With a mere 21 days left in the calendar year, it's time to nail down your holiday party menu plan if you haven't yet. From an ugly sweater party to a hangover-squelching New Year's Day brunch, we have six festive ideas complete with menu suggestions to inspire you.
A recipe to have on hand all Winter season is for chewy gingerbread cookies. Unlike the crispy counterparts that are typically rolled, cut out in festive shapes, and decorated with royal icing, this ultramoist, molasses-rich gingerbread cookie is slice-and-bake. There's no need to be a Betty Crocker decorator, because this convenient, quick method just requires you to engage your basic log-forming skills (channel your inner kindergartener in art class).
OK, here's the hard part. The cookie dough log has to be refrigerated to moisten up and firm up before being cut. Distract yourself by eating peppermint treats for the next two hours.
The molasses makes the dough salty, so to offset that (and to add a nice crunchiness), dip one side of the cookies in a bowl of granulated sugar.
The cookies will spread as they bake, so be sure to keep them spaced out. Once the cookies have emerged from the oven, serve them with milk, eggnog, or even turn them into an ice cream sandwich with vanilla or eggnog ice cream.
If you're trying to keep close tabs on added sugars and calories, it's time to rethink a daily Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. This seasonal drink should only serve as an occasional indulgence — not an everyday occurrence. Just one tall peppermint mocha (made with two-percent milk and no whipped cream) weighs in at 250 calories with 40 grams of sugar.
Backing off your Starbucks habit will help your waistline (and your wallet), but you can still enjoy the holiday scent and flavor regularly, just with a new tradition. Swapping out your peppermint mocha for a cup of hot peppermint tea keeps your drink in the spirit of the season while supporting your healthy goals.
It suppresses appetite: Mint's strong scent has been shown to help control your appetite and suppress cravings. If you're always reaching for a sweet treat after dinner, consider sipping on a cup of hot peppermint tea to help curb your dessert desires.
It supports digestion: Multiple studies have shown that peppermint tea can calm down your gastrointestinal tract and allow for healthy bowel movements; in short, it keeps things moving and flowing naturally in your body. Dr. Oz says that peppermint tea can alleviate constipation, get digestion back on course, and that even folks suffering with IBS symptoms may find relief with peppermint oil capsules.
It keeps you relaxed: In a NASA-funded study, researchers found that during a stressful commute, subjects who smelled peppermint decreased their anxiety and fatigue levels by 20 percent and decreased frustration by 25 percent. When it comes to weight loss, increased cortisol levels from heightened stress can have negative consequences on your metabolism. The calming, soothing scent from your peppermint tea can help reduce stress and keep your body on track.
I'm a big fan of Yogi Tea's Purely Peppermint Variety ($13) that you can buy online or at the supermarket, but it's also easy to make your own fresh, homemade peppermint tea in your kitchen. If you don't love the minty flavor in your tea, trying lighting a peppermint candle or taking a few whiffs of peppermint essential oil instead. Many natural forms of the scent could prove to be helpful and effective!
Searching for the perfect homemade gift for the cocktail enthusiast? Look no further; homemade limoncello (and its close cousins orancello and limecello) makes for a bright and zesty addition to her bar cart. Watch the video to see just how easy these citrus liqueurs are to make, then print out the zesty recipe.
A visit with Santa is an annual tradition for many families, but it isn't always greeted with enthusiasm by tots. The idea of sitting on a stranger's lap causes many kids to cry and run back to their parents' arms. Thanks to technology, however, children can still interact with Santa without enduring a terrifying trip to the mall. From customized phone calls to personal emails, there are many ways for parents to keep the magic of Santa alive for a bit longer.
If you think garlands tend to look childlike or fussy, we have three styling solutions that will help you see them in a new light. Whether you want to impress your family and friends upon arrival or jazz up those folding chairs for Thanksgiving, ditch the paper-ring versions and explore these options instead. With ideas this doable, there's no excuse not to try them!
1. Set the Scene For Guests
When it comes to your front door, wreaths are good, but garlands can be even better. Not only are they fitting for the season, but they make an impressive and festive entrance draped across your front door. As the holidays approach, head to your local nursery or florist for fresh greens, then intersperse berries, cones, and flowers throughout. You can also consider these premade options that can be reused for years to come.
2. Turn It Into an Easy Centerpiece
If you want it to look like you've spent all day styling your table, use garlands as a centerpiece. They add depth and texture without needing a wide array of details or accents. Opt for fresh pine garlands to line your holiday dinner table and a few votives and flowers for a pop of color.
3. Dress Up Your Dinner Chairs
If you find yourself pulling out folding chairs around the holidays, dress them up with garlands. They don't have to be extravagant to make an impact. Many craft stores sell garlands that you can spray paint (similar to the garland above). If you're not the crafty type, this gold garland ($24) is a stylish option that will dress up any chair!
It's funny how time flies. In less than a month, we'll be ushering in a brand-new year. Although we usually start on our to-dos in January, the end of the year is actually a great time to wrap things up and start new tasks. And there are also a number of things that have to be done by the end of the year. Get these things done to begin 2014 anew:
1. Spend Your FSA
Make sure you've spent the money in your Flexible Spending Account, because it will expire by the end of the month. You may be allowed to file an extension if you haven't used up all your FSA dollars, but you need to check your company policy to see if it allows that. Here are some last-minute ideas to use your FSA money.
2. Get Your Free Credit Report
We're all entitled to one free credit report every year on AnnualCreditReport.com. If you haven't gotten yours yet, make sure you get it by the end of the year! It doesn't include your credit score but is basically a copy of your credit history.
3. Visit the Dentist, Doctor, and Optometrist
Get a dental cleaning, health visit, and eye checkup before year-end.
4. Get Tax Ready
Make the upcoming tax season easier on yourself by organizing your bills, receipts, pay stubs, and files before your paychecks suddenly say 2014.
5. Make Your Donations
Donate to your favorite nonprofit before the end of the year so you can claim your contributions as a 2013 tax deduction and help lower your tax bill. This doesn't just include monetary donations but also items you donate to places like Goodwill.
6. Up Your Retirement Contributions
Now is the time to sneak in extra contributions before the year is over. If you haven't contributed enough to your 401(k) to receive the full employer match and you have some extra cash, change your contribution amount before you get your last paychecks of the year. If you have IRA accounts, make sure you've contributed as much as possible — up to the annual maximum, which is $5,500.
7. Return Items
Have packages or items lingering around your home that need to be returned? Do them now to clear your home for the New Year. Perhaps it's an item you bought while shopping on a whim during the holidays that you regret or something that you need to send in to be fixed.
8. File Your Claims
File any claims this year that you have yet to file, or take the time to dispute any rejections of claims.
9. Clean Up a Storm
Get to cleaning for a fresh start to a new year. You definitely don't want your clutter to carry on into 2014. Dust, vacuum, and scrub away so your place will be spick and span. This will put you in a better mind-set when it comes to starting new resolutions, because a clear space can represent a blank slate.
10. Donate, Sell, Use Up, or Trash Clutter
When you're done giving your place a cleaning makeover, take the items that you no longer want or need and sell, donate, use up, or trash them. They may range from items like old clothes to leftovers in your kitchen cupboard. Make way for 2014!
11. Finish 3 Things You Said You'd Get Done This Year but Never Got Around To
Remember some of the promises you made at home, at work, or with friends that you never got around to keeping? Tackle at least three of them by the end of the year.
12. Send Out Handwritten Cards
Christmas and the New Year are a great time to reconnect with people you may have lost touch with. Show them that you're serious about reconnecting by putting in the extra effort and time to handwrite a special message in a holiday card. If you forget to send a Christmas card, you can always send a New Year's card!
13. Free Up Data Space
Delete old emails, documents, and photos you no longer need on your computer, cell phone, and cloud. Free up data space to prep for the coming year. Remember to also clear up your DVR recordings and camera photos.
14. Amp Up Your Job Hunt
It's a good time to apply for new jobs and job hunt, because companies are looking for hires for the New Year. You may think it's slow season for hiring, but companies that are preparing for the upcoming year make their hiring decisions before the end of the month. In any case, even if you're not applying for a new job, it's a good time to update your paper résumé and your LinkedIn profile.
15. Think About Your New Year Goals
We often push off thinking about our resolutions until January, but try to start thinking of your resolutions now, so you don't feel rushed in the start of 2014. Better yet, who says you can't get started on your 2014 resolutions now?
Christmas came early for patients at the Riley Hospital for Children. Last week a group of elves repelled down the walls of the Indianapolis hospital, greeting the children through the windows. American National Skyline Inc. worked with the hospital to coordinate the stunt, intended to spread holiday cheer to the children who won't make it home for the holidays.
The elves weren't the only special guests that day. Santa also made an appearance and gifted each child with a toy.
To see the children's reactions, read the full story at Huffington Post.
Thankfully, some of our favorite designers were more than happy to play Santa for us. When we asked tastemakers including Zoe, Minkoff, and Roy to reveal everything from this year's It gift to what's on their wish list, the gift was all ours!
Whether it's for your father, your brother, or your boyfriend, selecting the perfect holiday gift for the guys in your life is never an easy task. That's why we've handpicked the items guaranteed to make even the most sartorially discerning gent beam with happiness this holiday season. We're talking a tie that's anything but typical, a pair of irreverent smoking slippers, and even a chunky holiday sweater that you'll be happy to steal when he's not looking. It's time to cross one more person off your holiday shopping list with our ultimate men's gift guide.