “uninvite” the mess itself.

–    Instead of allowing guests to use your cups and glasses, have an alternative theme for the party. Place ice in a cooler, give out sports bottles as party prizes when guests arrive, and be sure they know the bottles are theirs to keep. This reduces waste due to forgotten cups and removes cups and glasses from the list of items to clean up later. If desired, it is quite easy to find a supplier who will print almost anything on a sports bottle or other novelty item at a reasonable charge – from “Happy 80th Birthday Grandmom” to “Congratulations Class of 2005” and more.

–    Use paper plates and plastic utensils to reduce the number of items that would need to be cleansed. These throw-aways make clean up go much quicker and save on water and soap.

–    If purchasing beer and soda, consider getting a keg of each to avoid empty plastic bottles littering your home. Kegs are typically cheaper than the same amount of beverage in bottles or cans.

–    Use Sterno pans instead of crock-pots. You can save the leftover heating cans but throw away the tin pans once the food is all gone. They are also great for putting leftovers easily away in the fridge!

–    Keep napkins and paper towels available for unexpected spills and messy hands.

–    Place wax paper below desserts and other menu items on serving trays. Rinse after use and be done.

–    Select food based on ease of clean up. Finger foods are a lot easier to prepare and clean up, requiring less silverware as well. Cookies and small pastries are also better because their crumbs are less likely to get ground into your carpets than cakes, cupcakes and brownies.

–    Use paper tablecloths to catch spills and crumbs. Throw them away at the end of the party.

–    Remind guests to bring their own towels for swimming and pillows and blankets for sleeping over if necessary.

Keeping the House Itself Clean…
Prevention is often the best method of preparation, so think of the most difficult places to clean after a party and do whatever you can to keep those places clean.

–    If the day’s weather increases the chances of mud coating your carpets, steps and floors in general, ask guests to remove shoes or at least leave floor mats by each door to the house so they can wipe their feet.

–    Strategically place trashcans around the house where people will easily find them. Keep one within sight near eating areas so that paper plates and napkins find their way to the trash bins. Keep a trashcan in sight if guests will be outside as well – “highly visible” is the best policy.

–    If desired, to make clean up a bit more fun for guests, attach a small basketball hoop to the trashcan and ask that guests only “shoot” non-messy pieces of refuse.

–    Put a floor mat or a layer of newspaper below the trashcan as a spill precaution.

–    Set up plastic bins labeled for each different kind of recycle – cans, glass, plastic, etc. Guests will be more encouraged to dispose of their garbage and empty containers when they know where to put them.

–    Be sure your guests know whether you have a garbage disposal or not.

–    Require all smoking to be done outside in a designated area with ashtrays.

–    Do not wait to the end of the party to clean up – clean as you replace food items. If you notice some empty plates on your way to the fridge, toss them in the garbage as you pass.

–    Encourage guests to throw out trash and recycle.

–    Host outdoor parties when the weather permits.

When clean up takes less time and has your house looking better than ever, hosting parties more often may just become a new habit!

Thanksgiving Entertaining: Hosting Styles to Celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday

Roast turkey dinner, courtesy of morgueFile.comWhen it’s your turn to host the holiday, the choice is yours for how you’d like to feed and entertain your guests. For Thanksgiving, you can host a holiday brunch or an all-out dinner or anything in-between. As you plan your Thanksgiving holiday, consider the number of guests, the age of your guests, any dietary of health issues, the time of day for your event, the amount of food, whether alcoholic beverages are involved, and so on. You may even find that some of your guests’ schedules play into your plans.

As you prepare for your Thanksgiving entertaining, consider these diverse hosting options. Whether you’re inviting your entire extended family, your side and your in-laws, or your friends, neighbors, or anyone else, you may find the perfect Thanksgiving holiday hosting style right here. And, don’t forget your Thanksgiving Party Invitations!

Thanksgiving feast, courtesy of morgueFile.comThanksgiving Holiday Entertaining Options
Once you’ve decided on the guest list, now is the time to begin thinking about the hosting and serving style for your Thanksgiving holiday get-together. To best suit your own entertaining style and the needs of your family and guests, consider these options:

–    Sit-down Thanksgiving dinner

–    Buffet style Thanksgiving dinner

–    Thanksgiving brunch

–    Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres party

–    Thanksgiving cocktail party

–    Etc.

You may be able to rule out some of these hosting and entertaining styles simply by imagining your guests at your home in one of these situations. Even if you can’t completely figure out the perfect scenario for your event, keep an open mind, for a change in pace can often become an exceptional memory.

Waffles with ham and strawberries, courtesy of Hormel FoodsHost a Festive Thanksgiving Brunch
Sometimes the time of day that you host your Thanksgiving holiday get-together may be dictated by your guests or your own family obligations. Perhaps a Thanksgiving brunch is the perfect way to accommodate everyone’s needs – especially those who need to visit two or more homes in the course of Thanksgiving Day.

As you prepare to host your Thanksgiving brunch, consider your menu from a broad perspective. Make sure you select entrees as well as side dishes, and items from the breakfast category, the lunch category, and the dessert category. Don’t forget about hot beverages as well as cold beverages.

Joan Hanson, test kitchen director of Hormel Foods, suggests the following tips for a mid-morning Thanksgiving holiday brunch:

•   Save cook time. Use fully cooked Oven Ready® CURE 81® ham for more time to spend with family and friends.
•    Sweet & savory waffles. Top waffles with ham strips, sliced strawberries, and maple syrup.
•    Ham scramble. Add cubed ham and Swiss cheese to scrambled eggs for a surefire hit

Host an Elegant Family Style Sit-Down Dinner Party
Perhaps the most traditional Thanksgiving holiday hosting style for smaller groups, an elegant sit-down dinner party works nicely when well planned. The difficult part is getting everything cooked on time and arranged on platters that can be passed around the table for all guests to enjoy.

A family style sit-down dinner for the Thanksgiving holiday puts a lot of strain on the hostess, some of which can be alleviated if her spouse and children are willing to assist with small tasks like carving the meat, placing all the accompaniments in bowls, placing the bread in the basket, and so forth.

Thanksgiving Dinner Alternative Place Card Tip: Eva Ingvarson, party planning expert at Evite.com suggests creating “Photo Shoot Table Settings”.

“Ask each guest to email you a family or childhood photo of themselves,” she says. “Print out photos and put in small, inexpensive frames as a place card. This reminder of family is a nice touch for people missing loved ones on this holiday, and it provides a fun ice-breaker.”

Roast turkey dinner, courtesy of morgueFile.com

Host a Buffet Style Dinner Party
While families are growing larger and hostesses are inviting more and more guests to the special holiday meals, a buffet style dinner party may be the perfect entertaining style for Thanksgiving. As long as you have a number of crock pots, hot plates, chafing dishes, and other small appliances to keep the food warm (as well as places to plug in these devices!), you should be all set for a fantastic buffet style meal.

As you prepare for your buffet style Thanksgiving dinner get-together, make sure you cover all the bases – main course, side dishes, bread, condiments, beverages, etc. The nice thing about a buffet style dinner party is that your guests can attend to their own tastes and appetites, leaving you to enjoy your own meal once everything is cooked and set out.

Host an Hors D’oeuvres Party
Sometimes a gourmet full-course meal just doesn’t fit the ticket. If you find that a sit-down meal or even a holiday buffet isn’t the right fit for your guest lists, why not consider an hors d’oeuvres party? You can even spice things up with special holiday cocktails or an assortment of wine, if you like. An hors d’oeuvres party gives you the flexibility to mix and mingle with your guests rather than being a slave to the kitchen for much of the event’s duration.

For your menu selection at the Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres party, don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your food. When possible, incorporate Thanksgiving favorites like turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes into the hors d’oeuvres recipes. You might consider pierogies, turkey and cheese in a puff pastry, etc.

Here are some additional tips on throwing a Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres party, as well as two recipes from Chef Brad Thompson of Lever House in New York City.

RECIPE: Artichoke and Bacon Spread

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Time to Table: 55 minutes
Yield: 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons artichoke mixture; 10 servings

Ingredients:

5 slices bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 can (14 oz.) quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
30 Carr’s® Table Water Roasted Garlic and Herb Crackers

Method:

1.    Crosswise cut bacon into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slivers. In large nonstick skillet cook bacon until brown and crisp. Drain off fat, reserving 1 tablespoon. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels.
2.    Return reserved bacon fat to skillet. Stir in onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in carrot. Continue cooking for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in vinegar and rosemary.
3.    Set aside four pieces of artichoke. Stir remaining artichoke pieces into mixture in skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat. Stir in salt and pepper. Cool slightly.
4.    Transfer artichoke mixture to food processor bowl. Cover and process until smooth. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in half of the cooked bacon.
5.     Cut reserved artichoke pieces into thin slivers. Spoon about 2 teaspoons artichoke mixture on each cracker. Garnish with artichoke slivers and remaining cooked bacon pieces.

Wine Note: This recipe pairs well with Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir.

RECIPE: Eggplant and Tomato Ratatouille

Prep Time: 2 hours
Time to Table: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Yield: 1 3/4 cups eggplant mixture; 14 servings

Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic, divided
1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 lb.)
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium fennel bulb
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups total)
4 sprigs fresh basil leaves
42 small fresh basil leaves or fennel leaves (optional)
21 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
42 Carr’s® Rosemary Crackers

Method:

1.    Cut one of the garlic cloves into quarters. Very thinly slice remaining two garlic cloves. Set aside.
2.    Lengthwise cut eggplant into halves. Use sharp knife to cut 1-inch-deep diagonal cuts on flat sides of eggplant halves. Insert quartered garlic clove into cuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. In 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan place eggplant halves, cut sides up. Bake at 300°F for 30 minutes. Turn eggplant. Bake at 300°F about 1 hour or until eggplant is soft.
3.    Meanwhile, core and very thinly slice fennel bulb (you should have about 2 1/2 cups). In medium saucepan cook fennel in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until softened. Stir in sliced garlic. Cook and stir over medium heat about 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Stir in tomato. Remove from heat.
4.    When eggplant is cool enough to handle. Scoop out and coarsely chop pulp of eggplant. Stir into mixture in saucepan. Add 4 sprigs basil. Cook, covered, over low heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid. Continue cooking, uncovered, over low heat about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
5.    Let stand at room temperature about 20 minutes. Remove basil sprigs. Stir in remaining salt and remaining pepper. To serve, spoon about 2 teaspoons of the eggplant mixture on each cracker. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and tomato halves, if desired.

Wine Note: This recipe pairs well with Robert Mondavi Private Selection Merlot.

Host a Thanksgiving Potluck….


How to Host a Thanksgiving Cocktail Party

Depending on your crowd, a Thanksgiving cocktail party may be the perfect festive event when gathering together with all your loved ones. Consider hosting a Thanksgiving cocktail party with a different drink paired with each course of the meal. Spice NightYou can dress up your dining room with a nice centerpiece and serve each cocktail in a fancy glass.

For your Thanksgiving cocktail party, you can even make virgin beverages if you’ll be hosting children or teens. A cocktail party for Thanksgiving is a great way to get all your guests in a sociable mood and also to encourage mixing and mingling if all the guests don’t already know each other. Here are some tips and Thanksgiving cocktail recipes for your holiday cocktail party, compliments of Mara Siegler, a representative for PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur and Mount Gay Rum (Barbados).

“One of the best ways to make a meal or home thrown event memorable is a signature cocktail or serving a different cocktail paired to taste with each course,” Siegler says. “It not only eliminates the hassle and cost of buying tons of mixers and spirits, but it is something guests will be talking about (and asking for tips on how to make) for years to come.”

Following are a few cocktails that can be perfectly paired with many Thanksgiving favorites like turkey or pumpkin pie.

Cozy PAMA Cider

Ingredients:

2 oz. PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
3 oz. Hot Mulled Apple Cider
Cinnamon
Super fine sugar
Orange spiral

Method:

1.    Heat white wine glass with hot water and empty before building the cocktail.
2.    Rim with cinnamon and super fine sugar.
3.    Add Pama and Hot Mulled Apple Cider.
4.    Garnish with orange spiral.

Champagne DreamsCHAMPAGNE DREAMS

Ingredients:

1 oz. PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Fresh orange juice
3 oz. Champagne or sparkling wine
Method:

1.    Assemble the first three ingredients in a cocktail glass with ice.
2.    Slowly pour in the Champagne while stirring very gently to retain the bubbles and chill the mixture.
3.    Strain into a Champagne flute and garnish with an orange zest.

HOLIDAY EGGNOG (This goes great with deserts)

Makes 16 cups; serves 18-20.

Ingredients:

8 large eggs
4 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
5 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup Mount Gay ECLIPSE Rum
1 cup 80º bourbon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons super fine sugar

Egg NogMethod:

Part one:
1.    In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, yolks and granulated sugar until smooth.
2.    Pour into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
3.    Stir in milk gradually, blending well with each addition.
4.    Heat slowly over very low heat, stirring steadily, until the mixture reaches 160º-170ºF on an instant read thermometer.
5.    The custard should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon: If you draw your finger across the back of the spoon, the line will remain distinct and the custard sauce is done.

Part two:
1.    Pour the custard through a fine-meshed sieve into large bowl.
2.    Stir in vanilla the Mount Gay ECLIPSE rum, bourbon and nutmeg.
3.    Let mixture cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least three hours and/or up to one day.

Part three:
1.    Just before serving, whip cream to very soft peaks, beating in, superfine sugar as you go.
2.    Gently fold into custard mixture until incorporated.
3.    Serve from a chilled punch bowl or ladle into individual martini glasses, garnishing with grated nutmeg if desired.

Mount Gay Pumpkin Pie Frappe (again, a great desert)

Ingredients:

2 oz. Mount Gay Rum Eclipse
4 tsp. pumpkin puree (canned)**
2 tsp. Sugar in the Raw (or Turbinado or Demerara)
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground allspice
3 oz. half-and-half (use fat free for a skinny version)
1 cup vanilla ice cream (slightly softened) (use fat free for a skinny version)

Method:

1.    Combine all of the above ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
2.    Serve in nicely chilled cocktail glass.
3.    Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

** There is a difference between pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie mix. Please use the puree ¬ it really does make a difference.**

Hot Buttered RumHot Buttered Rum Batter

1 lb light brown sugar
1/2 lb unsalted butter (softened)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

1.    In a mixing bowl beat together softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and spices until well combined.
2.    Refrigerate in an airtight, reusable container for up to a month, or place in your freezer until ready to use.

To make Hot Buttered Rum:

1.    In a pre-heated coffee mug combine 2 heaping tablespoons batter with 1 1Ž2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Rum.
2.    Top with boiling water and stir well to mix.
3.    Serve with a spoon.

Hint: It is best to make the batter in advance so the spices have an opportunity to mingle. Be sure to remove batter from refrigerator at least six hours prior to serving to allow it to soften.

Spice NightSpice Night

Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Gold Rum
1 1/2 oz. scented apple juice*
1/2 oz. fresh carrot juice
One quarter ounce fresh lemon juice
One quarter ounce maple syrup
One teaspoon fresh ginger juice

Garnish: 3 Whole Allspice Pods
Glass: Cocktail/Martini glass

Method:

1.    Place all ingredients in cocktail shaker.
2.    Add ice and shake vigorously.
3.    Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
4.    Garnish with whole allspice pods (they will float atop cocktail).

* To Make Scented Apple Juice

1.    Overnight, combine 3 – 4 whole allspice pods with one cracked cinnamon stick to 2 cups of apple juice.
2.    Refrigerate.

**Ginger Juice
If fresh ginger juice is not available it can be ordered at www.gingerpeople.com.

<s
trong>About the Expert:
Mara Siegler is a representative for Mount Gay Rum. To learn more about PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, visit www.pamaliqueur.com. To learn more about Mount Gay Rum, visit www.mountgay.com.